Dan everyone knows shiny wire performs better, its gospel for christ sake! lol Very good question though. ~Tim
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When metals are "polished", it is actually a process of removing metal until the surface of metal is very shiny and very clean. It's not like waxing a car where the "polish" is rubbed in and left on the car. The polishing agent can be any of many abrasives ranging from coarse to extremely fine, ie polishing rouge which is, of course, continuously removed in the process.
The other way of "polishing" might actually be plating with a metal of high conductivity-- gold being the most common plating material because it doesn't tarnish. Plating is different than polishing, and the plating metal + the bond are very important audio considerations. Cheers. Craig
OK say we do polish with a rouge, wouldn't by the act of polishing embed even more particles of the rouge into the metal. High purity copper and Silver are not the hardest metals on earth. Seems that the only way to polish would be to chemically treat them. Once you remove the Copper Oxide or Silver Oxide it immediately starts to form again. I am not doubting there is stuff on the surface of the wire that should be removed from the manufacturing process,like grease and stuff, but just wondering if the process of "polishing" by physical contact adds more than it removes. Would be interesting to hear how companies like Nordost "polishes" their wire. Anybody have any clue about this process?
I recently purchased some "special" silver wire for some crazy DIY project I dreamt up. Anyhow this wire does in fact sound great! - the manufacturer of the wire said, "The wire supplied to you is burr-free and polished to a mirror-like finish, this feature is requested by us because, even though audio frequencies do not travel to the outside surface of the wire, we have heard a smoother top end resulting from this finish."
According to Dr. Strassner, the cable and current physicist and engineer behind HMS cables, polishing cables to a "mirror like" finish is nothing more than a marketing hype.
Like the Nordost Vlahalla cables, his copper conducters used in the Grand Finale line of cables are silver plated with a special bonding process. This is, according to him, the only way to get a good sounding conductor. And Nordost with the Valhalla and HMS with the Grand Finale cables have proven this. Audition these cables and you will understand.
On and on it goes... Now, ladies and gents, polishing is the miracle that will give you perfect sound for never! Does polishing the top of my pre-amp and power amp improve their performance? You betcha! Do you know what lies in that dust that falls all over your equipment? It actually affects the thermo-dynamics and the electro-magnetic properties of the chassis and causes great listener fatigue. I, for one, have heard the great sound improvement wrought by such a simple tweak as dusting and gentle polishing of all surfaces. I am now in the process of tweaking the toobs in my preamp with Windex, to shine' em up real nice and to stick'em back in the preamp were the sun hardly don't shine. I can hear it now! Oh that glorious crystal clear sound of polished glass! May the Gods of high-end audio always shine on you for you are true believers! I hope that the polished wire sells for way more than the mundane unpolished (impolite?) wire that went before, only then would it reach the icon level and, assuredly, provide the best sound, until something better (wackier, maybe?) comes along. Science be damned, I gotta get me some of that wire!
Bwhite, goes to show that manufacturers don't need to be rocket scientists. First I heard that electrons don't move on the surface of a wire -- though I guess they could move on the "inside" surface ;-). What matters is that it works well. Would you mind sharing the manufacturer of the wire and whether a bulk purchase is required? Thanks.
Tim you're too kind. Heck, I don't know if the manufacturer was throwing me marketing hype or not. He could be full of it... but the explaination sounds valid.
One thing I noticed having done multiple DIY projects with wire is that every change made to the conductor, alters the sound somehow - sometimes the change is ever so slight.
With interconnects, it is the complete package, the sum of all the parts (no matter how small) that creates listening enjoyment.
Another thing I forgot to mention. Dan2112 mentions above the use of Jewelers Rouge for polishing the wire.
Looking at a table of dielectric constants I found the following: *Note - Teflon is usually considered the best dielectric next to air for audio applications.
AIR (DRY) 1.000536
ROUGE (JEWELERS) 1.5 - 1.6
TEFLON, PTFE 2.0
TEFLON (4F) 2.0
TEFLON, PCTFE 2.3-2.8
Perhaps the Jewelers Rouge (residue) is the hidden secret in making great sounding interconnects since its dielectric constant is even lower than teflon!! :)
Hi Ozfly - the wire is (I believe) manufactured by a Danish company called OdiO. Below is a link to a Chinese website (written in English) which distributes the wire.
You can at times find this wire available on Ebay (but the seller does not share information about the manufacturer).
Do a search for "Pure Silver Wire" (or click the link) and it will turn up a dutch auction for the wire sold by the foot or by 10 feet sections. The price is usually $1.60 per foot for 24 gauge wire which includes equal lengths of teflon tubing and "special" silver solder. 20 gauge wire is about $2.70 per foot.
Since all wire is drawn by sucessive passes through very hard diamond dies, all wire has similar metalurgical properties from that process. To a great extent this is a sort of polishing - and in fact wire that has just been drawn is very bright and smooth.
After it sits about for a while it tends to oxidize. It can also oxidize as the result of heat required to melt the insulation (assuming insulated wire) which the wire is drawn into and through...
but for bare wire, yes, you could polish it with rouge or any one of a number of other common polishing compounds. Assuming they do not have any acidic or alkaline component left behind, the long term effect should be minimal due to polishing. Most "metal cleaners" have some sort of chemical component which if left behind will cause corrosion eventually.
Will polishing solid core silver wire make any sonic difference? Gee, it shouldn't, but who knows? It certainly shouldn't hurt - however you could make a very good case for polishing pure silver wire and then immediately putting it into a pure oxygen environment so that you get a uniform silver oxide coating, and no silver sulfates/ides (which one is it?) on the surface. This should yield the most stable wire - assuming that there would be a change if the wire became blackened... (the oxide being silver colored, I'm told).
At least it will look pretty. :- )
IMO, removing the tarnish (oxides) from a copper or silver wire by polishing it does much more to enhance contact than to degrade it. I have used very fine sand paper (400 grit) to remove mild corrosion from certain wires in my breaker box, cable spades, and plug prongs. After cleaning the wire or contacts, I sually wipe it with a clean cloth, and the cloth sometimes shows a bit of dirtiness, so I assume I'm removing "crud". I think it sounds better after cleaning, but if not, at least it makes me feel virtuous. Cheers. Craig
Interesting Tekunda, you waltz into this thread and inform us that your main squeeze (Dr. Strassner) says polishing cables to a "mirror like" finish is MARKETING HYPE.
And then you screw with our minds by informing us about some super fancy "Special Bonding Process" by which Nordost and HMS silver plate their wire - is this not marketing hype as well?
Suddenly I feel strangely compelled to buy Tekunda's cables simply because of the special bonding process.
As a former chemist/material scientist, I have done a lot of work with metals and electricity. From whatever has not been forgotten by me, I can say that polishing metals does change a component's electrical properties. This is easily seen via resistivity/conductivity. We often burnished our contacts(a pencil eraser or fiberglass brush can work well), and the differences were certainly measurable.
The way two materials mate together is a very esoteric thing. The overriding goal is to achieve what is referred to as an "ohmic contact". That is techobabble for saying that the two materials marry well. No two disimilar materials ever marry as well as the same material to itself.
Silver was always far better in making connections than gold, and silver alloys(platinum/silver or palladium/silver) were better than silver as time goes by. In fact, 45% silver/55% palladium has been used for about 80 years when it comes to REALLY critical connections(military, not audio). This alloy is able to very nearly achieve a TCR(temperature coefficient of resistance) of zero. Which means that when put through mil - spec testing, in this case measuring resistance over a range of -55C to +125C, the resistance almost does not change. And, that holds true over time/use/fatigue.
As far as how all of my useless experience translates to audio, that is a bit more complicated.
I will say that AudioQuest sure markets the importance of the surface quality of a conductor. But, I feel that the sonics of their cables are no more or less superior to anyone elses. They have always maintained that the music rides along a wire's surface, hence its importance. Theoretically, if that is true, doing away with the impurities(such as oxides and sulfides) on a wires surface would pay real dividends.
However, many a cable manufacturer asserts that what their cable offers is the key to good sound. Whatever that technology may be. Also, if Nordost's technique is being held up as the only way to produce a good sounding cable, then I certainly cannot buy into any of this argument.
While copper and silver do combine well(check out a phase diagram), the real reason copper wire is plated with silver is to make it last longer; economics. The long term effects of silver(or any material) coming in contact with another material is in question.
For example, current flow will cause silver to strongly migrate through soda lime glass. Think this is not a real world example? Well, many high end resistors(Vishay, Holco, etc.) are cermet(ceramic - metallic) in composition, using glass as their bonding mechanism. That glass can be made of anything, as electronic glasses are infinite in number. Hopefully, it isn't soda lime glass, but as it is dirt cheap, it is prevalent. The industry can show SEM(scanning electron micrograph) after SEM of silver migration through a conductor/resistor it is joined to.
From an audio perspective, I have heard Ray Kimber worry about the long term effects of silver plated copper. It was a degradation question, from what I remember. Both he and AudioQuest have always disparaged silver plated copper as sounding horrible; bright, irritating, splashy. Although, now I think AQ is selling a silver plated conductor. I guess whatever sells...
Personally, I believe that better sound can sometimes come about by using the same material from a cable's stem to stern. I have heard cables with silver plugs, solder, and wire, and the sound was quite special. Natural, smooth, grainless. Not that this is a do or die statement. There is no such thing in audio, or wire. And, I think, that is my real overall point.
I use to prep the surface of copper, zinc, brass, and magnesium. We would grind the surface because impurities have a tendency to rise to the surface when casting and rolling the metal. We needed an ultra pure surface so the plates could be used in photo etching. Any and I mean any impurtities or foriegn material that was left on the surface would screw the etch up.
We used silcon carbine and aluminum oxide sanding belts and we use to have to grind with oil because of the flamability of magnesium. We would then clean the surface with water spaying out of jets and a mild detergent. To much detergent would contaminate the surface and too little would not clean the oil off.
I have cast zinc by pouring it in a mold and I have cast tantilin and tungston by casting in a vacuume. The methods used has a huge effect of the purity and the characteristic of the metal. You also can trap other impurities like carbon and oxygen during the casting process.
The tantilin was for compacitors and all the metal I have worked with was always actually a mix of metals. This gave it its best electrical or etching qualities. It might only be one percent zinc in the copper but this all makes a huge difference.
Thanks for the kind words. By the way, if you are interested in investigating the company where I once worked, check out their website:
I was in R & D, and developed many products over the years, which I take a lot of pride in the fact that they are listed on the site as current products. My favorite part of the field was designing conductors and resistors. Some of our customers were Vishay, Dale, CTS, Sprague, Ohmite, NTK, Bosch - suppliers to the high end industry.
While most of the things I dealt with were precious metals, I am not a jeweler, so my ideas about polishing wire may be way off base. However, as I did quite a lot of wirebonding(you know, the hairlike connections in a microchip from the actual chip to the leads) and microwelding. So, I got to buy a lot of aluminum, silver, gold, and platinum wire. Which is probably the reason why I am so virulently opposed to expensive audio cables. Believe me, even when we pay $100/m for a silver interconnect we are absolutely being taken to the cleaners. If I told you how much I could put together a set of gold interconnects for, we would all be crying.
As I am not a jeweler, I come from a different perspective as to how suitable a material is for the purpose of polishing a wire for high end audio applications. I will say that the composition of jeweler's rouge should be ascertained so as to be able to best remove its residue from the wire.
Obviously, there is a danger in "fixing something that isn't broken". By that I mean that if a wire is in good condition from the get go, one could muck things up by going about this business. I would say there would be something to act as a carrier in the composition, such as a polymer and solvent vehicle(be they both natural or synthetic). Once those ingredients are known, I would be able to recommend how to remove whatever residue is left.
In terms of abrasives, zirconia(zirconium oxide), tungsten carbide, or alumina(aluminum oxide) would all seem fine. What is a surprise to most people is that metals are pretty soft, especially in comparison to ceramics(oxides, carbides, nitrides, etc.) But, in order to obtain the type of polish you would be after, one would have to cascade the grit of abrasive. Progressively moving to finer and finer grits. I know from metal and furniture polishing that 400 and 600 grits leave a very smooth finish. 600 grit would be better.
But, is sanding wire a good thing? I think the starting point of the wire is the most important factor. If one were to buy very high grade silver or copper, and its surface appeared good, leave it alone. Maybe just treat it chemically(acetone, xylene, a glycol ether acetate, etc.) to remove any organic matter which had accumulated via handling.
Finally, perhaps Kondo - san from Audio Note knows best. He developed a way to draw the silver wire through the diamond dies during the wire's manufacture which in his view sounds best. To him, like many people's view of the initial audio signal, things must be perfect from their inception, once lost, it can never be regained.
Dan, Trelja-- gotta' agree, Trelja's posts are excellent. Thanks for sharing Joe. I only "clean" the exposed portion of wires if there is apparent oxidation/corrosion, and then only the ends making contact.
As noted, I use 400 grit sandpaper or emery cloth, and then only when it's apparent that the contacts actually need cleaning. For lighter, routine cleaning, I use the contact cleaner sold by Sonic Frontiers, and following chemical cleaning, my system always seems to sound better.
It has finally (Duuuhhh) occurred to me that you are talking about polishing the whole wire (not just cleaning the contacts)? And, of course, that is an entirely different matter. Craig
Thanks again, Dan and Craig. I can think of no one on this site more knowledgeable than Garfish.
As far as wire purity goes, I have to admit that I also find myself falling into the trap of being drawn into a product which offered 6 - 9s (99.9999%) purity over one that did not. One thing that I will raise at this point is, are we really sure we are buying wire that is actually that pure?
I am sure that the wire manufacturers will jump right up, and come at me hot and heavy, but I recall a small wire manufacturer throwing down the gauntlet. He challenged any company advertising their wire's purity to be over 99.99% or 99.999%(I apologize for not remembering which one) to prove it. I don't know what carrot he dangled, but I don't think anyone stepped up to the plate.
His assertion was that a scientist let him know that the analysis(X Ray Diffraction or EDAX[also X Ray) used could do no better than the figure he was claiming. While I have run these types of tests(as well as ICP, flame spectroscopy, SEM, TEM), I am surely not an expert. I will say that I might side with this opinion. This type of equipment is not as hallowed as the real world thinks it is.
What I mean is that there are a lot of curious results that come out of them. We always joked about it. As an aside, one of our biggest laughs ever was at the expense of our useless PHD Analytical Chemist. He ran the Analytical Department, we only ran tests here and there. But, we were under the same director, and attended the same bi - weekly status meeting.
Anyway, one day he presented his results of his analysis on the cermet pencils(we mark substrates with them, as they don't burn out in even a 980 degree C furnace - but will above 1100 C). The X Ray Analysis said that the cermet pencil markings were 55% rhodium. Rhodium was the most expensive of the 8 precious metals at the time, probably still is. The pencils were $0.50. Well, we all fell off our chairs with laughter. However, this guy's pride and blind faith in his equipment was way over the top. He refused to back off this assertion.
Of course, being the joker I am, I proposed that we shut down as a company, order as many cermet pencils we could afford, and go into the precious metal reclamation business. A $0.50 investment would probably yield maybe an ounce of rhodium. At $7000/ounce at the time, we thought we could live off of that. Even the company's owner got involved, asked me to draw up a proposal. Guess you had to be there...
The point I am taking far too long to make is that like amps that feature 0.005% distortion, things sometimes look a lot better on paper.
If anyone is that interested in buying this ultra high purity wire, while we will get hosed, we don't have to get killed. AudioQuest FP-6, used in cables such as Midnight speaker cable used this kind of wire. They advertised something like 99.99997% pure, or is that FPC?(which was even higher). They claim their newer stuff is even much better, due to the Perfect Surface Copper. Just buy some Midnight(it's 10 gauge - and quite reasonable these days), and you should have all the wire you need to do a lot of jobs
I don't know... I use AQ Midnight on my woofers, and to be honest, I find the Coincident CST 1.0 I use to my mids/tweeters to be very much superior. Especially, when I switch them. Even my father, the ultimate electrician/technician/EE cynic had to admit that the two wires sounded different.
From personal experience, products from Audio Note are as good as things get. But, we are forced to judge them with our ears rather than our eyes. Kondo - san doesn't make things for gearheads, unless they like to brag about the 75 pounds of silver in an amplifier's transformers. If 4 - 9s purity is good enough for him, it's definitely good enough for me.
My thanks to him for the Audio Note solid silver RCA plugs I have. Fantastic.
Trelja - the manufacturer who challenged the audio community to prove the purity of their wire over 99.99% is Silver Audio
The rest of the story goes like this:
The shameful practice of claiming ridiculous and completely impossible levels of silver purity by various "high-end" audio cable companies has gone on long enough. Silver Audio formally challenges ANY high-end audio cable company claiming to use greater than 99.99% pure silver to PROVE their claim by making available, a notarized copy of their certification analysis including the name and location of the INDEPENDENT laboratory as well as the type of testing method that was used.
When we demanded proof from our FORMER vendor of their claim (to us) of "five-nines" pure (99.999%) silver, they were unable (and unwilling) to provide it. When another potential vendor claiming "six-nines" pure (99.9999%) stopped communicating with us after we demanded proof from them as well, that was when we became very suspicious that claims of six and even "seven-nines" (and still higher!) were nothing but blatant marketing fraud. In some cases, honest ignorance appears to be the reason behind some claims of ultra-high purity. In most cases however, desperation for a unique selling point is obviously the motivation!
In two years of dealing with scores of the same testing labs that certify metal purity for the aerospace and medical industries (where purity REALLY matters) we find over and over again the same result: There is NO testing method, not even ICP mass spectrometry, and most importantly, no clean room or handling procedure capable of reliably and repeatedly assaying any element beyond 99.99% pure. Even the silicon used in the semi-conductor industry (by some of the most critical and sensitive equipment in the world) cannot be assayed for purity beyond 99.99%! Some audio companies have, perhaps only naively, tested their metal only for gas impurities (oxygen) which is expressed in parts per million (ppm) and apparently tried to then express this figure as a percent of purity (by weight or volume?)! This conversion makes no sense and even if it did, the real contaminants of silver are not oxygen, but the trace elements of iron, copper, phosphorus and silicon!
Silver Audio does not purchase any lot of silver that does not test to 99.99% pure ("pure" silver is often less than 99.99%). Each lot is certified by an independent lab for ALL trace impurities by weight, DC resistance and ductility. The certification for each new lot is notarized and provided to Silver Audio and is available to anyone who requests it, though it is intended for our OEM customers who buy our wire. The only aspects of purity that we pay some attention to, since they MIGHT account for some performance difference, are the relative levels of silicon and copper. Otherwise, what really matters (and is measurable) is the method by which the wire is drawn and to what final temper. Silver Audio does use a very simple (but to our knowledge unique) trick in conjunction with well maintained, very high tolerance diamond dies to ensure an exceptionally smooth, dense, and clean final product. Otherwise, the lesson here is that what really matters is the cable design and how it is executed, not whether the conductors are 1/10,000 of one percent less pure than those of another brand of cable!
Hmmm Interesting... Also from Silver Audio's website..
"Silver Audio is therefore thrilled to offer the solder-less, TopLine WBT locking RCA connector as an option for the 4.0s and 6.0s. WBT is universally regarded as the Rolls Royce of Audio connectors and their model 0108 represents the top of their line. This cost-no-object connector features the most powerful locking mechanism in the business and is precision machined in West Germany to exacting tolerances of <2/100 mm! The base metal is an extremely conductive, proprietary alloy based on over 99.996% pure copper....."
Maybe copper can be more than 99.99% pure.
Bwhite and Dan, I thank you profusely for your research.
It's no wonder that it was Silver Audio was the company I was referring to, without referring to them. They are one of my favorite audio cable manufacturers, and I now remember reading this discourse in a past visit to their website.
So there, a no BS statement on wire purity. From a genuine guy, Max. I agree, certifying purity of better than 4 - 9s is either a company who is misinformed, or just following along with others touting 6 - 9s to keep up with the Joneses.
It seems as if Audio Note and Silver Audio are both in agreement in their assertion that drawing the wire is the critical step. I would still be sure to use a suitable organic solvent, to ensure removal of any contaminants along the lines of oil from ones fingers, the machinery, or the like.
If I can toot the horn of a manufacturer, I must say that in my experience and opinion, Silver Audio's cables are as fine as I have encountered. I have personally come across their Silver Bullet and Hyacinth interconnects, and recommend both to anyone who is interested in finding out what really good silver cables sound like. Liquid, detailed, natural. I would love to pick up their Symphony speaker cables, but a power amp is a bigger need for me right now.
Couple of thoughts
Trelja I think that the ones that normally claim so much digits are not versed in significant figures and over use their calculators.....
Seems that sometimes a certain methodology is discussed here this goes to extents where sometimes it looses contact with reality an example here you can get polishing materials that they reduce their "grit" as you use them like polishing paste so you end up with way better finish than the original range might have suggested.
As for sanding paper, I think it´s pretty much widely known that 180 grit provides way lesser a finish than say 400 or 600. Well if you do your homework you can find in automotive refinish supply stores grit 1000 or even 1200 if interested and get a better finish yet or you can go the polishing paste route as well.
And if polishing is such an imperfect process not worth doing just imagine how they can get the polished mirrors for telescopes that provide so interesting images of far distant objects, doesn´t that ring a bell?
I worked with one of the world leading companies that produced semi conducters for capacitors. I personally worked on and ran the vacuume chamber, computer system, and electron beams that cast the metal and removed the impurites.
It used four electron beams that would melt the metal. This was done at such a high tempature that it would vaporize all the impurities and then the vacuume chamber would pull them away while they were in gas form.
The vacuume chamber and electron beams alone were a 60 million dollar set up. That doesnt include the room full of tranformers, the targeting system in which to control the electron beams, or the all the other equipment that filled the room to support this system. I was told that we had one of the most advanced systems in the world.
Our purity didnt get close to what is claimed above. You have to understand that they system used to remove the impurities also, in a small degree, adds other into it. If we melted to quickly you would get an excess build up of oxygen and carbon and could never fully remove them from the metal.
I would be very interested to know what casting process is used to make the silver for silver wire.
As far as sanding goes there are a few things to take into consideration when determining roughness. The grit is how many particles per square inch but theres more to it then that. The backing is just as important. A cloth backing is much rougher then a paper backing. It also depends on the shape of the particle and what the particle is made out of.
For something as soft as silver I would recommend steel wool over sand paper. Maybe a very fine steel wool. Dont let the name fool you a very fine steel wool is finer then most sandpaper.
One thing that you have to understand about sanding is that everything is an abrasive. Even a soft piece of polyester its just the degree in which it does it.
Acetone as mentioned above is also a fantastic suggestion and I would think in most cases better then sandpaper.
I don't want to mention names, but discussed "polishing" as well as "coating" some time ago with a manufacturer. He feels that it is a valid point and suggested that I try it with some of the DIY stuff I was playing around with @ the time. Except for low budget applications they have all of their wire produced for them to spec and do not repackage standard wire/cable as far as I know. I am lazy and never tried it. Maybe he will pipe in if he sees this thread? I don't feel comfortable going into the details of our discussions as I suspect that much of the info supplied was a part of their manufacturing process (really weird stuff that I would have never dreamed of - and I do have odd ideas). I have also misplaced my notes and would probably get it all wrong from memory - so don't ask. Anyway, if I were to attempt "home brew" polishing I think that I would pack a soft pastry cone with Talc and then draw the wire through it while supplying gentle preasure to the outside of the cone (this is my own idea, I think). The trick would be to not distort the wire and a gentle process would be in order.