Tried and true
Our Wind River interconnects are minimalist designs which follow Western Electric design principles: ultra low capacitance, minimal use of plastic, and no Teflon.
They are extremely labor intensive to build (about 4 hours to build a 1m pair).
Our Wind River interconnects use cotton sleeving in place of polyester braid. We'll have more to say about this in a moment.
To meet a lower price point, our Headwaters interconnects are jacketed, but the plastic used is the much more audio-friendly PVC.
A word about capacitance
The professional audio world knows the importance of low capacitance cables, but it’s generally glossed over in most manufacturers’ specifications.
This is only part of the story. Low capacitance doesn’t guarantee good sound, but high capacitance is most certainly its enemy.
Out with Teflon
It's not in our cookware, and it's not in our cables.
While having very low capacitance, our experiments with Teflon insulation yielded comments from our listening panel which included words like: “sanitized”, “threadbare”, “uninvolving”, and “it sounds like hi-fi instead of music”. One individual commented that the presentation reminded them of an over-damped listening room.
We had similar observations about the use of Teflon during development of the NiWatt amplifier, and we eliminated it from our design during early prototyping stages.
About cotton sleeving:
If you’re using cable lifters to good effect, we suspect you'll hear the same effect with our cotton-sleeved, Teflon-free, polyester-free interconnects and speaker cables.
Cotton is the next best thing to air in terms of its dielectric qualities.
We demonstrate the effect by slipping polyester braid over our cables. In this link (click the photo), we did the reverse - removing the polyester braid from a cable - right in front of our customer.
To date, not a single person has preferred the sound of the polyester. The polyester adds a “gritty” overlay to the upper frequencies. You don't know it's gone, until ... it's gone.
Due to its construction, litz has extraordinary high frequency performance, and when used in the appropriate gauge, transmits full bandwidth. You’ve likely read about skin effect, so we won’t repeat ourselves, but a good overview of litz can be found here if you’re interested.
The only negative is that it is extremely labor intensive to work with and very difficult to fabricate in longer lengths.
Having said that, the results are worth it for interconnects.
Tin Plated Copper Speaker Cables
No, our wire is not made by Dueland. We specify it for ourselves. As much as we like litz, it’s not the right solution for speaker cables.
With our speaker cables, we’ve found that a mechanical connection is superior to a soldered one, and our connector vendors (both ETI and Furutech) agree.
As much as we like litz for our interconnects, the first step in their preparation is to strip the enamel insulation from the ultra-fine wires, and the only way to perform this "tinning" operation is with a solder pot.
After this "tinning" operation, soldered litz is superior to crimping it, but both are inferior to a mechanically terminated connection employing tin plated, stranded copper.
Don't confuse "tin plated copper" (actual tin) with "tinned litz" (solder).
Note: we sell both ETI's and Furutech's connectors as individual parts. Refer to the accessories section of our products page for details, and contact us if you have any questions.
Material selection for connectors is as critical to the end results as is wire and architecture.
Our two favorite tonearm manufacturers (guess who) specify Furutech and ETI connectors for their cables. We agree, that connectors from these two companies add the least coloration to the signal.
Furutech Spade Lugs and Bananas
These are the connectors of choice for our speaker cables.
The Furutech banana is the first locking banana we’ve found to show no sonic compromise to spade lugs.
The ergonomic design of their locking mechanism is a bonus that’s not lost on us, but it would be meaningless if they didn’t deliver the “sonic goods”.
ETI's lineage lies in the original Eichman RCA Bullet Plug which was actually designed and manufactured for Eichman by ETI. This link traces ETI’s lineage (opens in new window).
Subsequently, ETI improved on the design and began manufacturing the RCAs under license from Eichman, with the first product being the Kryo RCA.
All of their Kryo signal products are fabricated from Tellurium copper with silver plating.
The ground pin on these RCA connectors is a harder copper, to provide durability and a more secure connection.
Lastly, an optimized cryogenic protocol is applied to these connectors.
There is no intermediate layer of nickel. Manufacturers add a layer of nickel for cosmetic purposes, at the expense of performance, and you won't find either nickel or brass in an ETI connector.
Their engineering team didn't stop there, and similar attention was paid to their XLR connectors, with a re-engineered XLR.
Where common industry practice is to use rolled brass sheet to form the female pins, ETI considers brass to be an unacceptable material for use in an audio connector.
Unfortunately, a rolled rolled tellurium copper pin is too soft (mechanical strength), and they developed a CNC machining process to create the female pins from solid Tellurium copper bar stock.
The careful viewer will note the use of Teflon in these connectors. Much as we don't like it, the overall superiority of the design outweighs this.
ETI didn't stop there, and they've recently released a Legato line of power connectors as well as wall outlets.
Needless to say, the mechanical construction is second to none, and the performance matches it.