Plugging and unplugging a few times every once in a while will work as well as any contact cleaner. A touch of Caig Pro Gold also works well. Spending hundreds of dollars gives no added value IMO.
46 responses Add your response
I consider the Walker Audio Extreme-SST contact enhancer an integral and necessary part of my system. I use it on all contacts and had my electrician use it on all the electrical connections for the dedicated AC lines coming into the listening room. I continue to have the same reaction to the Extreme-SST as I shared in my post several years ago:
Highly recommended when used as directed -- sparingly!
Science hasn't answered all of the universe's questions, last I checked. My ears tell me that Walker silver paste improves the sound without a doubt. An improvement in transparency was immediately obvious after treating my MC240. I then did the rest of my system. But, it does take a good bit of system resolution before this level of improvement becomes apparent.
No, science has not answered all the universe's question. You are correct. However, this is an engineering problem, not a philosophical one. Believe it or not, things to do with electricity or electronics fall into the realm of electrical engineering.
I cannot explain why some 12ax7's sound better to me than others do. Most EE's that I know would not care to delve into that question and would probably shirk it off as being trivial or hokum. On the question of contact treatment, I would tend to believe that if the contacts are corroded or oxidized somewhat, then cleaning would help. This brings to my mind the question of whether the impedance effects of oxidation are linear or non-linear through the frequency spectrum. If it is linear, no worries -- turn the volume up. If it is non-linear, clean the contacts, then turn the volume up some more.
I would really like to see scientific evidence (i.e. impedance data) that contact treatments actually improve conductance between two clean conductive metals.
Another "for instance" of audiophilogy beliefs is skin-effect of audio cables. An EE prof of mine while I worked in audio shops during school worked out the calculations for skin effect for audio frequencies and a decade above for "monstrous" cables, and for coax wires. Guess what? None. No skin effect at these frequencies.
I think there is quite a bit of marketing driving our audiophile beliefs. Marketing guys sell product...
I've never seen a paper from, or attended a course in the fields of Science or Electrical Engineering that addressed the issues of the very complex waveforms, timing, timbre, harmonic and ambience cues that comprise a musical signal being transmitted through metals, and/or connections. Nor do either of those supposed authorities really have a handle on what might be taking place on the quantum level, vis-a-vis electron flow. Testing is invariably done with relatively simple signals, generated by equipment that I'd never listen to on my system. Testing done, and empirical data collected by, listening to actual music is scoffed at. That doesn't surprise me in the least as there are multitudes in this world that are unable to hear, recognize or(perhaps) admit the differences/improvements that result from our innovations and tweaks. Look at the following that Julian Hirsch had during his tenure at Stereo Review(what a joke!). Unless the surfaces of two connectors are custom machined or ground to obtain perfect/100% contact with one another: Signal transfer will never be as good as it could be. I've not seen any audio component manufacturers take that kind of trouble when designing their ware. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that an application, filling whatever voids exist between two contacts with the best conductor know to science(ie: SST's silver flakes), will enhance signal(or in the case of our power sources: 120V/60Hz electrical) transfer. PS: Placebo Babble be damned!!
I use the AV Extreme and have found it to work as advertised. I only use it on my RCA's between my pre and amps and it really brings the music to another level. I would not put it on my RCA pins again as it caused problems in my amps that manifested in a series of blown fuses and tubes. I'm also leery about using it on tube pins. I just put it on the outside of the female RCA connector.
The big drawback with this stuff is you have to wait three weeks for it to cook. I have heard the Walker paste works right away so I may give that a try.
I agree with Rodman's observation. It's really more about keeping the signal flow constant than it is about super conductivity. The paste does that by filling in the micro gaps to reduce signal transfer vibration.
Hard to beat Markphd's original response. Nothing wrong with also doing a little wiping with fine emery & cleaning if desired. Away from the audiophile world you are not likely to find high cost fairy goop in critical signal paths (I think the reason for this is that testing and calibration instruments are greatly lacking in imagination). You will find some relatively low dollar goop used to help prevent a hot joint where fairly high currents are involved.
Well said, Rodman99999.
I completely agree with your statement, "Testing is invariably done with relatively simple signals, generated by equipment that I'd never listen to on my system. Testing done, and empirical data collected by, listening to actual music is scoffed at. That doesn't surprise me in the least as there are multitudes in this world that are unable to hear, recognize or(perhaps) admit the differences/improvements that result from our innovations and tweaks."
I have read about Ken Stevens' audio engineering and design methods -- design, build, test, listen to music, re-design... I respect it very much! He uses testing to evaluate his equipment to determine if re-design will improve performance, but he also uses music listening to determine this. I would bet a lot of audio component engineers are designing so that test measurements will just get product out the door. I am sure this is nothing new.
I enjoyed your reply. It made me think.
Viiu- The key to avoiding the problems you've encountered in your use of a conductive product is the term, "sparingly". Many have applied much more than needed, with the same results as you. KUDOS on not throwing out the baby with the bath water. You could still gain much more by applying the product to your RCA positive, and tube pins(sparingly and avoiding any bridging between conductors). Happy listening!
I must say, however, that I still think that what happens at connections is relatively simple. If the connectors are corroded, clean them. If there is a mechanical problem with them making a connection, fix it so that they make a tight connection. Simplistic. I don't think that precision polished, nanometer scale contact is necessary for optimal transmission of relatively low frequency audio signals.
I think that audio connection design has evolved to a point where they make secure contact, and are resistant to corrosion. I like to keep my contacts clean and tight and be done with it unless there is an obvious problem. I save my audio hobby allowance for things like tubes and cartridges, and my dream pair of speakers.
I use Pro Gold every six months or so. The immediately visible difference that it typically makes is striking, on the brightness of what might have been taken for a reasonably clean surface prior to the application. Seems like a low-cost common sense thing to do.
Re the philosophical matters:
design, build, test, listen to music, re-design...
Exactly. Let's not forget that experimentation and trial-and-error are integral parts of good engineering. And good engineers will recognize that not everything can be explained analytically, and that it is sometimes pointless and/or cost-ineffective to try to do so.
I'll add, though, that it is often those with non-technical backgrounds (among reviewers, ad-writers, and audiophiles), who are the worst offenders in these respects, by conjuring up speculative explanations for what they hear that are based on what I would refer to as quack science. Meaning either science that is simply invalid, or that is misapplied due to lack of quantitative perspective (such as skin effect that was mentioned above, another good example being time-alignment of cables).
There are things that we can hear but can't measure (or don't know how to measure); and there are things we can measure but can't hear. There are also things that we can hear but can't explain, and I believe it is much better to have no explanation than to promulgate a speculative one or an incorrect one.
For those who may be interested in actually "listening" and determining for yourself whether a contact enhancer can make a meaningful difference in your system, the solution is fairly simple. Walker Audio offers a full satisfaction guarantee on their E-SST/SST contact enhancer. Simply try it. If you're not satisfied with the results in your system, return the unused portion within 30 days and Lloyd will refund your purchase price, less shipping. Sure, you're out of pocket the shipping both ways, but otherwise it's a pretty pain-free way to find out for yourself whether a silver contact enhancer will make a meaningful improvement in your system, and be worth the cost, or not.
This was the approach my listening partner and I took. And as I've noted in this thread and elsewhere, the Extreme SST makes such a meaningful improvement in our system that we use it on all contacts and would not consider setting up another component without it. The improved results are consistent everywhere we've done some careful comparative listening both in our system and the systems of several audio friends.
As Aball points out, it's possible that a system will not have the base level of resolution to allow one to hear a further benefit from applying the contact enhancer. I've experienced that with one system we checked out. But that was only one system out of about 10 in which we've shared a comparative listening session with friends. In every other case, both we and the owner of the system heard a meaningful improvement. For several, the improvement was worth the cost and they purchased some E-SST on their own following the listening test. For a few, they heard the difference, but the improvement wasn't worth cost to them. Different strokes, and all that.
My listening partner and I tend to rely on what we hear -- if our ears tell us the sound is different, better or worse, that's what matters to us. If we both hear the same thing, as we usually do, we know we should pay attention. If there is a scientific explanation, that's nice. But, ultimately, we find that irrelevant if we HEAR the difference.
Almarg: I like your comment that "it is much better to have no explanation than to promulgate a speculative one or an incorrect one." Thanks for that observation.
Mr B- As I stated: Music signals contain much more information than simply frequency, and many components of said signal are not quantifiable(but very audible). If audio(or electrical) connections did indeed provide optimal transmission: contact enhancers could not further affect one's music reproduction, but to degrade it. A multitude of us have observed that they do however improve things audibly(Rushton stated our case perfectly). BUT- If you are satisfied with your connections- Case closed! BTW: While 12AX7s will share the same specs and perhaps even the same transconductance measurements: If you take a pile of them and compare those of different manufacturers, or even various designations(ie: 12AX7/7025/ECC83/ECC803S), or date codes of the same manufacturer, you will find few that are constructed identically, though all are dual triodes. Structural materials, the number of mica supports, cathode coating substances, etc. also vary between manufacturers. Hence: Very few will sound alike.
If audio (or electrical) connections did indeed provide optimal transmission: contact enhancers could not further affect one's music reproduction, but to degrade it, or have no effect on it at all. I think that would be more accurate.
It's o.k. though, I can bang my head against the wall all day. The only result is that you would still spend your $30+ on something that is touted to have a real effect on an electronic system that has negligible effects on the basis of the laws of nature, which is what your system was founded on in the first place.
I am glad to see that the audio salesman who chimed in with a plug for his shop did offer a money back guarantee. That was refreshing. His caveat that your system may not be good enough to resolve the difference with and without the tweek was a bit pathetic (although only in 1 out of 10 times does this happen, so my dear friend and future customer, don't be offended, your system is good enough to be sure).
Sorry for the cynicism, tweeks are accessories. Accessories carry the highest profit margin in the store where you shop. Caveat emptor.
f audio (or electrical) connections did indeed provide optimal transmission: contact enhancers could not further affect one's music reproduction, but to degrade it, or have no effect on it at allYes, yes, but the connections are mechanical & flimsy. (Silver) "Conductive grease", which is non-fancy name for the stuff, is used for moving mechanical contacts... it helps with electrical & thermal conductivity.
OTOH, there is a risk of metal migration (silver into the gold plating of the contacts).
See fo example products like this.
I use such a product, cleaning it every 3-4 months (with acetone -- take care not to touch ANY plastic with acetone) & reapplying.
No doubt Walker's products has its unique merits except one: the price. The industrial equivalent, while not cheap, is far more reasonably priced.
I am very sorry, Rushton. I mistook your post as a plug and did not read it carefully enough. Please accept my apologies.
I agree to disagree. This is another audiophile topic that can go on endlessly in debate. I have stated my thoughts about it, and those who disagree with me have stated theirs. There it is.
I reiterate that I am glad that some companies offer money back guarantees on their tweeks. That, to me is important. That promotes experimentation, which is a critical aspect of improving one's system.
No harm, Bicycle_man. We can certainly agree to disagree for there is much room in this hobby to differ. I agree that experimentation is important as we seek to improve the enjoyment we get from our respective systems. Sharing actual experiences is one of the great values of the Audiogon forums.
I just got some used speakers and was listening to them for the past 2 weeks. Just yesterday I thought about the dirty speaker terminals and cleaned them using Caig Deoxit and Progold Enhancer. Man I was just shocked to see the amount of dirt on the binding posts and knobs as the cotton buds I used to clean them all turned black as charcoal. I used about 16 swabs for the speaker terminals alone. Since I'm at work, I cleaned the binding posts behind the amp and speaker cable spades as well and the same thing happens, all the swabs turned black.
Even before firing up the system and listening to the sound improvements, psychologically I was forced to accept that there would be improvements. Soon after I started listening, I noticed a more focused, cleaner and open sound. Do yourself a favour and clean the speaker terminals of your speakers once a year or so. After you notice the amount of dirt on them you will acknowledge the importance of cleaning them with contact treatments.
I didn't clean the connections of the source to preamp to amp as all my interconnects are balanced.
I recently bought some Walker SST, based on reviews here on Audiogon and elsewhere. I paid about $100 total, including shipping. Last night I put the SST on a few select connections (speaker cable banana plugs, RCA interconnects between preamp and amp). Didn't notice much, but I suppose it sounded better. I read in the brochure that it needed 8 hours to break in.
Imagine my surprise when I turned my system on this morning! WOW! Not a night and day difference, but a definite change. There is an added clarity, kind of like I just cleaned my eyeglasses. I now understand what all those reviewers wrote about. Definitely the best $100 tweak I've ever had. (Aurios roller bearings were a "better" tweak, but they only add value in certain places in my system. I think the Walker SST can add value anywhere it is used.)
Time will tell if this tweak lasts for the long term, but for now I am quite impressed. Now I am trying to figure out how to clean and prep all the contacts in my system!
BTW, I have a pretty simple system.
Olive Musica music server
Arcam CD72 (modified) CD player
Dared SL-2000-A tube pre-amp
Onix SP3 tube amp
Gallo Ref 3.1 speakers
Designdude, good for you to go out and try this! Glad to hear you've had some results that please you. To clean and prep other contacts in your system, unless you see some obvious corrosion, isopropyl alchohol and a Q-tip will work quite well. That's what we use here. If you decide to use a contact cleaner like Caig DeoxIT, wipe it down well with isopropyl alchohol afterwards. Many that I've tried still leave behind a sonic signature that the alcohol does not.
As you discovered, expect all of your treated connections to require some amount of break-in time. The sound initially will vacillate between bright and edgy and somewhat muffled before it settles into what you described you heard on day 2. What I find are the following time frames: AC connections - 1-2 hours; high level audio connections - 5-7 hours; phono level connections - 20 hours. Playing complex music is the best method of breaking in the SST.
The Walker treatment is organic; yahoo. (Cynical, yes.)
Reminded me to re-read Norman Koren's page: http://www.normankoren.com/Audio/
and his description, "Loose screws? Sometime in the late 1980's I visited an audiophile in San Diego. When he opened the door he exclaimed, "Norm! I've made the most incredible discovery! A simple modification that really improves the sound opens it up, sharpens the imaging, and deepens the soundstage. I've loosened the screws on all my chassis. You gotta hear it!" He learned this tweak from a friend of his who had made a small fortune with a "CD enhancer" spray called Finyl. At the time, the ads for Finyl claimed it would increase the number of bits of resolution. His system sounded terrible.
I'd heard rumors that some audiophiles had their screws loose, but I never took them literally until that evening. Gordie Freedman evidently had similar experiences.
Maybe the problem was his cable lifters, which were made of plastic and only lifted his cables 4 inches. Here's what Mapleshade says: "Odd as it may seem, laying audio cables on an artificial fiber carpet will immediately dull the sound of your stereo. And thats true for all cables, not just our Clearview wires. Unfortunately, the carpet is a huge mass of low quality insulation (dielectric). It absorbs and smears energy from the field around the wire. The effect is pretty grim, making music sound both dulled and harsh. A simple ear-tested solution is to raise the cables off the carpet by at least 8 inches. Thats exactly what our maple Triad does." You're apparently out of luck if your decor is oak or walnut. I gotta quit. You won't find any more of this stuff on my site. I promise.""
Another vote for Walker SST and detoxit. I use them both on every connection. I also had a low voltage light fixture with bulbs that have two small pins. They would regularly stop working and when unplugged the pins looked burned and pitted as if they were arching in the sockets. This went on for a couple of years, I had applied contact enhancing paste from my electrician and still no luck. I finally put Walker SST on last year they have not failed since.
I have no doubt about the effectiveness of deoxit. It is great for cleaning contacts, especially those of potentiometers. Old pots more often than not need cleaning. Deoxit helps to eliminate oxidation, etc.
I am glad to hear about sst filling in the contact voids of some burnt and pitted lamp bulb contact pins and their sockets -- sounds like money well spent. Which was more expensive, the bulb or the sst? Was the glow tighter and more defined? Did it have more air around it? It is 60 hz, was this mid-bass more palpable?
Adapt and overcome what? Adapt to marketing malarkey? Overcome what, your sensibilities? Try keeping your contacts clean and tight in the first place; and, some extra money in your pocket. I think I will go out and get some eagle-eye amber sunglasses now.
Obviously you aren't a Marine! I'm certain that Leatherneck(whom I was addressing) got my joke. If you're too deaf or blind to hear, see or appreciate the differences that SST MOST CERTAINLY makes, it's a shame. NO DOUBT though- You've NEVER tried the product, and have NO valid opinion. Still- He and I both fought in defence of your 1st Amendment right to voicing your vapid statements(your prerogative).
Try keeping your contacts clean and tight in the first place; and, some extra money in your pocket.All excellent advice.
However, let me insist that conductive grease is usefully and successfully applied to moving /sliding surfaces to improve conductivity.
As you doubtless know, "conductive grease" is the industrial, non-trendy name for branded products such as "SST contact enhancer, by Walker". It is also considerably cheaper when called that, rather than the branded equivalent.
However, if you have top-notch connectors you rarely mess with, you probably don't need it. If not, it can help improve the contact, especially the single-ended ones. Regards.
Thank you for supporting my 1st Amendment rights (honestly). I apologize for the acerbic nature and tone of my statements; I categorize contact enhancers along with other products that are heavily marketed on a pseudo-scientific basis. I worked in audio and know how hard accessory sales are pushed. The mark-up is tremendous. So, I am very cynical and skeptical of accessories.
I was going to go on with my arguments against contact enhancing accessories, but decided against it -- you are correct, I do not hear the difference. And, you are also wrong, I have tried contact enhancers. My money will never go towards them. My connectors are good quality and I keep them clean. I will, however, buy tuner cleaner, or whatever some may call it, for cleaning the pots on my pre-amps.
I'm a skeptic by nature and as a result of being screwed over the years, by hyped products outside of the audio arena. However- When an audio product is offered with a money back, satisfaction guarantee(ala SST), highly touted by so many reviewers(professional and otherwise), and conforms to my knowledge of physics: I'm compelled to try it. BUT HEY- As long as we are enjoying our systems: It's all good, right? Happy listening!! =8^)
If I can offer some comments- one should be wary of any contact enhancers that leave behind an oily deposit. In certain situations, the oil can migrate and affect circuits that it shouldn't.
I've seen contact enhancers applied to tube sockets and input connectors with disastrous results. In the case of the tube sockets, the material migrated across the circuit board the tube socket was mounted on, resulting in noticeable loss of gain and bandwidth. The board had to be treated with a degreasing agent to restore performance.
Consequently I've gotten conservative about enhancers. I've used Deoxit with good results, but I am careful to wipe away any excess after I've done the application(BTW one is missing a bet with this product if you don't use a clean rag to buff the surface of whatever contact is in question).
Where there is any doubt, the most effective chemicals I've seen that offer the lowest risk are sprays that are marked 'contact cleaner' (not enhancer) and also with the words 'with silicone lubricant'. This type of contact cleaner is safe with tube sockets, potentiometers and connectors. You can get it at Radio Shack.
I have to agree with the dangers of applying "oily" or grease containing substances(ie: the electrical grease mentioned) to electronic gear. The heat generated by the piece(particularly tubed gear) WILL cause migration. SST is not oily or greasy, and used sparingly(as instructed) will not migrate. One thing you can absolutely count on with produces containing silicone: They WILL act as a magnet for any and all crap drifting in your home's atmosphere. 7 out of 10 times that I've been called upon to repair a mixer: there's been a can of "Contact Cleaner and Lubricant" in the booth, and the problem: Faders/pots contaminated by a mixture of silicone and dirt. Also- Silicone is an electrical insulator(keep in mind we are discussing audio signals, not just AC(line) voltage and current). If that's what you apply to your connections, after trying to eliminate those(oxides/corrosion/etc) that were already present, to a degree, you've defeated your own purpose. If you want to use a spray cleaner; use one that leaves no residues, like Blue Shower: (http://www.techspray.com/G3products.htm#Contact%20Cleaner%20G3®)