There are a number of manufacturers of electronics that love to tout if their products include gold plating on connectors. The manufacturers of earbuds are no different and they often list this gold plug as a significant selling point. However, there are only a few people who understand what the specific benefits of gold plating are, besides the bragging point and aesthetic value.
Benefits Offered by Gold Plating
The primary benefit offered by using gold for electronic equipment is that gold is completely resistant to corrosion. There are a number of different types of corrosion, and a number of other metals, such as copper, are susceptible to this. This is the reason the Statue of Liberty is green in color today, even though it is made from copper. The surface is oxidized.
In an electronic device, when the corrosion begins to build up, it will reduce conductivity between the electrical connections. If corrosion continues to build between the conductive materials, then the signal will no longer be able to pass through. If you have ever seen the corrosion that can build up on a car battery, you are familiar with this issue.
However, gold is almost completely impervious to this corrosion when exposed to normal conditions. This is the primary selling point of gold plating for electrical applications. Unless you happen to use the device too close to nitro-hydrochloric acid, there should never be an issue with corrosion for connectors that utilize gold plating.
How much better is Gold than Other Types of Materials?
In various electronic devices, the resistance that gold has to corrosion is really the only ‘edge’ it offers over other metals that are much more susceptible to corrosion or tarnish. In fact, gold is actually a weaker option than silver or copper. Silver is considered the most conductive metal, which is followed directly by copper and then gold. It is these differences in conductivity that are small enough that when it is in regard to the audio signals, it is thought of as being negligible.
Is Gold Plating Worth the Additional Cost?
This depends on what the additional cost actually is. It is more and more common for manufacturers to use gold plating, since it adds a flashy selling point. If you find another product without gold connectors and the price difference is very small, it makes sense to go for the gold. However, if there is a larger markup then sticking with the more affordable option is the best option.