Saturday, January 28, 2017

Adrian Goes To The Guitar Expo. This Can't End Well.

So I decided to head the Orlando Guitar Expo.  I was more interested in finding parts rather than guitars.  I have plenty of guitars, but I can always use parts, books, and the oddball item to keep me occupied.

I walked through the entire expo hall, and didn't buy a thing (on the first walkthrough.)  What I did do is look at a lot of guitars.  It was mostly the Gibson and Fender show.  None of them really interested me since I was looking for some off the wall items.

While I knew I couldn't afford any of the Gibson Guitars, a question I had about them popped into my head.  I had read about how the different 50's Les Paul's have extremely different shaped necks.  I was able to hold the neck of a 1954, 1958, and a 1960 Les Paul. 

I could really see/feel the difference.  Especially the neck of the 1960 model.  This particular 1960 Les Paul neck I held was dang near the shape of what the modern South Korean Les Paul's are.  That was a comfy guitar. 

The early models have what I would call a "cello neck."  You see, I play cello, and they have a pretty good size neck on them.  That's what the 1954 model felt like.  It was pretty dang thick.  But I will say this, after all these years those guitars still had straight necks due to the sheer thickness of the neck.

I was able to talk to a luthier who had a small one table booth in the corner.  This is the exact kind of non typical guitar I was looking for.  I will say he was very nice and let me play all of his models.  His company is called, Fool Audio Research.  Here's his website:

I had a fun time talking to him and his wife.  We had a lot in common.  But don't all of us guitar players have more than a little something in common?

I finally got a chance to strum an old Gibson L-50 archtop.  I had high hopes, but unfortunately once instruments get so old they stop getting better with age, and they start declining.  This one sounded very tinny.  So I'll keep playing some acoustic archtops until I find one that has the sound I'm looking for.  And let's be honest, I didn't have the $3,600 they were asking for the guitar.

I looked at a lot of parts, but I had to remember, since they were dealers they were asking dealer prices.  I never found anything that I could part with cash for.  In past shows they had a lot of books, but with the invention of the internet no one was really carrying books anymore. 

So I went outside to eat and clear my head.  They didn't have the A/C or fan on inside so it was getting stuffy in the building.  Everyone was complaining about it.  So it was good to get fresh air. 

After getting some lunch I talked to a dealer about an old Kustom Tuck and Roll amp.  It was in great shape.  It was a solid state amp 4X10 combo amp.  I asked if he was interested in trades or cash with a trade, and he said no.  He was clearing out all his gear, and didn't want anymore.  So he walked away from me.  I never had a dealer do that before. 

So I went back over to a guy named Jesse from Music Go Round (Dayton, Ohio.)  I saw some guitar straps I hadn't seen the first time.  So I asked about them.  It turns out they were vintage straps that cost $100 a piece.  So I asked if he had anything a little less pricey.  He did have some.  So I ended up buying three of them for $30.  Here's a picture of them.

Jesse was really pushing this Carvin VTX-100.  He described it as a Fender Blackface Twin Reverb meets a 5150.  I'm not sure about that, but I did offer to trade my Dean Hardtail for it.  I went out and got my Dean so I could run it though the amp.  That way he could see it worked, and I could see the amp worked.

This is from the Carvin Museum website:

It kind of surprised me that it was that crunchy even at low settings.  (Looking back, I should have been worried.)  However, I had never played a Carvin before.  Also, it sounded pretty awesome.  The reverb was having trouble working, but I suspected it was the footswitch. 

The one thing that surprised me was that the speakers were huge.  They were something I had never heard of before.  Magna Lab speakers.  And the weird part was that they had giant square magnets.  I will say, the sound that came out of the speakers was that super creamy and smooth distortion that we all crave. 

So we agreed to a trade.  We also agreed as part of the deal I could buy two very old Dimarzio Super Distortion pickups for a discounted price of $20 total. 

Here's the pictures.

As you can see, the pickups were in bad shape.  But I thought they might be good for an oddball project.

Then came the tough part.  To get the amp to the car.  Here's the problem.  This amp is heavier than my Sunn Alpha 212-R.  So I would carry it 100 yards, rest, carry it another 100 yard, rest, and repeat a bunch of times. 

I did make it to the car eventually.  Let's fast forward to when I got home.  I plugged my guitar into the amp, and all I hear is a buzzing noise.  I unplugged the footswitch, same noise.  I unplugged my guitar just to make sure it wasn't my guitar or cable, and I still heard the same buzzing.  I turned the sound down all the way with nothing plugged into it, and still .... buzzing. 

So I wasn't a happy camper at all.  I looked at the back of the amp.  I saw that the 12AX7 tube they had in there should actually be a 12AT7.  Although the power tubes were old Sylvania's that were made in the USA.  So that was a surprise.  I hate to think what those things are worth depending upon condition.  As old as they are I suppose they might have very little life left in them.  But this all leads to one thing.

I am going to have to have Diversified Audio look at it.  That's right.  Off to the repair shop.  The one tube definitely needs replaced.  I suspect one of the tube sockets needs re-soldered.  I have a feeling that the reverb isn't working due to the cord.  Namely where the jack of the cord meets the reverb pan. 

As old as this amp is I'm sure there are a bunch of capacitors and resistors that need replaced.  In fact, it may need a whole new solder job.  So you can see where all this is going.  You start adding all of these up, and I'm worried that I may be looking at a $400 bill.  So this trade isn't looking so good now right? 

So I went out in the workshop to test the pickups.  The first one was pretty rusted and corroded.  However, it read the correct range for a Dimarzio Super Distortion.  I put my test leads on the other pickup, and only one of the coils worked.  The funny thing, it read 5.5 K ohms so I don't know exactly what pickup it might be.  It's too weak for a Super Distortion.  Since it's so old I'll have to go through Dimarzio's old pickup directory. 

So here's the damage.

$30 for three straps.  That's fair.
$20 for two pickups in bad shape.  Both were supposed to work, so I'm not too happy.
One Dean Hardtail with Dean hardshell case for a Carvin VTX-100.  I was happy.  Then I wasn't.  So we'll see what the future holds.  If it needs a minimal amount of work, then I might be okay.  If the bill climbs to $400 then I won't be happy at all.  Stay tuned for another blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Quilted and Birdseyed? It Does Exist!!!

So I am always on the quest for tone, but in between then I am always on the look for more tools, parts, and wood.  And boy did I find some.  It seems that Pete from Viable Lumber had a maple tree from California dumped on his doorstep.  When they cut it they found this:

That's right.  It the exclusive curly maple.  But that's not all there is!  A birdseye pattern made it in there too!

This is a pretty good chunk of wood.  This particular piece was about four inches thick.  Here's some more wood goodness.

I know you can't tell from this picture, but that piece is more than three feet across.  (Dang near four.)  The length of this is right around eight feet. 

You can see the parts where the tree branches split, but there is still enough space to cut out a one piece maple top.  And you could easily get a rough 1 inch to make a smooth 3/4 inch top.  That way you can put an arch on it, and it will be a solid curly maple top.

Some of you might say, "Hey, I've seen Epiphone guitars that have tops like that.  Why is this so special?"  Well, my answer is this.  What is actually on the really nice Epiphone guitars is a mahogany body with a plain maple top.  Then they put a paper veneer over that maple top so it looks like it is curly maple.  The pattern you are seeing is actually printed out on a big roll.  It's not wood, it's paper. 

This is the real deal.  My Dad's friend said that the last time he checked, the price of highly figured curly maple like this was $96 a board foot.  So feel free to do the math on what this piece of wood costs.  And before you make me an offer, know this.  It's already off to the Florida Woodturning Symposium.  It might be sold even as I type this. 

I hope whoever buys this makes some great things out of it.  Since it's going to a wood-turners meeting, I'm guessing it will be made into things that can be turned on a lathe.  So bowls, plates, cups and such are all likely to be made from this lovely wood.  I wish the best for whoever purchases it. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Squeezing the Tone, Part 2

In a previous blog post I talked about the difference of opinion when it comes to guitar capacitors.  If you have any hope of understanding what I'm talking about here, you may want to read this first.

So this is what it boils down to.  I have my guinea pig, my Epiphone Les Paul plain top honeyburst.

Now I'm going to change capacitors... again.  This time I bought an oil in paper cap AKA, the supreme mojo thing-a-ma-bob.  The oil in paper cap is supposedly the "bee's knees" of all tone caps. 

As I did say in my previous post, an oil in paper cap is a "run" capacitor.  The polyester caps are "start" capacitors.  I figured there wouldn't be any difference between poly caps, but I had to hear if oil caps really did have that secret, "mojo."

So I put a 0.022 UF oil in paper cap in the bridge tone pot.  I figured that would be where I would hear the most difference. 

I switched out the Mallory 0.022 UF poly cap for a Mallory 0.0153 UF cap for the neck tone pot.  I heard that was the key to getting the ultra super duper secret tone.  Also, it's suggested for the Eric Clapton woman tone.  Correction.  It's one of many suggestions I've read/heard/seen about achieving the woman tone.  So I went for it.

The black one is the oil in paper cap.  The yellow one is the Mallory. 

First up, the Mallory 0.0153 UF cap.

I know it's a little rough, but I've had a few pickups and a few caps in this guitar. 

Next up is the oil in paper 0.022 UF cap.

Once the solder cooled I immediately went for the sound check.  And you know how it sounded?  Exactly like it did before.  I can't say it improved the tone at all.  In all fairness I was already happy with how it sounded. 

I will give it this.  Changing the Mallory cap from 0.022 UF to 0.0153 changed the tone "a smidge" when I rolled back the tone all the way.  But then again, when do I ever do that? 

So, I'm glad I did this little experiment.  But I have to say, it didn't really change my opinion of paying a lot for "higher end" capacitors.  To me, the value is simply the value.  But I will say, I learnt quite a bit.  It answered a few questions I'd had for a while.  So I feel pretty good about that.  Now, off to play a little guitar. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Angry Chef And The Tale Of The Tinfoil Dinner

I'll admit, I'm a bit of an angry, neurotic chef.  I talk to myself when cooking.  I am always on the move in the kitchen.  I like keeping a tight time.  I also don't take kindly to an invasion of my kitchen.  That's right.  I said, "my" kitchen.

I tell a lot of tales from my past on this blog.  After over 550 or so blogs I thought I would have told this tale.  However, today I realized that I had never written this story down.  It is the story of how I threw my own Grandmother out of my kitchen.  But first, let me start with what I was cooking.

When I was in the Boy Scouts of America we had a great recipe for the ultimate complete dinner.  It's called tinfoil dinner.  Basically, here's what you do.

Lay down some aluminum foil.  Place down some leaves of cabbage.  Place thinly cut potato slices down over the cabbage.  Add cut carrots.  Then place down some thawed out hamburger meat.  At this point you can be creative. 

You can add onions, but feel free to add whatever onions you like.  I also like to add bell peppers.  There are many types of mushrooms you can add.  Then you cover those back up with the rest of your raw hamburger.  Sidenote:  It actually works better with higher fat hamburger.  In other words, the cheap stuff.  At this point I like to add Heinz Beef Gravy (Savory Flavor.)  It's wonderful.

Then you go in reverse from there.  Add some cut carrots.  Put more thinly cut potato slices over them.  Then cover it in some more cabbage leaves.  In fact make sure you cover it completely with cabbage. 

When you are adding layers make sure to salt and pepper.  You can also be creative and use garlic salt and Italian seasonings.  If you like it spicy, by all means add your favorite spices. 

Then you wrap it up in aluminum foil, and then wrap it some more.  Why?  Because you are going to put it directly on the hot coals of an outdoor fire.  Leave it there for an hour.  You want it nice and hot.  The hamburger (and if you added gravy) juices will cook everything with a wonderful flavor. 
Since you have it in a nice fire, it will also have that nice campfire smoky flavor. 

When I was a young teen I described this meal to my family.  They asked me to make it for them.  I had to think about it.  How would I make it at home?  So I decided to take a cookie sheet, lay down the foil on it, and do the same thing I would normally do. 

Since I didn't have a fire, I decided to cook it in the oven.  I set the oven to 500 degrees, and cooked it for an hour.  It worked out wonderfully. 

Since I decided to write this blog about the tinfoil dinner, I made sure to take pictures.  Here they are.

As you can see it is covered pretty well in foil.

Here you can see all the cabbage.  You know you did a really good job when the cabbage is just a little bit singed. 

I've pulled the cabbage away, and you can see the nice mixture of meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.

And here it is on my plate.  It tastes wonderful.  It really does. 

So now that I have explained how this dish is made, I will clarify my angry chef situation.  So as you know, I am king of my domain in the kitchen.  My grandmother is queen of her domain in her kitchen.  In fact, she thought she was a great cook.  (She's not.)  Her specialty was baking bread.  (You better have water or you would choke on it.)  She thought she was creative.  (She wasn't.)

So I was asked to make tinfoil dinner for everyone when my grandparents were down to visit.  She comes into my kitchen, and starts trying to tell me what to do.  I wasn't having it. 

She started making suggestions.  Things like adding tomatoes to it.  I halfway screamed, "What?"  Then she said I should add shredded cheese.  I really did yell, "At 500 degrees for an hour????!!!!!  Do you know what that will do????"  She just looked at me like a deer in headlights.

That's when I blew my fuse.  "Out!  Get out of my kitchen!!!"  I was not having that.  There's a reason I spent most of this blog teaching how to make this dish for a reason.  I wanted to show just how hot and how long this dish needs to cook.  Tomatoes and cheese would just be destroyed in that much heat. 

Besides this is not an Italian dish.  Grandma liked to make Italian baked dishes.  Her version of "spaghetti" was made in the oven.  My Uncle Jimmy called it, "awful."  It was something he did not look forward to.   It's true, her bad cooking was the stuff of legend.  That's one reason I really blew my top. 

I was not going to be given bad advice in my kitchen while I was working hard to feed six people.  My B.S. meter just went through the roof.  So, I threw her out of my kitchen.  I don't regret it.  My grandmother would tend to push people until you stood up to her.  You had to let her know where the line was.  And I did just that. 

Now that's not to say I didn't care about my grandmother, but she could be very trying at times.  She had mood swings and a very sharp tongue.  As I became older we had come to an understanding.  And part of that was my kitchen was my territory. 

So, there are many things I want you, the reader, to take away from this.  First off, stay out of your chef's way.  Try a little tinfoil dinner now and then.  Don't add tomatoes and cheese to any dish at 500 degrees for an hour unless you want it to be goop.  And finally, you can learn some really neat things in the Boy Scouts of America. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Glass

One of the first philosophical questions we ask children is, "Is the glass half full or half empty?"  It's one way to simply gauge whether someone is a pessimist or an optimist. 

Another philosopher came along and said, "It's doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter if the glass is half full or half empty.  Because the glass can always be refilled." 

A person that thinks that way may be the utmost optimist on the planet.  They might also be a bit of a realist.  However, great minds like that are way smarter than myself.  I wouldn't even try to define them.  So I will move on.

Then I (Adrian) came around and destroyed the glass.  I smashed it against the wall.  Now the glass is neither half full nor half empty.  It is destroyed, and therefore can't hold any water.  It is now shards, and can not hold water anymore. 

It once was a useful thing.  It simply was something, and now it's not.  For it has been destroyed, never to be used again.  Now I, (Adrian) have no water.  I do not even have a container for water.  I have nothing.  I will never have that glass again.

The optimist will say, "You can always acquire another glass."  And that is true.  But it will never be that glass.  That glass will never be available to you again.  For it has been destroyed, and doesn't exist anymore.  It will never be within reach again.

By now the reader is pretty sure I am not talking specifically about a glass.  I am referring to people, places, things, and ideas that have been destroyed.  Today I learnt a lesson on just how long destruction lasts.

And I think to myself, "That's pretty hypocritical for a guy who entitled his blog, "Destruction for Fun and Profit."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Thousand Arms

I love music.  I always have.  However, in these last few years of my life music has become stale.  When I was young there was so much more music out there.  There were ever so many record companies.  I was also discovering older music that blew my mind.  This was of course, before classic rock stations outnumbered new music stations by 10-1. 

Despite there being no internet, there were all these avenues for new music to come out.  And there was just so much of it.  It's was okay if you didn't like a lot of the popular bands.  There were another hundred or so coming out with new music all the time. 

As I have gotten older, there are less music companies.  There is less rock n' roll, and fewer new radio music stations.  The funny thing is that are more local bands, and more people interested in actually playing music.  But as I've gotten older I've noticed that I don't have that initial love of a song the first time I hear it.  It used to happen all the time when I was younger.  Now-a-days, I've basically forgot what that feels like.

But something changed recently.  The last few years I've had friends suggest that I listen to our community radio station 88.5 FM WMNF.  They actually have shows like TV stations do.  They will play one kind of music during one show, let's say 60's acoustic.  Then they will have local bands the next hour.  It makes it great listening in that, they don't have a set playlist like pretty much all the other radio stations.  You never really know what they might play.

The one music genre that peaked my interest was Americana.  There has been a new music scene with Alt/Country and Americana which to me sounds like a new way of saying, "Southern Rock."  I've heard some great songs on WMNF that I would not normally hear on any other station. 

A few days ago they played a song I had never heard, but I immediately loved.  However, I had no clue the name of the song or who sang it.  Was it a local band?  Was it an older band?  Was it a new song?  Well, I managed to find it thanks to the magic of the internet.  It turns out it's called "1000 Arms" from a Canadian band called "Blue Rodeo."

So it turns out the perfect Americana song is from a Canadian band that's been around for 30 years and just released their 14th album.  Not to mention they are in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  "1000 Arms" is perfect, but not for the reason I thought it was.  I was pulling the video of it up when I found there was no "official" video.  But there was one where they were in the studio playing it live, and talking about the inspiration behind the song.  This is it:

The story behind the song is about a woman named Janie who had crippling bi-polar episodes.  She moved from town to town until she opened a coffee shop in San Francisco.  When she would go into one of her episodes she had many friends who would help her and the coffee shop out until she recovered. 

The song is not just about her, but the community around her.  They had a person and a place that was special to them, and they came together to take care of them both.  It makes me think in times like this where we are so divided that you could have that many people come together to do something good.  That's why "1000 Arms," is such an amazing song.

I think back to when I played football, and injured my knee.  I was sent to our team doctor because of the seriousness of it.  Everyone knew about it, and there was no stigma.  A decade later when I became infected with the real flu, I ended up in the hospital and received IV treatment along with a few shots of medicine.  Again, there was no stigma. 

But if you tell someone you see a mental health specialist, well, there is a stigma.  And that's why I love "1000 Arms."  It takes away the stigma of mental illness.  It addresses that the community knows Janie can sometimes have a bi-polar episode, and still be a good person and a productive business owner. 

I hope that "1000 Arms," can receive more airplay in the U.S.  I don't think any other station in the Bay area would play it, but one can always hope.  So I have to say, Blue Rodeo, you have a new fan.  Thank you for what you wrote. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

If It's Not Baroque, Don't Fix It!

"If it's not Baroque, don't fix it!"  Those words were said by one of my high school orchestra teachers, Mrs. Huthmaker.  It was one of the few things she actually managed to teach me.  That thought came to my mind many years after it was first said to me.

For fun I was looking through the cello section on E-bay when I saw something that I didn't recognize.  That was good since I was searching for cellos that were not a typical Stradivarius or Guarneri.  However, what I was looking at was in the cello section, but it was not called a cello.  It was a Viola Da Gamba, a member of the Viol family.

I honestly had no clue what that was.  I started playing cello when I was 12, and no one ever said anything about it.  Wikipedia here I come.

It turns out all that Baroque era music that Mrs. Huthmaker loved was actually played on the precursor to Stradivarius and Guarneri instruments.

This will help:

Just to put this in perspective, the years from 1600 A.D. to 1750 A.D. are known as the Baroque period.  One of Stradivarius' earliest known violins is from 1666.  Some of his most "valued/sought after" violins are from 1680-1690. 

This is really helpful.

What I am trying to say, Baroque music had been in full swing for almost a century before Stradivarius became known for producing his violins.  So this leads to the question, what "violins" came before them?  It turns out this:

Again, this will help.... a lot.

So all those pictures I saw where the cello looked like it was melting and didn't have an endpin, well that was not so much "artistic license" was it was what a real viola da gamba looked like.  Here's some vintage paintings and sketches.

It actually makes a bit of sense now doesn't it?  The funny thing is that, I can't believe that I had to learn about this from E-bay off all places.  Of course now I want to buy one, but ... what does it sound like.  Let's pull up YouTube!

Okay, that's talent.  I mean.  That is talent.  I don't even play seven stringed guitars, I wonder what I would do with a seven string bowed instrument? 

Of course, the nice thing about the two Chinese instrument shops on E-bay is that they have what I would call a hybrid of a Strad style cello and a Viola Da Gamba.  Here's a picture of the Viola Da Gamba on the left and a Strad style cello on the right.

Now here's what they were selling.

The shape is more consistent with the Viola Da Gamba, but it has a modern tailpiece, fine tuners, and very noticeably an end pin.  Also, the angle of the fingerboard is a more modern shape.

One thing that can be changed for a truer, vintage sound is the strings.  They still make gut strings as well as synthetic strings that sound like gut strings.  Stringing those on this instrument would help towards a more Baroque sound. 

So now, I have a few options.  The two Chinese E-bay stores sell a variety of these Baroque era recreations.  Some are very close to the original makes, others like the one above are hybrids.  They also sell, "violins in the white," which means they are assembled but unfinished. 

I would like to buy an unfinished hybrid.  That way I could add the things I wanted.  I could also stain it, and French polish (shellac) it instead of it coming with a heavy varnish.  That's the one drawback to a lot of new instruments.  They put on a heavier coat of finish than necessary.  It ends up stifling the sound. 

Here's the name of the two E-bay sellers:

lankuishuang  Charming Song Violin Store

yitamusic  Yita Music

Since I would most likely want a four string hybrid, in the white Viol Da Gamba/Cello, I would consider almost making it a steampunk type instrument.  It would have vintage stylings with modern attachments. 

Let's start with the color.  I could stain it wine red like all those Gibson Les Paul Customs.  I would then finish it with shellac.  Okay, I would be a little more artsy than that and French polish it, but either way, it's still putting shellac on a wooden instrument.

Next up, metal gears.  That's right.  They've had them for cellos for about a hundred years.  Why not make use of them? 

When it comes to tailpieces there are so many options.  They make them in many types of wood, as well as a variety of styles.  I even considered a brass tailpiece, but that would affect the tone.  It might add a touch of brightness that I wouldn't want.  Maybe not so much brightness, as a tinny sound.  What I would really consider is a harp style tailpiece.

Another fun thing is that there are so many different pickup systems out there.  I'm not sure where I would start.  The costs are variable, but some of the nicer ones can get really pricey.  I still have a lot of research to do on this.

Something else that would be quite modern is the use of a bone nut instead of an ebony one.  Bone nuts have been used on guitars for a while, but not usually on orchestra instruments.  I built one for my electric cello, and I am completely happy with it. 

One thing they have now that they never had when I was a kid is a wolf whistle eliminator.  Basically, a orchestra instrument will have overtones which are just awful.  I mean the screechy howling sound that people hate when a kid first picks up the violin?  Yeah, that's a wolf whistle.  They now make a device to eliminate that sound.  Where was this when I started out.  It would have saved my parent's ears.

The one way to truly influence sound is find a good set of strings.  For the longest time I didn't have a clue that good strings could change not only my tone, but my volume.  Back when Mars Music was closing down I snagged a good deal on some D'Addario Helicores.  They blew my mind.  Before, all I knew was Red Label.  I didn't know what some decent strings could do.  The Helicores turned my tone up to 11, dang near doubled my volume, and bought out my bass notes.

I found out for electric orchestra instruments the Helicores tend to work the best for pickups and pickup systems.  That's one reason I also put them on my electric cello.  If I get a good deal on something else I may try them out.  Especially if they are darker and/or warmer.  But after having such good luck with the Helicores I will probably stick with them. 

So I have a lot to think about.  First up, finding a way to pay for it all.  Right now it's just a pipe dream.  But that's okay.  I'm a bit of a daydreamer, and this is a good thing to daydream about.  Let me think of what I would like to do, and keep a look out for new items being put up on E-bay.  You never know what might come up.   

And of course, the mandatory picture of me when I just received my cello.  I was 12 in this photo.

Squeezing The Tone

As you know car guys, motorcycle guys, and guitar guys like myself are always trying to "tweek" a little more power out of their equipment. I decided to try an experiment with one of my guitars.

This is not my personal guitar, but looks exactly like my Epiphone Les Paul Honeyburst Plain Top.

There has been a lot of talk on the internet about the different type of capacitors in guitars. Oil in paper caps were in the earliest Gibson guitars, so that's what the gold standard is.

I have read many articles with differing opinions on the subject. Some say if a cap is 0.022 uf., then why change it out for another cap that is the same value, just because it is supposedly a better capacitor? Another article I read ranked the caps from worst to best. The author had a great write-up on how each cap affected the pickups and electronics.

I also read comments where players said it made a difference, and others who said they couldn't hear one lick of difference. Now, I know that not all ears are created equal. I'm not the best player, but thanks to training from my cello teacher Laura, I pride myself on having great ears. 

I was always good at recommending pickups to players due to being able to hear the differences in the EQ, compression, and the presence. So if I could "tweek" out a little more tone out of a pickup by just changing a $1 part, I'll give it a try.

The author of the ranked caps article said that he considered Mallory caps to be just second to a true oil in paper cap. I still had a Mallory cap from an old project. (It was my very last cap in my parts drawer.)  I decided to use my Epiphone Les Paul plain top as a guinea pig.  Here's the Mallory cap.

I sound checked my guitar before changing the cap, and then played it immediately afterward. I only changed the neck tone cap. That way I could focus on one pickup. I also made sure I was taking out a 0.022 cap, and putting in a 0.022 cap.

The result? I couldn't hear one blasted amount of difference. I tried. I really did. I rolled the tone control back and forth. I played through two different amps. I don't think it changed a dang thing.

One thing I will concede is that better made caps are more true to their value.  For instance, better made caps have tight tolerances.  Meaning if a cap is marked 0.022 uf, then a well made one will be within a 5% or less tolerance.  So while one cap may not be better than another type, it could be out of spec.  And that could make a difference

One thing I haven't mentioned is that in electronics there are start caps and run caps.  This is important in high powered machines.  The start cap provides a voltage jump to get the machine started, and the run cap keeps the machine running.  The start cap drops out after a few seconds (45 seconds at the most.)  So there are different types of caps.

So what does this have to do with a guitar cap?  Well, a guitar pickup (for the most part) is passive.  In other words you are not running 220 volts through your pickups, caps and pots.  But here's where it gets interesting.  A run capacitor is usually oil filled, like a oil in paper cap.  In other words those classic caps used in those vintage guitars are run caps.

Even weirder, the poly caps that are used now-a-days are start caps.  So I will say there is a difference in what they were originally created to do.  Here's a great article about run vs. start caps.

Again, I pride myself on having a dang good ear. I also know my equipment. I've had this guitar for 9 years, and the main testing amp for 10 years. I know in my heart and my ears that changing out the original cap to the Mallory cap didn't change the sound at all. 

So, I'm glad I tried. It didn't hurt anything, and I came away with a different point of view.  I admit, I have to rethink what I thought I knew about capacitors.  I am still conflicted on whether I should spend $5 to test out a paper in oil cap.  That's the only thing I can think of that may affect the one that I haven't tried.