Black Gates - Standard vs FK/Non-Polars

Hi guys,

I replaced 12 stock electrolytic caps (teapo) in the signal path of my amp with 10 Standard and 2 Non-Polar Black Gates, and after 2 months of burn-in, the sound is better in some ways (lower noise, better detail and resolution) but tonally it has become a little colder and leaner, which is not of my liking.

I was wondering if by using Black Gates Npolar or FK instead of the Standard ones would I recover some warmth in the midbass, or if it would be about the same.

Does anybody have experience with the different Black Gates? are they tonally different? Or should try something different like maybe Nichicon Muse?

Thanks for any input.

No one? :-(

I assume you are talking coupling caps.

It may be that your old caps were simply masking an inherent leanness of your amp. I have found that by upgrading the rectifying diodes to some ultra-fast/soft recovery types to take the ‘edge off’ in some equipment.

Before ripping out the BGs I would bypass them with a small film caps. I found Jensen Copper foil to be warm(ish). I have never bypassed BGs though, so do two and see what it sounds like.

You could also replace the signal path resisters with AN tantalums. I found them to ad a touch of warmth as well as add detail and resolution.

I replaced all the electrolytics in my old Threshold SL-10 preamp with Blackgate Standards, and was totally blown away with how good it sounded after just a little break-in time. Of course, I was replacing 25-year-old dried-out electrolytics with brand new caps.
If truly the caps were couplers in the signal path, you'd do much better with teflon or oil/paper couplers such as REL, V-Cap, or Mundorf. If they are power filtering caps then OK. Personally I prefer the sound of less expensive Rubycon ZA and ZL electrolytics over either type of BG. The small Rubys can be wired in parallel arrays to increase capacitance while decreasing impedance.
Thank you all for your responses.

To be honest, I don't know which caps are couplers, I just replaced all (12) small caps... that is, I did not replace the big power supply caps (8 of 6,800uF). Is there an easy way for someone without experience (like me) to recognize the coupling caps? are they maybe the very low value caps? (there are one 1uF and one 10uF caps per channel, the others are one 220uF and 3 100uF caps per channel).

Would it be a good idea to try something like REL/Auric/Hovland in place of the current 1uF and/or 10uF electolytics, even if the amp is solid state?

Thanks again for any help.

You should first check the kind of caps that you are replacing and then to try to find the appropriate replacement. It will not produce big problems I guess but you may end with better results. Here is one useful article about replacing caps:

Another top candidate are Elna caps but to be honest, Black Gates are fine choice.

Concerning the sound that you prefer - warm vs. lean - it may be that the new caps produced improvement in sound, but the improvement that you don't like. It may be that in absolute terms you have better sound now that you like less. And that is much more difficult question to answer ...

Jov, LOL.

While I will always encourage somebody to tweak, you should do a little research first on the amp. Changing coupling caps makes the biggest difference, so it is worthwhile to locate them and start there.

Another suggestion I would make is to only do two caps at a time. That will give you a good idea of what each tweak brings to the table. It also allows you know where the problem is when something goes wrong. (and that does happen, believe me)

Forget about Auricaps and Hovland caps. The caps Dgarretson mention are good. If they prove a bit pricey, for film caps I would recommend Dynamicaps as a cheaper alternative.

Jov, after reading over this old thread again, one thing occurred to me that may, or may not, be the cause of your less than good results after replacing the electrolytic caps with Black Gate Standards in you Threshold SL-10.

Older Threshold products such as the SL-10, as well as up through the S-series amps, all used small aluminum-electrolytic caps made by the now defunct company, Instrument Devices. These caps were marked with a stripe pointing to the (+) lead, which is totally opposite from Black Gate caps and the rest of the small electrolytic world. Its an easy mistake to put your new caps in backwards, if like most folks you figured that the old caps' stripe points to the (-) lead. You also may have thought that if you had put them in backwards, one of them would have popped by now, or the preamp just wouldn't operate, but that's just not the case.

I know, because when I recapped my Threshold Stasis 2, I unknowingly put the replacement Black Gate standards in backwards based on the old cap's pointer stripe. With the Black Gates unknowingly installed backwards, the amp sounded just a little better than before. That was probably because the old electrolytic were totally dried-out and shot; however, it still didn't sound right. At that point, I thought that maybe the new caps needed just a little more break-in time. After a three mount "break-in" and no improvement, I took a close look at schematic and concluded that I installed the new polarized Black Gates backwards. Also, a quick email to Jon Soderberg confirmed the reverse markings on the original electrolytic.

After removing the improperly installed Black Gates from the amp and comparing them side-by-side with a new matching Black Gate, you could see that the top of the case had a slight bulge, but none had popped. At that point, the reversed-biased Black Gates went out with the trash, and new identical Black Gates Standards were installed in their place.

The amp sounds much better now.

I wont make that mistake anymore.

I hope this helps you or anyone else replacing small electrolytic caps in their older Threshold equipment.