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Positive Feedback ISSUE 3
october/november 2002


Highly Biased Output—Hats Off to Auricaps!
by Jennifer White-Wolf Crock


(Jennifer Crock is a long-time Technical and DIY Editor for Positive Feedback. In the interests of full disclosure, she is also the owner of JENA Labs which produces a number of fine audio products/services, some of which use Auricaps. Her genius in audio design is well known among her peers, which is one of the reasons that we have her write for us… besides the fact that she’s a heckuva person and knows whereof she speaketh! She uses Auricaps—thus her advocacy—and you need to be aware of this minor commercial connection as you read her enthusiastic comments about this capacitor.)

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My company, JENA Labs, is most well known for our interconnect and cable products, but what many of you might not know is that I got my start in audio not in wire but rather in the nuts and bolts of electronic engineering. I still do quite a bit of the electronics end of things, both as a modifier specializing in Atma-Sphere OTL amps (for which we are also a dealer), as an occasional custom builder, and as a consulting engineer and designer. Our goals in these endeavors are to meet the needs of elite customers who want something beyond the products found on dealer's shelves. In my role as an audio electronics engineer, I pay particular attention to the musical qualities of the parts I specify.

Over the past almost 30 years that I have been involved in the design of high accuracy audio equipment, the single most difficult type of part to find has been "capacitors that would not significantly alter the sound." Certainly, the past ten years has seen tremendous improvement in the range of products offered, some specifically marketed to the audio community. Sadly, even the best of these still contained a few significant colorations, and left one with sort of a "palette of sound" from which to pick and choose.

Some of my personal designs are 100% direct-coupled amps and preamps that have no caps at all in the signal path, a significant difficulty when working with 100% tube designs. Though never offered to my customers, these reference electronics provided me with an accurate "no cap" reference to judge the colorations and changes in sound that occur whenever caps are injected in the signal path. With such a reference, it becomes very easy to hear the warming effect of one brand, or the zippy effect of another.

I had almost resigned myself to the potential that no really good cap would ever come along when I discovered the Auricap. WOW!! I was amazed, and wished that I had known about it months before I did.

I have to confess it: as a writer for the Positive Feedback Online group, a custom builder, and a modifier of manufactured electronics, I get targeted by a lot of manufacturers to try out their products. Samples and stuff arrives in the mail with claims of "transparency to the Moon—or beyond!" several times a month. My usual experience is disappointment of one kind or another, with the "review and evaluate" parts not meeting the standards of parts I already use, or what I’m really looking for in a component that’s truly the "next best thing."

So, when a package of caps arrived one day from Auricap, I looked them over, and set them aside to try when things weren't quite so busy. They looked nice, but how on earth could they sound better that the $260.00 spacecraft-grade hermetic-cased Teflon caps I was having custom built?

I guess I wasn't really that motivated. I was happy with the custom caps in spite of their price, and though they tended to be a bit microphonic, I dealt with that by using appropriate vibration damping and isolation in my designs. It was good enough; why bother fiddling around with "yet another sample"?

Finally I got a call from John McDonald, one of the principals at Audience, the company behind the Auricap. He wanted to know how I liked the sample parts, and well—I couldn't tell him. I hadn't taken the time to pop them into something and have a listen. Shame on me!

To make a long story shorter, John pestered me a few more times to get off the procrastination bus and give them a listen. I finally did—and I was shocked. It’s that simple. I was just plain shocked.

These babies are very much like the sound of my "no cap" reference. Using them, I had none of the microphonic problems that the custom spacecraft parts had, and all—and even possibly more—of the other signal integrity I was used to in the mega-price parts. Suddenly, a whole new door of design opportunities was opening. At last I could design with caps and NOT feel musically guilty about using them. Equally important, I could get these great parts for about 1/10th the price of the spacecraft grade parts!

Better and cheaper. What more can you ask for?

So… the Auricap has become my reference standard for audio caps. Period. I now use them throughout my electronics projects, and have even used them in speakers. My customers always comment about how much better and more natural their audio gear sound when I install or provide them the Auricaps. Some of these folks have pretty discriminating ears, and have already had the "previous best" audio caps in their gear. Many even doubted me when I called them to say, "You gotta hear these…let me put them in, and you’ll be shocked!!"

And you know, it’s a funny thing: everyone that I’ve tried this with, without exception, loves the sound with Auricaps in the gear. The highs are smooth and clear without tizziness, or hash, or a dulling roll off. The midrange is meaty and full of emotion when the source offers it.

And as to soundstaging: "3-D soundstaging" should be Auricap’s middle name. Tonally, the bass is tight and well connected, chesty and textured with power and authority. Best of all is not that these separate frequency groups sound so good as separate elements, but that they sound so together and "as one whole" when music plays through them. I sense no loss of rhythm, pacing, or emotion in the circuits that employ these parts.

Frankly, this is an outstanding technical feat. The Auricaps are great parts, and represent a significant step forward in capacitor technology and audio-musical performance. I am pleased to design them into my new upcoming products, and pleased to retrofit them into existing electronics. They simply sound as close to no cap at all as anything in my experience. Those of you who are doing DIY projects or audio design work should definitely give the Auricaps very serious consideration. I think that you’ll be as pleased with them as I was.

Hats off to these caps!

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