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Writer: Srajan Ebaen

BlackGates. While that sounds like a black hole to normal Jills and Joes -- and might have that effect on your wallet -- designer capacitors are the darlings of the mod circus. Within that circus, perhaps no other cap has the kind of word-of-mouth awesomeness as the VCap enjoys at present. Today's brief tale is a reminder that circuit implementation determines how a part will perform. Just because a part is feted by the glitterati (and more expensive than what's in your unit) needn't guarantee it'll be categorically preferable.

Case in point is my Supratek Cabernet Dual preamp from Oz. When I returned it to Mick Maloney for the 6H30 upgrade, he also replaced the 600V Auricap coupling caps with 1.5uF TFTF VQSN-150J VCaps which his customers had been clamoring for. When it returned to Cyprus, the shampoo effect I'd coined and described in its review had disappeared. Knowing the Vs' rep for 400+ break-in hours, I was at first hopeful, soon suspicious and finally queried Mick whether he really felt the VCaps were a forward step. To my ears, they'd killed what had made this preamp so very special.

Let's just say that what's in Mick's personal units ain't black but yellow. I just swapped out my big bad black boys for the littler yellow canaries from California again as well. Presto. Wint'ry cold from out of their shipping envelope and virgin as fresh snow, my fave shampoo commercial was back in place. Music was wafting buoyantly like a designer mane captured in slow motion and the Supratek 101D sound in Casa Coral Bay is back in business. Yousa!

I have a related suspicion about a recent e-mail from vinyl fiend Stephæn on staff. He'd wanted to purchase an Art Audio Vinyl Reference which he'd remembered fondly from his earlier review when the piggy bank still squeaked in protest. When he now scored Joe Fratus' personal unit upgraded with VCaps, he was disappointed that it didn't sound like he remembered it. So he returned the unit. With aural memory being notoriously unreliable, we can't be sure of course. But in view of my recent experience, I suggested to Stephæn -- after the fact unfortunately when he'd already dispatched the piece back to its maker -- that what he was missing now was possibly due to the expensive upgraded VCaps I'd by then learned had been part of the package.

In the Cabernet Dual, this difference isn't in the frequency response, dynamics, soundstaging or tonal balance. It's in the gestalt of the presentation. I doubt you could measure it. Yet to the ears, it's plain as day. One sounds reined in, the other gushing. One is locked down and mechanical and staid by comparison, the other is liberated, fluid and on the breath. And I know what I prefer. By miles. That doesn't make the VCaps inferior. In fact, other Supratek owners can't say enough good things about 'em. So we'll simply leave it at this: If you've read my review of the Cabernet Dual and want the sound as described, stick with the yellow fellows. Otherwise the review doesn't apply. The sound is still good. It's just different. And -- to have the last word as writers are wont to -- rather less magical. No accounting for taste, is there?

AuriCap website
VCap website