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. 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).
"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."
"‘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