Jennifer from Jena Labs highly endorsed the Cardas Quad Eutectic Solder. She told me that she has used pretty much every high end solder available and she prefers this for sonics and durability. She also went on to tell me she did upgrades to a $8k preamp and used a silver solder and since it was not an eutectic type solder it started to "break down" in a matter of years and now the piece is pretty much a boat anchor unless she wanted to go back and re-do every solder connection. I've used it on all of my projects and it is very easy to use, seems to be sonically nuetral and will remain easy to work with as many times as you need to-which can not be said about other solder's I have used. It is expensive but it lasts a long time and gives me piece of mind.
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There are lots of soldering tips on the Web. The US Navy has a very good guide to soldering that is part of their training for their electronics technicians. See if you can find it through Google.
Weller are good irons, but another option is the Hako 936 - this is an excellent soldering station for around $85. Well made, good temperature control, nice feel in the hand, a range of tips are available, better looking than the Weller.
It is good to hear from you. Maybe I am just getting old but I do not remember seeing you post much these days.
The reasons you mention using the Cardas solder seem very good to me but alas, Nick Gowan From True Sounds (an Audio Note dealer) told me I should use Audio Note solder. I did not even know they sold one. I was just asking him if he had any recommendations for me before I started my speakers.
So I will use their solder.
I plan on placing my speakers in the corner as they were built for, and reporting back on Agon. A big difference from Maggies which I see you still enjoy.
thank you for the advice on the Hako 936. I will look into it.
all the best,
I was taught that in soldered connections the wire should be firmly crimped to the terminal before solder is applied. Electrical contact is made without need for solder. The purpose of the solder is primarily mechanical, to prevent the connection from coming loose. It also helps with electrical continuity, but the current flow path is basically from conductor to conductor without going through solder. Where components are installed by leads through holes in a circuit board conductor-to-conductor contact is not assured and some very small distance of the circuit path is through solder.
In military electronic equipment that is designed to withstand nuclear weapon effects electrical connections are often made by "wire wrap". A special tool is used to tightly wrap several turns of soft wire under tension around a square post. Believe it or not this makes excellent electrical contact, and even severe vibration (as during missile flight) does not shake the wire loose. In the nuclear effects environment solder is a bad idea...it melts.
I have noticed that some higher priced solder is easier to use: has better melting characteristics.
So the wire must be cleaned before soldering. Is that what the flux is for? Do people still use flux? I do not remember seeing it mentioned.
The way you describe it solder becomes less important. I am sure that could be a volotil subject...
I am a total newbie to this...
Interesting story about the wire being wrapped around square posts.
If done properly the solder actually forms an alloy with the wire. The molecules from the solder intermingle with the molecules of the wire. If the wire is tarnished the solder will roll off. Flux is corrosive and eats away whatever tarnish is on the wire. Most solder has the flux built in. If it does it will say so on the label.
Philjolet...New shiny wire, where you have just stripped away the insulation, does not nead cleaning. If there is any suggestion of oxidation on the wire clean it.
Flux cleans the metals being connected, and prevents the rapid oxidation that would otherwise occur while the metal is heated up. Solder is usually made hollow, like macaroni, with the flux inside. Very important...make sure that you don't use "Acid Core" solder. This is too corrosive for use in electronic circuits.
In modern circuitry the components and the circuit board pads (where the components attach) are very small, and it takes considerable skill not to botch a soldering job. In particular, you don't want to apply too much heat.
And yes...solder is part of the audiophile religon.
Herman...The intermingling of solder molecules and the wire material is a surface condition, and that's what makes the stuff stick.
I've gotten a good recomendation on lead-free, Kester SN 96. Leaded solders are surely going to disappear sooner or later, and I can't believe lead has any sonic positives , no matter how much silver is tossed in.
Do not, do not learn to solder on your kit. You can't determine a true, perfect, mil-spec solder joint by eyeballing it; especially depending on your eyesight/age. Mil-spec joints are inspected one-by-one by a qualified inspector under a low power microscope. You'll also need to know about flux removal, down to the 100% level; also inspected.
You'll need to know about matching iron tip temp to the solder you're using, and the care and feeding of iron tips.
From my experience, Cardas melts at a higher temperature than Wonder and would be far from my first suggestion if one is re-flowing existing connections. The key word to that sentence is "flowing" and Cardas doesn't flow all that well. Wonder Solder is the easiest to work with out of all of the solders that i've tried in terms of application, melting point and quality of connection. It flows like no other solder that i've tried, making it easy for those that are less experienced to produce excellent results.
As mentioned above, the flux has to "attack" and "clean" the parts being connected in order for the solder and leg of the component to properly bond. It is the flux inside the Wonder Solder that makes it so good, which is why it flows and bonds so well. If the flux wasn't as good as it is, the solder would tend to clump up in one spot rather than flow. This would be due to the lack of a clean mating surface in the surrounding areas. Cardas tends to "clump" much more than Wonder even though some claim that it "sounds" better. While the Cardas may actually sound better, unless your skilled at soldering, i can't recommend anything any higher than i do the Wonder.
As for the Kester solders, Jon Risch is a big proponent of them, along with Belden products. Both are long time industry standards that are Chicago area based, but that doesn't mean that they are as good as it gets. I've got some major problems with Belden, but i'll save that for another thread : )
With that in mind, i've tried several different Kester's and they are all good solders. Having said that, they are all produce very heavy fuming, which is probably more hazardous to your health. Given that the Ersin eutectic solder that John Curl used to recommend is no longer being sold by Digikey, they are cross-referencing this part number to a eutectic silver solder that Kester makes. Once again, it is a good solder, but it produces a LOT of smoke.
I bring up the Kester solder as one can buy a pound of it for what you can buy an ounce of Wonder Solder. The Kester part number is 24-7150-0026 and can be found here at Digi-Key if someone is interested.
From what i understand, Moncrieff basically duplicated the original solder formulation that Tektronix came up with for the manufacturing of their test equipment. This could be nothing more than a rumour, but i don't doubt it. Either way, the proof is in the pudding and whatever it is, Wonder surely is based on a good recipe. Like all of the other "specialty" solders though, it is VERY expensive.
While we are on the subject, here's a few tips for those that don't have a lot of experience soldering.
1) Keep your tip clean. That is, wipe your soldering pencil ( NOT a gun or "iron" ) on a DAMP ( NOT "soaking wet" ) sponge. After doing this, very lightly plate the tip with solder occasionally.
2) Use a small gauge solder. Most people have poor soldering equipment and skills. Using a heavier solder is one of the most common mistakes. First of all, it is harder to work with and to get into tight spots with. Secondly, the "junky" soldering irons can't keep up with the thermal losses encountered with heavier solders, causing the solder to clump up rather than to flow. By using a smaller gauge solder, you avoid those two problems. First of all, the solder is more easily maneuvered due to being skinnier. Secondly, the smaller amount of metal dissipates less heat, allowing the tip to stay hot enough to properly melt the solder. This allows the solder to flow better, forming a better joint. Thirdly, due to the smaller diameter and less clumping, one can more easily see the joint that they are working on and flow / apply more solder as needed. This works much better than just "glomping" solder onto the components "hoping" that it bonds.
3) Make sure that each of the pieces to be joined are clean. That is, you can't solder very well onto something that has a lot of corrosion and / or an enamel or paint coating on it. Scrape off all of the material till you get down to clean bare metal.
4) If soldering wires together or materials with long leads or legs, form a solid physical connection with the materials first and THEN plate that connection with solder.
If you are making a connection between a piece of wire and a component leg or the trace on a board, LIGHTLY plate each connection point individually and then bond them together with more solder as needed.
By plating each connection ( other than two wires or devices with long leads ), you reduce the necessary heating period when you're trying to bond them together. By placing them in close proximity to each other and then flowing more solder into the area, the fresh solder can bond to the existing solder plate on each surface. This is much faster with less potential damage than having to wait for the entire surface area to come up to the melting point, allowing the flux to clean the point of connections and then have the solder bond to each of surfaces individually. The solder that you are adding will flow onto the plating that you've already applied very quickly, making a good joint with less thermal stress.
5) Proper ventilation is required, but the rapid flow of air over solder joints is not good. As such, if you're going to use a fan to help dispurse the fumes, have it sucking air away from you and the solder joints, not blowing across it. Solder joints take some time to fully form, so don't "help them out" by trying to cool them faster via blowing on them.
6) Invest in a pair of straight hemostat's, curved hemostat's and helping hands. You won't believe how much easier it is to solder with these tools and some good solder of the appropriate gauge. In case your wondering, a "good" gauge for solder is 26 or .031 diameter. DO NOT buy "generic" solder from Parts Express as it is very low grade. They are a good source for many different things, but NOT for low priced solder.
7) If you think that you have made a bad connection, it's not the end of the world. Try to remove / separate the pieces while applying heat for the shortest time possible. The use of solder wick in such a situation can be quite helpful.
Once you've got the area cleaned up, take your time and do it right the next time. Getting frustrated means more potential for a bad joint, so relax and / or get up and take a break if it comes to that point.
8) Last but not least, invest in a "decent" soldering pencil. Most of the stuff at Rat Shack is crap, but it can work in a pinch. While casual solderers don't need a full blown Weller or Hako temperature controlled solder station, the purchase of a good 40 watt soldering pencil with the appropriate tips is an invaluable investment. You'll find that the more that you use these tools, the more that they will pay for themselves AND make your lives easier.
While i shouldn't have to say this, i'm going to anyhow. ALWAYS make sure that whatever you are working on is unplugged AND fully discharged. Some devices run at VERY high voltages and contain capacitors that can either knock you on your ass or even kill you. I'm NOT joking about this. If in doubt, turn the item off, unplug it from the wall and then turn it back on. After letting it sit with it turned on but unplugged for at least 30 - 60 minutes, you should be okay. This is a very vague generalization, so PLEASE be safe rather than sorry. If in doubt, give it 24 hours and then come back to it. Having an inexperienced "DIYer" shoving his hands and 120 volt soldering pencil into an expensive and potentially lethal electronic device can be scary enough as it is without making very costly and / or deadly mistakes.
Hope this helps and that you remember "Safety counts". After all, it is your gear, your money and your health that you're dealing with. Sean
Here is Kester solder alloys and their melting points.
BTW I've been trained in high reliability soldering inspection and teaching per Weapon Specs many years ago.
If I recall the soldering stations were also grounded against ESD damage and the soldering irons were at 700°F.
Great info there Rich. I saw that Kester also makes another formulation similar to the one i posted a link to above. The Sn62Pb36Ag02 that i posted is 2% silver whereas the Sn60Pb36Ag04 is 4% silver. I have to assume that this is just as "smoky" as the rest of their product line though.
As to the melting points and various solder stations, the better Weller's have adjustable tip temperatures. This can be done either by changing the tip itself or by varying the amount of power fed to the heating element via a control on the station. As you mentioned, 700* F is a pretty typical setting / rating.
With that in mind, my comments were based on people trying to use 18 or 20 gauge solder with a commonly purchased $10 Radio Shack 30 or 40 watt pencil. While those pencils aren't really good for much, switching to a much smaller gauge solder and following the above directions can get them a lot closer to making better connections. Sean
1) Arrange the multiple litz conductors into a bundle for each connection point. If each conductor is individually insulated with enamel, remove all of the enamel near the end of the wire. The use of an abrasive wire wheel or brinding wheel on a Dremel type tool works wonderfully for this.
2) Lightly plate the bundle, allowing the solder to seep between the individual conductors. This can be best achieved by anchoring the bundle via a set of "helping hands" and moving the soldering tip around the bundle as you feed solder. When done properly, you can still see all of the individual strands being held together by the plating, not a "big clump" of solder that looks like one big conductor.
This approach reduces the potential for hot spots and clumping, providing a very even yet thin layer of plating. Besides holding all of the individual strands together, this unifies all of the conductors and makes for one common point of contact between them. Too much solder will make the "one larger conductor" both harder to work with / less apt to "form fit shaping" and less "sonically pure".
3) If inserting the wire bundle into a ring terminal, eyelet or around a post, lightly plate the areas of the post. Do NOT completely fill in any holes in a ring terminal or eyelet on a barrier strip, just plate the metal that's already there.
4) Take and form the wire around the individual connection as best possible. You want to achieve the best physical connection that you can. The use of needle nose pliers or sturdy hemostat's can work wonders here in terms of producing bends, hooks or wire-wrapping. If you've done this properly, the wire should be tightly bound to the connection at his point and be able to withstand a solid tug without coming apart.
5) Flow enough solder onto the joint to bond and seal the connection. As above, you should still be able to clearly see each part of the circuit and not end up with a big indistinct solder clump.
6) Before doing any of this, MAKE SURE that you know were EVERY wire and part goes. You might even want to label them prior to starting. Once you've done the above, it will be a real pain to try and remove a wire / break a connection. You not only have to break down the solder connection to remove it, but also the physical connection that you made. Think of this as a "connection that lasts a lifetime" : )
7) Once you are done, whatever it is that you are building will sound like crapola in your system. The sound will be bright and sibilant.
With that in mind, listen to it in the system and get a good idea of what it does sound like using discs that you are very familiar with. Don't get upset at how bad it sounds. Once you've got an idea of what it sounds like, put the Ayre Acoustics break in disc on repeat and play track 7 as much as possible. Play this as loudly as you can but remember that this track CAN and WILL damage your speakers and / or system if used without the proper caution in terms of setting the volume. Listen to the system in a couple of days using those same discs. Before doing so though, turn your transport / CD player off for a few seconds and then turn it back on. The differences between what you first heard and what you're hearing now will amaze you. Continue to use the "break in disc" whenever you're not listening to music and it isn't going to annoy you or others in the house / building. After about two weeks, you'll be stunned. Just remember that after an extended period of "repeat playing" on your machine, reset the power on your transport / player.
My Brother and i did this with my Father's system earlier this year after rebuilding his speakers. After three days of "burn in" with this disc, my Brother insisted that i had changed all of the cabling in the system. The difference was THAT huge. Prior to the three days of burning, the initial impressions that we had formed of the speakers was that we had actually made things worse than before. That's why i made the comment that i did about things sounding like "crapola" right off the bat. After two weeks of thorough break in and my Father returning home, he commented "I don't think that my system has ever sounded this good before". He was right, but had no idea as to why. He had NO idea that we had been inside his speakers and it never had sounded that good before. The modifications that we had performed along with the break-in procedure used paid off big-time. I'm just glad that he didn't hear it right after we had completed the work as he would have wanted to kill us. Crapola : ) Sean
Thank you Krwman007
After everyone's response which I am sure are valid in their own way I have decided to default to Sean's recommendation of the Wonder solder. I know Sean to be really thorough (evidence above) and an all around good choice (if I can find the darn stuff).
That said does anyone know where I can find some in the .031 guage? The smaller quantity the better.
I have done the usual google searches but no luck. Part of my problem is that I do not understand all the lingo etc....
Phil: I appreciate your kind words and vote of confidence, but i never meant to imply that Wonder was the only suitable choice. There are many in the industry that like and use WBT, Cardas, Ersin, Kester, etc... I stressed the values of Wonder in this thread for those that may not be skilled solderers now and / or those that seek similar advice in the future via consulting the archives. If you do some checking, you'll also find that Chris of VH Audio also recommends Wonder Solder for those that are building his cabling that are less skilled but prefers to use WBT as his "reference solder". Personally, i've never used WBT solder but have read many testimonies as to how well it works.
Having said that, i'm quite certain that Wonder will perform up to any and all of your expectations should you choose to go that route. I don't personally have any Wonder at this time or i would forward some to you. The reason for not having any on hand after speaking so highly of it? That's simple. I've used it all : )
I do have Cardas, Ersin eutectic and the Kester silver formulation mentioned above. I can forward you a quantity of both should you like. Otherwise, Michael Percy Audio sells various quantities of Wonder. Sean