Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Vishay MKP 1837 Review and Modification

In Part 1 and Part 2 of the Esoteric Shunt Capacitor series, we saw that your idea of an ideal capacitor may be what high-end manufacturers already make, however, getting detailed specifications for these beauties are data kept private as trade secrets. But as mentioned using your ideals you may be able to find a similar capacitor designed for use in non-audio applications. Such it is with the radio-frequency Glass Capacitor, one designed for use in environmental extremes and ultra stability.

But other esoteric shunt capacitors already exist such as dielectrics made from Teflon, those pricey yet silky paper-in-oil types, and of course the famous Vishay MKP 1837. For the moment, I want to focus on the 1837 and its attributes. Later, I will share with you a simple upgrade to this already stellar little capacitor. Lastly, in a separate article, I will share with you how different choices in shunt capacitors; how these different styles change the sound based on what capacitor you shunt and what bandwidth it occupies. This is a pretty revealing tale so grab a hot cup of your favorite coffee and let’s get busy.

The Vishay MKP 1837 Review
Many folks already praise this tiny inexpensive capacitor. Most reviewers heap heralds upon it such as “can’t live without ‘em” or something of a similar note alerting you to the fact that this capacitor should not be casually overlooked despite its extremely low cost. In short, this capacitor packs a punch for its size and can give you hints about what is going on inside of the shunted capacitor as the frequency changes. But before I give too much away, let's begin with a physical description of this amazing device.

Believing the praises from reputable reviewers, I blindly purchased 60 of the 0.01uF/160V capacitors from Mouser Electronics. First, the metal leads on the capacitors I received were about 15mm long, slightly different from the packaging specification. Undaunted, I set out to see for myself how these capacitors performed by adding them as bypass capacitors in my loudspeaker's crossover network.

I started out by connecting one of these capacitors in parallel with the signal-path capacitors in my 8 ohm midrange bandpass (500Hz Bessel2 and 2.4KHz BW3) network. Now one would  suspect to hear little if any difference in sound when shunting a big 22uF Mundorf Supreme capacitor (already shunted with a 3.3uF Mundorf Supreme and a 0.1uF Russian Teflon) with this incredibly tiny Vishay 0.01uF capacitor but I can tell you that you must rethink your opinion. While the non-Vishay shunted network sounded smooth and silky to begin with, adding the Vishay shunt added more sparkle and speed to the midrange driver giving it more punch and definition. For example, drum-skins took on a snap and timbre that were only hinted at without the Vishays. There was also a slight sterility present but the vast improvement in transient response allowed me to easily overlook this drawback.

Next was to do the same thing to the tweeter signal-path capacitors, another bandpass (2.4KHz BW3 and 8.8KHz BW4). Similar results were observed in this band-pass where things just sounded tighter, crisper, and more succinct. Again there was a slight edge of sterility as in the midrange experiment and again I overlooked its shortcomings because of its contributions. What I noticed was the speed at which percussion instruments sounded and ambience details that came forward. What were once faint echoes were now louder and decays were gradual instead of sudden.

Finally, I did the same thing to the super tweeter signal-path capacitors. I used Obbligato Golds in the BW4 network and I noticed immediately that the top octave was LOUDER! What tiny tizzles and twinkles were hushed and overwhelmed by fundamentals were now clearly present providing a plethora of ambience information. Other information such as fingers sliding on guitar strings and rivets rattling on cymbals were just plain louder, not just more emphatic.

These capacitors seemed to live up to their praise by others and now mine joined the bandwagon. But after prolonged listening, I began to become irritated or rather annoyed by their tiny shortcomings and decided to see what could be done to help them out. So not comes the next level: te modification.

The Vishay MKP 1837 Modification
As mentioned, these are quite the saucy little capacitors and you should buy a few just to see if what they did for me they will also do for you. But there is a bit more to this tale and that is this: how can you make a good thing even better?

Decades ago, I bought a turntable (A Yamaha YP-D8) and upgraded the headshell. This headshell came with non-esoteric wires but it did improve the sound of the turntable. At this same time, there was some noise in the audio rags about a new wire called "oxygen-free, linear-crystal copper" and I bought four 2" (5cm) wires for this headshell. Frankly, I was just performing a test and really did not expect to hear any difference from such a short piece of wire. WRONG! The results were unimaginable.

Well, remembering my experience with short wire lengths, I decided to apply this experience to these little Vishay capacitors. As mentioned, the leads on my products had 15mm leads and I began to look suspiciously at their sonic contribution (or shall I say the coloration thereof). Using some available wire-wrap wire from a different project (#22 silver-plated OFHC copper, Kynar jacket) I decided to conduct another experiment. I soldered small lengths of wire to the base of the Vishay capacitors as close to the potting material as possible and snip off the remaining part of the lead. Below are pictures of the five steps I used to perform this process. Pictures are worth tousands of words so I'll let them do the talking.

1. Put the Capacitor in a Vise

2. Cut Off Excess Wire Length to 5mm

3. Solder the First Silver Wire as Close to the Base as Possible

4. Do the Same for the Second Silver Wire

5. Trim Off All Old Excess Wire Lead
TADA! And that is it. You have replaced as much of the metallic leads with better conducting wire. Soldering these modified capacitors in places already mentioned completely removed their drawbacks and annoyances and the sound is as pure as it can be (at least in this configuration). It's hard to explain the overall impact this minor modification made but my best words would be that the capacitors began to "get out of the way" of the music. Their sound now is best described as a complete lack-of-sound (this is a good thing); they contribute little in the way of coloration or sonic alteration. You have to give this a shot.

As a side note, this simple modification could be made to ANY capacitor whose existing leads are not made from gold or silver. I am in the process of rewiring my entire crossover network with silver stranded, Teflon insulated wire and every capacitor will meet this fate. Every inductor will also meet a similar fate where as much of the silver wire will be used and as little of the existing copper or metallic wire eliminated.

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 by purchasing one of my eBooks or through a PayPal donation, 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 (like that of the Discovery Channel), it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.


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