questionshow important is it to have gold plated 3.5 mm…

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OK Here is my take on it. Unless you have a high end audio system do not waste your money. By high end I mean close to $10K or above. Also if you do live near a beach or a very humid area then I would also say go for it but only if your speaker connections and your amp or input device also have Gold fittings. Chances are if you are buying gold then your wire will be thicker giving you less resistance which is better. This is important on long speaker runs. I won;t repeat what was said regarding it being a better conductor or about it oxidation since I agree it is better but may not be necessarily useful unless the rest of your systems matchs up/ BTW I have gold on one of my system and standard on my others. Just so you know I was an audio salesman some 25 years back.

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What is the application? If you are connecting a PMP which plays lossy 128 kb MP3s via an indifferent stereo system I'd say don't bother.

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Sorry I was not clear. The hum was with the copper cables no matter the plating. The copper cable acts as an antenna, so that is what caused the hiss when there was no sound at high volume. The digital audio solved this. The ground loop was caused by an imbalance in my equipment. I could get it to go way with the copper by unhooking some equipment but this was unacceptable. The digital audio solved this too.

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I switched to digital optical audio cables. The difference was so surprising I double checked the change was not a caused by my move of the equipment. I have a audio hum I googled it and it is called a ground loop. Even at very high volumes the silences are silent, no more white noise.

If you want a true improvement check them out, if your equipment supports them.

http://www.monoprice.com/products/subdepartment.asp?c_id=102&cp_id=10229

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Almost absolutely not.
Most silver-colored cables are plated with nickel or chrome. These are hard metals that are corrosion resistant and usually hold up well. These metals also conduct electricity well. That being said, the base metal is probably copper and it conducts electricity very well.

The gold plated plugs are plated with gold (well, duh!). It's still on top of the same base metal (copper). While it is true that gold is more conductive than nickel or chrome, the advantage is minimal. The biggest advantage is that it is even more resistant to corrosion than nickel or chrome.

If you will be using the plugs in a consistently wet and/or salty environment (your sweaty pocket while you're running) then go for the gold. If you're just tuning out the people on the bus, then nickel/chrome should be sufficient.

Assuming the plugs are brand new, there will be a tiny (not noticeable to the human ear) volume difference between the two due to the difference in conductance.

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I agree with @narfcake and @djbowman . If you can hear it, then it's fine. Never had any corrosion issues here.

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Buy one of each, try them both. If one provides better quality, return the other. If the quality is equal, return the cheaper one.

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So what are they reported to do ? Ive never had a audo jack rust ....

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If it fits and it works, it's good enough. The gold plating is moreso that it doesn't oxidize as readily. Either way, Monoprice has them at great prices.