Silver plated vs. Tin plated - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 09-11-2007, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking at the HDMI cables @ monoprice. They have ones that are "tin plated copper," and more expensive ones that are "silver plated copper." Except that silver costs more than tin is there any real benefit to the silver plated ones? This is for a 25ft cable.

Also any real dif. a 24 and 26 gauge?
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post #2 of 20 Old 09-13-2007, 09:44 PM
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I am wondering the answer to this too, anyone out there know? I read on another thread it doesn't matter, because all HDMI cables are made according to specific minimums. Possible silver is more durable over time however in certain conditions.
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post #3 of 20 Old 09-17-2007, 02:47 PM
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Don't take this as gospel, but I was searching around a little bit and from what I've seen, tin is supposedly better for plating than silver.
Quote:


Q: I see that some cables have silver conductors. Does that make a difference in video quality?
A: Claims that conductors are "silver", "100% silver", "pure silver" or "silver plated" are usually a marketing game with the word "silver" (a color). The coating found on most conductors is actually tin, and tin is actually BETTER THAN silver as a coating. Silver might sound more attractive, but tin coating keeps electron-flow inside the copper conductor (because it is more resistent than copper) and protects the copper from oxidation. In addition, none of the major manufacturers of video cable spools use silver in their video cable conductors because nothing is to be gained by it.

That was from http://store.a2zcable.com/videocablesfaq.html

Hope that helped to clear things up.
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post #4 of 20 Old 10-02-2007, 09:05 PM
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Well, that's possible, but I certainly would hope that nobody really takes tin-plated cable and markets it as silver-plated. I can't imagine anybody honestly thinking it's okay to call tin "silver" because it's roughly the same color.

Here's the actual fact of the matter. Silver is a better conductor than copper; copper is better than tin. Because HDMI cable carries extremely high-frequency signals, essentially all of the signal flows on the very outside skin of the conductors, and consequently, it's the plating, not the underlying conductor material, that plays the most important role in determining resistance. Resistance, in turn, is a factor in attenuation. So, ceteris paribus, silver-plated cable will have slightly lower attenuation than bare copper, and tinned copper will have somewhat higher attenuation than bare copper.

Tinning does not "keep[] the electron-flow inside the copper conductor." Not at all. Now, if we were operating at DC instead of at high frequency, it's true that more electrons would flow through a given point in the copper than a given point in the tin, because with no skin effect, current flow distributes itself to paths in inverse proportion to their resistance; but that's a far cry from what's going on in an HDMI cable, where skin effect predominates.

This issue of conductor plating isn't likely to make a big difference in performance from one HDMI cable to another. Silver plating is expensive, and one doesn't get all that much "bang for the buck" in going to it. I'm not sure why some HDMI cable stocks are tinned, since that adds a production step and is probably a tad more expensive than bare copper. My guess would be that it is indeed to reduce corrosion, but there really shouldn't be any corrosion inside a PE dielectric anyhow.

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post #5 of 20 Old 10-03-2007, 09:47 AM
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Is it OK if we base this discussion on scientific principals and not the usual bull about cables? The prime directive is not to mix different types of metals. If you do electrons will migrate across the two metals in contact with each other at an area call the "junction" and metal will be removed in the process causing a possible significant increase in resistance at the junction. Thus quality high priced cable sets should be offered with different types of metal at each connector end to match your equipment. But no such cable sets are offered to the public because the venders would rather have you think that "silver" or "gold" is a better choice and vastly overcharge you for its use even though you may be far better off with tin. This a purely a bull sxxt business with no real interest in providing you with the product you really need so that your system will work at its best. Nothing in my post is intended to conflict with the information posted by Kurt except for the fact that instead of using expensive silver or gold to plate the outside of a conductor of lower resistance, one could merely increase the size of the conductor to gain the lower resistance at a much lower cost. Silver is difficult to use as a conductor because it forms an oxide coat that has high resistance.

Richard
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post #6 of 20 Old 10-14-2007, 11:15 PM
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I was wondering about the tin vs silver plating on the monoprice cables myself when I stumbled on this thread.

While I am not really qualified to speak about it, Kurt's post is very informative, and is correct to the best of my knowledge.

To Feirstein's comments though, gold's unique properties does make it legitamately the best choice for very thin and flexible cables. Gold plating on the connectors also is to directly address the problem of electron migration at contact points since gold is very unreactive. The gold plating's purpose is specifically to elimanate the corrosion that could otherwise occur at the connectors.
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post #7 of 20 Old 10-15-2007, 08:20 AM
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Silver being a better conducter then copper really doesnt matter wrt a digital signal.

Also, I dont know what someone is talking about when they talk about the quality of a digital signal because isnt a digital signal 100% good or 100% bad. There is not levels of quality when we talk about digital, correct?

A HDMI cable either does the job or it doesnt. Someone can not get deeper black levels, better color definition and so on by changing the cable because Digital signals do not work this way. With that in mind as long as there is not flaws in the cable, people can use silver or copper.

I suspect companies are trying to make more profit by confusing the average customer. This is nothing new, I have been with many companies, with many Execs as the software consultant and its all about more profit. If they can add silver, bump the price 300%, get a bigger profit margin and sell it to those customers buying cable at BB they will. Its capitalism at its best!

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post #8 of 20 Old 10-15-2007, 09:21 AM
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I won't make any comments about tin vs. silver, since I have no direct experience there, but I will try to clarify a bit what this digital stuff is.

One thing to keep in mind that "digital" is an abstraction used by us. The world around us is 100% "analog". A signal passing through a cable is degraded in a similar way whether it is "digital" or "analog". The advantage to digital is that is possible to completely recover the original signal.

Where it starts getting gray is when impairments start to creep in. Noisy lines, impedance mismatches, longer cable run, etc. (all the same things that cause problems for analog signals too). As impairments increase, so does the Bit Error Rate - a bit has been recovered incorrectly due to impairments. Communications lab students will remember the "eye" pattern lab session which visually represents this concept.

Would you be able to perceive a corrupted bit amongst, say, a million, occurring at some random moment in time? Speaking for myself, I wouldn't have the patience. When we speak about the quality of a digital transmission medium, the Bit Error Rate is a key parameter. As the number of errors climb, you will start getting easily perceived problems.

Each digital transmission system has it's own requirements. What may be unacceptable for say, writing of data to a hard drive, would be likely perfectly OK for an HDMI link.

Going back to the original question, yes there will be some kind of difference between the cables, but you may not be able to perceive one using your eyes and ears.
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post #9 of 20 Old 10-15-2007, 12:28 PM
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Quote:


Each digital transmission system has it's own requirements. What may be unacceptable for say, writing of data to a hard drive, would be likely perfectly OK for an HDMI link.

Going back to the original question, yes there will be some kind of difference between the cables, but you may not be able to perceive one using your eyes and ears.


You are right about signals degrading when run through any cable but with a digital signal there is "error correction" and as you posted the original digital signal is re-created.

I have to disagree with your statement that we "May not" be able to see or hear the difference. I do believe that we DO NOT hear or see the difference in digital signal at all if its successfull. If its not succesful it just doesnt work.

Cheap HDMI cables gives us 100% success rate already so even if you use an expensive silver HDMI cable you are not going to have better quality because again, Digital signals dont come in levels of quality.

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post #10 of 20 Old 10-15-2007, 02:57 PM
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Here is your answer and a lot more (Had the time as I stayed home sick today).

Silver has the least resistance. Alloy conductors in cables can be silver clad to reduce resistance at RF frequencies (50MHz and above). At the GHz HDMI frequencies, skin effect is important. So is their characteristic impedance. But the HDMI connectors do not maintain this impedance. A cable system is only as good as its weakest link. In this sense all HDMI cables are crippled even before they are manufactured. So why pay $$$ ?

Metals in cables and their connectors have three chemical reactions: oxidation, corrosion and electrolysis. Metals react with moisture and pollution in our air. Oxidation on a bare wire (and especially connectors) can take from seconds to almost never.

Corrosion is the chemical reaction between dissimilar metals. The potential between Silver and copper it is only 0.28 volts. For tin and copper its 0.66 volts. Lower is better.

The cheapest HDMI cables use nickel connectors. Most components use female gold connectors because gold does not corrode. So it’s best to stick to cables with heavy gold plated connectors. Belkin HDMI conductors are silver plated but are questionable because of the corrosion potential between silver to gold (0.893volts).
http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatProdu...duct_Id=178779

Blue jeans cables use excellent private source Belden sourced HDMI cable but they are lot more expensive than Monoprice. A great source of information though:
http://www.bluejeanscable.com/articles/index.htm

Since Belden cannot compete with the Chinese directly they are seeking out the profits in the custom installer (read active HDMI cable) market:
http://www.belden.com/09News/090507pr.pdf

Stop the presses! Belden is finally listing some terminated cables (no doubt sourced from China)
http://www.belden.com/09News/090607pr.pdf

For some component wiring is still king:
“The HMI market is going to break out into entry level (read Monoprice) and high end (read custom installers with money-to-burn customers). Installer guys like us are going to squawk about HDMI and refuse to use it!” Quack Quack!
http://www.cepro.com/slideshow/image/1356/

I use the Stephen Lampen’s (Belden) Cable Installers Guide as a reference (but NO mention of HDMI. Where’s the update Steve?)
http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Installe...2469015&sr=1-1

Don’t install HDMI cables directly in-wall (remember that great design). Rather use cat5 or fibre optic:
http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/adv...gth-limit.html


Expensive vs. Economical HDMI Solutions
---------------------------------------------------
In conclusion HDMI based projector installations can become very expensive. As others have stated here, don’t fall for the widespread market BS. The savvy consumer can be economical by selecting inexpensive yet high performance cables, not ceiling mounting their front projector and not paying $3K plus for an expensive screen. My solution was to place the front projector on a shelf behind the seating. Zero cost. That scheme allows the use short passive HDMI cables and benefit from the much brighter yet less expensive 2.8 gain Da-Lite High Power screen. Available from AVS too.
Otherwise hire a customer installer who offers exclusive active cables, ceiling mounts and a dull Stewart grey screen.
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post #11 of 20 Old 10-15-2007, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by penngray View Post

You are right about signals degrading when run through any cable but with a digital signal there is "error correction" and as you posted the original digital signal is re-created.

I have to disagree with your statement that we "May not" be able to see or hear the difference. I do believe that we DO NOT hear or see the difference in digital signal at all if its successfull. If its not succesful it just doesnt work.

That's not quite so with HDMI.

First, there is no error correction on HDMI; it's strictly a one-way signal and when a bit gets dropped, there's no way to recover it. Of course, a signal can degrade considerably before any bits get dropped, and that sort of degradation of the underlying signal waveform, as long it isn't bad enough to cause bit errors, will not affect anything.

Your second statement is almost true; it's not quite true that with HDMI "it just doesn't work" if the signal does not get through correctly. When an HDMI run begins to fail due to long distance or what-have-you, it won't fail abruptly. If, say, it's working perfectly at 40 feet, it might produce a very occasional dropout "sparkle" at 50 feet, a blizzard of them at 60 accompanied by image flashing or sync failing, and then no image at 70. We test these things at a lot of different lengths, and that's the sort of profile of failure we see most often; it's rare to go from "perfect" to "no signal" abruptly.

You are right, of course, that if the signal recovery is successful, there's no question of cable quality making a difference; either you're getting a 100% successful signal recovery or you're not, and you will see no difference between a cable which is just barely capable of rendering that error-free performance and one that has plenty of headroom. Stretch the distance or increase the resolution, though, and the two cables which performed identically before may perform differently.
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post #12 of 20 Old 10-15-2007, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
That's not quite so with HDMI.

First, there is no error correction on HDMI; it's strictly a one-way signal and when a bit gets dropped, there's no way to recover it. Of course, a signal can degrade considerably before any bits get dropped, and that sort of degradation of the underlying signal waveform, as long it isn't bad enough to cause bit errors, will not affect anything.

Thanks for the correction. I thought there was some sort of correction but I was wrong.

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post #13 of 20 Old 10-16-2007, 09:56 AM
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Just a quick clarification regarding error correction.

Whether there is or isn't error correction implemented in HDMI doesn't effect it's general behavior as the signal degrades. It would just change the point at which data corruption becomes noticeable. For example, you'll be able to run a longer length of cable before seeing problems with error correction in place compared to the same system without error correction.

A basic error correction system pads the original data with "redundant" data, which the receiver uses to help reconstruct the original data. The number of errors that can be corrected is finite and is chosen by whoever designed the data protocol. Bit Error Rate can be improved at the cost of net data transmission rate.
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post #14 of 20 Old 10-23-2007, 08:38 AM
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then a smaller gauge, 22 or 24, is more important in limiting resistance and hence sparklies or failure for 25-30 foot run than tin, silver or whatever???
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post #15 of 20 Old 10-24-2007, 10:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by penngray View Post

Thanks for the correction. I thought there was some sort of correction but I was wrong.

Audio data sent via HDMI is encoded for error detection/correction (I don't recall exactly what). Video is not encoded as such.

larry

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post #16 of 20 Old 02-20-2010, 10:37 AM
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So...for a 50-foot run, should one get the tin-plated monoprice version or the silver-plated monoprice version?

Please see:

I need a 50-ft run of HDMI to go from my cable box (Time Warner Samsung non-DVR cable box) to a Sony 46EX500.

Currently, I'm using Tin-Plated Copper CL2 rated 22AWG w/gold plated connectors from monoprice (Item # 2804) for ~$46:

http://www.monoprice.com/products/pr...seq=1&format=2


While I've only used it for one day so far, I've noticed that yesterday, during some broadcast of the Winter Olympics, there were some short but significant artifacts on part of the background of the scene (I think it might have been outdoor snow or something like that), where I saw pixelated polygraphic small shapes. Again, it was brief, maybe several seconds or even 3 seconds.

That is clearly a small sampling of something gone awry, but I can't help but recall that there was another 50-ft HDMI (also at monoprice) at roughly twice the price of mine: Silver-Plated Copper CL2 Rated Cable (22AWG) (Gold Plated Connectors) Item # 2678 at $91:

http://www.monoprice.com/products/pr...seq=1&format=2


May I ask if any of the good folks here have experience as to whether the tin-plated copper HDMI at 50-ft run versus the silver-plated copper HDMI also at 50-ft run makes much of a difference?

If there are other options, i.e. using an "equalizer"? Anyone has ever tried some type of HDMI "equalizer"? I've never seen or heard of anyone using one.

Thx in advance!


[b]N.B.:[b] Please also see:

- Monoprice's Knowledge Base says this:

"Tin and silver plating refer to plating on the copper wire conduits inside the cable. The plating is to control the "skin effect." The skin effect is the tendancy of digital signals to travel along the surface of a wire and be more suceptible to surface disipation. The plating is suppose to lock the signal in the copper core.

Silver is a better conductor of electricity than tin and therefore offers better signal integrity."

Also: "All of our "Certified Cables" will easily pass a 1080p signal. Our extended length cables (40ft and longer) have been able to pass a 1080p signal in our own lab tests. In some situations, an equalizer was needed.

Results will vary depending on the equipment being used. Not all pairs of equipment are capable of passing signals over extended runs."
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post #17 of 20 Old 02-20-2010, 02:25 PM
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Silver plating does not "lock the signal into the copper core." Skin effect means that the current tends to flow in the outer portions of the wire, the skin. The higher frequency, the thinner the skin in which the majority of the current flows. Silver and copper are much better conductors, silver being marginally better than copper, than tin. Tin plating actually increases the effective resistance of the wire at high frequencies.
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post #18 of 20 Old 02-27-2010, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by KurtBJC View Post

Well, that's possible, but I certainly would hope that nobody really takes tin-plated cable and markets it as silver-plated. I can't imagine anybody honestly thinking it's okay to call tin "silver" because it's roughly the same color.

Here's the actual fact of the matter. Silver is a better conductor than copper; copper is better than tin. Because HDMI cable carries extremely high-frequency signals, essentially all of the signal flows on the very outside skin of the conductors, and consequently, it's the plating, not the underlying conductor material, that plays the most important role in determining resistance. Resistance, in turn, is a factor in attenuation. So, ceteris paribus, silver-plated cable will have slightly lower attenuation than bare copper, and tinned copper will have somewhat higher attenuation than bare copper.

Tinning does not "keep[] the electron-flow inside the copper conductor." Not at all. Now, if we were operating at DC instead of at high frequency, it's true that more electrons would flow through a given point in the copper than a given point in the tin, because with no skin effect, current flow distributes itself to paths in inverse proportion to their resistance; but that's a far cry from what's going on in an HDMI cable, where skin effect predominates.

This issue of conductor plating isn't likely to make a big difference in performance from one HDMI cable to another. Silver plating is expensive, and one doesn't get all that much "bang for the buck" in going to it. I'm not sure why some HDMI cable stocks are tinned, since that adds a production step and is probably a tad more expensive than bare copper. My guess would be that it is indeed to reduce corrosion, but there really shouldn't be any corrosion inside a PE dielectric anyhow.

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If silver is better than gold, then how come 50 percent of the cables are gold plated , 49 percent tin and you rarely find silver plated ones ?

Is gold plating just a marketing thing? Do they do it because they think that gold plated cables are better than silver because gold costs more ?

I imagine that considering the relatively thin layer of electroplating that is used, that the cost of covering them in silver or gold would be the major expense; not the cost of the metal itself.
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post #19 of 20 Old 03-01-2010, 10:45 AM
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I think you're getting connector plating confused with wire plating.

Most HDMI connectors are either gold-plated or tin-plated. On a connector, because it's exposed to potential corrosion, the purpose of plating is to provide a surface which will not be susceptible to corrosion, and for that a metal that's relatively inert, like gold or nickel, is very useful. Silver is rarely used as a connector plating because it oxidizes (although its oxides are, as it happens, not so bad as conductors, either).

Nobody plates wire in gold (well, there are probably some weird boutique cables out there...I've never seen this done in HDMI, though) because gold is more expensive than copper by a long shot, and less conductive than copper. The problem of corrosion is greatly reduced in any insulated wire, because the insulation--usually either solid PE or nitrogen-injected PE foam--protects the wire from coming into contact with any great amount of oxygen and moisture.

So, for connectors the considerations in plating are conductivity (minimally important because the layer of plating is so thin) and non-corrosion, while for wire the consideration is primarily conductivity (except in special cases, such as certain plenum cables where there's a corrosive Teflon dielectric). That's why you'll often see silver-plated HDMI cable, but never silver-plated HDMI connectors, and why you'll often see gold-plated HDMI connectors but never gold-plated HDMI cable.

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post #20 of 20 Old 03-01-2010, 10:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KurtBJC View Post

I think you're getting connector plating confused with wire plating.

Most HDMI connectors are either gold-plated or tin-plated. On a connector, because it's exposed to potential corrosion, the purpose of plating is to provide a surface which will not be susceptible to corrosion, and for that a metal that's relatively inert, like gold or nickel, is very useful. Silver is rarely used as a connector plating because it oxidizes (although its oxides are, as it happens, not so bad as conductors, either).

Nobody plates wire in gold (well, there are probably some weird boutique cables out there...I've never seen this done in HDMI, though) because gold is more expensive than copper by a long shot, and less conductive than copper. The problem of corrosion is greatly reduced in any insulated wire, because the insulation--usually either solid PE or nitrogen-injected PE foam--protects the wire from coming into contact with any great amount of oxygen and moisture.

So, for connectors the considerations in plating are conductivity (minimally important because the layer of plating is so thin) and non-corrosion, while for wire the consideration is primarily conductivity (except in special cases, such as certain plenum cables where there's a corrosive Teflon dielectric). That's why you'll often see silver-plated HDMI cable, but never silver-plated HDMI connectors, and why you'll often see gold-plated HDMI connectors but never gold-plated HDMI cable.

Kurt
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Thank you, that was very thorough.
I am sure that others learned something new as well.
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