The importance of the last step in developing a product is all too frequently skipped.
Of course, a lot goes into the concept stage, along with the product’s design, development and prototyping, but moving forward into production requires you to take one last sober look at your design to see whether you’ve met your targets.
Be Your Own worst Critic
You need to be willing to tip over game board and start over.
Note (October, 2019): since this post was first published, we shook the game board up a bit further with the substitution of ETI Kryo connectors and replacing the polyester outer jacket with cotton. More about this: here and here. The improvement is not subtle and all of our customers were offered a generous upgrade (to rebuild their cables).
It’s About Balance
Our litz cables are a case in point. Producing a sonically viable design which is at the same time robust, are two design goals that are at odds with each other.
Reinforcing the cable by adopting the audiophile approved, “garden hose” architecture kills the sound.
Make it too delicate and it will fail in the field.
Ruffling Some Feathers
Contrary to the good press it receives in the audiophile world, we’ve found Teflon to “bleach” out the tone colors, squash dynamics and “sanitize” the sound.
The fact that Teflon based parts have long long break-in periods (typically 300-400 hours) would be barely tolerable if the material ultimately delivered the sonic goods.
Even worse, the break-in path for Teflon looks like a stock market graph – trending in a general direction, but reversing its course multiple times along the way. It gets worse on its path to getting “better” (to the extent that it really gets better).
How many audiophiles give up on a component before it’s “properly” broken in?
One of the watershed moments in the development of the NiWatt amplifiers was when we eliminated Teflon from the signal path (disclosure: the filament wires are Teflon jacketed as a safety precaution). That this sped up the amplifiers’ break-in was a secondary (but much appreciated) bonus.
As we implied above, a cable has to withstand being plugged and unplugged, and in service of this requirement, we confess to using a bit of Teflon in our interconnects (about an inch) in order to protect the fragile litz wire at the strain-relief points. Knowing when to say “when” is the key, and fortunately, this little material has proven to be benign.
Audio Jewelry & Perceived Value
Garden hoses give you more perceived value for your dollar – especially if you’re purchasing audio by the pound (or by the kilo, for the majority of the world). If you value flexible cable runs and sonics however, the value proposition is quite the opposite of the “massive = good” philosophy.
The minimalist plugs originally conceived of by Keith Eichman and subsequently refined by ETI don’t revel their benefits from a casual inspection, but they’re yet another example of a balanced, innovative design.
This family of connectors is by no means the only design which reduce the material mass, but their grounding scheme applies some basic principles that have been overlooked by all other connectors we’re aware of.
You’re buying a “tool” to perform a stated task, and not jewelry, right?