Design, Philosophy, Absolute Phase
"...nothing gets you closer to the music."
inSound, along with our partner Mapleshade, develops and manufactures Omega Mikro and Clearview products including audio analog, video and digital interconnects, power cords, speaker cables and jumpers. inSound also designs and manufactures audio amplifiers, phono preamplifiers and passive line stages. We've been in business since 1990.
Throughout our 18-year history we've designed our products to bring the listener ever closer to the sound of live acoustic music. Our unique facilities include the use of Pierre Sprey's Mapleshade Recording Studio and its master tapes. Mapleshade uses the purest recording techniques to capture the sound of a live performance in the studio or at a recording site—analog tape with no overdubbing or electronic effects. We continually attend live concerts and recording sessions—jazz, classical, rock, soul, folk, world and gospel, to maintain current our memory of the live music experience.
We use these live sessions as our reference when we design a product. In carefully controlled and documented experiments, we compare the effects our design variables—e.g., copper thickness, annealing protocol, dielectric configuration—have on the reproduced music. Does the design variation we're evaluating make the music sound more or less like the live performance? If it sounds more like "live" the design variation stays, if not it goes.
We employ a rigorous listening protocol always using the same one-minute test samples drawn from our favorite recordings. We're meticulously careful about the quality of AC power during our listening experiments: We turn off all appliances like heaters, A/C's, refrigerators, dimmers and fluorescent lights to keep the RF (EMI) environment clean and constant.
The latest research on hearing, though still evolving, guides our designs far more than theoretical work or mathematical models; e.g., we pay particular attention to accurately reproducing the leading and trailing edges of the music because we believe that that is where the excitement of live music is. Get this right and the music comes alive. Get it wrong and the music loses its impact and emotion.
We use our hearing instead of test equipment because we've found that better sound does not come from better frequency response, intermodulation and harmonic distortion, i.e., the classic benchmarks for audio equipment. These classical measures of audio simply miss the vital qualities that make music come alive. Our listening tests suggest that parameters that affect our enjoyment of music are critically dependent on time domain fidelity. The leading and trailing edges of music's macro and micro dynamics and transients are examples of time domain parameters.
Harmonic coherence is another. This term refers to the harmonics lining up in time with each other and the fundamental just as they did when the notes were first struck. Components that do this better make each instrument's voicing sound more like live. Components that get this quality wrong change and thereby ruin the timbre and quality of an instrument's voice—they sound congested, especially when attempting to pass complex musical passages.
We're continually finding new ways to achieve better sound, e.g., by using more air and eliminating or minimizing other insulation (dielectric material) we find the sound livelier, with more infectious rhythm and exciting pace, less smeared and far less congested. By making our conductors (copper ribbons) thinner but with just the right width, we find the music sounds louder, more dynamic and sparkling.
We also find that protocols for refining, dimensioning and processing copper—more importantly than the purity of the copper—profoundly affect the sound of conductors made from it. Furthermore, one protocol does not work best for all product types; each of our major products benefits most from its own unique protocol. We've therefore developed copper processing protocols that provide the best sound for each of our products.
Combined, more air and less other insulation, thinner conductors, optimum physical configuration and copper processing protocols better capture the very delicate leading and trailing edges of music's constant transients and micro transients, and better time-align each separate instrument's harmonics. The result? The music sounds more exciting, more like the live experience.
All of our products, therefore, incorporate a common design philosophy: maximize the use of air and minimize the use of other insulation and use the best sounding dielectrics if we can't eliminate them; minimize at least one of the conductor's three dimensions, optimize the remaining dimensions, use the best sounding physical configurations and processing protocols. Through more than 14 years of research we've developed unique ways of expressing our design philosophy.
*The above is an interview with Ron Bauman by Dave Clark of Positive Feedback Online.
An interview with Pierre Sprey (Mapleshade Records) can be found here.