“High End” Hi-Fi Jargon Explained


DISCLAIMER:

We are by no means holding an opinion on whether any of these actually work. Some definitely do, some definitely don’t, some are untested and we don’t actually have an opinion. However their root “technology” theory is explained.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. It’s not even an extensive list. We’ll be continuing to add to this post as we think of more.

Please feel free to contact us if you can think of more to add to the list!


Bi-Wiring

Bi-Wiring speakers is the practice of using two sets of cables for each of the speaker drivers (tweeter and woofer). As explained in the diagrams below.

Conventional Wiring

Conventional Wiring

Bi-Wiring

Bi-Wiring

As demonstrated above, conventional wiring uses a single run of speaker cable to both drivers. Most speakers come with multiple wiring posts to allow for bi-wiring/bi-amping, however they are usually shipped with a bridging bracket which connects them together for conventional wiring. This is removed for bi-wiring purposes.

The argument for bi-wiring is that firstly, the cables are effectively doubled up. Additionally, that the bass signal will interfere less with the treble signal as the cable runs are separate (cables can also be made differently to “suit” different frequency ranges).

Argument against bi-wiring is that it actually creates problems as the reactive properties of the two channels will be further differentiated, causing increased misalignment in phase.

Bi-Amping

The Bi-Amped configuration uses two amplifiers per speaker, as demonstrated below and following on from above.

Bi-Amped

Bi-Amped

This means that the power available to the speaker is increased, and hence there is less work to be done for each amplifier than if a single amplifier was to be used. The benefit here is not in the cables, but in the additional amplification power.

Single Crystal Copper (SCC)

As copper cools, it does not form into one continous block. It will usually form into a block of conjoined crystals on a microscopic level. These crystals have varying properties and thus may conduct current differently. Additionally any gaps between the crystals may exhibit unwanted electrical properties.

Single crystal copper is made in such a way that a piece of copper may only have a few crystals per meter. This means that they’re more homogeneous and thus are a purer conductor.

SCC is not manufactured widely and hence they tend to be rather expensive.

Smooth Surface Copper (SSC)

The smooth surface copper design argues that although a strand of copper wire may have reasonably similar diameter across a long length, since the surface of standard drawn copper cores may be quite rough, the diameter of the cable effectively changes across a length at the microscopic level. Changing diameter means changing properties and hence will add unwanted characteristics to the cable. Additionally, since the majority of the current travels on the surface of the conductor, the detrimental affects to conductivity is amplified.

Smooth surface copper is made in a way that ensures that the surface is smooth throughout the length, reducing differences in behavior in each part of the cable.

Ultra High Purity Copper (UHPC or variant)

This one comes in a number of different names, essentially meaning that it’s purer than regular oxygen free copper (OFC) which tends to be around 99.5% pure.

Teflon Insulation

Teflon is not just slippery, it is an excellent insulator. Teflon can be used as insulation in a cable. The increased di-electric strength (see below) improves conductivity and reduces cable reactance.

Dielectrics

A dielectric is something that does NOT conduct electricity, but is a good conductor of magnetic flux (magnetism). Dielectrics are necessary not only to keep wires from shorting (as insulation), but also as conductors of magnetism.  As any good physics student would know, as a current is applied through any conductor, it will exhibit a magnetic flux around the conducting material. Depending on the insulation layer, the flux may be generated in different levels. Flux affects how conductive the conducting material is, and thus a better dielectric improves conductivity and reduces reactance.

Battery Power (Cables)

Some cable companies argue that dielectrics (or sometimes conductors as well) have a memory and requires “burn in”. Some cables come with a battery which permanently runs a current through an auxillary conductor built into the cable to keep the “burn in” from disappearing when not used.

Battery Power (Equipment)

Mains power is AC and needs rectification before use in almost all hi-fi applications. Rectification turns AC into DC, however this conversion can be difficult in achieving optimum noise performance. Noise in the DC rails will usually cause additional noise in the system.

Batteries have very little noise. Mains conversion is usually the most practical method for high power devices such as amps, however battery powered units can be used for less power hungry units like pre-amps.

Cryogenic Treatment

Cryogenic treatment involves cooling a subject (usually a steel) to extremely low temperatures. This improves many properties including strength and durability of the metal. Its use on copper is not proven and there is poor theory on how it works, however audiophiles believe it improves the sound.

Demagnetisation (Demagnetization)

Some audiophiles believe that as signals are passed through a conductor, the conductor gets “magnetised” and will exhibit detrimental effects as a result. Demagnetisation CDs are used to pass a certain signal which “demagnetises” the conductors.

Gold / Silver / Rhodium Plating

Gold plating is commonly used in conductor contacts due to its ability to resist corrosion. This means that there are few artifacts on the surface of the conductor, leading to improved contact.

Silver is more conductive than copper or gold, and the argument is that a silver plated contact will also conduct better. However silver also tends to tarnish rather easily. When used to plate a copper strand, it enhances conductivity since much of the current in a cable tends to travel close to the surface.

Rhodium is a very rare metal, very hard and inert. This improves conductivity while resisting wear and tear on the conductor surface through its life.

Skin Effect

Skin effect is a phenomenon seen in conductors when a very high frequency signal is passed through. When this occurs, the majority of the current tends to travel through the surface of the conductor, rather than uniformly. There are many different designs proported to alleviate this problem, including ribbon conductors, conductors of varing diameters, etc.

EMI (Electromagnetic Interference)

Interference occurs when electromagnetic radiation is passed through a cable. Electromagnetic radiation causes variations in current, and hence interference. Interference in cables is reduced by designs which involve shielding or crossed/twisted conductors.

RFI (Radio Frequency Interference)

EMI in the spectrum of radio frequencies is called RFI. RFI is common due to the amount of radio frequencies in our airwaves.


This is an active list. We’ve started with mostly cable terms (mostly due to their wide availability) but we will continue to update this page as we think of more. If you can think of some, forward them to us!

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