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1. SILVER AUDIO'S INTERCONNECT SELECTION CRITERIA

Moving up our line of high performance interconnect cables reveals increasingly numerous and thinner, individually insulated pure silver conductors per polarity. This highly functional trend becomes ever more revealing with an increasingly precise sense of image placement, transient speed, and midrange neutrality. The degree of midrange emphasis is the crux of virtually all controversy in high-end audio and is simply a matter of personal preference, not something anyone "has" to like one way or the other! Silver Audio is happy to assist you with honest, system matching advice independent of your budget. If we think our least expensive cable would be most appropriate for your system, we'll tell you!

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2. How pure is your silver? (The "ultra-pure hoax revealed")

The shameful practice of claiming ridiculous and completely impossible levels of silver purity by various "high-end" audio cable companies has gone on long enough. Silver Audio formally challenges ANY high-end audio cable company claiming to use greater than 99.99% pure silver to PROVE their claim by making available, a notarized copy of their certification analysis including the name and location of the INDEPENDENT laboratory as well as the type of testing method that was used.

When we demanded proof from our FORMER vendor of their claim (to us) of "five-nines" pure (99.999%) silver, they were unable (and unwilling) to provide it. When another potential vendor claiming "six-nines" pure (99.9999%) stopped communicating with us after we demanded proof from them as well, that was when we became very suspicious that claims of six and even "seven-nines" (and still higher!) were nothing but blatant marketing fraud. In some cases, honest ignorance appears to be the reason behind some claims of ultra-high purity. In most cases however, desperation for a unique selling point is obviously the motivation!

In two years of dealing with scores of the same testing labs that certify metal purity for the aerospace and medical industries (where purity REALLY matters) we find over and over again the same result: There is NO testing method, not even ICP mass spectrometry, and most importantly, no clean room or handling procedure capable of reliably and repeatedly assaying any element beyond 99.99% pure. Even the silicon used in the semi-conductor industry (by some of the most critical and sensitive equipment in the world) cannot be assayed for purity beyond 99.99%! Some audio companies have, perhaps only naively, tested their metal only for gas impurities (oxygen) which is expressed in parts per million (ppm) and apparently tried to then express this figure as a percent of purity (by weight or volume?)! This conversion makes no sense and even if it did, the real contaminants of silver are not oxygen, but the trace elements of iron, copper, phosphorus and silicon!

Silver Audio does not purchase any lot of silver that does not test to 99.99% pure ("pure" silver is often less than 99.99%). Each lot is certified by an independent lab for ALL trace impurities by weight, DC resistance and ductility. The certification for each new lot is notarized and provided to Silver Audio and is available to anyone who requests it, though it is intended for our OEM customers who buy our wire. The only aspects of purity that we pay some attention to, since they MIGHT account for some performance difference, are the relative levels of silicon and copper. Otherwise, what really matters (and is measurable) is the method by which the wire is drawn and to what final temper. Silver Audio does use a very simple (but to our knowledge unique) trick in conjunction with well maintained, very high tolerance diamond dies to ensure an exceptionally smooth, dense, and clean final product. Otherwise, the lesson here is that what really matters is the cable design and how it is executed, not whether the conductors are 1/10,000 of one percent less pure than those of another brand of cable!

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3. WHY ARE MANY CABLES MADE WITH SILVER PLATED COPPER INSTEAD OF SOLID SILVER OR BARE COPPER?

Eager to cash in on what is perceived as an easy and lucrative business, part-time hobbyists posing as "cable companies" continue to flood the internet and classified adds with "sensibly priced", home-made silver cables. Prospective buyers need to read advertisements very carefully since it is often not very apparent that many of these "bargain silver cables" are actually only made with silver plated copper wire, not solid silver. Often slyly advertised simply as "Silver cables", vague and misleading terminology has been created to give the impression that some groundbreaking, exotic manufacturing process has been invented, such as "silver saturation", "silver-clad", "silver hybrid" etc.

The reality is silver-plated copper wire is simply a mass produced staple of the commercial cable industry, and readily available at any surplus electronics outlet or parts catalog. It is far less expensive than Fluoropolymer co-extruded solid silver wire which is only produced on an individual basis for high-end audio cable companies that can afford it. Silver or tin plating is simply used to protect bare copper from heat/chemical accelerated oxidation. Silver is used instead of tin for high temperature applications, or to boost the conductivity of braided shielding material. In contrast, the pervasive use of silver-plated copper conductors in high-end audio (and especially "low-end" audio) is never for any other reason than to seduce na´ve consumers with the infallible reputation of pure silver as for a signal conductor.

No valid SONIC advantage can be claimed for silver plated copper wire at audio frequencies. If anything, arguments could be better made for a sonic DISADVANTAGE of silver plated copper! Learning and understanding a little bit about the crucial differences between the nature of audio and RF (Radio Frequency) signals reveals the reasons why.

Very high frequency RF signals (from MHz and beyond) propagate very differently than audio. Due to their very shallow depth of penetration, ultra-high frequencies only travel around the very edge or "skin" of a conductor and are incapable of penetrating into the conductor more than 1/1000 of an inch or so, and less at even higher frequencies. Thus ONLY radio frequency signals (RF) can benefit from a thick plating of silver over a solid conductor of different metal. In this case, the superior conductivity of silver partially compensates for the phenomenon of rising DC resistance to rising frequency (the constantly misunderstood "skin effect").

Only two other valid electrical uses for silver plating exists; at connector contact surfaces and to boost the conductivity of braided mesh shielding material used around coaxial type cables. The later increases shielding efficacy by lowering transfer impedance. It was only a matter of time before this inexpensive and common material found its way into a few high end audio cable designs where it is used as the signal conductor!

At audio frequencies however, any effect silver plated conductors (not connectors) MIGHT have on the signal could only be bad. At audio frequencies, otherwise small differences in simple DC resistance significantly alters impedance. Therefore, the presence of both silver and copper in the signal path is capable of creating two different, frequency dependant, conductive pathways to the signal which is a non-linearity that NO audio cable should be causing, especially not a "high-end" audio cable!

In the case of silver plated connectors however, the benefits far outweigh the theoretical limitations of silver plating by reducing contact resistance. Contact resistance can be a source of subtle distortions due to arching and especially RF demodulating diode-like effects.

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4. WON'T EVEN THINNER CONDUCTORS FURTHER IMPROVE SILVER BULLETS?

We tried, and it didn't work! The wire diameter used in the Silver Bullets 4.0s and 6.0s (XLR) has been carefully chosen for the perfect balance between frequency balance and detail. Naive listening tests confirmed diminished deep bass energy when we tried to further reduce wire diameter on the Silver Bullets. While "thin conductors for thin bass" sounds simplistic, this is indeed the case since the heavier current demands of lower frequencies require less resistance for equal perceived volume levels. Therefore, to push our thin conductor method to its practical limit for even greater image resolution without impairing bass response, it was necessary to develop a different and more complicated eight conductor design; our newly released Appasionata interconnect.

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5. WHAT DOES YOUR LOGO MEAN?

Our logo was chosen as the traditional Chinese character for "Listen". The character contains the symbols for the ear and the heart with the literal and very appropriate translation that we "Listen Through Our Heart".

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6. A QUICK WORD ABOUT ALL OUR CABLES?

It is important to understand that our cables cannot "fix" poor recordings or inferior equipment. If your system has flawed or limited frequency response, neither our cables nor anyone else's can restore corrupted information! Furthermore, if you have tried cable after cable and are still unhappy with the performance of your system, chances are you are not coming to terms with an unpleasant (and perhaps very expensive) sounding component in your system. Audiophiles sometimes turn a blind eye towards problematic audio components mistakenly believing they can, for instance, pair overly bright sounding audio cables with a lifeless amplifier and achieve a "perfect match".

Conversely, many pop recording studios EQ recordings to reference equipment that is grossly inferior to that of most Audiophiles! The unfortunate reality is there are vastly more mediocre to atrocious recordings than superb ones. Clearly (no pun intended) a high-resolution system is a "double-edged sword". However, by virtue of extremely low induced distortions and balanced frequency response (unlike many of today's "trick" audio cables) the "holistic" approach to cable design favored by D Lin's Silver Bullets allows the most pleasing possible sound to be conveyed from all sources.

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7. WILL SILVER CABLES SOUND TOO BRIGHT IN MY SYSTEM?

The bulk of the "Silver is bright" misperception probably originates merely from visual cues incorrectly translating the sight of a bright, shiny conducting element to a "bright" "shiny" sound. This rather pervasive and mostly unjust reputation is only coincidentally supported by a few, poor quality or otherwise ill conceived cable designs that use Silver plated copper wires or inappropriate grades of Silver for audio applications. The poor choice of Silver-plated copper wire does have a reputation for producing an irritating sort of ultra-sonic ringing.

Otherwise, one of the hallmarks of solid core, pure Silver audio cables i.e. the Silver Bullets, is one of endearing smoothness. With regards to the electronic properties of Silver, an improperly designed, pure Silver cable would actually be more likely to sound too smooth! (The later would be caused by using excessively large gauge Silver wire).

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8. WHY ARE YOUR CABLES SO EXPENSIVE?

We compete against the highest quality audio cables on the market, not the worst! Our designs involve production costs that are necessary to produce a consistently top quality cable with a specific design goal. While some scoff at the $900.00 and up audio cables that dominate the market, any claim beyond basic function for a $60.00 generic coax audio cable should be regarded with far greater suspicion!

Most importantly, the diminutive high-end audio market is simply not a volume driven industry. High-end audio products are high-performance luxury items (usually) that cannot be made available to the bottom end of the market.

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9. WHY ARE YOUR CABLES SO CHEAP?

As a primarily manufacturer-direct business, the suggested retail price required to accommodate the dealer commission (typically as high as 50%) is eliminated from our price structure. The few select dealers we may enlist in the near future will be a parallel effort to our own and will mostly serve the purpose of increasing our market exposure. We are fortunate to be able to operate Silver Audio on a lower profit margin than other larger companies. Manufacturing accounts with OEM suppliers of our raw materials yield decent price breaks while our cables are made in smaller numbers at time by our own technicians, thus allowing a very efficient "demand flow" system with inventory.

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10. SHOULDN'T I JUST FIND THE LOWEST CAPACITANCE CABLE I CAN FIND?

If would be nice if this were the only consideration that mattered in audio cable performance. While most serious listeners would probably prefer a 40pf cable to a 150pf cable in their system, other factors vary considerably such as noise rejection abilities, skin effect losses, conductor purity and termination/connector quality. Only audio cables that properly address all these topics simultaneously should be worthy of consideration.

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11. DO YOU USE "TRUE 75 OHM RCA CONNECTORS" FOR YOUR DIGITAL CABLE?

The audio cable industry has always been notorious for generating absurd misinformation ("true lies") which quickly becomes part of the vocabulary of na´ve marketing departments, consumers, retailers, and even technicians and audio designers themselves.

With its inherent capability for uniform conductor spacing, a standard coaxial-type cable (center conductor surrounded by tubular shield/ground) can be designed to create a specific impedance (total true resistance to alternating current). This is accomplished by manufacturing the cable with a specific calculated distance between the signal carrying center conductor and the negative/ground outer conductor. The dielectric constant of the insulation and diameter of the center conductor must be factored into this calculation as well. Manufacturing a tight tolerance cable of specific impedance is no trivial feat and deviations of even less than a millimeter in conductor spacing will ultimately result in a different impedance over distance. This is why a "handmade" cable should NEVER be used as, nor claimed to be, a 75-Ohm digital cable! This is also why many claimed 75-Ohm cables wind up not being 75 Ohms (sometimes far from 75 Ohms) since low quality multi-stranded type center conductors and soft PVC type insulation are unable to maintain sufficiently rigid spacing during manufacturing and in use after repeated bending and twisting.

Thus, the only way a "true 75 Ohm" RCA connector could possibly be made would be by the same method. This would be completely impossible for many reasons, not the least of which is the smaller distance from center conductor to shield/ground in a 75-Ohm cable, as well as the much smaller diameter of the signal conductor. If the normal spacing between the pin and shell of the male RCA connector, or the diameter of the center pin were altered at all, the connector would then be unable to fit onto the standard female RCA terminal! If we think some more, we realize the distance from the pin to the negative, outer barrel portion of the female connector (on the chassis) would be the same regardless, since the pin is INSIDE the female connector when plugged in! If we continue thinking we also realize the spacing from the center conductor of the "stripped" portion of the cable to the body of the connector would have be exactly the same at all points, which is also impossible in practice. This leads us to the next important topic:

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12. WHICH IS BETTER FOR 75-OHM DIGITAL CABLES, RCA OR BNC CONNECTORS?

The use of RCA connectors for digital audio has developed a bit of a bad reputation. This is partly due to the fact that BNC type connectors have always been standard everywhere else in the industry for RF applications, and mostly due to the above misunderstanding about the impedance of the connector itself. Due to stricter manufacturing tolerances of the male and female terminals however, BNC connectors can make a more secure electrical connection than SOME RCA connections, and thus are preferable when there is a choice.

Some attempt has been made to manufacture BNC connectors to a "ball park" impedance of 50 or 75 Ohms. However, the logic and feasibility of maintaining the same impedance of the cable AFTER it has been terminated and plugged in remains a moot point, while the effect on total impedance by a half-centimeter long signal path is virtually insignificant. (It could also be pointed out that both 50 and 75 Ohm BNC connectors will fit either 50 or 75 Ohm female terminals). Therefore, the actual impedance of the connector itself, what ever it may actually be, is simply a non-issue (especially when terminated anyway) and not really the reason why BNC connections are preferable when there is a choice.

What DOES matter for the very high frequency digital data stream however, is the mechanical integrity of the electrical contact formed by the connector, the metallurgy of the connector, and the competency and materials with which the cable is terminated. Most RCA connectors are less than optimal for RF signals, and must be chosen carefully. Silver Audio chooses only RCA connectors for digital data that have no residual magnetic signature and thus immune to the Hall effect. This is otherwise common with poor quality grades of brass (an alloy). We also require a flawless plating surface whose thickness is sufficient to encompass the entire depth of penetration of a 3 MHz signal. Silver Audio also takes very great care to avoid creating a diode-like junction in soldered connections by using special solder not used in mass produced cables due to its very difficult melting characteristics and expense.

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13. WHY SHOULDN'T I USE AN UNSHIELDED, BRAIDED OR TWISTED CABLE AS A DIGITAL CABLE?


The Internet assisted proliferation of completely inappropriate cable designs, silver or not, being touted as "digital cables" is na´ve at best, and only demonstrates a lack of background in even basic electronic principles. Only a coaxial type, exact 75 or 110 Ohm impedance cable can be used for digital audio signals, and proclaiming anything else to be suitable is simply irresponsible and wrong.

Unlike audio frequency cables, vastly more interference prone RF (Radio Frequency) signals, such as digital data, must be transmitted by a cable whose calculated impedance exactly matches the input impedance of the receiving equipment, either 75-Ohm RCA/singled ended (S/PDIF) or 110-Ohm XLR/balanced (AES/EBU). Though the AES/EBU interface has a higher tolerance for mismatch, failure to match the impedance of the cable to the load results in power loss, error-generating mismatch reflections, and ultimately produces varying degrees of digital jitter (timing errors between simultaneously conveyed master clock pulses and the data stream). Further harm done by cable designs inappropriate for the very high frequency digital signal are manifested in rounding of the necessary and crucial rectangular wave shape that represents the transition from digital 1 to digital 0 and further challenges the already challenged input receiver.

As indicated in the previous sections, an exact impedance cannot be determined for, nor uniformly maintained in, ANY non-coaxial type cable (especially a "handmade" cable) due to its non-uniform conductor spacing. In fact, part of the rarely understood logic of the braided cable style is specifically the opposite of that desired for an RF data cable; a constantly changing impedance which serves to INTERFERE with the propagation of very high frequencies, i.e. RF noise! This is because the integrity of the electrostatic field becomes increasingly important as frequency increases beyond audio.

Furthermore, for the high frequency (~3 MHz) and noisy digital data, there are TWO reasons the cable must be heavily shielded: To keep signal corrupting ambient RF interference out, AND to contain the fields generated around the signal conductor WITHIN the cable for efficient propagation! An unshielded cable that carries RF frequency signals also becomes a significant source of ambient RF noise to the local electrical environment; something a "high end audio" cable should not be contributing too!

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