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Opinions...WIMA's vs. Sprague PS vs. Mallory 150's...?

3/22/2004 4:58 AM
Opinions...WIMA's vs. Sprague PS vs. Mallory 150's...?
I need to replace a few signal caps in my Orange OR-120.  
WIMA's, Sprague PS series, and Mallory 150's seem to be the most readily available, good quality caps in a decent price range.  
I've been told to stay away from Sprague 715/716's if i'm looking for something more tonally pleasing, as opposed to technically superior.  
Good clarity with minimal harshness would be a plus. The whole head is stocked with the old WIMA's they used for this era (early 70's), to give you an idea of what's in there now.  
Any opinions on these caps, or other suggestions?  
Thanks guys.  
3/22/2004 3:23 PM
The Spraque 715's are a Polypropylene type, and polypropylene are generally accepted as the best in amplifier electronics circles.  
(mojo debate aside)  
Polypropylene are the type I prefer (it's an opinion thing) to me they are more "tonally pleasing" but then it's because I prefer sonic clairity and accuracy. I use them in high gain Marshall 2203/4 type amps and prefer the tubes and OT to color and create my tone. I would recommend these if you are looking for sonic clarity. Some have said they sound "sterile" but these are usually folks who are used to fuzzy old caps, I say they sound "clear" they let through more of your guitars real tone. Most high-end instrument amps use them.  
Polypropylene types:  
Sprague 715P, and 716P series (aka "Orange Drop")  
Illinois Capacitor  
Xicon PF series  
Polyester film/foil types are generally regarded in guitar amplifier circles as being the "most like" the original mustard caps found in vintage musical instrument amplifiers. If you're looking for mojo or caps that have sonic coloration then polyester foil are the ones for you. Some amps need these caps to achieve their desired tone, like if you were building/fixing a Tweed or Marshall Bluesbreaker you would surely want to use these polyester foil types.  
Polyester types:  
Mallory 150 series  
Cornell/Dubilier DME series  
Note: old vintage amps used polyester foil as they were the best price-vs-quality capacitors available back then, when polypropylene caps became available they were considered too expensive to use back in the day. Also many manufacturers (like Marshall) were in fact using war-surplus parts which were readily available back in the 1950/60's.  
WIMA MPK4 series are polypropylene and physically known as "Box" type caps which are intended for use on PCB's (Printed Circuit Boards) as opposed to axial lead types like Mallory 150 or Illinois. Be aware the lead spacing may not be correct for your PCB (measure the lead spacing of caps you are replacing) and there is often not enough extra lead to do a bend-to-fit job.  
The Xicon and Sprague are officially "radial" lead types but are physically large enough that the leads can usually span across circuit boards using point-to-point wired "turret" (Marshall) or "ring" (Fender) style lugs.  
Mouser carries the Sprague, Mallory 150's, and Xicon (though you have to do a search on thier site for the Mallory's) and Antique Electronic Supply is great place to get 400 and 600 volt caps, and they have the Illinois at:  
If you are undecided, try them both and decide for yourself, at $0.75-$1.30 (from Mouser) it's not really too expensive to try them both and at least you would know. If you try them both, record yourself playing your favorite tune/lick using each type so you can compare after-the-fact, it's much harder to compare tone while you are playing because the non-audible touch/feel/resonse can vary and that often will psycologically change one's opinion about real (audible) tone.  
(what you hear when you play -vs- what others hear when you play)
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3/22/2004 3:33 PM
Sorry, I omitted the Sprague's polyester type from the list:  
Polyester types:  
Mallory 150 series  
Cornell/Dubilier DME series  
Sprague 225P series (aka "Orange Drop")  
Yes, Sprague Orange-Drop's come in both Polypropylene and Polyester types so it helps to know which type a person is speaking of when they're describing tone.
3/22/2004 10:49 PM

Thank you so much. That was one of the most informative and unbiased posts i've read in a very long time. I appreciate you taking the time to relay all that info to me.  
The Orange is a fairly dark sounding amp with a very present midrange to it, and TONS of low end. It's also a little fuzzy sounding in the upper register.  
I'm not really worried about it sounding harsh, so to speak. But do you think more hi-fi sounding caps like the Spragues would make the amp more fuzzy? Or would the WIMA's or Mallory's make things too washed out? I guess I just want clarity and articulation without any white noise or harshness.  
I usually make my orders from Antique, and I spent some time seeing what my options were from them last night.  
Of the WIMA's and Mallorys, neither have all the values that I need. The Spragues do, however.  
So if I went with the Spragues i'd be covered for everything. If I wanted to go the other route, it would have to be a mixture of WIMA's and Mallory's.  
Any words of wisdom?  
The PCB has multiple holes drilled in each space for a cap, so it seems like it will accomodate the right size for the WIMA's. Though, I can't seem to find their lead space listed anywhere.  
Thanks again so much for all your help!  
3/23/2004 12:03 AM
Ian Anderson

I would err towards Mallorys in an Orange, I just think it would be too clean and sterile with polypropylene ODs.  
fwiw, I prefer Vishay polyester caps over anything else at the minute and they're dirt cheap from Farnell.  
There are those new 'Sozo' caps that are supposed to be exact sonic replicas of the old Mustard caps - give them a try, the reports so far have been very favourable.  
... Ian :)
3/23/2004 5:02 PM
Sure Nick, my pleasure. you think more hi-fi sounding caps like the Spragues would make the amp more fuzzy? Or would the WIMA's or Mallory's make things too washed out? I guess I just want clarity and articulation without any white noise or harshness.
I meant to use the word fizzy with regard to old ones like the Mustard caps, which these days are like around 30 years old. No caps last forever, even if they don't leak, short, or open, they certainly do change their sound over time.  
When the old vintage amps were new, they sounded quite a bit brighter and clearer (and less hiss'y) that the same amp sounds today. After the old Carbon Comps and old polyester-foil caps have cycled (heated up and cooled down) a few thousand times they tend to contribute more than just the circuit "parameters" to the sound. Many associate the sound a pristine vintage amp makes today, with the sound it made when it was new, which is quite likely not going to be the same sound.  
Anyway, IMHO you can't go wrong with the Sprague Orange drops in either flavor, Polyester or Polypropylene.  
(actually we should call them "Vishay" Orange Drops, as Vishay bought up Sprague a while back)  
As others have said, Mallory 150's are the safest move if you are trying to keep closest to the original type and sound. I wouldn't descibe them as "washed out" at all, but as you've noticed, they don't have as wide an available value range as the OD's.  
Try not to think "exclusively" as all these caps sound good and none mentioned should be dismissed as crap, think more inclusively like they all sound good just slightly different... but good.  

Note: and I do mean "slighty" as some people can't even detect a difference between Polypropylene and Polyester when they don't know which has been installed, the guy who solders them in knows what he has done, and risks "listening with his eyes" sometimes a tech's opinion is quite biased with expectation.  
If you have time-or-money-or-inclination try this experiment, get hold of both types, get some surplus SPDT switches from (can get 'em there for like 50¢/ea), temporarily solder both caps to SPDT switches and the switches into your amp circuit.  
(I use a piece of 1/16" clear plexiglass from HomeDepot, cut the piece the size of the open chassis, mount the switches through it and the caps under it (so no wiring is exposed and attach it to the chassis temporarily so the amp's on and you're flipping switches you're protected from shock hazards)  
Ask some friends to have a listen as you play (or someone else plays) and you flip these switches (of course tell them to disregard the switch poping noise) you may be surprised to find there is very little detectable difference in a polypropylene and polyester cap, and many in the room will not be able to tell them apart at all.
3/27/2004 1:09 AM
I have neen using the 400V 225s with great success in rebuilds of old Fenders for blues players.
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