Why cables are so important?
Ideal cable is a zero impedance conductor. Ideally, it would present zero impedance to a music carrying signal. Any serious imperfection of a conductor can only contribute to an impedance mismatch, which is the main issue for the signal transmission. In order to avoid it, the cables must “adapt” themselves to the impedance requirements across the source and the signal receiver. Everything matters when it comes to quality and quantity, whether it is the material of a conductor or the reactance of a complete cable.
Our non-ideal world is full of limitations dictated by the laws of physics. Unfortunately, there are no ideal components in a non-ideal world. Each conductive material has its own sonic character and is characterised by the residual presence of the three main electric properties such as resistance, inductance and capacitance. The combined interaction of these properties is called impedance. Since impedance depends on signal frequency, an impedance mismatch between the source (e.g. CD player) and the load (e.g. amplifier) act as signal frequency filter. All filters modulate signals and cause signal degradation.
In spite of all natural limitations, we should not accept a compromise on signal transmission. The main objective was to create a minimum compromise conductor, which maximises signal integrity and its transfer behavior while minimising the effects of as resistance, inductance and capacitance causing signal modulation or simply a loss of a signal integrity. In transmission line theory terms, we looked to design a conductor that would match the impedances (i.e. minimise the signal loss) between the signal source and the load more closely. After all, the main goal of a cable design is to maximise the signal transfer behavior i.e. minimise the impedance mismatch, overcoming the effects of resistance, inductance and capacitance.
Numerous experimentation with cable designs and investigation into the effect of conductor materials on the quality of reproduction of sound, led us to believe that the material quality of a conductor, its dielectric environment and construction are the most significant factors that affect the signal transmission. Some of the findings can be summarised as follows:
Importance of the conductor material
Every conductive material does have a distinct sound signature. Without going into the debate of personal preferences, we find that pure Silver conductors sound generally more revealing, dynamic and more musical. When pure silver was used as a conductor, everything seemed to sound more magical relative to the copper based materials. Is there any reasonable explanation?
Maybe it is the difference in conductive property across silver and copper material. Silver is a better conductor than copper. Each atom of silver has a higher electron capacity of 18 more electrons, resulting in 6-7% more conductivity relative to copper. While we cannot explain and find it difficult to believe how 6-7% better conductivity of silver over copper makes a significant difference, we also noticed that the larger the amount of silver in the conductor the better the low level musical resolution is.
Silver alloy materials should not be confused with a silver plated copper material, which not only sounds inferior and but also only uses less than 1% of Silver. Electro-plating is a low cost chemical process, where a very thin layer of silver is plated on the surface of copper. It is by miles sonically inferior to the process of physically melting high content Silver with copper.
Insulation around the conductors
What really makes a significant difference, we think is the dielectric or insulation material around conductors. A silver conductor of identical material quality can either shine or sound dull depending on the choice of the dielectric material. There many options here: polyurethane, PVA, cotton, silk, PTFT and many others. Some dielectrics are better with silver and some are worse. If a dialectic material sits to close on a conductive material and there are many conductors in parallel, the capacitance of a cable increases. That is a clearly an undesired effect, which we wanted to minimise. After numerous experiments with cable geometry we arrived at a choice of least compromise: Air -the best real world attainable dielectric. While it is not possible to have a 100% air dielectric we strived to maximise its presence by intentionally making a use of oversized PTFE tubing (up to 5x the conductor thickness). The results speak for themselves. We achieved less capacitance, less distortion, more clarity, resolution, air, and greater dynamics and last but not least the amount of energy unleashed.
On the matter of cable construction
While conductor and insulation materials are crucial to the performance of a signal transmission, the arrangement of these materials is a factor of no less importance. There is almost unlimited number of combinations of choosing the size and the quantity of conductors and ways of how to arrange them. All these choices are different forms of a compromise. Too thin conductors sound excellent in the treble frequency region but usually sound poor in the bass frequency region, while for the thicker conductors the issue is vice versa. On the one hand any conductor twisting is undesirable since it increases inductance and resistance. On the other, paralleling many conductors decreases resistance but paralleling too close and too many increases capacitance too. Using a screen surely has benefits of shielding against RFI and other parasitic radio frequencies but brings a drawback of increased capacitance and reduction of airiness in the sound.
Our objective has been to maximise the signal transmission while minimising the impedance mismatch. The key to that is to keep the geometry elegantly simple.
The overall result is… we can only recommend to give a handmade SW1X AERO cable a try and to decide for yourself