Our interconnects and speaker cables are minimalist designs which follow Western Electric design principles: ultra low capacitance and minimal use of plastic (only small bits of heat shrink). We use cotton sleeving in place of Teflon.
Material selection for connectors is as critical to the end results as wire and architecture.
Many manufacturers’ connector design decisions are influenced by cosmetics at the expense of sound.
One example is the popularity of using an intermediate layer of nickel plating over the base metal (finishing off with gold or rhodium). This nickel layer serves only to facilitate a shiny finish, at the expense of sonics.
We think that cables are tools and not jewels, and Furutech and ETI’s obsessive attention to their connectors’ metallurgy is but one reason we specify them for our cabling. Scroll down for more information about ETI and Furutech.
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.
Of course, capacitance is only part of the story. Low capacitance doesn’t guarantee good sound, but high capacitance is most certainly its enemy.
Out with Teflon
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, then you need to hear our cotton-sleeved, polyester-free interconnects and speaker cables.
Cotton is the next best thing to air in terms of its dielectric qualities. Every demo we’ve performed has resulted in unanimous preference for cotton over polyester braid. We comment further about it in this blog post, this post, and this post.
We demonstrate this effect by slipping polyester braid over our cables. To date, not a single person has preferred the sound of the polyester. The polyester adds a “gritty” overlay to the upper frequencies.
Audiophiles have taken to using cable lifters for the same reason we’ve eliminated polyester braid – because of an electrostatic effect whether it be from braid, or a cable’s proximity to a synthetic carpet.
60 Minute Break-in
It so happens that the best sounding materials have the most benign dielectric, requiring little to no break-in. How does it get better than that? By the time your system is warmed up, your signal cables are broken in!
We have a word for components with long break-in periods: unstable. You’ll never hear us telling you to wait for 400 hours to break in your interconnects or speaker cables.
For compliance and safety reasons, our power cables are fully jacketed. They are burned in at the factory for 72 hours and after an hour in your system, they reach full performance.
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.
We’ve had excellent results with litz in our interconnects.
Tin Plated Copper
With our speaker cables, we’ve found that crimping the connectors results in superior signal transfer, compared to soldered connections.
Unfortunately, Litz requires tinning the ends in a solder pot to remove the enamel insulation prior to termination. This works well with interconnects, whose connectors must be soldered.
With speaker cables, the presence of solder on the litz leads results in an inferior cable when either crimped or soldered in comparison with tin platted copper wire crimped to the connectors.
As much as we like litz, it’s not the right solution for speaker cables.
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 Eichman Bullet connector which subsequently became the KLE connector. If you’re interested in tracing ETI’s ancestry, click this link (opens in new window). These were the first low mass connectors introduced to the audiophile community and they continue to set the benchmark in performance, in spite of being copied by several well-known companies.
ETI continues raising the bar, and their Kryo line is the latest expression of this design. The contacts are fabricated from Tellurium copper with silver plating. No intermediate layer of nickel is applied. Manufacturers add a layer of nickel for cosmetic purposes, at the expense of performance.
The ground pin on these connectors is of a harder copper, to provide durability and a more secure connection. Lastly, an optimized cryogenic protocol is applied to these connectors.
Similar attention was paid to their XLR connectors, and ETI re-engineered the female XLR. Where common industry practice is to use rolled brass base sheet to form the female pins, ETI considered brass to be unacceptable. For mechanical reasons, a rolled copper pin, is impractical, and they developed a CNC machining process (optimizing the conductor’s wall thickness) to create the female pins from solid Tellurium copper bar stock.