Silver vs. Copper Interconnects

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Daniel Mai, Jan 27, 2003.

  1. Daniel Mai

    Daniel Mai Stunt Coordinator

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    How much of a difference in sound?

    Would the improvement be noticeable enough to justify the cost?
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    can't think of a reason why there'd be any.
    absolutely not.
    for an interconnect, like between an amp and a preamp, the signal, for all intents and purposes, is flatter than an anorexic model. way way beyond the limits of anyone's audibility.
    however, given the cost of interconects and the costs of buying some teflon covered silver wire with some rca's one can make several pairs quite inexpensively. pick a braiding geometry that suits your fancy and have some fun.
     
  3. Marc_E

    Marc_E Supporting Actor

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    Call me crazy but I can
    I just swapped out my silver XLRs from Catcables so Doug at Catcables can make an adjustment for me. I put my older canare XLrs in and my center seemed to become ver flat and surrounds less natural, more harsh. These cables are from AVM-20 to Rotel RMB-1095 center is B&W NHTM1 and surrounds are B&W DM601s.
    I love silver and highly reccomend catcables.com and Dougs work.
    Marc
     
  4. Walt Park

    Walt Park Stunt Coordinator

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    Are you sure the difference is in the metal? There's alot of other factors, like shielding, gauge, twist, rca type, dialectric, solder quality, etc. I guess what I'm saying is that if one cable sounds better, it might not be because of the metal. Best test would be to make 2 identical cables, with the only diff being the metal type. I'll probably try that sometime soon.
     
  5. Daniel Mai

    Daniel Mai Stunt Coordinator

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    Three very interesting responses and I'm still confused.

    Marc, the Silvercats are the ones I was looking at from Catcables and that's what started this.
     
  6. Mike Matheson

    Mike Matheson Second Unit

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  7. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    I would go with Mike's suggestion. We can argue the differences back and forth but we aren't spending your money so we can't say what the difference is and what it is worth to you [​IMG]
     
  8. dougW

    dougW Stunt Coordinator

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    Gonna have to disagree on there being no difference in metals, absolutely, positively, there are distinct differences. Silver is actually a better conductor of signals, and often chosen for critical systems in aviation for that reason.

    There's also a difference in the oxidation. Silver's oxidation is actually conductive, copper's oxidation is not conductive, and though not as corrosive, is comparible to an old post battery terminal, in that over enough time, a contact exposed to oxygen, could completely break connection due to oxidation. Now realistically, with a soldered connection, this won't ever happen because of the lack of oxygen, but it could occur on a poorly crimped cable of the non-soldered type.

    But when we get to the metals properties in audio, the differences can show up in soundstage, imaging, detail, and transparency, and even bass performance. Now, I can get close with copper, very close, but you will note differences in the sonic signatures of the cables, as well as a slightly rolled off top end on the copper. These differences are not imagined, they are very real.

    I will however say that silver, even though it's the "elixer of fine audio" IMO, is not the correct metal for all applications. It's all system dependent, on electronics, speakers, and listening environment.

    Thanks Marc for the kind words. [​IMG]

    Lex
     
  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    silver's conductivity is ~6% better, an effect that's generally considered inconsequential and going up just one gauge in copper renders that a non-issue.
    regarding oxidation, the oxides of copper are over 9 orders of magnitude worse in terms of conductivity. That's a billion times worse. for silver oxide, it's about 17 orders of magnitude worse (you can add 17 zeros after the one) for silver sulfide, the electrical conductivity is about 5 orders of magnitude worse. this form is possibly more realistic considering sulfides are an environmental pollutant. none of the above oxides are what i'd consider having great electrical conductivity. However considering that the silvercats use 22 gauge wire and the coppercats use 18 gauge wire, i just might expect there to be a difference in signal level. more about that further down.
    under no conditions, given nominal lengths, will there be an appreciable or audible deviation in the 'staightness' of the signal. given two cables, one silver in teflon, one copper in say PVC or polyethylene, and keeping the geometry and lengths the same, the silver will result in a slightly extended linear frequency response (although we're talking 100's of kHz if not mHz) but that's due to capacitance issues. btw, what are the capacitance values of the various cats? i didn't see anything about it on the website.
    what can one say about soundstage, imaging, detail, etc.? it's an oft repeated statement when speaking about cables but as to it being realistic remains to be seen or is it heard. moving your speakers apart an inch, or changing your seating position slightly will affect this. opening and closing your blinds will have an effect. having another person in the room will have an effect. switching from copper to silver?
    it's a well known fact that people will hear differences even when there are no differences. perhaps that's due to evolutionary considerations. i guess the person who heard a noise and ducked even when there wasn't one, was probably the same person who evaded being a meal for those saber-tooted tigers of days gone by.
    most certainly expectations play a large role. it's also well known that slight changes of level, everything else being equal cause people to interpret that in their own unique way. you may well define it as greater detail even though nothing but the absolute level of all frequencies have changed.
    lex most definitely has a point regarding the issue of poor connections and it's quite possible that differences people have noticed may well be due to that simple fact. whether it's a poor connection in the joining of the rca to the wire or a poor connection between two pieces of equipment. simple solution...choose cables that are soldered or welded and keep the ends clean as well as the equipment inputs.
    i've heard good things about catcable's workmanship and promptness. no doubt there's a certain degree of bragging rights.
    so indeed try them out. personally i'd be looking at doing some sort of blind comparison with some friends if only for the fact that so many of us never have and i think it's a good learning experience. who knows, maybe it'll shake up some of the stuff you know or think you know. maybe it'll reaffirm things. btw, when sometime down the road they come out with shielded silver interconnects, you gonna bite on those? what about when they come out with dual shielded ones? 80% braid? what about 95% braid? one foil or two?



    ps Lex, you've got a few typos on that website...it's sleek not sleak,lose not loose and you're not your, etc...some subject/verb issues...incomplete sentences, etc. maybe you can run it through MS Word and clean it up a bit.
     
  10. Walt Park

    Walt Park Stunt Coordinator

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    Daniel: Sorry, I didnt mean to confuse it any more. In the end it's probably worth it to give them a listen. If you dont like it, or cant hear much difference, then return them, and you're just out the cost of shipping.

    I'm still undecided on the cable thing. On the one hand I want to say resistance is resistance, so copper or silver shouldnt matter if you comp with a bigger gauge.

    On the other hand some cables do sound better than others. But I'm not yet convinced its because of the metal involved. That doubt is simply because even with a given metal, there are differences between cables. Copper cables do not all sound the same, and if the logic is that silver is better than copper I would personally be doubtful. I might be convinced that with equally constructed silver and copper interconnects, the silver might sound better, but silver and copper interconnects are not constructed the same way.

    There's a limited number of ways that silver comes, as Chu mentioned. Mostly it comes as a single strand, sometimes coated in some insulator. Then you braid it somehow, for the litz thing for some noise/emi reduction.

    Copper on the otherhand, comes in lots of varieties, geometries, shield types etc. The wire tech, if you will, is "better".

    Here's something I've been wondering. Alot of DIY stuff is using communications materials. So, I'm thinking, what types of things are used in fast communications, where signal loss is both critical and measureable. So I'm thinking of data storage systems in computers, since the transmission of data in a computer is both higher and more critical than in analog audio. Faster connections are optical, so I'm not talking about that. But all the wiring used is copper. With businesses relying on that transmission and the integrity of the data flowing down those connections, and companies paying 100's of $K for these systems, the cost increase to use silver in the cables is tiny since the amount of metal involved is small. If silver were really superior, wouldnt they be using them in these systems?

    The reason I started thinking about this is that I went looking to scrounge up a better iec cord for my amp. We have alot of discarded cables. Anyway, I found a nice 12-3 shielded cable with ferrites, and was thinking... I guess if it matters, they would put it on the expensive servers. But still all data wiring is copper, unless it's optical. So why is that? unless silver doesn't really improve it.

    Computing rides on the cutting edge. People will pay 50-100% more for a computer than is %15 faster than another. If silver was just that much better, why wouldnt they use it?
     
  11. Marc_E

    Marc_E Supporting Actor

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    I think the most important point that just about everyone regardless of which side of the fence they are on is saying is listen and decide yourself. You have to like them in your rig.

    I like the cats in my system a lot. As I said, they sounded better to me (smooth as opposed to harsh, detailed and transparent) than the canare cables I had. Those were well made too:.
    'Using Neutrik Black and Gold XLR connectors and Canare L4-E6S Star-Quad Cable.
    1/4" TRS available. Please email me with requirements.
    Soldered with SN62 Silver Solder '
    From the makers site.

    L4-E6S Star-Quad Cable:
    'A 20 AWG Star Quad cable specifically designed for point to point wiring in fixed installations. Aluminum Foil Shielding provides 100% coverage. Slick, easy to pull PVC Jacket with internal Dupont Kevlar 29 cable filler, stronger than steel, can resist stretching or kinking of wires when pulled through conduit bends. Foil shield & drain wire strips easily for quick assembly work (1/3 the assembly time of braided shields). Irradiated PE conductor insulation resists solder iron meltdown. '
    from canare's site.
    Don't get me wrong, these were nice cables too. Well made and sounded much better than the monster crap I had. But I heard a difference and I liked the difference that the catcables made.
    I am not a physicist (actually I am a chemist (organic not inorganic)) so I am not the one to discuss metal differences. I can only regurgitate what I have read/heard. The sound is all that matters.
    My 2cents
    Marc

    Doug, thanks for the great cables!
     
  12. dougW

    dougW Stunt Coordinator

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    Chu, thanks on the typos. I tend not to be the best English typist, and I tell people, until I am the size of Audioquest, there will likely always be typos on my site according to the English dictionary. Sure, I correct some when an English expert visit my site and tell me of specific mistakes, what page, etc... But I have to much going on to go tracking grammer very often. Lucky for me, I am not selling Novels, but cables. Oh, come to think of it, that's why I am to busy for much grammer corrections. lol.

    Your welcome Marc! [​IMG]

    Lex
     
  13. Daniel Mai

    Daniel Mai Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, the big boys came out loaded and I'm even more confused now. I may just have to take a dive and see how it sounds.
     
  14. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    that's a great idea, maybe you can find a testing protocol on one of the cable sites. don't forget to get those cables cooked 'al-dente'. cooking too long might mean you'd have to replace them sooner than expected.
     
  15. HowardGjr

    HowardGjr Stunt Coordinator

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    This debate remains fascinating to me. Here is my take on it.

    1. What little I know about physics, communication theory and signals seem to coincide with what Chu Gai says. I must have read "hundreds" of his posts. Every time he says something that I have taken the time to look it up and understand it, his point of view has held up.

    2. Personally, I haven't heard differences when comparing cables. I can hear differences in sound-staging, imaging and tonal qualities between different speakers. I can also hear significant differences when listening in different rooms. Certainly, imaging is impacted when sitting in different positions within the room.

    3. I know I don't hear what other people hear. For example, I'm an 41 year old male so I probably don't hear much in the way of high frequency sounds. Given that I know there to be differences in how people perceive sound, perhaps some people can tell the difference between cables. Of course,as I'm sure Chu will point out, if there are people that can tell the differences between cables, they sure haven't passed a scientific double blind type test that demonstrates this ability. Again, it doesn't mean someone couldn't, it just means that they haven't. More importantly, I am positive I couldn't pass one [​IMG].

    4. Even if hearing cable differences is related to a placebo effect, that doesn't mean there isn't an effect. If you are happier with your system because you think you hear "more detail" with silver cables, is that bad?

    5. I own 41 (SACD/DVD-A/ICBMs yada yada) of Doug's interconnects (all copper) and am very happy with them. The cables are well manufactured, I like the locking RCA connector, the techflex is color coded to my specification as is the shrink wrap. The cables look great, make good connections, don't stress the bulkhead connector when I take them off and the color coding makes them easy to work with behind my rack. I got exactly!! what I asked for. He even worked within my budget. He responded to something like 70 emails back and forth. Could I have bought cables for less money? Yes. Would I be as happy as I am with the cables that I got from Doug? I don't really think so. To my mind, it was worth the additional expense.

    Daniel, good luck with whatever route that you take.
     
  16. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    guaranteed your sensitivity to high frequencies is tremendously reduced. i've got nothing whatsoever about preferences for a certain look, a certain construction, color, etc. for that one has to expect to pay accordingly. i've got issues, and they extend past this realm of audio to areas such as 'alternative' (quack) medicine, etc., with claims that are unsubtantiated or that have been stretched to something they never were intend to be. for example, i've no doubt that with certain amps, let's say tubes, in conjunction with certain types of speakers, let's say electrostats that've got got a precipitous drop to say 1 ohm in the upper frequency range, that a cable, if long enough, can have an effect upon the sound. but to then extrapolate that to everything is just foolish. there are amps, naim and i think some spectrums, that have issues with capacitance. pick out some low inductance cable which is typically high capacitance, the amp chokes. now i ask you, is that a question of a cable making a difference or a designer who is incapable of designing a robust amp? My thoughts are to the latter. There was an individual, a few years ago, who was marketing cables that'd supposedly been irradiated by light. hopefully he went bankrupt. there's a guy out in japan i think who passes a diamond over the wires because smoother copper is better copper. i once contacted one of these little places on the web and emailed the site asking how they determined that their power cord was able to increase the soundstage of a set of speakers. the answer i got was, 'that's what i heard'. well if that's all it takes to biopsy your wallet, it's no wonder we've got products or scams that'll promise to make your ***** bigger, give you the stamina of a triple crown winner let loose amongst 3 yo fillys, millions if you'll send some money to Nigeria, etc. well i feel better now [​IMG] hopefully my mu metal shielded aluminum hat will arrive soon, they're out there you know.
     
  17. HowardGjr

    HowardGjr Stunt Coordinator

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    Chu,

    1. I'm guessing it's been a long while since I heard anything over 16 Khz. Maybe when Regan was president, first term [​IMG]

    2. While I agree with you about the level of "nonsense" in advertising in general, it doesn't have the visceral impact on me that it does to you. If people want to expend resources on a product, they should be allowed to make that choice (outside of dangerous or life threatening “false hope” products). If the product sucks, people will figure it out and the company will go out of business. If some people are silly enough to think that drinking Pepsi will make them younger (or look like Brittany Spears), it should be their choice no matter how silly I think their decision. Perhaps your thinking is more inline with John K Galbraith where in critiquing advertising he argues that producers actually generate the demand for products (Dependence Effect).

    3. Again, while I don't hear differences when swapping cables (assuming connections are reasonably tight, etc) that Lex hears that doesn't mean that he doesn't. On the other hand, given the significant scientific evidence, I’m very skeptical that he actually hears an audible difference. Personally, I think that given the way he conducts his business and the quality of his work, he could avoid commenting on the whole soundstaging, imaging, tight bass, frequency extension discussion. Furthermore, to be completely fair, I think that if you check his website again you'll find that he devotes almost all of the discussion to cable construction and materials and very little to "sound issues" other than some short references to detail and clarity.

    4. Thanks for all the posts on this and other topics. I find them interesting and informative. Believe it or not, the choice came down to Doug or Dayton Audio Interconnects from Parts Express (at your suggestion). I went with Doug for the reasons I stated earlier.

    5. Some guy actually sold cables by advertising that they had been irradiated by light. Doesn’t seem like a bright idea to me [​IMG].

    Take care.
    Howard
     
  18. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    then you missed the latest audiophile drivel from Phoenix at parts express. and here i thought they'd never pull that linear crystal crap off [​IMG]
    glad you like them. i understand they look nice and are made well.
    i take a more rigid stance on bs. fairly recently, a local hospital sponsored a clinic if you will where an individual came in and spoke of the benefits of trained practioners who would carefully and knowingly pass their hands over one's body in order to interact with the aura and this would have positive results. these people would perform the service at the hospital but one had to ask for it. now there's no insurance that i know of that'll pay for that, so you're dealing with a cash cow from which the hospital get's its cut. maybe it's not harming people but i consider it theft and i consider the hospital's participation to be part and parcel of it. my standards though are different.
    btw, are there capacitance #s for those interconnects at catcables?
     

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