The speaker connection problem - my experience and thoughts by Steve Elford

“All the things that are worth doing, take time” – a popular quote, attributed to American hip hop musician Mos Def I believe. And it’s certainly true when it comes to understanding and designing hifi.

The beginning of my venture into the audio business occurred in the mid-1990s, when I started to figure out some of the basic problems with RFI and microphony. I was an engineer officer in the UK Royal Air Force, and I worked with, and studied up on, specifically, the theories of ultrasonic testing (ultrasound scans for aircraft) and the problems and techniques associated with electrical noise polluting systems on complex aircraft. As I worked in my spare time applying these principles to hifi, I came to understand just how significant they were to sound quality. Jump forward ten years and our company, Vertex AQ, had developed a great range of accessories using all this knowledge as a key element to their design and performance.

But as well as discovering all the specific technical solutions required, what was equally important was working out how a typical hifi system really does interact with itself, and its surroundings. How vibration travelled around materials and how the various circuit components in a hifi react to that vibration. And equally, how RFI did its damage as it traveled around circuits, through the system Earths, and indeed jumped across into other circuits as radio signals. 

There’s an awful lot to it. But let me focus in a little on the speaker connection problem. For many years, as we developed the Vertex products, tested them, visited customers and did many shows, I came to understand just how damaging uncontrolled vibration and RFI was in this part of the system. I got involved with other companies doing joint hifi shows, including the big ones like Munich and Rocky Mountain, and would be privately dismayed at how much ‘musical’ performance was thrown away when some of them used conventional cables from other brands. There would always be some debate about the precious metals alloy of the conductor or the fancy geometry of the construction, with people going ooh and aah at the supposedly ultra-fine detail resolution, but then all muttering about ‘bad recordings’ when any mainstream rock, pop, dance or orchestral music was played. The truth always was that with more energetic music the levels of acoustic energy feeding back from the speakers (bear in mind how loud you need to play a system at a show) was trashing the timing and imaging. And add to that the high levels of RFI around and you've created huge levels of hash and splash on energetic vocals and percussion. In essence the whole thing would always be a total mess.

We refined our Vertex designs further and came up with the HiRez Moncayo speaker cable – a brilliant way of significantly reducing vibration and RFI damage, bringing an immensely enjoyable musical experience back to even the most difficult recordings. Some of the world’s top reviewers loved them, and even bought them. Here’s one review from Paul Messenger as an example. HiRez Moncayo Review.

But now we’re at the point of launching our new brand, Quiescent. More people, more technology, but also (going back to the quote) more time. We’ve kept on researching, finding better ways to design casework, finding new materials and re-engineering our build processes to better optimise everything. The new ABS anti-vibration braiding has enabled us to launch a straight-through cable that doesn’t suffer from gross acoustic problems. And this has allowed us to go modular with the cable range, introducing the Peak modules as discreet items which allows so much more flexibility with system configuration and upgrading strategy. Add to that the new direct sales model we are now using through this website and I am extremely confident that we are offering here a truly world-class speaker cabling system at amazing prices. Okay, not cheap but when you hear them (and you must hear them) I think it will all make sense.

Steve Elford