Thursday, November 19, 2015

What's a Torforb?

TORFORB is our top-of-the-range interconnect. This is the story of their development.

There are actually three models of interconnect, all related by the common carbon fiber signal conductors they use. All three have identical signal conductors, but vary in their construction and earth conductors.

Why Carbon Fiber?

I first came across carbon fiber as an interconnect conductor in the 1990s when I lived in Holland. Local star Van Den Hul released the FIRST cable, a pure carbon cable. I heard some at a friend's place and went out and bought a set. They sounded very smooth and musical.  In the 90s, digital nasties were more prevalent than they are today, and the fact that the Van Den Hul FIRST rounded off the music somewhat was a good thing.

Although they are very musical, they paint a romantic picture, a bit like old-school tubed gear. But they also don't render the top end and 'air' very well. So they would not be competitive today.

I started experimenting with carbon fiber early this year. It became quickly apparent that there was a special sound to carbon fiber, but I ran into the same sort of issue - rounded off highs. But it turns out that this was quite easily solved. I won't go into exactly how. But the final signal conductor consists of two bundles of fibers, different sized. I also found that the fibers used were important and found a company that used high quality Japanese fibers as the base.

So now the job was to make a product. I had been using a simple copper-occ single strand for the earth conductor. I figured that trying to use carbon would not give good results due to the high resistance - you really want the earth conductor to have low impedance.

One interesting thing about carbon fiber as a conductor is that it's immune from high frequency skin effects. Why so? Well if you calculate the skin depth for carbon fiber you find it's several inches, mostly because it's not a metal and has high resistance.

Development continued with trials of various earth conductors, using different materials, constructions and geometries.  At some point I tried using copper foil as earth conductor and got a real performance boost. I had to try silver foil..

You should see the large pile of prototypes I have here..

After lots and lots of testing, I found that there was a number of designs that I liked, some simple, some more complex. In order of improving sound quality, I ranked the designs:
  • Copper OCC wire
  • Cross wound copper OCC and silver OCC wires
  • Copper foil with copper OCC wire
  • Copper foil with cross wound copper OCC and silver OCC wires
  • Silver foil with copper OCC wire
  • Silver foil with cross wound copper OCC and silver OCC wires
To make matters more complicated there was also a hierarchy of wire types - I found at least three types of OCC wire that I liked. The most expensive copper OCC wire is about 10x the price of the cheapest OCC wire, same with the silver.
Then there is silver/gold foil. I wouldn't say that this is better but it has a slightly different sound, a touch warmer.

This was turning into a problem. There were far too many options here. So I decided that there should be three models, with maybe some options. 


Around this time I decided that TORFORB would be a good name for the top of the range. It stands for "Too Rich For My Blood", the name of a Patricia Barber track that is a regular test track of mine. So I went searching for other Patricia Barber songs names that could be abbreviated, and came up with ATOH ( A Taste of Honey) and YANAM (You & the night & the music).

The ATOH is the entry level interconnect, and that uses the simple copper OCC earth wire, using Neotech teflon insulated wire.

YANAM uses copper foil and cross wound copper OCC and silver OCC wires, using Neotech wires.

And TORFORB uses silver foil (or optionally silver/gold foil) with cross wound VH Audio foamed dielectric occ copper and silver wires.

Around this time we were also developing our Magic Tubes. These worked well in many places including interconnects. So I had the idea to include a pair of Magic Tubes with some models.

I had been attaching the Magic Tubes using sticky tape or Blue Tak. Clearly this would not work for a product, so I came up with the idea of the wooden "Audio Block".

The reason I call them Audio Blocks : They are made by a local company, Woodzone,  who make things from NZ Native timbers. When I went to pick up the first batch, the girl in the office was making an invoice for me, and says to me "What are they called?" - I gave her a blank look and said that was a very good question, no idea.  We stood around for some time pondering this, and someone suggested Audio Blocks, so the name stuck.

They are made from NZ native Rimu wood, and laser etched. The YANAM and TORFORB models come with audio blocks and magic tubes; they are an option on ATOH

How They Sound

Of course I am biased, but my take on them is that they all sound somewhat different to normal wire interconnects. Hard to put into words, but there's a rightness to them that makes many other interconnects seem wiry, distant or colored. They also do dynamics very well - interconnects that can make you jump at the loud parts.

Although there is a distinct improvement as you go up the range, there is also an undeniable family sound. They share much more in terms of sound than they differ. 

The best way to hear how they sound is to try a set. We do 30-day money back returns, but I can't see anyone returning them.

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