Several years ago I participated in a power cord shoot out. There were 5 cords being compared in this event. I did not know the brands or prices of each cord until the shoot out was finished. One of my favorite cables was an Audio Magic Extreme power cord. What really got my attention was that this cord sold for $89 at the time. When I started writing for Affordable Audio, one of the first things I did was contact Audio Magic. Jerry Ramsey agreed to send out a complete set of Extreme interconnects and speaker wire for review. The Extreme cables performed quite nicely, and have become my reference for modest priced cables. Since the topic of cabling can be a controversial one, Now Jerry has taken quite awhile to get back to me with his answers, however he did find time in his busy schedule to get his thoughts down on paper.
HFR – Why do cables make a difference? Interconnects, speaker, and AC cords
JR. The same reason good amps, speakers, CD players, pre amps make a difference, cables are a component of the system as well, just remember your system is as good as it’s weakest link. The better the cable technology, the better the parts used [connectors, solder, conductors, dielectric etc] the better sound you will get.
HFR -. HOW DOES METAL COMPOSITION AFFECT A CABLE? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HYBRID CABLES?
JR. We committed to Silver only, many years ago, in fact we were the first of the Silver only companies so we have vast experience with that conductor. As a conductor Silver has no equal, the resistively of 4n Copper is 4.4% higher than 4n Silver and this figure gets higher with age. As Copper ages it develops a skin of copper oxide [which is a semi conductor] as Silver ages it creates a skin of silver oxide which quite frankly is a better conductor than the silver it self, in a nut shell silver based cables get better as they age and copper gets much worse. Silver is also one of the most resistive conductors to crystalline damage and Copper is one of the worst. One of the down falls of Silver is the cost…. we spend much much more than a Copper based cable manufacturer has to for his or her conductors. We also experimented with gold conductors, but found it way to soft, with lack of detail and dynamics. It is also significantly more expensive. Our Trinium line is a gold, silver, and copper blend, which sounds very good [smooth, detailed, dynamic, great soundstage] although not as neutral as I prefer, the only reason we did this cable was pressure from some of our dealers that wanted another flavor.
HFR – WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE DILETRIC?
JR. The best you can do is an air dielectric with vacuum but trying to maintain the vacuum makes this approach impractical, we use mainly air, Teflon, and a few different types of fep’s. How do you choose a certain diametric? A lot depends on the type of conductor you are using; it’s geometry, construction constraints, what sonic value you are trying to achieve.
HFR – HOW DO YOU MEASURE YOUR DESIGNS?
JR. In cable design everyone has their own idea of how much capacitance and inductance is associated with their cables, you must take into consideration such things as eddy currents, phase issues, noise, etc..I have measured cables that range from one end of the spectrum to the other, while I realize you must use sound design techniques, I base most of my analysis on sound, which is why I have spent a ton of money on the ultimate measuring device….MY SYSTEM. Every product that we release has had countless listening hours to ensure my customer is getting the best product possible for his or her money.
HFR – ARE CONNECTORS SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT FORM EACH OTHER?
JR. Connectors are huge in cable design; they can make or break you, which is why we have spent a lot of time and money to find the perfect connector for each design. Note not every connector works with every design.
HFR – WHAT ABOUT GEOMETREY OF A CONDUCTOR?
JR. Speaking from a Silver point of view, we have found that Silver behaves better in a ribbon conductor although we still use solids and multi conductor bundles for different applications. Depending on what type of material you are using and what sonic goals you have will determine the type of conductor you will choose.
HFR – WHY CRYO TREATING?
JR. We Cryo treat all our conductors to address resonance issues and we MST treat all conductors to enhance the crystalline structure of the wire, which improves conductivity and lowers the noise floor.
HFR – WHY AND WHY NOT SHIELD?
JR. Shielding is simply to protect the cable from noise, RF rich environments can benefit from good shielding, however if not careful shielded cables can have an adverse affect on the sound.
HFR – WHAT DOES BURN IN ACCOMPLISH?
JR. All cables need some amount of burn in before they can sound their best, when current is flowing through a conductor on a molecular level things are being re-arranged to allow for maximum current flow, when current runs smoother things sound better. Silver conductors usually take longer to break-in than say copper; we believe this is due to the crystalline lattice structure.
HFR – DO CABLE LENGTHS HAVE A SIGNIFI- CANT IMPACT ON SOUND?
JR. I have always been a subscriber to longer interconnects and shorter speaker cables, if you are running really long lengths of interconnect, balanced would be a great choice or single ended shielding would be nice so noise does not become to big of a factor, keep in mind the greater the length the higher the overall capacitance becomes thus affecting highs and upper midrange, using a cable with a lower pf factor would be preferable. Since most speaker cables are not shielded they can become vulnerable to noise so shorter is better and cheaper, if your speaker cables are to long don’t coil them up or you will have a big inductor on your hands, it’s best to have them cut to proper length.
HFR – WHAT IS DIRECTIONALITY?
JR. We primarily mark our cables direction so once broken in current will always flow in that direction [a reminder should you un hook them and can’t remember how they were before]. Some designers employ drain wires and other such things to affect a cables performance thus directionality is important.
HFR – HOW DID I GET INTO THIS?
JR. Music has always been a passion of mine, while working at a local audio store we got in Tara Labs cables and of course I had to have their best and my system required a lot of them, unfortunately for me about the time I got the last pair I needed [which was every 6 months or less] Tara came out with a new best cable and I had to start all over again. I finally decided to put my electronics training and my passion for music to good use and I went to work designing my first cable, 3 months later we had a blind shootout with several companies top cables and to my astonishment I won, thus the
monster was born.
HFR – WHAT IS YOUR FUNDAMENTAL DESIGN PHILOSOPHY/ GOAL?
JR. I simply design all my products to be neutral [do their job and get out of the way]. If your looking to use a cable to hide or enhance something, look at someone else’s cable you won’t find it here, using cables in this way is not the proper way to design a really good system. And as always each product is designed to be the biggest bang for the buck at every price point.
HFR – HOW DO YOU APPROACH ACCOMPLISHING THOSE PHILOSOPHIES?
JR. Just the simple love of music and the hope I can bring happiness into someone else’s life and a lot of hard work.
HFR – HOW SUCCESSFUL DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE BEEN AT ACHIEVING THE GOALS THAT YOU HAVE SET?
JR. Very successful! Just ask most anyone who has tried my products.
HFR – HOW DO YOU PLAN TO PUSH BEYOND WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED?
JR. I will do what I have always done… let the love of this great hobby guide me, things just happen.
HFR – OTHERS THAT I ADMIRE?
JR. I admire others that share the same passion for this hobby as I do, I have no use for people that just want to move product for financial gain with no sincere passion for our hobby and it will always show up in their products. I hope readers of Affordable Audio find this interview informative, and possibly thought provoking. I personally agree that cabling is the equivalent to a component. I believe that too often audio enthusiasts shortchange their system by using a cable that is not up to the job. Quite often a system can be significantly improved by a cabling upgrade, which can be far less expensive than making that next step up to component ladder. To back this statement up, I recently sold my Tara Labs cabling, and replaced them with the Illusion 4D series of wire from Audio Magic. It is a fantastic sounding cable, and I plan to get a review put together on it sometime later this year. I would suggest that readers take some time to evaluate their current cabling situation, and consider the possibility of a wire upgrade. If possible, arrange for an evaluation period for your cable candidates, and let your ears be the final judge on what you choose. .