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Gold (Gold!)

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by Jeemy, May 10, 2005.

  1. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Always believe in your sou-houl....etc

    Anyways, my question is this. After a lot of soulsearching on this board and some great advise, I have updated my preamp stages with the TMP8 and a Millennia STT-1.

    During the interminable shipping wait (3-5 days, so vague) I have been perusing the manuals. The STT-1 has only one mic in, a gold-plated socket at the back. Millennia recommends that 'cable used with the STT-1 employ identical plating'.

    It got me thinking and I am gonna rewire my XLR sends from the room (or at least the first 8 of them) with better cable. No Mogami or Canare yet, basically cause it seems to be hard to get in the UK quickly and I am gonna have to do this in one day and be back up and running.....I am getting more braided sheath 2-core from Studiospares in a 100m drum for the TMPs, and running one line of Klotz to the Millennia.

    I had intended to just replace 8 which is easy for me as they are bundled in 8s, but will probably replace 9 lines.

    So I thought, well if I am meant to use a gold-plated connector to the STT-1, surely the other end should be gold too. i.e. a gold-plated chassis socket. And then I thought well logically if it makes a difference, then you should run a gold-gold cable to the mic as well!?!

    Does anybody know why they would make this request? And yes, I will ask Millennia. And how far the gold thing should go?

    Is it because using a silver connector to a gold socket is worse connection than gold to gold? Or is it nothing more than hype?
  2. bobbo

    bobbo Active Member


    From what I've heard, if you have 2 different types of metals connecting it will work fine for a couple of years but then the molicuals start to retract from each other, so you should use either silver to silver or gold to gold.

    I am not 100% sure on this, but I did hear it from a good source.
  3. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    From Joel at Millennia:

    Like metals give a better connection. Soundwise, it is very subtle. It also cuts down on corrosion if you leave the cables connected. (You can clean the contacts by replugging the cables. That will clear the “crud” off the contacts.)

    i.e. 2 different metals in contact will eventually oxidise; I should have known that having done a chemistry degree.

    That said, I am very very unsure that 'gold' refers to pure, and therefore if you have alloys, you can never be sure of the makeup manufacturer to manufacturer. And the 'silver' rarely contains any silver I would have thought, more likely nickel and crap.

  4. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Yes, that is true. It is what we refer to as electrolices. When to dis-simular metals touch, the valance electrons share each others orbit. This makes one of the metals have more electrons, and the other now has less.
    So in essence, the metalic properties change, and the molecular make up is broken down, making the metals suseptable to corrosion. And they continue to break down more, and more over time.
    Put electricity on it, it will still happen, but a little faster. Not over night. More like bobbo said above.
  5. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    This same thing happens in computer RAM with gold vs. tin plated contacts. Dissimilar metals will eventually lead to crashes.
  6. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Well that seems to make sense. What about the copper wire attached to the metal on the XLR? Are the gold contacts inside the STT-1 not attached to copper, or something like that?
  7. KyroJoe

    KyroJoe Guest

    Gold is actually a slightly worse conductor than copper, with silver being better than the other two.

    In order of conductivity:

    1. pure Silver
    2. oxygen-reduced Copper
    3. pure Gold

    The problem with copper and silver as connectors is that they are exposed to the environment (air & contaminents) and will experience corrosion/tarnishing. This will reduce their effectiveness as a conductor. Gold on the other hand, although slightly less conductive, makes a better connector as it does not experience corrosion/tarnishing.

    For connections that you clean often and remove and replug often, silver to silver connectors are better. For connections that remain connected for long periods, gold to gold connectors are better.

    Any good cable is sealed from the environment and therefore not susceptable to corrosion in its suggested usability lifespan. That's not to say that it will never corrode, just that it is designed not to corrode for quite some time.

    Using gold as a conductor (ie: in a cable) is redundant and counterproductive. As the cable is sealed from the environment and
    gold is a slightly worse conductor than copper, you will have a cable that does not conduct as well as copper or silver.

    Cables of all silver are thought to be more harsh in the high mids and highs than are copper cables.

    If you're rewiring a facility, then you should probably just stick with a good conducting high NVP (nominal velocity of propagation - the speed at which electricity will travel through the cable relative to the speed of light) copper-based cable.

    Before investing the very substantial dollars for all silver, if I were you, I would try one or two and see if I like the results. I would be sure to try it on my best Neumann or Gefell mic into my best equipment with an all silver cable path and across the various genres of music that I record.

    Personally, I've done this test and prefer the overall usability, durability, and sound spectrum delivery properties of copper!

    If you're not the meticulous/anal person about rolling your cables onto appropriate diameter reels for storage each and every time after use or you don't have a coronary when someone steps on your cable then you're really not going to benefit from anything but oxygen-free (reduced) copper cables.

    As to your question of why gold to gold or silver to silver or nickel to nickel, the answer lies in a process known as 'galvanic corrosion'. When you form a coupling (connection) between dissimilar metals for conducting electricity exposed to high moisture content (evaporated perspiration, humidity), where one metal is more 'noble' than the other,(as in the case of gold=more noble, copper/silver/nickel=less noble) a galvanic coupling occurs. One of the metals in the couple will become the anode and corrode faster than it would all by itself. The other metal in the coupling becomes the cathode and corrodes slower than it would alone.

    Kyro Studios
  8. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    KyroJoe works for NASA when he is not here on Rec.org
    Great stuff man!
    Now I can act like I know something
  9. KyroJoe

    KyroJoe Guest

    LOL! :D

    Actually, I had the same question years ago and access to a university professor who was knowledgeable and patient enough to explain a few things to me!

    Also, there's so much snake oil sales tactics and voodoo-pseudo-science in audio these days that education is only way to protect your wallet!

    Kyro Studios
  10. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    That's very informative, thanks.

    I must check the cables on my hi-fi. I don't think I've been around the back for years.

    I've just bought some (OF copper) cables from Gotham in Switzerland (nothing to do with Gotham NY), and they have great RF rejection. I have what can only be described as a difficult environment in terms of electrical interference.

    I must say I am always a little suspicious at trade shows when the most expensive metals just happen to 'sound' better (silver being way too cheap of course).

    I'm just waiting for someone to bring out buckminsterfullerene connectors with special diamond insulators. Of course jewellery-grade platinum won't be pure enough for the cables, so there'll probably be a special process to make it sound good. Maybe it will have to be made on the International Space Station. Of course Barbra Streisand will simply HAVE TO use it on her M49 :wink:

    Am I cynical?

    Seriously though, I did listen to a system where the mains cable cost the equivalent of $10,000. It did make things sound different, but not necessarily better. I have heard some very expensive Nordost cables, but I thought they sounded very harsh.
    John Stafford
  11. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    In response to the 'snake oil' comment above, and in the very real interest of what John said - can any of this be taken seriously when the back of the gold connector is copper wire'n'solder?

    - I asked Joel at Millennia the question direct and this pretty much direct was his response:

    Quite simply, the gold plating doesn’t oxidize like silver and copper, so the connection is less prone to becoming dirty over time.

    So hats off to them for producing something they think will last (which clearly goes further than connectors) and trying to protect the connectors to such....

    Hopefully anybody searching on Millennia will pick up on this. For what it implies, not snake oil, but confidence in serious longevity, I am thankful.

  12. KyroJoe

    KyroJoe Guest


    just so there's not a misunderstanding, I was absolutely not implying that Millennia was engaging in snake-oil sales. Gold connectors have a valid and very valuable use. In fact, I have no knowledge of any snake-oil sales as regards connectors.

    You may, however, find plenty when shopping for cables!
    Being in the recording/audio production industry, there's also some in items that tout very costly benefits that never translate down to the primary final consumer CD medium.

    Always be sure to ask "why" and get a good explanation from a manufacturer to avoid dolling out unecessary cash. When in doubt, get a trial and hear what is claimed for yourself!

    Kyro Studios
  13. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Absolutely none. I just wondered if the gold had any real relevance when it was soldered to copper. But if you think about a unit built to last serious time i.e. 10-20 years or more, then it makes sense to have non-corrosive connectors, and use similar metals when you connect to them.

    I am still considering putting one gold XLR in the live room to connect to the Millennia and connecting mics via a gold cable and all-gold chain....just so visiting engineers hiring the rooms talk about it.

    Now that IS snake oil, but heck, business too.
  14. bradb

    bradb Member

    buy the normal cables and the gold cables. Get a friend and read how to conduct a DOUBLE-BLIND test. Test both cables and return the one that sounds worse, or (in my prediction) that sounds the same for more money.

    let us know the results, only if you did a real double-blind test, tho...
  15. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Well I'll roll my own but heck why not.

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