Silver isn't bright, etc

I think you can’t attribute qualities like “bright” or “lean” or “soft” so much to the conductive materials in question but rather it’s a matter of the audio reproduction chain or parts of it being those things when paired with those conductors.
I might be too keen to broadly state “silver isn’t bright”, it’s just that if a whole system from the ground up was originally designed with silver as the basis and the design goal was to have a “warm, rounded character”, that wouldn’t be a problem as the components would have been optimized to synergize with silver that way.
Take your average speakers, let’s say they have a fairly neutral tonality… the final evaluations both listening and measurement-wise at the factory will likely have been with copper, inside and out. Now hook them up with silver wires, even rewire the crossovers with silver… What do you get, bright(er) sound, possibly even harsh. But it’s not the silver’s fault! It’s still a technically better conductor.
Not putting silver on a pedestal, same goes for any conductor… Whole components and whole setups have way more character than conductors, and in my opinion it’s too broad to assign elemental metals such adjectives as “bright”…


I have never accepted silver cables are bright, some are; others, not. I find people are projecting they are bright because they are made of a silvery shiny metal, and copper cables possess a warm burnished sound because this is the color of copper.

Are aluminum cables grey white in character? Heated titanium colorful?


Now silver cables may need to silver polish from time to time…

My Nordost Red Dawn LS with silver plated copper are only as
bright as the track being played or as round as another track being played…

I really do enjoy my Red Dawns.

If things do get out of hand…for that then my Emotiva preamp does
have tone controls.

Sadly I was not there when the recording engineer decided how he was “eq” the recording or even what the recording session sounded like…to begin with.

Based on recent experiences of the past few years, I’d still say you MIGHT be able to generalize that sliver-plated copper are bright-er than that same copper un-plated. The solid silver cables I currently have are not bright. A lot of silver cables I tried a couple of decades ago seemed bright to me, but that was with different gear.


Perhaps looking at this other way…silver is athletic, while copper
is rounded more because it is laid back…

In my active system I use heavy copper for bass and medium copper for mid. However, I use 2.5 metres of silver plated copper cables made by QED - if I add another metre, i.e. swap for 3.5 metre equivalents, it’s noticeably duller. I’ve not attempted to buy another set of 2.5m cables or 3.5m cables to prove that the length definitely matters.

Why not use heavy (or slightly thinner considering the overall impedance benefit) silver instead of heavy copper for connecting any driver, if we assume the user has enough to spend on it considering pure silver’s value as conductors of a type?
Though pure silver is much more expensive per weight of a length of conductor (which is more expensive than the conductor as bulk material weight, which is itself markedly so…), it’s still not super-expensive or anything, or “not available” like C nanotube wire (is it STILL not available, btw?)

And considering Nelson Pass (and surely others) have built speakers whose drivers move air with no moving mass of itself, how come I have seen no mention, ever, of anyone using superconducting wires in an audio system? How could the best conductor not be the best one for audio signal transmission?
Again, if something is originally designed and built and tested with copper as wiring, its tonal balance will change with any other conductive material being added to the chain as is obvious, so here I’m using the word “best” in terms of it being implemented right, etc…

True YBCO (Yttrium Barium Copper Oxide) superconducting wires need at least to operate at ~ 77 °K (-196 °C, or -321 °F), but to get really good superconducting performance you have to drop it even lower to LHe temps of ~ 4°K (-269 °C)

At those temperatures the flexible membranes in the speaker cones and tweeters don’t work too well, and the speaker would promptly ice over immediately from condensate from air moisture alone, and then you’d need either a liquid nitrogen or liquid helium cooling plant to chill it to those temps, so the power consumption may preclude all practical aspects of the benefits of superconducting wires.

But if we ever get a room temp superconductor, I’m there. :slight_smile:


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There are way too many variables here to account for. Galen’s design papers speak to many of the factors to consider.

For most people, it will come down to trying out different cables based on their construction and materials to solve for a particular need in the emergent sound.

In other words, use stereotypes like “silver is bright” to attempt to correct for an observation in an existing system like “the highs aren’t sparkling enough” because the aggregation of experiences suggest silver let’s through just a tad bit more of the high frequencies.

Otherwise we’ll be discussing counterfactuals ad infinitum.

…And unless you store liquid nitrogen at home, superconducting wires will be a bit of a challenge for most people.


“…And unless you store liquid nitrogen at home, superconducting wires will be a bit of a challenge for most people.”

Of course, hence the comparison to another single experiment. There are not that many commercial speakers with massless-membrane drivers…

Any type of superconducting wire presents technical challenges not likely to trickle down to Audio for the foreseeable future. As expressed by SSW there is the cold problem and then there is the materials problem that any of the likely prospects for higher temp superconductivity are not flexible. For now best to stick to Silver and Copper with their known properties and improve geometries and properties of the insulators/shields we wrap them in.

Again we run into a materials problem, there isn’t the money in Audio for the materials research into close to massless driver material so designers look to aerospace or other industrial sources for materials and then employ them if available in the shapes and amounts they need.

Obviously let’s stick to what you said, until enough investment in experiments and engineering over time leads to something even close to a superconductor being available for audio.
Obviously cryo-state superconductors would not work at all if not properly thermally decoupled in an audio system.

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Silver can be brighter or less so based on how the higher frequency Vp differential across the audio band is managed.

This is controlled with DCR and capacitance. These two variables are in the equations denominator so to LOWER the Vp at higher frequencie they need to be HIGHER odd as it seems.

Opps, super conductors ae LOWER DCR! Now what? We can INCREASE the DCR by making them SMALLER but if they are so good, we can’t make them small enough! Putting small wires in parallel to drop the TOTAL DCR is hard for sure.

OK, we can INCREASE capcitance then, yes? Sure but many amplifiers oscillate into higher capacitances and exhibit overshoot and…sound bright. It wasn’t really the cable that was bright.

For IC cable, we also want to avoid too high capacitance to an extent, too, as small signal voltages are sensitive to capacitance, it is a time based distortion. We want low inductance for phase and to get it capacitance goes up ideally SOME not a LOT. We need BOTH to be pretty good.

There is a pretty complex relationship in cable and sometimes values we think needs to be small like DCR actually need to be tricked into being HIGHER.

Usually bright cables don’t have as optimized a Vp differential from my listening experiments. This is why ICONOCLAST uses many smaller wires, to change the Vp differential. You can make DULL cables in overall detail that are ALSO bright! I’ve done it.

Galen Gareis


Galen, how do Gold cabling(s) compare to silver?

Wow. That’s good to know and extremely interesting and helpful, if I want to design high fidelity cables some bright day in the future…
These kind of unexpected factors surely explain why, for example, the JPS Labs aluminium cables are widely acclaimed…

You have to look at GOLD verses SILVER resistances, and what that means to achieving inductance and capacitance (insulation walls) based on the wire’s size and machine handling properties through the manufacturing chain. It isn’t all about JUST low DCR on a conductor if you are manipulating the Vp differential through the audio band.

The skin depth efficiency is also important. How deep is the skin depth at what frequency? You want the wire to look “the same” at all frequencies if you can. The only way this can happen, is if the wire is one atom thick! Skin depth is really a description of how uniform the current is across a wire’s cross-section based on the wire’s self inductance that gets higher and higher the farther you go into the wire, and this stops current from flowing…eventually.

If we are making cables for pure DC transmission, like a solar array grid that is DC than yes, we can isolate the resistance and go for it. Not so much with AC signals where at RF resistance means squat.

This is all about what can legitimately be done to alter measured parameters in a cable. It is NOT what those changes means as far as sound. There is no data that matches a cable’s specs directly with what we hear any more than looking at two speakers frequency response curves says what they sound like. But, we DO KNOW that getting those tests closer to “right” does move what we do hear to a more enjoyable experience.

We can weed out the articles that won’t compete this way, and work on the remainder that fall into the better than average camp and yes, those will cost more to make. The physics gets less tolerant of dimensional errors and EM field properties in the cable.

Anyone can make a cable. Understanding HOW it WORKS allows you to transfer the knowledge base to different designs successfully. The knowledge is a TOOL to manipulate the articles in question to be better and better. Without the understanding of WHY the cable works, we’re lost. Even with the WHY, we STILL can’t get it right in the audio band and have to make KNOWN compromises.

Galen Gareis


… but Nordost is using copper in the kernel and is just plating it with silver. Nordosts are never bright, but fully embodied, rich resoluted. Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 is in comparison to Nordost Valhalla 2 HDMI brighter and more clinical between DMP and DSD, sorry for that. :thinking:

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