Copper v. Silver IC sound

I think most would agree that there is a trend for copper IC's to give a fuller midrange at the expense of some transparency, and for silver to give a pure extended top end while sounding a bit lean elsewhere. Some people will "mix" their IC's, say, using silver from source to preamp, then copper from preamp to amp. My question is: In this example, could one "lose" the warmer midrange in the first silver run, such that it could not be "recovered" in the second copper run? Conversely, could an initial copper run "reduce" the highest frequencies, such that they would not be "available" to the silver cable during the second run?
Or, are all the frequencies always carried along equally by most silver/copper IC's, with the final "presentation" of mids versus highs determined by the last cable in the system? Obviously I need to just try the experiment, but I don't have all the cables on hand, and I'd like to hear the experience and opinion of others. Thanks.
In general I agree with your assessment of copper vs. silver, but it doesn't always hold. I've definately found that using silver between the source and preamp and copper between the preamp and amp preserves much of the detail and transparency of the silver while filling out the mids--kind of the best of both worlds if you're suffering using all copper or all silver(see this month's review of Acoustic Zen cables for an example of this if you haven't already seen it). Haven't tried it the other way, but I bet you're correct that the silver can't put back what doesn't get to it in the first place.

That said, the best copper and silver cables I've heard seem to do just about everything right, but it comes at a price. I've found mixing copper and silver at a more budget level can be a way to achieve outstanding peformance without dropping a bundle. Best of luck.

I know I will take some heat for this, but every time I introduced a silver cable or a set of silver cables in my system, I hear what I would characterize as distortion. I have a very wide bandwidth system and do not feel silver is more extended. It tends to show more as a harshness and I prefer copper. As far as transparency, I have to disagree again. I find most copper cables that I have heard to be more natural, transparent, holographic and truly more extended. I would not necessarily include the "extension" with copper cables that utilize network boxes.

Silver cables benefit SET's that generally do not have extension by adding something that is not there, the appearance of highs.

On another note, I think mixing and matching cables may be a mistake. If one uses a cable as a "tuning" device, the problem in the system is never solved, only covered up. I have attempted to mix and match and it never seems as good as a complete system wide use of a manufacturers product. I have introduced one cable for example, between a DAC and preamp and it hurt the system terribly until I replaced the cables between the preamp and amplifier. Only then did I hear the true comparisons.

Someone who has done extensive testing on the subject of copper vs. silver is Jennifer Crock of Jena Labs. You can contact her through her website, You can also call her and you should be able to find her number on the website.

Good Luck.
I am not going to verbally flame anyone, but I also have what some would consider to be a highly resolving system and have found the opposite of Jtinn with good silver wire.

If one uses silver wire of inappropriate quality, I would generally prefer the copper. The other disclaimer is that I am into tubed gear, which may make a difference over cable choices used with solid state.

When you get to the cost - no - object cables, I do not think the conductor composition really matters -- they all sound great, just different. I have tried a few of these cables, but in most instances have choosen to spend the majority of my money on components..
I agree with JK on this. I think that most sound differences between copper and silver ICs has to do more with the construction of the IC than the metal conductor itself. The only physical "edge" that silver has over copper is conductiveness. I'd say that even material cost is a wash when you start getting anywhere above 99.9% purity. Gold brings up the rear as far as electrical conduction goes, however it does not oxidize, so it is useful as a connector. If everyone knows this, well then sorry for stating the obvious. :-)
Jk: Thank you for avoiding flames. :)

OK, now back to the show...

Silver produces a higher quantity of quantum noise known as "Phononic Energy". In layman's terms, silver generally will produce a high frequency coloration ranging from a shimmer to outright hashiness depending on the quality of the silver. Lower purity, more hash. Higher purity, less hash, but still shimmery.

Some people just like shimmery and for some systems in need, silver may add to the quality of the acoustic illusion.
Phononic Energy?! Just means LOUDNESS, right? Correlated to sones, etc....
Yet indeed I find a shimmeriness (good word) for the silver IC I used from CDP to pre. A great all copper cable seems fuller in the mids, but I believe only because the silver cable's mids are laid back. What's the absolute reference here? I dunno...either the copper has a bump at 1-3k and/or rolls off up top AND/OR the silver has a dip and/or peak, respectively.
If this is all it's about, then sure you can mix and match, without respect to additive/subtractive order, right?
My Pass amps LOVE the silver in Red Dawn, but only after the copper Discovery Essence perfected (filled and flattened?) the source (EC EMC-1 MkII); the Pro-Silways are lean and WAY laid back by comparison, with a wispy shimmer up top.
So for me, great copper and then good silver works fine....
Keeping to one manufacturer for all cabling needs is a notion I still can't give much credence to, as the components (especially the transducers: source and speakers) and room are far more responsible for spectral and timing phenomena.
In the end, you'll just have to trust your ears, and perhaps avoid the extreme mismatches, like lean silver with cheap ss or extra-warm copper with high-output impedence SETs, etc.
Argent: You are correct with your statement regarding silver and conductivity, but only in regards to DC. From my understanding, anything above DC is an entirely different stroy.

Subaruguru: Phononic Energy does not mean "LOUDNESS." It has to do with "Josephson Junctions" and would take way too much room here to explain, and, it is not really forwarding this thread. I am sure if you have a book on Quantum Physics laying around, you can find a better answer than I can give. If not, call Jack Bybee, he certainly is quite knowledgable in the field. On another note, I will always have a fondness for the Pass amps. I owned the Aleph 0 monos and some of my best listening was with them. What speakers do you use them to drive?
Silver is a better conductor than copper at any frequency. Radio Frequency (RF) cables of higher quality are typically silver plated copper when cost is not an object. Some antennas even make use of silver plating to increase their conductivity. They can get away with just plating the conductor as RF is ALL "skin effect" and travels on the surface of the conductor.

Audio frequency ( AF )cables may be either silver or silver plated. Obviously, the more silver used, the more expensive the cable SHOULD be. Since AF signals tend to ride both through the core of the conductor and on the surface ( skin ), you might run into some type of problem when using multiple types of materials within the same cable. My guess, based on a limited understanding of electron flow, is that a distortion may occur when a signal "crosses" between the top layer of silver plating and the core of the center wire which is copper. As such, i've seen others that are more "in the know" state that in order to minimize this problem, the silver plating must be applied relatively thick. I would assume that the evenness of plating may also come into play.

As to using silver IC's or speaker cables, can't pass judgment there. Never felt the need to use any. I would suggest that if you have an IC that seems bright or edgey, try letting it burn on a Mobie for a while. It can make a world of a difference in terms of smoothness, clarity and transparency. I would not have believed the difference if i had not experienced it myself. I had tried lesser cable burners with little to no difference being discernable results.

As to using copper to replace what was lost with silver or vice-versa, that is not possible. Adding to or removing from a signal is simply a distortion. You can, however, end up with additive or subtractive distortions that compliment each other. The end result is that it may present what is a pleasant sonic picture to you. Don't get me wrong as i'm not criticizing here, i'm simply saying that this is where system synergy and personal taste come into play. Sean
Jtinn: I thought ICs and I guess more importantly speaker cable were passing DC? Where did I go wrong here? I haven't heard the term "Josephson Junctions" since my ME tech elective class in college!--No point here, just thought I'd share a reverie.
And also, I've a question of my own: What about silver digital cables(i.e. my Illuminations D-60)? Same harshness expected? I see that a lot of people who post to this site use the D-60.
I compared the Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference(copper) to the Silver Reference.
First, the new Matrix is a great interconnect. It is totally balanced across the entire frequency spectrum. When compared to the Silver Reference I was left with a difficult choice. You are right about Silver cables having a somewhat lean sound, there's a dip at some of the lower frequencies. It was as if the Silver cables pushed the bass player back two steps, and lowered the volume 3 db. The Matrix had an amazing effect on vocals, they had that roundness that usually only comes from a record, not a CD. The musical parts were a very cohesive whole, without any exaggerations at any frequency. They also have the best recreation of interior space I have heard to date (excepting a 5 channel SACD playback).
But, they do not resolve quite as much detail as the Silver Reference.
I decided to use the Silver Ref. as my main stereo outs because in my work I must hear all the details in sharp relief, but if I just wanted to enjoy music, and not analyze it, I would have stayed with the Matrix.
Since I now had a set of Matrix Reference cables, I put them into service for the rear channel interconnects of my 5.1 set up. I had formerly used Harmonic Technology's "Truthlink Silver" (a combo silver/copper, and a damn good cable) But, with all my interconnects being Acoustic Zen something unexpected happened... The rear channels had so much more authority that the little B&W LM-1 rear speakers sounded like my B&W N805 front speakers! The bass improvement was astonishing. The cables are now so harmonically balanced with well matched timbre, that the cohesiveness of 5.1 sound was tremendous.
Relatively and theoretically speaking:

If we pick up both ABSOLUTELY pure cooper and silver conductors, silver conductors will have: ~10x better per/unit conductivity and derived quality from better conductivity is a possibility to design less p/u inductance and p/u capacity IC. Certainly freequency bandwidth will become much wider than in cooper conductor. I.e. ideal silver conductor must have much better details(not colourations)

In the real world there is no such thing as an ideal cooper or silver, but every brand that produces ICs($30...$3k) will assure that their cables uses the purest conductors on the market.

Without looking into internal structure of each conductor in our silver or cooper ICs we cannot realy make any particular conclusion that cooper is better than silver or vice versa.
In adding to the aforementioned comments...

I would suggest you try as I have the newest (not really so
new) hybrids from the likes of Harmonic Technologies. The Magic Series.

From the website "The MAGIC Link One implements a unique bimetal blend of our now famous pure Single Crystal TM (OCC) silver and copper conductors, creating an interconnect with an unmatched balance of transparency, detail and harmonic balance."

I have these IC's as well as the Digital cable from my transport to the DAC and they are really wonderful. I guess you get most of the benefits of both metals though I feel you give up "Just a Tad" only getting 90% of the effects of either/both metals. Perhaps when you add it all up its a good thing.

I understand that Acoustic Zen is doing some of the same.

I have tried the methods listed above (Silver/Copper IC mix) and found it didn't work as well as the Magic's. Listen to them and then look for used. Its where the real value is, not the new price BIG $$$'s here.

Well there you have it for what its worth.

One though to keep in mind...

" The whole is made up of the sum of its parts "

Listen carefully and choose wisely. You will have that
great sound you've wanted.
I agree with what Marakanetz stated about the inability to do conclusive comparisons between silver and copper without adequate information on each cable design. Cables vary in their capacitance, inductance, resistance, and resonance to mention just a few of the variables which affect the sound of the end product. Unfortunately, their are no truely "neutral" components nor are their any "neutral" cables. We all work with a bit of a "bent tool" since recordings sound different due to all the variables in a recording studio chain. In my experience, silver and copper do sound very different. However, solid sounds very different than stranded, and PE sounds different than PTFE (Polyethylene and teflon) as dielectrics. I have designed a large number of cables for an audio manufacturer and all of these variables were very audible. Which was "best" depended on which system was utilized. The only generalizations I could make is that silver sounds faster, leaner, more extended on the top but can turn hash if your source is poor or if the cable is of poor quality. Stranded copper sounded smooth and seductive with a PTFE dielectric in interconnect but a little loose in speaker cables with our configuration. Solid copper sounded a lot like silver and silver plated copper even more so. Personally, I use silver interconnects and silver speaker cables all with Cardas connections or Vampire. I hope this is of some help. Get a bunch of cables, have a friend change them, and listen, listen listen. Cables I would recommend are Cardas Neutral Reference, one of the best for the money I have heard, some of the AQ are good but a little high priced, Nordost, Kimber, Siltech, and MIT. Happy listening, JW
Jallen brings up a good point about the difference in the type of conductor used, not only the material used. I agree that stranded and solid sound QUITE different using identical geometries and dielectrics. Changing the gauge of conductors using identical geometries and dielectrics also changes the sound. Lighter gauges will sound quicker and leaner and vice-versa.

There are SO many variables that picking the "right" cables can be quite tough. That is how i got into building cables and doing comparisons. You can build cables to your own specs in terms of grade and materials, geometrical designs, lengths, etc... and see what factors contribute to the sonics that you are looking for.

Where's Bob Crump when you need him.... : ) Sean
Wow- thanks for the info. and opinions everyone. But no need to end this thread's very interesting... keep your responses coming! I had a question for Djgj regarding the Harmonic Tech Magic IC's, where the strategy is mixing copper and silver wires within the same cable: How do they compare to the ProSilwayII, which uses the same philosophy? I personally found the SilwayII's a bit lean in the midrange, as if the silver component was dominanting over the classical warm copper sound.
Ral, the differences you have found between silver and copper ICs tend to blur once both are treated to a month long treatment on a MOBIE which runs a 1K 15v square wave through the ICs into a 5K load.....I have done comparisons of solid core silver and solid core copper in the same gauge with copper having a polyurethane coating and silver having a teflon extrusion over it. Same geometry, connectors, solder etc....Silver was four nines purity and copper was better than six nines as it was continuous cast copper.......Sonic differences? The bulk of the difference was in the lower mids/upper bass which had the copper allowing more mud through sweetening up the sound throughout....I found the silver more to my liking used with analog and the copper allowed the digital to sound less "busy" than the silver.....We are talking really slight differences here, but without the treatment on the MOBIE the silver could take the wallpaper off the walls in the upper mid/highs and was really thin in the lower mids/upper bass in comparison to the copper.....Bottom line is that copper will break in pretty well within the voltages and currents in a hifi system and not change much as respects frequency balance, but silver will not and that is the horror of silver......

Bob Crump
TG Audio/CTC Builders/DDR Mfg
This comparison has several problems with it. The two coatings/insulation are different. I prefer copper that has a enamel coating then teflon used as the dielectric. Silver I find is best used with polyethylene not teflon. Perhaps the best comparison would be silver with teflon and PE, and copper with the two same. Take the best of the two and compare them. And lets not forget the type of solder used. I prefer lead free WBT 4% silver. Jeff
Jallen, sorry you had problems with my methods, but this is as close as I could get given what I had available to me.....Incidentally, polyurethane is enamel and no additional dielectric is necessary as this is commonly referred to as "magnet" wire.....Also, I normally put sandwiches not wire in polyethylene and perhaps you mean heatshrink AKA polyolefin?
Why not just get a cable that uses both? Below is some text I took from LAT Internationals Web site on their IC-200 Mark II interconnect.

EXPLANATION OF OUR PROPRIETARY SILVERFUSE CONDUCTOR MATERIAL: Silverfuse is a near alloy of silver and copper. IT IS NOT SILVER PLATED OR SILVER CLAD. Plating (or clad, which is the same thing as plating) causes a dioding effect when signal is passed through resulting in brightness and distortion. The Silverfuse process starts with seven nines OFHC copper wire with a diameter that is slightly larger than the required size. It is then pulled through a trough of molten silver. The wire with a silver deposit, is then forced through a compacting die where it is subject to tremendous pressure. The silver and the high purity copper are fused together into a near alloy. The compacting fusion also reduces the wire diameter to the desired size. No dioding subsequently occurs with this process. The result provides for the benefits of silver; which are excellent definition and clarity, with the high purity copper benefits of warmth and mellowness. brother has been pressure-laminating precious metalds for Texas Instrments for 15+ years...mostly gold, some silver, for commercial, defense, NASA accounts, etc.
I'll try to remember to ask him if there's any diodic potential variation as a function of pressure at the metals' interface. He probably won't know...or care, but I believe as long as the barrier is anaerobic you're done!
Oh well...nice marketing ploy, anyway, eh?