Monday, March 10, 2014

Mundorf Supreme Capacitor Review - Part 2

I am now convinced that Clarity SA capacitors are a really good "entry level" cap into the high-end, but they truly do not stand a candle to the Mundorf Supremes. It has been a few days of non-stop listening and a few more trials to convince myself I was not hearing something that was not there, and I must report that I was not.

When climbing the high-end audio ladder, one can throw a lot of money at trying to solve a weakness in your system not really knowing what the problem is. For example, when connecting my OPPO BDPO-105 directly to my amplifier, it sounded thin and a bit unnatural making me suspect that my Dared MC-7P tube preamp was needed to tame the sterility of digital source. However, that was only a preconceived idea recalled from previous experiences that did not apply to this situation.

What the direct-connection OPPO did was to reveal flaws in my crossover network components. While in-process of suspecting that the crossover was not up to snuff, I read reviews of the virtues of various capacitors finally deciding that the Mundorfs were worth a shot. Although expensive (roughly 3x the cost of the Clarity SAs they replaced), I can say with zero reservation that the Mundorf Supremes when shunted with the tiny Vishay 0.01uF MKP capacitors are an amazing combination, one that has few equals.

The ribbon tweeter in my system operates above 2,380Hz from a third-order Butterworth filter design. This means that there are two capacitors in series with the signal path to the tweeter and an attenuation/compensation network after that is used to nominalize the drooping top-octave response of the Peavey RD1.6.

Now if you did not understand what I just said, here is a simpler way to look at it. The tweeter needed to roll off sharply at the 2,380Hz crossover point and it also sounded very soft on the top octave. But there was a sneaky way to adjust for this soft sound by bypassing that part of the network used to match the tweeter level to the midrange/woofer level thereby boosting the signal from the amp to the tweeter much like a tone control or graphic equalizer does, but more precisely. Below is a picture of the new network.

BW3 Crossover for the Bozak Drivers

My speakers are tri-wired (yes, three sets of speaker wires per speaker) and the crossover network for the Peavey tweeter is on the RH side of this picture (on the tan board). The network is mounted on the outside back of the speaker so that I can easily work on it without having to open up the cabinet.

As you can see, all of the caps on the tan board use the black Mundorf Supremes and some of the caps on the black midrange/woofer board are still using the red Clarity SAs. The tweeter attenuator will be rebuilt next moving from an L-pad design to a T-pad version to help minimize standing waves in the interconnect cables. I will add a part 3 to this mini series to describe these effects some time in the future.

To describe the sound is truly difficult to put into words. Saying that the sound is "better" does not do this transformation justice. Using the standard adjectives other reviewers consistently employ also seems to fall short of achieving adequate praise. So let me say this: what I suspected to be a hopelessly poor-designed tweeter was in fact a highly resolved tweeter that pointed out the shortcomings of my crossover network components.

The sound is magical and effortless taking on a realism that I have rarely heard even from the finest of systems I have ever auditioned. Much like a car stereo that repulsively over-emphasizes bass, the sound of the Clarity SA capacitors seemed to be similarly non-linear overemphasizing the mid-band of their operating range. The Mundorf Supremes are sweet and not overbearing allowing the sonic content of any music to unimposingly fill the room. There is no over-emphasis in any part of their operating band making the sound silky smooth and detailed beyond belief. Nuances take on a life-like characteristic where subtle details I once strained to hear are now clearly revealed.

These Mundorf capacitors add a delicacy to the overall sound with which you can quickly fall in love. For example, track 10 "Peace" on disc 2 of the album "Living In Harmony" by Eric Harringer and John Paul Lacey uses low-level background recordings of crystal bowls, Tibetan bells, and tubular chimes that all have faint harmonics associated with them. With the Clarity SAs, these faint harmonics are lost but with the Mundorf Supremes they are not. The clarity and uniformity with which these harmonics are preserved retain the natural tonal balance and timbre as the resonances from each of these subtle instruments slowly decay into the background silence.

As the saying goes "the devil is in the details" and with the Mundorfs you will hear a lot more of them. I am very impressed by their inclusion in my humble system. Much like replacing that aging amplifier with a new PAS Labs, you are in for a treat if you replace your speaker's mediocre crossover network capacitors with these.

Another rung on the ladder climbed! I can only imagine how the Mundorf Silver-Gold Supremes may sound in comparison at a cost of 2x-3x of the standard Mundorf Supremes. Maybe one day...

Related articles:
The Vishay 1837 Review and Modification
Bypass Capacitors
Mundorf Supreme Capacitor Review - Part 1
Mundorf Supreme Capacitor Review - Part 2
Capacitors: All Things are NOT Created Equal - Part 0
Capacitors: All Things are NOT Created Equal - Part 1
Capacitors: All Things are NOT Created Equal - Part 2
Capacitors: All Things are NOT Created Equal - Part 3

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny 

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style, it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.

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