Jun 292016
 

I had intended to spend quite a lot more time listening to the gorgeous sounding vintage Sprague Bumblebee 0.22uF capacitors in the C93 & C95 and C94 & C96 positions of my MX110Z to establish a ‘baseline’ before trying any more capacitors.

Vintage 0.22uF Bumblebee caps in the MX110.

Vintage 0.22uF Bumblebee caps in the MX110.

The Bumblebee’s are my favorites of all the capacitors I’ve tried in those positions for the MX110Z for their extraordinary combination of sheer musical prowess and great sonics.

The Bumblebee’s are smooth, rich, warm, and colorful, they also have a very ‘real’ presentation of timbral textures, and they excel at portraying tempos, melodies, rhythm, and dynamics.

The Bumblebee’s also flatter less than perfect recordings, allowing a lot more recordings to fall into a musical sweet spot, and they provide unparalleled emotional connection to the music.

Many modern capacitors are done audiophile-style, with peaky, hard, and exaggerated highs, which I find unpleasant. I much prefer the smooth, rich, music-lover style of highs the vintage Bumblebee’s possess.  I sure wish Sprague (or somebody else) would make an exact reproduction of the Black Beauty / Bumblebee series of capacitors for us vintage fans and music lovers.

For my tastes, there’s been no current production capacitors that can touch the Bumblebees, and oh do I wish there was! Sprague, are you listening? Please bring back an exact reproduction of the Bumblebee. 

I will continue to search for a modern production capacitor that sounds as good as a vintage Sprague Bumblebee that I can recommend to you.

0.22uF Red Astron style of capacitor by Jupiter Condenser.

0.22uF Red Astron style of capacitor by Jupiter Condenser.

When I read what the guitar guys had said about it, I had hoped that the Jupiter Condenser Red Astron capacitor might be that modern day Bumblebee, with its Mylar & tinfoil construction, and its reputation for being ‘warm’.

0.22uF Red Astron's by Jupiter Condenser in the MX110Z.

0.22uF Red Astron’s by Jupiter Condenser in the MX110Z.

My curiosity got the best of me, so out came the soldering iron, and I extracted the vintage Bumblebee’s, then I installed the Jupiter Condenser Red Astron’s in their place at the C93 & C95 and C94 & C96 positions of my MX110Z.

After buttoning the MX110Z back up and installing it back into the system, I let it warm up for a bit then began to play some records of female vocals, which is always a good test of a capacitor’s mettle: Rickie Lee Jones’ It’s Like This and Pop Pop, Joan Baez’s Diamonds and Rust in The Bullring, Lucinda Williams’ World Without Tears, and so forth.

0.22uF Red Astron capacitors.

0.22uF Red Astron capacitors.

My first impressions were that the Red Astron’s were indeed warm sounding capacitors, with some nice qualities in the midrange, but they didn’t have the richness & smoothness in the high-frequencies that the Bumblebee’s so easily achieve, sounding a bit edgy and forward in comparison.

I probably should have put the Red Astron’s on my Cable Cooker to condition them for a while before dropping them in the MX110Z, but I didn’t.

Red Astron's by Jupiter Condenser.

Red Astron’s by Jupiter Condenser.

After about 3 hours of vinyl listening time the Red Astron’s started to smooth out and I was starting to hear what the guitar guys were talking about. These are really good capacitors, and wait until you hear electric guitars with them in the circuit! Incredible!

The Red Astron’s are moving towards having a level of warmth & naturalness somewhat comparable to the vintage Bumblebee’s, but they are more transparent & resolving from bottom-to-top, and their highs are starting to smooth out in a way that is very appealing. The highs aren’t perfect, but they’ve improved drastically with just 3 hours of play time, so that bodes well.

More Red Astron goodness.

More Red Astron goodness.

From an audiophile-style sonic standpoint, the Red Astron’s throw an enormous sense of space that has a rather impressive ‘fill the room’ presence. The Red Astron’s have a similar illuminating effect on imaging that I hear from directly-heated single-ended-triode amplifiers (DH-SET), giving images a vivid lit-from-within glowing presence, so you SET guys & gals are going to like these I suspect. I found this ‘lit from within’ aspect of their performance a bit surprising, but nice, and I hope it doesn’t disappear as the continue to get run-in time on them.

The Red Astron’s are more resolving than my half-century old vintage Bumblebee’s, but not in any sort of negative overtly analytical way, Rather, they come across as mostly natural & organic, but you can hear more details and subtleties.

Vintage McIntosh and Altec Voice of Theatre for an awesome vintage musical experience. They got it right.

Vintage McIntosh electronics and Altec A5 Voice of Theatre loudspeakers for an awesome vintage musical experience. They got it right.

I’ve been listening to rock & roll – Simon and Garfunkel’s The Concert In Central Park, CSNY’s Déjà vu, Paul McCartney’s Unplugged, etc. – and I am impressed with how I can crank up the volume to loud rock-like levels and still have everything hang together well, without becoming harsh, shouty, or otherwise amusical.

I am becoming more & more impressed with each album I listen to on my vintage McIntosh and Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre combo, as these Red Astron capacitors provide a compelling take on their vintage tone and let its goodness shine on through.

0.22uF Red Astron's

0.22uF Red Astron’s

The Red Astron’s have continued to improve, now with about 5 hours on them, their sonic & musical performance has revealed them to be very fine capacitors indeed, although not yet exceeding the beguiling combination of sonics & musicality that my vintage Bumblebee’s so easily achieve.

For example, brass doesn’t sound as natural as it does with the Bumblebees, there’s a bit more edge to it than I think there should be, but they’re hugely better than when I first fired them up. It will be interesting to see how that aspect of their performance continues (hopefully) to improve with more time on them.

Even in this very short amount of time the Red Astron’s have revealed themselves to be very fine capacitors. I’ll check back in to let you know how they are performing as they get about 100 hours on them, which is my normal benchmark for full tonal development, but so far I’d say they are a pretty safe recommendation if tone is what you’re after.

The Red Astron’s may not yet be better the vintage Bumblebee’s in every way, but they do better them in some ways, and if they continue to improve at the rate they have initially, then who knows?

But for now the Bumblebees are still king in my MX110Z, but there’s someone knockin’ on the door.

 Posted by at 12:58 pm

  12 Responses to “The Jupiter Condenser ‘Red Astron’ Capacitors in the MX110Z!”

  1. That sounds like an enjoyable way to spend some hours….comparing which of the two great capacitors you enjoy more. I couldn’t help but notice that your lovely Tannoys have been moved so that the VOTTs could be placed in the prime spot. I hope you had the guys help you move them! A little more work than swapping out your Harbeths ; )

    • You’re so right, Don, it’s a little like comparing a couple of fine wines or bourbons, and is a great way to while away a little time!

      Ah yes, the A5 VOTTs are occupying center stage for now, until I get their crossovers sorted out to my satisfaction. Then it will be musical chairs loudspeaker wise, with the A5’s ultimately replacing your roomies, the Harbeths, in the TV room. But you never know! Anything can happen!

      Cheers,

      Jeff

  2. Hi Jeff,

    You must be back from your Rick Steves tour. I’ll bet you had a great time. Good to know you are back in town. Welcome home! We had a good time at the ANVIL (Audiophile Not Very Intelligent Lately) Award Party over the weekend. This year the award went to Terry Cain in memoriam. We all miss Terry; and we missed your smiling face at the gathering.

    Over the party weekend we tried three different horns as alternatives to the Altec 511B horns used as a tweeter in the A7 500-8 Voice Of The Theatre speakers in the Garden Of Earthly Delights. None got close to the high level of satisfaction provided by the 511B horns. I am so much enjoying the A7 500-8 speakers with the Hiraga style network, that it seems silly to look for improvement.

    It sounds like the Red Astrons are good capacitors. I am a big fan of spacious sound. Looking forward to hearing them. Thank you for making the results of your explorations available to the rest of us.

    Best Regards,
    Pete

    • hello Pete what horns did you try?
      regards Robert

    • Hi Pete,

      Thanks for the note, appreciated! Glad you had a fun time at ANVIL and was sorry to miss it. I enjoyed my visit to England, but didn’t get a chance to connect with audio pals in the UK like I had hoped to (Mark Coles, Howard, Ray at CTC, and Paul Mills at Tannoy, to mention a few – sorry guys!), as the dynamics of group travel ended up limiting what I could do.

      I’m glad your VOTTs are sounding so good the way they are (I thought they sounded great when I heard them), that bodes well for all of us out here in VOTT-land!

      Cheers,

      Jeff

  3. Hi Jeff. I live in the UK, and have been following your audio adventures as they have unfolded. I have a tip you can do to improve the sound of your system, and is free. Assuming you haven’t tried this already, you simply polish the metal prongs on your mains plugs, and all the other system connectors. It is a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort. Start with the mains plugs first. The jump in sound performance is hard to credit. It really does make a huge difference, and I was very sceptical when a friend passed on the tip to me. I sensed a bit of leg pulling, but curiosity got the best of me, and having tried it in my own system I can honestly say I was very surprised by the results. Looking forward to more of your posts.

    Kind Regards

    CHRIS . . . .

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the tip, appreciated. Speaking of plugs, I’ve also found a nice improvement from installing Oyaide receptacles. It makes sense to get things in order as the AC exits the outlet into the plug that powers your equipment.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

  4. Jeff, great stuff. It’s been a long time. Good to see what you have been up to. Look forward to reading more!

    • Hi Aaron,

      Great to hear from you! 🙂

      How’s life treating you these days? Well, I hope!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

  5. Hey Jeff,

    I’m a young audiophile and I recently purchased a Knight KB-85 amp—”poor man’s mcintosh.” I don’t have a ton of money to upgrade the driver board caps, but I’ve set aside enough to get started. I’m interested in the Bumblebees, but I’m very wary given their age… I want this amp to last me a while.

    So, I’m trying to decide between the Arizona blues, or the jupiter red astrons. Given the price difference, I’m leaning towards the Jupiters… What would you do? End goal here is to put together a pair of Altec A7s. That’s the dream.

    Also, in the last month I’ve purchased the Belden 8402 Interconnects and the Dueland DCA16GA. Both made dramatic improvements.

    I love your blog. Can’t wait for your new posts!

    • Hi Tysen,

      That Knight KB-85 amp looks like a neat amp, good choice!

      I think I’d recommend to steer clear of the vintage Bumblebees. I love the way they sound when you can find good ones, but finding good ones is almost impossible at this point in time. I like the Jupiter Red Astron’s a lot, they’re a nice cap, and I really like them in my MX110Z.

      Another one to keep an eye on is the new Duelund CAST tin-copper caps that will be coming out in the near future. I have listened to the prototypes from Frederik at Duelund, and I was extremely impressed with what I heard when I tried them in my A5 crossovers.

      I’m hoping that over the weekend I’ll get a chance to try the Duelund’s in my vintage McIntosh MX110Z as well in place of the Red Astron’s in it now for a little comparison. More to come on that front.

      If you need to replace any resistors, I’ve been very impressed with the NOS Allen Bradley carbon comp resistors, they are really something special.

      Thanks for the kind words, and keep me posted on how things turn out!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

      • Thanks, Jeff!

        Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the new Duelund CAST. My concern is going to be the price…the cheapest cap I could find for a Dueland cap on Partsconnexion was $93. At this rate, I’m probably $1000 too poor 🙁

        I’ve read your posts on the Allen Bradleys—definitely going to be getting those.

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