Author Topic: High Quality Parts?  (Read 4677 times)

Voodoo Blues

High Quality Parts?
« on: August 01, 2009, 09:02:43 PM »
Sometimes I hear a pedal described as being made with cheap parts but parts are the best? What parts are the highest quality? What are the best resistors, caps, diodes, pots, IC's, switches, jacks, fill in the blank...
Who put a fog machine in my pedal?

liveloveshare

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2009, 09:09:53 PM »
Most of it boils down to what sort of materials are used, the actual mechanics of how the part is made if it it in fact mechanical (think of a potentiometer), and how close the value of resistance/capacitance is (also sometimes known as tolerance if I'm not mistaken).

There's a lot to it... What specific things are you looking into? You just trying to accumulate a parts list and build a few pedals at once?

brett

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2009, 09:10:11 PM »
Hi
if you used the search button, you'd find that for low voltage signals we use MF resistors, film caps (greencaps and MKTs), diodes need to be the right type, and pots should be physically well made (too many brands to recommend any one).
Of course, there are many discussions about particular parts and their applications.  So why not dig in with the search function?
cheers
Brett Robinson
Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend. (Mao Zedong)

doitle

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2009, 09:15:58 PM »
"High Quality Parts" tends to get into the area of mojo and superstition. Audiophile type stuff. Can you hear the difference? I bet I couldn't but some could. The best bet is to try things out yourself and if you like it, disregard what you read about how inferior something is. I've seen some instances where people have talked about how poor SMD ICs are for audio and how they "sound bad" when the IC in question was the same in DIP or SMD package... it just had a gigantic plastic case around it in DIP! If you break apart some ICs you'll see a die that is identical to the die used in the SMD package because it's cheaper to manufacture them all the same way and just put a big case with long leads on it to turn it into a DIP for those who dont want to solder surface mount stuff.

petemoore

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2009, 11:09:56 PM »
  Sometimes I hear a pedal described as being made with cheap parts but parts are the best? What parts are the highest quality? What are the best resistors, caps, diodes, pots, IC's, switches, jacks, fill in the blank...
  The only real answers, which can still be biased, are what the local loudspeaker has to tell you about it.
  When resistors are understood, good resistors are great for everything except the things they are almost great for, certain positions may contribute slight thermal noise.
  Use of 'brownie' caps is recommended if you want to try to make the greatest little differences to add up, I think I heard 'carbon' type though in a FF Q2 B/C position, it was very old.
  Most of that 'mojo' stuff sounds like capacitor and resistor jokes to me.
  I also find humor in opamp mojo, and recommend the LM741 as an excellent inferior device, YMMV.
  Ge transistors are very inconsistant, for mass production there are certainly other more consistant choices. They tend to offer less than full frequency [relevant guitar range}, require 'elaborate' tech-labor.
  I wouldn't mind to get some CTS pots for my guitar volumes. Apha is 'pretty good' depending on your definition of: pretty good.
  I don't like 'over-mojoed' stuff, preferring a tiny bit of junkiness in my gear, simply because I think the other speaker is what many people reading this should worry about, that or a diode configuration on a clipp, or the other clippier circuit, rather than randomly applying expensive components in positions where they will offer no advantage over excellent components. I even get irked when I read about 'all metal film and...other mojo ad jokes.

vv
 
Convention creates following, following creates convention.

Top Top

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2009, 11:31:25 PM »
I have wondered the same thing, as I recently bought some pots that were $1.30 each, vs. other ones which can be up to $10 a piece (or more).

I am willing to risk it for the moment because I am not going to be using it so heavily that I am going to wear it out, nor am I in sandy or extremely dusty conditions.

As for other things, certain applications require more expensive parts for it to really work or to be quiet, but the amount of emphasis that is placed on certain parts for fuzz pedals, for example, can get kind of ridiculous. It is the sound of parts being misused, after all... it seems kind of funny to me to go for the subtleties of "that certain misused sound" rather than just make something and judge it on it's own sound and usefulness.

Taylor

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Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2009, 01:28:11 AM »
Some people get caught up on this stuff when they read Mouser and see a thousand different 1k resistors. The thing is that most of the differences are irrelevant for what we do. A lot of expensive versions of things have power handling up to hundreds or thousands of volts. We don't need that for stompboxes. Ditto for heat handling up to 275 degrees celcius.

Electronics companies like Mouser stock a lot of stuff for industrial applications where a part has to handle tons of power, heat, and physical pounding, and it needs to be accurate to within .1% or else people could get hurt. Even the worst gig for a musician is not that intense, and if your fuzz dies, it sucks, but nobody's life depends on it (usually).

R.G. once said that he did a blind capacitor shootout, and couldn't tell the difference between types (hope I'm not remembering that wrong). This is a guy who has been doing this a long time, so if he can't hear a difference, I know I won't.

That said, for commercial products there may be something in convincing people your parts are better than the next guy's, if you're into that kind of psychological game.

darron

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2009, 02:33:17 AM »
everyone will jump in and say that it's all subjective. that it's what you want to hear vs what is electronically there. they are all right.

people really haven't tried to fill the gaps though as you asked, and maybe you are not getting the info that you need.
sometimes components can make a build almost twice as good though, while still sounding the same. to fill in the blanks as you put it:

switchcraft make excellent jacks. they naturally sound the same but give you a good firm connection like closing the door on a brand new car. they are well machined

alpha and other pots are good. they can scratch less, the wiper makes good contact, and they feel consistent when you turn them. some pots are designed for wah pedals etc. and cost way more than you'd want to pay.

hammon/eddystone make excellent enclosures. they cost more but the cost is proportionate to the weight of them if you ask me.

most capacitors (besides amp electros etc.) and resistors are the same from one manufacturer to the next. it's only the type of component that might change things. for example if my local electronics store changed supplier of metal film resistors or mkt caps i probably wouldn't notice.

diodes are diodes. you'll pick the one that you need and there will often only be that one to choose from

ICs aren't all that important. some opamps cost $10 for their 'super-duper low noise figures suitable for home hi-fi use" or use in your military vehicle's radio. hehe. the lower noise figures tend to cost more and draw more current. higher quality ones might have jfet input. i usually go though a lot of datasheets to make a decision of what will suit a schematic best

there are other things like IC sockets (which i don't usually use). some are machined and cost twice as much and are more likely to make a better connection. the other sort is cast.


you get what you pay for. the cost:quality ratio isn't quite linear though. in the end they will probably sound the same. with all that said i use high quality parts.
Blood, Sweat & Flux. Pedals made with lasers and real wires!

Toney

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2009, 05:09:21 AM »

 Mate, I know where you are coming from, I am guessing you just want the short pathway to building a set of pedals without too much mucking around. That was my plan.... many years later still building them!
 Anyhow, I'll tell you the short answer from my point of view.

 Metal film resistors... any decent type so long as they are genuine.
 I occasionally use carbon film 1/2 watters only because of their physical strength on tag/turret boards.

 Caps:
 I honestly hear tonal differences between box type and "greenies". I am certain it's more than tolerance differences. Many don't agree/say it's not likely etc, but my ears are my ears....so... anyway the ones I am consistently happy with are the Panasonic film caps. Small Bear has them/ you can find them on the bay.

 Use decent solder, get good quality boards whatever style you go with.


makaze808

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2009, 07:07:06 AM »
This cheapo vrs mojo part thing must occupy most diyers' mind at some point.

I built several rangemsters, low parts count, from super mojo, standard good quality, cheepo, and absolute rubbush.

Over several open Jam nights the rubbish pedal kicked ass (even with change of tranny). This is now on my pedal board.
Super mojo sold for a very handsome price  :icon_mrgreen: I guess some people just need to know that what's under the bonnet cost a lot.
The standard one and cheepo sound the same.

Of course this is just one pedal, but no matter what  I do the rubbish pedal sounds/feels much better.

I'd like to hear a supper mojo big muff.......there again I read Skreddy uses mostly ceramic caps in his mojo muff!!!!!!! RUBBISH RULES :icon_mrgreen:


Toney

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2009, 08:20:49 AM »

 Yes, well let the ears decide. It's the only rule.
 In the case of an individual build, there are many factors that will affect outcomes.

  But we are talking about the general case here...

 There is of course little more to the story. Ceramic caps have there place as a component of choice in certain builds too. They can add a brittle or 'harsh' tone that can be just the ticket in certain placements, particularly some classic fuzzes.

 I think caps are the most noticeable component that affects tone, once you have the basics sorted.
 Perhaps build something very simple, a booster or a  Bazz fuss with socked caps are listen for yourself.  :icon_biggrin:

Mark Hammer

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2009, 11:28:48 AM »
I think Darron's take on things is bang on.  There ARE some passive and some active electronic components that will be more precise (closer tolerances), thus yielding more consistent performance from unit to unit (i.e., the buyer will get what they are expecting each and every time).  Some components are lower noise, which is also good, although noise levels will always depend on a great deal more than the parts used.  "Mil spec" is often touted as "higher quality", but few of us plan to play an Anarctic or Mumbai-deadly-heat festival.

Broadly speaking, the components that will make the most difference to a unit by being "higher quality" are those involving mechanical contact.  Good quality jacks will retain solid tension and crackle-free contact for years to come.  Good pots will also remain crackle free and tightly spec'd with a nice smooth feel for years to come.  Good switches, both toggle and stomp, are also a nice feature.  Although people report failures, my own bias is that such failures most often arise from not adapting installation to the operating requirements of the switch.

So, yeah, good pots and jacks are a definite plus in a pedal.  How much those components should add to the price-point is another thing.  For the typical 4-knob, 2-jack, 1590BB unit, I can't see it amounting to more than $10 production cost (above more standard components) for those who produce in any sort of volume greater than 100 boxes a year for select customers.

R O Tiree

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2009, 02:09:38 PM »
Not strictly a "high quality" issue per se, but giving your electrolytic caps a bit of headroom is worth a couple of extra pennies per cap. I read a paper somewhere which included a rough-order equation relating rated voltage to operating voltage, together with other parameters such as max temp/operating temp, etc. It came to the (logical) conclusion that electrolytic caps last much longer if they have headroom and it worked out roughly (IIRC) that a 35V-rated cap run at 9V would probably last about 4 times longer.
...you fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way...

Meanderthal

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2009, 02:43:42 PM »
 Some less expensive parts can be problematic, mojo or not. For instance caramic capacitors(monolithic and disk) have a nasty habit of going microphonic.
I am not responsible for your imagination.

R.G.

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2009, 04:53:45 PM »
Just like with "tone", "quality" needs some discussion. It's not a single quantity. Or rather it is but it's not what you think it is.

Quality is *not*just how good/big/small/solid/light/airy/sweet/reliable/disposable or whatever else you're talking about. It's also not how expensive the parts and materials are, or how much you had to pay for it, or how hard it was to get either the finished goods or parts.
Quality is how well it meets the requirements of the job.
In fact, I would argue that if you had two things that both did X job (that is, met requirements) then the more expensive and rarer of the two is the lower quality. It's a poorer tradeoff. Having much more than you need for a task may make you feel good, but it's poor economy if you have to pay your own way.

Let's take a few examples.
Q: Are metal film/paper/oil capacitors higher quality than electrolytics?
A: There is no way to tell. If what you're trying to do is filter low voltage power supplies, they are much bigger, more expensive, and harder to get. If you're trying to use them for multi-KV pulse duty, then they are far higher quality than electrolytics. What has changed is the requirement.

Q: Are gold plated jacks and plugs higher quality than nickel plated?
A: Maybe. If you play smoky bars where there's sulfuric or nitric acid in the air, yes, definitely; the gold plating preserves the underlying metal and does not corrode. So if you have a connector you're putting in a corrosive atmosphere, gold or palladium may be required. But if it's half a micro of gold flash over a poorly prepared substrate, the gold is going to wear off in essentially no time in the contact areas, and the gold is purely cosmetic. Note that *cosmetics may be a requirement; if it is, be sure it's *your* requirement, not the requirement of whomever sells this stuff.

Q: Are ceramic capacitors lower quality than film?
A: There is no way to tell without knowing the requirements of the task at hand. If it's coupling audio signals, maybe. If it's coupling AC power, no. If it's filtering 120Hz ripple, no. If it's filtering or coupling RF, yes. There is no way to tell until you know the requirements.

Defining the requirements is a slippery thing. If your requirements in a resistor are that it survives for 40 years in hard vacuum and near absolute zero temperatures like the ones on Voyager, you're going to look at different things than you need to if your requirements are to convince lots of 14-year-olds that they'll sound like (insert guitar god name here) if they just have a pedal with those in it.

Likewise, "cheap" parts may be of high quality. It is actually quite difficult to find a poor quality carbon film resistor from any company over X size. That's because the main users of those parts have beaten their suppliers to death over incoming parts quality for decades now, and the suppliers of parts with a high fallout rate are largely out of business. I've read a lot about vacuum tube quality. Of the tubes made in the tube Golden Age, the highest quality, most reliable, most consistent, most (whatever) tubes tended to be those which were made in the highest quantity. The makers got huge amounts of experience making those tubes and tweaking in their processes to hit the target specifications every time. And those tended to be the cheapest tube for the given function.

Actually, now that I think of it, consistency of meeting requirements may be the real way to measure quality independent of other issues. Consistency is to be valued far more than occasional flashes of super performance in everything except performing artists, and maybe even there.
R.G.

Quick IQ Test: If anyone in a governmental position suspected that YOU had top-secret information on YOUR computer, how many minutes would you remain outside a jail cell?

brett

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2009, 01:52:37 AM »
Hi
Quote
Consistency is to be valued far more than occasional flashes of super performance

10% tolerance in a greencap might make the difference between 9 kHz and 11 kHz roll-off in a 1-pole low-pass filter (+/- 10% from a nominal 10 kHz value).  That's another reason to use MKTs (5% tolerance except for extreme values). 

Clearly, you'd be looking for trouble if you designed a pedal with tantalum (20% tolerance) filters.  Even worse of there were two of them!  Oops! That the Tubescreamer.   :o
cheers
Brett Robinson
Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend. (Mao Zedong)

dschwartz

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2009, 09:24:50 AM »
My DMM measures capacitance, and i ussually measure caps when they are critical.. i mostly use ceramic multilayer Y5V and X7R caps.. they are cheap as dirt, and i have never found drifts of more than 5% of nominal value (they are rated 20% drift!), and i mean 90% measure exactly nominal value.
----------------------------------------------------------
Tubes are overrated!!

http://dsmnoisemaker.blogspot.com

R.G.

Re: High Quality Parts?
« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2009, 12:21:14 PM »
Hi
Quote
Consistency is to be valued far more than occasional flashes of super performance

10% tolerance in a greencap might make the difference between 9 kHz and 11 kHz roll-off in a 1-pole low-pass filter (+/- 10% from a nominal 10 kHz value).  That's another reason to use MKTs (5% tolerance except for extreme values). 

Clearly, you'd be looking for trouble if you designed a pedal with tantalum (20% tolerance) filters.  Even worse of there were two of them!  Oops! That the Tubescreamer.   :o
cheers
Yep - wide tolerance is a form of institutionalized inconsistency. You pay for only as much consistency as you have to have.
R.G.

Quick IQ Test: If anyone in a governmental position suspected that YOU had top-secret information on YOUR computer, how many minutes would you remain outside a jail cell?