Gold Plated vs Silver Plated Guitar Jacks – What’s the Difference?

gold plated vs silver plated guitar jacksA number of things to consider when deciding about the differences in plating; we'll break it all down here.

This time we are going to talk about gold plated vs silver plated guitar jacks. We’ll discuss which one is better and what makes these superior to standard ones so you can decide whether or not purchasing them is worth the cost.

The output jack is not the only plated component you might have in your studio or practice room. You have probably seen gold plated guitar cables, and gold plated headphone jacks. There are plenty of other gold plated cables available as well. Gold plated RCA cables, gold plated 3.5 mm cables, gold plated HDMI cables, even gold USB cables exist in the studio and practice room. Most of these cables can also have silver plating.

Gold Plated vs Silver Plated Guitar Jacks

When discussing gold plated vs silver plated guitar jacks, there are two main things to consider before choosing your plating material. You should also know that there are plenty of other metals that you can use.

Conductivity

How well the metal conducts electricity is the first thing to consider when choosing your plating. The highly conductive metals are valuable at contact points, to make sure the signal transfers easily through the joint. The electrical transfer is especially crucial at removable contact points such as your guitar’s output jack or a headphone jack.

Here is a list of metals arranged from most conductive, to least.

  • Silver
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Aluminum
  • Zinc
  • Nickel

Most of our jacks and output cables are aluminum or nickel plated, but we may opt for silver or gold if we want to improve performance. We can see from the list above that silver is the most conductive, followed by gold. You need to be careful with gold, though, because lower quality gold can be less conductive than aluminum.

Conductivity Winners

Gold vs Silver contacts – Silver

Gold vs Nickel contacts – Gold

Gold vs Aluminum contacts – Gold

Corrosion

The second main concern when choosing a plating metal is corrosion and its resistance to it. Corrosion can form on the surface of most metals and reduce its conductivity over time. Oxygen, salt, and incompatible minerals in contact with each other cause corrosion. The guitar cable and output jack are particularly at risk, often, because salt and sweat can transfer to them from your hands.

Here is a list of metals arranged from most likely to corrode, to least.

  • Copper
  • Silver
  • Aluminum
  • Nickel
  • Zinc
  • Gold

Gold will not corrode, nickel and aluminum very slowly. Copper and silver corrode very quickly. Copper is a great conductor, and it works very well for wire, but once exposed to the environment, it oxidizes very rapidly. Copper’s predisposition toward corrosion is the reason we see very few jacks and cable ends made from copper.

Corrosion Winners

Gold vs Silver contacts – Gold

Gold vs Nickel contacts – Gold

Gold vs Aluminum contacts – Gold

Law of Dissimilar Metals

There’s something important to consider before choosing a winner in our gold plated vs silver plated guitar jacks debate, and that is the law of dissimilar metals. This law states that certain metals cannot contact each other without causing corrosion to occur in one of the metals.

What we guitarists need to remember is that gold reacts negatively with other metals we often use, mainly nickel and aluminum. For instance, the female ends to our headphones and RCA jacks are usually aluminum, and the output jack on most guitars is nickel plated. Also, our mixers, televisions, and amplifiers most likely have aluminum or nickel plated jacks.

If you use a silver or gold plated guitar cable with a nickel plated output jack, the gold will cause the nickel to corrode at an accelerated rate. The same will happen to any of your mismatched wires and jacks. Once the corrosion sets in, there is a reduction in conductivity, and you are worse off than when you began. Switching back to unplated cables will further reduce conductivity because of the damage done to the jack.

Hardness

The last factor to consider is the hardness of the plating metal. The harder a metal is, the more it can withstand constant plugging and unplugging, without wearing out.

Here is a list of metals arranged from hard to soft.

  • Silver
  • Nickel
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Aluminum

Softer metals will wear off over time, leaving only the less conductive material that’s underneath. The thickness of the plating will have a lot to do with how long the softer metals last.

Hardness Winners

Gold vs Silver contacts – Silver

Gold vs Nickel contacts – Nickel

Gold vs Aluminum contacts – Aluminum

Summary

You might have noticed that silver won two out of three and feel it should win our gold plated vs silver plated guitar jacks debate. How we see it.

Silver

Silver is too expensive, and it corrodes very quickly. Silver is excellent when used for permanent connections such as the pc boards in effect pedals and computers. Silver will corrode your aluminum and nickel jacks, but if you have equipment with gold jacks, you can match them with silver.

The tarnishing nature of silver makes it unsuitable for use on a guitar jack. A silver jack would require constant polishing.

Gold

Gold is also expensive and soft. It will tarnish all of your non-gold connections, and when combined with its marketing as a “Hi-Fi” component, it might be considered dangerous and a parasite in your studio. You should only use gold cables on equipment that has gold jacks.

Gold is soft to use as a guitar jack. Unless you leave your guitar plugged in most of the time, you will quickly wear away any plating, leaving only the metal below. However, if you use a gold jack and gold cables, you will receive a performance boost while the metals are intact.

Gold wins the gold plated vs silver plated guitar jacks debate.

Nickel

NIckel is inexpensive, lasts a long time, and won’t tarnish your equipment. Most guitar shops will have a nickel-plated output jack on hand. Nickel-plating is the real winner.

We hope you have enjoyed our article and learned a little bit more about your equipment. If we have helped you decide on a guitar jack, let us know. If you have friends who might be interested, please share this gold plated vs silver plated guitar jacks article on Twitter and Facebook. And don’t forget to take a look at humbersoup.com for our other articles on guitar electronics.

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