Conductors: All sixteen of Caldera"s conductors are solid. Electrical and magnetic interaction between strands in a conventional cable is the single greatest source of distortion, often causing a somewhat harsh, dirty and confused sound. Solid conductors are the most important ingredients enabling Caldera"s very clear sound. Whether a conductor is solid or stranded, skin-effect is a prime distortion mechanism in speaker cables. Caldera very simply keeps this effect out of the audio range by using conductor sizes that are below the threshold for audible distortion.
SST (Spread Spectrum Technology): Any single size or shape of conductor has a specific distortion profile. Even though radially symmetrical conductors (solid round or tubular) have the fewest discontinuities, any particular size does have a sonic signature. SST is a method for significantly reducing the awareness of these character flaws by using a precise combination of different size conductors. The four different SST-determined conductor sizes used in Caldera allow an exceptionally clear, clean and dynamic sound.
Metal: Caldera uses a combination of PSC (Perfect Surface Copper) and PSC+ conductors. Perfect-Surface conductors have an astonishingly smooth and pure surface. Proprietary metal processing technology protects the wire"s surface at every stage of drawing and fabrication. When high-purity low-oxide copper is kept as soft, pure and smooth as possible, it becomes a wonderfully low distortion PSC conductor. PSC+ is manufactured by applying the same exceptional technology to an ultra pure copper. The resulting sound quality is even more focused and simply less in-the-way. For fifteen years AudioQuest has pioneered the use of superior metals; yet even we were surprised by the huge leap in performance made possible with Perfect Surface Technology. PSC+ simply outperforms all previously available metals at any price. Using PSC+ for the smaller conductors and PSC for the larger ones provides much of the benefit of PSC+ while keeping Caldera"s price close to that of an all PSC design.
All drawn metal exhibits directionality, whether in hardware store wire or in the best AQ cable. We wish we could design away this awkwardness. Since we can"t, we pay close attention to optimizing performance by clearly marking the cables and our terminations. Please watch for these markings when installing any audio cables.
Geometry: The relationship between conductors defines a cable"s most basic electrical values (capacitance and inductance). However, even when those variables are kept in a reasonable balance, the relationship between conductors can be varied in ways that greatly effect the sound. Caldera and the other AQ "Earth Feature" cables have an inner circular array of positive conductors spiraling in one direction. Around this inner group is a spiral of negative conductors spiraling in the opposite direction. This geometry adheres to one of AudioQuest"s most basic design tenets: consistency. Even while the positive and negative conductors are crossing each other instead of being parallel, the relationship between the positive and negative groups is fixed and non-changing. The result is astonishing clarity, like focusing a camera lens you had no idea was so far out of focus. The conventional approach to avoiding parallel conductors has been the braid. Unfortunately, braided constructions cause clearly out-of-focus performance due to the tremendous change each conductor experiences as its magnetic field is disrupted by weaving in and out of the fields of other conductors.
Insulation: In a low level cable the insulating material significantly affects the cable"s performance. However, in a speaker cable the electrical effect of insulation is almost only heard as a dry irritating sound prior to a cable being fully "run-in"... technically "adapting to a charged state." The term "break-in" does not apply because taking away the charge will slowly return the cable to its "new" condition. The insulation"s mechanical (hard vs. soft) properties make an important difference in stranded cables. The harder the better in order to minimize strand movement. Since solid conductors don"t need hard insulation, they can take advantage of the vibration damping advantage of a softer insulation.
The eight negative conductors in Caldera are insulated with partially conductive carbon-loaded polyethylene. This remarkable material damps radio-frequency garbage from being fed back into the amplifier. The sonic benefit is exactly the same reduction in "hash" and better dimensionality that comes whenever RF garbage is reduced in an audio circuit.
Terminations: AudioQuest offers a wide range of high quality connectors that allow Caldera to be securely attached to any type of equipment. "Quality" is in the low distortion sound, not necessarily in the eye-candy effect. AQ ends are either a dull looking gold or silver because these metals are plated directly over the connector. There is no shiny and harsh sounding nickel layer underneath. AQ spade lugs are soft because better metal is soft, and facilitates a higher quality connection. AQ Spades lugs are available in several sizes. AQ Benda-Pins fit all equipment, except pieces requiring a banana plug or BFA connector, in which case the AQ Crimp BFA/Banana provides unprecedented performance at a fraction the cost of those not-so-good sounding big eye-candy versions.
A combination of these major ingredients, and many more subtle details add up to explain how Caldera"s exceptional performance is made possible.
The Caldera are large cables! Thicker than my garden hose but much more attractive. Green jacket encased in a black mesh. Nicely terminated in silver clad, copper spades. These cables are a combination of Audioquest"s PSC and PSC+ copper. The 16, 18, and 20 guage wires in each cable are PSC. The 22 guage is PSC+. This copper simply allows the music to flow completely unencumbered. No barriers between you and the music to speak of. The different guage wires are said to transmit the full harmonic spectrum with maximum efficacy. I hear it! Every instrument has it"s true timbre. Trumpets have their "blattiness" but also their brassy richness, giving them a truly realistic sound. Bass is tight and tuneful. The amazing thing though is the harmonic richness of the bass. I"ve heard tight and tuneful before, but this is different. You can sense the true size of bass producing instruments and their distance from the listener. Their natural power and impact are right there. Music just seems to flow out of your speakers. The soundstage is focused and spacious. The soundstage, when musically appropriate, extends beyond the speakers and resolves the natural hall ambiance of the recording venue. Close to a "virtual experience". I am using two, 8 foot runs of Caldera into my Vandersteen 3A Signatures. Vandersteen"s have always loved Audioquest wire and nothing has changed. I know that running two 8 foot runs may seem like overkill, but I wanted totally unrestrained power delivery to my speakers. These cables are a considerable investment but they"re worth it. They allow you to hear what your system is truly capable of. I am also using 2 one meter runs of Audioquest Python interconnects to round out the resolution and ultimate musicality of my system. I am delighted with my investment in top quality cable. It is the essential link to complete an already capable system.