[sdiy] emulating bi-polar capacitors

Mike Bryant mbryant at futurehorizons.com
Wed Feb 16 12:25:18 CET 2022

Douglas investigated this and the main problem was the physical size of the capacitors more than their voltage rating.   There are some pretty physically small high voltage ones, presumably using thinner film, and they perform far worse than the older larger physical size lower voltage ones.  The ones I liked the best were the old Philips blue ones which I've got a few thousand left but they stopped making them years ago.

(Had to add 'physical' everywhere to emphasise I mean their dimensions, not their capacitance value :-)

-----Original Message-----
From: Synth-diy [mailto:synth-diy-bounces at synth-diy.org] On Behalf Of Brian Willoughby
Sent: 16 February 2022 06:31
To: Synth DIY
Subject: Re: [sdiy] emulating bi-polar capacitors

While writing firmware for a digital mixer, the folks over in the digital-controlled-analog-preamp team discovered distortion that was traced to the polarized capacitors. I did not look at the schematic, so I don't know what the exact problem was. They changed the capacitors for the next prototype and got rid of the distortion. I don't remember whether they switched to bi-polar caps or just found polar caps with a higher voltage rating. I seem to recall it was the latter, but it stuck in my mind that the electrolytics could cause distortion due to their polarized nature - at least for large input signals and/or high gain settings.

Sorry for the non-answer. Seems like there's definitely the potential for problems that can't be ignored, but the solution is not necessarily bi-polar.


On Feb 15, 2022, at 12:30, Mattias Rickardsson wrote:
> Hej Danjel and others,
> I don't recall seeing any hard facts about non-polarized electrolytics performing better than ordinary polarized in audio circuits, but still they occasionally turn up in designs. Would be interesting to hear why they sometimes are preferred by audio designers, though! :-)
> I searched for "non-polarized" in Douglas Self's reference book "Small Signal Audio Design" and found a couple of applications where they actually do make sense - but it's a practical reason rather than an audio performance reason:
> DC blocking in inputs & outputs, where it's possible that the connected gear pulls the voltage way off ground level, and you never know in what direction.
> Douglas Self writes:
> "C2 is a DC-blocking capacitor to prevent voltages from ill-conceived source equipment getting into the circuitry. It is a non-polarized type as voltages from the outside world are of unpredictable polarity, and it is rated at not less than 35 V so that even if it gets connected to defective direct-coupled equipment with an op-amp output jammed hard against one of the supply rails, no harm will result."
> Any other good reasons for using them?
> And sorry, no - I don't have any better advice than what has already been said. :-)
> /mr
> > On Feb 15, 2022, at 11:32 AM, Mike Bryant wrote:
> >> I've never bothered, I've never noticed a difference in just using a 47μ instead of playing about with back-to-back capacitors even after the thick end of 40 years the earliest stuff I built that way still has capacitors that capacitate just fine.
> > --
> >> Gordonjcp
> > 
> > Agreed.  Unless you actually have a reverse DC bias voltage (in which case rotate the capacitor) I've never understood any need for the non-polarised capacitors.  Most mixing consoles are full of thousands of them either feeding the input or fed from the output of an opamp via a resistor to ground.
> > 

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