Country of Origin



Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, Fore Audio DAISy1, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, AURALiC Vega
Preamplifiers: Nagra Jazz, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, F5, F6, F7; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund/Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL3000 and Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: $1'549.80 for the complete review loan of 3m speaker cable ($399.95), 1m + 6m interconnects ($199.95 + $699.95) and 2m USB ($249.95)

Coppertone. Today that's not a Hawaiian sun-screen lotion. Today it's a copper-based hifi cable. In the words of designer Chris Sommovigo, it's the very best he can do at the lowest price possible. "Aha," sneers the cheapskate. "And just how low would that be? I bet I can braid together something from the Home Depot for a whollottaless."

Not this stuff, bubba. Consider the Coppertone interconnect. "It's an air-dielectric coaxial design with a helically disposed shield around a thin-walled Teflon tube. Inside the tube is our unique Nami-processed bare 24-gauge solid-core copper conductor. Nami is our process for forming a sinusoidal 'wave' shape into the conductor so that it remains substantially suspended in air for exceedingly low capacitance and high velocity. Terminated with REAN RCA connectors."

The Coppertone speaker cable "is a 'tube-within-a-tube' coax of tin-plated copper in helically laid thin tubes separated by a multi filament nylon insulator braid. Each pole consists of 144 x 36-gauge strands for a summed conductor diameter of 1.83mm² or ~14.5AWG. This arrangement makes for low inductance, low skin effect, low proximity effect and low series resistance."

The USB cable is "is a traditional design consisting of a twisted pair of data lines, a power line and a ground line all within a multi-layered complex of shields to limit leakage and reduce noise." In short, to make Coppertone requires specialized machines, the right raw materials and mature skills which only come from having done this for a long time already. It's not about disassembling some Home Depot power cords, then braiding their plastic-sleeved conductors into sloppy pig tails, then soldering on some connectors.

But our DIY cheapskate is relentless. Their lot tends to be.

"How low is low?" he whines. Well, how about $150 for a 1m USB cable; $200 for a 1m/pr of RCA interconnects; $300 for a 2.5m/pr speaker cables gone bananas? An additional $50 adds a half meter to any of them. Now Cheapskate goes stumm. He moves on. Elsewhere there's much easier griping to be done. After all, these toned coppers under the Black Cat Cable umbrella are "manufactured from raw materials and fashioned into cables in our Cummings/Georgia workshop using custom machinery, unique processes and expert skills, making the entry-level prices outrageously unique for small-batch artisanal audio products."

But wait…

… hadn't Sommovigo emigrated to Japan a few years back?

He had. But with his dad, two aunts, one uncle and two childhood friends passed away and mom left alone in Atlanta with a weak heart, he decided to return and have his mother live with him, his wife and their kids. "We got here just in time for her heart surgery. She's through it and much better off. Now we're all together under one roof where I have a nice workshop." Of Italian extraction, family to Chris is molto importante. "It's been an interesting expensive transition—I know that you know this pain of moving from country to country intimately—and there are some lingering issues with our Japanese landlord withholding our security deposit despite us meeting and exceeding all our contractual obligations. I just need to get the business rolling again."

Rolling the good times is something would-be Coppertone buyers will look forward to. "I designed it to be a category buster. It's truly the best I can do at these price points. I've also shaved the margin thin in the hopes that the series becomes popular. In terms of performance, it is intended to surpass whatever else is in the market at anywhere near the price, perhaps even double. So with Coppertone, I feel that I've finished our catalogue. From the entry-level Coppertone to the super-reference Stargate and Indigo, I think things are covered such that I've now got something for everyone."

Coppertone. Who said white men can't tan?