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.