As part of our Hi-Fi+ Guide to Audio Cables & Power Products 2017 (available as a free download online at hifiplus.com/buyers_guides/6/) we spoke to Caelin Gabriel of Shunyata Research about his discoveries in cable and power technology, his background, and the next great jump in audio performance!
Hi-Fi+: How and when did you first discover that differences in audio cables could actually affect the sound of hi-fi systems? Were you surprised at the time?
Caelin Gabriel: I worked as part of a team tasked with developing low-level signal acquisition systems for Military applications in different countries around the world. Later, in civilian life, I was involved with the development of high-speed networking devices like the 1GB/s fibre-channel interfaces and the present 100MB/s and 1GB/s Ethernet devices in the computer industry. These work experiences wreaked havoc with simple engineering truths. It became obvious long before I began building power cords and cabling for my own audio system that details related to cable and power systems were extremely important. Power and signal cabling represent by far, the longest path signals must travel within a high-resolution audio, video, or medical system.
What was the first range of cable products you designed and when did it enter the market? How did it compare to other cables at the time?
My first commercial product was introduced in 1998 and was called the King Cobra power cord. It was an extremely complicated design that took me the better part of an entire day to construct by hand. The market response to the design was significant, which led me (and my family) to believe that we could carve out a small, but sustainable business by making finely crafted products with special construction techniques, materials, and plausible science. There were a number of early reviews of the King Cobra power cord that compared it to many more expensive models. The results gave me the early idea of pricing very high-performance cable products more modestly as another competitive edge in a small market.
How has the audio cable industry evolved over the past several years? What are the pros and cons of the path the industry has taken?
We see consistently escalating retail prices in the cable industry for top-performance models, that approach new car pricing for an 8’ length of speaker cables or a 6’ power cord. Despite the extremely high prices, I notice there is a general lack of published science, patents, or technologies that stand up to scrutiny or explain why products cost into the mid five-figures. Shunyata Research’s niche is first and foremost our focus on value, whether the products are our finest performance products or our most affordable. We design all of our own parts and explain their importance and construction. We have seven published patents and many more pending. There are hundreds of pages available on our web site and in print explaining our design philosophy, science, and use of measurement. The challenge facing the cable market as we see it is truth in retail pricing and scientific credibility. In a few small ways, I feel we have advanced the concept of well-reasoned retail pricing and bringing real science into the consciousness of this market segment.
Some audio cable manufacturers focus primarily on premium-priced products, but your firm offers some ranges of cables that are far more sensibly priced. What led you to create ranges of value-minded cables?
The growth and longevity of Shunyata Research is directly related to our commitment to manufacturing affordable products that deliver an extremely high level of performance. We achieved success through more than ten-years of creating our own custom-made parts. Our most value-oriented products rely heavily on measurement, explainable science, and material refinements. We understand that our greatest market exposure will be through customer’s experience with our most cost-effective products, so those have to be the finest products we make in terms of absolute value and performance. You could think of our Venom Series of signal cabling and power products as our proof of concept and our proof of commitment to our craft and our customers. Our affordable Venom Series of products are the vanguard of quality that is the embodiment of our company ethos. We are comfortable with how they perform and our feedback, media reviews, and awards over the past ten years have been worth the investment.