Do audio connector materials matter?

December 21, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

21 comments on “Do audio connector materials matter?”

  1. Why are there such different types of connectors: BNC, XLR, RCA, Speakon, PowerCon, banana plugs and spade plugs? I guess that there are scientific facts documenting the necessity of BNC for laboratory grade equipment. But the material? As far as there are enough free electrons where is the problem. Cable geometry/design and shielding and insulation material are probably worth to be taken into account! And of course the contact quality/contact force/contact impedance especially if small signal levels are present as for MC and MM phono cartridges.

  2. Bare wires all the way…& clamp ’em down hard.
    Every time the electrical signal has to ‘jump’ a gap, from one material to another, you are degrading the sound (sonic signal)

    My DeVore Fidelity – ‘Orangutan O/93’ loudspeakers have, very high copper content, brass taps (terminals) & so for me it’s a copper to copper connection…I use 1.5mm dia. ‘solid-core’ copper wire.
    Around Christmas time every year I snip off the ends (about 1.3cm) of my loudspeaker wires & start again with clean, unoxidised (unoxidized) copper wire ends & I clean the contact areas of said loudspeaker taps with ‘KONTAK’ cleaning solution, which removes almost all of the oxidisation that has occurred during the year…& then I do the same procedure at the amplifier end.
    It’s all part ‘n parcel of good ‘Hi-Fi Housekeeping’ ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Yes bare wire is best FR. When it oxidizes I would always just cut it off to expose clean copper but that was with cheap speaker cables. When dealing with expensive cables with a short run your cables will eventually be too short to reach the speakers if you keep cutting off the ends. Also this isn’t practical with RCA or balanced connectors. I have a bottle of unused KONTAK, I just don’t know where it is after I moved. Packed away somewhere. I rather buy it again then search for it. I never got to try it. Trust it’s pretty good stuff after hearing FR’s recommendation. Thanks FR.

      1. Hi Joe,
        1.3cm is half an inch & so over 25 years that’s just over a foot
        …13 inches to be exact.
        Even with short runs [I have loudspeaker wire runs of only 1.8
        metres (5.9 feet) long] & so when I bought them I added an extra
        15 inches to each run so that I’m covered for the next 25 years.
        It just takes a bit of forward planning is all, my friend ๐Ÿ˜€

        Obviously we’re not talking about RCA or XLR connections here as
        there is nothing that you can do about them unless you’re such an
        audio-nut, & competent enough, that you’re going to get rid of the
        plugs & sockets on your low level connections & hard-wire all of
        them; that takes true dedication…only for the ultra-nerds ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. Don’t give me any ideas. ๐Ÿ™‚ That would be awesome to use bare wire and solder all connections directly to the amplifiers and preamplifiers, including soldering speaker cables directly to the crossover and solder the crossover wires to the drivers terminals. My Celestion SL-6Si drivers are soldered to the crossover wires. So if you buy used replacement drivers on eBay the wires are snipped. Need to get the old solder gun out to install the replacement drivers to original specifications. Celestion thought it was important to not use internal connectors but rather solder bare wire. Those speakers reproduce midrange and voices as good as I have heard in any speakers. They image like crazy too. My NHT 2.9 have that quality midrange and high frequencies but with a solid low end flat to 26Hz but while they image great not as good as the Celestions, but they are more revealing.

          1. The NHT 2.9s are remarkable speakers as are the 3.3’s. They sound like electrostatic speakers but with a great low end and much better dynamics. Be hard to part with these. They have that magic rare to find in speakers at that price level. All my speakers inclding my B&W and my vintage EPI 180’s and 100’s have the magic. I don’t own speakers if the magic isn’t there.

            1. B&W DM302 and also the rare LM1 with magnesium cabinets. I have three pairs of those with magnesium cabinets, one set bought from Frank Sinatra Juniors estate. His estate also sold the flagship 802 and some others at the time. He was a big B&W nut. They have the feel of holding bricks with those magnesium cabinets and Kevlar 4.5 inch woofers that produce acceptable bass. I have never heard a two way speaker that small have the sound they have. A special sound that has to be heard to be believed. They have no sound at all. Extremely transparent. Best tiny speakers ever made. I’m not talking the LM1 that came after them. Those they made a lot of. They were made for vehicles or home and they also have a marine version resistant to internal corrosion.

    1. LOL! Yes, the new excuse when you can’t justify your claim. It reminds me of the blindness one must embrace when getting involved in a religion.
      Seriously though, I am a fan of Paul’s but was a bit shocked with his comment, “Is it really worth my or your time?” I was sort of under the impression Paul was that guy who would try anything just to see if it sounded a little better. I remember stories of him listening to gear with High End fuses and noticing a difference, going to a friends house who built a concrete and brick base that extended through the floor of his listening room to the basement, all to stabilize his turntable. Is it really that time consuming to install different feet on an amplifier or try different wire terminations for an improvement in sound? It’s cheaper than hiring a concrete contractor to build you a base for your turntable!

    2. Good afternoon Secretguy!
      Perhaps you and Paul can answer this question for me.
      Ok, I get what’s going on outside of most high end audio products.
      But what about what’s going on inside of some of those products?
      What I mean by that, is this.
      Three companies comes to mind when I say this.
      ARC thrives on using gold plated traces on their printed cirket boardss.
      Carry Audio, uses silver traces that are plated with nickel on their printed cirket boards.
      And as for Mcintosh, in their tube products, they use sockets that have gold connecters.
      And also, you have components like resisters capacitors and other components that have gold plated legs on them.
      My question is, how is this working in the relationship with audio?
      Thank you all in advance!

  3. I have used gold plated spade lugs and gold plated banana connectors and to my ears I prefer baer wire to any other connection. I don’t know why that is, but it seems to sound more open to me. I wish it didn’t because it’s so much easier to use the spades and bananas.

  4. I agree with Paul. It’s about priorities, usually finances, space, patience time and spousal acceptance. I’ve been a DYI guys all my life, tweaking, upgrading changing small stuff to maximize the kit I could afford at the time. In retrospect, the 100’s of hours I have spent and 1000’s of dollars over time would have been much better spent by using all that money and time to upgrade speakers, source gear first and then tweaking. Rather than waiting 6 months, a year or two and then buying better gear, I upgraded in small increments what I had. If you can hear the difference in spade connectors, your system is already a highly resolving system, congratulations. More than 95% of our systems are not at that level. Speaker connectors can matter, but they are way down the line from Speakers, Source gear, and yes cables.

  5. Audio Hygiene is a real thing.

    One of the best comments Iโ€™ve heard was from Hans Beekhausen. โ€œ Even if a person showers everyday, but doesnโ€™t change his/her underwear that person isnโ€™t getting the full benefits of that shower.โ€

    I can definitely see his point. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I’m always intrigued with discussions around tweaking a connector, buying silver vs copper, the half-percent gain from going up in cable quality, etc. I think I’d have a safe bet that simple gains from examining your listening space and finding something as simple as moving a bookcase can achieve far better results before tinkering with connectors. Much cheaper too!

  7. Well the only other solution would be solid gold connectors and those would be expensive. Solid silver which is the best conductor of electricity would be less expensive except you would still have to coat them with gold. Not sure how well that would adhere to the silver.

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