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Old 22nd October 2001, 11:35 PM   #1
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How big of a difference does solder make and can anyone recommend a type of solder you have used or looked into, or what I need to look at when buying a solder. I'm just wandering if with the $50 to $80 hifi solder out there the money would be better spent on caps or resistors. What do you think of cardas or wonder solders? Thanks for any imput.

Rob
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Old 23rd October 2001, 04:42 AM   #2
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Rob, like many things it possibly depends on just how “high end” the components are you’re building. I must admit I chuckle when reading (mainly on another BB) about people with really quite low-fi systems changing a power cable, a minute amount of wire consisting an interconnect, or in this case silver solder, and ranting and raving about what a difference it made (which invariably means they’ll say “A veil was lifted … blah blah blah”).

Personally I use silver bearing solder simply because I have a source of it in Singapore which is quite inexpensive considering the amount used. However to be perfectly honest I’d say it makes virtually no difference if one looks at the surface area in the bond and comparing to say the PCB tracks. I believe what is more important is the actual quality of the solder itself, ie flux, contaminants, etc., your iron, and your techinique, in order for you to achieve high quality joints. When I was at college I had to learn “NASA standard” high reliability soldering, which involves considerable preparation of the PCB and component leads prior to soldering. If really high quality solder joints are your objective then I feel you would be better off researching into this technique rather than looking at the “hi-fi solder” magic bullet. Having said that, the brands you mention are, I understand, good quality. Would I pay their asking price?

Spend your dosh on the caps and the veil will be coming off faster than a bride’s on her wedding night.

Cheers,

Pete
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Old 23rd October 2001, 06:56 PM   #3
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I used silver solder on a DAC project I built a few years back. Did it make any difference to the sound quality? I have no idea, but it was by far the best solder I have used. It melted very quickly, flowed to where it should have flowed and nowhere else, and set very quickly.
I was planning on using it only on the analog circuitry, but got carried away and done the entire bigital board with it as well.
I sourced it from the Canadian firm 'The Parts Connection'
On another tack, I have heard that using normal solder on gold plated surfaces will leech the gold from the surface, and that silver solder will prevent that. I can't confirm the truth of this.

Cheers, Adrian
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Old 23rd October 2001, 07:11 PM   #4
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Silver solder means it has a few percent silver, and
cost slightly more than old fashioned lead solder,
or less than $10 a roll. $80 is from the moon.

We use a product called CASTIN from AIM which is lead-
free. It contains 92% tin, 2.8% Silver, and some
Copper, along with some other proprietary materials.
It costs less than $10 a roll, and they do have some
other more exotic types available. Check out
http://www.AIMSOLDER.COM

As far as the sound goes, I haven't heard any difference.

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Old 23rd October 2001, 10:57 PM   #5
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I agree... i use a local 60/40 solder brand that's a bit expensive, but only because it flows good and makes my solder jobs easier. As far as sound goes, i can't hear any difference, and i don't think there's any....
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Old 24th October 2001, 12:48 AM   #6
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I've never compared one type of solder with another, and so have no opinion. However, in the line of preparation for soldering, something I've found to be useful is to keep a wad of 0000 steel wool nearby. I'll give the leads of components a quick swipe, particularly old pieces from my junk box, in order to remove oxidation. It makes a remarkable difference in ease of soldering. It is less critical for new pieces, but I sometimes do it anyway.
No, I've never done comparison listening between one with polished leads vs. an identical circuit with 'dirty' leads. It would be easy to argue that removal of oxide can only help the sound quality through giving a better solder joint, but I can't say whether it's audible.

Grey
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Old 24th October 2001, 12:59 AM   #7
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An alternative which is a bit less dangerous than having steel wool mix with electronics (the stuff tends to fall apart dropping little bits of steel which may find their way into places they shouldn’t), is to use an "ink eraser". Cut a slight V shaped slot in it so the component lead can be fed through. To use squeeze the ends of the V together and pull the component lead through. This should be done with pointy nose pliers to avoid placing stress on the component. The same eraser can also be used to scrub the pads on the board to remove oxidisation. Both techniques will yield far better joints and make for easier soldering.

Cheers,

Pete
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Old 24th October 2001, 01:48 AM   #8
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Pete,
I <i>like</i> living dangerously!
Actually, I do the steel wool part over a trash can that sits next to me, not over the circuit, then blow off the residual on the leads.
Anyway, Pete's point is valid, don't get steel wool fuzz in your circuit. Steel may not be as good a conductor as copper, but it's certainly good enough to raise havoc.

Grey
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Old 24th October 2001, 07:00 AM   #9
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Pete,

I totally agree with all the points you have made. Being a graduate of a NASA soldering school I to can say that technique is extremely important. Using high quality solder with a very good flux is probably second. Even the best solder wont help you if you don't know how to use it properly.

My own thought on using silver bearing solder is that it wont make a bit of difference. But every one has to be their own judge. Spending a extra thirty or forty dollars for silver bearing solder when you are spending a thousand for other parts wont hurt to bad. Besides a roll will likely last long enough to build many many projects.

Most solder we presently use has Kester 44 flux and has diameters of .031 and .015 inches. These are suitable for most thru hole and some surface mount components.

I have looked for some alternative types of solder such as low fuming and leadless solder along with the ones with water solvable fluxes. Does anyone have good experinces with these? I do stay away from solders that have lower melting points.


John Fassotte
Alaskan Audio
http://www.audioamps.com
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Old 24th October 2001, 07:26 AM   #10
swede is offline swede  Switzerland
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I can only say "yupp".

As alaskanaudio says, it's only the technique that actually matters, and from what I know, it's probably only a handfull out of every hundred "homebrewers" that are good enough on handling the art of soldering to use anything else than the stuff from the local chack around the corner. It just doesn't matter on a bad soldering joint. It will breake anyway.

Phew, that was a long centence.

Well, since my old teacher from school always said that "one should always do it 'professionally', no matter what", it might be an idea to buy the expensive stuff, if that makes you care enough about your soldering joints to really do them right.

Next time you make a really good joint (not like the ones you usually made in highschool, but the one you just made on the circuit board), take a close look. If it looks good, and I mean really good, use a magnifying glass and have another look. When you feel that you can bring the whole board to my old teacher (and he'll beat you if it's wrong), then it's time to look on more expensive materials.

(sometimes the old fart took a really good work from people in my class and sent it for a good x-ray job, just to find _something_)

Well, thats my two pennies.

//magnus
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