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Silclear Contact Enhancer: A Cautionary Tale


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For me, the most effective and reasonable contact cleaner has always been periodic separation, inspection, cleaning, and reassembly of tubes in sockets, cable connectors, and everything else that conducts signal and separates.  I discovered in my teens that the RCA connectors for the reverb tanks in my guitar amplifiers started looking grungy after only a few months (I grew up in the damp, salt air of the Jersey shore). So I unplugged them every few months, blew them off/out (my father had an air compressor), cleaned them with alcohol on a swab, and plugged them back in. I extended this practice to my audio equipment, with a twist - literally.  I separated and cleaned all the RCAs in my signal chain every 4 to 6 months, but I also reached back there every few weeks to simply twist the plugs back and forth a few degrees. I believed (and still do ) that this would break up any incipient oxide forming at the interfaces around the pins and inside the ground "shield". 


I started doing it with every removable tube and connector I had - binding posts, bananas, spade lugs, line plugs, etc. And every once in a while, it made a difference and/or I found early wear, looseness, or breakage that would have become a failure. So every year or so, I do tube, cable and connector maintenance on all my systems (audio, live sound reinforcement, guitar and keyboard amps, etc).  Modern connectors are made of materials far more resistant to corrosion than those old RCA plugs and jacks were, so it's probably unnecessary.  But it makes me feel good, and it costs nothing. Thankfully (for my equipment and cars, although I'd love to live on the ocean again for almost every other reason), I moved away from the shore 55 years ago, so humidity is no longer the scourge of my hobbies.


It's also worth noting that resistance is not the only factor in pin and connector hygiene.  Once a layer of less-than-completely-conductive material (e.g. oxidation) builds up between two conductive surfaces, you have a capacitor. I have no idea how much of a capacitor is created by a few years of oxidation between connecting surfaces, but I do know that I and others can clearly hear the effect of cable capacitance on the sound of our electric guitars (in-line capacitors are high pass filters). I doubt that it matters on tube pins, but it could on audio connectors.


FWIW, there are many tube socket brushes, audio connector cleaning tools etc out there. I've never used any, but they do have some appeal.

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