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Relative permittivity (dielectric constant) is a ratio of the permittivity of a given material to that of a vacuum. The lower the number the less electrical charge is stored in the dielectric, and the more likely the source waveform will be unaltered by the properties of the insulation. The dielectric constant of air at sea level is 1.2, cotton is 1.3 – 1.4, teflon (PTFE) is 2.1 – 2.2, nylon is 4.0 – 4.5. Howbeit these figures will vary depending on specific manufacturing and application techniques. Cotton tightly woven and wrapped around a wire will have a higher dielectric constant (or maybe “dielectric capacity” is a more accurate term) than cotton loosely woven and wrapped because the latter will incorporate more air space. Same with any woven material. There is also such a thing as teflon thread; it's used on shipboard because of it's resistance to deterioration from the elements. But even if teflon thread thin enough to weave around very fine litz wires is available, it may not work properly in existing wire wrapping machines. Moreover in practical terms, the dielectric properties of loosely woven nylon may not be all that inferior to teflon. One truism we have all had to learn is that there are always tradeoffs in this business.

Asymmetrical gauge. I didn't understand the reasoning behind this approach when I first encountered it in the LessLoss Signature power cord and I don't understand it now. The original LessLoss DFPC uses three equal gauge wires for hot, neutral and ground; the Signature uses two of the identical gauge wires for hot, one for neutral, and a fourth, thin wire for ground (which barely squeezes into the Oyaide plugs). A year ago or so I reported in this venue that the asymmetrical LessLoss Signature offered sonic improvements over the original, symmetrical DFPC. (As I remember, there is another variable too: a different skin treatment.)

I can't swear that there's no theoretical basis for this sort of configuration; I think it would take a mathematician or engineer to explain the probable effects of asymmetry. But I've yet to find any explanation aimed at the layman that really makes sense to me. Asymmetry would seem certain to result in greater physical, electrical (and mathematical) complexity. But as I've said, theory often plays a relatively small part in the development of audio wires. Rather, imagination and experimentation seem the important common denominators: if I do this, it sounds better—now let's figure out why. And figuring out why surely often leads to further experimentation!

And that's precisely what Wywires did, they experimented with asymmetrical gauges, as well as different litz bundles of various gauges and wire counts. For example, the Juice II power cord, which I did not audition, has 66 strands of 30 gauge for hot, and 44 strands of 28 gauge for neutral. The ground connection (like that in the LL Signature) is a relatively thin, non-litz copper wire. The PreAmp Out Interconnect, which I am auditioning, is made of 12 strands of 36 gauge (wrapped in nylon) for the signal and 6 strands of 30 gauge (wrapped in cotton) for the return. Each leg will have different capacitance, inductance, reactance and proximity effect; it is reasonable to speculate that each leg will effect the signal amplitude, waveform and phase in slightly different ways. What happens when you combine these differences? Mr. Sventitsky concluded there is an improvement over traditional, symmetrical construction.

Shield. Two of the commonest methods of protecting signal-carrying wires from external electromagnetic radiation is to wrap them in aluminum foil or a woven mesh of thin copper wires which are sometimes coated with solder (primarily a mixture of tin and lead). Shielding gets a lot of play in audio designs. Most designers grant it high importance since there is so much more electromagnetic garbage around than ever before. Some of us may have experienced external EMI in a raw and dramatic way, such as police calls coming out of the loudspeakers (this happened to me when I lived in downtown Los Angeles). It shouldn't surprise you that in this regard also there are trade offs. Remember that a high dielectric constant of surrounding materials can result in time smearing, and the higher the constant, the more severe the problem. The dielectric constant of aluminum foil is 10.8 according to one source. I am not sure what the dielectric constant is for copper, tinned or otherwise, but I think it is bound to be high. (A second source states simply that metals, being conductors, have an infinitely high dielectric constant. Take your pick.)

Wywires employs a special geometry to help reduce external EM interference but they've opted to omit shielding altogether, on both their analog and digital interconnects. (The one exception is their USB cable which will not even work without shielding.) The decision seems radical, but it is based on experimentation and listening tests. Wywires is apparently trading off the increased possibility of electromagnetic interference for a significant reduction in time smear. I live in a rural setting, but I am bombarded with WiFi, cellular phones and repeating towers, plus all the natural radiation from Earth and Galaxy that flesh is heir to, and if these are harmful to the sound in any way, in practice the positive aspects of the Wywires design seem to outweigh them. To wit:

Mozart Symphonien 35-41, Karl Böhm, Berliner Philharmoniker (DGG D212241). I wonder if there are kindred spirits out there who, like me, suddenly find themselves listening to a particular CD for weeks on end? What this character trait betokens I've no idea, but it certainly provides me with a wellspring of delight, astonishment and plentitude. And never more so than in unpredictably taking up Mozart's last six symphonies. Karl Böhm's conducting of this music with the world-class Berlin Philharmonic is among the surpassing events in recorded literature, like Richter's Beethoven, Günter Wand's Bruckner or Wanda Landowska's Bach. These six symphonies are an ongoing revelation and education, works of burgeoning delight and limitless creativity flourishing within the confines of classical style, deceptively simple and straightforward but with great emotional depth, treading paths of originality with a pure heart as never before or since. Had Mozart lived longer I think we would have been even more amazed.

Now, Wywires are pre-conditioned for 48 hours so they arrive partly “broken in.” Alex Sventitsky recommended an additional 40 hours before critical evaluation. So, I pulled my old wires and plugged in the Wywires LiteSPD Digital Interface and PreAmp Out Interconnects and simply continued listening casually while the cables matured. Same wonderful music, over and over. I had no intention of trying to discover and evaluate any changes, let alone make comparisons. And it's true I didn't notice anything in particular; the system sounded good before the change and it sounded good after the change. But about a week into the game I suddenly found my attention drawn to the sound itself, rather than the music. It was something of a revelation. I really felt there were concrete differences, in the detail that was coming through with such remarkable clarity, in the sense of scale, in the harmonic complexity of the individual instruments. Was this an audiophile's wishful delusion? But if it was, why had it taken over a week to manifest? Inevitably the term “break in” comes to mind.

Mozart Klavierkonzert A-Dur, KV 488, Pawel Przytocki, Dirigent; Christoph Soldan, Klavier (Soldan Classics 0510). This is a CD I particularly value because it was a gift from the conductor (whose Rachmaninov First Symphony I reviewed). To cut to the chase, the Wywires have been in place for less than two weeks, and this morning the sound of this CD stopped me in my tracks. Could this be the same system I've lived with for so many years? It didn't sound like the same system. There was an extended reach to the bass, a broadness and richness; a clarity and crispness to the transient attack of the piano hammers, an harmonic complexity; the orchestra strings were more embodied, with a palpability of bow on string; a snap and gritty tactility to the brass. But I felt the overarching quality is one of clarity: like cleaning a smudged lens on a camera so everything comes through with greater focus, and detail that was buried or obscured emerges.

Rachmaninov, Etudes Tableaux, Opera 33 & 39, Gorden Fergus-Thompson (ASV CD DCA 789). When I am in one of my Rachmaninoff periods, the Etudes Tableaux get played a lot; I have several versions. Sergei Rachmaninoff (his surname is most often spelled with two f's) was an absolute original, composing what the musicologists call “Romantic” music into the first half of the 20th Century—when everyone else had gone on to other techniques. He is an original also because his sensibilities, his characteristic sound, is not just identifiable but unique. And the Etudes Tableaux are generally regarded as among his very greatest works. With the two Wywire cables there is a wonderful fullness to the piano, more of the large, tactile quality of an actual sound board; this CD sounds far less like a piano reproduced through loudspeakers and more like a physical presence in the room. The treble notes ring, everything is so clear, so perfectly and believably enunciated. The dynamic range, from pianissimo to fortissimo, is finely distinguished and conveys the excitement of a real wood and metal instrument. And not just this particular CD but to every piano CD I've played is exemplary. These wires seem to breathe a new life into everything. Presence. Dynamic nuance. Clarity. Dimensionality.


M'Boom, Max Roach (Columbia CK57886). M'Boom is the name of the all-percussion octet founded by Max Roach in 1970. Now, although I am not a jazz guy, I have a core belief that great music and great musicianship are not defined by genre. This music suits me down to the ground. A world I can inhabit with delight and excitement, and one I leave always with reluctance. Music suffused with rhythmic drive and angelic clarity. Thank God the engineers did their stuff on this CD: it is one of my most valued possessions. I first saw Max Roach on the box when I was a kid. In that all-too-brief video clip he was kneeling on stage alone, with a pair of drum sticks, making great, great music on the floor. That experience awakened in me the amazing potentiality of pure percussion. M'Boom has been called “...the culmination of Max Roach's many lifetimes in music. It is rhythm as rhetoric, rhythm as dance, rhythm as ritual and rhythm as song.” I've used this CD in reviews a couple of times before but I was unprepared for what I heard with the Wywires. Not only were the tones of the xylophone harmonically more complex than I remembered, but at one point I actually paused the machine to check if the very high overtones I was hearing were actually there on the CD. I'd never heard them before. The percussion transient attacks also were nothing short of awesome, revealing the physicality of the materials being struck with a new clarity and definition. The bars of the xylophone making a slight noise against their mounts when they are struck. The initial sound of the musical saw being struck. There was obviously a greater wealth of ambient information too. I was surprised again and again at the realism of the venue, the depth of the sound stage.

Afterglow, Kendra Shank, Larry Willis Quartet (Mapleshade 02132). Is there anything in the world more seductive than a lovely woman singing a romantic ballad? Is there another record company in the world making sound as pure and realistic as Mapleshade? If I don't hold tight to quotidian reality (the house needs vacuuming and the dishes need washing) I may find myself sitting in a nightclub nursing a shot of Bushmills, smoking a cigarette, gazing wistfully at the lady on stage. I'm not kidding, it actually requires concentration not to abandon the computer, sit down in the cat bird seat, close my eyes, and let the music take me somewhere else. I feel rather like the guy stepping off a plane in Maui, and suddenly realizing how much he's needed a vacation. One of the disadvantages to a reviewer using a recording of this caliber is that it always sounds really good, regardless of cables or tweaks. But there is an unmistakable impression that I am hearing more of the qualities that make it a great recording. Most importantly, my overall response to Kendra Shank's singing is intense and emotional—a level of emotion I've never before experienced with this CD. If I am reluctant to speak about venue, timbre, transients and overtones—factors that make for great sound—it's a sign of success: isn't the power of elicited emotions what we listen to music for in the first place?

Who was it that first realized that, in a good system, wires are no mere accessory? Wywires more than amply illustrate that very point.


Specifications:

Analog Cable Pricing:
Stereo Interconnects balanced and single ended: $849 with Xhadow Reference RCA plugs or Neutrik XLR's.
Balanced Interconnects with Xhadow XLR's are $1049 per pair. Standard length is 4 feet (1.23M) extra length is $125 per foot.

Digital Cable Pricing:
AES/EBU with Neutrik XLR's: $399 and $499 with Xhadow XLR's
S/PDIF with Xhadow RCA's or Furutech BNC's: $399
USB 2.0 A/B is $329
Standard length is 5 feet and extra length is $65 per foot.

Company Information:
WyWires, LLC
5845 Murietta Ave.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91401
818 981 4706
info@wywires.com
www.wywires.com