When lending an ear, there’s no reason to leave one’s brain behind

Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade

-Keats, from Lamia

Sound, as we know it, is subjective experience.  It comes at us through the space around us and we feel its force even as all manner of other spectral phenomena pass through us without being felt.  This subjective experience is, to us, everything — it is everything that music ever is or could be. 

But audio reproduction, regardless of how we experience it, is a heavily-engineered phenomenon.  That this is so leads to a kind of split-mindedness in audio discussion.  So often we see the subjective discussed only in terms of the subjective, and the objectively measurable discussed only in terms of objective measurement.  That electrical engineers have not, as a class, been receptive to some phenomena as reported by users has led, for some in the audiophile world, to a kind of obsession with subjectivity itself — as though all of those lovely sound waves could be delivered to us without the “cold philosophy” of electrical engineering that makes audio reproduction possible.    

This needn’t be so.  The problems of any aspect of audio engineering must be solved in order to render audio in the first place, so we cannot complain, like Keats, that the knowledge of how it is done will unweave the rainbow.  Indeed, sound reproduction is a bit like unweaving and then reweaving that rainbow, and there’s no getting around the objective issues involved in optimizing that subjective experience. 

A great deal of audiophile wire and cable design has been done by enthusiasts of one sort or another, listening to various designs and trying to figure out what they can.  Iconoclast Cable is fundamentally different: Galen Gareis, our cable designer, was a distinguished wire and cable engineer with Belden long before Iconoclast was even a notion, with decades of experience developing cables for a wide variety of applications.  When he embarked on the process of designing the Iconoclast speaker and interconnect cables, he had the use of the Belden Engineering Center, a facility with exceptional capabilities and equipment. 

Yes, the process of design is meant to optimize the subjective listening experience.  But how does one know what to optimize?  When are four conductors, or forty-eight, better than one, and why?  How?  And are these things practical to manufacture?  Galen, with his grasp of wire and cable theory, was as well situated as anyone has ever been to figure these things out. 

In this blog, and on this site, we endeavor to take you behind the curtain to understand our product — to understand WHY Iconoclast cables are made the way they are and what Galen did to bring them about.  Instead of “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” we’re committed to openly discussing and showing our work.  A product like this should have a sound technical rationale, and in addition to Galen’s papers on this site, we will bring you fresh posts from Galen’s work from time to time to talk about issues in wire and cable generally, and Iconoclast specifically. 

But, back to that rainbow we’ve been unweaving and reweaving.  While the realm of engineering is where the rubber meets the road in terms of delivering the sound, there’s no substitute for listening.  That is, after all, the point, and ultimately the only point.

We invite you to have a listen to Iconoclast.  But we won’t ask you to leave your brain at the door when you do.  We also invite you to read Galen’s papers on the design of Iconoclast, and if you have questions, let us know.           

7 Replies to “When lending an ear, there’s no reason to leave one’s brain behind”

  1. You might say that I have been exposed to a double dose of Iconoclast this weekend: 1) last night a comparison of two versions of the Iconoclast interconnect in a friend’s system and 2) today a three hour presentation by Galen to the Houston Audiophile Society on principles governing the sound of the speaker wire. I am a lawyer by training having spent many years doing large petrochemical construction projects on a global basis. I am not an engineer, nonetheless, Galen was able to explain design theory in a way that I could follow and that made sense. Most importantly he sold me on the premise of design is identifying what variables affect the sound, which have the greatest effect and how optimizing one variable can and will negatively impact another. In the end, the proof of his model is the sound of the Iconoclast cables at their price point versus the competition. Having now heard the speakerwire in four systems ( and the interconnect in one) in comparison to the competition which often sold for many times the cost of the Iconoclast, I feel comfortable in saying that they are a fantastic bargain and sonically accurate without being overly analytical, detailed without being bright or overly analytical and tonally nicely fleshed out and harmonically complex.
    I really do not think that they can be beaten at the price or even equaled.

    Highly recommended.

    1. Hi Fred, thank you for spending time with Galen and for listening to the cables in several component speaker variants and for the great comments. Many believe and state that we offer one of the “best values” in audio. We are glad for your support.


  2. I have known Belden for many years as an electric guitarist who relied on their cable for gigging and otherwise. I really enjoyed hearing Galen speak over the weekend about audio cable design, and am really happy to see the incredible support that Belden has put behind making a really high quality audiophile product, with technical specs that back up its real-life performance. We need it. Many thanks!

  3. It’s been about three months since I first tried the Iconoclast speaker cables, and I’ve not forgotten my first impression when I compared them to my (then) cables, which were quite good. “WOW” – these things are good! Heard details and harmonics that I never knew was in my hi-res files. I ended up buying them and then brought them to friends to hear – trying to spread the good news that there was a better cable out there unencumbered by the snake oil and nonsense we usually hear in audio world. On one weekend alone, four other people ordered the Iconoclast – which replaced other cables with MSRPs ranging from $8,000 to $38,000. In an A/B listening test one friend took all of 5 seconds then turned and said “Holy Crap – these things are good!” He ordered them two hours later. All of these folks are knowledgeable audiophiles – and the word is spreading quickly in our audio community. The Iconoclast offer to accept a return in 30 days for full refund is hard to beat, and essentially risk-free. Highly recommended cables. I got a bigger sonic improvement in my system than if I purchased another component.

  4. Hello all!

    Here we can talk abut what makes ICONOCLAST cables work. The best part is we can add to the tech so everyone understands it. What was ued to make ICONOCLAST cables isn’t a secret, just good engineering.

    What are the secrets? How copper influences the final EM wave, which has to change somehow or we would not hear a change. There is no reliable test to define those EM wave changes. If it is felt there can’t be any changes, or proof needs to be provided. I can relate to that thought as the cables are designed with measurement and calulation. Lack of repeatable proof is why we offer the choice of coppers.

    Galen Gareis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *