Decade Series / Stereophile
Interview - Matthew Bond /
Prism 11 & 22 / Hi-Fi Choice
Reference G2 / Audio Adventure
Prism 22 & Bi-Wire / Fi
RSC Master Gen 2 / The Audiophile Voice
Original RSC Master ('93)/ The Audiophile
Vanishing Points / Audio Adventure
Klara Speaker Cable / Home Theater
December, 1996 - Vol. 19, No. 12
by Jonathan Scull
"The Absolute Reference Audio Labs" Interview with TARA
Labs founder Matthew Bond
Jonathan Scull: Matthew, how did you come up with
Matthew Bond: It stands for The Absolute Reference Audio
Scull: Ah-hah! Tell me, what in the world encourages someone
go into the cable business?
Bond: Well, I started out rewiring loudspeakers and improving
their crossover networks. I noticed that the wire itself made a
big difference, and I wanted to discover why this was so. One
thing led to another, and as they say...the rest is history!
Scull: Would you tell us something about those connectors
hook the shields together in the Decade cable?
Bond: The star ground connector tends to "common" any
electrical potential - or potential differences - between the shield
in Master Gen 2
interconnect. Let's say you're using a
single-box preamplifier where the left and right channels are
somewhat separated from each other. Maybe the transformer on the
inside of the preamp is closer to one side of the box than the
other. The radiation will be perhaps more concentrated on one
side of the preamp than the other, and so affect one side of the
interconnect pair more than the other.
By commoning the electrical potential in the shields, whose job
it is to absorb and ground RFI and EMI radiation, we're allowing
the signal-carrying conductors to have an uncontaminated pathway
for the music signal.
If there were no shield, RF would be modulated with the audio
signal, perhaps making things sound bright or grainy. But
definitely changing the sound. If the shields are there, you have
less of that. And if they're commoned, then the channels are
going to be... less different from each other in terms of
frequency response and bandwidth. The result is better channel
separation, better imaging, and slightly lower noise, with a
quieter, blacker background.
Scull: How did you come up with that idea? I mean, did you
bolt upright in bed one night and... hey, presto?
Bond: (laughs) No, it was simply a matter of experimentation
Scull: What do you consider the most important characteristics
an audiophile cable?
Bond: I'm trying to provide a cable that's extremely neutral,
that doesn't interfere with the interface between, say, an amplifier
and a pair of loudspeakers, or a preamp and power amp.
Scull: And how do you manage that?
Bond: We do it by providing a cable with very low inductance
capacitance, coupled with a very wide bandwidth.
Scull: Speaking of bandwidth, I notice that you eschew black-box
networks in any of your cables. Care to comment?
Bond: You want cables to be as extended in bandwidth as
so they have little or no distortion artifacts rippling through
the pass-band. There are designs that use filter networks to
create a low-pass function by adding components in a box at
either end of the cable. The rationale behind this is to provide
a stable interface between the components.
But the signal is not going to have the integrity of its harmonic
structure totally intact if you place a filter in its path. It's better
to have a design with a very wide bandwidth that imparts less
distortion on the interface. At TARA we accomplish this, as
mentioned before, by making the cable's inherent inductance and
capacitance values very, very low. This also means the length of
cable doesn't become a factor. A 10-meter cable can sound as good
as a 2-meter one if the inductance and capacitance are kept low.
Scull: How do you manage to control those parameters?
Bond: By using smaller conductors and grouping them in an
configuration. And it's done even better with a rectangular
conductor, which has less inductive reactance than an equivalent
Scull: Would you mind explaining...?
Bond: There's more crowding of electromagnetic flux at the
of a round conductor than in a rectangular conductor of the same
mass. In a rectangular conductor, there literally is no center to
speak of - it's spread out.
Scull: Your conductor lay has the Rectangular Solid Core
conductors at different angles to each other, I see.
Bond: Right. In the case of the
Gen 2 Master
and Decade Speaker
Cables, we've got a number of these individually insulated
rectangular conductors which don't couple electromagnetically as
conductors would do if they were lined up plate-to-plate or
edge-to-edge. And that reduces the inductive reactance in the
conductor even further.
Scull: I notice there's a lot of air in your speaker cable.
Kathleen: Jon-a-ton... (Kathleen says warningly)
Scull: No... really! They're very light in comparison to
other high-end designs.
Bond: Right. We started off with a thin-wall Teflon inner
Like this, the dielectric involvement in the cable is less, so to
speak. Instead of having a cable with lots of plastic material,
which makes for dielectric absorption problems, we array the
conductors around the outside of this inner Teflon tube and so
once again have less inductive reactance in the conductors
themselves. By doing away with the plastic in the cables, we also
avoid having a secondary medium storing both high frequencies and
high-order harmonic energy - which radiates around the
conductor - then releasing it out of phase back into the
You know, Jonathan, I can look at a cross section of a cable and
tell you how it's going to sound.
Bond: I'm not trying to brag! I can look at a design and
with about an 80% accuracy how things are going to be changed and
affected by the construction. Cables will sound airy, open, and
more extended, and especially more open in the midrange if it's
made with less dielectric in its construction.
Scull: How's that?!
Bond: You know, the cable is its own audio system. The
themselves are like loudspeakers. The size of the conductor will
determine the sound of the cable. A large loudspeaker, for
example, will produce low frequencies very well but not high
frequencies. It's just the same with a conductor. A large one
will not reproduce high frequencies well, but will have good
current-carrying capability for the bass.
Scull: An interesting idea. Speaking of conductors, let
you about the nature of Consonant Alloy
that I read about in your ads?
Bond: It's a blend of copper and trace elements including
But importantly, it's chemically treated so that the crystal
junctions in the conductor itself are more conductive than they
would be in a pure copper or silver conductor.
Scull: And the dielectric around it?
Bond: That's a clear, chemically stabilized polyethylene
stabilizing agents. One to prevent the breakdown of the polymer
with regard to UV radiation, and the second so that it has less
Scull: The jacketing material?
Bond: It's a simple nylon weave, a little more tightly wound
the interconnect than on the speaker cable.
Scull: Matthew, tell me what you think about mixing and
Bond: I understand it.
Scull: You understand it, but how do you feel about it?
Bond: I empathize but I don't sympathize, which means I
understand but don't approve. We're after the most accurate reproduction
of the musical signal possible. That's what everybody is looking
for in their components. But too often I fear audiophiles seek to
mix coloration, experimenting with different cables to get
something that sounds perhaps a bit more euphonic and beguiling
rather than accurate.
Scull: One would assume that you'd prefer a system wired
entirely with your cable?
Bond: Right. (laughs) That would be the best! There are,
all, a series of losses in the chain from the recording studio
down to your high end system - every component is a low-pass
filter. These accumulated losses diminish the harmonics. So it's
possible you could find a component or a cable that would correct
this by introducing a coloration to provide additional harmonic
texture. Someone might say it makes it sound more like
"real" music. Who am I to judge that? After all, we're
all trying to reproduce the live musical event in our home. And
when your ears say it's right; it's right! In the final analysis,
we all use cables as tone controls.
Bond: Of course, when I design a cable to be open and
transparent, I don't see it as a tone control. I see it rather as
an open gate than will make the most neutral interface between
two components. But that's never going to be the case. The
customer is going to sit down with the system and play with
cables and anything else at his disposal - like
cones or other
accessories - to get the sound they want. You know, ultimately, if a piece
of coat-hanger wire sounds
better than an interconnect, then that's what you should use in
your system! The Decade cables are the most revealing, neutral
cables that I have heard. Yet they will impart colorations to the
system. And, of course, other cables will impart even more gross
colorations into the system.
Bond: The fact is, most audiophiles deliberately introduce
colorations by using cables and components that they say are synergistic,
in order to create a facsimile of the live musical event. The
better that facsimile is, the more they like it. And if you're
using wire that you've mixed and matched from brand to brand and
you get the result you want, and it sounds more like the live
musical event, so be it.
But it's true that neutrality, transparency, and accuracy are
what one should strive for in order to make the system revealing
and have it reproduce the music more accurately.
Scull: Whew... that's slippery ground!
Bond: Here's the thing... a cable should sound like no cable.
It's a Zen kind of thing. But we're human beings; our hearing
system is a physiologically dependent phenomenon of its own. And
it's not linear in the first place. That's why we have loudness
controls to compensate for the ears' lack of sensitivity at
certain frequencies at certain amplitudes. Our physiological
dependent hearing system can be changed even by the food we eat
and drink. We may all have experienced that at one time or
another. So the point is, what's accurate isn't necessarily going
to sound pleasing.
Scull: You are articulating what a lot of cable people would
never say, Matthew...
Bond: Yes, and I'm not even necessarily saying that adding
colorations is a bad thing, because I appreciate that from the
live musical event down the chain to the playback system, you've
got those losses I mentioned all the way through. And they occur
typically in higher-order harmonics. The end result is that a
recording is never going to be as real as the real thing.
Scull: But you've said the Decades are the most neutral
you've ever heard...
Bond: Well, there is an admission on our part regarding
lower-priced cables that we do introduce some colorations. It may
sound a little smoother and more forgiving. The idea is that we
understand the application vis-a-vis the price point of the
Scull: So as the associated system gets more sophisticated
neutral and transparent - and as your customer climbs the ladder
of your cables...
Bond: Right - they're going to be more revealing as you
the range. And the most revealing I want a cable to be,
ultimately, is going to be as if it isn't there at all.
Scull: You're such a Zen guy, Matthew! What kind of recording
you use to voice your cables?
Bond: I think the four-letter word I would like to use here
live... (laughter) I like live recordings. You know, the idea is
that I want to make it sound as if I'm there, at that
performance, listening to the feed through the mixing console down
to two-channel stereo. That's the ideal for me. If it's a
multitrack recording, I try to imagine some kind of simile to the
actual performance - I'll be much more forgiving of the
recording than a simply mixed live one.
Scull: Ultimately, what do you think the job of a high-end
is... reproduction of the master tape or re-creation of the real
Bond: The ideal is that the system reproduces what the
microphones "saw" - just exactly what was recorded on
the master tape. I think that probably the tape and the live
musical event are akin, but to make things sound a bit more live, a
bit more emotionally satisfying, audiophiles seem to yearn for
Scull: And you're implying that we haven't resolved this
Bond: It isn't resolvable.
Scull: You don't say...
Bond: No. And you might have heard me jump paradigms here
few moments ago...
Scull: Hey! Watch those paradigms!
Bond: ... because at first it seemed I was saying that the
musical event is something to strive for. I'm not saying that either
one is better than the other. At one time we may have a system
that is more neutral and akin to the master tape. And then a week
later we may put in a cable or change a component that makes the
system sound more live in certain parts of the frequency
spectrum. Weeks later, you might hear another cable, find it more
revealing, and appreciate its neutrality. But maybe you'd lose
something of the midbass fullness that you had with the other
Scull: The great quandary...
Bond: Yeah. Like I said, neutrality and transparency are
goals that one wants to pursue when creating an audio system. But
I say, don't beat yourself up if you enjoy a smoother - or
warmer - sounding product.
Scull: Uh-huh... tell me, what would you say to those who
it's impossible for there to be differences in the way cables
Bond: Well, I understand the skepticism because I myself
skeptic. So back in 1988 we developed a test system called
- Constant Current Impedance Testing. It measures the inductive
reactance and rising impedance with frequency in various
conductor sizes and shapes. Using this testing methodology, we've
been able to correlate test results with the listening
Scull: Do you need exotic equipment to set it up?
Bond: Not at all. We make available instructions for doing
You need a frequency generator and an oscilloscope, which should
run you on the order of $700 or $800 - not a real fortune. To
underscore this, let me say that since we know what we're trying
to measure, we're able to develop a test that measures it.
Scull: Matthew, thanks. This has been one interesting
Bond: Thank you, Jonathan.