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"Gold-plated RCA jacks" - Why gold?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I've been wondering about this for a while now. Why is it that if most cables are made of copper, as is the inernal wiring of most audio components, that gold plating is preferred on the connections? Isn't silver the most conductive metal? If so, why pay extra for gold? I call ********.
post #2 of 15
Gold does not oxidize and it is very conductive. Because it doesn't oxidize, it keeps its conductive properties. It is softer and can be easily plated to interconnects. However, gold is very expensive and pure gold is too soft for most applications.

Silver corrodes quickly and easily in the open atmosphere. Using it to plate the connections with is not a good idea.

Copper corrodes, but its easier to manufacture with because it is very ductile. It has very good conductive properties and its cheaper than silver or gold. Copper wires in general are strong and are not prone to breaking. When used in cables, the insulation protects the copper from corrosion.

I have actually encountered high-end audio cables that use silver alloy wires.
post #3 of 15
From what I understand, silver has distinct audio characteristics that many people don't like. Supposedly amazing in the highs but inadequite in the lows. Never tried em though so who the hell knows.

[edit: I have seen many many silver interconnects, but they don't have silver connecters probably for the above stated reasons.]
post #4 of 15
I've found gold plating to scratch easily. What's wrong with nickel?
post #5 of 15
Here is a website that shows some conductivity measurements of various metals. DCG is right about silver being one of the most conductive materials:

http://www.eddy-current.com/condmat.htm

Silver is generally corrosive resistant. When exposed to sulfurs or or oxidants, silver may have some problems with corrosion. The oils and salt from our skin causes silver to slowly corrode too.

I also forgot, silver is used for electronics too, but usually mixed with other metals such as zinc and nickel. I remember asking a saleperson at radio shack why I should buy silver solder instead of rosin solder.
post #6 of 15
Some gold plating scratches and wears away easier than others. Some manufacturers tout "heavy direct gold plating," whatever that is. The jacks on my D500SE look pretty bad considering how new it is, yet the jacks on my Corda still look pristine. They've both had interconnects on/off the same number of times, since I've always had them paired together.

It is fine to plate things with silver. It will oxidize but it still conducts very well when oxidized. The headphone jacks on the Corda are silver plated I believe. Cardas offers RCA plugs that are silver plated brass. Supposedly there are some solid silver ones coming soon from Eichmann. Wire wrap wire is almost always silver plated copper, because oxidized copper does not conduct well, but oxidized silver does. A good number of interconnects use pure silver rather than copper, especially the DIY recipes. Some say silver sounds bright, others say it sounds natural and fast. I haven't tried it myself. I don't like silver plated copper though.

Cardas' top of the line RCA jacks and plugs are silver/rhodium plated brass. Vampire sells RCA jacks and plugs that are gold plated OFC copper. I believe most low/mid priced RCA jacks and plugs are nickel plated brass or gold plated brass.
post #7 of 15
Hrm, which plugs/jacks would have the least problems? Rhodium plated brass, or gold plated copper? Wouldn't gold plated ofc copper connectors be better for copper cables?
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally posted by massappeal85
From what I understand, silver has distinct audio characteristics that many people don't like. Supposedly amazing in the highs but inadequite in the lows. Never tried em though so who the hell knows.

[edit: I have seen many many silver interconnects, but they don't have silver connecters probably for the above stated reasons.]
I use silver interconnects [siltech] and I promise you, they do not
lack in anything especialy 'lows'.

Setmenu
post #9 of 15
I didn't know silver can still conduct will when oxidized.

I have auditioned silver interconnects. I thought they were good.

I have been told silver interconnects are not bad to use. Everyone says they sound brighter and faster, but no one has expressed to me that it was a bad thing. I think people are too use to using equipment on the muddier side and so they complain that silver interconnects sound funny.

I remember reading some brochures four years ago about using the right type of silver alloys in the interconnects to prevent the so-called excessive brightness. I don't know, but I think it is mostly marketing hype. I think alloys are used to reduce the cost of the product.
post #10 of 15
There are also pure gold conductor interconnects out there, stealth makes one that is ridicously overpriced ($2000 or so)... You can buy bulk gold wire for about $10/ft (http://www.a-msystems.com/physiology...edgoldwire.asp), quite expensive. The only advantage of using gold is that there will be zero oxidization, though with insulation silver is superior... Copper is a better conductor than gold as well.

Another company uses some sort of conductive carbon for the wire, I'm not sure how that works...

Also I think Vampire makes some solid copper RCAs, or some company does I forget, and are supposed to be really really good. I like the Cardas SRCA though.
post #11 of 15
Metallurgically, Gold is by far the easiest to work. It is the most ductile, formable metal known. Gold also does not oxidize in any atmosphere that will support human life, and is not subject to attack by any chemicals other than the most corrosive known. Gold is also a fantastic electrical conductor.

Silver is easily worked, although not nearly as worlkable as Gold. Siver oxidizes badly. Ask your wife or mother how often the "Silver" needs to be polished. That surface oxidation is an insulation.

Copper is about the same as Silver, although its conductivity is lower. It also rapidly forms an oxide layer which is an insulator.

Nickle is extremely difficult to work, is an extremely hard and strong metal, which is mostly used in alloys. Nickle also forms a very hard, insulating oxide layer. Spot welding Nickle alloys, we had to clean in a Hydroflouric/Nitric acid bath no more than 4 hours prior to welding. (Hydroflouric acid is THE MOST dangerous of all industrial chemicals)

Rhodium is a cheaper alternate, but not often used.

Surface corrosion does not affect conductivity. It affects transfering a signal/voltage/current from one contact to another. The only time corrsion can affect conductivity is if the wire corrodes in half.

PROPER application of Gold is good for plugs and jacks. However, connections that are made and broken frequently, such as 'phones, don't really need the anti-corrosion coatings. They are essentially self cleaning.
post #12 of 15
I have also heard it recommended that you match the jack and the plug, i.e. don't use a nickel plug in a gold jack. Something about corrosion of the metals together. Any truth to this?

- Jeff
post #13 of 15
Nickle and some cheap sheet steel or aluminum might set up a galvanic cell and corrode the Cheap material.

Gold and Nickle together are no prob. Both very corrosion resistant and very high on the noble metals chart.

As a general rule though, I wouldn't worry too much about disimilar metal corrosion on connections. Without a large quantity of moisture in the connection, it ain't gonna corrode significantly. Just don't throw it in the tub, 'cause then disimilar metal corrosion could happen.

Noble metal plating on connectors for audio/video systems is there to reduce or eliminate surface corrosion on connections that are made and left for years. A small amout of surface oxide can be highly insulating. Not a good condition, especially with low signal levels like in an audio system.

I like noble metal plating on connectors, but, as I said earlier, connections that are made and broken regularly, such as 'phones, are not going to corrode enough to cause any probs. They clean themselves every time they're plugged or un.
post #14 of 15
Good to know ... one less thing to worry about.

- Jeff
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally posted by jbannow
Gold and Nickle together are no prob...
Quote:
Originally posted by jbannow
Good to know...
nt
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