ONLINE - ISSUE 30
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....
Len Miller and Jed Hacker of Soundstring
PFO Why do cables make a difference? Interconnects, speaker and AC cords?
Len Miller Cables act as a bridge or conduit. They match the impedance characteristics of transformer controlled equipment. The size or gauge of cables is specifically designed for applications within a range of parameters for their impedance, capacitance and velocity of propagation (VOP). They are engineered to elicit a reasonable facsimile of what they transmit. Interconnects and speaker cables transmit frequencies (high, mid and low range). Power cords transmit line voltage.
PFO What about metals …copper vs. silver vs. gold vs. what? What about blends?
LM Copper (pure electrolytic copper) is the most permeable and cost effective metal we have on this planet for voltage conductivity. Pure silver and pure gold are too expensive. Silver or gold plated copper acts as a frequency blanket. The signal travels around (on the surface) of the plated area providing faster signal transfer. However, this can be problematic in the transmission of audio frequencies. You would have to use a thicker, more expensive plating for the conductor to be more permeable and stable. Blends prove redundancy for these applications. For heavy duty industrial, aerospace and many other applications, blends can be better. For the best possible voltage control and sound reproduction in audio, blends are not recommended.
PFO What about dielectrics …Teflon vs. what?
LM The dielectric materials used to insulate speaker and interconnect cables can and do create varying results in the performance of these cables. For the human hearing range, PVC is the most common, widely used and cost effective dielectric material. Teflon and Solid Polyethylene have faster attack and release properties. All three can be used to great advantage, depending upon application and each individual's listening preferences.
PFO What about no dielectric?
LM No dielectric (insulation) is the perceived optimum. However, atmospheric exposure precludes this from the reality of universal applications. There is no perfect vacuum. Prolonged atmospheric exposure for any conductive metal suited to voltage transfer and sound reproduction will result in oxidation, greatly reducing it's effectiveness and performance.
PFO What about measurements …what do they tell us? What do they not tell us?
LM Measurements present us with a guideline of performance indicators for specific uses. They provide a comparison for the performance of individual cables with different designs, dielectrics, gauges and materials. They are not always a barometer of a cable's performance. They should be considered as guides and comparisons for how individual cable designs and constructions compare with each other, or the perceived "optimum" values, depending upon the dielectric material used, wall thickness, etc.
PFO What about connectors …how important?
LM Great cable designs and performance can be compromised by connector quality and design. The least possible amount of metal in connectors, especially interconnects, and no solder is preferable. Whenever and wherever possible, connectors should be made of copper with 14K Gold plating. Other base metals with gold plating will work, but the conductivity of copper as a base metal will afford better overall performance.
PFO Why this geometry …ribbon, twisted, braided, spiraled?
LM Geometry is the most important design criteria for accuracy in the performance of an audio cable. The size of the stranding, whether braided, twisted or spiraled, are determined to control audio frequencies. Ribbons are OK, if designed correctly to avoid oscillation problems.
PFO What about cryoing? What is going on with this?
LM Cryogenics, or freezing in liquid nitrogen to alter crystalline structure, is not yet a fully proven, widely accepted practice. It's too soon to tell if the projected long term benefits can or will be substantiated successfully.
PFO Why shielding? Why not shielding?
LM Shielding for low level circuits, in particular magnetic phono cartridges and tape heads, is necessary for hum rejection. Better cable design geometry negates shielding for almost everything else.
PFO What about run-in? Why is/isn't it important?
LM Run-in, or burn-in time should be the sonic character or signature of a cable. It Should be immediately evident within several minutes after first connecting the cable(s) and powering up the components they are connected to. Over the next five to fifty hours the cable(s) become "conditioned" as they are introduced to other electro conveyance components.
PFO What about lengths? Why are/aren't they important?
LM The length of interconnect cables, especially those terminated with RCA plugs can be very important, depending upon each cable's design criteria. Balanced interconnect cables with XLR plugs do not have this drawback, nor are home theater requirements dependent on cable length. The length of speaker cables should not affect component and system performance, especially if properly designed and gauged to allow full frequency flow. The same is true for power supply cables. If properly designed for full voltage flow, and gauged to handle the wattage and amperage draw of the components they power, length plays no major role.
PFO What is directionality?
LM Directionality is the flow of electrons traveling through a cable. In a multi-conductor shielded cable, the flow and directionality goes from the end where the shield is attached to the connector. In a single conductor shielded cable, the shield is attached as the negative side, per application.
PFO How did you get into this?
LM Jed Hacker the designer and inventor of our patented and patent pending cables, power supply cords and the world's first "Low Mass" RCA plug, was a musical director for a New York City based Broadcast Satellite Delivery Service. He had a vision for bringing unique, high performance multi-conductor cable designs to the audio industry that would greatly enhance component performance and the quality of sound reproduction. He brought these concepts and cable designs to Len Miller, the owner of Superior Insulated Wire Corporation, a prime manufacturer of consumer electronic wires, cables and cable assemblies since 1945. Len understood and appreciated Jed's ideas. He started making prototypes for Jed soon thereafter. The performance of the prototypes was so promising that Len contacted his cousin Andy Miller, the owner of Lion Cords Division of Astrophonic Corp. of America, a prime manufacturer of molded power supply cords and related products since 1946. They joined forces with Jed to produce the bulk cables convert them into power supply cords, interconnect and speaker cables, and then to package, advertise and sell them to the high end audio marketplace.
PFO What is your fundamental design philosophy/goal?
LM The ultimate goal is a straight wire with gain! The fundamental design philosophy is to find a way to achieve that goal. The premise of Jed's designs for all of our cables is based upon utilizing multi-conductor constructions, with specific stranding and gauges, in progressive geometric designs (patterns) that will optimize frequency and voltage flow. That is, to allow voltage and frequencies flowing through the cables to seek the path of least resistance.
PFO Why these?
LM To make the performance of the cables as efficient as possible without altering incoming information.
PFO How do approach accomplishing those philosophies/goals?
LM There are several factors. Ohm's Law; laboratory testing, some computer modeling; designing each cable from the inside out for total frequency propagation; knowledge of metallurgy is also a basic issue and last, but not least, LISTENING!
PFO How successful do you feel you have been at achieving the goals that you have set for yourself?
Jed Hacker "I can't say for myself. I let other people do that." Len: "I feel the same. Jed is responsible for all the design work and formulation of The combinations of wires, gauges and stranding we use to build our products. The performance level of audio systems depends upon how well all the Individual components perform as a team. In my mind, the biggest variable is how well the connecting cables (power cords, speaker and interconnect cables) do their job. The performance of system components is limited by the quality and speed of information fed to them through the cables. Well engineered, high quality cables help to maximize overall system performance. Our products have been very favorably reviewed by audiophile magazines and on-line reviewers, including Positive Feedback Online. We are grateful and appreciative to have received that recognition. Hundreds of Soundstring users have unanimously endorsed the performance of our products. So, it seems that Jed's designs and "Progressive Geometric Multi-Gauged" philosophy is a winner."
PFO How do you plan to push beyond what you have already accomplished?
LM We are constantly striving to attain better performance through more progressive, innovative and efficient cable design technology. We will not rest on our current accomplishments. Progress builds success. Success enhances our reputation and builds sales.
PFO Where is this all heading?
LM To achieve the answer given for question #14.
PFO Others that you admire?
LM The people and companies that have pushed the limits, inventing, designing and bringing meaningful progress through ideas, philosophies and products to us. Among many, Edison, Westinghouse, George Cardas, Ray Kimber and Bill Low are at the top of my list.