Stage III Concepts

Stage 3 ConceptsFounded in 1996 by Luis de la Fuente, Stage III Concepts has been one of the world’s most innovative companies in the field of audio cable design, being the first company to offer ‘floating’ silver ribbon conductors with air dielectric technology in interconnect, speaker and power cables.

Stage III Concepts exists with one objective in mind – to make the most transparent, musically satisfying audiophile quality cables possible. This is not an easy task because even the most highly reputed cable manufacturers still make compromises in their designs in order to make their products easier to manufacture, or to keep their prices down so their products can appeal to wider audiences. So imagine if the designer’s intention was not to compromise at all… to go ‘all out’ to make the very best cables possible. How would that objective be approached?

The selection of the conductor material would have to be of the highest quality available and would have to be cryogenically treated to create a denser, better aligned atomic structure of the metal to improve conductivity and makes the conductor’s inner composition completely homogenous and non-directional. The design and geometry of the conductor is paramount, needing to exhibit a desirable impedance characteristic and allow the transmission of all frequencies with perfect uniformity, minimizing the distortions of skin effect. The quality of the dielectric would have to be uncompromising, the shielding would have to be the best available and the connectors would have to perform better that what is considered reference at the moment.

Stage III Concepts spent years researching these aspects and created a range of cables that featured some ground breaking technologies. So uncompromising is their approach, that they tested most of the high performance commercially available connectors and were not satisfied with the results. This led to the development of their own proprietary Hyperion connectors.

They chose the ultimate dielectric – AIR – even though it is rarely attempted by any other brand due to the difficultly and cost of implementation. Each cable is hand made by the designer and has a limited lifetime warranty. All this extreme effort to achieve a signal integrity beyond what has been considered possible. How do they sound? Like no cable at all… pure enjoyment!

Stage III Power Cable

Products

Technology

Inevitably, all cables will alter an audio signal to some degree. It is impossible for a signal to move through a conductor and not be influenced in any way by the material that it is moving through. We know this to be true simply from experience as a copper cable sounds different to cables made from silver, tin, brass, gold or aluminium. We also know that different cable geometries and thicknesses (gauges) sound different.

However, the factors that influence the audio signal can be minimised and manipulated to achieve optimum performance, thus maintaining the integrity of the audio signal as close as possible to the original. Capacitance, inductance and resistance (or impedance) are the primary factors involved in defining an audio cable’s performance and sound. These variables can be precisely balanced through a calculated choice of a cable’s conductor type, dielectric (insulation), spacing, geometry and shielding. The following is a brief explanation of the technologies, methods and components employed by Stage III Concepts in reaching that elusive goal of all audio enthusiasts: Perfect Fidelity.

Stage III Kraken IEC Plug

Conductors

A conductor transmits current when the electrons within its molecular structure are released. The more electrons that a material is able to contribute to the transmission of current, the better that material performs as a conductor. For example, copper is considered an excellent conductor and it has 29 electrons ‘available’ for the transmission of electrical energy. Silver’s atomic structure facilitates the availability of 47 electrons which gives it an extremely high conductivity and makes it a superior audio signal carrier.

Stage III Concepts have conducted many years of research resulting in the development of their proprietary AeroStrand™ conductors. These flat, solid-core, pure silver wires permit the use of a true air dielectric. In addition, a flat wire’s low cross-sectional mass and increased conductor surface area exhibits more desirable impedance characteristics and allows transmission of all frequencies with perfect uniformity, AeroStrand™ conductors are therefore immune to the distortions of skin effect.

Cryo Treatment

Their AeroStrand™ conductors are made exclusively for Stage III Concepts using an uncommon ultra-slow, temperature-controlled wire extrusion process. This procedure minimizes crystal grain boundaries and stresses within the metal caused by out of phase solidification during manufacturing. Any remaining naturally formed crystals and molecular pattern flaws are eliminated by computer controlled cryogenic treatment, where a temperature of -190° Centigrade (-300°F) is maintained for approximately 48 hours. This process results in a denser, better aligned atomic structure of the metal which improves conductivity and makes the wire’s inner composition completely homogenous and non-directional. All Stage III Concepts connectors and terminations undergo the same cryogenic tempering process. This process takes a long time and comes at a significant cost, however the sonic benefits are very worthwhile.

Dielectric

When designing a high-performance cable to transmit an audio signal, one of the main objectives is to keep the performance of the cables unaffected by distortions, particularly those generated by the cable itself. All materials used to cover an electrical conductor’s surface can cause distortion of an audio signal. For example, an audio cable will sound different if its conductors are sheathed in rubber, plastic or Teflon because each of these substances interact with the signal. Ideally, a conductor should be shaped in a way that absolutely minimises its physical contact with the dielectric or sheathing structure and for ultimate performance, the conductor should not come into contact with the sheathing material (VERY hard to achieve). An un-insulated or “floating” electrical conductor always performs best. All Stage III Concepts cables employ their exclusive AeroStrand™ conductor technology, maintaining the pure silver wires in contact with little else but air. Less than 3% of an AeroStrand™ wire’s surface is in contact with the insulating tube!

Corrosion is also not a factor. AeroStrand™ conductors are completely sealed and are never in contact with external air or moisture. The spiral winding of AeroStrand™ conductors also makes them very flexible, so cables are easy to install. In most respects, their unique conductors already have an enormous advantage over conventional wire.

Stage III AeroStrand detail

Geometry

Stage III Concepts believe it is best to never allow airborne electromagnetic interferences to enter a cable, instead of trying to filter or remove them after they become part of the signal. Twisted pair windings of positive and negative conductors have proven to be very effective in rejecting induced noise. This wire geometry is used extensively throughout their audio cable line, including multi-conductor designs, where groups of plus/minus twisted pairs make the cables (even unshielded designs) extremely quiet.

Shielding

Stage III’s exclusive 3-level TriSilencer™ shield makes it almost impossible for any distortion-causing interferences to reach the cable’s conductors. For complete immunity to EMI/RF interference, Stage III Concepts’ A.S.P. Reference series employs their exclusive H.D.A. shielding making these cables literally invulnerable to radiation intrusions of any type. H.D.A. (High Density Alloy) is a unique solid foil material developed specifically for protecting sensitive medical and military equipment and cabling from all external electromagnetic interferences. Nickel plated copper braid surrounds the H.D.A. layer and helps protect delicate inner components from sharp bends while adding and additional layer of EMI/RF shielding. Their shielded cable designs never use the shield as a signal-carrying element. All shields are passive “floating” type designs.

Termination

Even when using advanced cable technologies, proper termination of any audio interface is essential if we expect to maintain optimum integrity of the signal as it enters and exits a cable. The termination of the cable to the connector is a common source of signal degradation, especially with the introduction of solder and various forms of heat stressed connections. For many years, Stage III Concepts tested most of the high quality connectors available in the market and were not happy with the measured performance, especially in relation to signal losses, distortion and adverse contribution to the audio signal. As a result, they now manufacturers their own connectors, a rare and expensive investment for a cable manufacturer. The resulting Hyperion connectors are unsurpassed in terms of the transmission of the signal without losses.

The metal is slow-extruded (not mould cast) then heated and cryo-treated, providing a more uniform metal structure that perfectly matches the conductive properties of our AeroStrand™ wire. Banana terminations are optional on all speaker cables and are made from thick pure silver-plated solid copper.

The A.S.P. Series

The pinnacle of the Stage III Concepts range is the A.S.P. Reference line, which is short for “Absolute Signal Purity” and incorporates all the technologies which result in the best possible performance. The models that are part of the A.S.P. series are the Proteus, Leviathan, Kraken & Triton power cables, the Gorgon interconnects, the Chimaera digital cables, the Xphynx USB cables, the Analord Master phono cables and the Reference Medusa speaker cables.

In the A.S.P. Reference line, a further improvement in performance is made possible by removing most of the air in the AeroStrand™ tubes. In this almost vacuum environment, the level of an almost perfect dielectric is achieved, minimizing possible distortion further. AeroStrand™ conductors are individually insulated with their own minimized-wall PTFE, PET or FEP Teflon® air-tubes, further diminishing any possibility of capacitive effects or strand interaction, resulting in one of the most precise and efficient audio signal conductors available anywhere.

The A.S.P. Reference line employs Aerostrand Ultra conductors which are composed of a specially formulated alloy of silver (Ag) and Palladium (Pd). Palladium, although not the best electrical conductor, possesses outstandingly low susceptibility to electromagnetic influences that can affect accurate signal transfer. A carefully designed Ag/Pd conductor is the ultimate in sonic purity. Users describe the sonic presentation as natural, musical, effortless, believable & ‘real’.

The A.S.P. Reference line also incorporates the use of three special damping compounds that are not used in the other ranges and not used by any other cable manufacturers. They also incorporate the use of a mechanical dampening material that contributes to lowering the noise floor to unprecedented levels. The A.S.P. Reference represents the ultimate level of cable for audio applications available today.

Stage III Power CableStage III Solid Silver Spade

Hand Made by the Designer

Every cable is meticulously hand-made by Luis de la Fuente using processes, materials and components of the highest quality. Due to the unique air dielectric design, it is not possible for these cables to be made by a machine. Every detail requires a high level of craftsmanship and experience with the unconventional technologies employed in the fabrication of their cables. This is one of many qualities that makes Stage III Concepts unique in the audio industry.

Why Choose Stage III Concepts?

If you are attempting to achieve an ultimate level of sound quality, it can be counter-productive to place careful attention to the selection of your source, amplifiers, speakers and room treatment while paying less attention to your cable system as the cable system carries the precious audio signal more than any other component. This has been proven in many reference systems, where system potential was not reached until the cable system was optimised.

Stage III Concepts apply science, research, materials technology and uncompromising manufacturing techniques to manufacture cable that can perform at this level. They represent the ultimate expression of cable technologies applied to home audio systems. You may notice that many of their technologies and components are unique to Stage III Concepts; not to be found on any other cables in the market. Their cables cannot be made by machines, and despite the intricate and labour-intensive construction of their designs, attention to detail and build quality are second to none. In addition, they offer a limited lifetime warranty on every one of their products.

Many cable manufacturers focus on marketing and advertising, getting reviews and building hype around their products. This is a great way of becoming well known in the audiophile market but Stage III is a different sort of company, investing very little in advertising. Instead, they pour their energy into producing heirloom quality cables that utilise technologies that others would never attempt. They are less known in mainstream audio circles but once experienced, they are re-defining. Audition and be amazed.

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