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Engineer's Corner

ENGINEER'S CORNER #2

SILVER SABOTEURS

As usual, I'm once again scratching my head and asking myself. . . "What's the big deal about silver in cables?"

Certainly silver has always had a place in the wire and cable industry. It's long been a fixture in military and high temperature applications. In the case of Teflon wire, you have always seen silver as either the sole metal present or at least as the plating. The silver is necessary to counteract the corrosive process for coating Teflon to the wire.

Silver is also the best conductor of electricity, as shown by the following chart of bulk resistance measured in micro-ohms/centimeter:

Silver

1.59

BEST

Copper

1.72

 

Gold

2.44

 

Aluminum

2.84

 

Zinc

5.8

 

Platinum

10.0

 

Steel

10.4

 

Tin

11.5

WORST

A surprise for most people is that gold is not the best conductor; gold barely edges out aluminum. Another surprise is that zinc is almost twice as conductive as platinum.

But I'd like to draw your attention to the extremely slim difference between silver and copper. Silver is only a scant 8% more conductive in bulk terms than copper! In terms of differences in signal loss, then, this renders silver's conductivity superiority almost irrelevant, especially when considering the way silver is actually used by the hucksters (or should I say misused) of some popular cables.

For example, in the late 1990's an illusive Silver Salesman latched on to this precious metal as a marketing opportunity to sell a web branded "performance vapor" cable to audio and video enthusiasts. I'll call them the "Silver Saboteur." I'm tickled to see how the marketing folks at "Silver Saboteur" have privately labeled and disguised an otherwise normal, good miniature video cable, produced as a commodity by a major US producer, simply by substituting an infinitesimally small silver center conductor. This re-branded PVC cable is then dressed for the part and is sold to consumers at a 1500% mark-up.

It's outrageous how little silver there is in the "Silver Saboteur." In fact its bulk resistance is HIGHER than the LOWEST performing coaxial cable in our River Cable product line. And it shows MORE signal loss and impedance non-uniformity than almost any pure copper cable made for the same application by any manufacturer. But it does have SILVER in it. Sure silver is a great conductor, but in the case of the "Silver Saboteur" there is so precious little of the precious stuff that its only true purpose is marketing bait for the gullible consumer. It's amazing and sad!

Bottom line: Silver is good, but it needs to be there. If you are considering silver cable, find out how much silver is in the cable. And note that I have not even talked about silver plated cable, where with at least one current web-offered product, the silver plating can be removed with a simple pencil eraser! Nor have I talked about silver's distaste for being flexed very often.

River Cable's pure copper cables offer superior bandwidth and much lower loss than the "Silver Saboteur" or any of its questionable brothers in arms. And we encourage any independent testing facility to weigh in on this. With measurements--not hearsay, if you please.

As part of our own continuous product improvement, we concentrate on engineering improvements that will make a measurably better cable, and we leave no idea un-examined when it comes to creatively boosting River Cable's specifications. While we continue to push the envelope of materials, science, physics and manufacturing technology, we are not ready to have River Cable offer products where phony marketing tricks and superstition overrule good engineering practices in pursuit of honest, measurable, and above all, repeatable QUALITY. We pledge to only design products that we can show without embarrassment to other engineers. And of course with pride, to you, our customers.

Yours truly, stay tuned.

Donald - The Exponential Engineer

 

Read Engineer's Corner #1