There have never been more purveyors of audio cables marketed to the audiophile community than there are currently. New companies appear monthly, and at every audio show there are new smiling faces displaying their new cable products. You could argue that there many of these new entities that are offering nothing new, and just copying tried and true designs with attractive cosmetics.
You could also argue that so many choices is a great thing for consumers, and I would tend to agree. But there are also many ways to filter out the contenders from the pretenders. First, look for those who have stood the test of time, with satisfied customers, a good number of impartial reviews, and a varied product line.
One such company is the British firm Black Rhodium Cables
Black Rhodium has been making high-end audio cables in the U.K. for over twenty years, and have an extensive dealer network in Europe and are distributed to numerous countries across several continents. They now have a dedicated North American distributor in Robert Meeks, principle of engulfaudio
, based in Mobile, Alabama. Robert sent me a pair of the Foxtrot speaker cables, with bananas, which sell for $349 a pair, and two pairs of RCA terminated Symphony interconnects which retail for $275 a pair. These cables are just above the Black Rhodium’s entry level offerings.
Black Rhodium cables have been designed from the onset by Graham Nalty, an engineer by trade, with a specific set of goals and scientific principles at hand. Nalty has a clear and distinct vision for cable design, and among his most important findings are the following:
- The Best Quality Conductor Gives the Most Musical Sound
- Cable Insulation Does More Than Just Insulate the Wire
- If The Best Metals Are Far Too Expensive, Use Them to Plate The Surfaces
- Improving Depth, Clarity and Timing by Deep Cryogenic Treatment
- Low Microphony Design
- Cable Directionality Important
- Reducing the Effects Of Magnetic Distortion Via Conductor Spacing
- Reducing Mechanical Vibration
- Connector Quality is Essential
It is clear from reading many of Nalty’s writings that a good amount of brainpower, experimentation, and a very open minded approach were essential in formulating the Black Rhodium product line over the years. Nalty talks about getting inspiration from unlikely places, whether it be from customers, dealers, musicians, or via happy accidents. There is also a distinct humble attitude when Nalty describes his design techniques, noting that there is no magic involved, just taking the best possible ingredients and arranging them in the best way through trial and error.
Nalty has made sure to be open to changes in design as things progress. If it means improved performance. He has said: “over the years I have studied many aspects of cable behaviour. The more that I learn about cables and how they influence sound quality, the more that I find there is more to learn. There are no hard and fast rules for designing a cable to win the most influential awards. In the same way a chef will use good quality ingredients to their own recipe, the cable designed uses good quality materials and scientific processes in the right combination to deliver the optimum solution at a saleable price. There are just so many engineering design principles to consider and the best cables are designed by simply making the best choices.”
Let’s take a quick look at both the Foxtrot speaker cable and the Symphony interconnects, starting with the speaker cables. The Foxtrot, like all their other cables, are hand built at the Black Rhodium factory in Derby, England. The touted design features include ultra low ‘proximity effect’ magnetic field distortion due to added inter-conductor distance, good flexibility, mechanical vibration suppression materials, RFI noise reduction technology, Gold-plated Z plugs, and low Transient Phase Distortion, via proprietary design.
According to Black Rhodium, “‘Transient Phase Distortion’ is reduced by using thicker insulation than is usual in speaker cables, increasing the distance between conductors and thereby reducing the magnetic field seen in each conductor wire as a result of the magnetic field created by the current in the other conductor wire. A further increase in the distance between conductors is achieved by use of the attractive cable braid and this further reduces ‘Proximity Effect’ distortion.”
My Foxtrot review samples came terminated with the above-noted gold plated banana Z plugs. Bananas are generally my speaker cable termination of preference.
The Symphony interconnect has the following design and construction features:
- Silver plated copper conductors
- Low loss PTFE inner insulation
- Silver plated copper braided screen
- Advanced quality control of the wire direction in the manufacturing process to ensure consistent superior stereo imaging and low background noise
- Exclusive Black Rhodium post production process
- Terminated with Graham Nalty Legacy Range GN-3G RCA Connectors
If you think the GN-3G connectors look very much like the acclaimed Eichmann plugs, you would be partly correct. The design of the GN-3 plugs were inspired by the Eichmann Bullet plugs, of which thousands have previously been sold on Black Rhodium cables, but are made by one of the largest connector manufacturers, after successful testing, with small changes specified by Graham Nalty that would enable additional technology to be applied to the connection between cable and plug. I found the workmanship on the cable is top notch, and rivals cables I have used costing ten times as much in this regard.