Soldering 101 for Audiophiles

I am replacing the tweeters in my Tympanis with new ribbons which I have just received from Magnepan.

Unscrewing all of the screws, it seems they are connected at the top and the bottom with a soldered connection?

I have a cheapo pencil shaped soldering iron from Radio Shack around the garage but otherwise havent soldered anything since I tried to put together a Hafler amplifier in 1979 and ended up paying someone else to do it.

Can anyone please explain:

* basic soldering technique
* what materials do I need for the best audiophile connnecton? Silver?

Thank you,
Heat the wire, not the solder...except for heavy guage wire where that may be the only way to start.

WBT silver solder is good but not practical to buy a whole spool for a couple connections. There is copper based solder that many consider better for the dollar but, as I said, don't worry about it for a couple connections and just get some Rat Shack resin core.
Soldering is kind of an art. Newbies tend not to get the solder joint hot
enough before applying the solder. Too much heat and you can wreck
a circuit board for example. After you solder the joint it should be shiny not
dull. Practice with some wire. What solder you should use...lots of
choices... silver, 60/40, silver-copper type, and a whole bunch of others.
Which is best...I don't know. The bottom line is if the solder joint is cold
usually meaning dull then it will make no difference what solder you used.
Why not just google "solder" and you will get a wealth of information.
Here's a link with video tutorials to get you started
As per Drjoe....I usually "tin" the iron a bit and then touch the connection to be soldered....once the solder begins to bleed into the connection I apply more solder to the wires....the process is best done quickly as too much heat can damage stuff and tons of solder has no advantage.

Use of the solder sucker device is also the key to cleaning things up on an old connection. I like to start with everything clean. A connection will be much stronger if you remove all previous solder from the terminal.
I had fellow who installs landscaping (plastic pipes) tell me that he "is real good at sweating pipes" so I let him into my basement to replace a small area of galvanized.

As soon as I saw him torching the solder---not the pipe---I smiled and called a real plumber.
06-24-07: Davehrab
Here's a link with video tutorials to get you started

I agree.

He uses a pencil iron and a few extra tools; so realistic for the occassional DIY'er.

I just played the desoldering tutorial and there where plenty of good techniques there.
Make sure you use solder made for electronics, namely rosin-core solder. Don't use acid core solder - that's for plumbing.

I don't what you are really trying to say or accomplish, but I am always curious when someone on this forum says "why don't you just Google _________ ?!"

Having been online for at least a few hours a day since about 1997, I am pretty familiar with Google, and assume most Audiogoners are as well.

In my experience, this forum tends to be geared more towards audiophiles than a universal search engine and is therefore likely to offer a more concentrated source of audiophile friendly advice.

To everyone else, thank you - this all sounds pretty straightforward.

In general one should not rely on solder for mechanical strength. Crimp the wire to the terminal, and then add solder.

Plumbing soldering is a bit different, and probably as much a skill as electronic soldering. Of course you don't heat the solder, but you don't heat the pipe either. Only apply heat to the fitting, and the solder will be drawn into the connection when the pipe gets hot enough for solder applied at the joint to melt.
Get a nice soldering iron also. Spending $150 on a Weller would be well worth it considering how much easier it is to use than an el-cheapo and the cost of your speakers.

There a lot of good sources for hifi oriented soldering basics online which are more elaborate than the fine advice here. Finding them via google is very easy, which is perhaps what Herman had in mind.
My point is simple.

Can anyone please explain:

* basic soldering technique

Millions of words have been written on this and can easily be found on-line. There is nothing "audiophile" about it.
Herman...Audiophiles can make ANYTHING into a mystical art... even solder.

In regards to Cwlondon question,I don't see anything wrong with it.In fact he is always been a gentleman and a polite one in all his posts.Trying to learn something is one of the reasons we all come in here.
I wouldn't mind learning to solder electonics myself.
I've done copper pipes though and I am very good at it.In fact even though I am not a plumber I took fair size plumbing jobs on the side to make an "extra buck"
One thing I found with copper is to MAKE sure to polish all fittings that make contact and wipe clean and flux good all surfaces to be soldered.That alone is 90% of the battle .Indeed is correct to apply heat on the fitting and once hot it will suck the solder in.
Best to all
Yes, now that we have covered the basics, whether here or through Google, we could add a bit more mysticism:

* Demagnetize and/or deep freeze the solder?
* Does Shun Mook make a soldering iron?
* How about a tube soldering iron?

Checking Parts Express, it seems they have a range of soldering irons including a few by Weller, as well as CORDLESS and cool to the touch devices which seem very reasonably priced.

Would those by handy? Or are they the soldering iron equivalent of a boom box?
my advice cwoldon is for you to buy a decent 25-45 watt iron practice on some leaded resistors and if you feel you got the hang of it tackle your tweeters.

If you don't feel comfortable then pay someone to do it.

Audiophile connection? now THAT is funny
Dear CWLondon,
I recently built my first kit, a KandK Phono Preamp, and I indeed Googled "Solder" and after hours of research here is a summary of my findings.

Like everything else in the world, nobody agrees on how to solder. I might summarize my findings, and of course others probably have different data, as the following two camps of theory.

Theory One: Affix the soldering iron tip to the component and don't ever touch it directly to the "solder" wire. This means: a) place the hot iron tip against the component lead or wire, b) place the solder wire also against the component wire or lead - very close to, but not against the iron tip itself, c) when the tip heats the component lead enough, the heat will pass through the component lead to the solder wire and it will begin to melt, and d) flow the amount of solder you want onto the joint or connection and remove the solder and the iron tip at the same time. If soldering the lead to a heat sensitive component, place a wire clip or similar "heat sink" on the component lead between the joint to be soldering and the body of the component to draw excess heat into the heat sink to preclude it from overheating the body of the component. I found this can slow the solder process, since the heat sink may draw some heat necessary to flow the solder into the heat sink itself.

Theory two: a) place the iron tip at the joint to be soldered, and b) touch the solder wire against the tip of the iron to cause it to flow onto or into the joint, and c) after flowing the solder remove the solder wire and iron tip at the same time. This theory places much less heat into the components and I found takes roughly 20% of the time to solder each joint compared to theory one.

Component Leads Theory One: Component leads do not need to be cleaned or treated with an abrasive before soldering the joint. The theory is that the soldering is sufficient to make the connection, that treating the leads with alcohol or some other cleaning material or abrasive strips them of a layer of protection, which exposes them to oxidation (rust).
Component Leads Theory Two: To make the best connect and allow the electrons to flow with the least resistance, strip the lead ends with an abrasive (such as sand paper) and wash them with alcohol. Exposing the unoxidized flesh of the component wire will allow for a better bond of the solder to the component wire, since dirt or oxidation will not sit between the component lead and the solder being applied to same.

I don't know which theories are better, but i went with the more heat solder theory and the clean with alcohol and abrasive theory and my KandK sounds great. I did use a heat sink just on those components that Kevin said were heat sensitive (maybe two in the whole kit). Is this the ideal way? I don't know.

Kevin suggested Cardas solder, which i found flows very well at about 680 to 700 degrees and i found a temperature controlled soldering iron to be vastly more user friendly than one with such control. If fact, as a beginner i would really not recommend trying the work without a temperature controlled iron. I found that Rat Shak solder, at the same temperatore, wants to crawl up the soldering iron tip (somebody else would have to explain this).

As a beginner, i bought two really cheap electronic kits (like $10 each) from Rat Shak for practice, which helped me out a lot before undertaking the kits. I am now building an Audio Note DAC. I also found a solder removal braid to be useful(Rat Shak's works fine) and a small tin of solder tip cleaner (also Rat Shak works fine) to be very helpful.

Each time you turn off the soldering iron or let the iron sit idle for a while, you should touch the solder wire to the tip of the hot iron and melt some solder all around the end of the iron tip to prevent oxidation of the iron tip.

Some people recommend that just before you touch the tip of the soldering iron to the component lead in either theory above, that you touch a smidgeon of solder to the hot tip in order to "pretin" the tip. They believe this shortens the time duration for which to put heat into the component lead, thereby causing the solder to flow faster with less risk to the component. Generally, I did not do this, but i did tin the soldering iron tip each time i set it aside and i cleaned it with a damp sponge every time before soldered a joint.

Hope this helps. I'm sure others will have better suggestions, but these are the things I learned from my Google search. I would love to hear suggestions in addtion to my rudimentary technique. Jeff
Much useful info here. I find I can do virtually any soldering job, from thick wire down to tiny surface-mount ICs, with two irons: 40W Radio Shack and Antex 15W mini-iron with .012" gold needle tip from The gold needle needs little tinning & does not deteriorate with use.

Antex 15W mini soldering gun:

ANT-C/3U mini-iron with 3-prong grounding
ANT-8G .012" needle gold tip

Cardas no-lead solder sounds great but requires too much heat to use safely with surface mount components or when soldering directly to IC pins. Be aware that with no-lead solder a good joint looks dull just like a bad joint.

Good low temp silver-bearing solders include WBT and Radio Shack p/n 64-013. The RatShack solder is also a thin diameter .022", which can be essential for small components & PCB pads.

Finally, a good tractor lamp with an illuminated magnifying glass from Staples, a small table-top vice, a Ratshack mat with grounded wrist-wire, and a RatShack Helping-Hands arms with alligator clips to hold things in place.

Nice post - your info has brought back memories of the man who helped me build my Hafler amp when I was in junior high school. I was hopelessly baffled by the instructions, and my Dad contacted him to help me out.

And yes, I now recall he showed me a few simple demonstrations where he would heat the wire with the tip of the iron, hold it there for some heat, and then stream the solder onto the joint by touching it simultaneously against the iron and the joint, and withdrawing the solder first, and then the iron.

He was the kind of guy who looked like he knew how to solder, while also looking like he didnt know how to tie a tie, which in this instance I took as a good thing.

He didnt seem to use any abrasives or solvents, but then again he was not an audiophile - just a regular electronics geek.
I think this thread is a great resource for someone like me starting to solder.
I'm glad cwoldon asked the question. I started watching the tangent video, read everything here, and I feel I'm much better about soldering.

1. Buy solder and flux and read the directions. "Michael Percy's" website has a good selection and reliable information. The 3 or 4 types that come up are all reputable and as usual folks have their preferences and reasons. If I were you I'd buy the solder with a low melting point as ease of use is what you obviously need; however any of them will provide a satisfactoty result-if used properly. Percy is reliable.
2. Prep the joint spot on the tweeter.First remove the old wire where it it attached to the tweeters by bringing the hot tip(preheat the tip) of your pencil/gun(hereafter called an 'iron') to the joint. Touching the joint heat it quickly until a gentle rub from a piece of cloth causes the old wire to be released. I like to remove the old solder at the same time rubbing the cloth on the hot spot. The old solder does not have to be fully removed or perfectly clean. (Your pencil/gun "must" be hot enough so this is accomplished in a few second or you risk heating areas nearby-which you'do not' want to do- this is what others are warning about. "If" your pencil will not heat the target quickly(i.e. to not heat up surrounding area) then I would obtain(rent) a gun with a hotter tip.) Quickly reheat the spot until a dab of the new solder wire melts onto it. This piece is now ready.
3. Now prep the wire end. Cut the insulation off the tip of your new wire - perhaps an inch. Preheat you iron. Heat the end of the wire quickly until touching the solder to it results in a drop of solder melting into the tip of the wire. Remove heat as soon as the drop melts into the wire.The wire is now ready.
4. Align and touch together the 2 items to be soldered exactly the way you want them to be permanent.
5. Bring the hot iron to heat the 2 items simultaneously until the solder wire touched to them melts a drop which fuses the 2 together. Immediately remove the iron and allow joint to cool naturally - without disturbing it for the 'say' 5 seconds it take to stabilize. You should now have a stable soldered joint. I hope this makes sense for you. Feel free to ask questions so we get you back to enjoying your system. Best wishes. Pete
Don't follow the directions in step 4. You need a mechanical as well as an electrical connection. This means you can't just tin both pieces, touch them together, melt the solder, remove the heat, and hold it until it solidifies. Any movement before it hardens will result in a bad joint.

If the 2 objects won't stay together without solder you should not proceed. Wrap the wire around the lug or through the eye if it has one or twist them together or whatever it takes so they don't fall apart when you let go, and then solder them together.