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  1. #1
    nightflier
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    Speaker wire bananas revisited

    OK, I've been over this a few times, but I'm still not clear on the concept. About 6 months ago I removed the banana plugs and spades from my speaker cables and it made a slight difference in the sound - and by that I mean that my speakers sounded a wee bit better. I never put much stock into this before that time, but I was also using those cheapo adapters you can pick up on eBay for a few bucks a dozen. After some more testing I also noticed that some speakers were much more sensitive to this while others sounded the same with or without cheap plugs.

    Now I got my hands on some fancy WBT spades that according to the literature are supposed to make a night-n-day difference. Well I can't hear anything different over just using bare wire - I suppose no difference can be a good thing: they don't add anything. But that also begs the question, why spend the money on something that makes no difference? Don't you love it when reviewers say that such and such component is a great value at thousands of dollars because "it doesn't add anything"? Anyhoo, this leaves me with some engineering / physics questions:

    - Do some adapters affect the impedance? This was mentioned to me as an explanation why some speakers sounded more different with the cheapo plugs.

    - Some spades do a pathetic job at making contact while others (the screw-on types, mostly) do a much better job. I suppose that at the microscopic level this does make a difference, or am I looking too hard?

    - Most of the cheapies are made of inexpensive brass composite materials. The pricier ones claim to have higher gold, silver, or other exotic metal content. Does this matter?

    - I can buy $5K spades (for my $200 cables) which according to an article in this month's TAS will make me see & hear heaven. But what does this really buy me over, oh, I don't know, $500 spades? I know this is a subjective question, but $5K for spades? Pluuease. I have trouble spending that much on speakers and I balked at what the WBT spades cost me ($120 for 4).

    - Even with the fanciest plugs and wire on the outside, there is still the issue of whether the wire inside the speakers is top notch. Most speakers I've opened up don't even solder the wire to the drivers anymore and use what looks like pretty cheap clamp-on connectors instead - that also goes for some of the fancy-shmancy speakers out there. It's fun to point that out to pushy sales people sometimes.


    I'm a big believer in putting as little between the source and my ears, so spades is another small thing that adds to the clutter that the sound has to travel through on the way to my brain. Then again, the WBTs look really nice and since they don't seem to add anything, I guess I'll keep them. And if I ever sell the cables, I can jack up the price and tell them, but look at those brand-name spades, they rally do add (insert MSRP here) to the value!

  2. #2
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    Some people will buy anything to have the best. Some people will charge anything to make you believe it's the best. Realistically, doing a good job of running wire without connectors is your best bet. Think about it. If you don't want to hear anything extra, you dont add anything extra. That's basic science.
    By adding connectors to both ends of your cable (positive and negative) you have created an extra 8 points of possible distortion. Here is the math:
    2 wires
    2 connectors on each wire
    2 points of connection at each connector (wire to connector. connector to speaker)
    2*2*2=8
    Those are 8 points (per speaker) that could cause possible problems.
    Now assuming you have more than 1 speaker. I have 6.
    6*8=48 possible points of distortion. See where I'm going here?
    Also keep this in mind. Speaker wire and speaker connectors are typically made of different materials. Different materials always react differently to things such as heat and resistance. This could also be a cause for concern. As for bananas and spades. Look closely. How many SOLID poinds of contact on a microscopic level do you think you are really getting using these? The answer? Probably 4. Look at the way the are made. Now wire forms itself to the connection area because it is more pliable than solid connectors. Thus, creating an excellent contact surface.
    Chances are if someone tells you to expect better performance from solid connectors it is because they did not take the time to wire their system correctly without connectors.
    Make sure wires are clean, twisted and free from breaks. Do not remove any more shielding than required.

  3. #3
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    there are so many things that can change the sound. just stick with that pleases you. you can try different things just start cheap and go up.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    I prefer bare wire myself, but banana's are nice if you like to change wires or equipment frequently. The only problem that might occur with bare wire ends is oxidation.

    $500 (even $100) for connectors is snake oil in my book. We are talking about distances of less than 3cm's, so as long as you have a good connection between the bare wire and plug, you should have no problems with the sound quality.
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  5. #5
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    as far as I know, WBT's are about as high end as you can go for connectors...


    I haven't really noticed a difference between bare wire & spades, but I have to use something like spades or bananas against oxidation, it took my previous cables - kimber 4VS, had to buy new ones-- 3 months (!!) to oxidate, it first had the pure copper color, and 3 months later it was all dark brown, without shiny bits & stuff...

    so I use spades for that reason alone...

    Keep them spinning,
    Bert.
    Life is music!

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    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  6. #6
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    there is a treatment to prevent corrosion it is part of the DE-OX IT family

  7. #7
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    its the red deoxit. you can get it at parts express

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by basite
    as far as I know, WBT's are about as high end as you can go for connectors...


    I haven't really noticed a difference between bare wire & spades, but I have to use something like spades or bananas against oxidation, it took my previous cables - kimber 4VS, had to buy new ones-- 3 months (!!) to oxidate, it first had the pure copper color, and 3 months later it was all dark brown, without shiny bits & stuff...

    so I use spades for that reason alone...

    Keep them spinning,
    Bert.
    Hey Bert,
    How have you connected the WBT's? Did you use soldier? If not how do you prevent oxidation?

  9. #9
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Bare wire sounds great for a while, it inevitably corrodes.

    I've had bad luck with bananas, many have a loose spring sleeve contact doubling the number of possible failure opportunities.

    I use the Cardas rhodium plated spades. I solder them on. The best price/performance ones are the CRS at $2.50 per lug. kuei is correct; Soldering the connectors reduces possible failure points.

    The rhodium spades haven't needed cleaning in 12 months, my previous bananas seemed to need it every 4 months.
    Herman;

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  10. #10
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio amateur
    Hey Bert,
    How have you connected the WBT's? Did you use soldier? If not how do you prevent oxidation?

    http://wbt.de/index.php?id=93

    they are like small tubes, you put the bare end of the cable in them, and then you crimp them around the cable, so it's a solid connection, then (if nessecary), you cut a very small part from the ends of the tubes.

    works great, and once crimped, they are made to fit exactly in the wbt spades, and provide the best connection...

    Keep them spinning,
    Bert.
    Life is music!

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    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  11. #11
    Forum Regular audio amateur's Avatar
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    Ah sorry I though they were crimps. Thanks

  12. #12
    nightflier
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    I'm not a metallurgist, but does rhodium not corrode? I've also read that the higher the gold content, the less the cable or connector will corrode. So essentially, copper/brass that corrodes quickly has less gold and higher concentrations of metals that are sensitive to air. Then doesn't it follow that a cable should be terminated immediately at the factory and that bare wire is for suckers? Another observation is that while I've seen shoddy cable and connections inside speakers, I have never seen corroded cable, even on very old speakers. Since most speakers are ported, why does that cable not corrode?

    Bert, if you're already crimping the cables with sleeves, then why not just use the crimped & sleved end straight to the speakers? It seems to me that by adding the spades, you're also adding another layer between you & the music (another factor of x2, according to Kuei).

  13. #13
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    I'm not a metallurgist, but does rhodium not corrode? I've also read that the higher the gold content, the less the cable or connector will corrode.

    I have never seen corroded cable, even on very old speakers. Since most speakers are ported, why does that cable not corrode?
    I too am not a metallurgist, I'm assuming that Rhodium corrodes very slowly. In my case I use pretty good equipment with ESL speakers, all in all quite revealing. In the past using bananas, corroded cables produced a grainy sound tending to obscure details and lend a coarseness to the sound after a few months. Now, after a year. I haven't heard this with the Cardas Rhodium lugs.

    I have seen corroded cables in older equipment, but I agree that it's not common. I have no idea why this is true. However the grainy sound I mention above happens long before any visual change to the cables. Copper dulls fairly quickly, but I've never used bare copper past a few days because the sound seemed to be effected quite quickly as well.
    Herman;

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  14. #14
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    Here's what I did...









    Here are the tools that I used:



    The plugs use set screws to connect the wire which I thought would cause the strands to separate, but because I used "rope" OFC wire, which is actually strands bundled together, that didn't happen. The heat-shrink tubing provides protection against oxidation, provides strain relief and also provided something for my banana plugs to grip. This gives me double protection against loss of contact between wire and plug.

    For your starter kit, send check or money order to the address shown below.

  15. #15
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    Bert, if you're already crimping the cables with sleeves, then why not just use the crimped & sleved end straight to the speakers? It seems to me that by adding the spades, you're also adding another layer between you & the music (another factor of x2, according to Kuei).

    while the crimps are made from a good quality material, they don't provide the same connection as the WBT's do...

    the crimps fit perfectly into the wbt's, and the wbt's fit perfectly on the speaker binding posts...

    Keep them spinning,
    Bert.
    Life is music!

    Mcintosh MA6400 Integrated
    Double Advent speakers
    Thiel CS2.3's
    *DIY Lenco L75 TT
    * SME 3012 S2
    * Rega RB-301
    *Denon DL-103 in midas body
    *Denon DL-304
    *Graham slee elevator EXP & revelation
    *Lehmann audio black cube SE
    Marantz CD5001 OSE
    MIT AVt 2 IC's
    Sonic link Black earth IC's
    Siltech MXT New york IC's
    Kimber 4VS speakercable
    Furutech powercord and plugs.

    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  16. #16
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich-n-Texas
    The plugs use set screws to connect the wire which I thought would cause the strands to separate, but because I used "rope" OFC wire, which is actually strands bundled together, that didn't happen. The heat-shrink tubing provides protection against oxidation, provides strain relief and also provided something for my banana plugs to grip. This gives me double protection against loss of contact between wire and plug.

    For your starter kit, send check or money order to the address shown below.
    I've had bad luck with set screws on bare copper wire, electrolysis? Or maybe the copper flows relieving pressure so the connection isn't gas proof anymore?

    Let us know how this has worked for you, how long have these connections been in use?
    Herman;

    My stuff:
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    Mark Levinson No.360S D to A
    Passive pre (homemade; Shallco, Vishay, Cardas wire/connectors)
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    Pass Labs X250
    Martin Logan ReQuests.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    I've had bad luck with set screws on bare copper wire, electrolysis?
    Maybe, I don't know, but in this configuration it seems to me that the set screw is pushing 1/2 of the surface of the bare wire against the inside wall of the plug leading to more surface contact.

    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    Or maybe the copper flows relieving pressure so the connection isn't gas proof anymore?
    Not following you here.

    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    Let us know how this has worked for you, how long have these connections been in use?
    Sure will. They've been in use for about a month, maybe two, but not continuously. When I was just using bare wire into a wall jack binding post for my surrounds, some serious corrosion (even under the insulation) occured after about a year so I won't be using the bare wire method anymore.

  18. #18
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich-n-Texas

    Not following you here.
    Copper is soft enough that it flows under pressure, gas tight joints can not corrode, but if the copper flows the pressure reduces at the boundary between the wire and the set screw or inside wall. This might lead to future corrosion.

    Because it's not always easy to find a connection problem (interconnect/speaker) I solder whenever it's practical to do so.

    Silver, Gold and Rhodium seem to do the best. Silver corrodes (that black stuff is a reaction to sulfur not oxygen). I think silver oxide is both slow to form and a good conductor. Gold is excellent, but it's often plated over Nickel. Wiser heads than me have said Nickel is not a good candidate for audiophile high quality signals. Gold over silver is great ($$$$).
    Herman;

    My stuff:
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    Mark Levinson No.360S D to A
    Passive pre (homemade; Shallco, Vishay, Cardas wire/connectors)
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    Martin Logan ReQuests.

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    Sorry for being ignorant here hermanv, but I still don't understand what it means when copper "flows".

    Gold probably is the best solder, but as you indicate, not very economical. I personally don't think I'd ever use tin/lead solder (not that you're suggesting or promoting its use), but I have concerns about its ability to conduct these audiophile frequencies.

  20. #20
    nightflier
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    All this sure gives more weight to the argument that "terminated by manufacturer" is the best way to go, provided, of course that they:

    1. Use new cable that have not been exposed too long
    2. use solder, preferably of a high quality
    3. seal the termination properly
    4. Use premium quality bananas/spades/pins

    I wonder how many manufacturers could confirm all of the above when describing their economy-range or even mid-range cables.

    Here's another question: I have a pair of aging Kimber 4TC cables that have yet to corrode (I exposed the cables some time ago to check). Now why does that economy-grade mostly OFC cable not corrode? Come to think of it, I've only seen corrosion on home-terminated cables, never on factory terminated ones. What has been everyone else's experience?

  21. #21
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich-n-Texas
    Sorry for being ignorant here hermanv, but I still don't understand what it means when copper "flows".

    Gold probably is the best solder, but as you indicate, not very economical. I personally don't think I'd ever use tin/lead solder (not that you're suggesting or promoting its use), but I have concerns about its ability to conduct these audiophile frequencies.
    In a way copper is similar to glass. Glass is a supercooled fluid. In old houses the bottom of window panes are thicker than the top because the glass has flowed due to gravity, you can see the distortion and ripples in old windows. Think of copper as a very, very thick fluid. Over time it will stretch if pulled on and squirt out of the way if pressure is applied. Either effect may take years.

    While solder is conductive, the best solder joints require good mechanical contact between the two metals being soldered, in other words there's already a conductive path. When soldered the solder forms an alloy with the metals being soldered (this is known as wetting) this alloy is more conductive than just solder and only adds to the good connection hopefully present before the solder was applied.

    My favorite is eutectic tin/lead/silver as sold by Cardas (now banned I think due to lead content). Eutectic merely means the proportions are such that all the metals change from liquid to solid at the same temperature. This is only true for certain exact ratios.

    There is a long painful thread somewhere on this forum, a couple of members thought solder was merely a metal form of hot glue. It isn't, the effect is more complex.
    Herman;

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    Martin Logan ReQuests.

  22. #22
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    Here's another question: I have a pair of aging Kimber 4TC cables that have yet to corrode (I exposed the cables some time ago to check). Now why does that economy-grade mostly OFC cable not corrode? Come to think of it, I've only seen corrosion on home-terminated cables, never on factory terminated ones. What has been everyone else's experience?
    Do you mean you removed some insulation to check? Kimber 4 or 8 TC is insulated with Teflon. It is applied quite hot and forms an impermeable barrier to corrosive atmosphere. The atmosphere will travel a short distance up the stranded cable but not very far (maybe a 1/4 inch?).

    The best cables are made of Litz wire. That means that each wire strand is individually insulated. This insulation is often so thin as to be effectively invisible. It will vaporize at temperatures used for soldering.
    Herman;

    My stuff:
    Olive Musica/transport and server
    Mark Levinson No.360S D to A
    Passive pre (homemade; Shallco, Vishay, Cardas wire/connectors)
    Cardas Golden Presence IC
    Pass Labs X250
    Martin Logan ReQuests.

  23. #23
    nightflier
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    Interesting detail....

    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    Do you mean you removed some insulation to check? Kimber 4 or 8 TC is insulated with Teflon. It is applied quite hot and forms an impermeable barrier to corrosive atmosphere. The atmosphere will travel a short distance up the stranded cable but not very far (maybe a 1/4 inch?).

    The best cables are made of Litz wire. That means that each wire strand is individually insulated. This insulation is often so thin as to be effectively invisible. It will vaporize at temperatures used for soldering.
    I will have to check if the copper really is exposed, then. I guess we learn something new every day.

  24. #24
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    .... I guess we learn something new every day.
    Yes, some of us learn to repeat that it's mostly my opinion and experience. I did hold a NASA soldering certificate once upon a time, so I'm far more sure about how solder works. I think the rest of what I'm telling you is correct, but I wouldn't bet the farm without some supporting evidence.
    Herman;

    My stuff:
    Olive Musica/transport and server
    Mark Levinson No.360S D to A
    Passive pre (homemade; Shallco, Vishay, Cardas wire/connectors)
    Cardas Golden Presence IC
    Pass Labs X250
    Martin Logan ReQuests.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    I'm not a metallurgist, but does rhodium not corrode?
    At some level, all metals corrode. Rhodium, however, is more resistant than most metals. My JPS Labs cables came with rhodium plated spades. As Herman indicated, they collect very little oxidation. I've been using the Caig products for over twenty years.

    rw

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