It’s easy to fall into ‘silo thinking’ in audio; where a company that is best known in one category cannot ‘branch out’ into another. Which means when WestminsterLab, best known for its small but deceptively powerful REI (and previous UNUM) power amplifiers, started talking about its Standard range of cables, I was at best ‘sceptical’. Then the boxes arrived; eight small, elegant, light brown boxes that prove you can make ‘interference-fit’ card (try opening them!) with similarly elegant thin white cables inside.
The cable is called ‘Standard’ to differentiate it from WestminsterLab’s more upscale ‘Ultra’ range, but the two have much in common (Ultra is effectively an even more refined version of Standard with premium-plus grade connectors), and both take a no-compromises approach to materials science and mechanical integrity. For example, most cable brands will tend to go with some variation on copper, silver, or an alloy of the two. In contrast, WestminsterLab uses its own formulation Autria Alloy, and solid cores of this conductor are used throughout the cable range. Each core is, of course, enamelled (a black enamel made to WestminsterLab’s own formulation), cryo-treated, polished to a fine degree, and then inserted into a PTFE tube as a dielectric.
Most electrical conductors are twisted pairs, triplets, or quads (depending on use) and the twist is used to help reduce induction and the deleterious effects of magnetic fields on the cable itself. However, twisting conductors around one another can play havoc with the cable’s capacitance and in extreme cases this can end up dulling high frequencies. To counter this, WestminsterLab developed its unique Vari-Twist layout, which – as the name suggests – changes the angle of layout through the cable, to keep capacitance low through the length of the cable, thereby avoiding a sonic ‘signature’. Finally, the typical metal braided shield is rejected because WestminsterLab claims instead of ‘grounding’ interference, a metal shield absorbs and feeds the interference back into the conductors. Instead it goes for a carbon-fibre braid that the company claims actually lives up to the goal of reducing interference.
The same essential design is used for digital interconnect, analogue interconnect, loudspeaker, and power cables. As a result, there’s a sensational consistency between the cables. They are all directed toward the same musical goal. That might seem like stating the obvious (it is why people talk about cable looms and synergy, after all), but there’s always an exception, and it’s usually the USB cable. In fact, there’s good reason for this; Angus Leung of WestminsterLab was one of the first out of the USB starting gates developing a cable back in 2007, which developed many of the strategies used in today’s cables.