Gold-plated connectors on stereo jacks, HDMI cables, and Ethernet ports may look nice, but do they serve any purpose? Or can you save some money on your next cable purchase?
Why is gold used in cable connectors?
The reason gold is used to coat connectors is because of its slow rate of corrosion. Copper is the “gold standard” in terms of conductivity, but copper tarnishes quickly when exposed to the elements. For this reason, bare copper connectors would be impractical. Gold tarnishes much more slowly, although it is less conductive than copper.
A tarnished connector is more likely to cause problems than an untarnished one, especially when it comes to analog signals. Gold is used to protect the copper and ensure the connector’s surface can send or receive a “clean” signal.
As copper oxidizes and starts to tarnish, its resistance increases. For this reason, gold is used in all types of cables, from stereo jacks and audio connections to Ethernet cables for networks and HDMI cables that carry a digital signal. If an HDMI connector isn’t gold plated, it’s likely plated with nickel instead.
In addition, manufacturers know that gold has a certain appeal due to its physical attributes and status. A gold-plated cable connector is more marketable than a nickel-plated one, regardless of whether there are visible advantages or not.
Gold connectors do not “enhance” your HDMI signal
One of the main products that has introduced gold connectors in the last decade is HDMI cables, which carry a digital signal. The main benefit here is the same as any other type of cable: gold is less likely to corrode. Unfortunately, there is a persistent belief that gold-plated cables somehow improve signal quality.
The problem with this is that you’ll probably only notice a degradation in signal quality if your HDMI cable fails. There are telltale signs of a faulty HDMI cable, like seeing stars or white dots on the screen. This is why you should never spend a lot of money on an HDMI cable: it either works or it doesn’t.
You’re better off spending your money on a budget-friendly cable that meets HDMI 2.1 specifications, which support higher bandwidths of up to 48Gb/s. With these cables you can transmit HDR 4K video at up to 120 frames per second, taking full advantage of the possibilities of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
If you have existing cables that do not have gold-plated connectors, there is no benefit in replacing them with ones that are gold-plated. If you’re having trouble transferring high-resolution (4K) content, HDR video, or high frame rates, your cable may be old and not meeting the required specifications.
Analog signals are a different beast
While HDMI cables are used to carry a digital signal, audio cables carry an analog one. Digital signals are made up of ones and zeros, while analog signals use a waveform that is then interpreted by the device on the receiving end.
Compare a stereo amplifier receiving an analog signal from a CD player to a TV connected to an HDMI device such as a game console. Small fluctuations in the analog waveform can be misinterpreted by the receiver, resulting in lower sound quality. An oxidized lead can increase the likelihood of minor variations in the waveform.
With an HDMI cable, there is no waveform to be “misinterpreted” – the signal either makes it intact or it doesn’t. That’s not to say an HDMI cable can’t be faulty, as mentioned earlier. But two working cables should carry the same “quality” signal, whether they cost $9 or $99.
Most of the connections we use are now digital, which are no longer prone to the same degradation in quality as the analog connections of old.
Gold connectors can mean higher quality cables
There’s another reason to go for a gold-plated connector, though it’s likely to be of little use, and that’s the overall build quality. While this is not a “golden” rule, cables with a gold-plated connector can generally be of higher quality. They are likely to be more expensive and cater to a different demographic.
It is unlikely that you will find a more robust and durable cable without gold plating. So if you’re looking for something that will last long-term, for travel or simply because you’ve had a string of bad cables that fail on yours, you might get a gold-plated connector as standard.
HDMI cables are no different from other types of cables, like the ones you use to charge your phone or connect your headphones to your amp. Spending a little more money for a cable with a tougher coating and longer-lasting connector will pay off in the long run. This is especially true for a cable that you will be connecting and disconnecting frequently.
Best HDMI Cable for Gaming/PS5
Unfortunately, audiovisual retailers tend to exaggerate cable quality, probably because AV gear is expensive anyway. Buyers may feel like they have to spend a few hundred dollars on cable to “get the most out of a TV” that costs a few thousand, but that’s just not the case. Check out How-To Geek’s best HDMI cable roundup to see how affordable our top cable recommendations are.
Gold is not essential
With most cable purchases now for digital-only connections like HDMI and USB, gold-plated connectors just aren’t that important. More importantly, don’t fall victim to marketing and pay over the odds for a cable that doesn’t offer a tangible benefit over a cheaper version.
There are some other things to look for when buying a cable, such as: B. avoiding a USB-C cable that could damage your devices and avoiding “fake” HDMI 2.1 cables.