Myth: Gold-plated connectors sound better than connectors made with tin or nickel. Fact: Gold does not tarnish, and tarnished connectors can cause problems, but there is nothing inherent in gold that makes it sound better than a clean connection using standard materials. Further, it is possible for connections using dissimilar metals to oxidize and deteriorate more quickly than if the same metal were used. So, mating a gold plug with a non-gold jack could theoretically make things even worse! Moreover, connectors plated with gold often use a very thin coating because of gold's high cost, and that plating can wear off with repeated plugging and unplugging. Therefore, while it would be unfair and untrue to say that gold connectors are a bad thing, unless both connectors are gold they are at best a waste of money and at worst a potential for eventual trouble.This post from Ethan has a lot of merit, though as a blanket statement it cries out to be expanded upon further. Why? Because in practice it refers to an even broader myth, that cables, connectors and materials don't matter. I don't want to pick on Ethan's specifics here because what he writes is quite accurate - it's just limited in scope and doesn't address the broader issue of cables, connectors, materials and how they sound.
“In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice, there is.” My friend David sent me that quote and I love it. It speaks volumes about theories and blanket statements.
In the broader question of whether or not the quality of connectors matters, or even more specifically, whether materials in connectors matter, theory would suggest not and practice would suggest the opposite. The reason for this discrepancy is to be found in the over-broad generality of the statement itself. The original explanation offered in Ethan's fact is accurate. Gold plating, in and of itself and without benefit of proper cable and connector construction, does not necessarily sound better. We can purchase gold plated RCA cables from Amazon Basics for $6 that sound like dog-do compared to a well designed nickel plated higher end cable of proper design.
But once we sweep away the field of poorly designed throw-away cables, the question of materials becomes more relevant. I can tell you from personal experience that identically designed interconnects with connectors hewn from copper and plated in gold, nickel, or rhodium sound differently - even if everything else is identical.
Take away: When a statement is made that is overly encompassing, and without enough specifics, it is easy to come to the wrong conclusion.