Introducing Esperanto Audio!

A $1,200 guitar cable. One thousand, two hundred dollars. That sounds insane. There is, however, a certain amount of logic to it. From a strict Veblen-good perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to connect a $15,000 PRS Private Stock guitar and a $10,000 boutique amp with even the nicest $65 Mogami Gold cable. But there’s more to it than that. Since the dawn of electric-guitar time, long cables have been a nightmare. They’re noisy and they actually modify the tone of the guitar.

My friend John Marks has solved these problems by applying the same outrageous materials and processes used in the audiophile world to the humble guitar cable. The precise length is calculate to minimize interference. The materials are all top shelf and roughly equivalent to what you’d get in the very highest-end copper audiophile cables. There’s an oiled wooden block on the amplifier end for reasons that still make no sense to me.

It’s bad-ass and it works better than FourLoko on a first date. Click the jump to see and hear it live.

This isn’t a “demo” video in the traditional sense. In a demo video you have some Steve Vai type whip out a virtuoso performance through five effects and a Lexicon post-processor. In this video we have a (hugely expensive) guitar, an old amp from 1965 with no distortion and no effects, and two different cables.

John is offering discounts to our readers, so if you want the best-est guitar cable ever in the whole world, visit him at The Tannhauser Gate. If you’re interested in auditing the cable in your own environment, reach out to me and I’ll talk to you about using mine for demo and evaluation purposes. Thanks!

34 Replies to “Introducing Esperanto Audio!”

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Absolutely! That’s why I’m willing to loan it out for people to do their own impartial evaluations.

  1. MichaelPhelps

    Jack – this sort of ridiculous purchase undermines a lot of your points. It makes you a bit of a limo populist, at best.

    What causes your compulsion to buy stuff like this or 100 dollar extension cords.

    • Josh Howard

      Because they’re items that get bought a single time and used seemingly forever without being thrown in the garbage. Although Jack would claim he’s not a musician, his excellent collection as well as eagerness to play mean that equipment gets real use. The same can be said about the power brick he purchased recently.

      I don’t mean to be rude, but what causes your compulsion to buy a 6 dollar cord only to throw it away in a few years? Do you know if it is actually protecting your high dollar electronics from surges? While I think both of these items are way out of my price range, I can understand why they exist. They aren’t cheap Chinese or Vietnamese or African made merch with 5000% markups. These are made by real people who live within a car ride away. There is value in that even if some such as yourself don’t see it… or someone like me doesn’t buy it. That’s what I take away from these sorts of reviews.

      (A good comparison to this is the Studebaker Alanti guy here in Wixom,MI. The car is outdated. They aren’t good at anything. But, by God, I’m glad he still works on them and services them with the same care and craftsmanship they would have gotten long ago. I can appreciate that even if I don’t buy them.)

      • Mason

        Josh, you don’t need to create false narratives to justify your positions. Frankly I’d put my $40 Isobar against the surge protector Jack featured every day of the week. Likewise, chances are I’d never throw away the cheap guitar cable just as I wouldn’t throw away the expensive one.

        My personal issue here is that American Made doesn’t mean a $1200 snake oil cable is a reasonable justification.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The cord is on loan 🙂

      I also have to say that the USB charge feature in the Shinola cord is REALLY GOOD and it will charge my Galaxy S7 in about half the time that a GETWOW wall charger from Amazon does.

  2. john marks

    Dear Jack,
    Thanks for the coverage!
    In my consulting work for facilties, institutions, and programs (such as the music department of the literal First Baptist Church in America) I have specified or recommended ProCo microphone cables; so, thanks for a comparison that was not à-la the old “Joe Louis ‘Bum of the Month’ Club.”
    Some random further thoughts and semi-responses:
    The way a professional electric-guitar cable sounds is only one part of the “Basket of Desirables.” The absence of handling noise and microphonic effects are important too. Furthermore, one A-list NYC guitarist who is playing in public and recording with my cables loves the Neutrik silent disconnect feature, which costs about 20X what a Chinese connector would cost.
    As far as ABX testing goes, there is a lot of literature (which has been reviewed and summarized by my friend and former editor at “Stereophile” magazine John Atkinson) suggesting that it is not the Linus-from-“Peanuts” security blanket many think they are clinging to. One rejoinder is to ask whether it would make any difference if there were objectively measurable electrical distinctions between the two cables?
    My answer to that is, only if the distinctions make a difference to the player. Even played back on iMac’s own tinny little integral speakers, in Jack’s video, which I assume was recorded via cellphone, I could hear that the two cables sounded differently.
    But if somebody likes the sound of the ProCo better, that is his or her choice. My experience is that if a player often sounds like Jim Hall, that player will love my cable, but if they sound like Curt Cobain, perhaps not.
    A final point: the wood block is olivewood from Bethlehem in the Holy Land. I simmer the blocks in orange oil and then they soak for days before being buffed with pure beeswax. In theory, they act like ferrite chokes. And even if they don’t, they look really cool.
    Thanks, Jack, for inspiring this product.
    John Marks
    Designer and Handworker
    PS: Anyone can contact me via Google’s mail service; my name there is johnnywehardly, as in the old Irish song.

    • john marks

      PPS: The gig bag the cable comes in is custom-made for me by Porta-Brace in Bennington, VT. I have carried a Porta-Brace Director’s Case for more than 20 years, and it is only now beginning to look a bit shabby.

  3. jstyer

    A bridge too far… This is fucking crazy.

    To pull a jack baruth, things I could get for $1200:

    – One month’s payment on my viper ACR
    – Two month’s payment on my Lincoln Continental
    – A weekend vacation with my wife
    – A rental corvette and 3 DE weekends
    – 25 normal guitar cables, the likes of which have recorded such shitty albums as: Band of Gypsies, Modern Vampires of the City, Live at the Old Quarter, The Last Waltz, etc, etc, etc…

    • john marks

      Dear J,

      The facts you cite are plausible, but your conclusion is simply your own opinion.

      I knew of a chap who paid $4,800 for the four shock absorbers ($1200 each) he put on his (drum roll, please) Mazda Miata. Yes, for $4,800, I too could come up with a list of other ways to spend it, but–it was his car and his money, and it would not be appropriate for me to call him “crazy.”

      I was recently in the presence of a set of six huge portfolio books, bound in tooled calfskin, with illuminations in gold leaf, silver leaf, and platinum. A set of those volumes (The Saint John’s Bible) costs over $200,000. It’s the first complete hand-written Bible in 500 years. So, if you ever get a chance to chat with former Pope Benedict XVI, you can harangue him about what you could have spent that amount of money on. (For all they know, the monks might have comp’ed His Holiness on a set.)

      Ciao,

      jm

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      To be fair, Live at the Old Quarter sounds terrible.

      Worse than that, every time I hear people TALKING OVER Townes it makes me want to find them today in their homes and beat them to death. I’M SO GLAD that they had a CHANCE to discuss WHAT WAS ON THE MENU while Townes was trying to sing.

      Ugh, I’m getting upset over here!

      • Disinterested-Observer

        Watched an old video of “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” and people were laughing. The line about the filling station is pretty funny, but literally everything is crushing. They laughed about the record player being stolen.

    • Disinterested-Observer

      Nevermind, the JREF ended that in 2015. Still, point being that “loaning it out” to people does not a double-blind make.

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Not claiming that at all, just stating that if somebody ELSE wanted to do it, I would loan them the cable.

        • Opaddington

          This reminds me of the “Monster Cable vs coat hangar” debate from a few years back. You can find a bunch of references to it via Google. Here’s one:

          https://consumerist.com/2008/03/03/do-coat-hangers-sound-as-good-monster-cables/

          The bottom line was that people couldn’t tell the difference between the fancy cable and a coat hangar. Obviously this is not a straight apples to apples comparison but there are certainly similar circumstances in play.

          Jack, you strike me as a strong cynic. So when you reference the “secret sauce” in the cable and the fancy wooden block whose function is nebulous (it looks bitchin’ and that’s cool but a performance improvement is suggested and that’s a super, duper dubious claim), I would expect you to be incredulous about it.

          It’s your cash man but I smell me some good old fashioned snake oil.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            You’re right, I’m cynical about a lot of stuff.

            I’m not a fan of mega-expensive speaker wire and I cannot tell the difference between $3000 custom cables and the Radio Shack 18-gauge stuff.

            With that said — The electric guitar is a very funny little instrument that, in most cases, is entirely passive and produces about 100 mV of ouput. Compare that to the Parasound eighty-watt amp that needs to be cranked all the way to the right in order to wake up my Magnepans. Almost a thousand-fold difference that is not in the guitar’s favor.

            Every guitarist of any experience is familiar with the phenomenon of a cable with a visibly sound solder joint that won’t transmit any sound or won’t do so reliably. As a performer I learned a long time ago to use the shortest cable possible and get it immediately to a powered buffer device, and from there to a DI box as soon as possible. These are tiny voltages and they occasionally seem to be flat-out capricious.

            I like John’s cable because I can roam around with it. I asked him for the longest cable he could make that wouldn’t cause Hendrix Coil Syndome, and he delivered. I make no empirical claims for it other than

            a) I’m happy with the utility and quietness of it
            b) I think I can hear a difference and I like the difference that I hear.

          • Opaddington

            Fair enough, you’re happy with it. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.

            I will say that I understand your perspective. Not with regard to playing an instrument, I have no clue about such things. Although I have been known to drink some sweet, sweet vodka and then proceed to melt the crowd’s (aka my wife’s) faces with my air guitar impersonation of Angus Young. I understand the perception of, I dunno, mysticism that comes with music reproduction. I bought a CD player in 1986 at age 13 and I was fascinated with the thing. The CD player was very new to the market at that time. Playing music with a laser? It was like effing magic to me. That started my long journey into all things audio. I fiddled with all sorts of stuff, even bought one of these on sale at the local Swallens:

            https://www.google.com/search?q=carver+sonic+hologram+c9&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwitlYKn5sfSAhVLzVQKHcJ-CbIQ_AUICCgD&biw=1536&bih=736#imgrc=Y5xrHakdqkgK1M:

            I swore this thing made my music sound better. Sonic holography? Yes please, sounds amazing. The reality is that I highly doubt it provided significant benefit. But I believed it did and I enjoyed my music more as a result. I think my experience was akin to yours with the guitar cable.

            Enjoy!

  4. michal olechowski

    BS cable is BS.

    As long as the electrical signal is passed cleanly. If you buy this cable you are giving you money to a charlatan.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Well the question is: how cleanly do any of the available cables do it? Most guitarists can tell the difference between a 10ft and 25ft cable.

      • michal olechowski

        I agree that there are junk cables out there. I had/have one that developed an echo in it, and I didn’t play much back then, and less now.

        Junk cable is junk cable, and analog cabling is a bit different then digital. BUT at the end of the day you are moving electricity from point A to point B. The physics of that are not that complicated, nor do they require 1200 bucks to actually work.

        But I also know when people are selling BS, and a 1200 dollar copper cable is BS. There is quality, and there is a rip off. But I googled this audio companies name, and the name John Mark, so I wasn’t surprised but what I did and did not find… 1) no real web presence at all. 2) random posts from about 2 years ago trying to sell his other magic cable, a s/pdif 5 foot cable for ~600 bucks. Yup a cable that took a digital signal and had to move it all of 5 feet for ~120 dollars a foot.

        So lets put some cables under a scope, and lets see if the signal is actually any better?

        • john marks

          Hello Michal!

          Quick–without looking it up, can you tell me who Oliver Heaviside was?

          Anyone who says “The physics of that are not that complicated” is (a) in love with his own ignorance, and (b) an idiot. Do you know ANYTHING about Heaviside, or about the history of his reformulation of Maxwell’s Equations???? Dumbass.

          As far as an internet presence, I am the same John Marks who spent 20+ years writing for (i) The Absolute Sound; (ii) Stereophile; (iii) Surround Sound Professional; and (iv) “LISTEN,” Steinway & Sons’ lifestyle magazine. Erm.

          My published writings on audio and music total more than 500,000 words.

          Sorry you seem so angry. Have you considered therapy?

          jm

          PS: In single-blind testing, my $600 digital cable bested (by accident) a famous-maker $2400 cable. Fancy that!

          • michal olechowski

            Aww are you hurt because I called you out on a selling BS market giber jabber products?

            so you wrote a lot of words. Where are your test reports on the cable? Where are you comparisons to other cables? Your the one that wants to sell the world on $1200 dollars cables, its on you to prove they work better.

            But please continue calling me stupid while showing NO proof that your magic cable is magic. It makes you look really smart.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I agree with you that the only true way to test is with a machine.

          Consider this, however: Does a $15,000 Private Stock PRS sound any better than a $5900 Wood Library? Does that, in turn, sound any better than a $3100 Core Series? Or even a $1499 S2? Most guitars sound about the same once you put them through the pedal-and-cable-and-amp wringer. But that doesn’t mean that there is no market for an upscale guitar, or an upscale amp.

          Without getting a machine involved (yet), I can tell you the following things about this cable:

          * It’s very quiet.
          * It sounds, to me, like a much shorter cable from other brands. This can be good or bad… some people like the long-cable sound.
          * It’s very well-made and durable.

          Does all of that make it worth $1200? Only in the sense that a Gibson R9 CC is worth $12,499 after it’s been aged compared to a Lester Pro T at $1,999.

          • michal olechowski

            How the guitar is made, both in terms of materials, construction, age etc, have a direct impact on the tone and output. Timber, harmonics, etc, all will influence the output.

            A cable has a single task, take the output from the guitar and move it to the amp.

            Low quality cables will influence the signal by introducing various amount of noise, and or degrading the single in other ways.

            But unlike a guitar, a well made cable will transmit the signal cable coming out of the guitar without any modification.

            It doesn’t take 1200 dollars to do that. The amp you connected to doesn’t have any magic wires. given its age it uses point to point wiring, with lengths that were not cut to “precise length is calculate to minimize interference” etc etc.

            My overall point is, that at some dollar figure far below 1200 dollars the cable will no longer make a difference in sound.

  5. Ronnie Schreiber

    To save space inside the housing, I decided to use an old-fashioned 5/8″ screw on 2501MP Switchcraft connector for the Harmonicaster electric harmonica. Besides taking up minimal space inside the unit, the 2501MP was pretty much the standard cable connector on microphones starting in the early 1950s, and since harp players often have vintage mics, they’re likely to have a cable with a connector that fits the 2501.

    It turns out that there’s a guy named Christopher Richards who sells hot rodded vintage mics. He also makes a line of very high quality microphone cables called the Tone Defender that besides using the customer’s choice of Mogami Neglex 2534 or Canare L-4E6S cable for good sound quality, they’re constructed robustly enough to withstand the rigors of professional use, with plenty of heatshrink tubing used and silicone injected into the connectors. After I told him about the Harmonicaster project Christopher graciously sent me a test sample at a wholesale price, since I’m considering including a cable with some of the packages.

    I haven’t done any blind testing but using the Harmnicaster I have A/B/C’d it with some store bought Mogami Silver guitar cable that’s 12′ long and has Amphenol 1/4″ connectors, and some tweed braided Guitar Center house brands cable. To connect the 1/4″ cables to the Harmonicaster I used a Switchcraft 332 adapter. The store bought Mogami cable sounds pretty good, better than the inexpensive tweed cable. It has a richer tone, probably more treble. The Tone Defender has a similar sound, maybe a tad brighter, but it’s noticeably quieter than the store bought Mogami or the tweed cable.

    It is possible that some of the observed differences may be due to the 332 adapter that has to be used with the 1/4″ cable ends.

    The Mogami Silver cable is $27 for 12′. The Tone Defender is about $70 for 20′, depending on options.The difference in price is about what a professional quality harmonica would cost. Well worth it on construction quality alone, though I do think it sounds better.

    https://www.harmonicaplanet.com/mic-cables

  6. Bill Malcolm

    The mistake most people make in saying there’s no difference in cables is that they are stuck in their minds on Direct Current circuits – the battery and current flowing along a wire. That’s about as far as they managed to get in their quest for knowledge in 10th grade.

    Doesn’t happen that way in Alternating Current, and music is an AC signal. Electrons don’t go anywhere, but vibrate about a point in the wire, being jostled by the electron nearer the source of energy and passing on the jostling to the next one nearer the load. Characteristics such as capacitance, inductance, the characteristic impedance of the cable, the placement of conductors relative to each other – geometry, the load impedance, the output impedance of the source, all come into play and vary by frequency. The magnetic fields set up are affected by the choice of insulating material and geometry and by objects entirely outside the cable that are in proximity that affect the magnetic field that is set up, which itself is in a constant state of change. Plus a lot more. Those folk with a modicum of technical understanding then try the tack that audio frequencies are not very high, so we can disregard any and all AC effects. Right. You’re the boss, fella.

    As an engineer in the audio field for 40 years, I was constantly bombarded by complete know-nothings, content in their blissful ignorance of such things but who of course, knew better than people actually in the field, yet who proffered inanities of zero merit. Most people don’t have a clue about anything scientific or technological, having found math hard in school and putting all that behind them at their earliest opportunity. Then they have the temerity to tell experts they’re full of shit.

    Bugger them. They can steep in their own ignorance.

    I started out as a mechanical engineer almost 50 years ago, the work gradually taking me to the interface of electrical and mechanical. The major differnce between something static, or DC, and moving, AC, is stark. Take the crap we get fed about engines – all descriptions we get fed rely on DC explanations. But any reasonable engine is operating at 12 revolutions per second at idle, hardly static. Rev it up to 6,000 rpm and that’s 100 revs per second. Still we get “learned” ignoramuses solemnly advising us that long stroke engines have more torque, whatever that means. Apparently the concept of swept volume or cubic capacity per cylinder never enters their minds. And thermodynamics? What’s that? Merely a word to the supermarket shelf-stocker who becomes an internet expert by night. The TTAC comment section is full of those people, many of whom think that knitting needle pushrod engines are deluxe, that hemi combustion chambers are the bees knees and other old wives tales so hoary mold grows on them.

    Think about this – if combustion in a piston engine takes 3 to 5 milliseconds, as we are told, then those 20, 000 rpm Formula One engines of the V10 era shouldn’t have been possible. Combustion typically takes place over less than 45 degrees of crank rotation; a good engine combustion chamber design requires minimal spark lead – the Cosworth DFV had only 27 degrees total. Do the math and apparently we live in a magic world. At only 9,000 rpm the piston is around TDC for 1/8 of I/150th of a second or 1/1200th of a second or less than a millisecond. Yet combustion happens and it works, or those Ferrari street engines are a myth. Air even manages to get in the cylinder during tiny inlet valve opening periods.

    Honda R & D let anyone download their articles and magazines upon registration and have many features on combustion speed, maximizing thermal efficiency, volumetric efficiency and so on. It would behoove some of the armchair experts to see whether they can even understand what is being said. I’d bet not. But they’d have a definite opinion anyway, just because. The anti-intellectual bias is strong, but we’re not growing lettuce in the back yard here folks, pondering the efficacy of cow manure versus manufactured fertilizer.

    I gave up concerning myself with the opinions of most lay people regarding a technical field. What they never understood was what they didn’t understand at a base level in the first place. They made up simple explanations in their own heads. So their opinion is 100% useless. Same as those people who try to convince themselves they can drive as well as you, Jack, after 25 minutes of practice.

    It’s not an elitist stand on my part. If you don’t understand something and yet insist on making ridiculous observations, why should I listen if it’s a field I’ve studied in depth? Bugger that for a lark, as the Brits used to say.

    We are so far down the path to utter lameness in society that people honestly believe some four year old kid working an iPad is “technologically” advanced. No, they just know how to operate a keyboard and press icon buttons.

    I could go on, but won’t. There’s mountains of knowledge I myself don’t know about the finer points of the fields I was in, I freely admit that. But some dinglebunny or other knows way less while believing that they’re on the bleeding edge.

    Enjoy the cable and let the doubters doubt while you entirely forget about them and their Mark 1 homemade theories that Maxwell swept away 150 years ago.

    • Ronnie Schreiber

      There is beauty in the way that so many physical phenomena, like electromagnetism and the piezoelectric effect work in both directions.

      Has anyone ever named an electric guitar model the Maxwell? The guy deserves proper credit.

    • rwb

      My vague, basal distaste for this comes not from any assumption that it doesn’t work as advertised. I have no problem believing that it performs in accordance with any claims made, and the principles behind its design are sound.

      My reaction is, honestly, informed by the inevitable primary target market:

      Blues Lawyers.

  7. DirtRoads

    I confess to having many cheap guitar cords that I ahve not thrown away. I should, I want to, but I simply can’t. But in nearly 50 years of playing music, I’ve still not spent $1200 on guitar cords. And although I love to play exotic guitars worth $35k (I did that — only once lol) I can’t afford to buy them. My other excuse is I can’t play well enough to make one of them sound that good.

    Full disclosure: The first three years of that 50 years of music playing did not involve a guitar, but a piano.

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