A Few Words About A Few Words

(when Pure Copper doesn't actually mean Pure Copper - these are not typos, by the way)

I spoke a little bit earlier about my frustration with this industry as it pertains to the build quality your hard-earned money buys you.  Sadly, my frustration doesn't end there.

At the risk of falling hopelessly down a rabbit hole, I'd like to touch on another area that causes me just as much grief - material terminology.

 

Made with 7N, 8N... 9N Copper!

Sound familiar?

 

Well, I have some news to share with you - with only a few extremely rare exceptions, the use of Copper with a purity beyond 6N is not even feasible.

In addition, you would need highly specialized equipment to even make a 6N measurement, and it can only be made if the Copper is in rod form.

That last part is key, because even if you started with 6N Copper rod, it would be virtually impossible to keep that purity throughout the entire process of manufacturing a termination/plug (A/C or IEC, Spade, Banana, etc.).  So, even if (a big if) the copper in your cable was 6N, you'd have a bottleneck on either end with the lower purity terminations/plugs anyway, so what would be the point?

When I state purity, it's what is in the finished product [what matters]; for the sake of synergy, it's all 4N.

By the way, that bottleneck principle also applies when using wire with special casting processes (OCC, etc.) as well, IE. Plugs are rarely made with those types of copper.  I'd be remiss if I didn't give a tip of the hat to Neotech though, as they actually match the wire to the plugs (UP-OCC), but it will cost you close to 4-figures for a 9 AWG cable.

I'm not finished with this purity thing yet, so buckle up because here's another little tidbit of science when it comes to copper purity, and it's a doozy.

Ready?

Let's make sure we're on the same page first.  4N Copper purity simply means that the Copper is 99.99%.... well.., Copper.  5N is 99.999%, 6N is 99.9999%, yada, yada, yada.  The remaining 0.01% [the impurities] is made up of other materials [Lead, Tin, Nickel to name a few, and even a little Calcium for... healthy bones maybe?].

Now, here's comes the doozy of a fact.

What material do you think makes up the largest [by FAR] part of that 0.01%?

I'll give you a hint - it's a metal that those of us who share an interest in this crazy hobby know very well.

And the winner is.... Silver!

That's right folks.

Most of the metal that is taken OUT of Copper to increase its purity, is the same metal some of us spend an arm, leg, and a foot to have IN our cables.

"Nawaz, you're full of sh_t!", you say?  Well, you and my wife would get along famously.

However, I don't B.S. when it comes to science, and you can see/read for yourself here.

To be clear, I'm not saying 4N is better because it contains some Silver, just that "high purity" Copper claims are more about marketing than real world performance.

Now on to an often overlooked aspect of plug/termination construction material - Copper content.

Copper purity is often talked about, but Copper content is something else entirely.  This may be a new one for a lot you, as it's rarely talked about.  The reasons being that it's also measured as a percentage [as is purity, so it's easy to conflate/confuse the numbers], and it's best understood with a basic knowledge of metallurgy [not in the cards for most of us, but hey, there's always Wikipedia].

I'm still going to quickly talk about it though, because it's important, and you deserve to know.

Copper content [the percentage of Copper used], not just the purity of the Copper itself, is what makes the difference in the transmission quality and efficiency of a plug.  In plug manufacturing, Copper content runs from 30% to 98%, with the remainder made up of things like Nickel, Zinc, etc.  Most of the industry is in the 60-65% range, which means those plugs are technically Brass, not Copper.

My primary production plugs (power and speaker) contain 97-98% Copper content, and are plated with either Gold or Silver.  I also have a few "specialty" plugs I use/supply by request, or out of necessity based on the project(s).  Each plating material has unique characteristics, which I'm happy to discuss in detail if you want to get in touch.

 

$1500 M.S.R.P. Cable Deconstruction

 

(click on an area to zoom in)

I want to be clear about this cable, the manufacturer of said cable, and the purpose of this exercise.

This was not done to disparage the cable or the manufacturer, or to show their efforts as being sub-par.

The manufacturer of this cable does some really good work, which you can get a glimpse of here, and there is no question in my mind that there is sound science and great care put in to their research and development.

They have a well-earned solid reputation in this industry, and I am not disputing that.

However, by their own admission, construction materials and techniques matter a great deal.  While this particular cable is not poorly made (I have seen much worse), when shown beside the construction of 'The .1' CS, it does help illustrate the point that you can get a great deal more for your money than you may have thought possible.

That was the sole purpose behind this exercise, and I hope it served its purpose.

By the way, I cleaned and polished those plugs before I took everything apart, which is to say that brass plugs don't typically look that good.  This cable belonged to a local client, who brought it to me to re-terminate the IEC (20 Amp to 15 Amp swap).  However, once he saw what was "under the hood", he told me to toss it in the trash and proceeded to purchase another 'The .1'.  You can read some of his comments here.

Before I move on, here is another $1000+ cable that leaves me scratching my head; do manufacturers really think this is all they should give you for the kind of money they are asking for?

'The .1' CS Construction

 

Material Descriptions

 

4N OFC Copper

 

While higher purity copper and/or high-tech casting processes (OCC, etc.) are quite popular in the industry, I have found no discernible real-world performance improvements with their use.  The lab results of these types of wire on their own are great and all, but... If plugs are not made of the same material (which is usually the case, as I touched on at the top of the page), you are creating a bottleneck with the terminations, so what's the point of using it in a cable?

Vibration Reduction Sleeve

It is a biaxially braided hybrid sleeve, which combines monofilament (single strand) and multifilament (a bundle of thin long strands) PET yarns to create a full coverage sleeve that reduces noise and vibration.  It is lightweight, ruggedly constructed, and extremely flexible.  I use it on all of my production cables.

Braided Pure Copper Sleeve

 

Most sleeves used in cables to combat EMI/RFI are made with either brass, tinned copper, or other lower conducting materials.  I have chosen to use a sleeve made of pure copper with no filler or coatings, which results in superior conductivity.  The sleeve is also full coverage at over 95%, as opposed to the industry average of around 80%, so it provides superior coverage.  These two key features, combined with grounding the sleeve, provide much more efficient and effective shielding versus other sleeves.  I only ground the sleeve on the wall (male) side which avoids creating a ground loop, and it gives the "noise" a direct path to the ground and away from the rest of your gear.

Step-by step construction photos coming soon!

Note: I'm applying for patents for some of my construction techniques and materials, so I'm keeping a few things "close to the vest" for now - stay tuned!

 
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