Meet Your Maker: Caelin Gabriel of Shunyata Research

AC conditioners,
AC power cords,
Power filters

What do you personally consider to be the ‘sweet spot’ product (or products) in your range in terms of maximum performance per dollar ($), pound (£), or euro (€)? What sets those products apart?

It’s very difficult to select a single product or product range because at each price point, we compete in the market by hitting lower retail prices with obvious performance, measurement, and design advantages compared to competitive products. If forced to choose a favorite cable-set for a relatively high-performance system, I would have to say our Alpha range of signal and power cord products. Alpha Series use patented technology that measurably improves signal transfer and the Alpha NR power cord measurably reduces noise at the component’s power supply. Alpha models are designed using all custom-manufactured parts, superior, hollow-core geometry conductors and have proven themselves competitive with products costing four to five times their retail price.

In developing value-minded audio cables, which design parameters have the greatest impact on overall sound? Conductors? Dielectrics? Geometry? Shielding and Jacket Design? Connectors? Other variables?

We control every variable possible in the Venom range of power and signal cables. Nothing is left to chance and there are no off-the shelf materials or parts used in their construction. Our Venom power cord conductors are made with the highest purity OFE copper on the market. We designed our own custom-molded AC connectors so that the connectors could accommodate large-gauge power conductors and possess superior contact integrity.

Venom signal cables use Ohno Continuous Cast Copper, which is made into a hollow core wire geometry called VTX. All the Venom cable dielectrics were chosen through careful listening evaluations and the shielding elements were selected to achieve 100% coverage. We designed all of our own RCA, XLR, and STIS (Interchangeable speaker cable terminals) because of the importance of the connections. This allows customers to choose their preferred speaker cable termination or change when needed. The material and custom-design costs invested are estimable, but that is the reason for our reputation as a very credible science-minded manufacturer of high-performance cabling systems.

As an audio cable designer, how do you strike a balance between performance on the one hand and price on the other? Is it possible to optimise both?

We started with a specific pricing model that considered a standard mark-up between parts/materials cost and retail pricing in order to break even and perhaps earn a reasonable profit. In the beginning, this model dictated that if a part you designed or purchased cost you a penny, then that had to add five cents toward a retail price. This was referred to as a X5 table. 15 years ago, this was the norm for many industries. As vendor costs and US labour has gone up, so has the X table. Today, it’s probably closer to a X6 table. We still follow that table, generally speaking. With our most affordable products, we earn less and with our highest performance, entirely customized hand-made products, we earn a little more so there is a balance. The trend we are seeing, mainly in the cable business, is that the normal X table of old has exploded into X20, X30, and up. Why, because some cable makers compete by increasing discounts to dealers, or adding upgrade programs, trade-in programs, rewards for exclusive business, and the list goes on. Our success in the market is predicated on offering the highest value products at each price-level that out-perform those with inflated retail prices.

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