Any Difference Between Gold and Silver RCA/XLR Connector Plugs?


How much of a factor does the type of plating (gold or silver) on RCA and XLR cables play on the overall sonic signature of a cable?

I went ahead and ordered basic Neutrik XLRs with silver contacts without much thought into it. However, the equipment I'm connecting to has gold pins on the outputs and inputs. Is it a better idea (in theory) to use XLR cables with gold pins to match the equipment?
slag_lover2013
Well, silver is the best conductor of electricity; gold isn't even as good a conductor as copper. Gold plated is a marketing gimmick. The only advantage gold might possibly have is that it will not tarnish or oxidize as readily as silver or copper. You made the right choice.
I've read one study showing that there is a tiny effect when going from one material to another, so sticking with gold contacts is probably a good idea.
I agree that sticking with whatever material is dictated on the input jacks should be maintained on your interconnects as far as the issue of dissimilar materials are concerned. I'm sure there is a differential in resistance when using different metals in an electrical path but is probably negligible. It is likely that the conductors on the pole outside your house are aluminum and maybe copper from the pole to your house and likely copper wiring in your walls. Might be interesting to know how silver on the pole and the house feeder and the house wiring would sound. Maybe they have that in Saudi Arabia.
As the French Chef says: "No diffawrance!"
When’s the last time you had your ears candled?
Wow, I'm surprised there are no other answers than "it makes no difference".

Silver is the best conductor of electricity.  However, it can come across very bright sounding.  It tends to push the upper mids and highs.  Sometimes there is a lack of bass or a lean bass.

Gold-plated will not corrode or tarnish like silver, but it generally is warmer sounding with rolled off or soft high frequencies.
Of course it makes a difference. Of course they sound different. auxinput nailed it. But this is beside the point. In this case the reason for asking is the connector will be soldered onto DIY cable. That right there is the problem. The deficiencies of DIY cables so vastly overshadow anything as minor as the RCA plating it renders the whole question moot. Its like asking which speaker terminal when building a speaker from scratch knowing nothing about it but what some other guy said would work. Good luck.
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millercarbon
3,024 posts

 In this case the reason for asking is the connector will be soldered onto DIY cable. That right there is the problem.

How would you do it? I'm interested, I used pure silver solder, 2-4-6 % silver/tin/lead, WBT, and sometime NOTHING, I just hardwire, use a coil to pin mechanical contact and a dab of high temp. silicone. Pure silver or pure copper, no mix. I also make my own ends from pure copper or silver pins (SCW).
I cut 4 1.5 inch conductors and twist high strand count silver or copper
and once again join as needed, or wanted. Heck you can weld it with some of today's wire and gun setups and a good mix.
What's the best to your ears. How WOULD YOU do it? I'm like the little train, I think, I can, I think, I can. The difference is I KNOW I CAN.. How do you make yours? You have a favorite type of cable? Above and beyond all others? I'm very interested. I've been building repairing and troubleshooting cables for almost 50 years. I been repairing or having to make double sided IC for 30 plus years. Been scoping digital / analog cabling for 25 years. These cables are FULL of little networks, sometimes 30-40 different nodes Tell me how would you make it?

I'm no expert, just an old retired heavy master mechanic, but I can fix or build ANY CABLE. I MEAN ANY.. If I get my hands on it, I can make it or fix it. I don't, but I SURE can.  The treatment or conditioning on the cable that is up to the application.. Problem is the hands are wore out, only 20-30 min at a time 3 or 4 time a day. 

Regards


roberjerman
3,343 posts
02-09-2020 5:41pm
As the French Chef says: "No diffawrance!"

Really? you are kidding RIGHT??? WOW, I guess I'm blessed, I can hear a BIG difference in poorly designed cables. GREAT one not so much.. Can be pretty minor with my old ears, BUT some, WOW ear bleeding bright, NOISE!!! Never the way it was intended to be heard, or played for that matter. I have a lot of OLD Mac some a little newer, some VTL, PASS, a LOT of the gear I made or modified, BIG planar/ribbon speaker fan. I learned GOLD of low quality can cause BIG problems. Its best application is in very harsh environment, or where it's being used to ADD capacitance to a cable circuit. I've seen that quite a bit.. An eraser can go a long way to clean up sound problems with conductors..Neverdul is a great cleaning and metal treatment also...
@slag_lover2013 - The answer to your question is far more complex than the simple question Gold vs. Silver.

Yes - silver is a better conductor than gold

However, depending on the base metal(s) to which the plating is applied, you may also find a further plating material is required to act as a substrate to achieve better bonding. Those substrate materials are often much worse at conducting electrical signals.

Whereas - Silver plating can be applied directly to copper, which is the best combination of base material + plating.

Just as with copper, there are many purity levels of silver also, so just because a plug is silver plated does not mean it will perform to the same level as other silver plated plug.

Gold and rhodium plating’s are perhaps the worst metals from a conductivity perspective, but they do protect from corrosion when copper is used as the base material for connectors .
- if you find yourself inserting the plugs often then they can be of benefit compared to copper connectors with very thin silver plating.

Plain copper is very good, but does oxidize and will require cleaning

A Silver plated copper (or even solid silver) plugs are best from a conductivity perspective.

But silver does tarnish...
- HOWEVER, the tarnish you see is NOT really "Silver Oxide"
- it is an extremely thin layer Silver Sulphide - see this link...

https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/workshops-conferences/regional-workshops-co...

Now, some people go to great lengths to clean their tarnished silver plugs, but all that is really required is to reseat the plugs. This action is enough to break through the thin layer of silver sulfide to reestablish a perfect contact.

Also, the amount of sulfur containing gasses in my house seems to be quite low, because I am yet to see my plugs tarnish

Next thing to address is the amount of silver plating. Most plug manufacturers simply apply the least amount of silver. There are others that apply a more generous amount of silver and they state the number of microns sometimes in their specs.

BUT - What is far MORE important than the plating material in ALL connectors is the base material that the plug pins are made from.

Here is a good reference for the IACS ratings of different materials/alloys commonly used in audio connectors
https://www.avoutlet.com/images/product/additional/f/iacs_of_metals_n_solder.pdf

Personally - I use Silver plated connectors and have never had an occasion to "clean them" other than reseating them.

I use RCA and Banana connectors from KLE Innovations and I use Sonar Quest Silver plated copper IEC and mains connectors from Ebay.

All provide outstanding performance and as yet, they show no sign of "wear through" to the copper base material on any of these connectors after several dozen insertions.

Hope that helps - Steve


I can definitely agree that the base metal and plating off connectors can change the sound signature. I have experienced lots of combo's. (phosphor bronze, tellurium copper or brass as base metal) and different kind off plating's (silver, gold, platinum, rhodium). It is a subtle effect though. Some can sound more detailed or cooler/warmer, but i have also found that some connectors change the dynamic envelope off the transients in a subtle way. 

Some connectors focus more on the attack of a sound and some more on the sustain part. I think this is because of the changing resistance properties of the different layers of metal. I have AECO pure silver RCA connectors with Neotech nemoi-1220 silver occ. It gives a warm & detailed sound with an endless sustain on reverb sounds. Pure copper is also something to consider, if you like a more neutral sound signature. 

KLEI or Eichmann for RCA is also a very good option. EIZZ has some nice XLR connectors with tellurium copper/platinum plating and screw terminals. Furutech has some nice XLR's for welding.

I have spend way to much money on cables and connectors, it is like audiophile nervosa ;) And if you are competent enough, DIY is the way to go and can save you a lot of money.