Copper for Solid State / Silver for Tubes ?

Was recently told a reputable cable sales person that
its best to use copper wire interconnects with a solid state
pre amp, and silver wire interconnects with a tube pre amp.

Further, that as important as interconnects are, the quality of speaker cables used will make even more of a differece in the sound than the interconnect. Is there any truth to this, or am i the only person in the hi end audio world knows this little secret ?
Ag insider logo xs@2xshak73
Hi Shak73; ICs and speaker cables are equally important, IMO, and either can be "colored" in a way that you either like or dislike. Most try to keep their systems neutal (accurate?), but I doubt that true neutrality is even possible, ie it's a subjective thing-- still, it's a goal.

What is neutral sounding to me may not be to you. And what is the standard for "neutral"?-- some say it's live music, but it's very hard to translate the sound from a live performance to that in your own stereo system and room-- again,IMO . Any wire in the system can cause colorations, including power cords. And in the last couple years I've come to realize that AC wall receptacles have their own sonic characteristics and are thus important in a good high end system.

I would have a tendency to agree with your premise, but only as a GENERALITY. I have a tube pre-amp and SS amp, and use hybrid copper/silver ICs and all copper speaker cables-- works for me! Cheers. Craig
Here is the only GOLDEN RULE for cabling - "If it sounds right to you, then it's the right cable." Only you're own empirical data can decide what works best. Erik
Golden rule must be to use Siltech which has gold alloy in the cables also, HA!! I guess I agree generally, but as Creeper sais; trust your own ears.
I don't know about silver interconnects with SS preamps and amps, but I can tell you that I really like silver interconnects between a SS CD Player (Arcam FMJ CD23) and a ARC CA50 Integrated Tube Amp. It is the best I've heard so far, and that includes some of the better copper interconnects.
That one interconnect introduced into my system made a significant difference ... increased focus and definition ... increased transparency ... and increased stage width ... and incredibly quite background!
I've got a gold interconnect coming just so that I can see what gold can do with the silver. It should be interesting.
If you have apprehension about silver with all SS, I would try the gold. And the most affordable that I know of is the individual who made my silver interconnect. He is making an amazing product for whatever the price ... but, with his price, it is a fantastic deal!
You can reach Ray at:
If you try his cables, I would like to hear from you. I've been at this for a long time, and I think he is a real unsung surprise in audio. He is just a one man operation ... so his overhead is low.
Frankly there's not one thing the "reputable cable salesperson"(an oxymoron?) said that I agree with. They are all gross generalizations that may or may not hold true for your system and/or tastes. Personally I've heard bigger and more meaningful changes with interconnects than speaker cable, but that could just be a function of the cables I tried or my system or both. I guess my point would be that with cables there are absolutely no absolutes(how 'bout that?) and there's no getting around the fact that you have to try different combinations in your system to see what works for YOU. The good news is that cables are easy/cheap to transport and most cable companies or dealers will let you demo them risk free(less shipping if applicable), so your biggest costs are time and effort--but isn't that the fun part?

My advice would be to try everything you can--you'll learn a lot and you'll find the cables that really do it for you. Particularly with cables you should avoid any "one size fits all" generalizations and just go by your own ears. Best of luck.

'Couldn't agree more with Tim. The danger about generalizations such as "silver is bright" or "copper is warm" is that people actually start to accept and spread this as a universal dogma. If you can't find a dealer that will let you try cables in your own system then find another dealer, they are out there. This kind of "stereotyping" of cable based on metallurgy reminds me of the BS that we brass players (trumpet) hear (and spread) constantly: silverplated trumpets sound "brighter" than goldplated trumpets, raw brass sounds warmer...etc. ad nauseum. [Far more important on sound and timbre is the GUAGE (thickness) of the metal, not the plating]. Interconnects also come in different guages, cabling patterns, with different dielectrics, etc. The PURITY of the copper or silver may be more important than the fact one is copper and the other is silver. The dielectric may actually have more effect on the sound than whether the cable is silver or copper. We have said nothing about a wire's capacitance, impedance, and inductance which have major influences on component compatibility. My own experience is similar to Tim's insofar as interconnect's having made more of a difference in most of my systems over the years than speaker cables. But I have also found that some preamps or amps are more sensitive to cable changes than others. Further, do your speakers resolve well enough to enable you to hear what changes are taking place upstream? When listening to my system, I am not listening to a cable, I am listening to how well (or not so well) all elements in the system are working together. And, if you change just one component (for example, active preamp to passive preamp) the synergy may be disrupted. That IC that was "the best cable in the world" with the active preamp may be all wrong for the passive preamp. There is no "one best cable", regardless of what any audio dealer tells you.
Very well said Richgib.I couldn't agree more.I'm glad you detailed it out.If the dealers would only say this same thing( some do ) then they would not only make more sales of cables but would reduce buyer's remorse and uncertainty as well.
Actually, the most defining factor in interconnects is the "geometry" of the cable which defines the main R, L & C parameters. (I've said this before in the forum) So, if you really want to compare anything *else* you must first have identically constructed cables. I've done that.

After the geometry, the next factor can be the metals - but this is a much smaller particpant. It's not terribly likely that anyone is going to find differences in the sound due to the purity of the metal. As it happens the purity of the wire used in most commercially made electronic wire is very high to begin with.

Gauge seems to play a role, but keep in mind that changing the diameter of a wire will effect L & C too, and R (but R should be playing a very minor role at these lengths). IMHO, within some reasonable ranges of 20 gauge wire things don't seem to change very much. Insulation matters, that controls the C.

I do personally feel that there is a subjective sonic signature to silver and copper (having said all that) and this is based upon listening to *identical* construction of both silver and copper interconnects.

When I designed my interconnects I felt that silver was doing some things that copper did not, but that copper seemed to have better mids and lows. This feeling was mirrored by others who were independently listening to silver. Keep in mind that this goes back now almost 15 years, before everyone and his brother had some sort of special recipe cable out.

So, what I tried to do is to find a way to get a silver cable to not just have those sweet highs, but to have the warmth and mid bass/low bass that I was hearing in copper cables. BTW, SPC seemed to merely screw things up all round and have the worst of both!

My design philosophy is to try to get the system under control FIRST, then if needed to attempt to adjust "color", but not before. So, the goal is to present the signal without colorations through the signal chain. That's what my interconnect product is intended to do, and seems to succeed, in as much as it gets out of the way, like taking the glass out of a window.

Tube-o-philes, especially those with ZFB, SE and DHT amps often happen to have a slight rolloff in the highs. So, they often favor the slight "tinkle" coloration provided by straight simple silver interconnects. Conversely, many other amps have overshoot (look at the square waves published in the mags...) and benefit from a cable that is a bit self inductive and shunt capacitive (rolled down) to compensate.

I prefer to try to set up a system without these complementary colorations and compensations, since they never completely and fully null each other and yield a mess more often than not. This messy situation results in some sonic confusion and accounts in large measure for those many people who report that they can not or do not hear certain differences, IMHO.

Speaker cables can be quite interactive with a given speaker. Again, merely by changing the geometry of a given cable I can remarkably alter the subjective perception of a given speaker. The interesting factor is that a speaker cable with a geometry that is known to have a "strong" effect, when used with different speakers, will not have the same effect at all. In other words, the interaction is often unpredictable. In my experience, the speaker cables with "boxes" are especially prone to this effect, as are those with highly reactive parameters (often very capacitive or inductive, or both).

Again, the Silver Thunder speaker cables that I make are intended to "get out of the way" as much as possible, and minimally interact with the load and the amp.

Just a perspective from someone who builds cables commercially.

Be careful with gold. It does not conduct as well as silver or copper. However it will remain basically corrosion free. I doubt any pure gold cables will be made, but who knows in this world of high end cables. A gold plated wire may have a slower skin effect due to lower conductivity in the gold plating. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
Bear. We all should be as lucky as you to hear silver and copper cables of identical geometries (what I referred to as "cabling patterns") in order to assess differences. The kinds of controlled conditions you employed are necessary to be able to make dependable predictions, such as how a cable is LIKELY to sound in one's system. Your expertise in this matter certainly speaks for itself. However, I have often enough heard TUBE gear with SILVER cables sound, not sweet on the top end, but painfully BRIGHT, GLASSY, and IRRITATING. I have also heard silver sound sweet, airy, and extended on tranisistor preamp/amp combinations. I still stand by the statement that one cannot dependably predict that B-E-C-A-U-S-E a preamp/amp combination is T-U-B-E (or ss), SILVER (copper) WILL work better. Not all audio salesmen (high end not excluded) are as knowledgeable as you as to WHEN the metal (silver or copper) emerges as a salient factor. I have had high end salesmen tell me that silver will be "brighter" without ever asking me what preamp, power amp and speaker combinations I was using. I have owned several different tube preamps over the last several years (Melos SHA-1, Audible Illusions L-1, VAC, Music Reference RM-5, and sonic frontiers SFL-2. The same silver IC inserted between preamp and power amps (VTL Tiny Triodes) did not result in a consistently, sweeter, airier, top end. Three of the six tubed preamps produced a sweeter, more extended high end with six nine's copper IC's. Just because all of these preamps were TUBED, did not mean they were all the same in input/output impedances, gain, frequency response, etc. In fact, WHERE and HOW the tubes are used in the circuit - as a buffer, in the output stage, etc. differs among "tube" preamps. Some tube preamps have more in common with SS preamps than other tube preamps, the tubes only performing a non-critical (tube) function in the circuit design. You are obviously aware of this, noting that SE (single-ended) tube designs differ from push-pull tube designs. In a SE design, where the tubes are a major factor for the character of the sound, just changing the output tubes can result in a desire to change interconnects to "soften" or "tighten-up" the high end or bottom end. The original question posted was a reference to a high end salesman's generalization (more like a universal) that ALL "tubes sound better with silver, and the implication that ALL "ss sounds better with copper", without taking into account that tube gear may have more variablity in design within its own "species". Some "tube" designs use tubes for "show" and are really nothing more than "camouflaged" ss designs. The point being that generalizations such as "tubes sound better with..." or "ss sounds better with..." are not really dependably reliable in helping us to select cables. The best thing a salesman can do in guiding us is to give us a bunch of cables of different geometries, to insert into our own systems, and let us and arrive at our own conclusions. I know of nothing in the sudio world that generates as much controversy as cables. In fact, many reviewers won't even review cables anymore because of all the variables that are involved.
Richgib wrote:

Bear. We all should be as lucky as you to hear silver and copper cables of identical
geometries (what I referred to as "cabling patterns") in order to assess
differences. The kinds of controlled conditions you employed are necessary to be
able to make dependable predictions, such as how a cable is LIKELY to sound in
one's system. Your expertise in this matter certainly speaks for itself. However, I
have often enough heard TUBE gear with SILVER cables sound, not sweet on the
top end, but painfully BRIGHT, GLASSY, and IRRITATING. I have also heard
silver sound sweet, airy, and extended on tranisistor preamp/amp combinations.
I still stand by the statement that one cannot dependably predict that
B-E-C-A-U-S-E a preamp/amp combination is T-U-B-E (or ss), SILVER
(copper) WILL work better.

* * *

I agree that one cannot predict what will sound "better." However, the philosophy that I have is to attempt to limit the colorations and sonic signatures in a system. That means that in the best case you are not looking for a cable to make a preamp/amp/speaker combo "sound right" at all.

In practical terms, this reduces to iterative refinement to create a signal path and system that is relatively free of artifacts.So, the Silver Lightning interconnects come out of this effort to keep things free of artifacts, sonic signatures and well balanced.

Also, you say "tubes" there is a marked difference between tube topologies. The two main differentials are triode vs. pentode and feedback vs. ZFB (no feedback). ESPECIALLY for the latter there is a huge, monster difference in the way they measure and the way they sound.

Pentodes, especially in power amps with FB tend to impart a signature that is uniquely "pentode."

To go farther into your comments, I agree, *in general* "silver" interconnects do subjectively sound "tinkly" on the top - not actually brighter per se. IMHO, these interconnects are imparting their own sonic signature upon the signal and do not meet my criteria for a proper interconnect! Silver Lightning does not do this, it maintains a very natural timbre and balance across the spectrum - and is perhaps the difference between it and all others.

I can not speak to the results that you've gotten when swapping cables - again, the results that you got may have more to do with the capacitance of the cables loading the output section of your various preamps than with the copper vs. silver aspect of the cables tried. This is very likely.

I agree too that there is nothing set in stone when it comes to preferences and the way that people hear things. Also there is no hard and fast "rule" for what you will hear with copper vs. silver in *a given system.* But in general, IF you have a system that is "clean enough" there is a clear trend when comparing *only* the differences between copper and silver, in terms of the sonic signature that is heard.

It is this trend that has gotten parroted by the hype salespeople. IMHO, blind application of half truths is merely a crap shoot. So Caveat Emptor!!

Twl,check the website: have a gold interconnect called PGS that is developing quite a following.I have tried a few good silver interconnects on my solid state system with poor results.They're extremely transparent with incredibly detailed highs but the end result is listener's fatigue.The harmonics and tonality to me just don't compete with a good copper cord.But then again a good silver cord may be the ticket for you.I have a Stealth CWS pure silver single RCA I'll sell you cheap.
This is an interesting post. I have both SS and tube systems (tube is in development). I own the original Pure Note Epsilon pure silver cables and their newer Reference (hybrid copper-silver), On my SS system the hybrid version is clearly superior, no HF tilt and true midrange. Yet on my tube setup the pure silver version is much more detailed. My findings are that the tube system is masking the highs making the silver version sound less bright. I am convinced that alloyed wires are a good balance in cable design.
Shak73, as Garfish said, in general I agree with you. I own mostly SS equipment over the years and I have tried several silver cables, without much success. They seemed to bright, or etched for my taste. Copper seems warmer. I've heard silver cables sounding wonderful in friends tube based systems though. I'm sure there are exceptions, but IMHO overall, yes, copper for SS and silver for tubes is the way to go.