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....
Chris Sommovigo of Stereovox
PFO Why do cables make a difference? Interconnects, speaker, and AC cords?
Stereovox Everything that a signal must pass through will be affected by that signal and, in turn, affect that signal. By "signal" I mean to say an organized impulse (or impulses) of electrical current and voltage excited in a wire. RE: "Making a difference": To what degree this is noticeable is and always has been a matter of intense debate within our industry. But the fact remains that no such electrical impulse can travel without a medium, and within that medium there is a continuum of inter-affectivity between the signal and the medium.
PFO What about metals....copper versus silver versus gold versus what? What about blends?
SV There is no silver-bullet theory that works to satisfaction. It's sexy to tout "pure silver" or "pure gold" or "umpteen nines pure copper"—but in reality this kind of silver bullet commodity marketing has little to do with the actuality of the design. The performance value of metals, for instance, are not necessarily distinguished by their hyper-purity or atomic number alone but are as affected by their temper, their gauge, and their shape.
PFO What about dielectrics... Teflon versus what?
SV Dielectrics are an intimate part of the continuum: the medium, as combined with the metal wire itself. They impart various characteristics, from the basic capacitive elements to piezoelectric/triboelectric effects that might be excited in reaction to the electrostatic fields surging through them. There is no perfect dielectric, but rather there are choices to be made depending upon what outcome a designer requires.
PFO What about no dielectric?
SV No such thing.
PFO What about measurements... what do they tell us? What do they not tell us?
SV Measurements can tell us the basics, helping to collect data from which to hopefully derive more concrete theories about why audio cables can affect the signal in ways that listeners notice. But measurements so far have failed to help us establish a predictability-curve for cable design except in cases of extreme electrical characteristics. It is impossible, for instance, to use electrical measurement apparatuses to garner any useful knowledge about the difference between two cables that are otherwise exactly alike except for the temper of their conductors. And yet temper is important.
PFO What about connectors... how important?
SV Without them you would have a hard time getting the signal out of one thing and into another, thus – important. I personally believe that the connector has the greatest potential for screwing things up, so I decided to partner with Stuart Marcus of Vampire Wire to create Xhadow connectors. A connector cannot improve your cable—but a proper connector properly terminated can help to make it as good as it is. That's about all you can ask from connectors.
PFO Why this geometry... ribbon, twisted, braded, spiraled...?
SV Elements of design meant to shape and otherwise manipulate electrostatic and electromagnetic fields interacting with each other and with the media within which they travel.
PFO What about cryoing? What is going on with this?
SV Cryoing is a slow process of deep freezing and then slow thawing meant to relax the otherwise stressed crystal matrix in metal wires, typically stressed by the drawing process. Cryo therefore affects temper.
PFO Why shielding? Why not shielding?
SV Shielding both protects the signal wire from interference from outside sources as well as prevents leakage of the signal to areas outside the cable. Shielding recommends itself in some cases, not necessarily in others. I like to think of shielding like the roof in a convertible: it's nice to have it in place once it starts raining. Given the overactive radio-infected electronic environments we tend to live in, it would seem like it's always raining.
PFO What about run-in? Why is/isn't it important?
SV Cables seem to take time to "settle" in to a system. I have no measured data that explain the process. Others have put forth the "capacitor forming" analogy, which is only a quasi-analogy as a length of wire can be successfully modeled as a capacitor (or a resistor or an inductor). It seems generally accepted that "break-in" occurs with cables, and it is also generally accepted that no one knows exactly why. That includes me.
PFO What about lengths? Why are/aren't they important?
SV Basic rule: Long interconnects, short speaker cables. The essential reason stemmed from the notion that the series resistance of a speaker cable over a long length can adversely affect the ability of an amplifier to properly damp the momentum of a woofer in motion. Long interconnects are not so adversely affected by the series resistance, but in cables with capacitance or inductance features that are not "middle of the road" there may be potential for the interconnect to affect the signal in the same way a high-pass or low-pass filter might work. That seems unlikely given the design of most cables in the market, but there will always be that stray product from a "revolutionary" thinker that will cause a problem in extreme lengths.
PFO What is directionality?
SV Signals traveling in an audio system, be they analog or digital, are AC signals. Alternating current "goes both ways" in a conductor: the positive-going half of the signal propagates a field toward the load, while the negative-going half of the signal propagates it toward the source. Ebb and flow. If you think of it like a piston in an engine it illustrates well: you cannot have a "directional" piston—it must move as easily back and forth in order to do its work. If it moves more easily back than forth, it is to some degree broken.
So it is with an AC signal. If it works better in one direction than the other—check the connectors and joints before you proclaim directionality. I know this is an unpopular position to take. Call me a curmudgeon.
PFO How did you get into this?
SV I missed a left turn at Albuquerque—the rest is history.
PFO What is your fundamental design philosophy/goal?
SV Design simply, elegantly, and refine refine refine.
PFO Why these?
SV Simplicity is the essence of elegance, and elegance is simply a word that expresses (for me) the essence of a whole and complete answer.
PFO How do you approach accomplishing those philosophies/goals?
SV Staring. Sometimes rubbing my temples works.
PFO How successful do you feel you have been at achieving the goals that you have set for yourself?
SV I'm fairly satisfied with the progressive evolution of my designs. I've been refining these ideas for almost 15 years and I still find small areas to tweak.
PFO How do you plan to push beyond what you have already accomplished?
SV Accumulate experience based on my past designs, theorize about changes, employ methods to test the theory, etc.
PFO Where is this all heading?
SV Ball bearings. It's all ball bearings these days. But I think that there are advances yet to be made in wireless wires.
PFO Others that you admire?
SV Ray Kimber and George Cardas.
These guys are the real Godfathers of audio cable, both completely legit and unerringly cool.