We already have a lot of worthwhile questions from clients – here is some additional information about and from Slinkylinks – but do feel free to come to us with any questions you find unanswered.
What prompted the you to start designing and making Slinkylinks?
Really it came through the creation of one remarkable amplifier. A university marketing and management student, and a tech scientist, locked up in garages, with aspirations to conquer the audio world. This was fused with dream of hi-fi for the masses. Why, unlike any other industry on the planet, does technology stay static, goods get bigger and more phallic, and prices increase? Herein I think is why hi-fi is declining globally.
We are the antithesis of this. Get smaller, cheaper, smarter. Sell more cheaper products rather than fewer expensive items, simple supply and demand theory. Add production expertise into the fray and you are getting close to the current team.
We began with a plan to build an active hi-fi pc speaker system. I designed a transmission line which had space for amplification, just trying to get the biggest bang from the smallest object. Soon though as investigations continued, we realised that we just couldn’t get in the ball game. Economies of scale dictated here, we just couldn’t compete on price with Asian manufacture. We were using Slinky cable everywhere, and I had the idea of creating a cable brand to bring a perceived value to the speakers. Things evolved from here, and we realised that the cable was infinitely more achievable initially than our grander schemes. That and it sounded much better than anything we could buy!
What are the differences between the interconnects and speaker cables?
Slinkylinks speaker cables have 8 pure silver conductors, each in it’s own tube per speaker. That’s twice the conductors the interconnects have. But they also don’t require a separate casing so are thinner. The cables are factory terminated with a very special Swiss made medical quality banana pin. They are actually designed for lab testing. Better quality and durability than conventional industry equipment. These are the best sounding termination for speaker leads, bar none, that we can find. They are similar technology to the Eichmann Bullet Plugs used in the Interconnects, (hollow pin, less metal, etc).
This 4mm pin is compatible with all industry standard hifi but if you have any doubts do ask us first. There is presently no spade connector option.
Linn and Arcam owners should be especially pleased to note that these connectors are completely compatible with their products – in fact the first time we heard Slinky Links was on a Linn Classik and the improvement was both obvious and immediate.
Slinkylink speaker cables are very domestically friendly being compact pliable and neutral in colour – while you won’t be able to show them off as the latest macho accessory they do prove that you don’t have to be ugly and expensive to sound great.
It is not possible to terminate these cables yourself. Although each pair of cables are sold to us in set length pairs we are more than happy to cater for your special requirements – ie a 2m and 4m cable pair. In order to keep prices reasonable all the cables are cut and pre-terminated in multiples of 1m – the shortest being 2m (6 feet), the longest being 5m (16.5 feet). This is an unusual concept for NZ market, but as you are aware, pretty common place on expensive audiophile cabling offshore.
There is also a synergistic value combining the leads with our interconnects. I always knew this would be a hard one to get through to consumers, ‘of course they are going to say that’, is what I anticipate – but it is true. I have dubbed it the Slinkyzone tm. But try it out, they do sound great together.
How do you support the cable conductors to get the ‘air dielectric’?
To further enhance the properties of silver wire, the Slinkylinks team conducted extensive research into cable insulation. When wire comes into contact with any material, a dielectric loss occurs. What this means in effect is that the plastic insulation surrounding the wire absorbs some of the signal, then releases it back into the conductor out of phase. The timing of the signal is altered adding harmonic distortion and colourations. This can also be manifested as booming bass and disproportionate sound balance.
Similarly bits of data are lost, and cannot be recovered, destroying the clarity of the original signal.
The perfect dielectric material is air.
Knowing this, Slinkylinks designed an innovative method of insulating wire in a hollow tube, to dramatically boost the conductivity of its silver cabling.
Through product development and trial, Slinkylinks discovered that the benefits of an unimpeded bare wire could be captured by encapsulating the conductor in a hollow tube. The wire does actually come into contact with the plastic in random places. But as Slinkylinks engineers explain, “this has minimal effect on the cables performance, and is not audibly detectable”.
“We found test results better having the wire touch randomly, than trying to keep the wire housed centrally using Teflon spacers. Similarly, if the silver does make contact at one point, most of the conductor is still exposed to air, and the signal tends to take this path instead as there is less resistance.”
The result – a cable that Slinkylinks claim delivers stunningly clear and transparent sound in the treble and mid-ranges. Bass is cleaned up and performs as it should, as it was recorded, sharp and with a tight, low punch.
Do you have any test data to back up these ideas?
Independent analysis and testing was undertaken to substantiate and statistically validate Slinkylinks claims for their silver wire product.
The result, 17 pF capacitance per 2 foot of cabling, comparable to highest end products like Nordost, but available here in New Zealand, for under half the price.
Further tests showed 0.01 dB loss from 10 Hz to 20000 kHz, proving Slinkylinks cabling does not hinder the final sound of audio equipment.
How well made are Slinkylinks?
THE SLINKYLINKS CAR DOOR TEST
Perreaux are legendary for their amplifier ‘drop test’ but how do you make sure your interconnect cables are built to last? When first starting to develop Slinkylinks the team were given a returned prototype set – they had been accidentally shut in a car door and damaged. The prototype Slinkylink had passed the lab test, the listening test, the ‘normal use’ test. But accidents happen in the real world so a new test was needed. The unique Slinkylinks car door test was born.
Now any prototype cable is repetitively slammed in a car door. Tough? Yes. Unreasonable? Maybe but then again maybe not. This crash testing ensures that any Slinkylinks cable will withstand repeated plugging and unplugging, twisting squeezing and stretching. All the things that can and do happen in real life. A physically strong cable is also going to be less micro phonic which has further benefits in terms of sound quality.
I’m curious about how corrosion effects the signal transmitted by cables. Does air insulation around the silver wires allow the silver to oxidise? If so, how quickly does this occur, and if oxidation degrades the cable performance, how long do the cables last before they require replacement?
Oxidisation isn’t as big a deal as with copper. With copper there are a lot of trace impurities (copper oxide) that are semi-conductors, and will impede current flow. The trace impurities from silver though are oxides and sulphides, and silver oxides are conductive. These oxides should not be detrimental to your sound, even after several years. We have Slinkylinks prototypes that have been constructed for over five years, and they still sound great.
I would be nervous however if there are people selling similar products – air dielectric cabling – using copper conductors. These will corrode quickly and I guess hinder sound in a way similar to if you have ever had bare wire copper terminations, and then stripped back the insulation and re- terminated things. Sound always is better after this.
Is there a bi-wire speaker cable?
We have found in virtually all systems that for a given budget a good quality single run of speaker cable will always out perform two cheaper cables. While there are some obvious theoretical and audible advantages in bi-wiring, on balance we have to recommend quality will always win over quantity. So presently there is pre-made bi-wire option. BUT many amplifiers do have dual sets of binding posts which do allow you to use two sets of speaker cable with your bi-wirable speakers – if this is the case – and especially if you are pursuing both passive and active bi-amping or even tri-amping options we do encourage you to take the next step with Slinkylinks.
I’ve heard that some people find silver cables ‘bright’ Is this likely to be a problem for me?
With most copper cables (and systems set up around them), some people get really used to resonances – or warmth that their cables present. This of course has gone with ours. The bass is just so much cleaner. Once you get ears into our sort of sound though its really hard to go back to that sort of sound, it just sounds muddy and yuck. Wait till you have run the interconnects and speaker cable together for a while (they will need burn-in), and then try go back to a copper speaker cable. I will be very surprised if I ever use copper again for anything.
How come the Slinkylinks speaker cables aren’t as bulky as most others?
With Silver and reasonable lengths the simple answer is ‘they don’t have to be.’ It really becomes a balancing point with us for the cable. Four strands each conductor is great for speaker cable. Its just a nice blend, and works well up to 5m. 3-4m is ideal length with this configuration. After five meters gain loss can become an issue. This happens in all cables regardless of type or size – You can see there is no advantage in long speaker cables except for the bank managers. You can get around this for longer lengths by say doubling the conductors, going to 16 cavity speaker tube – this would be a bitch to make- but then capacitance and inductance will rise with the extra conductors. Not to mention price. So I think it is important to reach a balance between inductance, capacitance and resistance for an overall sound. We will keep working with various combinations to keep new products coming with time.
Slinkylinks don’t have a separate shield – why don’t they buzz?
We have actually found Slinkylinks to be quieter than heavily shielded cables. This goes against almost everything we have been told in the past so what’s happening?
From our findings in home audio, shielding gives you more negatives than positives. Certainly in the frequencies that the human ear can actually hear – 10HZ – 20 kHZ, it would seem that EMI and EMF don’t seem to do anything to sound. However with video frequencies that are much higher in kHZ, shielding does seem to be important. You can get static on the screen which is annoying to watch. Similarly with large scale audio equipment, like P.A systems, where there are massive RF levels then it is again necessary, or your lead is likely to act as a giant FM loop. A bloody expensive one in this case!
One client found he was suffering a real RF hum with one of his stereos. He attributed this to medical equipment, his system was in his doctors surgery. He was using some speaker cable on trial, that an importer just could not sell. HUGELY thick cable with aeons of shielding. Looked like giant red snakes slivering out the back of his amp. The hum completely vanished moving to Slinkylinks unshielded speaker leads.
You may start to wonder if the capacitance from the heavy shielding was introducing some noise into the sensitive audio equipment?
In our shop we often spend hours tracing stray hums and other noises – our experience with Slinkylinks has been completely noise free in all systems so far... but we will keep listening.
Tell me about ‘balanced’ leads
Balanced leads are terminated with the 3 pin cannon type connectors often seen in studio or pro use and also on better CD players and amps. But if you do not have these connections then such cables are of no use to you. Balanced, if properly implemented has real advantages over normal RCA connections but it involves having more circuitry in components hence only appears in higher quality/cost items.
With Slinkylinks the design process with balanced plugs was carried out independently of the RCA leads. This is because the way in which balanced works is fundamentally different from ‘single ended’ RCA leads. As it happens the basic configuration is the same as with the interconnects with two conductors each way. This just sounds the best. More conductors made the balance just too clinical in sound. However for the return or pin1 they just use one conductor in an air tube. Its nearly impossible to discern audibly the difference between one and two conductors on the return as this carries no musical signal, and the maths seemed to agree with every ones ears on this.
All available plugs were considered for the balanced leads but in the end the Amphenol proved best. While some people like the Neutrik cannons, Slinkylinks are to just too thick for their cable locking system and also the cable entry point. The Amphenol locking and strain relief system is so clever too. By it’s very nature, the balanced connection system tends to ‘iron out’ most sonic differences between different brands of plugs whereas there are much more obvious differences between the performance of various RCA type plugs. Another nice point is that these cannon connectors use silver plated contacts so we have the benefits of one material from end to end.
But why used balanced cables in the first place? The use of the high quality balanced signal inputs and outputs can have the effect of cleaning up hums, buzzes, RFI and general extraneous rubbish that can enter a system. A balanced signal input system operates on the principle of differential amplification. The positive and negative inputs are contrasted against one another and the difference between them is amplified. Noise entering the system is imposed equally on the positive and negative signals and therefore will not be amplified as no differential voltage exists.
The term used to describe the quality of the effect is called Common Mode Rejection. CMR is an equipment and system specification, that describes how well unwanted common mode signals are counteracted when used in conjunction with balanced connections. CMR action prevents the egress and build up of extraneous hum, buzzes and RFI when analogue signals are conveyed down cables and between equipment powered from different locations and is widely used in professional audio applications.
The bottom line is that you do have components in your system that offer balanced connections – and if these components are correctly designed, you will enjoy better sound when using them than you would if using the alternative RCA connection. And with Slinkylinks you can further optimise this connection!
I’ve found many cables and components seem to sound better over time – What are your thoughts on burn in?
I know what you mean about the maturing of the cables. Its an interesting area really. I am just getting adamant now its all about phase. Phase seems to be the inexplicable thing that just makes some systems better than others. Better timing. These cables really pull things into phase. Its almost that invisible benefit you get from them.
It seems to take a few weeks to get your reference ear set, the sound just seems to get better and better for a while. When I have been through system upgrades I have experienced this, and our designer has told me that my reference is out. Made me quite angry at the time. Sort of ‘bullshit my ears are fine’, but this is one debate I did lose – he was right.
The real test comes over time. It will be interesting after a few more weeks of listening to the system, if you can ever go back to another cable. Others might sound good at first, like ‘that bit sounds a little different’, but overall it just doesn’t sound right – this is what I attribute to phase timing. I find with orchestral music you really get it, the bass is just melodic and falls in place.
One of your product referees also picked it out, but didn’t know what it was – “This may sound a little strange... it almost seems like my music lasts longer and is in slow motion.” The cables have really pulled their system into phase.
It must have been ugly before hand, everything kind of racing away and chaotic sounding. They will be stunned mullets if they get the speaker cable to boot.
If you want to go even further the next step for you is too rewire your speakers. Piece of piss to do, and you are going to love the change. The image your speakers produce will be phenomenal. I wish you could hear what I have at home. You should also ensure that you have Polypropylene Capacitors on your crossover. Will make a massive difference. Many better speakers still use film capacitors which aren’t as good. You should swap them. With big value cap’s it would be expensive to replace – but you just aren’t cooking sound wise until you have polyprops.