Interconnects

DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark V"

UPDATE! - now includes a Balanced design...


The
“Helix Mark V” represents several years of “tinkering” and researching different cable architectures and materials.

The premise behind its helical geometry (or architecture) is eliminating parallel conductors, since...

  • if two parallel conductors are in close proximity for an extended distance, and current is passed down one of those conductors, then noise will be induced into the other conductor.

e.g. in a 120 volt mains cable I measured noise in an adjacent conductor of 42 volts!

In the case of “conventional” interconnect cable architectures, the signal conductor and the neutral conductor are side by side in extremely close proximity for the length of the cable, therefore in my mind, I consider it reasonable to assume that some noise, however small, will be induced from the signal conductor into the neutral conductor.

Why would this matter? Isn’t the neutral is effectively connected to the “ground” ?

Well, the neutral conductor is actually connected to the neutral side of the attached components’ circuitry.

On it’s way to “ground” it raises the potential on the neutral side of the components circuit, which has a negative impact on the amplified signal resulting in a distorted sound.

The helical design concept eliminates the parallel conductors and minimizes induced noise to imperceivable levels.

One other nice feature of the helical design is the neutral conductor, being wound around the signal conductor, becomes a very effective shield against external RFI sources - because it is connected to “ground” Happy

But Shouldn’t The Two Conductors Be The Same Length?


If you look at the “roles” the two conductors play from the perspective of an attached components’ circuit diagram it becomes clear that not only can they be different lengths, but they can be made from different materials and gauges.

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  • The Signal Conductor transfers the signal
  • The Neutral Conductor merely links the neutral sides of the two attached components


For more theory pertaining to this see Electromagnetic Interference - Considerations in Structured Cabling Systems from Siemens




So How Did I Construct Them?

The Single Ended IC Design...
The parts list is reasonably priced between $180 - $250 CDN for a 3ft ( or 1 meter) pair, depending on the RCA’s selected and all other parts can be purchased from many parts providers on the web.

Considering their exceptional sound quality I believe this price range to be excellent value.

You can upgrade or downgrade these parts if you wish, but the parts listed will provide exceptional sound quality.

I use an approximate ratio of 3:1 of CAT6/Neutral:Signal conductor

e.g. for a 3ft Interconnect cable I use 9ft of CAT6 and 9ft of Neutral Conductor



The quantities listed is for a single Interconnect cable i.e. one channel -
so double them for a stereo pair

  • RCA Plug: KLE Innovations Absolute Harmony RCA Plugs (SOURCE: KLE Innovations or local parts sources)
  • Neutral Conductor: 9 ft of Neotech UPOCC 20 AWG, Deep Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TAKE FIVE AUDIO - TFA)
  • Signal Conductor: 3 ft of Neotech UPOCC Silver 28 AWG, Teflon Insulation, Deep Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TFA)
  • Outer Teflon Tube: 3 ft of PTFE 10 Tubing .106"ID .130"OD Approx. (SOURCE: TFA)
  • Inner Teflon Tube: 3 ft of PTFE 14 Tubing .066"ID .090"OD Approx. (SOURCE: TFA)
  • Floating Shield: 9 ft of CAT5e or CAT6 twisted pair - obtained from a network cable (SOURCE: any computer store)
  • WBT 4% silver solder


1.  Parts list

Why two teflon tubes?
  • Two tubes provide a bigger “gap” between the neutral and signal conductors = less noise!
  • In very tight radius turns, two tubes prevent “kinking” in the walls of the tubes.

Step 1.

The neutral winding is perhaps the most difficult aspect of this cable, but the choice of a solid core conductor maintains the helix shape and spacing, and allows for flexibility.

I first wind the conductor around a 6mm dowel. To assist with this I insert the dowel into a variable speed hand drill and feed the conductor along its length.

Once wound, the helix can be removed from the dowel, but you may have to loosen the helix (i.e. back-off the twist) a little to do so.
2. Neutral WInding


Step 2

Insert the teflon tube(s) into the helix.

Space the windings over the length of the tube

Tighten the helix by twisting it, about an inch at time, along the length of the cable

3. Teflon Tube


STEP 3

Next, install the “Floating Shield” CAT5/6 twisted pair.

What is a “Floating Shield” ? - it is a conductor that is attached to a “ground point”, in this case the neutral conductor, but only at one end of the cable. The other end is not connected - i.e. left “floating”.

Why do you need it? - it disrupts the ability for RFI/EMI to induce noise into the adjacent cables.

NOTE:

The end of the cable with the floating shield should generally be connected to the “source” of the signal. This prevents the transfer of any noise to subsequent amplification stages.

However, if that source component is equipped with an “isolated power supply” e.g. the Wal-Wart variety - then that end should be connected to a properly grounded component.

In the event both components are not properly grounded the direction of connection is arbitrary and you might want to experiment for best performance - in your system.

  • First, solder the twisted pair to one end of the neutral conductor.
  • Wind the twisted pair in between the windings of the neutral conductor.
  • When you get to the end, simply cut it a little shorter and secure it in place with a glue gun or a small piece of electrical tape

4. Floating Shield

Step 4

At this point I insert the assembly into the outer expandable sleeve and cut to length
- I mark the end of the cable that has the floating shield attached with a piece of masking tape

I then place the RCA housing on the cable

Insert the signal conductor into the teflon tube
(hint: cut the wire to length and strip the wire before inserting - it’s easier)

Solder on the RCA plugs and attach the RCA housing to the body and tighten the set screws in the housing

I then place a piece of heat shrink over the RCA housing to indicate which end the floating shield is connected to the neutral.

5. FInished Product

Assembly Notes...

I purposely did not specify which expandable sleeve to use because it is a personal preference. However, using the neutral conductor identified above requires the use of a thin expandable sleeve (like the one above) in order to get the RCA housing over the cable.
  • If you would like to use a thicker sleeve you can use a teflon insulated neutral conductor, which has a thinner insulation. It will NOT effect the performance of the cable, but it is a little more expensive.

If you do not like the sound of a silver signal conductor you can use a 24 gauge UPOCC copper conductor. The sound will not be quite so bight and dynamic, but the other properties (clarity, image, bass, bass control) of the cable are still exceptional.

Warning:

The 28 gauge centre conductor can be subjected a lot of stresses causing fractures if the cables are frequently handled or subject to multiple tight radius turns.

To overcome this simply perform the following steps:
  • wind the signal conductor tightly around the dowel
  • straighten it out using your fingers only. you will be left with a conductor with multiple little kinks
  • after placing the neutral conductor around the teflon tubes remove the inner teflon tube
  • Insert the signal conductor in the larger tube only (you may require a pull-through)

The “spring” in the kinks will ensure the signal cable does not fracture

Can you use other brands of RCA?

NOT RECOMMENDED!

I recommend KLE Innovations Harmony RCA’s because of their stellar performance. Personally, I use the Absolute Harmony RCA because it is their best performer.

The properties of the KLEI Harmony RCA’s are very different from conventional RCA’s, such that they can be used on single ended SPDIF cables without experiencing the issues associated with conventional RCA’s not rated at the same impedance as the cable because their impedance exceeds 110 ohms.

e.g. “convention” states that a SPDIF cable should use an RCA plug of identical impedance

Primarily to reduce/eliminate internal “reflections” of the digital signal back down the cable

However, the KLEI Harmony RCA’S can be used on most digital cables regardless of the cables rated impedance value.

I also believe their higher impedance is responsible for their stellar analogue performance.

Can this cable be used for SPDIF purposes?

Absolutely! - it is an extremely adept SPDIF cable!

And I have found that the following
cost saving adjustments do not impact SPDIF performance at all...

  • KLEI Pure Harmony RCA plugs can be used in place of the more expensive Absolute Harmony RCA plug
  • The silver signal conductor can be replaced with an UPOCC copper conductor

To date, it is the best SPDIF cable I have used.

What do they sound like?

The “Helix Mark V” is a high performance interconnect cable with extremely high resolution abilities.

They deliver a completely “uncoloured presentation” with ultra fast dynamic performance, exceptional clarity, expansive imaging and a very deep and exceptionally well controlled bass performance.

They excel in the delivery of one of the most realistic presentations of live recordings I have observed.
  • The delicate nuances pertaining to the acoustic reverberations of instruments and voice within a live venue are faithfully reproduced in the most minute detail, with a precision placement of musicians and their instruments within their own “virtual space”.

My system components are quite modest by today’s standards. However my cables are all excellent performers and they work in harmony with the components to achieve an excellent overall “system performance”.

Will the
“Helix Mark V” perform well on all systems?

Based on my observations of previous versions on a couple of other systems, I have no reason to believe their performance will be anything less than stellar.

The Balanced (XLR) IC Design


The quantities listed is for a single Interconnect cable i.e. one channel - so double them for a stereo pair

  • 2 pairs of Neutrik NC3FXX-HA Male/Female XLR Cryo Treated - with Silver Plated Pins ( SOURCE: TAKE FIVE AUDIO - TFA)
  • Neutral Conductor: 9 ft of Neotech UPOCC 20 AWG, Deep Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TAKE FIVE AUDIO - TFA)
  • Signal Conductor: 6 ft of Neotech UPOCC Silver 28 AWG, Teflon Insulation, Deep Cryo Treated (SOURCE: TFA)
  • Outer Teflon Tube: 6 ft of PTFE 10 Tubing .106"ID .130"OD Approx. (SOURCE: TFA)
  • WBT 4% silver solder

The Balanced XLR IC design is “basically” the same as single ended design with simple modification.

A balanced cable requires two signal conductors
  • one for the positive signal
  • one for the negative signal
  • but with a “new twist” ...


DSC_6953

Instead of using a straight wire, each conductor is wound around a dowel...
  • one in a clockwise direction
  • the other in an anti-clockwise direction
  • each spiral is then stretched prior to inserting into the Teflon tube
  • The easiest method of getting the “wavy wire” into the tube is to use a straight piece of wire to pull it through.
  • The theory - the “waves” in the conductors reduce the “Proximity Effect”

Once the conductors are in place in the tube, tape one end of the two tubes and twist one tube around the other - approximately one complete twist every 8-12 inches.


DSC_6955

As with the single ended design, wind the neutral conductor in a tight spiral around a dowel

DSC_6956

Stretch the spiral a little and then wind the neutral around both the signal conductors

DSC_6957

Add the plugs and VOILA!

NOTE: - the twisted pair CAT6 “floating shield” conductor is not required because the noise cancelation of the balanced circuitry eliminates external RFI/EMI

Nylon Expansion sleeve can be applied to get the “professional look”


DSC_6958

Below is a photo of a completed pair - built by a fellow DIY Audiophile John Tupper - thanks John Happy

XLR 4.16.18

A quote from John,,,

  • “My system is now running four of your power cables, XLR interconnects and speaker cables. More burn-in likely required, but, with 72 hours of running they sound fantastic.”



The Journey...

I’m a frugal person with a distinct dislike of overpaying for something as simple as a piece of wire!


I started making my own cables many years ago, but many of those utilized bulk cable from companies like Van den Hul and DH Labs.

I then investigated some of the more recent cable geometries such as tight twisted pairs, braiding and helix geometries.

My biggest issue with helix designs as a DIYer - how to maintain a uniform distance between the signal and neutral conductors - the teflon tubes alleviated this problem

My primary goal along the way was to keep the cost of materials to a minimum - hence the initial use of the CAT6 for the neutral conductor.

When I first tried the helix design it was quite clear that it was going to be a very adept performer, despite my cost saving CAT6 measures.

This observation supported my belief that the helix architecture (or geometry) was an extremely effective approach to achieving excellent cable performance.

The early versions utilizing CAT6 as the neutral conductor were very good - just not
brilliant!

With the
“Helix Mark IV” version, I decided to incorporate higher quality materials in the neutral conductor in the hope that I could come even closer to the performance levels of some of todays popular high performance cables for a fraction of the cost.

The improvements were so good and based on my earlier versions that performed better with multiple strands of CAT6 for the neutral, I concluded that a larger gauge neutral conductor would provide additional improvements - and...

Voila, the “Helix Mark V” was born!


The result:

a cable that actually competes with some of the very best cables in the audio world!


C’mon, Really?

  • OK, I’ll let you be the final judge, but after listening to many cables I believe this to be the case Winking

How Long is the Burn-In Period?

It is imperative that these cables are allowed adequate time to settle and burn-in, which is typically >300 hours.
  • they will however sound extremely good on initial installation
  • they may exhibit some loss in volume after 3-4 days continuous use, which will return to normal by day 6-7
  • they may exhibit some bass “blooming” around day 6-7 also, this will return to normal in about 30 hours
  • they will sound exceptional after around 200 hours, but they will get even better after 300 hours
  • I have also found ongoing improvements occur up to approximately 600+ hours in the earlier versions
  • The use of cable cookers will expedite this process - start with 100 hours cooking + 100 hours playing

The end of the Road?

I have decided to end this particular interconnect cable “obsession” with the
“Helix Mark V” simply because...
  • the cost of better materials is making them significantly more expensive
  • the improvements using better materials will probably be marginal from this point onwards

My hope is that this design will be embraced and enhanced by the DIY Community and encourage them to experiment with different conductor materials to tailor the sound to their own liking.

My Review System:

  • Custom built turntable with a Soundsmith Denon DL103 phono cartridge mounted on an Audiomods Arm with one piece silver litz harness + KLEI Absolute®Harmony RCA’s

  • Simaudio MOON LP5.3 RS phono stage

  • Bluesound Node 2 music server

  • NAIM 5i integrated amp (with passive pre-section).

  • Gershman Acoustics Sonogram speakers.

  • KLE Innovations gZero6 Speaker Cables

  • Assorted power cables


page6_blog_entry61-page6_blog_entry60-page6_blog_entry52-page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up-2 Give them a try - and - Enjoy The Music! Happy

ADDENDUM:

Audiogon Member Toddverrone has also tried these IC’s ...


Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 9.44.28 AM


The Parts List :

  • signal wire: OCC solid silver 24awg in cotton. 3' per cable
  • neutral: OCC solid copper 20awg magnet wire.  2 x 9' per cable
  • connectors: KLE pure harmony solid silver
  • the white tube is a foamed teflon flexible tube that i ran the signal through. it's pretty amazing.  it doesn't kink at all.  it's called hyperflex tubing from vh audio

Todd’s Feedback...

I’m still listening to them, but initial findings on the helix ICs are incredibly positive.

More of the helix magic: less noise, greater clarity, better separation of sound sources.

Good stuff!

RCA, XLR or DIN Connectors - Which is Best?

Please note: this post is an introduction only and does not cover everything pertaining to this subject, which can get very complex.

Before looking at the actual performance of these connectors I must first explain that RCA can only support a “single ended” electrical interface, DIN typically supports a single ended electrical interface and XLR typically supports a “balanced” interface.

A Single Ended Interface:
  • has a conductor for the signal and
  • a second conductor for the neutral (or ground)
  • with a “Coax cable” the shield performs double duty as the neutral conductor
  • A “balanced cable” having two identical conductors + shield can also be used for single ended cables
  • an RCA connector will carry the signal for the left or right channel only
  • a DIN connector can carry both left and right channels

A Balanced Interface:
  • has a conductor for the signal - referred to as "+", or "non-inverted",
  • a second identical conductor for an inverted copy of the signal - referred to as “-“, or "inverted"
  • a conductor for the neutral (or ground)
  • an XLR connector will carry the signal for the left or right channel only
  • the neutral or ground is not used for signal transfer - so ground loop hums are eliminated

What does Balanced buy me?
When the balanced signals are processed at the receiving component (e.g. the amp) they are combined by a process referred to as “subtraction”, which effectively
retrieves the original signal.

The subtraction process however has a couple of additional benefits:
  • it effectively doubles the strength of the signal, which allows for much longer cable runs to be used, and
  • cancels out any hum or noise picked up by the cables themselves

Alas - the circuitry in balanced components is more complex and in turn more expensive to manufacture.

There is also the possibility that the circuitry in the sending component is not perfectly matched in the receiving component - which can result in performance that is in fact lower quality than a single ended approach

So what are the actual connector differences - the obvious...
RCA
  • only has the ability to connect two conductors - a signal and a neutral/ground
  • originally used with Coax type cables - one centre conductor and a shield conductor
  • RF Noise will flow through the neutral side of the circuit
  • the barrel (i.e. the neutral side) is generally made from materials having a lower IACS conductivity rating, hence does not perform as well
  • use on cables longer than 30 ft can affect performance
XLR
  • has the ability to connect three conductors - signal, inverted signal and ground
  • generally used with "balanced cables" that have two centre conductors of the same gauge and a separate shield conductor
  • RF Noise is generally contained in completely separate shield/ground circuit
  • the pins are generally made from pure copper - with a superior IACS conductivity rating
  • can be used on cables longer that 30ft without an issue
DIN
  • is normally used in single ended designs
  • because it uses very small pins, then materials that have a high IACS conductivity rating are often used while keeping costs low
  • performance is better than many RCA connector designs

What is IACS? — it’s a measure of the conductivity of various metals relative to “Pure Copper”, a standard developed for copper wire producers, having a rating of 100%

- See
IACS Conductivity Ratings PDF for further details.

Have XLR connectors been used on components using a single ended design?
  • There are companies that have used XLR connectors on their components utilizing a single ended design
  • The manufacturer adapts the internal wiring such that it does not present a problem when connecting to components using balanced circuits

Can you connect a balanced output to a single ended input?
  • Yes, but you should only connect the non-inverted signal pin on the XLR to the signal pin on the RCA
  • you may experience additional noise and/or possibly a lower output level

Can you connect a single ended output to a balanced input?
  • NOT directly!
  • A conversion circuit would be required.

XLR's have always been a better "quality" connector that uses plated copper for the pins. But it has more component parts, resulting in it being more expensive to manufacture. Whereas RCA connectors were generally made from more "cost effective" materials like brass and far less complicated to manufacture.

Having said that there are many RCA connectors that are very highly priced - some, for no apparent reason.

A Better RCA Interconect...
To elevate the performance of interconnects using RCA connectors, i.e. from a noise perspective, in place of using a a coax cable, you can use a balanced cable (two identical centre conductors + shield) by connecting the two centre conductors to the signal and neutral, but connecting the shield to the neutral side of the RCA at only one end of the cable.
  • This end would always be connected to the component that was the origin, or source of the signal.
  • Provided that component was correctly grounded, any noise in the shield is not conveyed to the next level of amplification in the chain
  • This technique is called “floating shield” and it brought a very respectable level of performance back to the RCA connector

But there remains a serious problem with the RCA in that pure copper, because of it’s softness, is difficult to machine. Copper alloys were developed, but even those fall below the conductivity of pure copper, or even silver.

A Better RCA Connector...
KLE Innovations, had the foresight to develop a quality RCA connector that did not require the same manufacturing processes that in turn allowed pure copper and silver to be used. There is also more to the science of these connectors in that they focus the transmission of the electron flow resulting in a much improved transmission of the electrical signal and minimize electrical reactance within the RCA itself, resulting in improved dynamics, details and spacial image.

The performance of many RCA interconnect cables are now comparable to XLR interconnects

Because of the improved performance of high quality RCA interconnects and the development of the floating shield approach, the choice of which type of interconnect to use on components that have both types of connector implemented is not quite so clear cut these days, i.e. for shorter cable lengths.

So which interconnect type do you buy?
  • The obvious - If you have two components that have both types of connector - Buy XLR!
  • But you no longer need to limit you component choice to only those components with XLR connectors only
    • XLR to RCA cables are also available

So right about now you may be thinking that perhaps to move to the "next level" in performance you have to sell off all your RCA connected components and buy only those components with XLR Connectors!

Well, you can implement floating shield grounding strategy using interconnects with RCA connectors and balanced cables that will deal very effectively with RF interference in a system.

If you utilize the "Floating Shield" design for interconnects and power cables - and implement the component grounding strategy identified in
Hi-Fi & Grounding - the effectiveness at removing RF interference from the next level of amplification is second only to that of systems where every component adopts a balanced design.

Most RCA Interconnects are NOT constructed using floating shield techniques. Those that do will indicate this fact
by a ground-end marking sticker on the actual cable (e.g. Van Den Hul cables are marked in this manner) - this end ALWAYS connects to the source component

CAUTION: I have seen interconnects out there that have a little arrow indicating a "direction" - this is NOT always an indication that the cable has a floating shield, but more often indicates the direction in which the wire was extruded. Always ensure that both left and right channel cables are connected in the same direction.

UPDATE: since writing the original posting, I now use my own DIY interconnects

DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark V"


These utilize an advanced helix architecture and can resolve to an extremely high level due to the materials used and their unconventional cable geometery.

My Cables - the Deciding Factors

  • My journey into the world of good quality cables started many yeas ago, but up until then I was far from an "informed customer".
Most of the time I was listening to salesmen and buying what they recommended.

I then stumbled across an excellent store that actually provided useful information and was more focussed on selling me the right product.

Speaker Cables

My first good copper was a pair of
CLEARWATER bulk speaker cable from Van Den Hul.
  • I had no idea at that time what I was buying and relied on the advice from the staff at the new store.
  • The impact of these new cables was so immediate that I started delving into other product from Van Den Hul.
  • The Van Den Hul site is excellent and they provide very detailed spec's on all their cable and also MSRP, so you can evaluate every aspect
  • BTW - I recently stripped the insulation from this cable and there was no sign of oxidation after 12 years - amazing!

My next upgrade was to the
CS - 122 Hybrid - again another noticeable improvement in the fidelity.
  • It was at this time that I started to consider the documented specifications of the cables before I purchased
  • This cable is a great performer across the board and has been used successfully with my SP120 tube amp
  • It is now attached to my Denon AV receiver on my AV system

A step up in this area has been with the
D - 352 Hybrid from Van Den hul
  • This is really a superb cable providing extremely deep, but well controlled bass,
  • Well balance though the mid frequencies and very smooth at the top end
  • This is a very low capacitance cable which is ideally suited to the NAIM amp.

I still consider the above cables to be ver good, but I have discovered they perform so much better if the signal and neutral conductors are separated. The improvement in clarity, dynamics and bass control was very noticeable.

After several years using the D-352 I got to review newcomer to audio cables - the
KLEI gZero2 Speaker Cables fromKLE Innovations.
  • despite being a very thin cable when compared to the D-352 it was obvious from the outset that these cables were top performers
  • The bass performance is better and goes much deeper than the D-352
  • I could not detect any added coloration across the frequency range
  • but the most outstanding aspect of these cables are their dynamics, clarity and focus
  • The gZero2 were then move to my A/V system when the KLEI gZero6 speaker cables arrived.
  • Iv’e since replaced those with my own DIY Speaker Cables - The HELIX Speaker that are excellent performers

Interconnects

Flushed with two successful speaker cable purchases I then turned my attention to my interconnects, which had up to now been a variety of modestly priced store bought cables and some DIY cables made using some better quality bulk purchase cable.

The selection of the first one I tried, was mainly due to affordability, but it looked quite good on paper.

I had selected the
NAME coax interconnect from Van Den Hul.
  • This is a multi-use cable that was sold as a stereo pair, but could be used for digital purposes also
  • There was a very noticeable improvement in the dynamics, depth of bass and a very smooth top end

On reading up on other cables in their catalogue I became intrigued by the
D - 102 III Hybrid.
  • It certainly sounded like an exceptional cable, so I began to look for reviews, only to discover it had already won awards over several years - including...
  • What Hi-Fi 1998: - Best Buy, What Hi-Fi 1999: - Product of the Year, What Hi-Fi 2000: - Best Buy,

Well if it's that good I thought - perhaps I'll give it a try!
  • Once again my hi-fi store recommended some good quality Furutech RCA's at $10 per connector - a great match for that cable
  • These cables are absolutely the best cable construction I have ever seen - they are built like a tank
  • A fairly flexible balanced interconnect with 3 layer shielding
  • Most of the cables VDH sells are built to industrial standards and for the most part are protected against harsh environments
  • They transfer the finest details to the amp without colouring the sound and allow the dynamics to bring the music to life
  • They have now been in the system for about 6 years

I next tried some bulk cable from a company that caught my attention -
DH Labs
  • The nice thing about DH Labs is they have some great looking product at a fraction of the price of VDH

And then KLE Innovations sent a pair of their
KLEI gZero20 Interconnect cables and KLEI gZero6 Speaker Cables for review - seems these old ears aren’t quite as bad as I had thought.
  • A little more expensive than I like to pay, but these are extremely good interconnects
  • their strongest attributes are clarity, dynamics, extension at both end of the frequency spectrum and spacial imaging

And finally, my own
DIY Interconnect Cables - The “Helix Mark V"

  • They deliver a completely “uncoloured presentation” with ultra fast dynamic performance, exceptional clarity, expansive imaging and a very deep and exceptionally well controlled bass performance.

  • The delicate nuances pertaining to the acoustic reverberations of instruments and voice within a live venue are faithfully reproduced in the most minute detail, with a precision placement of musicians and their instruments within their own “virtual space”.


Power Cables
WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional - consult a technician

At about the time I purchased my Raysonic SP120 tube amp, I started to look into the world of power cables and the many forum comments stating "wire is wire"!

Turns out they were right - wire is wire! - But a good quality Power Cable is absolutely essential!

The first I tried was from
FURUTECH a well known and well respected company
  • The product I tried was the FP-314 Ag - a 15AWG α (Alpha) conductor
  • The results were again immediate - with a noticeable improvement in low frequency dynamics and depth and more detailed sound stage

The latest cable from Furutech I have tried is their
FP-3TS762 20 amp 10 awg cable. Another superb cable that has no problems keeping up with the dynamic demands of the amp.

From the guys at
DH Labs,
  • their Power Plus AC Cable, which is comparable from an electrical performance perspective to the Furutech FP-3TS762
  • their Encore AC Cable, which, very surprisingly, is very close in acoustic performance to the Furutech FP-3TS762 but lacks in some of the high resolution details such as the acoustics of the recording venue
  • for my review see DH Labs Encore Power Cable

I now use my own DIY design that uses a helix architecture that appears to maximize details, spatial imaging, clarity, very low noise floor with a superb dynamic performance.

See
DIY Power Cables - The “POWER HELIX"

Also, I use the
Sonar Quest silver plated copper connectors on every power cable

Deciding Factors

So now all of the cables I look for must have:
  • Low Resistance
  • Low Capacitance
  • Low Inductance
  • Best quality copper, silver coated copper or silver conductors
  • unconventional cable architectures like my helix designs

FOOTNOTE:
I take the promotion of products very seriously.
If a company's product is identified on this blog it is solely based on that products
exceptional performance.
I do not receive any payment for products mentioned on this blog

Over the years I have had my DIY favourites like Furutech and Van Den Hul that produce excellent products

Every now and again a company comes along with product that challenges those stalwarts!

At this point in time, that company is DH Labs - stellar products at great prices!

But once in a millennia a company like KLE Innovations comes along that throws out conventional thinking about cable design and produces products that excel at every level. Expensive? A little, but they are excellent performers.

If you are a cost conscious consumer like me, take a look at their products.

I don't think you will be disappointed - I know I haven't been Winking




Digital Interfaces - Which is Best?

My very latest delving has been into Fibre optic cables - i.e. Toslinks

It started by me placing an order for a DH Lab's "
Deluxe Toslink Optical Cable"

Wondering whether I'd done the right thing - I went searching...
  • Toslink has the advantage of not suffering from RF interference - so it is the better solution from that perspective
  • I started with my favourite cable maker Van Den Hul (aka VDH)
  • their OPTOCOUPLER II is a killer cable that "Guarantees" 250Mbps
  • I looked back at the DH Labs cable which states 150Mbps - Hmmm - not bad at all since it is less than half the price!
  • I then went looking at other manufacturers - e.g. my existing Chord toslink is 50Mbps
  • most of them didn't even publish their numbers

What about S/PDIF?
  • A different kettle of fish altogether...
  • The problem of RF pollution comes back into the equation, so I looked for cables with adequate shielding
  • Once again I went to VDH and found their Digicoupler - a triple screened cable with a performance of 3 Ghz
  • Once again - right there was DH Labs with their Silver Sonic D-75 and D110 with a performance of "beyond 2 Ghz"
  • and then there was the rest - not telling me the information I needed to know
  • The best performance in a brand name SPDIF cable I’ve found to date is from KLE Innovations - their gZero2D and gZero3D, which are extremely adept a transferring a digital signal
  • But the very best SPDIF I have used to date is my DIY Interconnect Cables - The "Helix Mark V" which seems to eclipse the the gZero3D by a smidgeon in clarity and imaging

What About USB?
  • Well, this can be an exceptional interface, but comes with caveats
  • The computers USB power is often used to power a DAC’s internal USB circuits - this can be quite unstable and impacts performance.
  • The USB cable itself contains both signal and power conductors which can cause noise and hence jitter - use a dual cable like this one
  • Also use a separate power adapter like this one
  • With the above additions, the USB interface will operate to the level of S/PDIF

If you are looking at digital interfaces - be sure that the cable(s) you select has a performance level somewhere near those above!


Good Huntin'

Grounding and "Floating Shield" architecture

WARNING: unless you are an experienced electrical professional - consult a technician

The following diagram depicts how "Floating Shield" cables must be connected to the various components in order to maximize their effectiveness

All source components having a two pronged plug must have a supplemental ground wire connecting their chassis to one central ground point - in my case it is located on the Power Conditioner

  • UPDATE: I no longer use a power conditioner, it has been replaced with a DIY power distribution panel, but it also has a centralized grounding point.

Since the Apple TV is not connected "electrically" to the DAC (i.e. only via optical interconnect) and it only has a two-pin plug there is no need to ground it .

I have included a Pre Amp in the diagram in order to show how the interconnect to the Power Amp must be attached.

The power cables to the Phono Stage and DAC are of a
“Helix geometry" which rejects RF and requires no screen/shield

What difference does this make? - I found that details in the music became much more noticeable and correctly positioned in the soundstage



Screen shot 2012-01-26 at 2.24.48 PM