Country of Origin
Writer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
This is a brief companion article to the Origin Story of Adamantis where we learnt of a new super shield from Æquo Audio's Ivo Sparidæns. Today we look at that and the emerging Arealis cables. Hello FerroGuard™, howdy UDCP™. The former is a special braided material which needn't couple to neutral or earth ground to shield against noise. It is described as being lossy, dissipating without adding unwanted capacitance and protecting from common modes toward ground and audio-band low-frequency noise. "That's normally possible only when both ends of a silver, copper or aluminium shield connect to ground which in turn often creates ground loops. Our material makes cables perform and sound as though they were unshielded yet still exhibit an extremely low noise floor. FerroGuard even works in speaker cables when using dual-differential amplifiers." UDCP is shorthand for ultra-dielectric crystal polymer and part of Ivo's ongoing R&D into dielectrics for his Diluvium crossovers. "Even as a solid it surpasses foamed alternatives like PE, PP and FEP with a dielectric constant of 1.2. And this crystallized material is heat resistant to beyond 370°C."
Combined, FerroGuard + UCDP sit at the core of Arealis cables whose hi/low-gain XLR interconnects specify a measured 150/100Ω characteristic impedance, 8.8/13pf per foot of mutual capacitance and 78/69% propagation velocity. The RCA versions offers 93Ω, 13pf/ft and 84%, AES/EBU digital does 110Ω, 13pf/ft and 76%. "The effectiveness of a shield material against air-borne RF is a function of the field type of the impinging energy, its frequency, the material's conductivity, permeability and how well the shield seals. These factors affect the amount of energy which the material reflects, absorbs, re-reflects or lets pass through gaps. For field type i.e. electric versus magnetic or voltage versus current, this becomes a more important parameter when choosing the ideal material for shorter distances and lower frequencies. Tests and certifications of consumer electronics focus on noise caused by shorter wavelengths and/or voltage-driven fields. They don't focus on noise from magnetic current-driven fields. There's a special lack of attention on fields of lower frequencies that are in fact very important to 20Hz-20kHz audio."
In his lengthy PDF, Ivo goes on to explain that emitters of LF magnetic energy like inductors are already best treated by ferromagnetics which can provide shielding down to DC whilst at UHF more conductive metals provide better shielding. He also points at steel conduits in industrial applications where many bundled cables are run over large lengths.
"For ferromagnetic shields we want a material that attenuates noise whilst being highly lossy so it sheds absorbed magnetism as heat without applying any opposing field. We also want it to be resilient to corrosion, strong and flexible." That's quite the list of often contradictory behaviors but exactly what FerroGuard claims to offer without being any type of ferrite bead.
The Arealis cables split into Luxury and Exclusive lines and combine high-purity oxygen-free copper insulated under a protected atmosphere with direct-clamped 24K gold contacts secured with silver solder. Unlike most commercial screens and foils focused on shielding frequencies far above the audio band, Æuqo Audio's super-shield material deals with power-line noise and its harmonics so lower frequencies. FerroGuard first premiered in their active Stilla speaker's hookup wiring. It now features across the 9.5mm power cord of the Arealis Luxury line, the 9mm low-inductance Star-Quad speakers cables terminated with WBT NextGen conductors and the 7mm XLR cable with 0.5mm² conductors where it is visible under a fully transparent UV-resistant jacket.
The Exclusive models feature "the lowest possible mutual capacitance, highest propagation velocity and an ideal balance between inductance, resistance and capacitance for each application". For the 16mm speaker cables whose 4 x 2.5mm² conductors weigh 300g/m, the client specifies WBT NextGen bananas or 6mm/8mm spades. The self-dissipating FerroGuard remains fully floating beneath black-anodized laser-engraved metal splitters, then soft-woven UDCP sleeves the pig tails to the terminations. The Exclusive power cord adds another conductor for safety earth to grow its Star-Quint geometry to 17mm. For active Æuqo Audio speakers, these cords terminate in custom silver-contact Amphenol PowerCon plugs. The Exclusive XLR cable's sub 9pF/ft mutual capacitance ensures maximum propagation speed. It exploits UDCP spacers in an air tube made from a vibration-dampening viscoelastic insulator. That's covered by an extra-dense layer of FerroGuard. The Exclusive 14mm RCA cable uses solid-core OCC copper inside a coaxial braid inserted into the same air tube with UDCP spacers and FerroGuard sleeve. In the double-mono version, both l/r channels share the same outer jacket. Now UDCP fully covers the mono-coaxial cables to minimize mutual capacitance for a dielectric constant of 1.2. The termination is with WBT's best 0152-cu plugs.
There's also a special Exclusive grounding cable for phono applications, a 14mm twin-coaxial AES/EBU digital cable with Neutrik XCC connectors and, by special order, a custom USB cable and even an HDMI cable with custom-configured pin assignments for I²S digital audio transmission.
Voilà, the arc of Arealis, the new cable line from Æuqo Audio of Holland's Eindhoven. It's another adventure of real engineering based on two proprietary new materials of novel specifications. Ivo's portfolio of Diluvite nanotech composites continues to expand. If you can't find building blocks that do what you want them to, bake your own. Easy to say but just how many can actually pull it off? Ivo Sparidæns is clearly one of them. Should his neighbors at Belden, Crystal/Siltech and Van den Hul worry? Reviews will tell us sooner than later…
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