What makes Espirit cables so special?
The story of Esprit starts in 1996. That was the year that Richard, who had always been into music and hi-fi, started to make cables. As is common in the audio industry, the cables he made for himself were good enough to attract the interest of quite a few enthusiasts. That is how Richard found himself making cables for friends. Subsequently, one thing leading to another and he created Esprit with one single goal in mind: to make the best cables money can buy.
Nearly 25 years later, the ethos is still the same: selecting the best materials for every part of each type of cable, then assembling them in the best possible way. Richard often says that it is like a recipe: if you don’t know how to combine the ingredients, you can have the best on earth yet get it all wrong. However, when you know how to combine them, then you can achieve outstanding results. The Esprit range reflects precisely that: over 20 years of trial and research of every conceivable material.
Esprit now offers a wide range of products, from the affordable Alpha, which allows every music lover to have access to Esprit’s acclaimed musical performance, to the superlative Gaïa, the absolute pinnacle of audio bliss.
In order to keep the information direct and adequately informative, we did not include every minute detail in this document, which will also minimise ‘technical overload’.
Also, please remember that technical details are one thing, but the real point of it all is the listening experience. Words and information are one thing – and important, of course - but what has made Esprit so successful over the years is the sonic performance our cables can deliver. That’s why listening to music will always be better than talking about the merits of materials and technical application.
The Structure of Esprit Cables.
All Esprit cables use a symmetrical structure for conductors and an asymmetrical structure for insulators:
Symmetrical structure of materials: identical conductors for both phase (+) and neutral ( -). Compared to coaxial cables, it makes for a more dynamic, more detailed and more silent performance. It also helps tonal balance and timbre.
Asymmetrical structure of insulating materials: to avoid the build-up of an electric load inside the cable, two different insulating materials are used. Identical insulators load up the same way. Once they are loaded, it can often result in a more aggressive sound. The asymmetrical structure avoids this so that the tonal balance of your electronics and speakers are preserved.
There are many varied myths regarding materials that have circulated among audiophiles over the decades. The aim here is not to debunk myths, but rather to establish a few facts about conductors.
Esprit uses only OCC copper as a conductor throughout the range. With silver, OCC copper is the best conductor available on the market. One advantage of OCC copper over silver is that it is reasonably easy to find a good supplier that will guarantee consistent quality of the material. Price, of course, is another.
A robust myth is that silver cables enhance the top end of the sonic spectrum. Pure silver is in fact a very smooth sounding material, much like the sound of OCC copper. The myth behind that reputation actually comes from the fact that most ‘silver’ cables you can find on the market are in fact made of silver-plated copper.
Silver-plated copper cables are not originally manufactured for audio purposes. The plating consists of an extremely thin layer of sliver, applied with a technique called flash plating, typically 0.3 to 0.4μm. The reason for the existence of that material is purely industrial: the layer of silver is there to make the copper thread more resistant to heat when a PTFE insulation sheath is extruded over it. That super thin layer of silver is responsible for the ‘toppy’ and somewhat bright sounding character of those cables.
Esprit uses only 5N and 6N OCC copper. 5N is 99.999% pure OCC copper, and 6N is 99.9999%.
5N copper is used in Alpha, Bêta and Kappa Series. 6N copper is used on all cables from Celesta to Gaïa. We source our copper from a Japanese company that guarantees consistent, high-level quality.
Esprit chose OCC copper for its conductivity:
As can be seen in that table, only pure silver is more conductive than copper, and by just a few percent. And the price of OCC silver is simply prohibitive. Esprit uses large cross section diameters of pure copper, as this eliminates the risk of noise generated by an over-exploited conductor. The lower resistance of those larger conductors allows for better dynamics all across the bandwidth.
Multi-stranded structure is favoured, with 0.07mm strands on all RCA and speaker cables and 0.32mm strands on XLR interconnects. Those conductors were selected for each application according to their sonic performance after numerous listening tests.
As mentioned in the introduction, starting with excellent materials is a prerequisite, but it’s the listening tests that validate a choice. The countless hours spent listening to each material have allowed Richard to know precisely what results are brought by each component of a given cable.
Insulation materials have their own sonic signature. For instance, stiffer dielectric materials such as High Temperature PVC tend to have a bit more bass, a slightly attenuated treble and quite a lot of punch. Softer dielectric materials, such as silicon, have a drier bass, as well as a more detailed midrange and treble.
Esprit cables use two different insulating materials: one wire is insulated with a stiff dielectric material, the other with a soft one. The result is a more balanced sonic performance, with a combination of the qualities of both.
If we were to stereotype things: fully shielded cables tend to be very silent, have a wide bandwidth and a lot of details but can be a bit dull.
On the contrary: unshielded cables are livelier, have more punch but they also generate more noise, have a narrower bandwidth and retrieve less detail.
Esprit developed what we call progressive shielding:
On one third of the cable, there is no shielding. On the next third, there is one layer of shielding and on the last third, two layers of shielding. The result is a true combination of the qualities of shielded and unshielded cables in terms of silence, bandwidth, dynamics and details.
Esprit uses only superior, high-quality shielding material: silver on pure copper weaved strands. It’s the kind of shielding material used in military or satellite applications.
As explained before, silver is the best conductor of all metals. Esprit uses proprietary connectors with a very specific technology.
Like silver plated cables, most silver-plated connectors are flash plated with an extremely thin layer of silver: 0.3 to 0.4μm. To make the silver adhere to the copper, the manufacturer generally adds a layer of nickel or chrome. And those metals are not good at conducting electricity. Gold plating is no better, and rhodium is even worse. The main quality of rhodium is that it is a self-levelling material, ensuring a nice even surface. However, its conductivity characteristics are very poor.
Silver is the way to go for connectors. Esprit have their connectors made from pure copper, then sent to a plating company where multiple layers of pure silver and pure copper are applied to the connectors. This is as close as you will get to a solid silver connector.
All connectors are soldered using 4% silver solder.
The result is a sweet tone, zero harshness in the treble and plenty of dynamics.
The aim of polarizing a cable is to protect it from electromagnetic interference. Protecting a cable from EMI makes it more silent. More silence means bringing out more micro-dynamics and more details too, as well as more evenly distributed dynamics across the bandwidth.
There are two ways to consider an insulation material: as an insulator, or as a poor conductor. The way we polarize our cables is based on that assessment. We polarize the dielectric materials of our cables in a proprietary fashion. We can’t say much more about this, as it forms part of the ‘secret recipe’ of Esprit! The overall idea behind it is to load the dielectric materials with an electrical signal which is not the audio signal itself.
With this document, we have tried to give you a short and simple idea of what makes an Esprit cable unique. As you can see, a cable is a combination of materials and how they are used. Esprit’s know- how relies on almost 25 years of experience, with a constant desire for improvement. We hope you will enjoy working with Esprit cables as much as we enjoy designing them.