Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Cables, Power, Tweaks, Speakers, Accessories (DBT-Free Forum) › The Contradictions and the Inconsistencies regarding upgrading of headphone cables - please add to what you think are inconsistencies.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

The Contradictions and the Inconsistencies regarding upgrading of headphone cables - please add...

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

A conductor [wire/wires in a headphone cable] conducts or 'carries' the electromagnetic [electric] current / EMC from a source [a CD player etc...] that generates the current. This EMC is not uniform, the variations within, or the distortions of it, represent transcribed sound waves. The logic dictates that a wire that carries and facilitates the propagation of an EMC should have good physical properties to do so. An analogy of a dirty water-pipe semi filled with sediment and grease compared to a clean pipe and their respective and incomparable abilities to carry a 'current' of water can, to a degree, make the need for a quality conductor understandable.

With the passage of years the mark of 'quality' itself was being upgraded. 

First it was the purity of the metal from which the wire was made, 

then it was the purity of the metal and the metal casting method,

then it was the super-purity with 6, 7 and even more..Ns [Nines] - 99.9999..% content of a metal,

then the 'freezing' appeared

and OCC / Ohno Continuous Casting method of wire drawing/making,

now there is even CFDCT-UP-OCC metal available for cabling. [..can somebody decipher the mysterious designation ?]

...did I left out anything ?

Shielding and super shielding, on top of an already existing coat, also appeared on the scene. Later even a dielectric 'underwear' appeared under the coat.

The reasoning behind making of expensive cables for headphones has been that the EMC carrying modulations representing sound waves should have the best constructed optimal and unobstructed path, should have the minimal chance to be interfered with from within a wire and from outside of it. That's why 'purity', special casting, freezing, coats and shields.

There are headphone cables costing many hundreds of dollars, the price of some is over a thousand and even more. Well, they say the quality costs money.

Here is the question : 

If copper and silver are the best metals to conduct the EMC, if they have the best properties to not interfere with the modulation of the current which represents and is, when converted, the sound, if it is even more best that the wires are made from pure as possible silver and copper, and even more, that the wires are 'cryo'[genically] transformed for a better electron flow, if all that is so important and crucial in making a top headphone cable then how come that all that carefully protected EMC coming from the source and travelling through a costly and specially constructed cable comes to and has to flow through a brass [ ! ] pin of a connector ? Never mind that this brass pin through which the current has to pass is coated in rhodium or gold, the integrity of the carefully preserved, up to that point, signal is compromised. Rhodium and gold are inferior to copper and silver in properties related to EMC conductivity, they have higher resistance to it and distort the sound more. Not all, or not 100% of a current flows through the plated surface of a connector pin. A large percentage of it goes through the brass of the pin. The brass with much higher resistivity creates 'eddies' or distortions in the current passing through it, it has more negative effect on the integrity of the signal. If you have a water pipe going to a house and it is cleany-clean except a bit of it that runs to the kitchen is clogged with dirt and grease, would you say that the water is clean and drinkable because 99% of the pipe is specially constructed and very clean and even has been 'cryo' freezed before being installed ? Why make an expensive cable, why care about the purity of copper and about the 'cryo' treatment and then terminate the cable with a brass plug ? It defeats the purpose of the effort. What about using the ox-cart wheels on a Mercedes Benz ? The similarity of absurdity is the same. Can I say it is almost a joke ? If the sonics of headphones, after costly recablings, are to the acclamation of many, much improved [how come, with brass connectors that are in the signal path ?] then how good they would be if the connectors were of the proper quality ? The businesses that make these expensive cables do not know this ? [Or they know but they still make money.]

Furutech makes silver pin/gold plated 6.5mm RCA connector, about the best there is but if the required termination is 3.5mm 'mini' then you are out of luck. Everything seems to be brass pin with gold or rhodium or silver plating. And the 'silver' is an alloy of silver and nickel. There is similar problem with the 4 pin balanced 'mini' XLR connectors. Amazingly no manufacturer is plugging this hole in the market.

Even bigger flies in the ointment are headphone cables terminated with 4 pin XLR connectors and then with adapters for different terminations. If the final termination is 3.5mm 'mini' plug then good luck with the compounded problem of two connectors with brass pins in the signal path.

The best connector would be the one made from an alloy of silver and gold [or to a lesser extent from an alloy of copper and rhodium], of about 97 % down to 95 % of silver and 3 % to 5 % of gold. Gold serves as an anti oxidant. The connector would have to be removable and replaceable after about 3 to 5 [give a better estimate] years as the audio signature of even silver 'fortified' with gold would deteriorate over time. That type of connector would be a proper fit for expensive cables, a proper connector to interfere least with a signal. Why no manufacturer or any enterprise in the business of producing and/or selling high fidelity audio equipment has given a proper attention to this ignored weak link in the audio chain is puzzling.

Does the brass connector problem demonstrate that much of the 'cables' science is no science but alchemy ? How much ? A bit, under a half, over a half, most of it, all of it [for the extremists] ?

What are the other contradictions in the science of cables, headphone cables in this case ?

post #2 of 17
Thread Starter 

Tired, tired, not enough sleep...

 

A correction. .. grammatically silly -                        - did I left out anything

                           should be [double identity]           - did I leave anything out

                                                                        or           - did I leave out anything

post #3 of 17

hmmmm..... i just buy the cable..fix it ....n enjoy it. popcorn.gif

post #4 of 17

The original aim was hi-fidelity. The most high fidelity of several decades ago would have been a turntable into a noisy tube amp. The quality you get today from a cheap CD player or computer sound card -> mid-range amplifier -> headphones/speakers of your choice is orders of magnitude cleaner.

 

In response to this, entrepreneurial types today need to work hard to convince buyers to spend more money. One area with potentially huge mark ups (cables really aren't that expensive to make) and no-end of buzzwords (loads of nines, precious metals, cryo-anything) is cables.


Expectation bias takes care of the rest, tricking you into hearing a huge difference, when it's really just because you're concentrating on the music for the first time in a while.

post #5 of 17
Quote:

Originally Posted by zorin View Post
 

The brass with much higher resistivity creates 'eddies' or distortions in the current passing through it, it has more negative effect on the integrity of the signal.

 

You have it backwards.

 

The eddy currents you speak of are what give rise to skin effect. And skin effect is a function not just of frequency but of resistivity. The higher resistivity of the brass results in reduced skin effect. Conversely a metal with lower resistivity will have increased skin effect.

 

se

post #6 of 17

I would guess the gold coloured connections are more cosmetic than anything else. Gold is an okay conductor (of electricity) but more importantly to the manufacturers, it's shiny and catches the eye. Something that was coated with silver could also be mistaken for chrome, platinum, rhodium or other similar looking materials and just don't have the flash of gold. Personally I like the look of copper and would love to have that as a coating but the issue of tarnishing would probably be a problem. 

post #7 of 17

Rhodium is used to plate contacts because it is chemically inert and durable.  You don't have to put as much of it on, thickness wise, as you do with gold.  So it's less "in the way".

 

CFDCT etc etc etc was Lee Weiland's designation for his wire, just refers to cryoed OCC copper or silver.  He came up with his own cryo process.  

 

Plating metals onto the outside of the plug is mostly for looks but can prevent tarnishing for sure.  

 

Having to have adapters and plugs in the way isn't ideal, sure.  But think about it in terms of the entire circuit.  You have circuit boards, transistors, resistors, and capacitors in the way often times (although the best amps don't have too much crap in the signal path, there's still many feet of traces that the signal goes through too).  A few brass pins is the least of your worries as it is not an all or nothing thing, like it will completely contaminate your sound quality with one drop of brass in an all silver circuit.  It's more of a small speed bump in the road or a 4 lane highway temporarily narrowing down to 2 lane.  That said, some headfiers hear a difference getting their setup as minimalist as possible or tweaking little things like that.  

 

I didn't know Furutech made a silver center pin RCA, which model is that?  I know their top ones have an OCC copper center pin with rhodium plate.  

 

What research is there into the question of whether alloying metals with gold or rhodium prevents oxidation inside the wire?  That's not a phenomenon I'm aware of.  I wasn't aware that it was possible to make silver more conductive than pure silver, either.  There are schools of thought that say that doping the most conductive metals with less conductive metals produces a more pleasing sound - or that conductivity has little to do with how the cable sounds.  One example would be the carbon nanofiber based cables out there, or the Aluminata series of cables which have aluminum in their alloy.  These are critically acclaimed cables that do not have the most conductive conductors.  Other well received cables out there have a hair-like fiber of pure platinum in them.  

post #8 of 17

great discussion here!

 

i plan on getting aftermarket cables for the bragging rights and for the sexiness

post #9 of 17

Quote:

There is similar problem with the 4 pin balanced 'mini' XLR connectors. Amazingly no manufacturer is plugging this hole in the market.

 

 

Here at Toxic, we have been offering, for quite some time now, cables that are terminated with machined, solid silver contacts. (not silver plated)

 

Currently, this is limited to anything that uses mini, or standard XLR connectors. So balanced Audez'e and AKG cables, and balanced interconnects.

 

We are currently working on other connectors.


Edited by Toxic Cables - 10/7/12 at 5:13pm

http://www.toxic-cables.co.uk                  PREPARE TO BE INTOXICATED

 

 

Reply
post #10 of 17

what treatment do you recommend for dealing with tarnish? 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kabelmeister View Post

Here at Toxic, we have been offering, for quite some time now, cables that are terminated with machined, solid silver contacts.

 

Currently, this is limited to anything that uses mini, or standard XLR connectors. So balanced Audez'e and AKG cables, and balanced interconnects.

 

We are currently working on other connectors.

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

what treatment do you recommend for dealing with tarnish? 

 

They can be either gold or rhodium plated.


Edited by Toxic Cables - 10/7/12 at 3:31pm

http://www.toxic-cables.co.uk                  PREPARE TO BE INTOXICATED

 

 

Reply
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Eddy View Post

 

You have it backwards.

 

The eddy currents you speak of are what give rise to skin effect. And skin effect is a function not just of frequency but of resistivity. The higher resistivity of the brass results in reduced skin effect. Conversely a metal with lower resistivity will have increased skin effect.

 

se

Right on. I wrote what I wrote because I gathered from some posts on Head-fi  that some members think that the 'skin effect' accounts for basically all of the electrical flow and therefore what matters is what is the surface material, or coating, of a conductor. I wanted to point out that that is not the case. The sellers of the cables also play their role in this misconception, they trumpet about gold or silver [not really, actually sonically inferior alloy of silver and nickel or zinc] plating of the connectors on their cables. Otherwise your comment is valid. In addition to : "Not all, or not 100% of a current flows through the plated surface of a connector pin. A large percentage of it goes through the brass of the pin" I also should had added that when the pin is made of brass a larger percentage of the current 'downshifts' from the surface toward the center with a resulting higher audio distortion.

Thanks for the contribution.

For the benefit of the members see the table below [every bit of data and knowledge enlightens] :

 

The Resistivity column [of an element or an alloy]  

    

     - Copper   1.69 Ohm / per unit of volume                                                   

     - Gold       2.2  Ohm / per unit of volume

     - Silver     1.63 Ohm / per unit of volume

      -  Brass       7       Ohm /  per unit of volume

      -  Bronze     15     Ohm / per unit of volume [some manufacturers use bronze]

      -  Tin           12.6  Ohm / per unit of volume

      -  Zinc          5.96  Ohm / per unit of volume [some manufacturers use silver/zinc,

                                           silver/tin or silver/zinc/tin alloys]

The higher the resistivity number the more of the audio distortion, the more the sound is degraded.

 

The 'Skin Depth' [of the electron / electrical flow]                                                                                                                                

 

      - Copper  65.4 micrometers  at frequency of 1 MHz [Emmylou Harris in her young age

                                          could hit 1 MHz which is about a top range of a soprano voice]

      - Brass    133  micrometers at 1MHz -  Double the depth.The flow shifts towards the      

                            center of the brass conductor. The fancy coating of gold plays less of a   

                            role as a conductor. The brass core plays greater role in downgrading

                            the quality of a signal.     

      - Bronze   195  micrometers at 1 MHz. 

 

 

 



 Material Chemical
Formula
Bulk
Resistivity
@20C
µΩ×cm
(Ω×10-8m)
Relative Permeability μ/μ0 Skin Depth
(µm@f)
1
MHz
10
MHz
100
MHz
1
GHz
10
GHz
100
GHz
Aluminum Al 2.65 1 81.9 25.9 8.19 2.59 0.819 0.259
Beryllium Be 3.3 1 91.4 28.9 9.14 2.89 0.914 0.289
Brass Cu70/Zn30 7 1 133 42.1 13.3 4.21 1.33 0.421
Bronze Cu89/Sn11 15 1 195 61.6 19.5 6.16 1.95 0.616
Carbon C (graphite) 1375   1866 590 187 59.0 18.7 5.90
Cadmium Cd 7.3   136 43.0 13.6 4.30 1.36 0.430
Chromium Cr 13.2 1 183 57.8 18.3 5.78 1.83 0.578
Cobalt Co 6.34 600 5.8 1.6 0.52 0.16 0.052 0.016
Constantan Cu60Ni40 49   352 111 35.2 11.1 3.52 1.11
Copper Cu 1.69 1 65.4 20.7 6.54 2.07 0.654 0.207
Dural Al95/Cu 4/Mg 1 5   112.54 35.6 11.3 3.56 1.13 0.356
Gallium Ga 15.5   198 62.7 19.8 6.27 1.98 0.627
Gold Au 2.2 1 74.7 23.6 7.47 2.36 0.747 0.236
Graphite C 783.7   1409 446 141 44.6 14.1 4.46
Inconel alloy 600 Ni72/Cr16/Fe 8 103 1 511 162 51.1 16.2 5.11 1.62
Indium In 8.8   149 47.2 14.9 4.72 1.49 0.472
Iridium Ir 5.1   114 35.9 11.4 3.59 1.14 0.359
Iron Fe 10.1 500 7.2 2.3 0.72 0.23 0.072 0.023
Lead Pb 20.6 1 228 72.2 22.8 7.22 2.28 0.722
Lithium Li 9.29   153 48.5 15.3 4.85 1.53 0.485
Magnesium Mg 4.2 1 103 32.6 10.3 3.26 1.03 0.326
Mercury Hg 95.9 1 493 156 49.3 15.6 4.93 1.56
Molybdenum Mo 5.7 1 120 38.0 12.0 3.80 1.20 0.380
Monel alloy 400 Ni65/Cu33/Fe 2 49   352 111 35.2 11.1 3.52 1.11
mu-Metal   47 30,000 2.0 0.64 0.20 0.064 0.020 0.0064
Nickel Ni 6.9 200 9.3 3.0 .093 0.30 0.093 0.030
Nichrome Ni80/Cr20 108   523 165 52.3 16.5 5.23 1.65
Palladium Pd 10.8 1 165 52.3 16.5 5.23 1.65 0.523
Platinum Pt 10.58 1 164 51.8 16.4 5.18 1.64 0.518
Potassium K 6.8   131 41.5 13.1 4.15 1.31 0.415
Rhodium Rh 4.7 1 109 34.5 10.9 3.45 1.09 0.345
Silver Ag 1.63 1 64.3 20.3 6.43 2.03 0.643 0.203
Sodium Na 4.9   111 35.2 11.1 3.52 1.11 0.352
Steel     100            
Tantalum Ta 13.5   185 58.5 18.5 5.85 1.85 0.585
Tantalum Nitride TaN 252   799 253 79.9 25.3 7.99 2.53
Tin (pure) Sn 12.6 1 179 56.5 17.9 5.65 1.79 0.565
Titanium Ti 54 1 370 117 37.0 11.7 3.70 1.17
Tungsten W 5.4 1 117 37.0 11.7 3.70 1.17 0.370
Urnaium U 27   262 82.7 26.2 8.27 2.62 0.827
Yttrium Y 53   366 116 36.6 11.6 3.66 1.16
Zinc Zn 5.96   123 38.9 12.3 3.89 1.23 0.389
Zirconium Zr 44   334 106 33.4 10.6 3.34 1.06
 
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 

xyz malfunction


Edited by zorin - 10/8/12 at 7:51am
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorspeaker View Post

hmmmm..... i just buy the cable..fix it ....n enjoy it. popcorn.gif

 

You life enjoying and 'balanced' creature, I like your posts on Head-fi.

Good luck and good sailing 

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by zorin View Post

Right on. I wrote what I wrote because I gathered from some posts on Head-fi  that some members think that the 'skin effect' accounts for basically all of the electrical flow and therefore what matters is what is the surface material, or coating, of a conductor. I wanted to point out that that is not the case.

         
           
 
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   

 

 

Well yes, a surface plating on the conductor is meaningless with regard to skin effect as the skin depths at audio frequencies are vastly greater than the thickness of the plating.

 

Quote:
In addition to : "Not all, or not 100% of a current flows through the plated surface of a connector pin. A large percentage of it goes through the brass of the pin" I also should had added that when the pin is made of brass a larger percentage of the current 'downshifts' from the surface toward the center with a resulting higher audio distortion.

 

What are you talking about? What "distortion"? Ideally what you want is that "downshift" from the surface toward the center. What this means is that the current density is more even throughout the cross section of the wire.

 

At DC, current density is the same throughout the entire cross section of the wire. As you increase frequency, because of skin effect, current density begins to increase toward the surface of the wire and decrease toward the center of the wire. What this does is effectively reduce the cross section of the wire and its effective resistance increases as frequency increases. In other words, skin effect results in a frequency dependent resistance that acts as a low pass filter (i.e. it will roll off high frequencies). It's this that could be considered a "distortion," not the "downshift" from the surface toward the center.

 

Quote:

 

The Resistivity column [of an element or an alloy]  

    

     - Copper   1.69 Ohm / per unit of volume           

 

These figures are meaningless.

 

The unit of resistivity is the ohm-meter. That's the resistance of a material with a cross sectional area of 1 square meter and a length of 1 meter. So imagine a 1 meter cube of copper. The resistance from one side of the cube to the opposite side of the cube would be its resistivity. And in the case of copper, it's not 1.69 ohms, it's 1.69 to 10^-8 or 0.0000000169 ohms.

 

Quote:
The higher the resistivity number the more of the audio distortion, the more the sound is degraded.

 

What distortion? What degradation?

 

Quote:

The 'Skin Depth' [of the electron / electrical flow]                                                                                                                                

 

      - Copper  65.4 micrometers  at frequency of 1 MHz [Emmylou Harris in her young age

                                          could hit 1 MHz which is about a top range of a soprano voice]

 

I'm afraid not even Emmylou Harris, even in her young age, and even while being given a Texas titty twister could hit 1MHz. 1MHz is one MILLION Hertz. The audio range only goes up to about twenty THOUSAND Hertz. You're off by a couple orders of magnitude here.

 

se


Edited by Steve Eddy - 10/8/12 at 9:37am
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Cables, Power, Tweaks, Speakers, Accessories (DBT-Free Forum) › The Contradictions and the Inconsistencies regarding upgrading of headphone cables - please add to what you think are inconsistencies.