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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: MacBook (Parallels Windows XP), custom PC (XP)
Preamp/Integrated: Stello DA100 Signature DAC, Calyx Kong [on review], Ampino Dayens [on review]
Speakers: Miu Audio 805 [on loan], Glow Audio Sub One
Cables: Zu Audio Varial, AntiCables
Desktop: Ikea glass-top placed diagonally in the room corner
Review Component Retail: SKR 1800, ca. €170

USB cables beg to differ...
Before you question what a farmer knows, it depends. On the farmer. And what you wanna know. Per-Olof Friberg of Entreq has been a career audiophile all his life and worked on improving his system since he was 13 years old. He founded Entreq as a side business to his agricultural core enterprise 10 years ago. Today he runs a dCS Scarlatti and Audio Analogue Maestro system with Von Schweikert VR8 speakers. TAG, Bel Canto and Stello components represent less costly alternatives and six outside listeners with their own systems are part of the beta test team.

"I swore that I never ever would work on cables because so many others already do. But four years ago I couldn't help myself to try certain ideas that had been ruminating in my head. The first idea concerned our integrated contact and asymmetrical geometry but the real breakthrough came when we developed our patent-pending EEDS external earth drain system. This also helped us understand just how sensitive class D amps are to eddie currents and EMI*. Today cables have become the most important category for us and we think that here are to be found the biggest sonic improvements. That's because each cable doubles as an antenna to pick up and distribute a lot of undesirable influences.

*Entreq is one of the few companies to have developed a power cord specifically for class D amplifying circuits.

"I sent you a Crossword Discover USB cable for review instead of the more expensive Konstantin [SKR 2600]. Both use copper conductors and EEDS. The difference is in the dielectric. Discover offers so much for the money that the improvements with Konstantin are marginal." Per-Olof also confided that the USB cable discussion hasn't yet begun in earnest. Most civilian and professional audiophiles still regard the subject as cables in general were viewed before the Big Change. "What, USB cables make a difference? It's a computer interface for frick's sake. Have you gone loopy?"

Entreq by the way is shorthand for energy-transforming equipment. Leave it to a farmer to fully appreciate how energies don't come out of nothing or return to nothing but merely
change form. Per-Olof puts it this way: "While listening to music on your hifi, it is actually the energy from your wall socket which you transform to airborne vibrations with the help of more or less sophisticated machines. But a sound system is not a particularly good energy transformer. Only a small part of the energy actually gets transformed into sound. The rest becomes heat, electromagnetism, vibrations, radiation etc. How you handle these unwanted energy manifestations is of crucial importance to the quality of your music experience. We can easily make our reference equipment (more than one million Swedish kronen) sound worse than one of our 40.000 SEK sets. It all depends on the cabling and how we handle magnetic fields and damp the vibrations of the gear. The laws of Physics determine the sound experience. For decades now, we have been gathering the required knowledge to build a unique product range that helps you get optimal sound from your equipment."

If the farming background still throws you for a loop: "Since the late 1980s and in parallel with the farming, we have been working on product development in particular with regards to the working environment of agriculture. Our 'Fogmaster' mist spreader has broad uses. Originally developed to clean air and bind dangerous dust in stables and sties, it is now also used in research and medical health facilities to spray disinfective mists with Virkon in airlocks and quarantine zones. This has given us vast experience in thinking unconventionally, to identify problems, analyze them and attack them from different angles." Thinking outside the box is the term du jour for that. In Per-Olof's case, exposed to the elements is perhaps more like it.

"If we take one of our speaker cables as an example, we see two discrete legs for each channel, one hot, one return. Now keep in mind that each cable works like an antenna, both transmitting and receiving. Being separated allows us to have different lengths for the two legs, making them active at different frequencies so they don't interfere with each other in quite the same way. It also allows us to use different materials for the plus and minus runs. Another thing everyone can see easily is that we use silver for the plus and copper for the minus in all our speaker and RCA contacts.

"Regarding EEDS, the fact that all our cables (interconnect, power and speaker) use one cable for + and one for -, we can let the drainwire follow the signal from where it leaves the transmitting equipment to the receiving end where we take it out of the signal path and take it to an earth point separate from the components. With normal shielded cables, you put the shield together with the signal and connect it to the components. The other thing is that the shield in a normal cable always works against the signal in a way that creates interference. (On a funny side note, when we look at shielded speaker cables that become as thick as pythons, where the radiation is most intense -- nearest the amp and speakers of course -- such designs tend to use mostly naked pig tails.)"

To demonstrate just how ambitious Per-Olof the audiophile allows himself to get, consider his Crossword Supreme 09 flagship cable: "In the past we made use of a proprietary RCA connector with a Teflon core that was completely devoid of metals save for the signal path. But as we discovered, not even Teflon is free from eddie currents and static electricity. So wood became the final choice, a natural material with fantastic properties. The backbone of the Supreme cables is beech wood cured for more than 45 years. All plastic materials in usual cable construction are replaced by flax, another natural ingredient with surprising properties. The main building blocks of the connectors are 18-carat solid gold and fine silver. Conductors are cotton, the dielectric is unbleached cotton. During the manufacture of one loom (power cord, signal cables and bi-amp speaker leads), we consume 95 grams of 18K gold, 55 grams of silver and 1.75 square meters of Elmo leather. All production is by hand and takes more than 100 hours. The speaker cables are supplied with cable lifters to stop static electricity from carpets and synthetic flooring."

Once USB audio makes further inroads, every maker current plying the cable trade will come aboard.
Today though, audiophiles still have few choices outside of what their local computer stockists carry. 6moons alumni Jeff Day now writing for Positive Feedback Online has already conducted USB cable comparisons to discover real differences. But for yours truly, this would be a first. So I signed up to Entreq's proposal. Stello's DA100 Signature DAC, the little self-powered Calyx Kong USB headphone amp from Korea and my MacBook would be the necessary hardware to test the Swedish cable with. Perhaps Cary's Xciter USB DAC would show up in time as well. No matter, I was set to learn just what separates a purpose-designed hifi USB cable from the generic computer danglies which USB DAC makers give away for free.