Does adding gold plating to the connectors of stereo jacks, HDMI cables, and Ethernet connectors serve any purpose other than to make the devices look more aesthetically pleasing? Or, are there any ways that you can reduce the cost of your subsequent cable purchase?
Why Is Gold Used in Cable Connectors?
Because of its resistance to corrosion, gold is often used in the plating process for electrical connectors. Copper is considered the “gold standard” for conductivity; however, when it is exposed to the elements, copper quickly oxidizes and becomes less shiny. Connectors made entirely out of bare copper would be impractical for this reason. Even though it has a lower conductivity than copper, gold oxidizes at a much slower rate than copper does.
In particular, when it comes to analog signals, a connector that has been tarnished is more likely to cause problems than one that has not been tarnished. Gold is used to protect the copper and ensure that the surface of the connector is capable of transmitting or receiving a “clean” signal. This is accomplished by plating the surface of the connector in gold.
Copper’s resistance improves as the metal oxidizes and develops a patina known as tarnish. Because of this, gold is used in a wide variety of cables, including stereo jacks and audio interconnects, Ethernet cables for networking, and HDMI cables that transmit digital signals. If the gold plating on an HDMI connector is missing, the connector most likely has nickel plating instead.
On top of everything else, manufacturers are aware that gold has a certain appeal due to the physical attributes that it possesses as well as the status that it holds. A cable connector with a gold plating is more marketable than one with a nickel plating, regardless of whether or not there are any obvious benefits to having the gold plating.
Analog Signals Are Great
In contrast to the analog signal that is carried by audio cables, the digital signal that is carried by HDMI cables. While digital signals are composed of ones and zeros, analog signals make use of a waveform, which is then interpreted by the device that is on the receiving end of the communication.
Contrast a stereo amplifier that is fed an analog signal from a CD player with a television that is plugged into an HDMI component, such as a video game console. The receiver is susceptible to making errors in its interpretation of the analog waveform, which can result in a degradation of the sound quality. A connector that has become oxidized can make it more likely that there will be minute variations in the waveform.
Because there is no waveform to “misinterpret” when using an HDMI cable, the signal will either be received in its entirety or it will not. As was mentioned earlier, this does not mean that an HDMI cable can never develop a fault of some kind. However, if two cables are in good working order, the signal they carry should be the same “quality,” regardless of whether the cables cost $9 or $99.
The majority of the connections that we use today are digital, which means that their quality won’t suffer from the same degradation as analog connections did in the past.
Do I Need Gold Plating on My Cables?
There is one reason to go for a gold-plated connector despite the fact that it will probably not have much of an advantage, and that reason is the overall build quality. Cables that have connectors that are gold-plated may be of higher quality in general, despite the fact that this is not a “golden rule.” There is a good chance that they will be priced higher and catered to a distinct customer base.
It is highly unlikely that you will find a cable that does not have gold plating that is more rugged and durable. Therefore, if you are looking for something that will last for a long period of time, for travel, or simply because you’ve had a string of bad cables fail on you, you may find that you are given a connector that is gold-plated by default.
There is no difference between HDMI cables and other types of cables, such as the cables you use to charge your phone or the cables that connect your headphones to your amplifier. In the long run, you will be glad that you invested a little bit more money in a cable that has a tougher coating and a more durable connector. This is especially important to keep in mind with regard to a cable that you will frequently be connecting and disconnecting.
Unfortunately, there is a trend among retailers of audiovisual equipment to exaggerate the quality of the cables they sell, most likely because AV gear is expensive to begin with. Customers may believe that they have no choice but to invest a few hundred dollars more in a cable in order to “get the most” out of a television that costs several thousand dollars; however, this is not the case at all. If you are in the market to buy a monitor, make sure to check out whether you need a 240Hz monitor.