Do Cables Wear Out?

A fellow Hi - Fi friend was explaining particle breakdown in cables after years of use and loud rock use will bring demise sooner. Anyone have knowledge of this?
Oh sure. Yeah. And RAP will just eat right through the cable.

Be careful!
My Yakko cables are so shot that they are turning into dust. All I did was play a little "Too Short."
Technically, he is correct, an example being that automotive spark plug wires in 5,000-30,000 volt circuits should probably be replaced after about 100,000 miles. I wouldn't worry about it in your application for the first 75 years or so however, and I think that is being very conservative. IMO.
The regular application of finely particulated Allotropic SnakeOil (TM) from Ophidic Audio Systems will prevent premature depolymerization and breakdown of copper-to-co-valent copper bonds of the basal IC transmissive metallic polymer chain. Most reputable audio tweaks vendors sell this product these days. You should not have problems finding it. Just make sure what you purchase: there are a lot of imitations out there made from low grade fish oil.
OK, so my previous post was in fact complete rubbish. However what is moderately true is that old cable can become slightly oxidized and consequently may loose some conductivity, regardless of the type of music you listen to.
Cables tied to the bedposts perhaps?

Normally for audio use, cables should last until the insulation hardens and cracks or until the copper corrodes away, which is probably of the order of decades... if not centuries.
Since I regularly use my interconnects to whip my girlfriends, the termination on my cables usually lasts no more than a couple weeks before flying apart during a particularly heatd session.
Word has it there's a little known subset of Audiophile Opus Dei. They self-flagellate with power cord cat-o-nine tails. Lordy.
I only use Acoustic Zen or Z Squared because of their extra abrasive jackets.
I find the cables made by the Mystic Order Of Kubala-Sosna to produce the finest results in my dungeon. Dating back to the time of the Druids, these ancient practitioners of the black arts have specialized in time travel, astral projection, and bi-wiring. I would tell you more, but I fear for mm...
Did you see the film?I mean Da Vinci Code.If yes what is your opinion?
As far as the topic goes,I agree with Guidocorona.

Yioryos, this thread is more entertaining than the film...and even that's a stretch. There were a few times during Da Vinci Code when I thought a good self-flagellation might have snapped me out of my stupor.

Mission Impossible III was a fun ride, though.

What would your new girlfriend think of this whipping stuff? Have you told her of your fetishes yet? Here's an AA thread you might appreciate. Are you sure this wasn't you?
van den hul thinks so....and so do most electricians....but unless your cables are older than dirt, i wouldn't worry
Of course. The flow of electrons take its toll.
Porziob, this is what Im talking about. Electron particle flow which causes breakdown. Serious answers welcome.
SPL: "Electron particle flow," whatever that is, does not cause cables to break down, or wear in any way. Neither, in general, does passing a current through a wire. If it did, you'd have to rip out all the wiring in your house every few years and replace it.

I assume your friend is not trying to sell you cables. However, people who do sell cables are prone to this sort of nonsense claim (for obvious reasons). Your friend may have heard this somewhere and didn't realize he was being spun.
It all depends on your AC. If your utility company supplies you with dirty AC, the electron flow often contains impurities that are significantly abrasive, toxic and corrosive. Especially if the utility company is purchasing AC from power plants that burn dirty Cole and do not apply good scrubbing techniques in their stacks to eliminate sulphur ions from the generated electricity, or do not burn Cole in well fluidified Dolomite beds. The usage of such dirty AC on expensive high current amps WILL lead to premature wear and tear of all conductors. Similarly AC from nuclear plants that are not adequately protected can be somewhat radioactive. In this case electrons in the flow can give off fast neutrons and even gamma rays, that are known to be structurelly deleterious to your equipment. You should try to use AC from renewable resources only to ensure the long term stability of your system. Better power utilities in the country give consumer the choice of receiving AC from renewable sources -- also called Organic Power -- for a small premium. . . . it's a little more expensive than regular dirty AC, but our stereos are worth it!
As a side note, apparantely Audience think the bending and handling of cables will also affect performance. Below is an extract from its website.

"But did you know the act of bending them irrevocably damages the conductors? This bending stresses the metal and causes fractures along the circumference of the bend.....Damage to conductors is why some cords need "break-in" every time the are moved or bent. This is because current passing through the conductor partially repairs damage by micro-welding some of the damaged area. This helps but it will never restore the cable to its original state or it's original performance potential"
Im not worried about my cables coming apart, nor do I subcribe to sales pitches trying so sell you a lot in the desert. I merely felt this a worthy topic of discussion. And to boot Van den hul uses carbon I believe for this very reason.
Where I was using the word particle I meant and should have been usinig the word "Crystal" as my friend corrected me. Im also saying I have not heard this degradation myself, yet. Here is an excerpt by a respectable leader in the industry. For further reading,
PS the metal he refers to below is copper and silver as further reading reveals.

By: A.J. van den Hul CD

First a short discussion on metal conductors and their vulnerabilities:
Due to the current cable manufacturing processes based on economics and aging, all metal conductors are sensitive to growing chemical boundaries at the edges of their internal crystals.
These chemical boundaries form non-linear conductive barriers for the electrical signal to be transferred.
The main reason for the origination of these chemical boundaries is the rough industrial handling of the basic material during the manufacturing of the single leads by pulling the metal through many dies and the unprotected storage in between. Especially the bare storage of the drawn wires on reels in the open air creates another problem: chemical interaction with airborne reactive components and their subsequent deeper propagation into the metal during the next processing steps.
As you can imagine, the result is that the final conductor still looks like a conductor, but on microscale does not exactly behave like one anymore.
V.D.Hul is right. Another issue is that the cables are often emotionally stunted from the rough words they hear from factory workmen while still in their formative stages. The best manufacturers buy cable from a secret plant in Sweden, all workers are virgins, men handle the bass conductors and wimen take care of the rest, the nature of the shop requires that the virgins are ugly (or have another job lined up) but happily this has been found to make the cables sound more real. Birds sing constantly during the manufacturing process, temperature is held at a constant 76 degrees f with 42% relative humidity, and the shop is always lit to resemble the first hour of morning on a great new day.
Jeff_jones, you are forgetting that the aforementioned virgins are kept emotionally stable by sipping constantly from mugs of fresh milk expressed from dairy cows who have been kept in a state of constant bliss by playing to them Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik 24-7.
I do have to admit thee are times when "something is not right"---perhaps a buzz in one speaker, a fallen bi-amped connection to one of my speakers, or maybe my Satellite box re-setting itself to factory settings and outputting Dolby instead of PCM so my DAC can't decode it that it is possible my whole system's lifespan is somewhat threatened. Especially shortly after the second glass of wine which about when "something goes wrong".
With all of this great information finally coming to light, I've decided to lease my cables instead of owning. Complete with a 36 month/36,000 hour warranty from Rent A Cable, I no longer need to worry about excessive electron wear, emotional stunting, and AC corrosion. Catch the wave.
Obviously there isn't enough to worry about!
Audiofeil, I like your idea! I'd imagine the payments on a $500 cable might work out to be $628 over three years. I wonder what the residual value will be at the end of the lease? At least excessive wear you mention would be covered under warranty, heheh.
At least excessive wear you mention would be covered under warranty, heheh.
Gunbei (System | Threads | Answers)
EWAT= Electron Wear and Tear?

An entirely new audiophile accessory: Electron Wear-O-Meter (there aren't nearly enough " -O-Meter" devices anymore).
Tvad, would this be like checking to see if you can still see the top of Abe Lincoln or FDR's head?

05-30-06: Gunbei
Tvad, would this be like checking to see if you can still see the top of Abe Lincoln or FDR's head?
Dunno. Does that involve mirrors and lasers?

I'd have a marginally witty response if I knew what the heck you were talking about.
Three observations,

first, nobody has mentioned corrosion, which can occur to copper cables over time;

second, to Guidocorona, last time I checked coal or whatever fuel is used to power generators and does not cause impurities in the electron flow, no matter how dirty. However, the dirty coal might contribute to air pollution, greenhouse effect and global warming (which is bad for tube amps);

and finally, to Gunbei, I have not seen any pictures posted of your girlfriends but after the mental picture your post provides, I have made a note to self not to buy any used cables from you :>)
Tvad, using a penny or dime is how old timers determined if it was time to buy a new set of tires. If you could see the top of the President's head you have enough tread left. If not, time to fork out the dough!

Mitch2, you're a smart man. No matter how gorgeous the woman, I'd never, ever drink her bath water.

05-30-06: Gunbei
Tvad, using a penny or dime is how old timers determined if it was time to buy a new set of tires. If you could see the top of the President's head you have enough tread left. If not, time to fork out the dough!
Ah, of course...I should have known it was a car reference. :)

The Electron-O-Meter would be a precision device utilizing milspec knarkle valves, and it would come in it's own faux alligator, snap-close, Naugahyde carrying pouch.

We could emboss the image of a penny on the pouch.
"Knarkle" valves? I'm frightened already. But from a fashion stand point what you describe would be an ideal match for Gilbert Yeung's Preamp Purse and Pump Monoblocks.
Cable Threads on Audiogon NEVER wear out. They are always in fashion and there is at least one each week and they abound with clarity.
Mitch2, do you mean to say that you are calling my bluff? . . . 'Twas just about time someone did these days! It's amazing the kind of rubbish I am getting away with on the more frivolous threads. On the other hand. . . I thought it was a really neat idea, and I am sure careful application of Intelligent Chips and Clever Little Clocks to anyone's CDp would alleviate much of the noise caused by highly ionized Sulphur plasma in dirty AC from cole-fired power plants.

Guidocorona -- not so. It has been proven lately (see Holbein, & Mesmer in American Scientific, issue 69, Feb 31st 2009) that IC and CLC only impact air molecules, at quantum level.

On the other hand, OIL powered plants (the majority) inject paraben agents as preservatives into the electron flow. While this keeps the electrons immune from certain infections (and by the same token, protects our tubes & transistors from microbiological attack), it causes ALTERATIONS in the molecular structure of wires.

So given time, the wires ("cables") deteriorate and this is NON reversible!!!

So, buy back-up cables while the going is still good... as many as you can! There will come the day, not so far hence, when we will have equipment but NO WIRE!!!
Of course Grem, how could I dare dispute the words of such visionaries as Hans Holbein (the younger) c.1497–1543, and Friedrich Anton Mesmer 1734–1815. Their seminal work on visual hallucinatory side-effects of exposure to audio novelty products from MachinaDynamica remain true bastions of investigative research methodology. I can only regret that American Scientific's notoriously sluggish peer review process has taken over 500 years to approve Holbein's fundamental work, which had already been revised and approved for publication by Mesmer on the single 1908 issue of Physica Refutata dedicated to the upcoming Tunguska region event.
Guidocorona -- It's such a relief see that we speak the same language!
"upcoming Tunguska region event"? They knew the meteorite was gonna hit before it did? :•)
I wonder if the original poster feels his question has been answered.
Pabelson, I doubt if he feels anything, after reading this thread he is surely numb. As an observation, with the moniker spl, and considering his concern about wearing out his cables after "years of hard rock" he is either unmarried, or happily married. Rock on.
Ive been enjoying the serious and the nonsensical replies. I really enjoyed the Rent a Cable idea, oh and yes I do have a family and am far from numb Mitch as I have grown up around the Stereophile people here in Santa Fe so needless to say I have heard it all. The question has brought much entertainment and some intresting comments. Thanks.
Gunbei, as you well know the June 30th 1908 Tunguska event incentral Siberia was clearly predicted by Nostradamus, whose prophetic work was an integral part of Mesmer's and Holbeins scientific toolkit. Furthermore, the recent attribution of the event to a meteorite or comet is most certainly of rductionist and reactionary origin. We all know the explosion was cause by runaway electron-flow jitter that precipitated the catastrophic particle disintegration of a cosmic Electraaglide Superchord, sometimes erroneously referred to as a common 'superstring' by the most revisionist modern cosmologists. The uncensored truth was paradoxically heralded by 2-inch-high headlines of the Krasnoyarskaia Gazeta for July 1st of the same year: "NEW HIGH-END POWERCHORD LAUNCHED HITS THE MARKET -- Hundreds Feared Dead, Thousand Missing, Hundreds Kilometers Of Forest Totally Flattened!!!!"
Those poor reindeer.
I don't know about wear out, but they can tarnish, even within the teflon (or other) sheath. I have personally witnessed this with kimber 8tc. The copper was tarnished through and through. It was a curious result. That will change the electrical properties as the adjacent conductors now have a nice green fuzz. Perhpas if one were to characterize the distortion of such a cable, it might be found to be of an even order nature, thus making everything sound nicer ;) cause even not odd is where it's at in our universe.
I am worn out of this post. eLater!

Dpac996, I have a 20-year-old copper pot sitting on an an early 19th century Italian chest of drawer in my home's entrance. This pot is also badly tarnished in black and green. I thought that just normal passage of time, combined with oxygen, Carbon dyoxide and water vapor in the air were the cause of oxidation. Now I am wandering if instead perhaps excessive electron flow could be the cause. . . could the oak timber in the chest of drawer have become highly conductive over the last two centuries and my pot now be part of a vast and mysterious electric circuit? Or is its relative proximity to my stereo the culprit? Perhaps I should stick an Intelligent Chip on the lid of my pot and see if the tarnishing clears up by itself. . .
I realize that this thread has been used to poke fun at several responders, but I think that the real issue is - the guy that started this thread has a legitimate question.

The short answer to your question is YES - over time most cables will deteriorate sonically. Before I get a rash of rhetoric back - here's why:
The vast majority of cables for both speaker and interconnects are made from copper. The very moment that the copper conductors are either pulled or cast into wire, the oxidation process begins. Some companies try and prevent this with a litz or enamal coating, which certainly CAN be effective in slowing the oxidation process down, but it the oxidation still occurs, just at a slower rate. Why is this bad? Copper oxide is a terrible conductor - so as the oxidation process occurs, you will notice some loss of high frequencies, followed by some loss of soundstaging ability. At later stages, even bass response is affected, but that would be only in severe cases as lower frequencies penetrate the core of the conductor, which high frequencies travel on the surface.
Silver cables, on the other hand do NOT deteriorate, as silver oxide, while unpleasant to look (tarnish), is still a very good conductor. I always get a chuckle out of guys that clean the tarnish from their silver spades or RCA jacks and then report an improvement in sound - it doesn't work that way, sorry.
Obviously, carbon fibre cables are unaffected by the oxidation issue.
Yes - some cables DO age badly - they don't wear out and it certainly isn't dependent on what music or volume levels are used,but copper based conductors do deteriorate in performance over time.
That was good. I think you need a Machina Dynamica (AKA timex watch with an orange sticker on it) lcd watch to stick on your chest of drawers thingy and just step back and watch the tarnish dissapper as the mysterious device reverses entropy.
Jwpstayman: If you want to respond substantively to a question, you first need to pay attention to the question. He wasn't asking if cables degrade over time; everything in the universe degrades over time. He was asking if particle breakdown occurs, and if loud rock music makes it occur faster. And it doesn't.

As for oxidation, this is a trivial problem. Oxidation occurs ver-r-ry slowly, except for the small section of the cable (if any) that's exposed to air. I have 25-year-old lampcord (which I once used as speaker cable!) that shows no visible signs of oxidation within the insulation, The exposed ends have oxidized--EXCEPT where they were in direct contact with speaker and amp terminals. This tiny bit of oxidation has a trivial effect on overall resistance.
Pabelson, all commentary on breakdown that serves to inform us hi-fi buyer's of drawbacks should not be frowned on. We all spend large amounts of $$$ to get our systems to sound great so in regards to Jwpstayman answer I feel it is welcome. I admit a niave understanding to the world of cable and it's properties of longevity and input to edify and give one's opinion should be welcomed, even those here to scoff.