AES Standard rates copper as Standard for Signal transfer ability (=100%), Silver for example is 106, gold is around 90 and everything else is much worse. Silver can carry 6% more Information than anything else. When the unit has very cheap RCA input plugs (brass with gold plating for example), they are in the area of 60, that means, they reduce any input signal by min. 40 % from what is possible. That is the real problem, not cable rolling (most have good connectors but here it is the same, it is not magic, it is knowledge). The next interesting fact is, when there are two options, for example RCA and XLR, or RCA and DIN, which one has the better amplification stage?
Most manufacturers try to save money wherever it is possible, (nearly) no one uses real high quality RCA in- outputs (or silver wire inside)....the problem is not the manufacturer, the problem is the mark up for the following distributor chain. I changed all the RCA in-/outputs from my Lamm Preamp/amps to the best available ones and the difference must be heard to believe ... but that was really expensive.
11-04-14: Syntax AES Standard rates copper as Standard for Signal transfer ability (=100%), Silver for example is 106, gold is around 90 and everything else is much worse. Silver can carry 6% more Information than anything else. When the unit has very cheap RCA input plugs (brass with gold plating for example), they are in the area of 60, that means, they reduce any input signal by min. 40 % from what is possible.
Syntax, can you provide a link to that "AES Standard," which backs up those numbers and also defines exactly and clearly what is meant by "signal transfer" and "information carrying" ability?
The only thing in any of those numbers which to me makes any sense whatsoever is the 6% difference between silver and copper, which for a given gauge approximately corresponds to their difference in resistance per unit length (i.e., resistivity), and its reciprocal, conductance per unit length (i.e., conductivity).
All of the other numbers you cited appear to be either incorrect (i.e., the conductivity of gold is considerably less than 90% of the conductivity of silver and copper), or, frankly, misleading mumbo jumbo (i.e., cheap RCA plugs "reduce any input signal by min 40% from what is possible").
Also, regarding the 6% of so difference in resistivity and conductivity between silver and copper, a point to keep in mind is that that difference can be compensated for several times over by simply going one gauge size larger in copper. It can also be compensated for by simply making the copper cable 6% shorter than the silver cable. And in the case of line-level interconnects, a 6% difference in resistance will be utterly inconsequential anyway, as it will amount to a completely negligible fraction of the impedances of the components that are being connected. And the same goes for speaker cables under most although probably not all circumstances.
Therefore if in fact there is a general tendency for silver cables to have different sonic characteristics than copper cables, that 6% difference in resistance per unit length is almost certainly not the reason.
Yeah, silver is more conductive, and when that seemingly small percentage gets amplified for the speakers, it's noticeable.
Personally I really like solid core wire instead of stranded wire. Audioquest and Morrow Audio both do great things with solid core conductors, but really, many companies have found good results with this design.
Runnin, did you read the last two paragraphs of my post, especially these two sentences:
Also, regarding the 6% or so difference in resistivity and conductivity between silver and copper, a point to keep in mind is that that difference can be compensated for several times over by simply going one gauge size larger in copper. It can also be compensated for by simply making the copper cable 6% shorter than the silver cable.
To provide an example of the point to my post just above, the difference between the resistance and conductance of a 6 foot silver cable and a 6 foot copper cable that is identical aside for the type of metal, will be the same as the difference between the resistance and conductance of a 6 foot silver cable and another silver cable that is identical except that it is about 4.3 inches longer than 6 feet.
I think it is reasonable to assume that in general there will not be a perceptible sonic difference between two silver cables that are identical except that one is 6 feet long and one is 6 feet 4.3 inches long.
Which is NOT to say that the 6 foot copper cable and the 6 foot silver cable will necessarily sound identical. It is to say, contrary to common audiophile belief, that any differences in their sonics will not be due to differences in their resistance and conductance.
Almarg, to respond to your post directed at me, yes I read your post. I also disagreed with it somewhat. That's why I posted what I did, and you may find that occasionally people post something that differs with what you may post.
Try pure silver wire -- bare wire. Avoid the wires touching, of course. In fact, silver does not oxidize in air when exposed to oxygen. It does not produce silver oxide. It may react with sulfur atoms in the air to produce silver sulfide. But the good news is that this happens very slowly. And bare wire silver can be easily cleaned if the dark silver sulfide appears over time.
G11657, I'm sure you know that there's a multitude of variables involved and answers will cover the full spectrum. Based on my experiences so far I prefer solid core silver over copper cables I've heard. I hear superior tone,transparency and overall naturalness,just better sounding, My 2 cents contribution. Charles,
The most complete sound I have found has been silver plated copper (interconnect and speaker cable) and this has been also confirmed with several philes- friends in their systems. Many variables though can affect the sound however. Design/configuration, size/awg, termination quality, and termination choice....can't evaluate a silver copper wire if you are using gold spades...gold uses a substrate of nickel to aid adhesion and bonding. Resonance, capacitance, inductance, resistance are factors independent of material selection. Without an understanding of those properties,it is difficult to know if you are only hearing your material. PT
It is really very simple. Silver cables are very clean, bright, detailed and tend to be on the analytic side of the spectrum. I find that very useful in certain parts of my system. Copper presents to present a richer lush full and importantly a warmer sound. That to is very nice in certain circumstances. I have also had a number of alloy wires, but can't or don't want to attempt describing the resultant tone. I never had gold but except for some plated jacks etc. I would like to try it someday but the cost of some of these less expensive metals is prohibitive on occasion. I do favor the Ohno single crystal cast copper which sound quicker and more neutral to me. I wonder what a decent gauge wire of equal parts pre silver, copper and gold would sound like/ I will have to hit the lottery for that one.
Just to show how impressions and listening experiences differ, Mechans describes the silver character to include bright and analytical. Brands can be very different as well as system interaction factor. I use solid core pure silver IC and SC (Oellia Reference). These are very transparent, high resolution and exceptionally clear. Yet they provide a rich tonality with warmth, harmonic color and full body density. There isn't a trace of brightness,edge or analytical presentation. They are the most organic cable I've ever owned so far. I do not doubt at all that "some" examples of silver cables have a bright,lean and/ or analytical sound. Charles,
I use Jorma Prime and Statement cables in my system which use extremely pure copper and gold conductors and sound natural/organic. But it is not just the conductor material which contributes to Jorma's natural sound. The geometry, core materials, shielding and intent of the designer all play a part.
My experience with silver is nothing but good - more micro details.
However the other cables in your system can impact their performance in a negative manner - I found improving my power cables allowed the fine details conveyed by silver IC's to be more accurately reproduced by the attached components in a significantly smoother manner.
I am using solid core 16 and 18 gauge (for biwire) made out of soft annealed 4&5 nines silver. I ran the negative in the opposite direction to the positive, polished the wire, threaded it through over sized high grade Teflon and then twisted it slightly.
I agree with Sabai, the less dialectic the better.
I have compared my cables to some costing $12,000 or more. Mine are better.
Just caught this thread. What Al wrote above makes perfect sense to me ... an admitted non-techie. I posted similar comments in the context of the differences between various types of I/Cs and speaker cables. In particular, I was puzzled about the differences between the various types of Kimber speaker cables, e.g., the "PR" line as compared to the "TC" line.
My focus was on the three main electrical attributes that seem to attract the most attention; namely: resistance, capacitance and inductance. The differences between many of the favorite I/C and speaker cable brands and models just didn't seem all that significant to me.
But having said all that, I have read that there are other physical attributes that are NOT frequently discussed or well understood that seem to involve some serious metallurgical and materials science. Maybe there's not as much voodoo out there as I thought. LOL
Al, I seem to recall reading that cables made from different metals and alloys conduct electrical signals differently because of the surface (aka skin) characteristics of the particular metal being used. Are you familiar with these concepts?
I gather that attempting to discuss these "X" characteristics simply in the context of inductance and reactance would be insufficient and incomplete explanation.
11-10-14: Bifwynne Al, I seem to recall reading that cables made from different metals and alloys conduct electrical signals differently because of the surface (aka skin) characteristics of the particular metal being used. Are you familiar with these concepts?
There are two potential effects that brings to mind. The first is skin effect, which results in high frequency currents tending to disproportionately utilize the outer part of a wire's cross section, and underutilize the central part. The net effect being that the resistance of the wire increases somewhat as frequency rises above a certain point. The larger (numerically lower) the gauge of the wire, the lower the frequency at which that effect begins to take place. Although it seems to commonly be overlooked that utilizing a smaller fraction of a larger cross-sectional area will result in the effect being mitigated to a significant degree.
As can be seen under "examples" in the Wikipedia writeup, "skin depth" is proportional to the square root of the resistivity of the metal being used. So among the three metals that have been mentioned, gold would be the least susceptible to skin effect, and silver the most susceptible. But silver and copper are very close, and gold is not greatly different in this respect either.
Skin effect can certainly be expected to be a significant design consideration in the case of digital cables, as digital audio signals have significant spectral content well into the RF region.
As I see it, though (despite claims that may be made in some cable marketing literature) it will be of no significance in the case of analog interconnects. Partly because for the relatively narrow gauges that are typically used for analog interconnects skin effect will not begin to occur until frequencies that are well above the range of audibility. And partly because a slight or even not so slight increase in resistance won't matter in the case of an analog interconnect, as I indicated earlier.
With respect to speaker cables I recall seeing some calculations in a paper by Bill Whitlock of Jensen Transformers, a renowned expert, indicating that under typical circumstances skin effect may result in a high frequency rolloff amounting to somewhat less than 1 db at 20 kHz (I don't recall what the exact fraction was). I suppose that may be marginally/barely perceptible to some listeners in some systems, but I'd expect it to be overshadowed by other cable-related effects, including (I suspect) those related to the dielectric.
The second possible effect your question brings to mind relates to oxidation and impurities at the surface of the conductor, which as you indicated will vary depending on the particular metal. Those impurities perhaps resulting in diode effects and rectification affecting the small fraction of the signal current which flows through the outermost part of the wire's cross-sectional area. I've never seen any calculations or measurements quantifying that kind of possibility, that would provide a feel for whether or not it has a reasonable chance of being audibly significant. But fwiw my guess would be that since the depth that would be involved is probably a very tiny fraction of the wire's cross sectional area, perhaps even measured in molecules, that kind of effect is likely to be either minimal or negligible compared to other factors in the design of the cable.
You simply cannot use the same cable for Jazz Rock and the Blues. Any serious listener who really cares about proper musical accuracy should swap all their cables when listening to disparate musical styles. If you expect a specific cable to reproduce Mumblecore and emotive indy hipster ballads as well as Norwegian Death Metal you are simply delusional. Mope Rock to Mahler? Really? INSANE...DON'T DO IT. Take a few minutes to swap out all your wires before changing musical styles or suffer the consequences...and wait for the cables to settle in for a few hours before any serious listening. Adjusting the height of the wooden cable holders (these should always be cryo treated and then slightly roasted) that keep things off the floor is also often overlooked...a few millimeters can make a difference. It's also a good idea to treat the air in the listening room to allow cables to sound best...remove all of the oxygen from the room and replace it after running it through new BMW E90 series micro filters. Also, there are few tweaks more important than Hopi Smoke Cleansing for cables.
Wolf_garcia is on something....did no one discover that cables sound different after 6 pm? And some not? There are also huge differences in cable holders, some are made of wood with a nice painting which cost more than a stack of gold coins and sound not as good. Personally I agree with W_g, I prefer for Jazz a cable which is sonically in the red area, with a touch of Jaguar green, but for classic music, nothing beats a cable which shows in the so important midrange a shade of grey with a nice silver glamour in the lower bass.