|'Single Crystal' Audio & Video Verbindingen||
By Engineering Design Team
A new breakthrough in wire design? Two decades ago, inexpensive lamp cord was thought to be an acceptable connection between stereo components. Indeed, even today, many people still believe that “wire is wire” and since “electrons don’t know what they are traveling though,” wire can’t possibly affect sound quality. Of course, thousands of audiophiles with sensitive playback systems have found this isn’t true, although they may not know exactly why. It is perfectly clear to most audiophiles (and videophiles alike) that cables do indeed have an influence on the sound quality (and can even affect video clarity), but how to choose the best cable for any given system has been a mystery.
In the last few years, several researchers have done studies that concluded that reactive electrical phenomena affect the transfer of electrical signals through a wire; these include the inherent resistance, capacitance, and inductance of paired wire sets. If you have studied basic electricity, you will know that inductance affects high frequencies, capacitance affects low frequencies, and resistance impedes the flow of electrical current. Since these reactive elements can vary by several hundred per-cent depending on how the conductors are geometrically arranged, can there be any wonder that different types of wire can sound substantially different?
New wire technology
The purpose of this paper is to introduce a new type of cable design made by Harmonic Technology. This patented new type of wire is scientifically superior (and hence better performing with both audio and video signals) to every other cable on the market, regardless of price. Harmonic Technology has perfected and patented a new method of refining and casting metals which has resulted in a break-through design, allowing unprecedented levels of performance. Indeed, upgrading to Harmonic Technology wire will make a substantial improvement to any system, equal to upgrading an expensive component!
In addition, Harmonic’s cable products are modestly priced. Sophisticated audiophiles realize that most of the expense of those other “designer” cables is in the profit margin, not the materials.
Not Just Another Wire!
There is a simple explanation for the sonic differences between cables, (although the engineering behind the Harmonic design is far from simple). Four factors influence the behavior of the complex electron flow in a cable:
1. Conductor metal.
2. Insulation material.
3. Geometry of the strand configuration.
4. Connectors (plugs and spade lugs) and mechanical integrity of the connections.
1. Conductor Metal
Certain metals conduct electricity better than other materials, hence the ability to transmit electrons is measured by its “conductivity rating.” Two metals have superior conductivity, copper (98% conductivity) and silver (99% conductivity). However, due to cost restraints, most manufacturers do not attempt to purify the metal beyond a certain point. Standard copper wire is normally manufactured to approximately 99.97 % (four-9’s, or 4N) purity and contains oxygen and a variety of contaminants. Since most people believe that this level of purity is sufficient, little work has been done on raising the quality level beyond this point.
Harmonic Technology has pioneered an inexpensive method of refining metals to obtain purity levels in excess of 99.99997% (7N silver), allowing a more accurate electrical signal transfer. And since the purification process is done in an atmosphere eliminated of oxygen, long term oxidization effects are greatly reduced. (Oxidation over a long time period actually degrades the performance, so eliminating this problem is important for long term satisfaction. If you have studied chemistry, you know that oxides of copper do not conduct electricity!). In fact, our refining process is sophisticated enough to have earned the prestigious (and difficult to attain) Award Of Certification by the International Standards Organization (ISO9000 and ISO9002 levels)!
The oxygen content in commercial grade wire allows progressive oxidation over a period of time and unfortunately, copper oxide does not conduct electrons as I mentioned above. Some of the other impurities found in commercial copper wire include iron, lead, antimony, arsenic, sulfur, and aluminum. The impurities in the wire cause distortion to the signal due to the collision of the electrons with the impurities.
The electron flow of a musical or video signal is an incredibly complex signal consisting of both an electrical “flow” and a magnetic field surrounding the wire itself, containing thousands of packets of information. These packets contain hundreds to thousands of different frequencies combined with their unique phase structures. This signal is both extremely complex and also delicate, since the harmonics are very low in energy amplitude compared to the fundamental tone. For these reasons, it is quite easy to disrupt the integrity of the delicate harmonic structure traveling in “waves,” both on the inside core and outside surface of the conductors.
It is extremely important to deliver this complex signal with the least amount of change caused by the wire itself. Elimination of impurities that cause damage to the signal is very important if accurate sound quality is desired. Collision of the complex electron flow with the impurities is heard as harshness or brightness and/or veiling and dullness, since the harmonic structure of the signal has now been modified. Since these effects happen on a molecular level, it is easy to compare these collisions with the action of a diode, which also uses impurities by design to control the electron flow. Obviously, we do not wish to alter the complex musical or video signal, so wire that’s just “good enough” in this case is simply not good enough! Once the signal accuracy is lost, it can not be recovered later downstream. For this reason, Harmonic Technology’s unique purity processing is of great importance to audiophiles interested in obtaining accuracy leading to realism.
However, another problem with more important sonic consequences arises from a byproduct of the wire drawing process. When copper slugs are forced through a small die hole to extrude wire, the copper undergoes a molecular and hence mechanical change due to the stress and rapid cool-down of the metal. A cross section of the wire seen through an electron microscope shows that thousands of crystals have been inadvertently formed in the copper. Approximately 500 crystal boundaries per foot are found in high-grade oxygen-free copper wire, with as many as 1500 boundaries occurring in normal wire. The barriers formed by the crystals become another impediment to the natural flow of electrons, adding harshness and brightness to the sound as well as changing the harmonic structure drastically. In addition, the collisions of the signal electrons with the barriers also alter both image precision and sound stage focus. Indeed, the crystalline barriers add distortion to the signal, making their removal extremely important if clarity and smoothness are desired!
Please see the appendix page for electron microscope photographs we took of normal wire compared to Harmonic Technology’s Single Crystal TM (OCC) wire. The crystalline barriers are very apparent in the normal wire, and are virtually non-existent in the Harmonic Technology wire. This is an important engineering breakthrough and is patented. Elimination of the crystalline barriers offers higher fidelity to the signal!
Single crystal technology rescues the harmonic structure of music
A musical note is a delicate mixture of minute “fractiles” of sounds, often composed of thousands of different “sound bites.” For instance, a grand piano has a felt hammer striking a compound string formed of a solid core wire with a wrapping, which then vibrates on a brass sounding board which then resonates the piano’s hollow body. All of these different elements play a key role in determining that piano’s “tone.” If any of the harmonic overtones are destroyed by the transmission through the playback system, the sound will take on an “electronic” quality which allows you to realize that your system is not pleasing or realistic sounding. If you have heard a plastic toy piano with it’s single non-harmonic “dull” sound, you can imagine how important harmonics are to proper musical reproduction, since you would not want your Steinway to sound like that toy piano!
A video transmission from a laserdisc, DVD, digital satellite feed, or VHS tape has a signal just as complex as a musical signal. In the interest of seeing the picture intact, without any distortion of focus, color, or picture depth and “realism,” it is highly important to use wires in your system which do not alter the signal transmission.
For this reason, the crystal barriers impeding the natural flow of electrons must be eliminated from the wire in order to allow the signal to flow with complete accuracy. However, this is easier said than done, since many of the world’s most advanced laboratories have failed to find a cost- effective method to eliminate this common problem.
Patented “OCC” technology
Harmonic Technology has invented and patented a new method wherein a special process is used to “cast” a single crystal, eliminating the dreaded barriers. Since the stress of forcing the copper slug through the cold die creates the crystal barriers upon the cool-down phase, the new Patented Single Crystal TM process is done by slow-casting the molten, purified copper through a specially heated tubular mold. The cool-down of the single crystal filament is done at a very slow rate, thus eliminating the unwanted stress crystallization. This casting process is code-named “OCC” technology. Since this process is extremely sophisticated, we have applied for and received the coveted ISO9000 and ISO9002 quality approval certification from the International Standards Organization. All of the machinery and tooling we use has been designed from the ground up and is the most advanced metallurgy equipment in the world.
Although the Single Crystal TM (OCC) process is extremely expensive to implement, in both machinery and time, our large scale factory can manufacture millions of feet of wire per year, bringing the price per foot down to an affordable level. Here is a state-of-the-art technology you can actually afford to buy!
The sonic result of this new technology is pure, natural sound, devoid of the harshness and two-dimensional images endemic to other types of wire. The complete harmonic structure of music is retained, allowing beautiful timbrel differences between musical instruments to be easily heard along with three-dimensional images of the instruments to be replicated in space.
Picture quality is amazingly restored to cinematic quality, looking more like a 70mm film instead of a home video, complete with natural color hues and striking image depth.
The covering of the wire has an effect on the sound quality and video signal, since most materials will absorb and release electrical energy. (The only perfect insulator is a vacuum, and very close is air). Although a wool carpet cannot transmit electrons, you can certainly realize the effect of static electricity when you walk across the rug and touch a metal doorknob. In a similar manner, the absorption of energy by the insulator is released back into the wire, creating a smearing effect on the clarity of minute details. Dielectric absorption and dissipation in different materials can be measured and are highly audible. The best materials to prevent these distortions are Teflon and air foamed polyethylene. Note that vinyl, the least expensive and most commonly used insulator, is quite poor since it allows distortion of the high frequencies traveling along the surface of the wire. Harmonic Technology uses only the finest and most costly insulation materials including Teflon and air filled polyethylene, since these insulators allow the signal to travel down the wire without modification of the signal. Competing cables with standard insulation materials, on the other hand, have a smeared sound and blurry picture due to dielectric absorption and dissipation problems.
3. Winding Geometry
Since a large diameter, solid core wire cannot transmit both low and high frequency waves equally due to the “skin effect” (the tendency of high frequencies to travel on the surface of the conductor due to resistance), a bundle of small wires is often used in both interconnect and speaker wires. However, there is a considerable engineering trade-off caused by the interaction of the strands. The electrons can jump from strand to strand in un-insulated wire, causing arcing effects; since there is also physical movement of the strands due to magnetization effects, bundling affects the signal adversely. Many companies insulate each strand of wire in the bundle, (the “Litz” design), eliminating the strand-to-strand arcing and reducing the overall skin effect level. However, the proximity effect of closely spaced paralleled conductors can increase both inductance and capacitance that will dramatically alter the frequency and phase response of the signal.
The many differences heard between different brands of interconnects and speaker wires are mainly caused by these reactances due to their differing amounts of capacitance vs. inductance. These electrical reactances are caused by the interaction of the electrical fields surrounding the transmission path, since the signal is an alternating electrical current. In crossover design, capacitors are used to block bass signals while inductors are used to block treble frequencies. No one wants his expensive cables to alter the bass and treble in the signal or alter the picture quality!
To conduct both the positive and negative phases of the alternating signal, the pair of conductors may be geometrically situated in several fashions. First, the individual conductors may be run as side by side pairs, which allows the positive and negative fields to interact with each other, creating high inductance. Next, the pairs may be separated by distance and situated at cross-angles to each other, in a woven pattern. This eliminates inductance, but unfortunately increases capacitance. Finally, the wire bundles may be set in a circle, with insulation being at the core to hold the wires in symmetry. This is better, since the geometry may be engineered to reduce both capacitance and inductance, but not totally eliminate them unless other methods are used in conjunction.
The so-called skin effect results from the very short high frequency waves traveling on the surface of the wire where there is less resistance to their flow. Conversely, the long wavelengths comprising the low frequencies travel through the core of the wire itself. These differences in the conduction lead to electrical-field differences in the signals, causing further problems due to phase shift at very high frequencies. Although it is often said that the frequency range affected is outside the audible range, the audibility problem is caused by downward-reflecting subharmonics, as proven by several new studies.
An additional problem that the bass and treble frequencies may travel down the wire at slightly different speeds since there are multiple paths that the signal can take. This further adds to a lack of coherence between the fundamental tones and their harmonics. An attempt has been made to use ancillary circuits contained in “black boxes” to reduce this distortion. Black box “band-aids”
Several competing wire manufacturers have designed RC (resistor/capacitor) networks that claim to eliminate the phase shift caused by transmission speed differentials and capacitance/inductance effects. In strict engineering terms, these are “band-aid” devices since these RC networks correct for a problem caused by inattention to the winding geometry and insulation problems. Worse, however, is the elimination of low-level detail caused by the dissipation of the signal at the RC network boxes. Moreover, since the speaker’s crossover network is now dependent on interaction ahead of it by the RC circuit in the “black box,” impedance interactions can cause further sonic problems. Many speakers do not sound their best with these “auxiliary” crossover networks interfering with their operation as the amplifier damping factor is greatly affected. Most every audiophile is familiar with the concept that the simplest signal path results in the greatest transparency and thus find it extremely important to eliminate every possible source of coloration added by unnecessary parts.
For these reasons, Harmonic Technology has chosen the “high road” and engineered the cables properly from the ground up rather than resorting to auxiliary networks. Our new technology is called “Balanced Field Geometry” TM . (See below for further details). BFG reduces the cost and allows for greater transparency, enabling the speaker system to operate at it’s highest potential. Indeed, many top speaker companies have discovered the Harmonic Technology difference and are now using our cables in their reference systems.
Balanced field geometry TM
Harmonic Technology, after several years of applied research, has engineered a technique that reduces both inductance and capacitance to theoretical levels, allowing an almost perfect transmission-line path without alteration of the signal. The proprietary technology consists of “spiraling” the separated bundles of positive and negative wires in counter-wound fashion, using a hollow tubular core filled with air as a former. Since air is a better dialectric than any solid material, our Air-Tube tm technology eliminates distortion caused by unwanted electron flow across the gap. The insulated bundles are both twisted and then spiraled in alternating fashion, which reduces both capacitance and inductance, while simultaneously allowing both short and long wavelengths to travel down the wire at equal speeds. This reduces the phase shift to un-measurable levels in the audio range.
This Balanced Field Geometry TM allows perfectly neutral frequency response along with very fast transient response, reproducing the signal as close to perfection as possible. This method also rejects radio frequency interference, further allowing a quieter signal with a “black” and silent background. If you have ever wondered what your components and speakers “really” sound like, without distortion, you now have a way to find out!
The interface between the wire and the component is an important one; a poor connection can result in mediocre sound. For this reason, we have developed an entire line of connectors, including RCA, XLR (balanced), BNC, and spade lugs. All of these connectors have been developed using our Single Crystal high-purity 6N copper to provide the best transmission of detail in the signal. In addition, computer-controlled high-precision lathes have assured the tolerance of the plugs. This aerospace level of precision is very important, since a “gas tight” connection lowers contact resistance and reduces the corrosion from air-borne contaminants, allowing better sound over long time periods.
Our RCA plugs feature a locking outer barrel, which can be twisted to increase tension. This can be used as a “tuning” device to alter the size of the specific images within the sound stage. In addition, the tip of the plug has been designed to fit very tightly for similar reasons. All joints are mechanically compressed (sometimes called cold welding) before solder is applied to ensure a strong bond that will endure a lot of movement without breaking. In addition, it has been found that the electron flow in a mechanically “cold-welded” compression fitting is more accurate and hence much better sounding than a connection using solder alone, since solder does not conduct electricity as well as pure metals.
We recommend cleaning all contacts before installing your new Harmonic Technology interconnects and speaker cables. This can be done with various cleaning fluids on the market and it is recommended that a suitable contact enhancer such as Torumat’s TC-2 be used in conjunction. A cleaning every few months will allow your system to sound its best.
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