WBT’s New Plating Process

Ray Kimber of KimberK able was in “You gotta” mode. After he told me that WBT, the 34-year-old German company that supplies connectors and cable terminations to hundreds of manufacturers worldwide, had a new, environmentally friendly facing process that made for better sound, I arranged to meet with WBT founder and CEO Wolfgang Thoerner on Sunday morning to discuss their new "WBT-PlasmaProtect" PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) plasma process.

Traditional gold, copper, and palladium galvanic electroplating baths are not only toxic and high consumers of energy, Thoerner told me, they also result in a chaotic organization of molecules on the plating surface. The new PlasmaProtect PVD plasma plating process, which was five years in development and required a new machine that cost 1 million euros, enables fine gold plating of copper surfaces with 25% less energy and no need of toxic chemical baths. The company says the new process produces “a permanently homogenous material bond which allows for broadband signal transmission which can be precisely reproduced over the long term in connectors.” The surface is also claimed to be thin, flawless, tightly sealed, non-porous, and scratch and abrasion-resistant.

WBT claims that the new process, which only works with copper, makes for “precision of the signal flow for unparalleled signal quality… [and] even more defined sound.” I wasn’t able to hear a before/after demo, so I can only report that the new process exists and that Kimber is adopting it.

“It’s difficult to describe, but it’s absolutely different” Thoerner said at the end of our chat. “Because the plating is more coherent, the sound is more organized, true, and realistic to the source.” Kimber is so sold on the process that he expects a complete changeover on Kimber cables within a few months.

COMMENTS
supamark's picture

would be not plating at all and use the same material as the conductors (generally copper) in the connectors. when the signal hits a different substance it will change so fancy plating does nothing but degrade the signal.

I get that copper oxidizes (and DeoxIt exists which moots that point), but plating is much worse.

JRT's picture

If you do use naked copper contacts, then clean and assemble with dielectric grease to fill voids in the boundary interface between the contacts. Its messy.

Using gold plated contacts largely avoids the problem, and the increased contact resistance is not important at audio frequencies.

Beware that the gold should be stripped from surfaces that would be soldered to avoid formation of metal dendrites and gold intermetallics in the soldered joint, which is a real issue.

Gold can be stripped by dipping the gold plated surface into a solder pot and wiping clean, repeated several times. Failure to do this will result in the tin component of the solder alloy leaching gold from the interface and forming metal dendrites and gold intermetallics which can lead to later fracture of the weakened soldered joint as the joint ages and metals migrate (yes they do).

Jim Austin's picture

JRT, just wanted to commend you on your well-informed but uncritical posts. You clearly know your sh*t--but have the courtesy NOT to bring an arrogant-scientist's perspective (says this somewhat arrogant former scientist). Some other posters could learn from this.

We are, after all, a subjectivist review magazine: listening, with all its strengths, flaws, and vulnerabilities, is primary, for very good reasons, which I stated in a recent AWSI essay:

https://www.stereophile.com/content/how-does-music-make-you-feel

But we also measure (although I've no idea what to measure here; since there would be no significant change in resistance of other parameters), and I, personally, think it's important to judge on technical merits, too.

So, thanks, and please keep it up.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

teched58's picture

Honestly don't understand the quote from the WBT ceo. Is it from a sci-fi movie. What does it even mean [i.e., his lips are moving, but what's coming out doesn't make any sense]

'“Because the plating is more coherent, the sound is more organized, true, and realistic to the source.”

Glotz's picture

The product has been incorporated into Kimber's (and others) lineup.

We as audiophiles assume that we deserve or have a right to know the proprietary formula of a company's IP, or a portion of the process therein.

I think we'll learn a lot more about the product over time and in these pages, when they are ready to divulge the details.

(This is WBT from Germany. Do we really think they can't be trusted or that their claims are suspect? Who else comes close to their quality of products in the space? Not everything presented on this site is fit for validation and discussion- Nor should it be in some cases.)

jimtavegia's picture

do create a problem with oxidation rates, but I am not sure how this applies to audio connectors, but electrically it does matter long term. For sure plating is an dirty, time consuming game, but current methods have lasted a long time. Regardless of the type, we are talking of pressure contacts which we all use for all of our gear and speakers.

Circuit board components are soldered, but adjacent boards are often joined by slip-pin cables. Do we all start worrying about all of this now? All the connections inside our computers and audio gear?

I don't even know how one would go about testing and proving the benefits of one over the other. How many zeros after the decimal point do we stop the worry? And then after this our speakers, the weakest link do what to the sound? I worry about my speakers and my hearing more than any cable(s) I've bought.

misterc59's picture

I've always wondered, after spending $$ on audiophile gear, there is little control over what is connected to this gear. As you mentioned, computers, and I would add smartphones as well (how many of our audiophile products are produced to be disposable?)which should cover the majority of sound sources (at least digital). I wonder what one might hear if there were "audiophile" computers and smartphones? We may never know... I won't even get into the recording realm of our hobby.
I guess we can only control what we can control. Happy listening!

Cheers,
Terry

tonykaz's picture

Is that true ?

Do we have anyone with a Chemical Background to address this ?

"Plating is more coherent" helps explain why my 24 Karat Gold Plated Interconnects sound more "Organized" than my cheap Monoprice 14 Karat 1M Interconnects.

WBT Plating Process seems an ideal solution to help part wealthy Audiophiles from their $$,$$$s.

Tony in Venice

ps. how many folks in RMAF attendance wear Phonak Hearing devices or simply need Hearing Aid devices ? Betcha it's a high percentage !

avanti1960's picture

about an interesting new process. Looking forward to purchasing some new WBT connectors.
Hopefully they will apply this plating process to their banana plugs and spade terminals- and that we will be able to clearly determine this prior to purchase.

Cyclotronguy's picture

PVD coatings are typically much thinner and more uniform than electro-plating. More to the point however the adhesion is usually much better, 5x better bond to the base assuming proper prep.

I'm not at all up on the finer points of the material science involved here, but the better adhesion could very well result in better electrical characteristics if the process is properly controlled

Lack of waste stream being the "cherry on top"

JRT's picture

To your point, I suspect that the cost of compliance to EU's and Germany's environmental regulations is the driving factor in this, in changing from electroplating to PVD, and reduced use of precious metals is a large side benefit.

Can marketing find a way to spin that process as a feature, the feature as a benefit, the benefit as delivering the desired value, in moving the system that much nearer to perfection? Surely that is what the marketing people do.

https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how-to-sell-value-benefits-or-features.html

Reminiscent of:

Lucky Strike
"Its Toasted!"
No Throat Irritation No Cough.

http://tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_web/images/tobacco_ads/freshness/its_toasted/medium/toasted_17.jpg

No, that vintage advert with George M. Cohan is not spam. Rather, it is music related.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Does 'Tastes great, less filling' belongs in this group? :-) ........

JRT's picture

I have not seen anything new reported on that in some long while.

dial's picture

In the past 90's, a french brand called Supershield was selling cables and good quality cinch and bananas. Sadly they are long out of business (also the case for l'Atelier audio racks, sob sob). So now I buy WBT cinch connectors but I complain about their price, six times more than a XLR Neutrik, which is better and more difficult to produce ! Also it doesn't seem that a lot of manufacturers use their sockets or their plugs, perhaps Kimber for the loudspeakers and cinch cables (if I understand your article ?).

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