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Positive Feedback ISSUE
We sent out the same 20 questions to 50 manufacturers, the following are their responses. The intent of the survey is to address basic questions as to design along with any questions raging on various sites, while minimizing potential chest-thumping and friendly, or unfriendly, bashing of others....
David Stanard of Silver Circle Audio
PFO Why do cables make a difference? Interconnects, speaker, and AC cords?
David Stanard Different metals conduct electricity differently. Not all copper conducts the same, owing to variations in its composition—nothing is pure regardless of what advertisers say. Different combinations of metals also conduct electricity differently. This difference in conductivity, whether defined as a capacitance or inductance difference, results in a different sound from a loudspeaker. Depending on one's ears, this can be good or bad.
Power cords - The electricity that goes from an amplifier to a loudspeaker is not manufactured in the amp; it comes from the wall (from somewhere distant. If you have crappy electricity (i.e.: noisy) going into your system, you will have crappier sound coming from the speakers than you would have if it were clean pure power. Dedicated lines are good if the power coming in is clean. A dedicated line just ensures there is nothing else on the circuit with audio gear. Common mode noise—an example of which is the noise generated by an electric motor near a line—is one source of grunge on an AC line. A shielded power cord is one step in removing or eliminating common mode noise. Power cords do make a difference.
PFO What about metals.... copper versus silver versus gold versus what? What about blends?
DS In talking about metals in audio use, you have to separate the physics from the audiophile anecdote. The 2 best conductors (i.e.: those with the lowest resistance) are #1 silver and #2 copper. Other metals are used in audio applications but not because of their conductivity. Gold, for instance, is not a superb conductor, but does not corrode or oxidize as do silver and copper. Rhodium is said by some to impart a metallic ring to audio signals. Others say they like the sound. Rhodium is "hard," shiny and does not corrode. It's also getting pricey.
My preference in conductors for audio is silver-plated copper. Being a subjectivist, in listening tests I consistently heard much better mid-range detail, pure flowing highs, and a tight, controlled bass when using silver-plated copper. The silver plating on copper tends to reduce the skin effect at high frequencies.
PFO What about dielectrics... Teflon versus what?
DS The plastic coating on an electrical cord is an insulator. The glass or ceramic plates used to support power lines and keep them from shorting out to the ground are insulators. Pretty much anytime a nonmetallic solid is used in an electrical device it's called an insulator. Perhaps the only time the word dielectric is used is in reference to the nonconducting layer of a capacitor. http://hypertextbook.com/physics/electricity/dielectrics/
Teflon is an excellent insulator and I use it almost exclusively. That said, the insulators in the wire I use for our Vesuvius power cords contains Teflon™ and glass. It helps produce a cable that transmits electrical impulses extremely quickly.
PFO What about measurements... what do they tell us? What do they not tell us?
DS Measurements tell us exactly that: what something measures. You can measure the capacitance, resistance, inductance, and conductance of a wire, but you cannot measure how it sounds to any given pair of ears.
PFO What about connectors... how important?
DS An audio system (or video system, for that matter) is a chain of events and equipment. Any part of that chain, from the mains breakers, to the case enclosing a speaker system, can either add to or detract from the overall perception of the final sound. Notice I didn't say, "improve." Improvement is a subjective observation.
PFO Why this geometry... ribbon, twisted, braded, spiraled...?
DS You could write a volume just on this topic alone. We have found that in certain of our cables a counterclockwise helical twist helps to time-align signals.
PFO What about cryoing? What is going on with this?
DS Certain of our connectors are cryo'd because that is part of the manufacturing process of a particular vendor. I have heard folks say that cryo'd tubes sound better. A discussion thread I read said that although initial perceptions of a cryo'd part were very positive, subsequent observations were less so.
PFO Why shielding? Why not shielding?
DS Shielding is important for a variety of reasons. In power cords, certain technical papers have indicated that a shielded power cord is one good way—among several ways—to help eliminate "common mode" noise from a power line.
Interconnects and speaker cables carry a very delicate signal that is negatively affected by extraneous RF and EMI. Shielding an interconnect or loudspeaker cable lowers the noise floor considerably.
PFO What about run-in? Why is/isn't it important?
DS Run in for a power cord is different than for an IC or speaker cable. For a power cord, the electricity passing through it is of a higher magnitude than that passing through. The insulator (audio jargon: dielectric) heats up when electricity passes through the conductor it is insulating and changes the nature of its conductivity. A power cord—even when run in—will sound significantly different 15 - 30 minutes after equipment has been turned on than it did initially.
Whether you believe in run in or not, listening to a system with new cables over a period of time will reveal that the perceived nature of the sound changes over time. So, run in makes a difference. This can be as much as 100 hours of time with a signal passing through the conductors.
PFO What about lengths? Why are/aren't they important?
DS Any basic electricity primer will have a table that lists wire sizes and their various conductivities, capacitances, and inductances. Any wire of a certain AWG will have greater resistance the longer it gets. Does it change the perceived nature of the sound? Probably. There are some that say a speaker cable should never be less than 8 feet in length. Something in the logic seems awry. What if an amp were hardwired to a speaker? Would that suboptimize the perceived nature of the sound?
PFO What is directionality?
DS Directionality is the concept that says that molecules (or atoms. Maybe neutrinos. Maybe spaceballs) align within a conductor in one particular direction in the face of electrical current flow. I think that initially, copper is copper and silver is silver, but in the face of current flow and EMF, molecules (if not the planets) within a wire realign.
With respect to cables, our speaker cables and ICs are marked with directionality arrows to indicate to a customer in which direction a cable should be connected. This is because we use a secondary shield that should only be connected at the source end. Directionality is crucial with these products.
PFO How did you get into this?
DS In the late 1990s, I moved to Houston to found a company called Extremetix (www.extremetix.com) that has a proprietary online ticketing software. When my tenure with that company ended, I began buying and selling audio gear online and part of that audio gear was cables. As part of a holdover from my inquisitive childhood, I began dissecting various cables only to discover that some of the "high-priced spread" was truly garbage with nice clothes. After a year of research, I found that, regardless of what certain nay Sayers feel, cables do make a difference. Whether it is positive or negative is a subjective perception.
I found that certain copper has properties that enhance bass reproduction, while silver-plated copper enhances mid-range and highs significantly. Combinations of these 2 metals yielded nice cables.
PFO What is your fundamental design philosophy/goal?
The design goal and philosophy are intertwined. We want to manufacture high-quality cables (and other audio gear) that truly make a positive difference in a customer's audio/video system while not depleting the 401K. I think it is important to provide customers with products that provide a high price/performance ratio. You get a lot for what you pay.
PFO Why these?
DS Why not? As Flip Wilson once said, "A lie is as good as the truth if you get someone to believe it." Some manufacturers thrive on that business model. I would prefer to build rock-solid products that sell for a reasonable multiple of the landed cost and hope that the consumer can tell the difference.
PFO How do you approach accomplishing those philosophies/goals?
DS I think that any manufacturer or vendor has a fiduciary responsibility to minimize expenditures while maximizing income. This is simply double entry bookkeeping. Keep designs simple, expenses low, and put all the money into the highest quality components available.
PFO How successful do you feel you have been at achieving the goals that you have set for yourself?
DS Business has grown substantially each year we have been in operation. We have discontinued certain products and introduced new ones that complement existing lines. The power conditioners we make were a direct outgrowth of the power cord line. People wanted an outlet box to use with the power cords and that concept grew to the existing pure power one power conditioners.
PFO How do you plan to push beyond what you have already accomplished?
DS As Satchel Paige said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." It is important to look for new solutions to old questions and in answering the questions, provide new and better products.
PFO Where is this all heading?
DS Along the lines of directionality.
PFO Others that you admire?
DS Another Wilson, Dave this time. He has a successful business model, drives nice cars and wears nice watches. Oh, did you mean cable guys? Ray Kimber, among others.