the sound of solder

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
 
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
 
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
 

Nelson Pass

The one and only
Paid Member
2001-03-29 12:38 am
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.
 
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
 
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
 
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
 
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
 
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
 
Thanks so much for the guidence guys. I'm going to look into the solder Nelson recomended, and spend my money on some black gates. The info on technique used to create good solder connections is very helpfull. Does anyone know of a site or a book that would describe good soldering technique in more detail? Thanks for all your help.

Rob
 
I guess that depends how much you want to spend. With the amount of soldering I do, I thought it was worth it to go out and spend $120 to get a nice ESD safe HAKKO. It's temp controlled, with a very quick heat up and a really nice stand (these guys really thought things through). Also, the build quality is excellent, and there is a good selection of tips.

But, if an ESD station with temp control is a little more than you think you'll make use of, you can find a very nice selection of stick irons from Weller. I still have a W60P iron which served me well for many years. Weller is again built to last, and you should be very satisfied with just about any of their products (just avoid the "toy" irons - you know, the cheapo 25W and 30W ones).

When it comes to tools, a soldering iron is one area where a few extra dollars are always well spent. Personally, I consider the cost of a good iron part of my projects, since the impact it will have on the outcome is so great. I consider it essential to get something with some sort of temp control. The W60P has a nifty ferromagnetic mechanism which changes magnetic properties with temperature, thus switching the iron on and off by attracting a magnetic switch actuator - more primitive and less precise than electronic control, but effective enough. Temperature control will allow you to achieve the consistency and control you need to do a good job on a serious project. Without it, you'll wind up burning pads off PCBs or getting cold solders etc. Another important thing is making sure the iron is powerful enough. I would consider 50W a minimum, as this allows the iron to heat up quickly, and recover from soldering large parts. You'd be surprised just how much power it can take to heat some things up to soldering temp, and of course the less time spent soldering a component, the less heat damage can occur.
 
Solder

If you do a proper solder joint, there is a good close mechanical connection between the parts being soldered. In this case I can not believe solder would add a sound. If you have loose, sloppy joints and the solder has to form a bridge between the surfaces, possibly it could. Good technique does matter if you want a top quality job in anything.

Also, for cleaning part leads, a scotchbrite work good and is much less messy than steel wool.

Regards,
Greg
 
I have used one of these for years, I' d think they would be easy to make
<a href="http://shop.store.yahoo.com/tmt/beautleadcle.html"><img src="http://store1.yimg.com/I/tmt_1649_29130226"></a>
recently change the braid to scotchbrite, works just as well.
<hr width="95%" align=center>

As for solder, a low melting point might be more important than a addition of 2-4% silver.

A jab with a hot iron is the biggest (non-destructive) thermal shock that your components will see, so maybe <a href="http://www.hdpug.org/public/projects/reliab_char/low-temp/low_temp.htm">58Bi–42Sn</a> with a melting point of 138°C might catch on.

regards
James
 
Soldering irons...

I have used the Weller professional range for a great number of years now, and also use Pace tools for various other jobs. The new 80W WS80 is an excellent tool, as it has higher heat capacity, even with smaller bits, and thus don't loose the temp so fast. It is only marginally more expensive than the 50W, even if the older 50W design is also excellent. Bits for both are plentiful in size and shapes, even for SMDs at a later stage. Crude soldering tools is a mess to work with, and good, reliable solder joints is more important in itself than the top notch components.
 
I’ve also use the Weller for more years than I care to admit to and it is still going strong. Received some terrible abuse being taken “on the road” yet never let me down. I’m sure there are better units available now, but not so long ago it was he norm to find these irons being used on the line, and for good reason too.

Cheers,

Pete
 
I used an old Weller solding station until it gave up the ghost last summer. When it died I sprung for a Hakko 936 ($99 at my distributor). What a nice iron! It heats up really fast, the temperature settings are very accurate, the holder doesn't tip over (nor does it have to stay attached to the heat control). The interchangable tips are nice, you can get a wide variety of sizes, plus it looks like most of the parts are field replaceable. This is a top notch iron, I would replace mine in a second if it ever wandered off or died.

Another thing that can really help soldering is a Flux pen (Kester #186). This looks like a felt tipped marker only it's full of rosen flux instead of ink. Makes soldering homemade, unplated PCB's much easier and is really a good idea for solding surface mount chips.

Phil Ouellette