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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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
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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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
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
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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
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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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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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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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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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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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SHOULDN'T I JUST FIND THE LOWEST CAPACITANCE CABLE I CAN
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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DO YOU USE "TRUE 75 OHM RCA CONNECTORS" FOR YOUR DIGITAL
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
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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
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
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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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