Speaker Cable

The Iconoclast Design

Speaker cable seems simple. But it sits between two active devices: an amplifier which responds to how it is loaded, and a speaker which presents a highly reactive load whose characteristics vary with frequency and state. These conditions call for some obvious, and some less obvious, design objectives. We'll describe the Iconoclast design, and its objectives, briefly below; but for a full treatment of the subject, please read the articles Time and Speaker Cable Design Brief, and, for our Gen-2 product, Generation 2 Speaker Cable Design Memo. The designs are proprietary, but the electrical theory behind all of this is meant to be open, explicit and clear: no hiding the ball.

Conventional speaker cable design is simple, and it's not hard to produce a relatively flat frequency response, as measured purely by amplitude. But Galen's principal objective was not just to do that, but to do something trickier: adjust the cable design to keep the timing of low and high frequencies together, despite the fact that the velocity of propagation of signals varies considerably through the audio band. As the papers referenced above set out, this was achieved by using a large number of small conductors, bonded into pairs, in thin-walled Teflon dielectric, and then weaving those pairs tightly together into two polarity bundles.

Stripped end of Iconoclast Gen 1 speaker cable,
showing weaves of bonded pairs

The Internal Layout: Generation 1 and 2

Beneath the plain squared profile of the original Generation-1 Iconoclast speaker cable lies a surprisingly complex design. Each polarity leg of an Iconoclast speaker cable is composed of twenty-four 24 AWG conductors. These conductors are twinned into Teflon®-insulated "bonded pairs," akin to those you may be accustomed to seeing in Belden's data cable products. These twelve bonded pairs are then braided in a basket-weave configuration and flattened to a rectangular profile. The two polarity legs are then laid back to back, and a nylon braid (red/black for ETP, blue/black for OFE or SPTPC) and FEP outer sheath complete the cable. It's a bear to terminate, with 192 wire strips per pair of speaker cables, but the electrical characteristics are hard to achieve any other way.

Electricals (typical):

  • Generation 1:
  • Capacitance: 45 pF/ft
  • Inductance: .08 µH/ft
  • Resistance: 1.2 Ω/1000 ft
  • Generation 2:
  • Capacitance: 65 pF/ft
  • Inductance: .08 µH/ft
  • Resistance: 1.36 Ω/1000 ft

While the full rationale for this design is set out in Galen's papers, a few points bear mentioning here. Keeping resistance low requires keeping wire cross-sectional area large, but simply using large stranded conductors results in relatively high inductance and inconsistent current density relative to frequency. This can be solved, as here, by using a large number of separately insulated conductors, but the effect tends to be a considerable increase in capacitance, which can present problems with amplifier final loading, and an inconsistent presentation of the various wires within a polarity to the opposite polarity, with each wire having its own separate set of reactive variables. The braided configuration here manages to solve these problems -- inductance is significantly reduced with only a modest increase in capacitance, and the individual conductors each stand in the same orientation to the opposite polarity as one another.

Generation-1 (top) and Generation-2 contrasted

The question remained, though: might one flatten that VP curve further still, by going to still smaller conductors? The math supported it, but serious production questions remained as to whether the cable could be practically made, whether the electricals projected for it would be borne out in practice, and whether it was practical to terminate. After an experimental run at the Belden Engineering Center in Richmond, Indiana, the answers were all positive, and in 2022 we introduced the Generation-2 speaker cable, with twice as many conductors, each of 28 AWG. To the left is a picture of a stripped polarity of both versions, showing the difference.

Welded spades
(small size shown)
Welded locking bananas

Available Terminations:

The Iconoclast speaker cable isn't particularly suited to bare-wire termination, as the strands are unruly to manage. Accordingly, we offer a couple of types of termination which will work with the great majority of speaker binding posts.

For these terminations, we use our own special method: ultrasonic welding. Where gas or arc welding result in high heat, which can damage cable and connectors, ultrasonic welding takes place near room temperature, fusing metal to metal by intense vibration with less resultant heat than one would get from soldering. The welded joint is strong, has extremely low contact resistance, excludes oxygen very effectively, and does not introduce any other material to the joint -- the copper wire is fused right to the connector.

Our welded spade lugs are made of rhodium-plated copper, and come in three sizes: a 6.3mm opening, a 7.0mm opening, and a 9.2mm opening. The smallest spade fits the majority of binding posts, but some are a bit over-sized and need the medium; still others that are beefier require the largest. The spade is angled at about 25 degrees from the axis of the cable, but because these are made of copper they will tolerate a bend -- so if you need to change the angle, a couple of minutes with a couple of pairs of pliers will do the trick.

For tighter post configurations, or for those who simply prefer them, we also offer banana plugs, made from brass and plated with gold. These are the same "locking type" banana plugs you may have seen on Blue Jeans Cable products. The plug's locking feature -- enabled by turning the outer collar after the plug has been inserted in the binding post -- ensures tight, mechanically stable engagement with the post.

Deciding What Terminations You Need:

Our spade lug measurement card

What style of termination to go with? Well, our preference, barring a lack of room to accommodate them, is for spade lugs; when correctly fitted, these will give you the greatest contact surface and most durable connection. We've found that people find binding posts hard to measure -- you can check yours with calipers if you have a set, but if you aren't sure what size of posts you have, give us a call and we will send you our free spade-sizing card. It has cutouts for our three spade sizes and a QR code for the video showing how best to use it to measure your posts. Note that most posts have flattened areas on the stem which, ideally, your spades should line up with for the most secure fit possible.

If you have particular custom requirements -- such as a need to attach to terminal strips, Speakons, or what-have-you, let us know. We try to accommodate custom termination requests whenever possible, usually at no increase in price.

All cables are accompanied by a test report showing final measured values for capacitance, inductance and resistance.

 

Biwiring Gen-1 and Gen-2: The Ultimate Biwired Solution

The original concept for the Generation 2 speaker cable was not as a standalone, full-spectrum cable -- though it does that job splendidly. It was meant as a high-frequency add-on, in a biwired system, to the Generation-1; the higher VP at the lowest frequencies of the 24 AWG Gen-1 coupled with the lower VP at the higher frequencies of the 28 AWG Gen-2 gives a flatter VP curve over the full frequency range than either cable will do separately. Accordingly, in addition to the Gen-1 and Gen-2 standalone speaker cables, we also offer biwired sets, in TPC and SPTPC, which use Gen-1 for the lows and Gen-2 for the highs. Our standard offering here, for practical reasons, does not include the possibility of banana plugs at the amp end;

Note: at this time we are working on banana plug configurations for the amplifier end of the biwired cable. This is a bit of a work in progress and so we do not, at present, offer the banana plugs at the amp end in our ordering tables below. But if you need banana plugs at the amp end, give us a call; we may be able to accommodate special requests.

Conductor Options:

There are three options available for the conductor composition in Gen 1, and two in Gen 2. Note that the difference between these is NOT a difference in design -- nothing about the electromagnetic properties of the design is affected by the choice of conductor. Regardless of the material choice, the internal structure is the same, the manufacturing process is the same, and the termination methods and hardware are the same, with the full benefits of Galen Gareis' design work in each.

The conductor choices for speaker cable are TPC, OFE and SPTPC. TPC is Electrolytic Tough-Pitch Copper, widely used in communications cable of all sorts. OFE is Oxygen-Free Electrolytic Copper (99.99% pure), and we offer this in the Gen 1 speaker cable only. SPTPC is Silver-Plated Electrolytic Tough Pitch Copper. The outer jacket color is red/black for TPC, blue/black for OFE or SPTPC.

Return Policy:

We accept returns for any reason whatsoever within 30 days of purchase.

To Order:

To see prices and to order, use the tables below.

Iconoclast Speaker Cables, Generation 1:
Length in feetPair or SingleCable Stock
Connectors, End 1:Connectors, End 2:Price

Iconoclast Speaker Cables, Generation 2:
Length in feetPair or SingleCable Stock
Connectors, End 1:Connectors, End 2:Price

Iconoclast Speaker Cables, Biwired with Combined Generation 1 and 2:
Length in feetPair or SingleCable Stock
Connectors, Amp End:Connectors, Speaker End:Price