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AudioQuest

AudioQuest Culture

AudioQuest is driven by an equal passion for product performance and customer service. Phone calls and emails are answered by real people, and products are
designed by people with a genuine love of music and film. Despite growth and success, AudioQuest remains a small company at heart that believes business is earned by
staying true to its core values of performance and value.
 
 

Do No Harm

Audio and video reproduction is fundamentally a case of damage control. The signal is at its greatest potential … is least damaged …at the source. Great sound and great pictures, music that consumes you, movies that transport you around the universe … all come from honoring the original signal. It’s an unavoidable fact of life that every component and cable in a system causes distortion, changing the overall character of the signal. These aberrations add up, like layers of dirty glass between you and an image you are trying to see. Better cables, and for that matter
better components, cannot
improve the signals they carry … they can only do less harm to those signals and reduce the amount of noise and distortion introduced into a system, thus improving performance.
The goal of high quality components and cables is to be like cleaner panes of glass … to minimize any alteration or distortion of the signal. Do No Harm!
 
 

The Four Elements

 
The foundation on which AudioQuest is built is comprised of the following four fundamental ‘elements’ of cable design and manufacture.
Another way to think of this is that these elements comprise the basic “recipe” for all cables. The choices the cable designer makes in selecting and balancing these materials and construction techniques determine the cable’s ability to reduce distortion and noise and deliver high performance. An off-the-shelf cake mix, for example, might produce an edible product, but that’s unlikely to match the efforts of an educated pastry chef who handpicks the finest, freshest local ingredients.
By learning about the Four Elements and their significance, you’ll be able to better understand the entire AudioQuest product platform. Solid Conductors
Solid conductors eliminate a fundamental problem caused by stranded conductors, which results in significantly better
performance. To understand the benefits of solid conductors, one needs to understand the problems inherent in stranded conductors.
 
The Trouble With Strands:
 
A stranded conductor is made up of hundreds of strands (sometimes not much bigger than the thickness of a human hair) bundled together to create a conductor. The strands on the outside present an ideal electrical pathway, but the ones on the inside have different electrical values. This causes the same
information to be distorted differently in different parts of the cable. The bigger the bundle of strands, the bigger the problem. The
fundamental problem is that the position of each strand in the conductor is not consistent. Individual strands weave from the
outside of the bundle towards the center and back again in a standard bunched-conductor multi-strand design. Because the
signal wants to take the path of least resistance, it will travel closest to the surface of the conductor – in this case the strands on the outside of the bundle. When an ‘outside’ strand weaves towards
the center of the bundle, the signal will ‘hop’ to a neighboring ‘outside’ strand in order to maintain the path of least resistance. Since the strands are constantly wandering, the signal is constantly ‘hopping’ from one strand to another, causing the most harmful kind of distortion found in a cable. In addition, the contact between these bunched strands is less than perfect. The point of contact between strands is actually a simple circuit that has capacitance, inductance, diode rectification … a whole host of problems. This happens
thousands of times in a cable, and causes most of the hashy and gritty sound in many audio cables. This distortion mechanism is
dynamic, extremely complex, and because of oxidation, will become worse over time.
 
Magnetic Interaction is the other primary problem in cable design, both with a stranded conductor, and between conductors. A strand carrying current is surrounded by a magnetic field. Electric potential is transferred as current inside a metal conductor and as a magnetic field outside the conductor. One cannot exist without the other. The magnetic field outside a conductor diminishes at distances away from the conductor. (Density is 100% only at the surface of the conductor.) In a bundle, each strand has its own magnetic field. These magnetic fields interact dynamically as the signal in the cable changes. On a microscopic level, a stranded cable is actually physically modulated by the current going through the cable, particularly with high current applications such as speaker cable. The more powerful magnetic fields associated with the bass notes cause the greatest magnetic
interaction, which modulates the electrical characteristics of the cable, which in turn modulates the higher frequencies. Because the music signal modulates the contact pressure between adjacent strands, it also modulates the distortion caused by current jumping between strands.
Distortion due to both magnetic interaction and from bare strands touching does not exist when using solid conductor designs. As a result, solid conductors cause significantly less harm to the signal and provide significantly better performance.

History

AudioQuest was not so much founded as it was evolved.

When Bill Low created AudioQuest in 1980 it was really just a small variation of the audio activities he had started in 1972. During high school and early college, Bill had struggled to have the best audio system he could. He had built dozens of Heathkit and Dynakit amplifiers, preamps and tuners for classmates. Each US$10 or $15 he earned building kits went to buy records or to upgrade to a better piece of used equipment.

 

While at college in Oregon, Bill realized that instead of simply offering audio component recommendations to other students, he should sell the equipment. His small appointment-only business evolved from selling BSR turntables and Hitachi receivers in 1972, to Linn Sondek, Radford, Celestion and Yamaha (first dealer in the Northwest) in 1974. In 1975 his little shop was the largest Linn Sondek dealer in the US.

By 1976, with college long over, the urge to move to California was irresistible. The retail business was passed on to a friend and Bill set himself up as a manufacturers’ representative in northern California, an especially conservative market. Dealers were fond of saying: “If I don’t already carry it, I obviously don’t need it.” It was difficult to even get a chance to demonstrate the superb equipment was representing, which included Decca, Audionics, Koss Electrostatic, AEA, Dunlap Clarke, and Celestion among others.

During visits to southern California, Bill learned that the two markets were very different. The standard answer from the southern dealers was: “Sure, bring it in and let’s listen.” So, in 1977 Bill moved south. Unfortunately, the combination of open-minded dealers and excellent equipment (Cizek, Decca, RAM, Koss Electrostatic, RH Labs, PSE, Ariston, Armstrong, Rogers, Chartwell) still didn’t work. The truth was (and is) that Bill was just plain not good at selling! He never became a professional salesperson, he never learned how to sell other peoples’ products.

After six years inside the audio business, both as a retail proprietor and a manufacturers’ representative, Bill once more started a by-appointment-only store out of his living room in Santa Monica. This time Bill made one small but very important decision … he decided to make custom audio cable for his store.

Audio cable became a visible subject in the US in 1976 when Polk Audio introduced a Japanese sourced cable under the name Cobra Cable. This high capacitance/low inductance Litz cable encouraged some amplifiers into self-destruction, but it usually made systems sound better. By 1978, Polk, Bob Fulton, and Jonas Miller Sound had made audio cable an important subject for those at the leading edge of audio.

Since the 1960s, Bill had appreciated the advantages of using better than average cable. In 1977 Bill bought a spool of the 12 awg lamp cord that Noel Lee (future “Head Monster”) was selling to his dealers in northern California (Bill and Noel used to sub-rep each other’s lines in the two California territories). In 1978, Bill and another small retailer cooperated in ordering a custom-made twisted pair litz speaker cable. In some ways Bill is embarrassed to remember this cable which he refers to as “original recipe” … it had 435 strands per conductor and didn’t use very good copper. However, as a starting point it was really very good. It clearly outperformed the Fulton Gold cable that was considered top-of-the-hill at that time. It was spiraled and it did not have any electrical contact between bare strands.

Over the next two years, Bill manufactured this cable, and a second smaller model, simply with the intention to sell them in his small store. However, other dealers in the Los Angeles area began to buy this cable from Bill. It was also distributed in Japan. In 1980, Bill realized that it was time to make cable for the purpose of selling to other dealers. He started AudioQuest.

The evolution of AudioQuest cables has taken place over the entire life of the company, however several of the most important basic design criteria were established very near the beginning. These basic priorities were established as a result of empirical experience and not by abstract theorizing.