copper vs silver vs gold

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Walt Park, Jan 14, 2003.

  1. Walt Park

    Walt Park Stunt Coordinator

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    is there really a sonic difference assuming resistance/inductance is the same?

    If so, does solid silver sound different than silver plated copper?

    I found some cheap teflon coated silver plated copper, but some people claim that the coating does nothing other than help prevent oxidation since silver is not supposed to oxidize at room temps and tarnish is a product of sulfer. On the one hand, it wouldn't make sense to use solid if plated silver on copper sounded as good, but I thought current ran on the surface, and we're bombarded with propaganda that says gold plated terminals are better.

    So whats the real deal?
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    i can't see there being any audible differences although gold is typically used as a plating to resist tarnishing of the base metal(s). if it's cheap, knock yourself out and make some interconnects or something.
     
  3. Andrew Walbert

    Andrew Walbert Stunt Coordinator

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    In theory, gold wiring would make for the cleanest signal as it is the best conductor. But as far as I know, nobody has ever made speaker wire with gold, because the cost would be astronomical (six or seven figures to wire a complete 7.1 system). A few companies offer pure silver speaker wires that some audiophiles swear by, but I can't imagine it being worth the costs. If you can get the silver cheap enough, it might be worth trying out, but you'd have to do a proper blind A/B test to really determine any audible difference (the mind will create a difference when it knows which cable cost five times more).
    Here's an example of a company that offers silver cables:
    http://www.silversmithaudio.com/
    Though I should note that I now noticed a pop-up about the guy who does the cables being called up to active duty in the US Naval Reserves, but there are other companies out there that offer silver cables.
    To do a typical five speaker setup (2m each LCR, 5m each rear), you'd need 16m of speaker wire. That comes to about 50ft (SilverSmith sells by the ft), which would cost $11,300. This isn't even including the interconnects, which run $1400 for a 4ft line. You'd need an insanely large budget to get pre-made silver cabling.
    If you want to go really all-out, SilverSmith also has Palladium-based cabling (supposedly a better conductor than gold, though I'm not so sure). The same five speaker setup would cost $67,400. And 4.5ft interconnects are $5200. This could easily pass into the six-digit range before long.
    Bottom line, unless you have a dirt cheap source of pure silver or you've got B&W Nautilus speakers (the original, $40k model) with Mark Levinson amps, you probably won't notice a true audible difference between silver and copper.
    Now, as for plated wires, the only reason to cover the copper with gold is to eliminate oxidation, which will severely hamper the signal transmission. That's why you always hear about gold-plated interconnects and such. Truth of the matter is, it's as much a marketing gimmick as anything, because silver should work just fine. Gold or silver coating won't improve the sound quality, because it still travels through copper in the wire at some point along the way, but the key is to prevent the copper from oxidizing and breaking down.
     
  4. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    actually gold is a worse conductor than than the others but i do hear it imparts a golden sheen to dianna krall's voice.
     
  6. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    Say what you will about copper vs silver but in my system I find my silvercats (pure silver stranded cables from catcables) sound better then the similarily built coppercats. Both use the same RCA's as well.
     
  7. Walt Park

    Walt Park Stunt Coordinator

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    I found this to be a very interesting read:
    http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~www_pa/...io/Analog.html
    The page that is interesting in the context of this thread:
    http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~www_pa/...ect/page4.html
    In a nut shell, it seems there should be very little difference between equally constructed copper and silver assuming that the copper is thicker to compensate for the slightly lower conductivity. Smear/delay should also be virtually the same between the two, and oddly, lower conductivity materials have much lower smear/delay's, but apparantly the amount of delay due to the material itself is extremely small compared to other things like the cross over, and mounting position differences between the tweeter and woofer.
    I guess this suggests that silver is mostly a waste of money.
     
  8. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    well it's expensive, more fatiguing than copper. let's put aside for the moments of audible differences. let's talk about guidelines and preferences. now for starters, dealing with interconnects, we want to minimize capacitance. if that's the case, you'll want to go with teflon as the insulating dielectric. when the wire is braided, capacitance will go up but less so with teflon. as to how you braid, there's a slew of methods out there, pick one that you like and don't pay too much attention to the reason. yeah silver's got a tad better electrical conductivity and if you're buying some bulk wire, the cost isn't all that prohibitive. no one's disputing a certain coolness factor using relatively exotic material but if you're going to be buying handmade, it has to cost more simply because the guy's got to make some money.
    belden and others make low capactitance cable suitable for interconnects, and if you were ever to make one that say had 1/2 the capacitance of anything commercially available, people would flock to your door. why you might even ask them nicely and they just might send you an evaluation sample on the house. so will a lot of other companies...although probably not with silver [​IMG]
     
  9. Marc_E

    Marc_E Supporting Actor

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  10. Bill_D

    Bill_D Supporting Actor

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  11. TimForman

    TimForman Supporting Actor

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    Sorry all you silver lovers. IMHO if you can't measure a difference there isn't one. If you can measure it but it falls below the level of human hearing there still is no difference. I haven't seen any scientific evidence supporting the belief that silver is better than copper assuming construction and thickness are the same. Also, IMHO, the biggest problem in low level electrical transmission is poorly constructed ends on cables.
     
  12. EdD

    EdD Agent

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    The list of most conductive metals from least to most:
    aluminum
    gold
    copper
    silver

    Therefore, infusing or plating coopper with silver will decrease electrical resistance. This has the affect of making the wire more "invisible". Assuming equal gauge wire, you can very roughly say that silver will appear "shorter" to the signal than the equivalent length copper wire. So, even if a 2m copper wire were equivalent to a 4m silver wire, who cares? It will probably not produce a noticeable difference. A bigger affect would be wire gauge, shield quality, and connector quality. All of these can have a bigger impact on your signal than the silver content of the wire.

    With that said, why buy cables with silver content at all? Because most cables with decent gauge wire, good shielding, and good connectors have some silver content. Plus, the copper used is usually "cleaner" than those of cheaper cables. Nodules of impurities in the wire can introduce noise which may or may not be noticeable. So, if you can find good copper cable that has good shielding and good connectors, go for it. If you are happy with what you own, then nobody else's opinion matters.

    Finally, one word about silver plating. I do not believe it is to prevent corrosion. As mentioned previous, gold plating us usually used for that and only on exposed connectors. Silver plating is exploiting the electric skin affect which basically says electrical signals usually travel along the outer layer of the wire (ths skin) and not down the core of the wire as might be assumed. This means a higher silver content along the outside circumference of the wire will provide the maximum benifit with minimum cost.

    Hope this helps.
     
  13. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    ever calculate the skin effect at 20K?
     
  14. Andrew Walbert

    Andrew Walbert Stunt Coordinator

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    Wait wait wait, you mean to tell me that my high school Chemistry teacher lied to me about Gold being the best conductor? Why do so many companies offer gold-plated ends instead of silver? I mean, I realize that the general idea is marketting, but I'd think that somewhere, somebody would hit those companies with a clue-stick.

    This is all quite interesting.

    I'm still of the belief that well-made copper speaker wire with silver ends is just fine. Now, interconnects might well benefit from silver instead of copper, but I'm skeptical to say the least.
     
  15. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    i'll leave it to you to look up the electrical conductivities, or their reciprocal, resistivities. could be that your memory is off a bit or you had a science teacher who was a little off.
    gold plated ends don't oxidize, they're attractive and give an aura of quality to an otherwise crappy connector. however the gold plating is usually fairly thin, 10 or maybe 20 microinches. unfortunately gold is a fairly soft metal and for those who frequently take their connectors off and on, the gold will wear. some manufacturers, and Eichmann is one, cut corners and plate directly over copper or copper alloy instead of using an intermediary nickel plate. that can typically be seen by examining the sheen of the gold coating. shiny=intermediate plating...dull=direct plating. it's dull because the base is relatively rough as can be seen microscopically. this generally means that under repeated make/break conditions a dull gold coating will wear more quickly. silver looks like crap after a while and just doesn't inspire confidence. you wanna start polishing connectors? I don't.
    skeptical is good...oops, time to watch John Edwards and put on my aluminum skull cap...they're out there you know.
     
  16. Brian OK

    Brian OK Supporting Actor

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    I like copper mined from Telluride, CO. ;`) (Great town if you have ever visited --i.e years ago before it got trendy).
    ..........esp. on my contacts... silver plating over the copper is ok, but can be system dependent.
    I avoid silver as a pure conductor as I never liked the sound of it. It is VERY system dependendent and will let you know in a hurry if silver is for you. If it is, then your ears are off to the races.......

    All the debate about properties is ok, as conductivity is supreme... but until you mix and match the "elements" into you OWN system, it is all scholastic, IMHO.

    I prefer mostly copper (silver plating is just fine with AC contacts, and cryo is something I am about 2" from trying with my AC recepticles), as my system simply is not silver "tolerant" when it come to IC's. Speaker cable silver is for the audiophiles. Not for me.
    Not enough resolution for me, I guess. Beats me.

    BOK
     
  17. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    now that's funny, i like copper mined from Chile when i'm listening to south american music. but seriously, the tellurium alloy with copper is basically for the purpose of giving the copper some strength...kind of like brass. Not that I'm buying into it, but you know cryo really doesn't make much sense. If you think crystalline structure may play a part in your sound enjoyment, then it probably makes more sense to look into elevated temperatures followed by something like quenching. The thing is how to do it since the wires have insulation. Think about how swords were or are made. No?
     
  18. Bill_D

    Bill_D Supporting Actor

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  19. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    well if you drop it, like a flower that's been dipped in liquid nitrogen it will. also there's some small risk, depending upon what the wire's covered with, that chilling it to low enough temperatures could adversely affect the nature of the plastic. especially i think if there's some sort of plasticizer in there. if we take an example like polypropylene or polyethylene and we heat it so that it's past what's known as it's glass transition temperature, the resultant material melts so to speak. now if it's quench cooled, and i do mean rapidly and we put the material in a device called a Differential Scanning Calorimeter, we find that there'll be two transition temperatures that correspond to both some crystalline aspects (ordered structure like 'sugar') and amorphous aspects (unordered polymer). If the quenching is done a little more slowly, you don't see that. The point here is that to achieve a significant amount of crystalline change, one needs to heat the material up first and then cool it. depending upon a myriad of factors such as cooling temperature, rate of cooling, etc. one gets cross-sectionally different crystalline forms. this can certainly affect the mechanical properties of the material by making it harder, more resistant to abrasion, etc. like the infamous samurai swords whose sharpness was determined by dropping a silk cloth over the blade. in any event, metallurgically, these things are studied and parameters are established to get the desired properties, a typical application being hardened ball bearings. the thing with the audio aspect Brian, is i see so little careful studies being done with regards to the cryo stuff. but it's your call of course. i think cryotweaks on the web offers a service. as to how they developed their parameters...i'd imagine they'd say it was proprietary.
     
  20. Bill_D

    Bill_D Supporting Actor

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    Well said Chu ...... I think?!

    These cryo people won't provide the R&D notes on how they came up with their process. Like how they determined what temperature to go down to? And, as above, is the process the same for silver, copper, rhodium etc.? And, .... does the process account for how the cables are packaged teflon, foam, plastic etc? And, how many more cycles than 60 will get if I cryo my power cable.
     

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