Welcome to the AudioShark Forums.
Results 1 to 19 of 19
  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2021
    Location
    Norway
    Posts
    18

    Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Capacitors is a vital part of an amplifier
    Some amplifier brands only use a few big capacitors (Accuphase typically) while most others choose smaller caps in size but more. If the total capacitance is the same, does capacitor size affect how amplifiers sound? Lets say an anmplifier with 2 x 50k μF caps vs an amplifier with 10 x 5k μF.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Oregon Coast / N. Texas
    Posts
    3,231

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Interesting question.

    I have heard the argument that it is a lot easier/cheaper to get the exact capacitance and resistance in resistors with using smaller ones and adding them together. But I have also have heard the argument that having one is better sounding if you can get the exact measurements. If nothing else you would have less solder joints and typically that is always good.

    I don't have any electrical expertise so it will be interesting if anybody with expertise will rely.
    Jock

    If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.

    ---------

    House: Naim ND555/2PS, Naim 552, Naim 500, Studer A80/Doshi V3, Magico M2s, 2 Magico Q-Sub 15s, Lumina IC/SC, Shunyata Everest and Omega PCs.

    Workshop: Naim ND555/2 PS, VAC Master Pre, VAC Sig 200iQ, Border Patrol pre/power, Avant Garde Duo Mezzo XD, 2 Magico Q-Sub 15s, Shunyata IC/SC, Shunyata Typhon QR/Triton V3/Sigma PCs.

  3. #3

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    There is some debate about this.
    The main reason for multiple small caps is to take advantage of the lower ESR and paralleling further reduces ESR (resistance in parallel).
    However modern electrolytics are getting so good that they already have pretty low ESR so the parallel advantage starts to become a moot point.
    This also gets worse as you now have a larger number of connection points, and lead lengths to worry about.
    The next problem becomes what if one or more of the smaller caps start to fail or is off spec. And given the typical tolerances of capacitors you may be way off between various ones in a complete circuit. If that happens some caps are doing more work than others.
    So despite some audiophile mythology, there is no real advantage to using multiple small caps over a couple of big ones. It may actually be worse.
    Personally I prefer to use the right part for the job. If it requires a large value cap, that's what gets used.
    Dan Santoni

    Authorized service for (in no particular order) - Copland, Cary, Unison Research, Allnic, Modwright, Ayon, Hegel, Belles, Aesthetix, Coincident, Zesto and a whole bunch more

    Custom Manufacturer of Blackdog HiFi.

    www.dtsaudioelectronics.com
    www.blackdoghifi.com

  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2021
    Location
    Norway
    Posts
    18

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Thanks for your answers. I see now that I posted this under the wrong category. Should have been in Amplifiers or general audio section.. oh well.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Hong Kong
    Posts
    2,363

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    I don't know enough about this, but there are people in my company that do. In one experiment, the power supply to our S1 streamer with internal DAC was modified to have a different capacitor configuration / values and nothing else was modified. I listened to it and got a clear improvement (I forgot whether it's imaging, bass definition, or both). The result of that went into the X1 PSU (which also has other improvements). If a simple change can affect a streamer that only uses 20W, for a high power amplifier it may be even more significant (I guess).

    When it comes to theory vs SQ, the important thing is to do listening test.
    Peter Lie
    LUMIN Firmware Lead

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    St. Louis, MO, USA
    Posts
    1,984

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    My amp 532h is one that has banks of small caps, typical Levinson amps use the large can type. I need to find the white paper but going from memory the small caps has something to do with speed and type of response. I also notice the amps with large caps are the ones that ar high current doubling their power into 4ohms, could be coincidence,I'm not a tech.

    My amp using small caps has a very nimble sound, the sound is quick and just sort of pops. I suspect the large caps provide more slam but I have tried a couple different amps and keep going back to my 532h, I like what it does. It's quick but with grace, I replaced a Pass X250 with the 532h, I loved the X250 but the 532h made it sound a bit sleepy by comparison.

    My 532h had what it takes to drive Revel Salons but it does not double it's power rating into 4 ohms, I don't remember the power into 4 ohms rightoff.

    As in any various approach to gear it's more the implementation an not so much the topology, in general. If a circuit design just didn't work or wrong no one would use it, hopefully.
    Aurender ACS10 w/Audioquest Diamond USB,
    Mark Levinson #526, 532h, JBL 4367's
    Clearaudio Performance DC w/Maestro cart
    All Clarus Crimson cabling, AC to binding post. Surgex
    HT: Marantz AV8003, Linn 5125, JBL SAM3ha, Revel s30,
    SVS PC13 Ultra
    Transparent, Analysis Plus & Tributaries. PS Audio filtering
    Sony XBR-75X940D & BDP
    Parasound P6, Coda CSX, Artisan speakers

  7. #7

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    My hypothesis is...it depends. Reason I say this is that there is almost always more than one way to provide or mediate a transfer function, y=f(x) that drives a functional response. And, all audio devices mediate one or more transfer functions.

    From a systems engineering perspective, what the designer is trying to do, is use control factors to obtain optimal functional response of the performance transfer function(s) in the presence of noise factors. Control factors could be the type, composition, value of say, a resistor, capacitor, inductor, rectifier, diode, gain device (e.g. tube or transistor), or any combination of those attributes.

    Noise factors here are not "noise" in the sense of what we normally think of (what he hear), but noise in the statistical & systems engineering sense: a factor or factors that adds variance and/or shifts the functional response off-target).

    Altschuler's Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (aka, TRIZ), teaches that there is almost always more than one way to mediate a transfer function. One wants to choose or implement the transfer function in a way that achieves the optimal response (either in a maximal or minimal direction, or "on-target") while remaining robust to the impact of noise factors.

    Examples of noise factors in circuits could be things like the tolerance value of resistors, performance of resistor based on composition, core saturation of iron-core inductors, impact of heat or vibration on performance of transistors, semiconductors or crystal oscillators, etc.

    Then there's the bugaboo that results from the fact that most all engineers were taught OFAT at University: One Factor At a Time. Take, say, 3 control factors (aka "knobs"). Set one of them to a value with the others at "zero" or some standard setting. Turn Knob A to 100, measure. Reset it, then turn Knob B to some value, measure, and so on and so forth. This is the "basic scientific method" The big problem with OFAT is that it does not consider, examine or characterize the influence of INTERACTIONS. And interactions are very common in chemistry and physics. The Time*Temp interaction is a very common one that we all know about (even chefs know about this when cooking), but the the importance, influence, and frequency of interactions is not generally taught with rigor at Uni.

    These are all things that bear consideration by the designer or engineer. And there's usually multiple ways to manage all these factors, the control factors and the noise factors.

    So, the answer to the original question. Which is better: fewer big caps or greater number of smaller caps is: it depends.

    A good engineer will understand the functional requirements well enough to be able to make a decision as to what is the best way to implement the transfer function as effectively as possible to obtain the desired functional response while having the system robust to the impact of noise. The best way to do this is by using a statistical approach based on ANOVA called "Design of Experiments" (aka DOE). DOE will let the engineer examine all the control factors, all the possible INTERACTIONS, and determine the impact of noise on the response. As well as produce a surface response plot, if required.

    Shown here is a DOE I did some years back to determine where to set the controls of my REL sub (gain, XO, phase, etc) to integrate the sub optimally with my 2-channel Mains.

    The ANOVA table for the DOE:


    A surface response plot at a 155 Hz node


    The above is an example of setting up a subwoofer, but same principles apply and can be used to any engineering objective, e.g. the performance of a circuit or components in a circuit topology, or...capacitor designs in an audio component.

  8. #8

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Oh boy… I think I need a drink

  9. #9
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2021
    Location
    Norway
    Posts
    18

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Thanks for all replies. Im humbled by your knowledge. As most things in engineering its about compromises and it depends on what you are trying to acheive and whats most important.
    I have read somewhere that big caps may provide more slam or dynamics, and having smaller caps provide more agility, faster response, just like Mr. Peabody wrote in his post above.
    As an example, Accuphase has the last 20 years always used two big caps in their integrated and power amplifiers, and they are known for a smooth and laid back sound but with good dynamics, excelling at Orchestral music, classical, rock, jazz and blues etc very life like, but maybe not managing 'faster' stuff like metal with lots of double bass drums. Some might disagree..

    Just curious if by looking intside an amp and its components, you could determine some of it musical qualities.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    442

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    a] there are good amplifier designs with large capacitors.
    b] there are poor amplifier designs with large capacitors.
    c] there are good amplifier designs with small capacitors.
    d] there are poor amplifier designs with small capacitors.
    e] there are good amplifier designs with silver cases.
    f] there are poor amplifier designs with silver cases.
    g] there are good amplifier designs with black cases.
    h] there are poor amplifier designs with black cases.

    My point is, capacitor size is not a criteria for good amplifier design.

  11. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    442

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Actually it probably comes down to these (and other) factors:
    a] enclosure profile height.
    b] cost per microfarad.
    c] manufacturing assembly costs.

  12. #12

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    It's not a very simple question to answer. There are many factors involved and come into play. There are different types of capacitors and they can and do behave differently when it comes to ESR or "equivalent series resistance" and frequency of operation. They act different depending on the frequency of the application and circuits. RF circuits will see a different set of variables than an audio amplifier when it comes to ALL measurements.

    The main criteria for Audio Amplifier capacitor banks are to store and to smooth the DC as well as provide bursts of current into the lower impedance that is created by the speaker as it reproduced various frequencies. (Yes, that fancy AC that came in on your fancy power cord has been rectified and converted to DC to be stored and then used on the "voltage rails" to deliver instantaneous bursts of current when the speakers says "I need that burst of current for that initial attack of the snare drum")

    As far as the overall design goes, it is always a balance of many parameters such as cost, physical chassis size considerations, total power, favored response and optimization of certain parameters driven by basic concepts of how various capacitors act in circuits.

    One thing for sure, there have always been "legendary" amplifiers and they have always sounded "fast", "tight" and "in control". Eye flinching, rectum puckering dynamic transient response...Anyone who has been into audio for the past 3-4 decades is well aware of those "brands". Those brands were not shy about "Bigger is Better" adage...


    Can you spot the eye flinching, rectum puckering capacitor bank in this amp? The man still builds them like he always used to.




    Serge

  13. #13

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    By the way, the big capacitors do take some time to charge, it is not an instantaneous process and one can clearly see that in this video on the voltmeter. One can also appreciate the instantaneous discharge that is good enough to weld metal from a 1 KiloJoule @400V capacitor bank. Capacitor bank discharges. 12,500µF @ 400V - YouTube


    How about kicking some aluminum cans around with a capacitor bank? Capacitor bank 11,3kJ 350V discharge test - Featured on Hacked Gadgets - YouTube
    Serge

  14. #14

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Mark Levinson legendary ML2 monoblocks. A 25w into 8 and 50w into 4 Class A amps. How much capacitance could it possibly need? Back in those days, nothing but the best would do. Sprague Nippon, very generous capacity capacitor bank.





    Serge

  15. #15

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Krell KSA-50S. Look at that "testicular fortitude" for a 50w amp Class A amp.

    Solid-state stereo power amplifier. Specified output power: 50W into 8 ohms (17dBW), doubles with each halving of load impedance down to 1 ohm. Maximum output voltage: 75.8V peak to peak, 26.8V RMS. Maximum output current: 60A.


    Serge

  16. #16

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Just some of the capacitors in my preamp....and it doesn't need to be a big as a D'Ag amp.


  17. #17
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Front Row Center
    Posts
    2,748

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Big caps bank vs small cap bank all are different and very dependent on output stage bias load demand. Regardless in every amplifier you are basically listen to the PSU, it is that important ..

    Personal preference is large PSU main caps followed by multiple small caps of differing sizes ..

    Regards

  18. #18

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Larger caps are better behaved and more reliable than smaller ones. Issue is they cost more and they require a much larger overall case to fit. Most of the time a manufacturer is dealing with significant space limitations

  19. #19
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    442

    Re: Does size matter? Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

    Older amp designs used large caps because they were readily available at a reasonable price then. Now, modern industrial and commercial products use much smaller caps. These smaller caps use modern construction on newer machines. Their price per microfarad is lower and they are much more available.

AudioShark - The Best High End Audio Discussion forum.

AudioShark forum is a leading forum site for High End Audio Discussion, Stereo System Discussion, Home Theater System Discussion, Best Home Stereo System Discussion, Home Theater Installation Discussion etc.

The AudioShark forum was created for sharing the passion of high-end Audio. We have Audiophiles from all over the world participating and sharing their knowledge. From novice to experts, you will find a friendly environment for discussing about High End Audio, Stereo System, Home Theater System, Home Stereo System, Home Theater Installation, Amplifiers, Speakers, Subwoofers, Integrated System, Acoustic treatments & Digital Room Corrections and many more.

At AudioShark, we also have incorporated an exciting Marketplace where members can peruse terrific buys on used gear, as well as meet dealers and discuss the purchase of new gear.

We are as crazy about this hobby as you are! So come on in and join us! Audioshark.org the Friendliest Audio Forum!

Industry Participation Disclosure : The owner and administrator of Audioshark is the owner of Suncoast Audio LLC in Sarasota Florida. Suncoast Audio has a full brick and mortar presence in Sarasota with several great show rooms with many world class brands. More information can be found at http://www.suncoastaudio.com

Audioshark is a community of like minded individuals. Audioshark welcomes participation from all manufacturers and owners of all brands and products. It is our belief that online forums provide a community of like minded audiophiles and music lovers to encourage the growth of this wonderful hobby.

Sincerely,
The Audioshark.org Team

Does size matter?  Capacitors - few big vs many smaller

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •