Precious metals

January 5, 2023
 by Paul McGowan

There is no doubt in my mind that an audio or power cable whose conductors are made from silver rather than copper will sound better.

After reading what I just wrote, I am certain that the hairs on the backs of many necks just popped straight out.

Standing hairs and raised eyebrows aside, time and again, I have been convinced that my silver-based cables outperform their copper-based brethren.

Why that would be is a mystery.

Yes, I have read about the better electrical properties between the two, but from an engineering perspective, those tiny esoteric differences in speed and conductivity cannot account for the differences I am hearing. And here is where I must agree with those that roll their eyes at the idea of cables sounding different. There doesn’t seem to be an explanation reasonable enough for me to point to.

Not that the lack of evidence or sense has ever changed for me the choices I make when I hear the difference.

I cannot deny the facts of what I hear.

I can, however, scratch my head in question.

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73 comments on “Precious metals”

  1. Paul, probably you was biased when buying these cables. Better perform a double-blinded test with Terry as “reviewer” and silver and copper cables with identical construction and impedance values! And even then: you cannot generalize Terry’s finding for all audio system setups in the world. And on the other hand, don’t you always stress the importance of most specific “synergistic effects” for a specific setup of components???????

    1. Are there published papers that support double blind testing as a reliable means to discriminate between audio components? Asking for a friend…

      1. Are there published paper that support that expectations generated by framing and unscientific marketing claims do not (!) at all influence the subjective perceptions of aural sensations or sensations of taste? 🙂 There are many papers which prove that most renowned “connaisseurs du vin” always totally fail in double-blinded reviews of wine. And my personal experience with man6 designers of loudspeakers tell me that they always fail in judging their own creations/babies! Similar to parents!

    2. I have pretty much used the same cables ( interconnects ) since 2002. They are Kimber Select. Kimber Select comes in three compositions: all copper, copper and silver ( some of the wires are copper and some are silver ) and all silver. I told the dealer I could not afford the all silver but I wanted to try the all Cu and the Cu/Ag ones. Since I was buying a lot of gear from him he gave me some “loners” to compare the two.

      I tried them and found that I liked the Cu/Ag the best. But, I was not comfortable with my choice because I could not explain it. Enter “Old Golden Ears”, my wife. She absolutely hates it when I call her that, but when she focuses she has the best ears I know of. So all I told her was I have two sets of cables and they differ in price and I want her to hear them in a blind test and tell me which is best. I did ten switches of the cables and sometimes I fake it where I played all Cu and then al Cu again. She nailed it. Ten for ten she got it right and she said Cu/Ag sounded best.

      I bought the Cu/Ag ones and have never looked back.

      1. Tony, I believe there are several companies that are using copper, silver and gold in their interconnects, speaker cables and possibly power cables that up the SQ of audio systems in just about every way. I switched my 20 YO interconnects and speaker cables about a year ago for the lower end Synergistic Research Foundation series cables and every day since this purchase my system is sounding better and better. I have no idea when I will reach the Q point were they really settle in and I don’t care ‘Why’ as the person who has the final say. I have no need to know all the answers anymore since I pulled the piece of paper off the wall that said ‘Bang Head Here”. I gave that up some time ago when I couldn’t understand the ‘Why’s.

        Here’s where things get even stranger. I just purchased a silver wire power umbilical cord to replace the stock umbilical cord that came with my Pass XP-22 preamp. I’ve read purchaser’s comments who swapped this particular cable in their Preamps and they are raving about their sonic character, yet Pass Labs denies that they would make any difference. I have a trial period to return it but I am hoping for the best after speaking to the owner of the company that makes this cable and other many types cables as he is ultimately confident that I’m going to be one happy camper and I don’t think this is hype. There was a time that he fabricated these cables for Pass. Let’s see what my ear brain connection tells me. They go through 60 hours of cooking before they’re shipped out so right out of the box they should make some positive difference. We shall see.

        One thing that I know from real life is that women are better than men when it comes to our five (six) senses. Trust your wife, more than likely she won’t let you down when it comes to her listening abilities.

        1. stimpy2,

          I’m curious about your Umbilical cord you ordered. I’m wondering if you ordered it through Tubulus which makes umbilical cords specifically for Pass labs components. I have their concentus i2S cable and I’m very happy with it’s performance.

          1. I didn’t purchase from your company. I purchased from revelationaudio.com. Brad advertises and contributes quite a bit on Audiogon. You can contact him at [email protected]. He’s a great person to deal with and really goes out of his way for his customers.

        2. “…I am hoping for the best”
          Not my way of choosing.
          “I hope I can’t hear an improvement so I won’t waste my money”

          The protection against self delusion.

          1. I totally understand what you’re saying Peter. Cables or an iffy issue. The trial period gives me the impetus to move forward. The people who have purchased this type of cable have given its stellar reviews and by me taking it on trial lessons my anxiety.

            1. Using the impetus by of reviewers opinion to choose is two edged.
              I recently got ATC SCM19 with super reviews everywhere… except (shhh) Audio Science Review.
              Now I don’t like them. [wink[

              And while you’re here— why not repurpose all that dreadful aluminum to power cables. You know it makes sense.

              1. I wager that you’ve been around the block more than several times Peter. So have I. My system sounds so good now that I don’t need to change anything but in hopes of hearing even more into detail and black background not to mention harmonic structure and every other audio term is worth a chance to me. It’s not easy being a senior on a limited income so I don’t have cash outlay to buy entire components and don’t need to to be quite honest. I’m just holding my nose and jumping in the pool.

  2. I think it’s very true what Joe says at 3.13am and yet some don’t trust their ears which is why they ask ‘experts’. Others find comfort in a scientific explanation. I suppose it can be good to have supporting evidence that reinforces your experience.

    1. I certainly agree with you Richtea. It’s always nice to get scientific evidence as a back-up but not 100% necessary. My ego is not that fragile. My ears have the final say.

  3. A main factor seems to be the molecular structure and as far as possible elimination of corn boundaries. Cryogenic treatment tries to achieve part of it but it’s not much, there are much more efficient methods (but very expensive ones, which are not offered to the public), which make e.g. copper much better sounding than untreated silver. If you experienced differences between copper and silver transformers, Imagine you could make your whole signal path, not only cabling, have a way better conductivity than silver. There’s much more about it, but many know from certain isolated examples, what big role alone conductivity plays.

    Regarding today’s topic, that certainly doesn’t mean every normal silver cabling sounds better than any normal copper cabling, as there seem to be many more aspects to consider which make good or bad cable design.

  4. “those tiny esoteric differences in speed and conductivity” sounds to me like looking for excuses. My speaker cables are different lengths – 3m and 5m. It makes no difference at all as they are low impedance and they would have to be many times longer for it to make any difference all.

    I actually bought a solid silver usb cable from a chap called Artisan Cables. Cost me $250. My contribution to audiophilia. I was probably feeling guilty for using a Chord C usb cable for 10 years that was a free gift with a magazine, and it was happily in my signal path for most of those 10 years. I can’t say the silver one made any difference.

  5. I have an audiophile friend who HATES silver wire! Says it sounds too “zippy”.

    My feeling is that, given the short cable lengths, (relatively) low frequencies involved (compared to say, video or digital communications signals) and low output/high input impedances encountered in consumer (and pro) audio, if the type of wire makes an audible difference, then the circuit driving it is defective.

    1. You may be surprised if you swap the fuses out with Synergistic Research brand. It will cost you but you may even be happier with the overall sound. I’ve got them in my 3.6 R’s and they do make some difference at the top end and even tighten the base a bit. What’s really necessary is to re-wire them which I don’t have the balls to do or replace the entire crossover with an outboard design which I will not do. I also swapped out the supplied stands for Mye brand stands which made some positive difference depending on the type of music I listen to and how loud I listen. These are just suggestions. I have no idea what model Maggies are in your system and you may have already made some of these changes. I made a few comments above about not caring about the need to know why certain mysteries have not been answered and we are both the final arbiters of what we do-or –do- not-do to get to our ‘happy place’ .

      1. stimpy2, thank you for your suggestions. I am so pleased with my Maggies, all of them, (I have three different models), that I do not intend even to try to “improve” them. I still remember the first and second times that I heard Magnepan speakers. Amazing, lifelike, you are (almost) there!!! I know that you understand. Thanks again for your reply to my post. Happy listening…

        1. Wow! You really are “The Maggie Man”.

          Your initial reaction to the first time you heard Maggie’s is exactly the same as mine. I walked into the Lyric Hi-Fi Westchester County New York store owning a set of Infinity RS-1 B’s and within 10 minutes of listening to the
          3.6 R’s I knew I had to make the change. So, I bought them on the spot and took them with me. If you have any of larger versions like the 20s or 30s then you’ve got some of the best sounding speakers that anyone could possibly imagine. The 1.7i’s are also fantastic as is the LRS+ with or without a sub depending on the type of music you like to listen to. I’m glad that you understood that I wasn’t trying to twist your arm and I can see that you’ve already dug into the trenches so all I can say to you is Bravo Maggie Man.

          1. Yes, the first pair of Magnepans that I heard was in the mid 70s in a small apartment. Despite the far less than ideal acoustics, I was absolutely gobsmacked! Let me just say that any model of Magneplaner speaker produces incredible “life like” music. No other speakers that I have heard, and I have heard and owned many, comes close to the sound of the Maggies. Just sayin’!

              1. Neil, as with everyone, including ourselves, we won’t agree about everything. But I think we’re in agreement about the amazing sound of Magnepan speakers!!
                All the best, Robert

                1. MG1b, MG2a, MG2c, MMG, MGIII with the ribbon (I repaired/rebuilt all those) and now 3.7i.
                  Yup, we know boys, once you’ve heard a Mag planar, you’ll never go back to a box… but for me it has to have the true ribbon tweeter…

                  Hungry buggers tho, you can throw 500 watts at the MGIII and it’ll whisper back at you “what else you got?”

  6. Different Cables can sound and do sound different to many. So do different people.

    The only judgment you have is what you individually hear. That’s unless you’re buying or acquiring because some entity told you that’s what they use, and it’s most correct.

    Just take what your facts are and follow them. Be open to concepts and ideas of others, but also be skeptical until you’re convinced.

    1. I’m going to print and frame your comment on parchment today Mike. Your comment short and to the point, more importantly it’s ‘Spot On’ correct for the open minded.

  7. I doubt that I could hear the difference between my 7N PCOCC 1 metre interconnects & the same length in silver…then again, ya don’t know ’till ya listen, eh?! 😉
    I wouldn’t mind comparing them to a pair made from unobtanium.

        1. Kinda like the Chinese forcing the black Africans to mine
          cobalt in their own lands & paying them virtually nothing
          …yeah, I can definitely see a parallel.

          1. When I was doing an assignment at the Tenke Fungurume copper mine in DRC, there were scads of locals on mine property all digging for cobalt. These were euphemistically referred to as “artisan miners.” They dug deep shafts and adits into the ground with their little shovels and sometimes paid with their lives when the tunnels collapsed. No one was forcing them to do this. The mine did not want them there and used fencing and guards to keep them out to no avail. They risked their lives for money, pure and simple. In one day of successful cobalt mining they could earn ninety dollars, a fortune to these people. That’s what impelled them, not the Chinese.

            1. Laszlo,
              I’ve seen the documentaries about what goes on in Africa at those Cobalt mines & how the ‘natives’ are treated by their Chinese overlords…it’s disgusting.

                1. Laszlo,
                  14 of the 19 major Cobalt mines are Chinese owned.
                  They promise to help the surrounding communities to build schools & much needed community infrastructure & they end-up doing nothing.
                  When a local young miner dies from a mishap or accident, they just bury the body straight away so that no one finds out & it doesn’t get reported.
                  The Chinese management sit behind glass protection & watch the locals clean & wash the Cobalt with solutions that are toxic & very harmful to their health, while they (the Chinese overlords) are protected behind said glass screens.
                  I could go on & on but I think that you can get the picture now.
                  Oh, & they pay off the local Police chief to turn a blind eye to all of the injustices that are going on at those Chinese owned mines.

      1. Speaking of a substance readily available on earth, yet costs a fortune if one looks at the cost of 8 ounces of water. Bottled water is much more expensive than gasoline and no one gets bent out of shape paying from $1 – 5 for a bottle at the local gas station.

        1. The purity of most ( not all ) local water is good enough to drink safely. It is just that people are too damn lazy to fill a water bottle or an old fashion canteen.

          1. Your last comment is where I take issue with you Tony. Anyone that doesn’t use a really high-quality water filter in Westchester County New York needs to do a little more research instead of listening to your communities annual water reports which indicate that the water is polluted if you dig a little deeper into the meaning of the numbers. Having lived two towns away from you for 27 years and being in the natural products industry helping people and their family animals thrive and live a longer, healthier and happier life. Many people of this country are looking for the easy way out of everything that they see as a bother and the corporate masters around the world have been totally responsible for destroying almost all of our country’s drinking water, air, soil and our water really needs to be filtered (hopefully with one of the sections being reverse osmosis) in order to be potable coming bit closer to the way it used to be 100 years ago. Your canteen is potentially dangerous as well if it’s made out of a metal like aluminum.

            The odds are that I hike, climb white water canoe and sail a heck of a lot more than you do and like most people who love the outdoors we are aware of the nature that surrounds us. Your comment would take humanity several steps backward steps from what Mother Nature intended. If you really drink from a canteen, it may be very dangerous to your health as well. The only way I drink water is from glass or ceramic. Living in Florida now where the water is even much worse is a real challenge for health and safety yeah people are moving down here and droves which will only make the environment much much worse. I refuse to buy water in plastic bottles unless there is a local or national emergency because of all of the micro plastics contained in these them which is 100% factual. If you must buy water try to find glass bottles for sale filled with pure or mineral water. We the people were supposed to be the stewards of our planet yet we still contaminate our bodies on a daily basis through the air we breathe, our poisoned soil and polluted oceans. I had no intention of going on a rant but these are my beliefs. You can take my information and flush it but I know (As told to me by four of my physicians that at 76 years of age they are looking at a person who has the body chemistry and the physical abilities of a 40 year old. That didn’t happen by accident. I ask you to think really hard about what I’m saying here. I’m not a kook nor am I trying to incite a riot. I am a well informed human being just as you are in the world of Physics. Many of my 20,000 plus customers can attest to everything that I have just written here because they have Being the results and have improved their own lives and the lives of their family animals by taking this simple advice. Natural is always better.

    1. I see you just discovered a new element Martin. Congratulations! Your name will go down in audio history not to mention the science of chemistry and physics.
      What a guy!

      1. Neil,
        No, I can’t take credit for that.
        ‘Unobtanium’ has been around in various forms for decades.
        I’m surprised that you haven’t heard of it before 😉

        1. It’s possible that I heard it before but it would be from you in a prior post. I still congratulate you for pulling this Element out of your bag of tricks today.

  8. Dear Paul,

    There is no doubt in my mind that an audio or power cable whose conductors are made from silver rather than copper will sound better . . . to you (to your ears and to your subjective preferences in your systems and rooms).

    There is no rule of general applicability here. I have many very experienced audiophile friends who have compared carefully audio and power cables with copper versus silver versus alloy combinations in their systems, and prefer something other than silver.

  9. Silver vs Copper speaker cables…

    I use 1/4 inch thick grey plastic covered double strand silver wire cables that I have been using for 25 years. Originally with vintage McIntosh separates which I sold, and now with the new Anthem STR integrated. I do not need inter-connects anymore. The speakers also changed from custom made floor-standers to Paradigm Prestige 75F floor-standers. Both cables are longer than I need as my living room is small. One speaker is closer to the amp and the extra length is just laying in a heap on the floor, the other is stretched longer but also with the excess on the floor. Is it time to replace them because of the length of time in use? Will cutting both shorter and making little raisers to lift them off the floor sound different? It is time to buy copper instead of silver? There seems to be no ‘cut and dried’ answer to any of these questions only personal opinion. Even if there is a difference by making the changes listed above, I doubt my 72 year old ears could hear the difference, but I would love to be proved wrong.

  10. Love this subject. I once, many years ago, had a long conversation with a designer of hi-end mixing desks and came to the conclusion that there was some value in what he said about his products and the inclusion of Ag conductors and silver plated copper wires.

    I also concluded that the shorter the analogue interconnects were in our reproduction world between amplification and drivers, the less was the advantage of the inclusion of more expensive and use of precious metals in wires/conductors. Active speakers including amplification were my choice then and would be tomorrow, primarily based on performance and value for money.
    Others with larger wallets may have a different opinion.

    1. The only way that I might change any type of cable is when I’m not sure if I can make a reasonable difference in SQ is to try a trial with some higher quality cables that are not excessively expensive. Otherwise, just let things be the way they are. You seem happy and that’s all that counts.

  11. In my experience, “cable design” is more important than various “cable metals”. A multi-strand pure copper or pure silver cable will yield slightly different performances, however its implementation, IMO, is most important to the accurate transfer of the audio signal.

    I was going to upgrade speaker wires to the PSA Robin Hood Zeros, but decided to take a different design approach. The SSI technology (Solid core, Small gauge, Individual insulated) of the Morrow Audio cabling series was very intriguing (see https://www.morrowaudio.com/pages/ssi-cable-technology ). Currently, I’m using their MA7 Grand Reference cables (each leg=577 solid core-small gauge-individual insulated) that assist my system/room in transporting me into the recorded performance venue. After decades of multi-strand OFC cabling usage, All of the manufacture claims and professed user accolade reviews of these Morrow speaker cables are improvements “I instantly heard” in my music room’s audio reproduction!

    One day I may still get the AQ Robin Hood Zeros for comparison (same $$$$ as the MA7s) but for now, I am well settled-in and completely enjoying the synergistic musical sonic presentations I have achieved!!

    Ted

  12. I agree with Theo and others who say other things matter more than the wire metal. I have had close to forty medium to high-end cables in my system over the years with a full range of metal compositions: copper, silver, gold, hybrid and carbon. My best sounding “keeper” audio interconnects in order of preference in my system are: (1) TARA Zero Evolution w/HFX (monocrystal pure copper wire), (2) AUDIOQUEST Fire (polished “perfect surface” silver wire), (3) STEALTH Indra (ultra-thin proprietary metal) and (4) VON SCHWEIKERT Master Built (“aerospace engineered” proprietary composite of copper and “precious alloys”). My speaker cables are a KIMBER high-end silver/copper hybrid wire that is synergistic with the HARBETHs and the VS Master Built cables, the same used by Albert VS when he designed and tuned my loudspeakers. I’ve tried each new generation of AUDIENCE cables (including single crystal copper) but found them either too bright or (in the case of Front Row) too subdued in my system.

    So, based on my listening experience, the metal used in the wire is not as important as the cable construction (wire geometry and configuration, insulation, connectors and build quality) and the cable’s synergy with my system.

    Two decades ago I had those PS Audio fat, heavy copper cables in my system. They gave me a bad taste for copper…LOL You can still see them from time to time for sale on Ebay.

  13. Hi Paul
    I see logic the material of cables make differences Finally what is send
    through cables are electromagnética waves
    The transmisión of those fields is affected by the medium in which they propagate. The electronics structure of Cu Ag or Pt is different so propagation of the electromagnetic waves is different and as result different waves reach the drivers….

  14. Paul,

    I do have an explanation why we’re able to detect minute differences in cables and other things. I don’t believe many are giving our ears the credit they deserve. Our ears, much like our eyes, are a marvel of evolution and most of their development happened during a period when hearing a soft tread on dry leaves or the snap of a twig meant you got to live another day. Those who didn’t hear that big cat on dry leaves didn’t live to reproduce and so their poorer hearing wasn’t passed into the gene pool. Of course that’s a simplification but it serves to illustrate my point. Since we no longer live in the jungle and aren’t likely to be eaten by a lion I suspect as time goes on our hearing will get progressively worse over many generations, much like cave fish who’ve lost their eyesight over time. In fact that has possibly already started to happen and could be the reason many can’t hear small differences in equipment.

    Something to ponder,
    OHT

    P.S.
    This is actually going to get posted later, probably much later. I’m having to wait until my internet service comes back up…it’s been off and on all day. Perhaps our internet service will evolve to a point where those of us out in the sticks have a reliable connection.

  15. Metals aren’t perfect. And neither is the way cables are made. Corrosion, static effects intrude, and generate enough electrical noise to make an audible difference – “burning in” is just a process of all the materials used in the construction settling down, and the behaviours that cause noise stabilising and, hopefully, becoming as little a nuisance as possible.

    Personally, I use standard electricians cable – knowing the factors that generate the noise means that money isn’t wasted on something that is not necessary; far more important is knowing exactly how to organise and dress the cables used.

    1. fas42,
      Like you, I use electrical wire for my loudspeakers.
      My sonic choice is a 1.5mm diameter solid core copper & over the last thirty years I haven’t found anything, within a reasonable price range of dedicated ‘HiFi cables’, that matches their ‘sound’.
      However, with interconnects (low level signal) I went with 7N PCOCC.

      1. Yes, stranded is more likely to cause audible noise; because the individual runs of copper just lie against each other, along the cable, and anything less than ideal metal to metal contact here could impact SQ. An option could be Litz type construction, but I haven’t gone to this trouble.

  16. “There is no doubt in my mind that an audio or power cable whose conductors are made from silver rather than copper will sound better.

    So, the miles and miles of copper transmission line cable, plus all of the transformer at various junction points through which the electrical service travels before it gits to your house – or, in this case, the PS Audio factory – are irrelevant, right?

    But, those 2 feet of power cable you plug into the wall? Boy-O. Yup. Your silver magic power cable just magically transforms that evil, bad, malevolent wall electricity into beautiful, magically magic, audiophile electricity.

    Yup.

    Like you, I also have no doubt – not a shred of doubt – that your magical silver fairy dust power cable sounds deleriously “better” to you. Absolutely.

    It’s also known as PLACEBO EFFECT.

    The sad, sad fact is that you, as a manufacturer, in a singularly ideal position to carry out actual double blind scientific testing of all of the audiophile old wive’s fairy tales that you promulgate – or hell, even controlled single blind tests. Those are easy to do.

    But, you don’t. You refuse. Instead, you pass along Tinker Bell myths and falsehoods. Nice job.

    1. So, Neward. I totally understand how this offends your logic. It does mine as well.

      That said, honestly, have you taken the time to sit in the sweet spot of a proper high-resolution audio system and made a blind comparison of A vs. B?

      One of the easiest to hear is a speaker cable, but power cords are obvious as well.

      I would invite you to PS if you have the time.

      1. In my systems to my ears the difference in interconnects has been more obvious than the difference in power cables. I have had two dozen mid to high-end power cables in my systems over the years. I currently use various versions of Synergistic Atmosphere and Galileo power cables and LessLoss C-Mark power cables. I haven’t tried the AQ Dragon, which is way above my price point. I put my very best power cables between the wall outlets and power distributors (PSA P15 and Synergistic Powercell 12UEFSE) and between the power distributors and the DACs.

  17. What about the many feet of thin copper wire in the voice coils? Has anyone tried using silver wire there? Higher conductivity means less loss due to heat = more efficiency, better damping, and higher power handling.

    Silver melts a couple hundred degrees lower than copper though, but maybe the increased conductivity would more than make up for it.

  18. Here’s a thought, Paul. Have Bill Low make silver cabling and bus bars for the interior of your BHK amp and preamp and see if it blows your mind! Of course you may go down the rabbit hole retuning the components inside (~);}

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