Belden ICONOCLAST Interconnects and Speaker Cabling


#1

One of the niceties of being a regular on this forum is that occasionally we get to be first in the door with something. I have been lucky enough to have had this happen to me twice now. Recently, I had the occasion to meet with Galen Gareis, a very passionate audiophile who is also an engineer (sound like another guy we know?). Galen engineers electronics cabling and has acquired numerous patents for Belden, a huge manufacturer of wire and cabling for virtually any application. Although their products are in recording and broadcast facilities globally, they are not known as a high-end audiophile cable manufacturer… yet.

Andres Sauceda, through Hanson Audio Video in Dayton, Ohio, has been involved in trying to bring Belden’s new product, IconoclastTM, to the market. Hanson AV has made available IconoclastTM cables, hand made by Galen, for vetting by a group of listeners. I was lucky to be one of them and I can tell you that their balanced interconnect is among the best cables that I have had the chance to audition. They will replace a pair of Nordost Valhalla (1st gen) as soon as I can get my hands on them. inlove_gif I have not listened to their speaker cable yet since I have a 7m run on both sides and that length is just not available as a demo. None of the cabling is available for purchase yet, but those details are being worked on by Belden and Hanson AV and hopefully they will hit the market soon.

The most significant thing about them is their performance, which is most impressive, and the second may be their price. My expectation is that they will provide high-end cabling at a much lower price point than comparably performing products. Belden has enormous resources and can produce complex cable designs in an economical fashion (and these cables are complex).

I had a fascinating conversation with Galen at his house. Here are excerpts from several emails between Hanson AV, Galen and several audiophile friends (used with permission).

Glenn-

"He (Galen), as opposed to many in the high end cable industry, actually understands how and why cables sound good and has patented key portions of the process for Belden. His contention is that it is overwhelmingly about the design of the physical layout of the cable and not exotic materials that deliver superior sound.

He used his ears first to guide the design and measured it later… The theories behind the magic are just basic electronics but the execution is quite complex. The idea is to keep the cable from screwing up what comes out of the amp/preamp. Any decent design, even simple ones, will deliver the full range of frequencies in the audio spectrum. The problem is that EVERY cable, even IconoclastTM, functions as a complex LC (inductive/capacitive or, as we like to call it, a “crossover”) filter that changes the phase of the delivered signal differentially across the frequency spectrum. This results in a myriad of defects (collectively, a product) that are presented at the next component. If you run two sine waves down a cable, the problem doesn’t look too daunting, but that’s not what we actually listen to. With “real life” examples the results are unpredictable since the interaction of different frequencies produces differing results, i.e. a Mahler symphony produces a totally different product than a Led Zepplin track. Each time that a signal is transmitted across the next cable the problem compounds and, the longer the cable, the higher the magnitude of the problem.

I also learned why the demands presented to speaker wire (large currents) require very different designs than those presented to interconnects (small voltages, even smaller current). The design of single ended cable is very different from balanced, as well. They both use the same air-core component to carry the signal but the electrical environment created by the actual signal transmission in each is very different. On top of that all of the signal is not being carried by the actual copper, but by the dielectric component as well, and that needs to be managed…

Starting to get the picture? It’s not your father’s zip cord. We geeked out for hours over these things. He’s got a big pile of “rejects” which weren’t to his satisfaction that people would kill for. It looks like a real labor of love to develop these splendid designs."

Gareis-

"‘This… changes the phase of the delivered signal differentially across the frequency spectrum…’ is much more complex than even that. The problem is the fundamental is good below the cable’s cut-off frequency but the high order harmonics off that fundamental want to be shifted in phase as you go up in frequency. This is why I stressed capacitance control is very important and to not use design that let capacitance get out of hand on speaker or interconnect cables. I have LOTS of designs that didn’t meet my 50 pF/foot or less on speaker cable and less than 15 pF / foot on the interconnects. Those are just ‘”raw” ingredient type things though, that I know can make a good cake. The taste is how it’s blended. I had several stomach aches, let me tell you.

So I KNOW when my processes yield near as good as they can, but this is my “ear” saying to STOP and record that step. It isn’t a measurement at that point ill AFTER it’s done, believe it or not. Oh, I have PLENTY of after the fact tests. We do test but it doesn’t force the design so much as tell you you didn’t get a good design. WHAT to do next is ambiguous. Intuition and experience then come into play."

I just want to give my fellow PSA forum members a heads-up on these (you won’t find any info, anywhere on these products yet). Hopefully, they will be coming to the market soon. I will try to keep you updated when I am given permission to release info.

When available retail, this is where you will find them: Hanson Audio Video | Home Theater - HiFi Audio - Home Automation


#2

Wonderful!

Belden makes wonderful wire. I have used a lot, along with Mogami, making mic cables, interconnects, etc.

And they publish specs for the technically inclined.

This is an exciting development.


#3

+1. I’ve needed new speaker cables for some time but haven’t been able to bring myself to spend the kind of money that seemed to be called for. I await developments with great interest.


#4

That’s great news Will! It’s not entirely surprising that a company like Belden understands what makes a good high performance cable, but that they actually plan on producing and selling to a niche market, that’s surprising. I’m all ears waiting for this one.

With respect to your speaker cables, 7m long! Are you running short interconnects to the amp or do you have a very large room? I have been running 5m single ended interconnects to the amp and 2m speaker cables. After playing with PP for a while I noticed a few tracks sounded, shall we say, bad! Short of spending money to upgrade something I wasn’t sure needed upgrading I decided to temporarily move the source components next to the amp and run 1m interconnect. Bingo, definite improvement. The real solution is using balance interconnects, but the amp doesn’t support them. I do need to upgrade the interconnect and speaker cable, after I update my amp, so the timing of Belden’s work is great.


#5

My listening room is a “U” shaped loft over our living room. The components and I sit at the bottom of the “U” and the speakers are out along the “arms”. This makes for a long run of speaker wire! On top of that, I have three runs of wire per side, one each for the mains, woofers and subs. Currently, I use some old Audioquest wires for the low end (I can’t even remember the name) and DH Labs Silver Sonic for the mids/highs. If the price is what I hope it will be, I will do a big upgrade. Belden has equipment and experience, that’s for sure. The “loom” that does the tight braid for the cables consumes $200 of electricity per minute! What Belden really has, though, is Galen Gareis. These are his babies and the design is a combination of decades of electronics cabling experience and an intense love of good sound. He has worked on this project for several years now and is about to see it come to fruition. The whole notion of this little market is something new for Belden. The interconnects easily subdued my Valhallas and others have compared them to even higher rated cables from other manufacturers (sorry, can’t say). I have heard the speaker wire in his system but have not had the opportunity to swap cables around myself. Again, others have been very impressed. Those of us able to audition the products at home have been very reluctant to give them back!45_gif


#6

I for one am surprised yet impressed that a company like Belden is doing this. I am surprised because in my experience cable manufacturers are the LAST people that believe wire and its construction have an impact on sound. When wglenn emailed me asking for permission to announce this development on the site I was, of course, happy to let him post the discussion yet dubious as to the idea of a company like Belden being able to come up with something of value.

What this shows me more than anything is the designer aspect. When I read they had engaged a designer who understood what’s needed to make cables that perform I was impressed - and am impressed - maybe there’s hope for cables. I wish Belden well.


#7

Actually, Galen drove this project on his own and got Belden interested during his pursuit of better audio cables. To make these cables to his spec requires machinery that would be prohibitavely expensive unless it was already present, like at Belden. The machine I alluded to before was not actually the loom but an extrruder for FEP (Teflon) and costs $200 per hour, not per minute. Oops.


#8
wglenn said ... and costs $200 per hour, not per minute. Oops.
No, that would be OOPS! Think how much these cables would cost if it did cost $200 per minute to manufacture! devil_gif

Edit: Doesn’t display my big font with bold, damn …


#9

“Real” cable companies know what they’re doing if you find the right person and ask the right questions. The best digital IC I own is one that was made for me through a relationship I have with a major cable company that makes analog and RF cables for some products my company designs and builds. When you have companies like these that can melt their own metals, draw their own wire, fabricate their own braiding and PTFE, and test and measure the thing so that they actually work the way they should (and people who know what they’re doing) you sometimes discover that these non-audiophile voodoo places know what they’re doing. My digital IC, up until the PWT and the I2S interface I now use, held its place in the face of a lot of contenders (including Nordost, Stealth… a number from the usual assortment).


#10

@pmotz: Yeah, the thing would have to squeeze pretty fast to make anything affordable.blush_gif

@tony22: Yup! Galen has explained some of the factors involved in getting a cable to work well. I have a pretty good grasp of electronics and physics but whoa Nelly… he gets so deep into what is going on that I loose track of where we started. Who would think that there is so much going on with copper and plastic but it has to be done just right and manufactured with precision to get the end result that he designed. I would love to have him join the forum but there are barriers to that. Belden is a big operation and there are a lot of rules that I am not familiar with concerning his involvement in this sort of forum. They have official channels for the release of information and those are strictly adhered to. Permissions need to be sought and even casual association with our forum would require vetting by Belden’s management. This is my impression. If I say anything that is not factual and am become aware of it, I will retract it. Probably best to not say too much in the end. Just wanted to let you guys know that these cables are in the pipeline. Meanwhile… I miss those darn interconnects!


#11
Paul McGowan said I for one am surprised yet impressed that a company like Belden is doing this. I am surprised because in my experience cable manufacturers are the LAST people that believe wire and its construction have an impact on sound.
But at the same time Belden and Mogami recognize, and publish, their specs and create cables for specific applications with varying parameters. They understand cables can and do have an impact on sound, but my read is they have little patience with playing with unproven/undemonstrable construction techniques and materials, or for elevated hyperbolic claims.

This is why I am very interested. They will not play in this sandbox unless they are convinced they have something to offer that truly works. No bags of shiny pebbles for legit well-established companies like this. I am willing to bet these wires actually work.


#12

Lo and behold, I now have a pair of Iconoclast 18ft speaker cables on loan courtesy of Galen and Belden. I’m going to live with them for a while before commenting on the sound. However, remember that old saying about guns and giving them up when they are pried from my cold, dead hands?laugh


#13

Yes!

Eagerly waiting for details.


#14

+1


#15

Still eagerly awaiting Will. 105_gif


#16


#17

Hope that’s a BIG bowl of popcorn Mr. Elk! What a hoot!


#18

I’ve been trying out the speaker cable for them. It is probably going to be a big bang-for-buck item. Several friends have tried my pair in their system and will be ordering when they are available. One is replacing Nordost Valhallas. Think “DS DAC” for speakers. I’ll check with Galen on what materials can be put up on the web now. They will be demonstrated at Axpona in the Hanson AV room.


#19

Will the cables be available to international buyers? Sounds like something I would be interested in for my electrostatics and also the balanced interconnects from DS -> power amplifier as I can use the extra gain the XLR configuration provides out of the DS


#20

Thanks Will. Sounds promising. I’m most interested in the speaker cables. Any idea when they might become available (if you can say)?