Questions and Answers with Gary Leonard Koh, Designer & CEO
Why do you only have one model of each cable? Can I get something in a lower or higher price category?
The Absolute Fidelity Interfaces are the reference by which we design and demonstrate our systems. We do not try to be all things for all systems. Moreover, our interfaces are very specific to the type of components that they interface between. We recommend that you purchase something from one of the other excellent cable companies should your system exhibit sonic characteristics that would benefit from such treatment.
Why then two models in the Loudspeaker Interfaces?
When these cables were first conceived, they were ONLY for Genesis loudspeakers. Our speakers have a built-in amplified servo-bass system and hence do not require large currents in the low frequency. However, due to the demands of our dealers, we designed a cable for loudspeakers needing high current in the low frequency range. Such loudspeakers would usually have large woofers (12-inch or larger) or multiple woofers (two 8-inch or more). The standard Loudspeaker Interface is suitable for the vast majority of loudspeakers, and the high current version is only required with a very small number of very large loudspeakers.
Should I bi-wire?
As a loudspeaker designer, I prevent my customers from biwiring as in general, it may create more problems than it solves. Moreover, Genesis loudspeakers have a built-in servo-bass amplifier, and hence are already bi-amplified. However, there are loudspeaker designers who recommend that their loudspeakers be biwired. For these, we can internally biwire both the standard Loudspeaker Interface as well as the High-Current Loudspeaker Interface with two pairs of output so that you do not need to use jumpers which we feel degrade the sound. We do not recommend buying two pair of cables, and would rather that you spend the money buying music to keep the industry alive. However, we cannot stop you from buying two pairs of our cables to bi-wire your loudspeakers, but we would rather that you do not do it.
Why a Power Interface Cable?
I have always been a skeptic where power cords are concerned. My thinking is, “How can 5-feet of very expensive wire fix the 20 miles of really cheap copper between the power station and the component?” It really makes no sense. Component designers already go to great lengths to design good power supplies with excellent filtration, storage, and sonic characteristics to complement their circuits.
One day, I was helping out a dealer and visiting a Genesis 2.2 customer and friend to fine-tune and set-up his system. Towards the end of two very pleasant days, the dealer suggested that we try out different power cords on the friend’s turntable. Both my friend and I were initially resistant, but out of respect for my dealer, we dutifully swapped out the free power cord that came with the turntable (a model that already has a very well-designed power supply I might add) with different brands and types. The first few cords we tried did not make a difference that I could hear, but the final power cord my dealer put in made my jaw and my customer’s jaw drop.
The most amazing thing about it was that it sounded like we had just cleaned the record! Surface noise seemed to have been reduced, which is not at all what we had expected. Further critical listening revealed more detail not less, a much more open soundstage, and even a wider frequency power band.
We were astounded because these improvements would typically be associated with a better turntable, or arm, or cartridge, or even cleaning the record.
The power cord we tried, which shall remain nameless, was one of the typical exotic, big, fat, heavy, impressive-looking cords that were designed for power amplifiers. However, the customer decided that a power cord that was almost as expensive as his turntable was a non-starter, and challenged me to design one better and cheaper. I was intrigued to say the least.
Two weeks later, I had a prototype. It comes not from trying to fix the 20 miles of cheap copper between your hifi and the power station, but from an understanding of how a turntable motor draws power through a regenerative power supply. I sent it to my friend, and my dealer got a check for it.
I made a few more for my own turntable and for other friends – one of my dealers convinced me that it was too good to remain hidden. So, it came to pass….. then, I started thinking about power supplies, and what would be needed for power amplifiers (high current, dynamic draw), preamplifiers and DACs (low current, constant draw) and two more designs were born.
Would better (more expensive) materials sound better?
We have done our best trying out over 30 different types of wire with different insulators. There are some that sound different, but on balance did not sound better. There is one material, though, that might sound better. This is Ultra Pure Single Crystal Continuous Cast Silver. However, if made from this, a 2m set of speaker cables would have to retail for upwards of $48,000. We did not think that the incremental improvement in quality would be worth doing. We might be wrong, but it would be difficult to conceive what improvement another $45,000 would bring over our $3,000 version.
Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we have elected to use commercially available connectors, materials, tools and techniques to keep the price as reasonable as possible.
Won’t silver cables sound bright and lean?
Not in our experience – the pure silver cables we tried that sounded bright and lean are generally much thinner gauge than an equivalent copper cable. In our experience, with an identical dielectric, the same gauge and strand count, and the same assembly, a silver loudspeaker cable sounds much warmer and fuller than the equivalent copper cable – possibly too warm and too full.
Are the cables directional?
Yes…… and no. Depending on the context of your system, they will sound different. However, they will break in to one direction, and when you flip them around, you will need to break them in again in the other direction. We build and run them in one direction at the factory and you may want to stick to this direction when you get the cables. The logo should read from the source to the destination. So, for the Loudspeaker Interfaces, the logo reads from the power amplifier to the loudspeakers. Also, the gold-plated spades are at the amplifier, and the silver-plated bananas are at the loudspeaker. With the single-ended interfaces, the copper connector is also at the source and the silver connector at the destination.
What differences will I hear with cable direction?
We find that using the cables in the direction we recommend, the cables are slightly more dynamic, faster, and tonally accurate. Turning them around, you get a softer, warmer sound.
That’s strange. You use different connectors at each end???
Yes, the interfaces seem to sound better that way, but it might also be system dependent. We use silver-plated banana plugs on one end of the Loudspeaker Interface, and gold-plated spades on the other end. With the High Current Loudspeaker Interfaces, spades sound better than bananas. It might have something to do with the fact that three strands of 12AWG wire is thicker than a standard banana plug and the signal has to “squeeze down” to the banana – but that is purely conjecture.
On the Single-ended Component Interfaces, there is one silver WBT RCA connector on one end and a copper WBT connector at the other end. The copper connector sounds better on the source end, but again, this may be system dependent.
With the Balanced Component Interfaces, male and female Neutrik XLR connectors are used, but both are silver in this application.
How many hours of breaking-in do the Interfaces need?
They should be ready to go straight out of the box. There will be a slight improvement in “naturalness” over the first 100 hours or so, but they should never sound unpleasant.
However, all cables benefit from some “settling” time. After plugging them in, they should be allowed to settle and come to a rest. There is some harshness for at least a couple of hours until they do. After moving the cables (especially the speaker cables), they will again benefit from some more settling time as they come to a rest in their new positions.
How much better is the High Current Loudspeaker Interface?
If your loudspeaker does not require the high current capability, it might not be better, and could even be worse. The high current version has a lower inductance but slightly higher capacitance. On balance, this reduces transient smearing due to the lower inductance and loses some micro-dynamics due to the higher capacitance. If your speakers do not draw high currents, there may be no reduction in transient smearing, but you have the loss of micro-dynamics. (More expensive does not equate to better!)
How will I know which Loudspeaker Interface Cable to buy?
Obviously, we cannot know how our cables will perform with every loudspeaker out there, but give us a call and we might be able to figure it out together. In general, if the speaker requires more current capability than the cable is designed for, you will find that it is a little lean (obvious), but what is not so obvious is that music might sound too fast with the musicians sounding hurried, and there might be so much apparent detail that the sonic picture is a little etched – like an over-sharpened picture on your TV.
On the other hand, if your speaker requires less current capability than the cable is designed for, there will be a loss of speed and articulation with blunted micro-dynamics. It will sound richer and warmer as a result.
Can I run different lengths for left and right?
Yes – as long as you do not go crazy like with 1m on the left and 20m on the right! Cables have inductance and capacitance that are measured per foot (or meter). The longer the cables are, the more expensive they are, and the worse they are. Hence, we recommend that the cables be kept as short as possible. If you really need to go long, the only cable that we would recommend longer lengths of is the balanced interface – we use a 7m pair for shows so that the amplifier can be near the speakers and the preamp near the listening position.
On the other hand, we do not recommend the cable to be much shorter than 2m. This has nothing to do with “electrical length” as at the frequencies encountered in audio, the electrical length difference is negligible. It is purely to do with assembly and construction and being able to have sufficient length to achieve our desired balance of capacitance and inductance.
This is also why we do not sell the cables as a 2.75m pair – each different length is a new design.
Do you recommend cable isolators, lifts, etc?
All cables will benefit from isolation from vibration, and kept at least a couple of inches away from everything – especially anything made of ferrous metal. Absolute Fidelity Interfaces are covered with two layers of conductive mesh – one is a metallized polypropylene and another is a conductive polyamide – to protect (mostly) from static charges and also (less so) EMI/RFI. Hence, the benefits from cable isolators would be subtle.
Where is the heavy polished wooden box or laser engraved aluminum case?
We feel that this would add to cost of the cable, but not to the sound. If you are interested, we can commission a talented woodworker to make you a beautiful wooden box! 🙂