Why silver?

Silver is for some reason very sought after in all types of audio cabling, even power cabling.
I wonder why, since for example in interconnects if silver is used, we have radially less of the conductor carrying the signal because of higher conductivity - the skin effect will be more of an issue the higher the conductivity. One would think the highest DCR material available would be best, excluding ferromagnetic ones.
Of course, it’s the very sound of silver conductors that people apparently like so much? I wonder, how can it have superior sound when it’s tehnically inferior (in voltage transmission)? I do believe it can sound better and especially considering system synergy, but what makes this so?

And silver power cables… VERY costly, and the DCR difference to copper isn’t that big so why not just use thicker gauge copper? Because silver “sounds different.”… Yes. But why?
This is genuinely confusing to me.

Silver speaker cables… Here’s a fact - despite being less resistive than copper, power is actually transmitted more efficiently from amp to speaker through copper. More cost-effectively.

I have never tried solid silver cabling and I won’t try unless someone can convince me of the benefit. I’m getting the impression that there’s even some general misconception here - people see that silver is the most conducting metal and thus think it must be best for any application. And there’s also genuine experience that silver can sound better - but WHY?

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@rower30
Galen, I discussed this with you and we seem to agree that copper is the best balance (cost included), and that silver can be a “matter of faith” that people are investing fortunes on.
I certainly am interested in so-called exotics (will try molybdenum for my upcoming DIY interconnects) but that’s based on the very benefit of a high DCR - opposite of silver really.
If you know to point at some possible benefits of pure silver in any type of audio cabling, please do… I think you won’t, though. I’m here sneakily asking you to make clear to people why silver (unless it’s a plating) is technically not a good choice.
Sonically, that’s preference - but how I view it, that preference might be based on a likeable form of added “distortion”.

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Just like copper, silver’s grains outer boundaries are different than the inner area structure, and is responsible for the resistivity changes. How that impact the sound is not currently measurable in any repeatable fashion. The differences in grains is similar to copper’s draw science.

Each metal will also have a different self inductance and thus skin depth and resistance.

|Conductor |Skin depth (μm)|
|Aluminum |0.820|
|Copper |0.652|
|Gold |0.753|
|Silver |0.634 |

Silver needs to be 2.8% THINNER to get the same current efficiency based on skin depth (above). .652*X = .634, X= 0.972, or 0.028, 2.8% thinner (not much).

copper @ 10 mil = 100 CMA
Silver @ same skin depth coherence is 2.8% smaller.
Silver @ 10 mil* .972 mil = 9.72 mil = 94.47 CMA

We lose 5.52% wire CMA area using silver if we adjust for the same skin depth coherence.

Silver is 5.7% lower resistance than copper at the same CMA, Circular Mil Area, size. The DCR of a metal is directly proportional to the CMA area.

Knowing the above, we go ahead and calculate the same resistance between copper and silver wire. What do you find? It is about a wash , yes? A same, same DCR silver wire compared to copper is 100 CMA * (1-.0057) = 99.43 CMA or a wire diameter of 9.97 mils for the same DCR.

To get the same current efficiency or Vp linearity as copper we need a smaller CMA wire. This is AC, not DC so it is more complex than just the DCR. but not too bad to calculate.

Copper measures 59.6 million inverse ohms times meters. Silver measures 63 million inverse ohms times meters

But, we aren’t really adjusting the skin depth coherence based on my studies, we are adjusting the RESISTANCE to lower the Vp alignment across frequency. We get the skin depth efficiency along with it as we reduce wire size to increase DCR. To do a velocity speed adjustment silver is at a mechanical disadvantage. Smaller wire is harder to work. But it isn’t much as we can see. The COST is large for any true gains, and those gains are more matching the RESISTANCE for Vp coherence. The silver’s DCR isn’t good enough to affset the cost with less material usage, so we can’t get any real advantage there or we’d use silver in a lot more places.

What are we left with? Mostly the "sound"of the grains and like any metals, those will vary based on the draw speed and temperatures. I can’t really point to any knowns being dramatically better. Silver’s cost will escalate even more as grains are reduced.

We don’t really need lower attenuation in IC cables as they are high impedance leads and low loss. For speaker cables we can get good DCR pretty easily for shorter copper cable runs.

All this is based on what we know to be factually available to use. The GRAINS, more or less of them based on wire draw speed and temperature, is not a known variable effecting time based artifacts that change the sound. All the the grains change that we can say we know is measured DCR. This isn’t a time based variable, though, so it won’t change the superimposed voltage waveform at any point in time except it’s amplitude. We don’t hear super small changes in amplitude nearly as much as tone based changes that alter timber and tone of instruments and voices. We can tell if a friend has a cold over a cell phone.

Changes to the capacitance, Inductance and Vp speed linearity are responsible for arrival times of frequencies and thus do change the waveform. They have to, or the entire set of physics it is based on (Speed of light changes as the dielectric and or frequency is changed) is false. So far that hasn’t been proven to be wrong.

We are now left with HOW MUCH can we hear. That’s all fine as long as we do indeed have two different designs to compare. I see no sense in comparing a “false” design reference that isn’t on a firm foundation of knowns.

Why silver plate at audio frequencies, though? Two reasons, it solders so well with silver solder if needed and two, for ultra sonic weld with many, many wires, up to 48 in a single weld, silver holds an advantage over copper surfaces welding. Pure silver has a lower melting temperature (961C) than copper (1084C), but it doesn’t oxidize with heat. The lower temperature helps the weld be oxide free and silver oxide is a conductive medium where copper oxide isn’t. Adjusted right, neither metal is really a problem.

That’s the knowns. People report a different timber based on grains and that is a test we can’t put any numbers on.

Best,
Galen

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@vkennedy61
Could you share your knowledge and philosophies and experiences on using silver in cabling, since that’s what you’ve been doing?
How do you perceive the difference to high quality copper, and why do you think it makes the difference it does sonically?

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So is it probable that most of the “timbral difference” that people perceive between silver and copper is due to the inherent difference in the materials’ grain structure? Their drawing is similar, yes, but surely those two metals don’t yield identical grain structure with a given exact drawing method?
Let’s say we have two cables of the exact same geometry and dielectrics, the other copper, the other silver (both are same purity and of same drawing method), and gauges adjusted such that they measure identical… They most likely won’t sound the same, so what else is there to look at than grain composition to try and explain this, now that they purposefully measure identically electrically?

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when it comes to silver cable :slightly_smiling_face:

artwork

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Don’t forget, scientists will look at the EM wave for changes in phase / amplitude based on differing grains and all else the same. It needs to be repeatable and reproducable.

Once they get there, the method would apply to all metals more than likely. But with no sgreedupon test and resukts, we can’t really define the outcome adhead of the end oproduct and designing is doing just that, if I do “A” I know I’ll get “B” and “B” can be defined in repeatable measurements before hand.

If I use a dielectric that measures “A” and and measure a capacitance “B”, I know the impedance will be “C”, the Vp will be “D” and the inductance will be “E”. The design keeps predicting the next steps for you.

Best,
Galen

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I was looking at your cat when I read artwork.

Here is my new feline. His name is COPS, he’s a black and white like the old police cars. A year old that sees everything as exciting. I do mean everything. He’s a from the pound cat. All our pets are rejects. Best love I ever have is from a cat…you EARN it! Notice the dog is earning COPS the cat’s trust too!

JBL, Just a Bunch of Love died of a saddle embolism (cat heart attack basically). He made it to 12, but his from birth heart murmer took a good 4 years from him. It was just WHAM he’s gone.

COPS


JBL


Best,
Galen

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One of the many things I like about cats.

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Although our cat has been neutered and eats normal food, there is no weight problem. I attribute this to the dry food and water dispenser that he can reach at any time. He does not prefer to eat anything other than dry food, only if there is something that he prefers a small piece to be on the table with us. And he loves chestnuts.

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I have a feeling there’s a connection to a certain noble metal here!

I guess cops can be a copper!

Best,
Galen

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lufubu,

Ya, cats and stereo’s are hard to know everything about how they work yet both are beautiful. Maybe a connection there.

Your cat is awesome cute. I hope he is with you a LONG time.

All my cats are neutered. I like male cats, they tend to be suck-ups more often but not always. Black seems to be a trend because they aren’t adopted as often from the pound. I try to give the few I can a good loving life. COPS was rejected as too active by the previous owners who named him CRAZY. Well, he was a kitten to a year old cat, what do people expect?

Even just five days we’ve had him, he is SO, SO much more settled here with us. At the pound he was real skittish as a female cat was constantly biting and attacking him. All the attacking he gets here is loving on him. He is so happy that he purrs just being awake and with us. Holding him I could tell he was a good cat. He snuggled in and felt safe in a human’s arms. Some won’t like that. He’s already spent time sleeping in my lap…a minor miracle for a new young cat in a new house with new people and a dog (he’s never seen a dog before). He likes the sofa back to be close to you…and that magic hand that pets him.

He’s so aware of everything, like a COP on the beat and the black and white squad car look so COPS stuck. He’s off to the vet next week for his beginning check-up.

No, COPS doesn’t have to be my other cats, and JBL passing so quickly was hard to take. It felt so unfair. I’m glad the last things that I did with hime were his favorites, being brushed and his tiger tail chase game. He literally had his attack right after that and passed away less than 12 hours later when we had him put to sleep he was in so much pain even with morphine at the vets.

Best,
Galen

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So the consensus, technically, is that copper and silver are good choices when adjusted right, but economically silver is extremely expensive, especially the very pure stuff.
So why choose it in analog applications unless as a plating for ease of solder and preventing oxidation of copper?

The question is, why use solid silver?

I have a hard time imagining that such a number of reputable companies that are verbal about their basis on scientific principles are selling speaker cables, interconnects and power cables made of pure silver just for a matter of faith…? I mean, people certainly are thinking that silver must be the best metal for everything simply because of its unparalleled resistance and obviously this is a misconception.
But surely their engineers aren’t believing this. Yes, they surely adjust that silver for the wanted properties… at a huge cost, though. These products might sound fantastic! Would they sound as fantastic with the same design principles applied on copper? I’m kind of positive that they would, and I’m also positive they would sound different.
Why is it that we can’t easily simply emulate the “sound” of a silver cable with copper through adjusting for identical electricals? It HAS to be the innate grain structure of the metals, right? What else is there, some quantum phenomena?

Now, I haven’t ever tried a solid silver cable. I am not against silver. I am confused about it.

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Love my crystal cables :wink:

From Siltech:
“Silver wire offers higher conductivity and lower resistance than any other material – even gold. But in itself that’s not enough to guarantee superior musical results. It’s not just a question of what you use. How you use it matters too…”

I’m sick of this touting of conductivity! I respect Siltech’s endeavours in cutting edge metallurgy but I think they should stick to advertising what’s actually relevant. Who cares about conductivity, it’s not an issue as copper can be adjusted for larger gauge for much cheaper. The conductivity of a material isn’t key but the DCR of a cable considering its total cross sectional area. (In the analog domain)

“It’s not just a question of what you use. How you use it matters too…”
Just so, but I wonder why Siltech uses fairly thick solid cores in fairly simplistic geometries. Seems like a waste of monocrystalline silver! Thick wire is factually not a good choice.

Siltech confuses me. They are pioneers in metallurgy and engineering dielectrics but they don’t seem to have a grasp on optimized geometries?
I don’t doubt that they sound good. I’m also sure they could sound much better.

What Paul said, silver generally being “brighter”… Well, its conductivity can be a benefit or it can be an issue because its high conductivity means it also has a more pronounced skin effect. A silver cable would have lower impedance for higher frequencies, unless the gauge is adjusted to be small enough.

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No need to get worked up. I trust science and specs however in regard to audio ultimately my ears are decisive.

No doubt Siltech makes very nice cables although I have since switched to Crystal Cable (the thinner ones ;-).

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You’re right, might have been too sharp there. Too much caffeine.
And I’m not against either Siltech or Crystal, I respect their research a lot. I’m just wondering about the contrast between highly optimized geometry versus highly engineered metallurgy. Siltech and Crystal aren’t even the most highly contrasted in this regard, there’s for example the Silversmith Fidelium cables that are just extremely thin and wide strips of a very specialized alloy. They seem to be highly regarded.
Throwing complex geometry to the bin and having specialized metallurgy instead with good audible results is something that’s really interesting because both approaches in their extremities yield results that are revered by people.

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Apparently one should never use Silver cables with any MBL gear as it just isn’t compatible for some odd reason. Odd.

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