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60 or 80 W soldering station
Old 14th May 2019
  #1
Here for the gear
 

60 or 80 W soldering station

Hi,

I got myself a TT Patchbay, cables are soldered on already (thank god), but without plugs.
I will need to solder strictly line/mic audio cables (XLR, TRS, DB25). I want to get a XYTRONIC LF389 (60W) but the 80W Model is just 5€ more. Would I benefit in any way when I get the 80W model?
Also are there any news on lead free solder? I found a few older threads where general advice was to use 63/37, but it all seemed fairly subjective (like „I don‘t change my habits after 20 years“) and maybe lead free solder improved over the years?
What tip would you advise, especially considering the DB25.

Cheers
Old 14th May 2019
  #2
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If the wattage is the only difference, it makes no difference for what you're doing (and, generally, I can't think of many situations at all where 60W would be insufficient but 80W would work fine). A 30W iron is plenty sufficient to solder these sorts of connectors. Assuming both are thermostatically controlled, you probably couldn't tell any difference at all in how they work. Maybe the bigger one would take a wee bit less time to heat up initially.

Lead free solder, in general, is not as easy to work with as traditional tin/lead solder. It doesn't flow as well and usually requires a higher temperature.

For a tip, I might try the XYB06 (3/64" conical semi-chisel), or perhaps a similar one a size or two larger (particularly true for the TRS connector sleeve connections, which have a good bit of metal to heat up). I personally find chisel tips easier to work with than conical ones. For a DB25, is there any possibility of using crimped connections?

If you haven't done any soldering before, here are a few general hints. You need to have the connectors and wire ends perfectly clean; if they're new in the package, or just stripped wires, that's usually the case and no further attention is needed there. The soldering iron tip should be clean, too; a quick wipe against a damp sponge is the traditional way of keeping it clean. Put a tiny drop of solder on the iron tip to tin it, and hold that drop against the connection to be made. Feed the solder for the connection from the other side, so the metal parts of the joint are actually melting the solder. Once a reasonable amount has flowed in and around, remove the solder and iron and let it cool a few seconds without moving things. A good joint looks smooth and taut and shiny. Big globs mean too much solder. Dirty blobs on the surface of the wire or lug generally mean poorly cleaned surfaces or solder with insufficient or incorrect flux. (If you have rosin core electronic solder, the latter won't be the case.) Check to make sure you don't have any stray strands or bridges between connections before buttoning everything up.
Old 14th May 2019
  #3
Gear Head
 
mskala's Avatar
 

DrewE's comments are good. The main reasons to prefer a larger or smaller wattage are easy of handling - higher-wattage irons will be bigger, heavier, and clumsier - and size of connections. If you're soldering big things then you need more heat, and a higher wattage will make that easier. People who use soldering irons for "mechanical" kinds of tasks (like making stained glass) may need 80W or even 120W. But for electronics, I'd prefer 30W to 60W.
Old 14th May 2019
  #4
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrewE View Post
If the wattage is the only difference, it makes no difference for what you're doing (and, generally, I can't think of many situations at all where 60W would be insufficient but 80W would work fine). A 30W iron is plenty sufficient to solder these sorts of connectors. Assuming both are thermostatically controlled, you probably couldn't tell any difference at all in how they work. Maybe the bigger one would take a wee bit less time to heat up initially.
Thanks, that confirms exactly what I already suspected! I will check out the tip you mentioned. Also thanks for the tips on soldering. I am an event technician, so I did solder before, but that was years ago. The basic basic basics are there though


Quote:
Lead free solder, in general, is not as easy to work with as traditional tin/lead solder. It doesn't flow as well and usually requires a higher temperature.
The temperature wouldn't be a problem with the station I'm going to get. Would you say it's not as easy or not do-able?
Is the connection in some way inferior? I read that the joints crack more easily and that it's not "mil spec", but I am not going to war with my patchbay. It's a passive device sitting in it's rack in my little home studio.
Or maybe use the lead free for the easy stuff (XLR, TRS) and lead for DB25 and Bantam?
What lead free alloy would be best for audio connectors and is the easiest to work with?

You can see that I would prefer to use lead free if possible in any way, and I am willing to put in some "training sessions".
Old 14th May 2019
  #5
Gear Head
 
mskala's Avatar
 

Most of the talk you hear about lead-free solder being inferior is just Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, and a misplaced feeling that life ought to be fair so there ought to be a disadvantage to a product that is environmentally better. The biggest genuine disadvantages are that lead-free is more expensive, and it may be harder to get it to stick to metal. But I switched over years ago and haven't found it to be a problem. It took me a short time to get used to it; it's not really a big difference in workability. You have to have the proper temperature, and an appropriate flux. Solder usually comes with built-in flux, but if you want to use a flux pen or something it should be one designed for the solder alloy you're using. I did find that my old desoldering braid intended for lead solder did not work with my new lead-free solder, and I needed to buy a new roll of that, but I'm not 100% sure whether it was because the old stuff wasn't compatible with lead-free, or because it was old and past its shelf life anyway.

The two most popular lead-free alloys for hand soldering are Sn96 (96% tin, the rest mostly silver) and Sn99 (99% tin, the rest mostly copper). I'm using Sn96; it melts at a lower temperature, just a little above the standard lead alloy, and is relatively easy to work with. The main reason to use Sn99 is that without the silver, it's cheaper.

I would not use both lead and lead-free solder in the same project depending on which connection is being made; too much risk of getting them mixed together because of small amounts left over on your soldering iron tip and so on, and if they do mix you end up with some weird uncontrolled alloy that will likely have worse properties than either of the originals.
Old 14th May 2019
  #6
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

I got a higher-wattage iron when I started parting out old junk. Makes a big difference when dismantling, glad I got it. Still use the little fella for tiny work, though. Good to have both.
Old 14th May 2019
  #7

For larger connections like you are making, the lead-free solder (with it's higher melting point and poor flow characteristics) shouldn't be a problem if you use more flux and clean. The connections won't be as shiny and it'll be harder to detect cold joints.

On the DB-25 with solder cups, I wouldn't even try lead-free. The plastic that holds the pins is easy to melt and the poor flow makes it a lot easier to bridge the connections. Crimp connectors is really the best way to do DB-25 anyway.

Yes, I do use lead-free at work. It's a significant impediment to good hand-soldering. For automated processes, the lead free is fine now that board houses have mastered it.



-tINY

Old 15th May 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mskala View Post
The two most popular lead-free alloys for hand soldering are Sn96 (96% tin, the rest mostly silver) and Sn99 (99% tin, the rest mostly copper). I'm using Sn96; it melts at a lower temperature, just a little above the standard lead alloy, and is relatively easy to work with. The main reason to use Sn99 is that without the silver, it's cheaper.
Thanks a lot!
I will try it out Sn99.
Some connectors will be gold-plated, is there anything special to it? I thought I have read something but I can't find it anymore. One type of solder on my list uses highly activated flux (it's recommended on their site for electronics), would that be a problem?
Old 15th May 2019
  #9
Gear Head
 
mskala's Avatar
 

I usually work on gold-plated PCBs (ENIG plating); they are maybe slightly less easy to solder than solder-coated (HASL) but no real differences in technique or materials are needed. For connectors with heavier gold plating, I don't know, those might be a little trickier yet - but even connectors with heavy gold plating on the contact surfaces probably wouldn't have heavy plating on the part that actually gets soldered, because it wouldn't serve a useful purpose there and would increase the cost.

More active fluxes are easier to work with (they make the solder "wetter") and many people prefer them for that reason, but they can be corrosive if not removed after soldering. If you're using a flux described as "highly active" then you will probably need to clean it off carefully when you're done. Water-soluble fluxes often fall into that category - they're easier to solder with because they're highly active, and easier to clean than others because they only need water instead of some other solvent, but you must clean them with water whereas some other kinds you can get away with just leaving in place. Water-soluble flux isn't recommended for soldering stranded wire because it's nearly impossible to remove every trace of it from in between the strands.

Some people actually use two kinds of solder that are the same alloy but have different fluxes, and do all the washable parts first with water-soluble flux, then clean it off, before switching to a no-clean flux for the parts that can't be washed. Doing that is okay because you're removing the flux anyway, as long as it's the same solder alloy - combining fluxes doesn't present the same problems as mixing leaded and lead-free solder alloys - but it's still more complicated than I want to deal with, so I usually just use no-clean everywhere (and then often clean it off with isopropyl alcohol anyway, for cosmetic reasons). The reason for doing the two-kinds thing is so as to use the water-soluble as much as possible, because it's easier to use.
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