For corrosion protection.
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It is expensive but totally unnecessary. Don't worry you are not missing out. Perhaps you may need to clean you connections more often or give the RCA jacks a a twist now and then to ensure a good connection but that is about it. FWIW: It is rare to see gold XLR connectors - so the recorded music you listen to was probably made using ordinary connectors.
Expensive? Unnecessary? Really? Gold has a warmer sound, silver more air and detail- all things considered. Of course there are more to the balance of cables and connectors then just "gold" and "silver" but all things equal (the exact same RCA or Wall Plug) the gold "item" will sound warmer while the silver will sound more open and airy.
Rare on XLRs? Only if one purchases the cheapest out there. Even my least expensive(Mogami) studio/mic cables' Neutrik XLRs are gold plated. All of the Kimber/Audioquest/Silver Audio balanced products I've owned have been terminated with gold or silver-plated Switchcraft XLRs(now the KS-1130s). I don't know where people get the idea that studios use cheap cables. I suppose it's because they never get to any quality recording venues, and/or have never seen what they actually use. Note what this studio says about using "high quality metals" at connection points, and realize that the plating(usually nickel) on inexpensive RCA/XLR connectors is ANYTHING BUT quality, or a good conductor: (http://denverrecordingstudioblog.com/2009/02/02/blogroll/the-benefits-of-using-good-quality-cables-in-your-recording-studio/) On this chart, you'll find that nickel has 25%(IACS) of the conductivity of the reference, annealed copper: (http://www.eddy-current.com/condres.htm)
I suppose it's because they never get to any quality recording venues, and/or have never seen what they actually use.
Perhaps, they just don't have training in "alchemy"? ;-)
Don't worry - your ordinary connectors are not stealing the air and warmth out of your music. Corrosion and making a good contact are indeed important - so give the RCA's a twiddle now and then and you 'll be ok. Certainly don't lose any sleep over these anything but good quality connectors.
One thing that should be avoided where possible is having dissimilar materials on connectors that are mated together. A lot of sources indicate that, for example, mating a nickel-plated jack with a gold-plated plug can hasten corrosion, due to electrolytic-type processes. I have no way of knowing how true that may be, but intuitively it seems to make some sense.
Gold is the connector material of choice in aerospace and other applications where long-term reliability is essential, and difficult environments can be expected. The reason for that, as was mentioned, is immunity to oxidation.
Silver can tarnish, as everyone probably realizes.
Although nickel has only 25% of the conductivity of pure copper, as Rodman's reference indicates, that in itself is not likely to be significant in a connector, where the length and resistance are negligible electrically. That is particularly so in the case of a line-level rca connection (as opposed to a speaker connection), due to the relatively high impedance levels of the circuits that are being connected.
As far as the different metals having identifiable sonic characteristics, I would say, particularly in the case of connectors, that it falls into the area of differences that are unexplainable and unverifiable, other than anecdotally.
The "tarnish", or oxidation that silver experiences has absolutely no effect on it's conductivity(unlike other metals), as anyone that has paid attention "realizes". That's unless said silver is exposed to high concentrations of H2S, SO2, NO2, CL2 or ammonia, and the corrosion becomes pretty thick(highly unlikely in your listening room, unless you create a lot of Hydrogen Sulfide via flatulence). Gold is among the most inert materials in the world and, as such, will not significantly contribute to any electrolytic process. "Alchemy?" As usual: The inexperienced and unknowing, decrying experiments, conclusions and science from their pulpits of abject ignorance. You're welcome to "The Last Word!" (I doubt that you'll be able to help yourself.) =8^)
Haha, hey Elevick. No worries, I wouldn't use wire hangers... only if they were dipped in high quality gold :).
It really doesn't make sense to me that there would be any advantage beyond preventing corrosion. Reason being that right after the connector lies normal wire, without gold or silver... Orrrr am I off?
"Gold has a warmer sound, silver more air and detail- all things considered"
- That's what I heard but it applies to material of the wire and not the thin plating of connector.
Audioquest uses silver since gold is not a very good conductor but, in my opinion, it doesn't make any difference in interconnects because of high input impedance and very thin plating.
From what I have gathered, cables (when properly designed) are voiced with materials that compliment a given cable by things like conductor material, and connectors. An easy experiment (though not inexpensive) is to listen to two different Oyaide wall outlets- SWO-DX with a heavy silver plating compared to the SWO-GX with a two micron thick gold plating. This is very enlightening.
I have talked to two different cable manufacturers about this- Purist Audio Design and Synergistic Research. They confirmed when voicing their IC's they use different materials for their RCA's to get the balance they are looking for.
Shellie - I don't have experience with wall outlets but it is a different application since current flow is involved. In case of interconnects there is a very little current.
Audioquest plates interconnects with silver for the best connection. It might make a difference but I probably don't have gear or ears to be able to tell the difference. Also - where you can find exactly same interconnect with different plating to compare?