Stealth “Bullet-Proof” Microphone Cables
|Stealth “Bullet-Proof” Microphone Cables
|A Pro’s Point Of View
|6 February 2002
Microphone cables are the least appreciated part of the audio chain. For many years, several brands have dominated the microphone cable market. Unlike the universe of high-end audio reproduction, where many (too many, perhaps) cable manufacturers vie for attention, the world of recording engineers is defined by a few standard brands of mic cables. That circumstance may be in the process of changing. If so, cable designer Serguei Timachev at Stealth Cables is one of the forward-looking people who is pushing for such change.
I have used virtually every microphone cable I can find: Canare, Mogami, Belden, Clark, Radio Shack, Guitar Center Off-the-Rack Specials, Kimber, AudioQuest, Wire World, van den Hul, Acoustic Zen, Lunara, Depth Charge, Bombast . . . you get the point. That collection includes a wonderful 25′ pair of Magnan IIIi cables, custom made by that redoubtable cable master, Dave Magnan. They have been supplemented, too, by unearthly cable concoctions crafted by various engineering colleagues intrigued by the opportunity to check their cablework at the expense of yours truly . . . laboring in the outback of stage left or stage right positions creating live recordings.
I list the good and not so good (the spectacular, the bizarre, and banal) mic cables that I have used because the world of mic cables is still an undiscovered “musical territory.” I invent that phrase to emphasize the simple but apparently controversial fact that mic cables DO IN TRUTH “create” music – – in any number of positive and negative ways. Mic cables are not a neutral, invisible, inaudible part of the recording chain. They are at the absolute heart of the recording venture. You cannot escape their central importance if you are a recording engineer. This simple truth thereby explains my dedicated interest in enhanced mic cable designs and outcomes. Stealth’s “bullet proof” mic cables are among those that have achieved such enhancement.
I cannot attest to the internal construction of these remarkable anti-gravity devices . . . but they are powerful “get-off-the-ground and boogie” wires. They levitate. They make the initial mic feed you capture on a live recording wake up and soar to the sky – – as music wants to do when it is played and captured correctly.
If I sound enthusiastic about Sergeui Timachev’s mic cables it is because, in fact, I am excited about their pristine clarity, utter transparency, and just-plain-musical attributes. Mic cables come in all sizes and varieties. Many engineers have told me over the years that, when you “measure” mic cables, you find they are all the same unless there is a broken wire or frayed, bent, beat up and mangled deformation in the cable.
The world of mic cables may be more complex than many have thought. Signal “flatness” can be measured. The good old square wave test proves that this Edsel mic cable is no different than that Rolls Royce cable. They are measurably identical. So much for measuring instruments and their numerical delicacy. I trust another instrument — my ears. What else does a recording engineer have to trust if not well chosen, well-set up equipment, and one’s own hearing?
I have spoken recently to a veteran studio recording engineer back East. He will remain anonymous since he swears by the orthodox logic that affirms that wire is wire; mic cables are all alike.
This very astute and longtime masterful recording veteran avers that he was flat out astounded not long ago after I had urged him to swap out a single short run of cable at the very center of his studio set up. He placed a two-meter pair of Acoustic Zen “Silver Reference” cables at an important crux of his mixing set up. The result — in recording, in mastering, and in monitoring his mixes-on-the-fly — surprised him. In fact, he said that the result “flabbergasted” him. A single relatively short run of cable (at the gathering point of his entire mixing console) heightened the clarity and vividness of the whole ensemble. He could not believe his ears – – and yet the evidence stared at him, second by second, day after day, directly in the ears.
Hearing is the evidence one ought to trust. This savvy recording veteran is not a convert to cable upgrades. Nonetheless, he will not, I am told, remove the Acoustic Zen cables from their new-found home in his work station.
On another hand, Denny Purcell, the Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer at Georgetown Masters, in Nashville, is a huge fan of good cables. But then, Denny Purcell is one of the music-making engineers who long ago discovered the virtues of getting all cables in the sonic chain to the point of greatest resolution. One wonders sometimes, why Maestro Purcell hears such low level and subtle differences and others do not. Is it that Purcell learned that the additive results — the incremental addition of low level resolution-enhancement that multiplies dozens of times with the assemblage of each cable feed to the whole mix — are essential parts of the “magic” that a superior mastering engineer can count upon if he is to work his sonic magic in the first place?
It may be that the standard orthodoxy still insulating the recording proletariat from mic cable rebellion serves its purpose perfectly. It may be that, like any dogma, this one perpetuates the status quo . . . the better to keep hard working recording guys from pursuing yet another potential will o’ the wisp. Many tricks and tweaks, and even “standard” practices that are dispensed as crucial items in the recording engineer’s daily workaholic grab bag, are bugaboos. One must discover the tricks that work on one’s own. No “book of recording rules” can ever cover the infinite contingencies that confront an engineer working in the field or up against time constraint pressures commonly encountered in the studio. When it hits the fan, you need to have been there already, having solved this sort of dilemma previously. Or you’ll need luck or instantaneous creative brilliance.
The bottom line is this: improved mic cables mean improved sound capture. Stealth cables are clearly dedicated to that goal. Dr. Timachev at Stealth has not dubbed his custom-made mic cable creations “bullet-proof”; I have. These cables are strong. They are impervious to the sort of routine abuse that mic cables receive on stage as performances are underway. The Stealth cables are not rigid (such as the wonderful Silverline power cords), but they are solidly insulated by metal-like sheathing that gives them protection from enthusiastic musicians stomping and strolling and clattering all across the work area (read “stage”) where their music is in excited motion.
None of that protection would be of any use or interest if the signals the Stealth cables conveyed to the recording console were not special. The Stealth mic cables do their job in spades. You hear more and better from the point of reception. The music thrown at your board by the mic of your choice swoops through these cables with grace and clarity. They are “musical.” What more can a music lover or a recording engineer ask for?
I regard the Stealth mic cables to be, among the literally dozens I have used and among the thousands of feet of mic cables that I have been “exposed to”, perhaps the most extraordinary and the most musical I’ve yet tried. At the very least, they are among the small group of elite cables. They are beautifully made. They look good and sound even better. They are a recording “tool” to be sought out by any serious and creative sound engineer.
The secret ingredients in these cables are extremely thin strands of silver wire. Stealth configures the braid in such a way that skin effect cannot destroy the mic feed. I find no blurring or smudging of any kind at the point of signal reception. Instead, one hears a very fast, clean feed that translates precisely as you want it to on your console.
If you are a minimalist recording engineer, if you believe in the least amount of equalized alteration at the point of signal reception — preferring, instead, to tailor sound by the choice of microphones and the choice of mic placement — these mic cables will allow your “minimalist creativity” all the room you will need to work.
At the moment, I am not at all certain if Stealth is producing large production runs of their boffo mic cords for the market. If they’re not, they should.
Let’s celebrate superior mic cables since they celebrate music. The musical enhancement that superior mic cables provide — such as those from Magnan, Kimber, Acoustic Zen, and Wire World — benefits everyone. Among those very high-end performers, Stealth has a world-class product that deserves wide professional acknowledgement. Stealth mic cables have earned my respect.
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