Tone Capacitors

Published on
January 19, 2021 12:25:02 PM PST January 19, 2021 12:25:02 PM PSTth, January 19, 2021 12:25:02 PM PST

 One topic that seems to be an ongoing battle in the gear community is that of guitar tone capacitors.Some seem to think tone cap selection has next-to-nothing to do with the overall sound of one’s guitar, while others believe the tone cap is the holy grail of guitar sound quality.The following article will aim to shed some light on this subject without confusing or making the issue too complicated. First, let’s just talk about some of the things we know

Capacitors are commonly used as electrical “energy storage devices.”When it comes to guitars, we use capacitors in passive tone circuits to filter out high frequencies and shape our sound.With that said, we come to our first major bullet point in the realm of tone capacitor selection, and that is the “value” of our capacitors.The value of a tone cap defines the amount of “capacitance,” and as a general rule, the higher the capacitance, the darker the overall tone.For example a .047uF cap (uF = Microfarad) would be darker sounding than a .022uF cap. This is why many guitarists will choose a .047uF capacitor to pair with their brighter single coil pickups, and a .022uF to go with their slightly darker humbuckers.

The next bullet point in our tone cap selection is “voltage.” Lucky for all of us, voltage only plays into the physical size of a capacitor and has little to no effect on the actual sound of a cap.Typically, a cap with a voltage rating of .5V or higher will work in a guitar but the user will likely not notice any tonal difference between a cap rated at .5V and another rated at 600V.So all we need to keep in mind here is the amount of physical space we are working with inside the control cavity of our guitars.

Lastly, we come to the most controversial of our bullet points: capacitor types.There are tons of different types of capacitors out there and they have all been used in a variety of different applications over the years, including everything from radio to hi-fi to amp circuits and beyond. Ceramic, film in foil, polyester, and paper in oil are just a few kinds of caps that one will commonly see in the amp and guitar world.So let’s get to the tricky, controversial part and make it into something very simple…

It is inevitable that if you were to take 3 different types of capacitors, all of the same value (capacitance), and carefully measure their output frequencies you would find that there are some very real differences between them.However, most of us will not possess the equipment or the desire necessary to conduct this sort of experiment.The good news is that all of this information is completely subjective and the best tone cap selection for each user comes down to HOW IT SOUNDS to each user.

At Mojotone, we use .047uF caps on brighter guitars like strats and teles, and .022uF caps for humbucker guitars.We also stick with our Mojotone Vitamin T oil-filled capacitors, as years of customer feedback have proven them to be long-lasting, smooth, versatile, and reliable.If you are looking to experiment, we recommend starting with .047uF and .022uF caps first. Once you have had your fun with these traditional and bona fide specs, feel free to try lower and higher values to reflect what you ultimately perceive as the best sound for each of your guitars.Similarly, experimenting with different types of capacitors is just as important and, as always, let your ears do the decision-making.