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Why Does Power Cable Length Affect Sound Quality?

Last year I met Steve Dickinson who was reviewing some Black Rhodium cables for Hi-Fi Plus magazine. During our many discussions, Steve mentioned some manufacturers who claimed that there was an optimum length for power cables. Although at first sceptical, I realised that the wavelength of a 50 Hz mains supply was 6.8 metres and that the quarter wavelength of 1.7 metres was a useful length for power cables.

Curious to test this theory, I assembled a batch of power cables of some 15 different lengths from 0.8m to 4m, all with the same cable (Black Rhodium Fusion) and connectors. All cable lengths were cut accurately to the required length. These were tested on my own systems and also on systems of interested friends. We all agreed that the best sound came from a cable of length 1.65m. When unwound, a 1.65m length of cable measures 1.68m, very close to the quarter wavelength of sound at 50 HZ.

Further testing of the many different lengths revealed that lengths very close to fractions of 1.7m (0.85m, 2.5m, 3.3m) all tended to sound slightly better than other lengths such as 1m, 2m, 3m and 4m. Whilst the 3.3 metre length might have been expected to sound better than 1.65m, it did not. I have to assume that as the lengths increased, those distortions that increase with a cable length such as RFI or magnetic field effects were having a greater effect.

Comparing the difference in sound between 1.7m and 2m cables lengths, reviewer Christiaan Punter of Hi-Fi Advice says “The 1.7m Stream cable sounds tighter, more controlled and more focused with a tightly locked center image. This is a very well balanced sound and highly refined with just the right amount of bite. The 2.0m Stream cable sounds more spacious at first and even more relaxed but is less articulate overall, less well defined in the bass and less precise in terms of imaging. Swapping back to the 1.7 indeed it seems obvious why they have chosen this length.” The full review can be found at http://www.hifi-advice.com/blog/review/cables-reviews/power-cable-reviews/black-rhodium-stream-power/

Since testing different lengths of power cables, I have looked at many power cable manufacturer web sites. Only two have actually stated their optimum cable length and these were 1.5m and 1.8m. Which means that we are only at the very start of discovering why power cables appear to have an optimum length for sound quality.
From the science, it does seem that the passage of 50 Hz power through the cable is causing minute changes in electrical and magnetic fields that are translated into mechanical vibrations at this frequency. These vibrations will occur at 50 Hz and for some reason their effect on the sound quality of the system may be minimised as a result of the cable length being close to fractional lengths of the wavelength.

Graham Nalty
19 October 2017

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August 31, 2018

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Does Size Matter? We Think So With Power Cables!

Does size matter? Yes, says Black Rhodium – and Jon Myles agrees as he tries out the company’s new Stream 1.7m power cable.

Different manufacturers will quote different attributes and assets for the design of their hi-fi power cables. But not many list length as a key component. Black Rhodium do, though. In fact they say they’ve carried out extensive listening tests to prove it. And so, fresh from their Derby HQ in the East Midlands, comes Stream – a high-end lead boasting a precise construction and terminated to exactly 1.7 metres. Longer lengths are available at a premium to the £450 standard cable but Black Rhodium’s main man Graham Nalty says 1.7m simply sounds the best. Graham first showed me a prototype of the new cable at the High End Show in Munich in 2017, but it has now finally reached production. The company tested various different mains cables during the design of Stream and came to the conclusion that cables in multiples of 1.7m gave a greater improvement to components than those of slightly below or above – perhaps down to the fact that this aligns closely to the quarter wavelength of the 50Hz mains frequency.

Internally Stream uses silverplated copper conductors with a silicone rubber insulation for low dielectric loss. Increased distance between the conductors reduces the interactive magnetic field. A metal screen is employed to combat RFI while the whole cable features a thick, braided sheath and either a standard 13 amp UK or Schuko plug can be specified on order. While Stream is thicker than your standard mains cable or cheaper after-market alternatives, it is still sufficiently flexible so fitting more than one in a tight space between a rack shouldn’t be a problem. SOUND QUALITY Whether it’s Black Rhodium’s wavelength theory, all the screening that goes into Stream or a combination of both, it certainly proves its worth in action. Starting with a NaimUniti playing both CD and high-resolution streamed files, the music had a tighter, more focussed sound. The kick drum on Pixies’ ‘Here Comes Your Man’ had more depth to it through a pair of Neat Iota Alpha loudspeakers, the wandering bass line having plenty of definition. Playing Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ the soaring strings moved from a homogenous whole to individual instruments – with Springfield’s vocals anchored firmly between and above the little ‘speakers.

Switching to a McIntosh MC152 power amp, the Stream cable had even more impact. I was struck by how well it presented a stereo image – seeming to push the music further out into the room. With Model 500s ‘No UFOs’, the left/right effects were positively ricocheting off the walls, so precise was their placement. That’s not to say this cable is clinical in any way, however. It accentuated the McIntosh’s rich, velvety midband throughout Jacques Brel’s ‘Infiniment’ to bring a warmth to his Gallic vocals without losing any of the bite. Indeed, I’ve rarely heard this collection sounding so good – as evidenced by the tingle in my spine when Brel takes a sharp intake of breath partway through and the music drops out before coming back a second later. That’s the beauty of this new Stream cable – it makes components sound more precise and controlled yet at the same time imparts a rich tonality which makes all music sound organic and free-flowing.

CONCLUSION
Who thought power lead length could make a difference? Black Rhodium, obviously – and Stream proves them correct. It’s an excellent cable and amongst the best at its price-point.

BLACK RHODIUM STREAM £450 (PER 1.7 METRE LENGTH)

OUTSTANDING – amongst the best

VERDICT A tuned-length mains cable with great sound.

FOR
– stereo imaging
– clarity
– focussed sound
– rich midband

AGAINST
– not cheap

Find Out More About Stream By Clicking Here

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August 29, 2018

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The Values Of Black Rhodium

Our Passion For Sound Quality

At Black Rhodium we are determined that our customers will enjoy the highest quality sound, and experience all the subtle nuances that make a musical experience truly great.

We want you to move to the rhythms, marvel at the dynamics, experience the ambience of the recording acoustic, thrill at the excitement of music, and be moved by the emotion and drama that music can convey.

 

Commitment To Using The Best Materials

We have thoroughly researched the sound quality of the materials used in our cables and are determined to use the very best for the price. In our cables you can find anything from high quality tinned copper, 99.99% pure silver or even 99.97% palladium wire in our Enhancement and Revelation Ranges.

To insulate our cables we use materials with very low dielectric absorption to avoid time smearing of your music by energy absorbed in the insulation.

 

Using the Most Effective Manufacturing Techniques

We have discovered many manufacturing techniques that reliably deliver improved sound quality that allows you to enjoy your music even more. These include:

 

  • Twisting of cables to reduce externally generated noise
  • Using a low micro-phonic layer in some interconnects to extend musical dynamics
  • Advanced Deep Cryogenic Treatments plus our exclusive  Crystal Sound process to add improvements to the Depth, clarity and Timing of your music
  • Rhodium plating of conductors to add greater excitement to your music
  • Using simple and effective techniques in our low distortion range of cables to offer superior sound quality and value for money backed up with independent reviews from leading magazines

 

Supporting UK Manufacturing

We work closely with UK cable manufacturers in the design of our cables. Our close relationships with market leading companies means we have applied special manufacturing techniques that differentiate our cables from others.

Explore The Range

Get In Touch Here

 

August 24, 2018

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Why Choose Black Rhodium Cables?

We are a British company who specialises in the design, manufacture and distribution of high quality audio and visual cables.

Formed in 2002 by Graham Nalty as a continuation of his many years of experience in the Hi-Fi industry, Black Rhodium has become synonymous with high quality reproduction of music and films through the innovative cabling solutions we provide.

 

  • Passion for Music – We strive to help you obtain the best quality sound for the greatest musical experiences.
  • Quality Materials – We have researched and developed the best quality materials to deliver the highest quality sound and pictures from your cable.
  • Processes – We use the most effective manufacturing techniques, including deep cryogenic treatment for our most advanced products that are proven to increase your listening pleasure.
  • UK Manufacturing – All of our cables (except HDMI and Optical) are made and hand terminated in the UK, demonstrating our support for UK manufacturing.

 

Obtaining The Best Performance From Your Cable

 

Twisting Cables Together

Our listening tests have revealed a smoother more natural quality of sound can be achieved by twisting cables together, Some Black Rhodium cables are supplied in twisted pairs, held in place around 12cm from the plugs. Should you require the plugs further apart simply remove the collar ensuring the cable remains twisted. if your cables are supplied untwisted, try this simple FREE technique for yourself and hear the difference it makes, and be sure to contact us with the results!

 

Cable Direction

We recommend that you connect your cables with the printing reading from left to right in the direction of the signal flowm, i.e. from source (e.g CD player, tuner) to amplifier. It is important that both cables in a stereo pair are aligned in the same direction as reversal of one of the cables will degrade the sound significantly more than the reversal of both cables.

 

Burn In

The sound quality of cables will improve with use. After installation you will notice a steady improvement in sound quality from your cable, both during and after the burn in period.

 

You can also find out this information in your Black Rhodium Cable Packaging:

 

View Our Cable Ranges By Clicking Here

August 23, 2018

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Black Rhodium Launches New 75 Ohm Digital Cable Range

Adagio 75 Ohm BNC

Adagio 75 Ohm RCA

Allegretto RCA

Allegretto BNC

 

Legato RCA

Largo RCA

 

ADAGIO is a 75 Ohm cable designed for digital audio that uses highly proven cable technology to deliver enhanced sound quality. Although it looks very different, the technical specification is identical to a cable manufactured over 15 years ago which won a 5 Star award from What Hi-Fi? magazine. Adagio has been designed for a very high quality performance sound quality at a very modest price.

 

ALLEGRETTO is a 75 Ohm cable designed for digital audio based on the highly successful Allegro cable. Design upgrades include additional tightly braided RFI screen and a higher mass Vibration Stabiliser.

 

LEGATO is a 75 Ohm cable designed for digital audio based on the use of highly effective RFI screening layers to minimise distortion of the audio signal.

 

LARGO takes digital audio sound quality to its limits with multiple tightly braided screens to maintain the lowest possible noise from RFI together with highly effective vibration damping materials to minimise effects of micro-vibrations within the cable. The final measure is the application of the Graham Nalty VS-1 Vibration Stabiliser that adds further audible stabilisation to the music and more solid positioning to voices and instruments.

 

All cables are designed for high quality applications and use high grade materials such as silver plated conductor wires and PTFE insulation.

 

Full technical specifications can be found in the product news releases for the individual products or on the Black Rhodium website.

 

The new cables fit in the range as shown below

Adagio, Rondo, Allegro and Allegretto can be supplied with either RCA or BNC connectors.

 

Legato and Largo are supplied with RCA connectors.

 

For further information on our new range of Digital Audio cables, CLICK HERE

 

 

August 22, 2018

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Why Good Quality Cables Are Essential In Listening To Your Music

All cables change the sound in a music reproducing audio system and insert a veil between the musicians and the listener.

This veil is caused by distortion of the audio signal that occurs due to interaction between the cable and its environment.

Our systematic approach

We have studied the many different technical approaches to cable design by some of the most successful manufacturers of audio cables.

We have analysed every aspect of cable design and applied scientific knowledge to improve the sound quality of our cables.

 

The seven different sources of audio cable distortion

 

  1. Conductor Distortion – all metals sound different and some better than others
  2. Insulation Distortion – all insulation distorts sound by dielectric absorption
  3. Microphony – noise added to the audio signal by tribo-electric effects
  4. Radio Frequency Interference – high frequency noise created by radio, electric switching distorts sound quality by intermodulation
  5. Magnetic Field distortion – effects of magnetic fields on cables carrying audio signals
  6. Mechanical Vibration Distortion – Distortion caused by mechanical vibration in equipment and caused by electrical stresses in the cable
  7. Connector distortion – different connectors do sound different and some better than others

 

Our Scientific Approach

We studied the physics behind each type of distortion separately and identified a number of different engineering solutions to reduce each form of distortion separately.

 

Applying engineering solutions to reducing cable distortion:

 

  1. Deep Cryogenic Treatment – we use the most advanced cryogenic treatments available including the ‘Crystal Sound‘ process.
  2. Low loss insulation – almost all Black Rhodium cables use either silicone rubber or PTFE insulation to reduce time smeared distortion from dielectric absorption
  3. Cable twisting –we twist many of our more stereo interconnects to prevent the return conductors acting as a ‘loop aerial’ between pieces of equipment
  4. Cable direction quality control – we specify a strict cable manufacturing process that consistently and reliably ensures that the positive and negative conductor wires have been wound in opposing directions to reduce background noise
  5. Thick wall insulation –places conductors wires further apart and the magnetic fields from one wire affecting the current flow in the other wire are reduced, resulting in a clearer sound more free from magnetic ‘Proximity effect’ distortion
  6. Rhodium plating of connectors – we plate as many as possible of our connectors in rhodium because we find its gives a clearer sound quality than any other plating material

 

We supplement these design techniques with our own ‘secret ingredients’ that are hidden within our cables. These are our own exclusive proprietary techniques and materials that add further to our listening pleasure.

 

Each time we remove a layer of audio distortion by our designs, We feel ourselves much closer to the musicians who are playing.”

 

August 21, 2018

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THE HONG KONG AUDIO SHOW

This Advanced Audio Visual Show is a three-day event, which is the most famous event representing the Audio-Visual Technology all over Asia. It is the largest exhibition of it’s kind, which features more than 130 exhibitors and over 25,000 visitors every year. The event has become more and more popular over the years with an intent to provide the best quality music, loved by a wide range of audiophiles. In all, it is a great event which allows people from all over the world to access various music culture.

The Pictures below show our Hong Kong distributor (AUDIO ACCESS) promoting Black Rhodium products at the show.

 

 

Audio Access from Hong Kong attended the event promoting a range of Black Rhodium Products:

 

 

August 20, 2018

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Why Is Vinyl Becoming More Popular?

Why Vinyl?

Over the past decade, the music industry has witnessed a significant vinyl revival, with almost 3% of all music consumed being on vinyl (including streaming figures). 2017 saw a 25 year high in vinyl sales in the UK, with 4.1 million records sold and ten years of unbroken growth for the format. To reflect this, the Official Chart Company even launched their first vinyl chart in April 2015, and most major releases are available on vinyl and CD, alongside digital formats.

 

But why is there such a renewed interest in vinyl, and what is it about vinyl that still appeals to so many?

Does it Really Sound Better than Digital?

The answer lies in the difference between analog and digital recordings. A vinyl record is an analog recording, and CDs and DVDs and are digital recordings. Take a look at the graph above. Original sound is analog by definition. A digital recording takes snapshots of the analog signal at a certain rate (for CDs it is 44,100 times per second) and measures each snapshot with a certain accuracy (for CDs it is 16-bit, which means the value must be one of 65,536 possible values).

This means that, by definition, a digital recording is not capturing the complete sound wave. It is approximating it with a series of steps. Some sounds that have very quick transitions, such as a drum beat or a trumpet’s tone, will be distorted because they change too quickly for the sample rate.

Vinyl audio is often cited as having a better quality sound than digital, and perceived of as sounding both warmer and richer than CD or MP3. There is some scientific merit behind these claims. Firstly, vinyl records source audio from the entire sound wave of a performance, which creates a physical impression of the sound on the disc. If you magnify the groove of a record 100 times, it is varied with different textures, peaks and troughs to represent different types of wave/instrument. Compare this to digital recordings which offer an “impression” of the performance and the differences can be perceptible, especially in music with wide pitch variety such as classical music.

It is inaccurate to believe that digital music cannot offer good sound quality, however. High quality FLAC files and even the humble CD offer excellent, dynamic audio playback. The MP3 is perhaps the source for digital music’s poor reputation for sound quality. The MP3 format was designed as a quick, convenient file that was deliberately of reduced quality to enable faster streaming and downloading. This reduced quality, combined with headphone consumption means that much of today’s popular music is even mixed mid-frequency to support this reduction of dynamic range.

Vinyl playback quality is also notably influenced by accessories and care. Good quality speakers are needed to truly convert the quality of the sound, and you can enhance this further with specialist needles. Typically, record needles are made of steel, but diamond needles are available that last up to 10 times longer than normal, offering greater depth of audio quality and affecting the surface of the vinyl less.

Poor care is also an issue – scratches, dust and warped vinyl can all dramatically affect playback quality. Care for vinyl is therefore vital to truly get the most out of your collection

 

The History of Vinyl

The first major format for recorded sound was wax cylinders, used on phonographs. These were made out of very soft wax that would wear out after only a few plays. Mass production of wax cylinders began in 1889, but was superseded in the 1920s by disc records (similar to the ones we are familiar with today) made of shellac, a type of natural resin. Shellac records were manufactured almost exclusively until 1949, with the advent of vinyl. Within only two years, vinyl records sales completely surpassed shellac. Vinyl had many benefits over shellac, which was both noisy and brittle, but above all shellac had a much larger groove and faster rpm, meaning 12” discs would only play for a maximum of five minutes per side. Vinyl has a micro groove and slow rpm, meaning up to 20 minutes of music could be played per side.

Since the advent of vinyl, records have remained relatively unchanged, the introduction of stereo being the only notable addition. The format remained popular until the early 1990s, when both the production and cost of making and purchasing CDs reduced dramatically. Vinyl’s decline was dramatic, but a renewed interest in the format has been seen across the US and Europe since the late 2000s.

 

How is Vinyl Made?

Up until the 1990s, record labels and distribution companies own the vinyl manufacturing process end to end. This was almost entirely sold off by the end of the last century, however, and now the manufacturing process is handled by small independent pressing plants across the UK.

The creation of a vinyl record is a highly manual process that can be tailored greatly. Weight, size, rpm, jacket type (gatefold covers, sleeves etc.), colour and shape are all attributes that need to be determined before the production line, which typically takes 8 – 16 weeks to complete a full run.

Originally, direct audio from recordings would be mastered straight onto vinyl master lacquers. With modern vinyl however, the audio is taken from the standard digital recording and transferred onto the master lacquer. This soft, wax version of the record is then rinsed in a nickel solution and electrified in a silver bath to be used as a literal template to create metal “mother stampers”. These mothers are then used to make up to 500 vinyl pressings (more mothers are needed for larger runs). Test pressings are often audited by sound quality experts before full runs are completed (some pressing plants even employ full time staff purely for this job).

Despite this long winded and manual process, vinyl is still a surprisingly reliable format, with a typical defect rate (on newly pressed vinyl) of 0.5%.

 

You can buy Tone Arm Cables To complement and improve the sound quality of your Vinyl Here: Black Rhodium Tone Arm Cables

 

Not all turntables have to look old fashioned:

August 15, 2018

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Don’t Let Distortion From Cable Vibration Ruin Your Music

All cables are affected by vibration.

 

• Your loudspeakers vibrate when they produce sound
• Your electronics vibrates due to forces created by electrical currents
• Your cable can transmit these vibrations from one end to the other
• Your cable vibrates from forces created by electric and magnetic fields within cables

 

Black Rhodium cables fitted with Graham Nalty Vibration Stabilisers can reduce this distortion

• High mass damper to limit vibration induced cable movement
• Rigid coupling with large diameter flat head screw for maximum effect
• Designed by Graham Nalty MA to reduce cable distortion and its sonic effects
• Audible improvement as described in Hi-Fi Choice magazine

“. . greater spaciousness around each instrument that helps me to appreciate that the orchestra is
composed of a number of individual instruments.“ HI-FI CHOICE May 2015

   
Graham Nalty Legacy Range VS-1 Vibration Stabiliser fitted over Duet speaker cable 10 mm diameter flat face screw

 

How the GN Legacy Range VS-1 Vibration Stabiliser Works

 

The GN Legacy Range VS-1 Vibration Stabiliser uses a 155 gram mass to damp vibrations in the cable. The VS-1 is very tightly coupled mechanically to the cable by use of a 10 mm diameter flat faced screw. By using a large screw which presses the cable hard against the inner wall of the VS-1, the mechanical vibration in the cable anchored to the greater mass of the VS-1 and is very effectively reduced.

 

“Every time I have compared identical cables with and without the GN Legacy Range VS-1 Vibration Stabiliser I have heard an improvement using the VS-1 in terms of removing a layer of distortion to reveal greater clarity in the music that I have preferred.”

 

The Vibration is an essential part of any cable that seriously aspires to high end sound quality.

Without the Graham Nalty Vibration Stabiliser, no cable will sound as good.

You can buy VS-1 Vibration Stabiliers from our network of specialist dealers in the UK and from distributors in many overseas countries: UK Dealers and Export Distributors

Otherwise, you can buy them on our website by clicking this link: Vibration Stabilisers

August 15, 2018

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