Hookup wire for tube amplifier?

Wondering what kind of of hookup wire you guys have used and which you liked best. I'm considering OCC copper wire...the VHaudio OCC wire with Airlock seems interesting. Most have described OCC wire as very smooth but with detail, even a little dark. But I prefer that over bright.

I tend to stay away from silver wire just because IMO it's a gamble. It can sound too bright and tonally thin sounding, although detailed. But if you know good silver hookup wire, I'd be interested. I find the Duelund silver hookup wire intriguing.
Looks like there's nothing wrong with what you've stated about copper vs silver here. I can only add to that...except that I wouldn't call copper dark, so much as just mellow. With OCC vs OFC (or silver as well), lower-ordered rhythms are more easily discerned, which makes for better pacing, overall flow and drive. Silver has better extension on either end, is a bit more detailed, is grit- and grain-free, but can sometimes add a slight amount of glare in some applications, it's subtle, but it's there usually. This can often be perceived as silver's "brightness", IME - the difference being that true brightness can be effectively compensated for with EQ, while glare cannot.

If you go copper, I wouldn't recommend anything other than OCC. OFC is not viable (except in wiring designs that require tight braiding, like Mapleshade Helix speaker wires or something like them, where the physical stresses involved when bending the wire into place would end up negating most, if not all, of the advantage of OCC over OFC). The VH Audio stuff you mention looks to me to be about the best game in town, for copper.

Although I have no direct experience with it, silver has by some reports been improved by mixing it with gold. But, for that matter, if you were going to do any experimenting with something exotic like that, I personally would recommend you give 14k gold wire a try. Of course, gold is high as a cat's back right now, but this would be an affordable experiment and, considering that you've already demured when it comes to silver, you just might find yourself going coo-coo for coco puffs over the results. Gold reportedly does some marvelous things for horns (a wonderful "burnished" sonority), cymbals and harmonics (piano, violin, etc). Gold can offer more bass articulation as well, though its extension may not be quite as good as silver. 24k may or may not give a slightly better sound than 14k, but if it does it may not be especially worth the extra cost these days. Component hookup wire is an excellent way to introduce the gold sound into the equation since a little bit of gold seems to go a long way, sonically, so you don't really have to invest in more than one component, or in any ancillary wiring, if you don't want to. The only immediate difficulty would be finding a readily available source for it, but I know others have done so. My 2 cents, anyway.
The VH wire is very good and it is difficult to do better with other wire.
Solid core copper wire is the way to go for best sound. No need to spend big $.
I agree with using solid core copper and the VH Audio OCC in foamed teflon should be quite nice. Another consideration would be the Jupiter copper in cotton wire. IC's I have made from that wire sound excellent.
Thanks everyone for the info.

I think copper is a safer bet than silver. More predictable than silver. A good copper wire just seems to have more correct timbre of acoustic instruments, especially on brass and stringed instruments.

Is the Jupiter copper in cotton OCC?

I do like the VH Audio OCC copper with foam Teflon, but I don't think they are rated for high temperature or voltage. So I may use it for low signal section in the amp. For power supply and output tubes, I think OCC with regular Teflon insulation is needed.
The issue is break-in and longevity.

Copper seems to take longer to break in than silver does. If handled correctly they both get to the same place.

You have to be careful with silver- don't go with silver-plated copper and you have to be careful to use the right solder too. Silver wire usually has a Teflon insulation.

Copper works fine but you have to be careful with the insulation. Teflon will not block air from the wire, and the wire can't get oxidized! In addition the extrusion process runs at a high temperature so unless very special provisions are made the result will be that Teflon-coated OFC will not be OFC once inside the Teflon.

BTW, there are no wires that have more than 99.99% purity. If more than that is claimed either the supplier is misinformed or they are lying. I remember that there was a craze for '6-nines' copper a few years ago; when it was found out that such a thing does not exist, the various manufacturers that were making such claims quietly stopped doing so.

To retain its OFC status, the insulation has to be able to seal the wire; its helpful if it melts a little near the solderjoint. If it does that correctly it will be fine for decades.
Ralph, you are claiming the three licenced manufactures of OCC (Neotech, Furukawa, and the other Japanese company) copper wire are lying about the purity? Can you direct me to an article or website where their claims were disproven?

I swear Cardas also claimed 6 nines copper wire being drawn and coated in oxygen free atmosphere.

These are not suppliers but actual manufacturers of the wire.

You mentioned using the right solder for silver wire. Do you mean solder that contains silver?
Ralph makes some good points. The OCC is a casting process, not a ranking of purity. The other point many will make is, "does it matter" whether it is OCC? The Jupiter wire is CDA-101, which is thought to be the highest purity - it is 99.99 percent pure copper. Measurements show the conductivity of ETP copper is the same as OFC or OFHC copper. I certainly don't have the answers, but I can say the Jupiter wire (in the configuration I use for IC's) sounds very good in my system against some other well regarded wires. I suspect dielectric material and surface condition of the wire, along with other factors, could all play a part in the sonic performance of wire/cables. I particularly like the following from one of the attached links;
Copper of extremely high purity, or with large crystal size are also available, sometimes at a high price. Whether they have any value in such applications as audio speaker cables is at best unproven, there being no measurable improvement, and some negative results from subjective blind tests. (Not to mention claims of positive results from non-blind tests where dramatic differences were invariably described for what were believed to be known different cables, when in fact the cable was never changed.) Blind testing is sometimes dismissed as too intimidating by believers in 'cable effect', and yet the language used to describe cables suggests gross effects easily audible, e.g. someone claimed that his wife rushed through from the next room to find out what had happened when a cable was changed, the effect was so dramatic. This does not suggest some minute effect only audible under ideal conditions.
I don't think any generalizations about wire hold true. There are good examples of all kinds of wire. I have never heard Audionote silver wires to sound overly bright in any of a number of tube systems I heard them in, my own included.

The only way to know how any cable will sound in a particular setup is to actually try the cable. Most dealers allow for auditions, and there are on-line companies that have a "library" of cables that they offer for home trial.
If anyone has compared OCC copper vs silver wire, please chime in.
There are so many factors that go into wire design, not just conductor material, such as insulator dielectric properties, basic configuration of the conductors, etc., that I would never focus on design aspects, much less one particular design aspect (conductor material).

Cable companies try to distinguish their products and justify prices by touting things like silver conductors, or continuous casting, cryogenic treatment, teflon insulators, static electric charge to polarize the insulator, etc., but, the real value the better makers provide is intellectual--a combination of all factors/material into a good design and critical listening in voicing the product. Yes, it probably does make a difference whether a particular cable is made with silver wire vs. OCC copper, but, that one factor is so small a contributor to the sound as to render choice based on that alone to be meaningless.

I can appreciate that it is pretty hard for some people to actually audition components in their own system so some purchases have to be made as "informed" guesses. For that, you should generally ask around about specific cables (not designs) and find out what people have paired with their tube gear.

I have a local dealer that only sells tube electronics (aside from digital source gear). He likes the sound of NBS cables (but hates dealing with their crazy ownership), Audionote (uk) and Snake River. He said the best cables he has tried in his store is the liquid conductor T.E.O. cables, but he doesn't sell them because of the extreme price of the better stuff.
Of course 7N copper exists. It is even a subject of international conferences like this one:


In addition to limits of purity Continuous Casting process produces extremely long crystals (many feet long) by very slow cooling of the copper in hot forms (to prevent crystallization). In comparison common oxygen free copper has thousands of crystals per foot. Impurities resides between crystals. Copper Oxide is a semiconductor.
Kijanki, I don't think you will find 7Ns copper in any wires anytime soon. As soon as its extruded you are down to 99.99%. The wires as seen in the article don't seem to be commonly made.

Further, it might be interesting for audiophiles to understand that OFC was not invented for audio reasons. It was invented to improve wire flexibility, for things like brushes in generators and the like.

Dracule1, we have compared silver and copper many times over the last 30 years. So far no-one has been able to come up with a wire that shows a particular advantage for silver or copper- unless you include the break-in time. During the period of break-in silver seems to have an advantage. This is not to say that all wire is created equal though!

If you are soldering silver wire, the most basic form of solder to use is SN62 which is silver bearing. There are more exotic forms of audiophile solders that seem to work fine too. SN96 works too but you need an 800 degree tip which is a real pain, and despite the SN96 being eutectic, it can still crystallize, which isn't supposed to be good from a sonic point of view. The modern lead-free (RoHS) solders seem to work OK in a pinch. If you are working with copper then SN63 is the preferred solder. It has no silver but retains eutectic behaviours.
Atmasphere some great tips thanks.
Most audiophiles would get more benefit from going to solder school than fussing about copper or silver. I have even heard significant improvements in interconnects from well respected manufacturers that have been re-terminated by solderers who learnt their craft in aviation electronics, and the difference can be illuminating. My advice if you want to go and mod gear, start by learning how to solder properly. Do a basic electronics course at least.
My technician has a different outlook, he sees more dry solder joints than audiophile components in most gear, some of the best looking can have the worst soldering.
Ralph, I believe Cardas draws their ultra pure wire in inert atmosphere (nitrogen I think) to prevent oxidation. I don't know what process is used during drawing for OCC wire. But the oxidation will affect only the outermost layer of the wire, correct? Not the internal portion of the wire.
I agree about having good soldering skills. Some advocate tinning the two wires separately before soldering them together. Others advocate making a good mechanical contact (eg, twisting two wires together) before soldering. Any opinions on this? Any useful links would be appreciated.
As for solder itself, people who have extensive experience and done research into this subject advocate eutectic solder containing the same metal as the wire being soldered together. So a silver solder should be used to solder two silver wire together. However, what do you use when soldering silver and copper wire together. Solder containing both silver and copper? Cardas has quad and tri eutectic solder containing silver and copper, as do nonaudiophile solders I'm sure. I've also seen solder containing copper without silver, which I would think would be ideal for soldering copper to copper.
Correction, Cardas use reducing atmosphere (H+) to prevent oxidation. This would be better than drawing in nitrogen atmophere, as H+ will actually scavenge oxygen. Not sure when Cardas applies the insulation or enamel during this process. I'm not in any way trying to support or affiliated with Cardas, as I have never used any of their wire.
I have been voicing my homebrew 91a 300b amp for the past 10 months. I built the initial breadboard with Radio Shack 18 gauge solid core "mystery" wire and the amp sounded just fine. Now that the amp is kinda of finished I am still voicing it. The most influential change was the wire from the attenuator to the 6C6 grid which is now 22 gauge silver. Unisulated. Very open and airy. After much trial this is where I have landed. In the places where higher voltage is being carried, I use 16 gauge copper or silver. The ground bus is also solid core thick copper. I tried 22 gauge silver in the bypass circuits and the sound lost body and low end power. My silver wire is Cardas from Percy and OCC copper from Partsconnexion.

Wire and joints require burn in time. When I make a change I live with it for a month or so and sometimes longer, listening to my music collection and appreciating the good and not so good. I built a cap wire burner with a 12v filament tranny and put wire, resistors, or caps on this burner for a week before putting it in the amp.

When soldering use a good Wellar gun. When you heat the connection do it very quickly use a minimum amount of solder and once the connection is soldered none of the connections should move. They need to stay perfectly still to avoid a cold joint.

The biggest change I made in this amp had nothing to do with wire. I pulled the 6C6 coupling cap and this decreased gain and greatly decreased distortion. The sound opened up in the mids and in the frequency extremes. If you are building your own, try different things and live with them and enjoy the journey.
Jetrepro, I'm very impressed with your work, and thanks for the advice on soldering and hookup wire. I like your choice of the Goldpoint stepped attenuator for volume control at the input of the amp. I use the same for my amp, and it is better than any preamp I have tried. I'm not surprised you got a big jump in sound quality by removing the coupling cap (input coupling cap correct?). Less caps in the signal path the better the sound, IMO. My amp only has one set of cap in the signal path (2 caps because it is a PP amp).

Your experience with copper and silver wire is same as mine. I think overall copper is the better way to go, and a small amount of silver wire can be used to "voice" an amp if needed.

Would love to see pictures of your amp and system. Bet is sounds wonderful. That Goldpoint attenuator was a good move. Nice that copper is working for you. I dont think there is a one way. I am conituing to add silver little by little. The reason silver is starting to work in my system may be because of my Audio Note speakers which are known to be a little dark it the mid range.

The cap I removed is the one that is working with the resistor that is biasing the 6C6 driver tube. C-5. It actually may not be called the coupling cap. I may have miss spoke. In my amp there are only two stages the input/driver tube which is coupled to the 300b. I used a V-cap to couple the driver to the output tube. To see the schematic, you can search for Joe Roberts we91a.

If you read sound practices, Herbert Reichert recommends silver hook up wire. His "Flesh and Blood" 300b is searchable online. My point is to try things and hear what works. 3 ft of silver wire is pretty inexpensive even large gauge silver from Percy is pretty cheap and enjoy the journey.
Thanks for the explanation about the cap position. You're right. I don't think you can call it a coupling cap unless it is directly in the signal path. I've used Vcaps as output coupling caps and like them. I'm trying out Duelund CAST caps in this position. I will experiment with a little silver wire in my amp. As for my system, it is a work in progress. I will send you some pics when its finished.
How do you like the Duelands? The TFTF V-caps sound good but sometimes I think I hear the teflon. (might be my imagination :)) May try AN copper caps.
I have not had chance to directly compare Duelunds and Vcaps in my amps yet, so can't be sure. But my impression based on using these in other components is that Duelunds are more natural (more realistic timbre of instruments and vocals) without losing fine detail. Vcaps seems to be more detailed, but not as natural as the Duelunds. The Vcaps seems to have a "zing" to the treble. Hard to put into words. People often describe Teflon caps as having its own signature, so you may not be imaging it.
Jetrexpro and Dracule1,

Since there is no consensus on what is "neutral" or "no effect," every comparison is with respect to some other component. I would expect Teflon to be different from other kinds of caps, so in that sense, they have a sound. In one of my linestages, the sound is a touch leaner, quite detailed and fast sounding (the zing to the treble you mention). I like the teflon caps in this application, but, I have no idea if this quality is, in any absolute sense, good or bad. In other gear, I've heard radically different sounding caps sound great, so it appears to be the specific application that matters most.

I am thinking of trying the Duelund CAST caps and inductors in the crossovers of my speakers. This would be easy to do because the crossovers are housed in separate boxes instead of being inside the speaker. I have not been tempted to perform surgery on my current amp and linestage because they were specifically designed and voiced to use some very ancient parts and I think the builder would take out a contract on my life if I tried major alterations (besides, these have transformers on all inputs and outputs and no caps at all in the signal path).

Please keep us posted on your experiments. It seems like you are doing interesting things.

Could you put into words what you mean by "Zing"?
I listen to alot of classical and in the bow of the string I sometimes notice something that sounds sort of plastic. I should say, I notice it very infrequently.


Sounds like your preamp is working well for you and has the right synergy with the downstream components. You are quite right, since I have only heard my amp with the VcapTFTF it is impossible to know what part or component might be producing that plastic impression.

I am not too worried about the V-cap since what ever it is doing I am digging the music. The mids thru the bottom end is musical and fast. The AN speakers respond well to 300b's.
Larryi, in absolute terms you are right, as most of us were not present during the recording session to hear the music live. So we can mostly describe sound of components in relative terms to each other. But to a certain extent, I think we can still infer what should sound correct given our numerous exposure to live music over the years.

I hear many promote use of transformers (input, interstage) over caps because transformers are suppose to give superior sound. However, I have a feeling that proper implementation and choice of top quality caps result in sound just as good as transformers. Just my hunch, nothing more. If anyone has any experience comparing the two approach, I would be very interested in hearing your experience.
Hard to describe but it is a very detailed, slippery, fast sound especially noticeable in the high frequency. Not sure if I would call it plastic sound.
Dracule1, you should try direct-coupling sometime. Especially at the output of a preamp this can have a huge effect.