Insight into, and Demystification of, the
High-End Wire and Cable Industry
The very first thing I must discuss about the high-end cable industry is the absurdity about used cable on the internet. There are probably more than a thousand used cables for sale on the internet – over 500 on audiogon alone. Why is this? Is it because:
a. They have heard about one that is supposedly better?
b. Their current one is now too short or too long because of equipment change?
c. They need the money for other reasons?
d. They have become disenchanted with their current one?
(You, perhaps, can think of some others)
We have suspected for quite some time that the most prevalent reason is (d.), and for valid reasons. A high percentage of these used cables have internal damage that is unknown and invisible, to the owners. This damage has degraded their performance. To test our suspicion, for a period from March 2004 through May 2004, we accepted trade-ins of any brand. Which is something we never did in the past.
The majority of high-end cables are made by hand, believe it or not. If you examine a cable and find that there is an outside covering that is a web mesh (sometimes called TechFlex); this is the tell- tale sign of a hand made cable. Hand made cables have serious problems. I will indicate two here. (You can read details of all problems below in Are Hand Made ("Hand Crafted") Cables Better? No Way)
The first problem addressed here is, faults (defects) in the insulation or the metal conductor. These defects are caused by sharp bending of a cable. The mesh web covering on the outside of the cable is the culprit. This flimsy mesh does not provide protection against sharp bending. Virtually all hand made cables have this inadequate covering.
We tested the used trade-ins for this condition. These are detected using an industry test named a Spark Test. The test locates these faults in the insulation of a wire by application of a high voltage for a very short period of time while the wire is being drawn through an electrode field. The test will, of course, detect faults in the metal conductor too. Thirty six percent of the tested cables showed faults!
The second problem is the distortion of the internal weaving pattern caused also by the flimsy outside mesh that does not securely hold in place the internally woven wire pattern. The weave pattern in the design of a cable is one of the most important parameters of the design and its effect on performance. Flexing of the cable through normal use will cause distortion of the weaving pattern if it is not held tightly in place by some effective construction process. (See in our discussion further below in Are Hand Made ("Hand Crafted") Cables Better? No Way
as to why our cable construction avoids this serious problem.)
Thirty two percent showed erratic weave patterns probably because they shifted out of their original woven positions as a result of flexing through normal use.
A total of 58 percent had internal damage! Hand made cables, which constitutes the majority all high-end cables (proven by the outside mesh), may eventually incur these two damage conditions which deteriorates their performance. Consequently, owners who have become unhappy with their cables, and also unaware of these reasons, place them for sale on the internet. You rarely see L A T International cables for sale on the internet because our cables are not hand made and because of the heavy duty extruded plastic outer covering we place on all of our cables.
Now, on to some specifics about the industry:
Cable Designs, Materials and Manufacturing Processes
The high-end cable market today is surrounded by hype that may lead
one to believe that products are developed using very special
custom materials and secret manufacturing processes that are so
esoteric, complex and proprietary that their cable is ultra
expensive to produce thereby justifying the absurdly high prices.
We have many years of experience in the design and manufacturing of
wire and cable. After dissecting and examining many of the mega
high-priced competitive cables, none revealed any materials or
manufacturing processes that are not known by all wire and cable
manufacturers. Described below are the facts associated with the
design and manufacture of wire and cable in the industry.
There is no "black magic." In fact, insulations such as Teflon,
foamed Teflon, Polyethylene, and Polypropylene are not customized
formulations made especially for these companies, but rather are
only a few of the commonly available insulations used by all
manufacturers for all types of wire and cable. The high-end
audio/video cable market is far too small for chemical companies to
formulate custom insulations for high fidelity. Therefore, we use
the same insulation materials used by other high-end cable
Skin Effect, Magnetic Interaction, Effects of Capacitance and Inductance
These are terms that appear often in high-end literature written in
language that is also often technically intimidating to
audiophiles. Simply stated, skin effect is a phenomenon where high
frequencies travel along the outside diameter of the conductor
causing a timing difference (phase shift) of the travel of high
notes to low notes.
Magnetic interaction is a phenomenon that produces distortions as a
result of the crossing and intersecting of individual conductors in
a cable. Capacitance and inductance are electrical characteristics
that, if excessive, can cause filtering (reduction of volume) of
high notes and low notes respectively.
All of these effects must be considered. Many high-end cable
companies have expounded on their "unique" and "creative"
strand/construction processes and have proclaimed that only theirs
effectively cures the ills cited above. There are only five types
of strand geometry constructions: bunched, concentric, unilay,
braided (as used in the outer conductor of a coaxial cable), and rope lay. All of the high-priced cables we
examined use one of these constructions. These geometries, as well
as weaving (cabling) patterns are all accomplished by standard
strand and weaving machines in use today by virtually all wire and
What are our designs like?
First, the materials we use are the best available. Our connectors
are machined from solid billets; not stamped out of sheet metal as
some others are. Stamped sheet metal vibrates and causes resonance
and distortions. The insulation in our RCA connectors is PTFE
Teflon, not an inferior one like Delrin as many others use. These
details may seem small and not very important; however, they do
contribute significantly to quality of construction and
performance. You may have noticed that many other competing companies
do not describe the construction of their connectors - sheet metal
and Delrin are much less expensive.
We use high purity silver and
copper (six nines). Our top of the line cables use Teflon as the
insulation because it is the best insulation available. some of
our competitors use Teflon. However, we use, and state so in our
product descriptions, PTFE Teflon. This is one of the two types of
Teflon available. The other is FEP Teflon that is less expensive
and highly inferior to PTFE. Have you ever seen other high-end
cable companies state in their advertising that their Teflon is
PTFE? We use multiple solid core conductors in most of our cables
to control skin effect and eliminate magnetic interaction. We
utilize construction and weaving geometry that control capacitance
and inductance. Even though we use standard weaving (cabling)
machines, our weaving patterns are unique and proprietary. We also
include in our weaving constructions materials that prevent
build-up of static electricity and that absorb vibrations that all
cables are subject to.
A note of interest; some power cord manufacturers use ferrite in their cords. We have experimented with ferrite in power cord design. We have found that while it reduces line noise, it has a bad side effect of constricting the dynamics of the system. This we found to be true no matter how the ferrite was used – whether it was with one ferrite donut on the cable or with several placed along the length of the cable. Also too, the practice of impregnating the cable with ferrite granules or powder throughout its entire length does not improve the situation. We found it still produces the same bad effect. It is typical in power cord design that if you develop a very complex design it often causes performance trade-offs; some good things happen but also some bad things happen. That is why our philosophy is to keep the designs relatively simple, but with good and sound engineering practices.
In summarizing, audiophile cable is "real"
and does make dramatic improvement; however, the essential key to
producing top performing high-end cable is knowing all available
processes and being innovative in their application to your design.
Provided this is accomplished, the cable is easily manufactured and
in all instances ours are equal or superior to any others and are
offered at considerably lower prices. The "proof of the pudding",
however, is in the listening and viewing. This is why we offer our
45 day money-back guarantee.
Are Hand Made ("Hand Crafted") Cables Better? No Way
If you examine cables and find that there are ones that
have an outside covering that is a web mesh (sometimes called TechFlex); this is a tell- tale
sign of a hand made cable. The mesh can be black in color, gray, silver, gold or multi-colored. Hand made cables are made by small
sometimes garage operations who cannot afford to make cables using
professional cable production machinery because their runs are too
short, or they don't have enough working capital dollars to support long runs or they do not have the expertise and experience in using professional cable production machinery. In fact, most audio/video cable companies are small garage operations making their cables by hand. There are several serious problems with these cables.
First, the weaving of the inner wires is done by hand or, in some
instances, by twisting with a common electric drill. This kind of
hand weaving results in an inconsistent weave pattern from foot to
foot along the length of the cable. The internal weave pattern in the
design of a cable is one of the most important parameters of the
design and its effect on performance. If it is not precise and
consistent along its entire length, you will not get consistent
performance from one cable to another. You might get a good one or
you might get a not-so-good one.
The second and also serious
problem is the mesh outer sleeve. This mesh is like a Chinese
handcuff. The woven interior wires are pulled through the expanded mesh and
then the mesh is pulled by hand to shrink it down. The ends where the
connectors are applied will sometimes have heatshrink tubing over the mesh
and the connector to hold the mesh from coming loose. This flimsy
mesh sleeve does not provide protection against sharp bending: Our cables
are made with heavy duty extruded, molded di-electric plastic outside sheaths providing full coverage of the internal wires. This outside
covering protects the cable against damaging sharp bending.
bends cause defects to occur in the insulation and small fissures (cracks) in the metal conductor that
degrade performance. This is how much cable gets on the used cable
market. This kind of damage is not visible from the exterior.
Performance has gradually degraded and often the original owner
does not even realize it. This is one reason why you rarely see L
A T International cable on the used cable market. There are
companies that have close-outs on cable. Often these are ones that were somehow damaged in this way as demos or during manufacturing.
We do not sell demos or used cables - we do not want to pass off cables with hidden damage.
Another problem with a mesh outer sleeve is that it does not
provide any insulation benefit in addition to that of the inner
insulated wires. The most serious problem, however, with a
mesh coverings is that it cannot be made tight enough to keep the
weave pattern in place even if the weave were consistent. Through
normal use, flexing of the cable will shift this internal weave pattern out
of its original configuration causing the cable to perform even
worse. A loose outer sleeve is the most serious construction flaw contributing to poor performance and continuing degradation of performance as the cable undergoes normal use. Why do they make their cables in this manner? Because they
do not have sufficient sales volume to make the long production
runs that are necessary when utilizing wire and cable machinery.
There are no L A T International cables that are made in this
manner. We have sufficient volume to make long runs - thousands of
feet per run. All of our cables are internally woven using professional
weaving (cabling) machines where the pattern geometry is accurate to the
design and consistent through the entire length. The accurately
woven inner conductors are passed through extrusion machines where
molten di-electric plastic insulation is used to cover, insulate and further
protect the finished cable. The result is cable made accurate to the design and
consistent from cable to cable and from foot to foot. Also, the
extruded outer sheath (jacket) keeps the woven pattern snugly in
place to ensure there is no deterioration of performance as you
move and flex your cables.
Some of the most outrageously priced cables are made by hand. Some
have gotten good reviews. No doubt, the ones submitted for review
were carefully selected by their makers through long comparative
listening tests. If you buy one and you are very lucky, you might
get one like the selected ones. But, if you do get a good one, it
may not be good for long.
A Note of Special Interest
We have become aware, lately, that the other high-end cable
manufacturers have introduced cables at prices much lower than
their top-of-the-line cables. These lower priced cables are in
addition to their high priced cables; which, of course, are the
best they have to offer. These lower priced offerings, we believe,
were prompted apparently because of us who have developed cables as
good or better than our competitor's best, and at prices comparable
to their low priced cables. We also believe, however, that the
Audio/Videophile public recognizes that this marketing strategy
requires that these lower priced cables be intentional down-grades
in performance. This is because they now have so many models that
it is necessary to design their performance to cascade down as does
the pricing scale. We ask that you draw your own conclusions.
Inquires are Welcome from U.S. Dealers and International Distributors for Protected Territories