The Great Copper Rush

Cardas Audio joins the Upscale family

At the mouth of the Coquille River in Bandon, Oregon, you'll find an audio company that's a legend even in an industry studded with legends: Cardas Audio.

Even if you don't own so much as a wisp of Cardas Audio cable, you probably own a bunch of Cardas copper. George Cardas, the founder of the company, realized early that if he wants to make a great cable, he needs to be able to make the perfect conductor. And making the perfect conductor starts with having the purest copper... what better way to ensure that than to make it yourself?

Well, almost. George found one of the last "old-fashioned" plants whose traditional slower process was putting them out of business and promised them a steady stream of invoices. They began slow drawing and annealing pure copper rods in inert atmospheres and started selling to both the audio and scientific industries. After a lot of learning from both these types of demanding customers, the process was perfected, resulting in a completely smooth conductor surface and extremely tight grain-free structure.

Today, Cardas copper is used by a number of high-end cable companies, including industry giants who can't be named, and also for internal wiring by companies such as EAT, YG Acoustics, Joseph Audio, Avalon Acoustics, and many, many more.

Cable Structure Matters

Of course, getting good copper wire is merely the start of a very long process in cable design. Cable structure, winding methods, and dielectric choice play a huge role in how a cable behaves. In fact, visit a couple of physics YouTube channels with no connection whatsoever to audio, and learn how strangely electricity behaves... an electric signal actually travels around a cable, not inside it!

George Cardas, like so many people in audio who dig really deep, found that even the tiniest changes make audible differences. His daughter, Angela (pictured above), who runs the company while George is off fishing in Mexico or coming up with cool new cable designs, describes how a large part of her childhood was spent listening to test tracks as her father changed cables, and describing to him the changes she heard.

George Cardas was obsessed with the golden ratio, or the divine proportion, and believed it could be applied to nearly any design, including cable structure.

Everything Matters

Every cable manufacturer employs a different design philosophy, and George adopted the idea that "everything matters." So every detail from the purity of copper to geometry and even Litz coating can have a dramatic impact on the quality and performance of the cable.

Cardas uses Litz-coated wire across most of the product range. This is a difficult and time-consuming production technique that uses a multi-stranded cable with each strand encased in a non-conductive enamel coating and arranged in very specific ways. The individual coatings reduce skin- and proximity-effect losses and the windings ensure that each conductor is the same overall length, otherwise, conductors on the outside of the braid would have to be longer than ones on the inside.

The Golden Ratio

George was obsessed with the golden ratio, or the divine proportion, and believed it could be applied to nearly any design, including cable structure. It's no accident that the Cardas logo is a stylized nautilus shell, one of many examples of the golden ratio in nature.

George produced his own complex Litz winding based on the golden ratio that he called Matched Propagation because it best allowed the conductor and dielectric to work in harmony.

This special winding is also immune to resonance. "If you wound a guitar string in the Matched Propagation pattern," said Brian Von Bork, Cardas' sales director, at a recent training session, "It would be completely dead, it just wouldn't ring."

Another design aspect George focussed on was air-tube insulation. It's well known that air is a great dielectric, but suspending bare copper around your room is probably not ideal. Cardas cables used layered air-tubes to "float" the conductors, a simple idea that's fiendishly difficult to implement in manufacturing.

Cardass Cable Production

Natural Simplicity

George, who now lives part-time on the shore of a beautiful lake in Mexico, is so revered because he approached cable design from a place of grounded simplicity, choosing to design well in the first place rather than picking a method that's easier to manufacture, and then applying band-aid solutions.

This approach is highlighted in his power cable design which uses a very long ground conductor that is looped around a ferrite ring, a design that lets the system "see" a much longer ground than it actually has, resulting in far better draining of noise. Brian, the sales director, said that George's refrain every time this innovation is discussed is, "This is so simple, I don't know why nobody thought of it before."

Cardas is one of the brands that tend to be owned by audio industry people. These users often change their entire systems, especially as they move from one manufacturer or dealership or distributor to another, but their Cardas cables always stay.

We are proud to carry Cardas now at Upscale. This news is so fresh though, we're still adding their products to the website, but have put up some of Cardas' bestsellers for you to browse through: three each of interconnects, power cables, and speaker cables.

 Browse Cardas Audio

Grover Neville Reviews the Focal Bathys

We have a new video out, and in it, Grover breaks down the new wireless active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones from Focal, the Bathys.

Grover says that the Bathys is the first wireless headphone that really captures the magic and potential of the hi-fi experience. He appreciates that Focal has created the Bathys by directly translating their high-end wired headphones into a Bluetooth context, rather than doing what many brands do, which is to slap their name onto a platform that feels thrown together. "These genuinely do feel like a Focal experience taken to a true wireless area," he says.

In another first for him, Grover finds that the Bathys has a very even tonality even with the noise-canceling turned on. (All noise-canceling headphones will sound different with the ANC active.)

Bathys comes with all the buttons and features you'd expect from any useful Bluetooth headphone out there, with, of course, a sound that Grover promises is all Focal: "Detailed, dynamic, and fast."

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