When you strip off the insulation on the outer layer of the wire, you can definitely find something unexpected. Do you know what's in your copper line?
Among the many materials that have entered professional audio manufacturing, the cost of copper has recently increased considerably. At the beginning of 2009, the price of raw copper raw materials was about $1.50 per pound. It climbed to $4.50 per pound at the time of the highest price in 2011 and has recently fallen to $3.2 per pound â€“ still more than double the amount in 2009.
There is no special reason for this price increase. In other research literature, many materials â€“ especially metal bismuth â€“ have soared in recent prices. This rise has brought an interesting phenomenon, that is, some merchants began to reduce the amount of these metals, the quality of sales is not as good as the previous alternatives.
Copper is the most expensive part of the audio wire manufacturing process. Imagine a wire manufacturer can easily use 450 tons of copper in a month. Since 2009, the doubling of raw material costs has resulted in significant additional expenditures in a short period of time. This has forced manufacturers to make a tough choice. Is it to maintain quality and cost, or to maintain current price levels by using less copper?
The conductor characteristics of the metal used are very important for all wires. This is the key to signal transmission, with better conductors and better sound quality. When it comes to professional audio wires, the higher the purity of copper, the better the conductivity. Some of the lower-cost copper obtained through recycling channels have poor conductivity and relatively low sound quality due to more impurities. Despite this, this important factor is not a major issue in wire manufacturing. The real question comes from how much copper is in a line.
If you want to save money on wire, the only way is to reduce the amount of copper used. Some manufacturers use a way to reduce the cross-section of the copper material and replace it with the same size plastic. Speaker wires typically require a cross-sectional area of â€‹â€‹1.5 square millimeters, and high-end wire manufacturers will use this standard for copper wire rather than the entire wire. But if you measure some relatively cheap products, you will find that the copper cross-section is only 1 square millimeter, and the rest is filled with PVC.
Although reducing the cross-sectional area allows some companies to introduce cheaper products, at least they still sell copper. A major problem facing the market today is that the wires that are sold as copper products are in fact other metals with lower conductivity, and misleading sales occur.
For example, CCA is a copper plated metal aluminum. Inside the material is an aluminum conductor, but what you see from the outside is a copper coating. Due to the appearance, such a conductor appears to be copper, but in fact its electrical impedance is much higher than copper. This CCA wire does not have the same characteristics as the copper wire expected. CCS - Copper-plated iron will bring even worse conditions. If you are making a TV antenna, this material is very suitable, but for devices with higher sound quality, this material is not enough to provide good enough signal transmission.
Products based on CCA and CCS materials have begun to find their place on the market. Although they offer a much cheaper solution and are therefore attractive, this low quality signal transmission also means that they do not transmit audio well, making it difficult to stand in the professional audio market.
Practitioners with good reputation are therefore facing a crisis. Many manufacturers and integrators pay high fees for high quality products. However, by choosing to save costs based on CCA or CCS materials, the quality of the entire system will decline, and customers do not get high quality products because of the high cost.
The easiest way to check if a low-cost line is a copper wire is to check its core directly. If it is a CCA material, you can scratch the copper plating on the surface to expose the underlying aluminum. The larger the wire, the easier it is to remove the copper plating and the material inside. This method is suitable for wires of 0.2 mm or more.
Another standard of monitoring is the weight of the wire. When using lower quality materials, the manufacturer uses additional wires to increase conductivity, which increases the weight of the wire.
Of course, the most direct reference for the buyer is the price itself. If the price of the wire looks too low, then its interior is likely to be more than just copper.
This is not to say that you only need to pay attention to these at the bottom of the market chain. Many high-end wire manufacturing processes have increased costs, but have not improved overall signal quality. The most classic example is oxygen-free copper (OFC). If you are honest with most manufacturers, they will tell you about the benefits of OFC, but it will never improve the quality of the sound.
The OFC does bring some benefits in some areas, such as in a fire protection system. Still, as we said before, the conductivity of the most important materials for signal transmission. The conductivity of OFC is no different from the conductivity of ordinary copper, which means that the signal quality of wires of the same cross-sectional area is the same.
The rise in metal copper prices and the desire for reasonable trading have made people cautious about the wires they buy. The trade-off between price and quality always exists, but for wire, you have to know what is inside.
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