Cables, cables everywhere, is there no end to them? A few years ago I counted all the interconnect cables available for sale in the United States. The total was approximately six hundred and sixty. If I could again find the source listing all of them it would not shock me to find a thousand or more now available. Why so many? For most of the pre-digital years, phono pickup cartridges were generally regarded as high mark-up items allowing dealers to recoup part of their discounting other equipment items. Breaking apart a typical cartridge revealed little that looked difficult for a modern machine to stamp out or turn out quickly and easily. Those minutely sized diamond stylus chips had an aura of being expensive and tough to produce and then polish. Some U.K. publications of twenty years ago or so started to blow the cover on that idea. Their investigative studies and electron scanning microscopes showed either very little or poor polishing of these little critters from many of the companies. At least one manufacturer (not named) was quoted as "so what, playing the vinyl recordings will eventually smooth the rough edges on the styli". What a shocker that was; I figured it was supposed to be the other way around.
With "home theater" the new ruler of much of the audio world, a new high mark-up item was destined to appear. Cables or wires of all types are the new beneficiary of that. High purity copper and sufficient thickness was all of importance. Then the quality of the connectors got a bit of promotion, particularly for loudspeaker cables. No connectors added was often promoted as being the best connection and air as the best insulator around cables. Little details were argued endlessly. There definitely were a number of "cable companies" starting with a good advertising promotion". Next was a phone call to a commercial wire manufacturer for some five hundred foot reels of sixteen gauge wire with a bright blue or red or whatever color desired covering. Then a handy mother, wife or disabled veteran to attach the connectors and someone to take the orders. Everyone was happy.
It was quite awhile before companies such as Kimber came along and were doing some actual research into details of performance whys and wherefores. Research takes time and money or simply time is money. Then individual "custom-made" wires, coverings or connectors were slowly and expensively made. Prices began to rocket to the skies with very little slow down. That encouraged everyone and his two cousins to try that "new market". Promotion became king. Do companies need to offer twenty to thirty different interconnect cables and a like number of loudspeaker cables?
At the recent CES and The Home Entertainment shows in Las Vegas I was not able to walk the entire length of the hallways before stopped by a cable company's representative doing his or her best to persuade me to either listen to their sales pitch or take samples to review or have them sent to me. A much more subtle approach but seemingly effective was from equipment manufacturers that had some new cables developed specifically to complement their equipment. That does seem to be very logical and usually their prices were relatively modest compared to the better cables by the better specialty companies. Is there an answer to this situation? I will try to expand on this in the next couple of months. Feel free to e-mail comments, examples, and questions to me.
While touring the sites three people told me to check out a new cable company. Quite by accident I met the head of that particular company and while talking he showed me some of the printing done for his company. The printer had left off or cut off the last letter of their name! All this just before these big promotional events. Later on at the CES convention center the national sales manager for one of the very largest and best known electronics manufacturers told me to check out that same new cable company. He said something to the effect that their new cables at about five hundred dollars a pair were outstandingly good. I politely inquired what cables he was personally using.
"Kimber's Select" was his reply. My questioning comment was, "you mean they are as good as the Kimber Selects?" "Of course not, but they do come close" he responded. A few words do not always tell the whole story. Answer to the Ecosse question I brought up in this month's review of their various cables - Ecosse is the French word for Scotland.
CES at the Alexis Park Hotel and T.H.E. Show at the San Remo were the two main venues for high-end audio manufacturers. Until two years ago the CES's lower cost competitor (for the manufacturers), T.H.E. Show had their exhibits and rooms next-door to the Alexis Park at the St. Tropez. Somehow that convenient site has become unavailable. After a last minute change last year the barely finished Tuscany Hotel became the site for T.H.E. Show and much grumbling by manufacturers. Ultimately many of the manufacturers/exhibitors wound up being extremely happy because many of the Tuscany's rooms were a better size or shape (usually larger) and had a higher amperage electrical service as standard. That was probably an updated electrical code for any new commercial buildings. I think many wanted to stick with the Tuscany, but it was not to be. I know of at least some manufacturers that bit the expense bullet and joined CES and went to the Alexis Park Hotel this year (January).
For whatever various reasons, I heard and continue to hear, that people such as reviewers and dealers continue to comment on the high percentage of rooms with excellent sound this year at T.H.E. Show at San
Remo. Mike told me that there is a multi-year contract to continue there. Any problems were not perceived by people such as me and were obviously fixed. The future looks particularly rosy for continued success at San
Remo. Some possible tweaks that might add a bit for various attendees might include some sort of "mixer" such as a free brunch, breakfast or lunch, such as used to be at St. Tropez. Possibly having room reservations on one floor for journalists, another for mainly dealers or manufacturers might be helpful. Anything that would have like groups of people thrown together.