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Which Solders Sound the best
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Which Solders Sound the best

Hi,

I am a novice audio DIYer. Now need to buy new solder for my coming DIY projects. Understanding that solders will impact sound (audio quality), I want to get our experience on this.

Through reviewing online information, I have short-listed some:
- Kester 63Sn/36Pb: Said to be neutral sounding but a bit dull. Easy to work with.
- Kester 96.5Sn/3Ag/0.5Cu : Said to be detailed sounding with good extension.
- Kester 96.3Sn/3.7Ag : Not much information on this
- MultiCore 62Sn/36Pb/2Ag

Not going to use exotic Solder such as WBT, Cardas...etc due to cost.

Very likely will go for silver containing Kester solder but some said solder shall have lead to sound "Full".

Also, for the Kester solder, I wonder why we don't use all Flux 245 (or 274) "no clean flux" which will be less work or headache for cleaning the flux. Are the Flux 44 or Flux 48 easier to work with or give better sound than the "no clean flux"?

Would appreciate your sharing on your experience.

Thanks
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

Just get something good for your needs & move on.

As a novice you would want to be expending your energies on the learning curve of achieving good quality solder joints & good technical practices.. don't worry about possible (real, implied or imagined) minute differences in solder 'sonics'.

There's no shortage of good youtube tutorials on the subject (how to solder).

Fwiw I actually use WBT silver solder for my soldering jobs :-) , I just luvs how it flows & solidifies all shiny-like. If I was in the position of doing a lot of soldering all the time / working professionally I'd use a big 'ol roll of Kester...

Worrying about 'sonics' of your solder is focussing on a miniscule dimension in the wider picture. I think most people select solder on the basis of price/availability/environmental laws maybe / workability, how it flows etc..

Good luck with your DIY projects & don't let out the magic smoke!

Last edited by RE201; 4 weeks ago at 03:53 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
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JohnRoberts's Avatar
 

Solder does not make a significant (audible) difference. There are other things more important to worry about.

JR
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Selecting a solder "for its sound" is kinda like selecting a horse "for its feathers".
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
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crosscutred's Avatar
The best sounding solder joint is one that works.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crosscutred View Post
The best sounding solder joint is one that works.
True dat!

...And for anyone out there who wants to study what's REALLY important when selecting solder, here's a good place to start:
The Fascinating World Of Solder Alloys And Metallurgy
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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Murky Waters's Avatar
 

New info to me that solder can affect sound. In my view, no signal ideally flows through the solder; it flows through the joint that the solder is holding in place.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murky Waters View Post
New info to me that solder can affect sound. [...]
It doesn't (if the joint is good).

...But this does not stop folks from believing that it does.

They tend to be the same "audiophools" who drop thousands of dollars into AC cables and bags of "magic marbles" (or whatnot).

The idea of "good sounding solder" doesn't get as much play as some of that other malarkey (possibly because people who have learned to solder are more likely to know a thing or two about electronics).
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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So far as I know, the exact formulation of solder is rarely if ever a consideration for proper signal propagation even in far more demanding applications than audio frequency circuits. Circuit board topology and layout have a vastly greater effect (especially in RF circuits), as do parasitic capacitance, inductance, and/or resistance due to packaging technologies (again, at much higher than audio frequencies). Solder is chosen mainly for physical properties: how hot it must be to melt, how well it resists whiskers or bridging, whether it conforms to applicable environmental regulations, how much it costs, etc.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
The average audio path though an analog console can run through up to 20+ feet of solder. That does affect sonics. For fun, make a 20 foot 'cable' run of your favorite solder formula and listen to the results.

Here in RoHS California I use Kester 48, 3% silver, 1/2% copper. For more critical spots I use their SN 96.3 with 3.7% silver, the rest tin. That is very good sounding solder yet it is very expensive. I like it better than non-RoHS WBT. It is very stiff next to tin/lead formulas and you do need o hold it further away from the iron as silver transfers heat very well.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
The average audio path though an analog console can run through up to 20+ feet of solder. [...]
I know you to be quite a knowledgeable and righteous guy, so please don't take this question the wrong way, but...

How did you arrive at that number (20 feet)?
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

If you're hand-building a circuit, there's no reason why you can't have every conductor directly touching. If you do that, the conductivity or "sound" of the solder is irrelevant. It's just glue.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
The average audio path though an analog console can run through up to 20+ feet of solder. That does affect sonics. For fun, make a 20 foot 'cable' run of your favorite solder formula and listen to the results.

Here in RoHS California I use Kester 48, 3% silver, 1/2% copper. For more critical spots I use their SN 96.3 with 3.7% silver, the rest tin. That is very good sounding solder yet it is very expensive. I like it better than non-RoHS WBT. It is very stiff next to tin/lead formulas and you do need o hold it further away from the iron as silver transfers heat very well.
I know you have a decent test bench perhaps you can share some objective data?

JR
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
If you're hand-building a circuit, there's no reason why you can't have every conductor directly touching. If you do that, the conductivity or "sound" of the solder is irrelevant. It's just glue.
Well, with a proper solder joint, there is always a (microscopic) amount of solder between the substrates (even with a physically tightly-bound joint).
(...Its just that I'm just not so sure how there might cumularly be 20 feet of it.)
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
Well, with a proper solder joint, there is always a (microscopic) amount of solder between the substrates (even with a physically tightly-bound joint).
If by "proper" you mean "tinned," then yeah. Maybe there is a weentsy bit of solder in between after everything melts and cools. But oh please...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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Muser's Avatar
probably different implications for small signals.
but you'd think it would be harder to quantify the effects of variables in resistance in those cases.

Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
[...] Maybe there is a weentsy bit of solder in between after everything melts and cools. But oh please...
Well technically, whether you pre-tin the conductors or not, they still end up "wet", and therefore end up being tinned. (Otherwise, you wouldn't really have a good joint).
(If pointing this out makes me a nit-picking asshole, I apologize.)
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
The average audio path though an analog console can run through up to 20+ feet of solder. That does affect sonics.
Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
How did you arrive at that number (20 feet)?
I assume that Jimmy is talking about the tinned COPPER tracks on a pcb. They maybe tinned (for protection), but the copper ist still here. Since we are not talking about high radio frequencies ("skin effect") most (if not all) of the audio-signal will be transferred through the copper traces.

Which opens a new field of sophisticated (audiophool) discussion:
Which copper(-alloy) tracks do you prefer on your pcb's ?
Do they sound better if they are silver plated ?
.....
.....
Is it even appropriate to use tinned pcb's ? I mean where the tin is melted with the copper, this becomes bronze and everything will sound like a bell ?
.....
.

Last edited by analogguru; 4 weeks ago at 10:29 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by analogguru View Post
[...] Do they sound better if they are silver plated
I'm starting to think they sound best if you just forget they're even there (unless something doesn't work right)!
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
Lives for gear
At Santa’s workshop, the elves can run through twenty feet of solder in a single afternoon. That’s why their shoes curl up in the front.

There seems to be less than five experienced engineers on Gearslutz who care about these “last hundredths of a percent” technical issues and discuss them intelligently. Unfortunately there are also thousands of P. T. Barnum’s suckers here who turn down this particularly tricky highway that they are not at all equipped to drive. They won’t do better mixes or spend more intelligently in audio because of these threads.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
(If pointing this out makes me a nit-picking asshole, I apologize.)
.
I think you will find Gearslutz is the natural home to the "nit picking asshole"

You're amoung friends.

Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
Here for the gear
 

Thanks all for responding and advising information. I found the information linked by 12ax7 is quite informative about solder joints.

However, I am quite surprised that quite a number of members think solders do not affect sound/sonics or have minimal impact on sonic performance. Even some think that cables have no impact on sonics.

From my limited experience in Audio equipment (or HiFI), I have experienced (not thought nor opined) so many things that have impact on sonic performances. Cables and Solders are two of these variables.

When I was handling a pair DIY full range speakers with moderate efficiency (91db/w/m) redoing the solder joints to the drivers, I replaced the unknown solders by Kester 96.5Sn/3Ag/0.5Cu, I got immediate improvement in details and high/low extension. Also, the workmanship on solder joints (not saying cold joints) does affect sound. Too big a slump of solder adversely affect the sound.

Though I am a novice DIYer, I think I have no issue in completing a solder joint properly. I did make sure that all joints were of proper mechanical contact before soldering. However, my ears tell me that solders do affect sound quality like cables do.

Apart from those unnamed solder, I only used Kester 96.5Sn/3Ag/0.5Cu before. Therefore, I ask in the forum to seek those with experience on this.

If those are sceptical about the "Solders can affect sound quality" claim. You may use different solders in the Inter connects joins or Pre-amp signals inputs or even speaker drivers connections. Then, listen to them using higher resolution system. I think it is not difficult to tell the difference.

Thanks all for the inputs and sharing.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
The average audio path though an analog console can run through up to 20+ feet of solder. That does affect sonics. For fun, make a 20 foot 'cable' run of your favorite solder formula and listen to the results.

Here in RoHS California I use Kester 48, 3% silver, 1/2% copper. For more critical spots I use their SN 96.3 with 3.7% silver, the rest tin. That is very good sounding solder yet it is very expensive. I like it better than non-RoHS WBT. It is very stiff next to tin/lead formulas and you do need o hold it further away from the iron as silver transfers heat very well.
Thanks Jim for sharing. I probable will buy some Kester 48 3% silver, 1/2% copper, and some Kester 48 SN96.3 with 3.7% silver to try out.

I think the Kester solder I used before are Flux 245 No Clean Flux. What is your opinion of the Flux 48 vs No Clean Flux (245 or 275)?

Also, what is you comment of the MultiCore 63%Sn 2 % silver solder against the above two silver containing solder in terms of sound quality?

(PS: I have some old WBT solder left. I used it before but don't like its sound).

Thanks
Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by andy2667 View Post
From my limited experience in Audio equipment (or HiFI), I have experienced (not thought nor opined) so many things that have impact on sonic performances. Cables and Solders are two of these variables.

When I was handling a pair DIY full range speakers with moderate efficiency (91db/w/m) redoing the solder joints to the drivers, I replaced the unknown solders by Kester 96.5Sn/3Ag/0.5Cu, I got immediate improvement in details and high/low extension.
Three possible things going on here:

1 - The old solder joint was rubbish
2 - Expectation bias
3 - It really did add some extension at each end of the range.

If #3 did happen, the results ought to be measurable. So, I invite you to produce some graphs that prove your point. Simple enough - put a driver in a cabinet, solder it in with some cheap solder, and measure the frequency response.
Then, pull the driver, replace the solder, and measure again.

Keep positions, drive levels etc identical.


If the graphs show an obvious difference under those conditions, I'll eat my hat. Really.

If the graphs show no difference, #2 is the likely suspect. Nothing to be ashamed of - the audiophiles of the world fall for it all the time.


Chris
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris661 View Post
Three possible things going on here:

1 - The old solder joint was rubbish
2 - Expectation bias
3 - It really did add some extension at each end of the range.

If #3 did happen, the results ought to be measurable. So, I invite you to produce some graphs that prove your point. Simple enough - put a driver in a cabinet, solder it in with some cheap solder, and measure the frequency response.
Then, pull the driver, replace the solder, and measure again.

Keep positions, drive levels etc identical.


If the graphs show an obvious difference under those conditions, I'll eat my hat. Really.

If the graphs show no difference, #2 is the likely suspect. Nothing to be ashamed of - the audiophiles of the world fall for it all the time.


Chris
Thanks Chris for advising.

I think it is not difficult to do a simple comparison tests to verify if solders impact sound. My ears tell me it does.

Of course different people may have different opinions and not all people would be able to hear the difference.

Thanks
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by andy2667 View Post
Thanks Chris for advising.

I think it is not difficult to do a simple comparison tests to verify if solders impact sound. My ears tell me it does.

Of course different people may have different opinions and not all people would be able to hear the difference.

Thanks
No, your brain tells you it does. There's a subtle difference.

I once read an account of someone that had gone into a HiFi shop and the sales guys were peddling expensive cables. So, the customer put on a quick demonstration for the sales guys:

- Set everything up, and told them the cheap cables were in play, with the intent to switch to the expensive cables.
- Customer made it look like the cables were switched, but the cheap cables stayed connected.
- Sales guys all agree - better soundstage, more bass depth, etc etc. The usual.

They were then invited to come and see which cables were connected.


The brain is easily fooled in a lot of different ways. I find my brain enjoys music much more once it's had a little single malt.

Chris
Old 4 weeks ago
  #27
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris661 View Post
No, your brain tells you it does. There's a subtle difference.

I once read an account of someone that had gone into a HiFi shop and the sales guys were peddling expensive cables. So, the customer put on a quick demonstration for the sales guys:

- Set everything up, and told them the cheap cables were in play, with the intent to switch to the expensive cables.
- Customer made it look like the cables were switched, but the cheap cables stayed connected.
- Sales guys all agree - better soundstage, more bass depth, etc etc. The usual.

They were then invited to come and see which cables were connected.


The brain is easily fooled in a lot of different ways. I find my brain enjoys music much more once it's had a little single malt.

Chris
Thanks Chris,

It is true. Brains play an important and tricky parts in evaluating the sonic performance. I always failed to tell the subtle differences.

For cable performance, after extensive cable testing, I actually prefer some inexpensive pro-audio cables to some low to mid price HiFi cables costing 10+ times of the pro audio cables.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #28
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That is why we use test equipment...

I can measure things that I can't hear, but I can't hear things that I can't measure.

JR
Old 4 weeks ago
  #29
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
I can measure things that I can't hear, but I can't hear things that I can't measure.

JR
Yep.
...And the corollary to this is: When your ear tells you "it's wrong" and the test gear tells you "its right", you have probably just measured the wrong thing!
.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #30
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
The average audio path though an analog console can run through up to 20+ feet of solder. That does affect sonics. For fun, make a 20 foot 'cable' run of your favorite solder formula and listen to the results.

Here in RoHS California I use Kester 48, 3% silver, 1/2% copper. For more critical spots I use their SN 96.3 with 3.7% silver, the rest tin. That is very good sounding solder yet it is very expensive. I like it better than non-RoHS WBT. It is very stiff next to tin/lead formulas and you do need o hold it further away from the iron as silver transfers heat very well.
What IS far more common to affect the sound are bad connections; switches, pots, loose connectors ect...Bad solder joints too...
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