I love visiting the Albanian coast in early summer. From the alluring scent of tangerines and olive oil that permeates the islands of Ksamil to the sounds of the Gheg and Tosk dialects bouncing across the narrow alleyways and streets of Tirana, this beautiful Balkan country always reminds me of my childhood when my father would pack up the Trabant with beach towels and stuff us all into the back seat where we would bicker and fight until we could see the blue-green Ionian Sea on the horizon.
While I brought plenty of sunscreen and a new pair of wonderful Ray-Ban Wayfarers recently purchased very cheaply from a reputable online vendor, my current trip to the Albanian Riviera was more business than pleasure. Many of my Albanian audiophile friends have been emailing me about a new line of speaker cables and interconnects that use extremely unusual compounds in the jackets, and more than one of these knowledgeable audiophiles have told me these cables are so innovative in their approach that the high-end audio landscape will be forever changed.
I know. I bet that is not the first time you have heard that about cables, my friends.
I do realize that it is opening Pandora’s box to talk about major innovations in the world of high-end audio cables. While I have always heard differences I can always hear the voice of my father the engineer who subscribed to the idea that wire is wire is wire. I remember as a child when he would use anything available to hook speakers up to an amplifier: lamp cord, coat hangers, bits of Christmas tinsel that had unfortunately passed through the entrails of our cat Mishka intact. One time as a joke he told me to stick a fork into an amplifier’s speaker taps and then use my other hand to touch the binding posts of a pair of old AR-3s. I did not fall for that ruse since this was the very same gentleman who once told me to urinate on the electric fence that surrounded the health services building at our local oblast office complex. Urok, izvlechchenny trudnyy put’ byl urok zapomnitsya navsegda, he said, which translates loosely to “Lessons learned the hard way are lessons remembered forever.” At any rate, he said his father taught him the same lesson and it was an important tradition to be passed down from man to boy.
I reminisced about this as I quickly approached the home and offices of one of my oldest audio colleagues, A. Emil Shaka, legendary manufacturer from A. A. Llambe Audio Company. Emil is a flamboyant man in the finest sense of the word. He is known for wearing the cheapest and loudest Hawaiian shirts he can find, especially if the pattern involves a semi-nude hula dancer standing in front of a palm tree. Extra credit is given if a coconut is employed cleverly into the motif. When he greeted me outside of his plant, I was not disappointed. He wore a lavender and chartreuse tunic that might have been made from glow-in-the-dark materials if not for the presence of blazing sunlight stretching across the Ionian.
After the customary salutations concluded, we adjourned to his office to talk about his new cables. He had named them Organike because, as he told me, he wanted to a cable technology that complete removed the sense of artifice from sound production. Or as Emil explained, “We didn’t eliminate the skin effect—we embraced it, enhanced it. And that is why Organike will change the way we look at connectivity.”
I asked him to please continue. He fetched a pair of Organike interconnects, no more than a meter or so long, and he handed them to me. They appeared to be perfectly ordinary interconnects with RCA terminations. But the jackets seemed unusual—they had a very tactile texture to them. Holding them up close I could see lots of ridges and imperfections. Holding them closer, I detected a faint scent, something familiar I could not put my finger on.
“Was that your stomach growling, Modest?” Emil asked.
“Perhaps. Lunch is soon, I hope?”
“Of course, my friend.”
I begged his forgiveness for my gastric interruption and invited him to continue about the science behind these very interesting cable jackets. Emil smiled and began to tell me about some very old research that showed improved signal transfer in underground cables in areas where the soil was rich with compost.
He showed me a copy of an old scientific study called “Improved Signal Transfer for Underground Cables in Compost-Rich Soils.” The research presented in this study inspired more scientists to continue the work—Emil showed me more studies with titles such as “Improved Signal Transfer with Copper Impregnated with Manure,” “Sound Differences Produced by Integrating Cable Strands with Live Bacteria Cultures” and “Animal Intestines Make Pretty Good Cable Jackets.” It was this last study, conducted up in Romania, that started Emil on his journey.
“Well, at first we had to explore the various chemical reactions of carbon and copper in order to understand what was happening with the cables.”
“Do you mean copper carbonate?”
“Yes. That was the most obvious path to explore. So we starting making it right in the lab with a solution combining copper sulfate and sodium bicarbonate.”
“Ah, so 2 CuSO4 + 2 Na2CO3 + H2O → Cu2(OH)2CO3 + 2 Na2SO4 + CO2?”
“2 CuSO4 + 4 NaHCO3 → Cu2(OH)2CO3 + 2 Na2SO4 + 3 CO2 + H2O would be accurate. 2 CuSO4 + 2 Na2CO3 + H2O → Cu2(OH)2CO3 + 2 Na2SO4 + CO2 would just be for sodium carbonate. And we both know that would be like putting lipstick on a pig!”
We both laughed; copper carbonate is commonly used in cosmetics. (Forgive me if I have ruined the joke by explaining it to you! Most audiophiles obviously know of these matters.)
“Unfortunately, copper carbonate led us nowhere.”
“So my old friend, how did you finally come up with Organike?”
“Epiphanies comes from the most unexpected places,” he explained. “We were stuck for quite a long time on the project—not for scientific reasons but for public relations and marketing reasons. For example, we were pretty satisfied with the results we were getting from hollowed-out snake carcasses, but then we realized that the premium cable market didn’t need all the snake oil jokes that would result.”
“I hadn’t thought of that, but yes.”
“Then one day my lovely bride Xhesika was grinding sausage in our kitchen. I was sitting at the kitchen table, wondering how I was going to solve this problem. I glanced over at her and noticed the sausage casings and thought ‘Eureka!’ That was epiphany #1, my old friend.”
I pondered what he had just said before asking, “What was epiphany #2?”
“The second problem I had to solve concerned decomposition,” he replied. “We were able to create some very effective cable jackets from a variety of carbon-based materials but after a couple of days the smell would become too strong and my listening sessions would become less than satisfactory. And although I do not place a high priority on aesthetics in my designs, the colors of the cables would become somewhat off-putting, to say the least.”
I nodded in agreement.
“So one day I was at my desk trying to figure out the next step and my hand rested upon one of my favorite objects, an acrylic paperweight that contained the ancient fossil of a mosquito. And that’s when I came up with the idea of impregnating the jackets with some sort of protective coating. That moment was the birth of Organike!”
Emil wouldn’t get into the specifics of how he combined these synthetic and organic compounds into a viable cable jacket material—mostly because the patents had not yet been granted and he was still arguing with the Albanian government about the controversial technologies he was suggesting.
“What is the hold-up Emil? What is so controversial?”
Emil held out his open palm to me—he wanted the Organike cables back. I handed them back. I noticed a slight greasy feeling on my fingers, but I chalked it up to the humid air inside his office. I was starting to feel restless for the beach, after a healthy lunch of course.
He took a deep, agitated breath. “The local health departments became involved. They tried to classify Organike as a food product instead of a high-end audio cable. They started questioning the sources for my cable materials and started imposing regulations and regular inspections. Then I made a mistake, a very big mistake indeed.”
I leaned forward in my seat. “What was that, Emil?”
“I mentioned that during our research, we discovered that the more advanced the organism, the more improved the sonics. We started to envision various cable lines at different prices—Amphibia, Reptilia, Mammalia, and then I looked at the faces of the inspectors and they were as pale as ghosts.” Emil’s voice then became very hesitant, very low. “They asked me where it would all end, and if I was interested in, you know…”
“You know, my friend.”
“No, I don’t!” I insisted.
“Oh come on Modest.”
He stared intently at me for a few moments before it finally dawned on me. “Oh!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, I agree! Crazy! How crazy would that be?”
“Absolutely insane,” I agreed.
Then Emil leaned forward, the Organike interconnects still nestled in his palms. He whispered, “Not that we didn’t consider the possibility, of course. We even floated the idea on an Albanian audiophile discussion forum online, but everyone started invoking Godwin’s Law, as they tend to do on the Internet. It was a good thing we were posting under an alias, or else Organike would be dead!”
“But of course!”
“Besides, think of the cost. Audiophiles already complain about expensive cables. The prices would go through the roof!”
Finally, it was time for a listen. Emil’s audio system was a humble affair, cobbled from leftovers from a Greek audiophile friend—Ypsilon electronics, Rockport speakers, TechDAS analog rig. Simple stuff, given to Emil by a generous music-lover with a touch of upgrade fever. He had carefully arranged an A/B comparison for me between his interconnects with normal cable jackets, and those with Organike. He brought out some classic LPs, old favorites from Gjoni, Zadeja, Zoraqi, Shengjergji—the same stuff everyone has in their LP collections.
With the Organike cables in place, the music jumped out at you. Microdynamics and macrodynamics increased dramatically. Low-level detail was more tangible, more fleshed-out. Compared to the other cables, the Organike cables just added a bit of oomph throughout the lower to middle frequencies—there was simply more meat on the bone if you know what I mean.
After an exquisite and much-anticipated meal, Emil happily loaded me up with several pairs of Organike interconnects to take home and try in my own system. None of the speaker cables were available, unfortunately—he was sold out. “I have to cook some more up,” he explained with a smile. As we tossed the box of Organike into the trunk of my car, I realized I had one more question for my Albanian friend.
“Are these directional?”
Emil placed his hands on his hips and shook his head slowly. “Are YOU directional, my friend?”
I thought about it for a second and then we both broke out laughing. As I said, I love Albania. I checked into my hotel room, put the cables in the mini-fridge and then headed out for a lovely afternoon on the beach!