This isn’t the mixologist Mad Professor nor the dub maestro Scientist. Mad Scientist turns out to be Bob Prangnell, a British expat who lives in New Zealand and clearly likes to tweak audio. He makes a small range of cables and tweaks that are sold direct in US dollars to the world at large. All the cables have strange names, but these are not merely random, as they relate to songs by Patricia Barber. So YANAM is an acronym of ‘You And The Night And The Music’ while the top interconnect TORFORB is short for ‘Too Rich For My Blood’. In fairness, it’s as good a system as any and more memorable than most: who knows, it might even snag the ‘Scientist some customers in the Barber fan club.
Mad Scientist’s interconnects are unusual in that they use carbon fibre rather than copper or silver for the signal conductors. This is something that Van den Hul started doing in the 1990s and continues with today, but thus far Bob is the only one to have joined the crusade. The main reason why carbon fibre is unpopular is that it has considerably higher resistance and early examples had distinctly rolled off treble, but Bob reckons he has cracked it by using carefully selected carbon fibre for signal conduction and various combinations of wire and foil for the earth or return conductor. Apparently the relatively high resistance of carbon fibre makes it unsuitable for return paths but fine for the signal wire. I noted that the Mad Scientist interconnects are relatively short, with the longest being just 1.5m, but Bob tells me that this is because they get increasingly harder to make the longer they are as he works by hand rather than with a machine.
The reason for choosing carbon fibre given on the Mad Scientist’s website is not that radical, as Bob feels it comes down to ‘skin effect’. First discovered with microwave cables, skin effect means that higher frequencies travel closest to the outside of metal conductors. Bob states that carbon fibre is effectively immune to skin effects, as high frequencies travel through the entire conductor. This conflicts with the fact that early examples of carbon fibre interconnects had rolled off treble, but the proof is in the listening and in this respect the product delivers easily as much bandwidth as metal conductors.
All the Mad Scientist interconnects have cotton outer jackets, an uncommon material, but one that is popular in Japan. Cotton is used here for the usual reason espoused by the empirical audio enthusiast - it sounds better. Cotton makes for a distinctly handmade looking product but the addition of wooden blocks with directional arrows helps it from looking too handmade! These are designed to hold Magic Tubes, which appear to have been designed to bait the sort of people who inhabit audio forums, so I won’t encourage them by going into detail!
YANAM is the middle model in the Mad Scientist range. The cable shares the topology of the top model in the range, but uses less expensive carbon fibre and copper (rather than silver foil) for the earth, alongside copper and silver wire. Because you cannot solder carbon fibre, YANAM has crimped RCA plugs from SonarQuest with rhodium plated metalwork and carbon fibre inserts. They seem quite chunky next to the cable, but do help with perceived value. Prices start at $499 for a 0.7m pair and come with a 30 day return option.