Didn't it start in the mid-70's with Bob Fulton? Then,shortly thereafter, with Noel Lee and the original Monster Cable?
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I don't remember who the first cable company was but my first high-end cable was a pair of speaker cable from Mark Levinson in the late 70's. The main design concern at that time was to minimize skin effect and resistance. So the Mark Levinson cable was very thick and was made up of thousands of very fine pure copper wires.
My first audiophile cable purchase also occurred about this time, (mid 1970s).
Mine was the Peterson Litz, a tiny diameter interconnect with a jewel like jacket and gold RCA connections. I found out later it was manufactured from surplus military aircraft communications cable.
Steve McCormack was the culprit that introduced me to this high end cable. I clearly remember being confused as to why it effected performance (wire is wire).
Unfortunately for me, the Peterson was soon defeated by later versions from Peterson, followed by Cardas and Audioquest (among others). Fast forward to today and find my personal bank account empty, due to the stunning performance offered by Purist Audio Design.
Considering the evolution of speaker drivers, power supplies, digital players and phono cartridges, it was only a matter of time for high performance cables to be recognized as components instead of accessories.
I remember buying a pair of "Cobra Cable" speaker wires back in 1976. (I'm not sure if this was the actual name of the cables.) They were multi-stranded thin gauge lacquer insulated wires (green and orange to represent "+" and "-") woven in a 90 degree multi-layering patterning. The construction was supposed to reduce capacitance. Looked real cool, too, since the outer insulation was clear! I was into pretty good mid-fi, back then, and these cables made a big difference in the fidelity of the mid's and hi's, over lamp zip cord!
FatParrot: The "Cobra Cables" were the Polk's that Viridian mentioned. Their design reduced inductance, not capacitance. This design was VERY high in capacitance per foot and sent many an amp into oscillation and an early death.
As to who actually "started" all of this, i really don't know. I want to say that Bob Fulton was at least partially responsible, but i really don't know for sure. I've got a 12' pair of the 4 gauge Fulton Gold's. If you want to see REAL "monster" cables, there you go : )
As far as the Polk's go, i think that they were made for Polk overseas in the Orient. As such, they might have been available in Japan, etc... quite a bit before making their appearance here in the USA. Monitor Audio out of the UK also sold some similar cables back in the mid to late 1970's if i remember correctly.
I've also got a pair of the Discwasher "Smoglifter" interconnects that Rock mentions. These were also made for Discwasher somewhere in the Orient from what i can remember and were probably available there prior to finding their way onto our shores.
As far as Noel Lee / Monster Cable goes, from what i can gather, Noel saw an opening in the market and went for it. I don't think that any of his designs were ever original or innovative. He's just good at marketing and knowing how to turn a profit. Maybe J-10 can fill us in with a little bit o' "Monster History" if he checks out this thread. Sean
Thsalmon: No wonder that the wire / cable industry is such a rip-off. The guy that you claim started the industry ( P.T. Barnam ) was nothing but a pale imation / con artist working off of the name of someone else that was famous ( P.T. Barnum ) !!! A crooked industry started by a fraud !!! There IS a sucker born every minute : ) Sean
Thank you for the responses. I have been bitten pretty hard with this hobby (started out with a home theater setup and converted to two-channel) and I have done more than my fair share in reading/researching its many different aspects. One of them, of course, has to do with cables.
So far, the general consensus is that "audiophile" cables have been around for about 30 years.
My first experience in noticing that cables made a difference is when I replaced my Monster cables interconnects and speaker cables with the first series of MIT Music Hose 750 speaker cables and 330 interconnects( @ 1978). I bought them used on Audiomart and have been a cable believer ever since. I still have my 330 interconnects in the closet. I might never use them again, but they are with me for sentimental reasons.
Leica_man, I too owned Randall Research cables about that time. Do I remember the full name was Randall Research Symmetrical TX?
I had issues with their unshielded design. Two different radio stations came through my turntable unless they were "dressed" just so. Not an easy task as these were inflexible and the RCA terminations would fail, even if slightly abused.
Before Randall Research I used Peterson Engineering cables. Ken Peterson basically bought surplus aircraft coax and terminated it with high quality ends. That was in the 1970's when this was a foreign concept to most audiophiles.
Were those Peterson Engineering cables the ones I remember covered with a white Teflon tape? I'm with you on shielding and to this day I do not care for un-shielded or woven cable designs. That said the Randall Research speaker cables (I did not have their IC's) were nice sounding considering the vintage.
Did you ever have the pleasure of meeting Fulton and listening to him go on about electron bunching? That was a hoot : )
Oh to stroll down memory lane.
Sean, thanks for the correction. I never had any amp react badly to those cables. My friend, at the time, was selling some exotic equipment out of his house, but I distinctly remember buying them in Miami in 1975 or 1976.
The only problem that I had was that I kept breaking off portions of the thin terminus wire that were plugged into the spring block speaker connectors on receivers back then.
You guys are omitting some of the other West Coast cables, such as Bill Low's Big Reds, which I still have in my storage room. I still have the Cobra and several of the Petersons around also. Also while I was living in New York I got several versions of the Distech cables and still have a power cable made of four shotgun runs of the Distech speaker cables. I also still have several handmade ics and speaker cables from Len Hupp who ran AudioHorizons magazine out of St. Louis. They were the first woven cables I heard. I used the speaker cables on my subwoofers just a few years ago.