Archive for April, 2009

Audiophile Connectors versus Professional Connectors

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Although there are many different types of connectors available, and there is sometimes mixing and matching on a given product, the two groups shown below are representative of audiophile and professional connector sets: 


  • RCA input
  • Binding post output
  • IEC mains




The RCA input is very common, but unfortunately it is single-ended.  This does not in general offer the same degree of noise rejection as a balanced input.  Five-way binding post outputs are great for their versatility, plus there are versions available that offer very low contact resistance (e.g. the excellent connectors from WBT).  The IEC mains connector is convenient and available everywhere, but does not give the same performance as newer offerings. 


  • XLR input
  • Speakon output
  • PowerCon mains 




The XLR input is balanced and there are very good gold-plated versions available.  The Speakon output is rated for high current, but is not quite as versatile as five-way binding posts.  The PowerCon mains connector offers about one-third of the contact resistance of an IEC mains connector.  An advantage of these professional connectors is a locking mechanism that allows for robust installations.

One of the biggest issues with a professional connector set is that the specialty cable market has not yet embraced them.  This serves as a major deterrent to those who already own, or may wish to purchase, specialized audio cables.  I hope to see this deficiency remedied soon so that audiophiles may begin to enjoy the benefits of these high performance connectors.

Break In Period

Friday, April 3rd, 2009


Most audiophiles agree that there is a certain “break in period” required for audio gear to start sounding right.  Most non-audiophiles will agree that this is the case for something like a loudspeaker, where there is a measureable change in the driver parameters after loosening up a bit, but tend to regard break in phenomena in audio electronics with great skepticism.  Most audiophiles point to the usual suspects: resistors, capacitors, and magnetics.  This is a good start, but there is a bit more to it.

There is a great exhibit at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  It consists of a basketball, a hoop, and a pair of funky glasses that skew your vision to one side.  You start by making a few shots without the glasses – no big deal, the hoop is fairly close.  Next you put on the glasses and every shot now goes off to one side – a very strange sensation!  However, after several shots you notice that each shot gets a little better as your brain starts to slowly adapt to this new “reality”.

Much like the illusion given by the funky glasses in the basketball exhibit, every piece of audio equipment is nothing more than part of an “illusion engine”.  Since the musical reproduction we are creating is an illusion, our brain must learn how to perceive it correctly for the illusion to work at all.  This is a significant part of the break in period for audio gear – we are breaking in, right along with the equipment!

Every piece of audio gear has errors, regardless of typical “perfect sound forever” claims.  Some errors are easier for your brain to adapt to than others.  A longer break in period may in part be the result of errors that require a bit more “training”.  Note that the amount of training needed is also a function of the individual.  Some listeners may readily forgive certain types of error (e.g. dynamic compression), while being hypersensitive to other types of error (e.g. poor imaging).


Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Okay.  Uncle! 

We tried to eliminate the requisite blue LED on the front of the HMA-1000 to avoid distraction in a dark home theater environment, but we can see we’re outvoted.  A quick search through your favorite audiophile publication will yield scores and scores of products with a virtual “Lite-Brite” set of blue LEDs on the front panel.  We’ve decided to succumb quickly to the inevitable, rather than die a lingering non-blue death.


We’ve upgraded the HMA-1000 kilowatt switching amplifier to the BLU-500 half-kilowatt switching amplifier.  The reduced output power is due to the high power draw of the new Industrial Blue LED Array™ on the front panel.  The build and audio quality had to be reduced as well to hit the same price point, but we think the sacrifice is well worth it.  Our customers tend to agree, as illustrated in the following cherry picked testimonials:


“The sound is crap.  Everything I look at outside of my home theater has an orange tint now for Christ’s sake!  They tell me it’s because of ‘complementary colors’.  Whatever.  Anyway, the only redeeming thing about the BLU-500 is that my complexion has never looked this good!  I believe more salons should carry this product.”

Corky Saint Claire, Elko NV


“The build quality of the BLU-500 is marginal.  Wire nut outputs?  Honestly.  The audio is poor as well with what I can only describe as random ‘chicken-like’ sounds.  But the bright blue LEDs are just plain beautiful!  This is true art and not the Jackson Pollock kind either.  I really can’t stop looking at it, despite the warnings and all.”

Bubba Diablo, Fargo MN


Here is a happy pair of customers enjoying a favorite movie in their unique high-end home theater, all while basking in the soft glow of the BLU-500:


Although not technically a laser, the Industrial Blue LED Array™ can cause injury with repeated brief glances.  Therefore, all units ship with the following placard, to be displayed prominently within 25 feet: 


We truly believe that moving from the HMA-1000 to the BLU-500 will be a big win for both Hephaestus Audio and the audiophile community.  The American architect Louis Sullivan once said, “form ever follows function”, but here at Hephaestus Audio we like to say, “form ever follows finance”, especially if there’s some serious money to be had! 


P.S.  April Fools!  🙂