Friday, February 17, 2006

Audiophilia: Gold Banana Plugs vs Silver Crimped Spades

I initially opted to use gold-plated banana plugs to connect my surrounds. Banana plugs are very convenient if you're going to be swapping speakers in and out of your system. However the price of that convenience is a less than optimal signal transfer. Banana plugs just don't have much contact area and the strength of that contact decreases over time as the plug's insertion post loses tension.

What's worse is that these particular banana plugs have a screw-type connector to the speaker wire. You strip the insulation off the wire, feed it perpindicularly through the middle of the banana plug and then screw down the built in flat screw to press the wire and hold it against the back end of the gold-plated insertion post. Only about half of the wire actually contacts with the metal post - the contact surface is just too small.

I have since learned how to use crimp-on spade connectors. You use a crimping tool to deform a metal collar around the stripped wire, making a strong physical connection with the entire circumference of wire. An ideal crimp is so tight that it forms an airtight seal between the crimp collar and the wire.

The other advantage of spades is that they provide a lot of surface area to contact with the speaker binding posts. And they are flat, so a tightly screwed binding post should form a very solid connection that leaves little room for air and moisture to circulate and cause oxidation. As long as you don't need to swap connections in and out frequently, all should be good.

I opted for silver-plated spades over gold-plated spades (Audioquest 1014-S, $0.90/spade). Gold's only advantage is that it resists tarnishing/oxidation better than copper or silver. However silver is a better conductor with less resistance. And, as I just said, it doesn't seem like oxidation should be much of an issue with these connections.

My real motivation for re-terminating the speaker cables was so that I could use some of the Walker SST (Super Silver Treatment) in the connection. I applied a small amount to the stripped wires before crimping. In theory this will enhance the connection between the wire and the crimping collar of the spade. I also took care to clean the spade and speaker binding posts with 91% rubbing alcohol and a lint-free Pec Pad.

The Results
The spades did improve the sound. Accuracy slightly improved as did separation/soundstage. All improvements were quite minor, just barely noticeable (as expected).

I will eventually re-terminate all of my speaker cables both at the speaker end and at the amp end. I'll probably wait until my full system is up and running again so that I can hear the differences before and after with high-resolution material on my main speakers.


Anonymous thomas t said...

thanks! I'm glad i found your site. very helpful, i also have the 602 s3 as well, maybe time to re-terminate my speaker wires and clean up the speakers binding posts

Fri May 22, 09:51:00 PM CDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home