A Cable Manufacturer's Response to Karl's Article on Cables
Other Manufacturers Are Encouraged to Respond
Thoughts on Cables
Article by Karl Lozier
The below is written by
Kimber Kable's Dick Diamond
What is the truth behind this sometimes-mystical consumer product known as high-end cable? The cable segment of the hi-fi industry has endured both observational criticism and internal exaltation. In December of 1998, Forbes magazine published an article on the high-end cable business. The article, written by reporter Robert La Franco, lead him to the offices of one of the industry's largest and most profitable cable companies whose marketing and sales practices served as a fascinating case study. Perhaps unknown to this reporter were the realities of smaller companies whose impact on the high-end audio industry were great but whose idealistic views on technology took precedent over marketing considerations. In the article cables were compared to the undercoating on a car with the title "Selling sizzle with sizzle."
How then are the cable businesses with integrity to overcome the notion that our industry uses sizzling hot sales tactics to sell nothing but sizzle, or in other words, products of no substance? These few passionate companies, no doubt, are short on funds sufficient for a media blitz of positive correctional propaganda. The only possibility left for redemption is simply to make products of greater integrity and technical proficiency. But a wire is a wire, right? How much can be done to a wire to improve the performance of components to which it is connected?
The original notion was to simply lower the resistance thereby providing, in essence, a larger conduit by which the voltage and current may flow. Remember the old Fulton cables? As concern and technology progressed it became apparent that the reduction in resistance alone was not the Holy Grail. The further reaching factors of reactance caused by capacitance and inductance began entering into the formulas of cable engineers. As time went on however these parameters began to be misunderstood by new start up cable companies. Then the notion that specifications meant nothing began to be fostered by the high-end community, mostly in retaliation of the specification wars created by the large Japanese electronics companies. As a result a new generation of cable designers emerged with creative and mystical notions of how the universe works and how audio cables fit within the mysteries of the universe. Many of these theories proved quite interesting and thought provoking but ultimately were unsubstantiated by existing objective measurements and parameters. To many audiophiles all hope was lost that the foreseeable future might bring the world of objective measurements and subjective listening to a blissful union.
Fortunately, there remains a small fraternity of idealistic engineers that believe it is not only interesting but also necessary to meld the two realities together. Anyone with a clear understanding of things technical, as they relate to the cable industry, realizes that the standard everyday measurements are no longer sufficient for advancing the state of cable technology. You can measure cables all day long from 20Hz to 20kHz and not see enough evidence to significantly improve the performance of a cable. Could the theories of great minds from decades past, someone like Tesla for example, or the progressive thinkers of today, like Ray Kimber, be correlated with a more advanced set of objective data? The answer must be yes.
It takes thinking outside of the box but with one foot planted firmly inside the box. It is crucial to know
why cable sounds the way it does, with absolute precision. Only when you understand
why are you able to effectively, creatively and scientifically work on the
how. It is through this advanced, creatively scientific approach and the constant correlation of objective and subjective data that products of true progress and merit can be realized. A firm understanding of the great many fields of endeavor within the scientific world is crucial to success.
Kimber Kable has assembled a research library of over 2500 volumes. These books cover such fields of learning as: tube technology, transistors, circuits, digital engineering, metallurgy, dielectrics, magnetism, cryogenics, materials sciences, chemistry, RF technologies, metrology, general physics, etc. In addition to this, the most extensive research and development laboratory in the CE specialty cable industry with dozens of modern test instruments that measure things most people have never heard of. The ability to correlate sound and theory with documented scientific precedent is the key to creating products that reach the coveted "next level" in performance, now and in the future.
Reprint of Original Article by Karl Lozier
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 last month's review of their various cables - Ecosse is the French word for Scotland).