Tellurium Q® have been asked many times why our cables perform differently to others. We are not going to pass on the exact details of what we are doing to achieve the performance that the reviews and multiple product of the year awards talk about, however time moves on and so it is time to talk a little more about the how.
When Tellurium Q® was set up the focus was primarily on the idea of phase distortion and minimising this problem inherent in all cabling, whoever makes them and wherever and however they are made. The reason it is a problem is simple, all materials (not just cables) in the path of a signal will act as an electronic filter according to the definition in the box below, whether you want it to or not. This is undeniable. It is obvious from research that there is an impact of the “naturalness” of vocals for instance.
We think about cables as a filter as outlined by its scientific definition and not necessarily as something being “filtered out”, like with a mechanical sieve. According to Bell labs way back in 1930 working on phase distortion and its impact on speech, they found that when comparing a system that had negligible phase distortion with one that had, “it is noticed that the distorted speech is accompanied by certain audible effects which appear to be extraneous to the speech and transient in character”.
This is the definition of an electronic filter:
“A filter is an electrical network that alters the amplitude and/or phase characteristics of a signal with respect to frequency. Ideally, a filter will not add new frequencies to the input signal, nor will it change the component frequencies of that signal, but it will change the relative amplitudes of the various frequency components and/or their phase relationships.”
Source: National Semiconductor Corporation
N.B. This is true of all speakers, amplifiers, DACs, CD players, cables etc…in fact anything in the signal path.
Once you accept the fact that your audio system is acting as multiple electronic filters smudging your music, then you have a choice:
- a. Forget the cable is an electronic filter (completely in the face of science) and compromise by having a smeared sound
- b. Do something about it and try to engineer as clear a path for the signal as possible to get the most natural sound that current technology will allow. Although it is not possible to get perfect signal reproduction with current technology (that we are aware of) to completely negate the effect of capacitance, induction etc on phase relationships in a signal.
Unfortunately, it is not as easy as just looking at a chart of materials and simply picking the one with the best conductivity. If that were the case then you would put some silver wire in place and the job would be done.
Some time ago we had some pure silver connectors manufactured and like all our developments tested them in a blind listening test. These we put against silver plated connectors using various base metal mixes and various thicknesses of plating. Surprisingly, in our listening tests the pure silver performed worse than a plated connector with a certain thickness and type of plating. It was sluggish and almost muffled by comparison.The more you focus on the fact that you are working with an electronic filter, then the more your ideas about what a cable actual is opens up. The effects a filter has on transients, especially (Bell labs found) on vocals, which, as the various reviewers noted, can be heard. But there is a huge downside to this as every little detail of the constituents used and construction has to be tested in multiple configurations and of course that means multiple listening tests to ensure the finished product sounds as we would want it to.
The cable construction becomes more complex, using multiple stranded conductors of slightly differing materials and various dielectric materials and geometries. We have to pay attention to every part of each of our processes, even using Non hifi industry standard solder mixes i.e. there is no silver in the mix, for example. Raw ingredients for the construction are highly specified as are plating thicknesses, even down to the plating bath which requires a non-standard approach too.
Let us give you an example of what we are talking about. These are two plated finishes (both silver plating).
You can clearly see that there is a difference between finishes in the connectors below. However that is not a great issue when you take into account the material underneath, cable construction and any other plated layers – we still end up with a cable assembly that wins multiple awards for its performance as the various reviews attest to. It is all a very carefully balanced set of ingredients that become more than the sum of their parts.
Although cables should not affect the sound in an ideal world, there are factors that have to be considered because audio systems are not perfect and customers have listening preferences too. So you will see we have engineered three distinct families of sound to take account of three distinct demands for our customers. Which is why we have the Silver and Blue ranges as well as the Black.
Silver family: The sound can best be described as silver but without the fatigue and harshness that can go along with that material.
Black family: the natural / transparent range that allows an incredibly life like reproduction for use in a well balance system to simply unlock what the system can do.
Blue family: slight warmth that just takes the harsh top edge out of a system that is a little brittle or bright.
So now you have a better understanding of why our cables have won so many awards and we have grown so quickly. We have taken a different and radical approach by looking at the “problem” of cables because they are “secret electronic filters” and to ignore that is not a sensible approach in our opinion.