A Few Words About A Few Words
When Pure Copper doesn't mean Pure Copper
A little further down this page, I speak about my frustration with this industry as it pertains to the build quality your hard-earned money buys you. Sadly, my frustration doesn't end there.
At the risk of falling hopelessly down a rabbit hole, I'd like to touch on another area that causes me just as much grief - material terminology.
Made with 7N, 8N... 9N Copper!
Alright, let's start with the basics.
The "N" used in purity stands for 9's, which refers to the percentage of Copper in a piece of Copper (not a typo). So, 4N is 99.99% Copper, 5N is 99.999%, yada, yada, yada.
So with that established, I have some news to share with you - with only a few rare exceptions, using Copper with a purity beyond 4N is barely even feasible.
In addition, you need highly specialized equipment to take measurements beyond 4N, and said measurements can only be made if the Copper is in rod form.
That last part is key, because even if you started with 6N Copper rod (for example), it would be virtually impossible to maintain that purity throughout the process of manufacturing a termination/plug (A/C or IEC, Spade, Banana, etc.). So, even if (a big if) the copper in your cable was 6N, you'd have a bottleneck on either end with the lower purity terminations/plugs anyway, so what would be the point?
When I state purity, it's what is in the finished product [what matters]; for the sake of synergy, it's all 4N.
By the way, that bottleneck principle also applies when using wire with special casting processes (OCC, etc.), as plugs are rarely made with those same materials. That said, a tip of the hat goes to Neotech, as they match the wire and plug material (UP-OCC), but it lists for $1000 and they claim it is a 9 AWG power cable; for some perspective, 'The Point One' is around 1/4 that price and contains over 4-times the conductive material (yeah, you read that right).
I'm not finished with this purity thing yet, so buckle up because here's another little tidbit of science, and it's a doozy.
It concerns the materials that make up the remaining 0.01% (in the case of 4N), IE. The stuff being removed to increase purity. Those materials include Lead, Tin, and Nickel, just to name a few.
Now, here's comes the doozy of a fact.
What material do you think makes up the largest [by FAR] part of Copper impurities?
I'll give you a hint - it's a metal that those of us who share an interest in this crazy hobby know very well.
And the winner is.... Silver!
That's right folks.
Most of the material taken OUT of Copper to increase its purity, is the metal some folks pay an arm, leg, and foot to have IN their cables.
"Nawaz, you're full of sh_t!", you say? Well, you and my wife would get along famously.
However, I don't B.S. when it comes to science, and you can see/read for yourself here.
To be clear, I am not claiming 4N is better because it contains more Silver than its higher purity cousins, I am only saying "high purity Copper" claims are more about marketing than real world performance.
Now on to an often overlooked aspect of construction materials - Copper content.
Copper purity is often talked about, but Copper content is something else entirely, and it's rarely talked about. One of the reasons for this is both purity and content are measured as a percentage, so it's easy to conflate/confuse the numbers. I'm still going to quickly talk about it though, because it is absolutely vital information to have in order to understand what separates one plug from another.
To understand why Copper content is such a big deal, we'll start by establishing that all plugs are made with metal alloys, which simply means a mix of at least 2 different metals. Copper on its own is too soft to hold a shape, so other (harder) materials must be added, thereby making an alloy. In another cruel twist, those materials have lower conductivity, so you want to keep/use as much Copper as possible.
With that in mind, you can now imagine how/why Copper content makes a dramatic difference in the transmission quality and efficiency of a plug. Industry wide, Copper content runs from 30% to 98% in plugs (over 98% would make the finished product too soft), and 65% Copper/35% Zinc (a.k.a. Brass) is by far the most common alloy used.
The Copper content of my primary plugs is 97-98% and they are all Gold-Plated, although I do offer a few plugs with Rhodium plating, and even a few with no plating at all if that's your preference. Each material/process has unique characteristics, which I'm happy to discuss in detail if you want to get in touch.
I encourage you to further explore this topic (if it doesn't make your eyes completely glaze over), but bear in mind there are basically no rules regarding material terminology (truth/accuracy) in advertising, so please be vigilant.
Deconstructing a $1500 Cable
(click on an area to zoom in)
I want to be clear about this cable, the manufacturer of said cable, and the purpose of this exercise.
This was not done to disparage the cable or the manufacturer, or to show their efforts as being sub-par.
The manufacturer of this cable does some really good work, which you can get a glimpse of here, and there is no question in my mind that there is sound science and great care put in to their research and development.
They have a well-earned solid reputation in this industry, and I am not disputing that.
However, by their own admission, construction materials and techniques matter a great deal. While this particular cable is not poorly made (I have seen much worse), when shown beside the construction of 'The Point One', it does help illustrate the point that you can get a great deal more for your money than you may have thought possible.
That was the sole purpose behind this exercise, and I hope it served its purpose.
By the way, I cleaned and polished those plugs before I took everything apart, which is to say that brass plugs don't typically look that good. This cable belonged to a local client, who brought it to me for a plug swap (20 Amp to 15 Amp). However, once he saw what was under the hood (after I removed the IEC plug), he told me to toss it in the trash and just bought another cable from me. You can read some of his comments here.
Before I move on, here is another $1000+ cable that leaves me scratching my head; do manufacturers really think this is all they should give you for the kind of money they are asking for?
'The Point One' Construction
Construction photos coming soon*
*I'm applying for patents for some of my construction techniques and materials, so I need to keep a few things "close to the vest" for now