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L A T International, Inc.
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Cable Hype & Demystification
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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.

Conclusion:

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 manufacturers.

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 cable manufacturers.

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.

Sharp 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