Precision audio connectors and premium cables provide music aficionados with high-fidelity sound.
With over 16.8 million vinyl records sold in 2018, hi-fi audiophile systems are no longer considered a relic from the past. Millennials are building their primary living spaces around equipment that resembles the audio systems of their grandparents’ generation, with a few high-tech twists. Though vinyl lacks the portability of mp3s, a new generation is discovering the superior audio quality the format offers. The latest audio equipment — and audio connectors — are helping them enjoy reissues and remasters of older records as well as new releases. Vinyl sales account for 18% of the entire music marketplace, a 5% increase from 2017, and experts expect the trend to continue in the coming years.
Although the marketplace for turntables is still dominated by consumer-grade products, audiophiles tend to gravitate towards specialized equipment, and they carefully consider every aspect of their audio system since it’s likely to become the centerpiece of their home or office. A common misconception is that power cabling and power connectors are the last step in the quest for perfect sound. The truth is, power cabling and power connectors should be planned from the outset. Since power transmits by using electromagnetic waves and current flow, the current itself cannot be contaminated but the electromagnetic wave can modulate with other frequencies. These other frequencies are noise or electromagnetic interference (EMI). Power cords will use capacitors, inductors, or ferrites in an attempt to control the electromagnetic fields around the audio component. The power supply of the component can only be successful if it reacts well with the component. From the perspective of the system, the power cable is the first — and most important — stage.
The strategic selection of plug and connector components and termination process is important to cable performance. Pure, unplated, high-purity copper is a standard for connector surfaces. Copper connectors are also often subjected to cryogenic processing, which alters materials at the molecular level. This permanent, irreversible process releases residual stresses, and alleviates the negative effects of crystalline grain boundaries in copper. Cryogenic treatment effects a measurable reduction in the cord’s resistively for improved current flow. The result is less distortion, which impacts all performance attributes, but particularly resolution. Gold is also popular in audio connectors, as it is highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation. It is also fairly soft, so the mating surfaces deform slightly, increasing contact area to reduce resistance.
A primary source of audible sonic degradation is caused by the power supplies, an issue easily corrected by power connector upgrades. Components using full wave bridge rectifier power supplies generate transient noise when the rectifiers switch off. The design of a power cable can significantly affect the reactance of these signals within the power supply.
Amphenol Audio offers an extensive range of connectors suitable for use as audio connectors in high-end and professional sound equipment. Amphenol’s XLR connectors feature insulation displacement contact (IDC) architecture. The AX 3-pin XLR Female Cable Connector Series features a contemporary look, with a sleek black zinc-nickel finish and low-profile strain-relief boot, and is designed to complement modern audio architecture in both appearance and performance. Each AX Series 3-pin female XLR connector features precision-stamped, gold-plated socket contacts with compact solder buckets for reduced termination time and material wastage during soldering.
Shunyata Research’s C-MARC (common-mode auto-rejecting cable) provides gigantic signal-to-noise ratio, which is the ratio of the strength of an electrical or other signal carrying information to that of the interference. The C-MARC’s noise reduction is based on the “bucking coil method” using two counter-polarized coils. Every strand’s clockwise turn aligns with a corresponding counter-clockwise turn of exactly mirrored diameter and step. The two resulting counter-polarized coils are mutually superposed. A second-scale fractal replication of the already bucking coils is then repeated. C-MARC power cables can be made with high-performance UK-type plugs from Furutech, AU/NZ type plugs from Furutech, and 32A PowerCon type plugs from Neutrik, and 20A C19 plugs can also be utilized.
GCT’s audio connector products are featured in premium headphones and portable speaker products. The company’s USB Type-C and Micro USB connectors are typically used for charging and power functionality.
Neutrik’s 32A PowerCon connector is a robust and reliable locking single-phase AC appliance cable connector for high current capacity (32A rated). It is a non-standardized three-pole connection system that does not break capacity to serve the needs of high-power distribution systems and supplies for professional audio and lighting equipment and installations. The connectors implement contacts for phase, neutral, and protective earth (ground) conductors rated for currents up to 32A and for voltages up to 250V.
Isotek’s optimized conductor strand geometry and active shielding in their power cables, with silver-plated 99.9999% OFC conductors, offer exceptional levels of purity with enhanced conductivity. IsoTek’s EVO3 Sequel was awarded five stars from Hi-Fi Choice, due in part to its high-quality Teflon FEP dielectric (insulation), which provides a very low dielectric constant over a wide frequency range. Building upon the momentum of the EVO3 Sequel, IsoTek offered an upgrade in the EVO3 Elite, a high-end power cable that uses seven-core geometry, high-purity copper, and high-purity FEP. The EVO3 Elite provides clean power to source components and preamplifiers, in addition to small or medium-sized power amplifiers.
When building an audiophile system, it is incredibly important to remember that each part contributes to the greater whole. When starting with clean power, the rest of your system benefits. Not only are power cables a necessity, but if AC power flows freely and cleanly, and aggressive isolation technology is used to thwart EMI/RFI, the rest of the system achieves peak performance. In the world of audiophiles, there isn’t room for a component to operate at any level less than perfect.