Go for the Gold on Connectors
May 2, 2006
For reliable and durable audio connections (and control and video too), go for the gold. Gold-plated contacts on connectors, that is.
Gold is an excellent conductor and it doesn't react with the normal environment. Unlike other metals, gold doesn't combine with oxygen to form an oxide film on the contacts. An oxide film has high resistance and doesn't provide good electrical connections.
Other advantages of gold are: it doesn't react with environmental pollutants, degrade in high humidity conditions, or corrode in the presence of such gases as sulfur or chlorine, and holds up well in higher temperatures. (High heat and humidity and chlorine gas? Think swim meet.)
But don't let electrical arcs form between gold contacts; otherwise the gold surface will wear away.
The hardness and thickness of the gold plating needs to be appropriate for the intended conditions in which the connector will be used. Also important is the layer of metal underneath the gold (nickel is a good choice) to prevent pores from forming. If the gold plating is too porous, corrosion formed in the base metal can reach the surface, forming a high resistance coating.
Gold would be the contact surface of choice for equipment and cables used for outdoor events, temporary installations, and on mobile production and ENG/SNG trucks. But consider gold for permanent installations as well, especially when using multiconductor connectors. Yes it costs more than other options like tin (or a tin-lead alloy), but over time, gold connections should last longer.