MasterBuilt Audio is pleased to announce the introduction of four unique lines of laboratory-grade audio cables, developed by leading engineers in the aerospace industry.
These products were developed over several decades of research in metallurgy, electrical field effects, and the chemistry of dielectric materials. In addition, we utilize comparison-based listening tests against other top-quality brands of cables. Based on our years of research and A/B/X blind testing, we’re confident MasterBuilt Audio Cables have less distortion and coloration than any other competing cable, at any price!
MasterBuilt Audio has developed this product in conjunction with the engineers at Von Schweikert Audio. As a leader in the design and manufacture of reference grade loudspeakers, VSA requires internal wiring that does not alter the musical signal. To this end, they’ve conducted research in this field and maintain an open communication line with many researchers in the cable industry.
Thus began our association with VSA and we are pleased to announce that Von Schweikert Audio is now the world-wide distributor of MasterBuilt Audio cables.
The foundation of MasterBuilt Audio cables originated in the U.S. aerospace program. Engineers developed wiring systems with low-reactance cable for use in the Apollo lunar missions and other mission-critical NASA projects, such as the International Space Station.
One of their main objectives was to shield the cables against electrical interference, since high levels of electromagnetic radiation and electrical pulses can damage the delicate electronic systems in spacecraft and satellites. Electrical disturbances can also corrupt the signals and cause a loss of stability of the on-board computers. It's this specific requirement and resulting technological development that is of great use to audio systems and ultimately led to the development of MasterBuilt Audio cables.
After the discovery of electromagnetic wave interactions, it's known that cables behave as antennae and will pick up stray RFI and EMI radiation, i.e., “interference,” which should be eliminated. In audio, this manifests as unwanted stray electrical energy which becomes amplified and overlays the music with “grunge” and distortion. Instead of the “black” back ground which is ideal, this interference creates a “white noise” back ground; especially when using digital playback equipment. It is precisely this noise pollution that is eliminated by the our proprietary noise reduction technology inherent in every MasterBuilt Audio cable we manufacture.
Once introduced into your system, we’re confident you’ll find the MasterBuilt Audio cable upgrade to be as dramatic as any other critical component upgrade, whether it be a source, amplification, or loudspeaker. Although the engineers at MasterBuilt focused decades of development exclusively in the aerospace industry, MasterBuilt Audio cables were created by chief scientists who also happen to be audiophiles. This resulted in what we believe is the perfect blend of music and science.
CAUSE & EFFECT
Although some people doubt that simple “wire” can alter the sound of stereo components, it’s quite easy to demonstrate that different types and configurations of wire have amazingly different “reactive” measurements*, including inductance, resistance and capacitance. One must only have access to very accurate measurement systems to confirm there is more than a 20x difference in capacitance between solid core and stranded wire types depending on the design of their winding geometries.
Cable companies using a shotgun approach to engineering typifies the average small company. They try different materials and designs
haphazardly in the hope of creating good sound. However, some very knowledgeable researchers believe that these companies have not addressed the multiple issues of resistance, capacitance, or inductance with an audibly balanced approach. We have found that many popular brands of cables on the market have colorations, loss of detail, and dimensional spatial issues concerning the image focus – all due to a lack of deep knowledge of conductors, insulation, winding geometry, and termination.
* The goal of any properly design signal transmission medium is to maintain signal purity and integrity. Please note that inductors, resistors, and capacitors are the building blocks of filters used to “cross-over” speaker units. So it wasn’t surprising to us when we measured and heard large differences in the different cables we tested. Using audio cables that alter the electrical transfer characteristics of the musical recording is counterproductive to great sound. This is “distortion” and is something you don’t want in your system if you can avoid it.
CABLE DESIGN TARGET
The engineers at MasterBuilt understand that audiophiles require neutral products that are not designed or optimized to exclusively work with certain brands of loudspeaker and electronics. While we have previously mentioned our work with Von Schweikert Audio to develop the four lines of MB cables, they were but one manufacturer that the cables were tested with. Part of our A/B/X blind testing included access to a large stable of various components from leaders in High-End Audio to ensure complete neutrality and universal application regardless of brand.
In addition to this, we evaluated the products of currently regarded leaders in cable manufacture. Our analysis exposed weaknesses in these contemporary audio cables and our engineers introduced methodology for constructing audio cables using their existing knowledge base from aerospace applications.
MasterBuilt’s end goal was to ensure the highest level of sonic purity. Naturally, the cables were initially designed by scientific methods. However; we also utilized a panel of “golden-eared” audiophiles so that no single opinion would determine what constituted good sound. A general consensus among a large group of listeners that own different brands of electronics and speakers was desirable.
At the top of the list of desired engineering goals was to design a cable that added no distortion in the form of reactance. After all, an audio system’s performance is limited by the weakest link in the chain.
The huge sound stage created by reference-quality loudspeakers required the MasterBuilt cable design to transmit the holography of the musical signal correctly to eliminate any compression of the height, width, and depth of the recorded sound stage. This design target requires that the cables will not generate any type of magnetic field distortion when the signal is flowing through the cables. This target proved to be one of the most difficult tasks to achieve, since very little research had been conducted in this area previous to MB’s research. A thorough study of psychoacoustics was undertaken to properly evaluate the sonic differences created by electromagnetic field interaction.
Naturally, there are other causes of distortion besides the reactance noted above in wire and cable products, which MB has thoroughly addressed as well:
a) Impurities in the metal conductor which, along with crystalline barriers, result in rough and grainy high frequencies. This is caused by collision of the electrons carrying the musical signal with the impurities and crystalline barriers inherent in any extruded metal. MB’s solution is to use the purest, Laboratory-grade cast copper, with 99.9999% of the impurities removed. Copper made by different vendors is not equivalent to each other; our source of conductor materials is of a very high grade, as specified by high tech customers who do not place low pricing as a priority. We believe that great sound has more value than saving a few dollars.
Please note that our listening panel rejected all other metals in the blind ABX tests, including silver, silver plated copper, aluminum, gold, and platinum conductors. Although initially dazzled by the brighter, forward-sounding silver formulations, the brighter sound became quite fatiguing over an extended period of time, often as little as ten minutes. In addition, the metals other than copper seemed to reduce bass power as they simultaneously increased the treble range, making them a poor choice.
Note that MasterBuilt’s Ultra Line is a composite of several different types of materials including copper and precious alloys.
b) Dielectric absorption of the high frequency component of the music signal by the insulation material creates a non-linear response. Since most elements have “free radical” electrons in their atomic makeup, the musical signal will be affected when the electrons collide with the dielectric’s “free radical” electrons. This distortion creates a “fog” over the music that masks realism. MB’s solution is to use dielectric materials that do not alter the electrical signal. Our proprietary formulation consists of vacuum-formed Teflon, which is as close to perfection as possible in reducing dielectric distortion. Our Teflon coating is applied with a proprietary method that does not result in free radical Teflon electrons placed in the signal path.
c) Arcing (signal path distortion caused by “stranded wire bundling”) occurs when the signal electrons attempt to jump from strand to strand. The resulting distortion creates a slight but noticeable “bright” and “hard” sound quality in addition to creating a lack of harmonic integrity along with limiting the soundstage. MB’s solution is to eliminate the “stranded wire bundling distortion” by using the Litz method of coating each individual wire strand with insulation, which isolates each strand from touching. This method, although expensive, totally eliminates this form of distortion, resulting in a smooth, harmonically-rich sound quality.
d) Poor quality connectors (spade lugs or banana plugs) can cause distortion by mis-terminating the electrical transmission path, while excess resistance caused by low quality solder and connector plugs made from inexpensive metal alloys can add a “veil” to the signal. MB’s solution is to use the finest quality and high conductivity connectors for best signal transfer. Spade lugs or banana plugs are available for MB speaker wires, and RCA or XLR plugs are available in the MB line of interconnects. In addition, we are using the most pure TRT solder available.
e) Hysteresis (electromagnetic field interaction) is caused when the positive and negative conductors are placed in close proximity. Recordings of music consist of alternating currents that shift from positive to negative as the musical notes go through their 360-degree cycles. As the electron signal flows through the wire, they generate a electromagnetic field if the positive and negative conductors are in close proximity. As this field builds and collapses with every musical note, the next note is attempting to flow through the cable from amplifier to speaker. The expansion and contraction of the electromagnetic field is called “hysteresis” and is a type of distortion that will modulate the signal unless a method of cancellation exists in the design. The engineers at MasterBuilt have chosen to use a rare and expensive method of winding the conductors in a spiral path that alternate between the positive and negative conductors; this spiral path is termed a Helix and uses the Litz method of separating the conductors to eliminate the sonically degrading effects caused by hysteresis.
f) “Frequency modulation” of the delicate treble signal and its harmonic structure is caused when the same cable is used to carry both bass and treble information from the amplifier to the speaker. Hysteresis effects caused by the electromagnetic field interaction noted above also generate a type of “frequency modulation” of the upper harmonics of the signal when powerful bass notes are flowing through the conductor. Since the delicate treble signals and their harmonics are up to 900% lower in voltage than bass signals when comparing a 32Hz tympani note with a 2kHz flute note, the only method to eliminate this interactive distortion is to separate the bass from the treble conductors.
This method is called “bi-wiring” and consists of running separate bass and treble cables to the speaker system, which must be designed to accommodate this wiring method. Since many brands of speaker systems are bi-wirable, MB has designed their MasterBuilt Speaker Cables to drive high resolution speakers to their highest level of performance with the MB bi-wire cable design. Although there are twin cables running to each speaker, they are joined together at the amplifier end to make connection to the amplifier easy to accomplish. The user may order either spade or banana plugs on either end, with no difference in price. Although expensive to implement due to the use of four cables instead of the normal two cables, the sonic advantages are well worth the extra cost. You will hear superior treble reproduction with a lush presentation of musical sweetness, total elimination of “harsh” treble, tighter bass, and a far larger sound stage, with highly realistic 3-D image recreation.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
As MasterBuilt Audio is engineering-driven, not marketing driven, performance is our ultimate goal. To that end, we’ve developed four distinct lines of cables that first and foremost provide the best sonic performance possible at four distinct price levels. All of which are hand crafted here in the U.S. using propriety manufacturing techniques that are exclusive to the aerospace industry.
It is widely known that many contemporary audio cable brands have their materials made overseas to reduce costs using inferior materials and methods with a greater focus on marketing than engineering. In addition, many lack the engineering expertise MasterBuilt possesses, having developed their products in a small audiophile industry and not having the benefit of the signal path advances made in the aerospace field. This, most of all, is why MasterBuilt Audio Cables can perform so well against the competition.
All four lines (Performance, Reference, Signature and Ultra) offer power cords, interconnects, digital and speaker cables. All cables are made to order and can be specially built in any length with any type of connector.
One last thing: to have the best performance possible, we strongly recommend using the same brand of cable; if not the same line, throughout the entire system. Introducing a different type of cable can add resistance, distortion and coloration to the signal path that will only degrade the performance of the MB cables. Therefore, having a full loom of MasterBuilt Audio cables will result in their optimum performance.