Balanced on a Wire: Warm Audio’s New Series of Audio Cables Toe the Line Between High Quality and Affordability

By Markkus Rovito

Sponsored by Warm Audio


Many musicians are making plans to hit the clubs and/or get back on the road after a long, forced hiatus. Imagine walking back into a favorite dive bar for the first time in a while to set up for a show. It’s dingy. It’s smelly. It’s… beautiful. Yes, a bit of a dirty, hole-in-the-wall saloon can possess the charm you want for rock ’n’ roll, but its potentially dirty power is not what you want for your sound. When you’re plugging your guitar amp into the same circuit powering half a dozen neon beer signs, you better know that your whole signal chain, even the cabling, is clean.

That’s why the small group of musicians and recording engineers who work at Warm Audio in Texas wanted to introduce its own line of audio cables: to bring its company ethos of high-quality yet affordable gear to an often overlooked area of the recording studio and live stage. As Warm Audio’s Head of Marketing Sean Halley says in the company’s introduction video to Warm Cables, a good audio cable is supposed to sound like nothing, so it has no influence over the audio path.


If you’re using really well-engineered gear that you love at every stage of the signal chain, then you don’t want some afterthought audio cable mucking that up. And if you’re up against it using some potentially problematic gear in a studio or live venue, good cables can at least help shield you from some of those problems.

Halley, a former touring guitarist who used to play nearly 300 gigs a year, tells of a Warm Audio employee who brought in a completely miswired guitar that was terribly noisy when plugged in. Just touching the cable would make a thumping sound like a kick drum because it was not grounded properly. After swapping in a Warm Cable, the noise wasn’t completely gone, but the hums and buzz were 80dB quieter with the Warm Cable than they were with the cable from a big-box store.

“The shortcomings in cables sometimes show up immediately, depending on the gear you have connected,” Halley says. “Sometimes they don't show up until you're in the thick of it, and you don't have another option. It's like an insurance policy. If you're a heavy gigging musician, you want to be prepared for everything. The more adverse the environment, the more important the quality of the cable is.”

Materials and Construction: The Keys to High-Quality Audio Cables
So what actually makes for a high-quality audio cable? It all comes down to materials and construction. In a typical balanced audio cable, there are three cores of copper wire: a shielded hot/positive core, a shielded cold/negative core, and a grounding wrap. The cores are tightly twisted together in a specific fashion so that if any interference is encountered along the cable, it will affect both the positive and negative cores and cancel out. Finally, an outer jacket covers the entire core structure.

The materials and construction of all of those elements contribute to the overall quality of the cable.

MATERIALS:
• how pure the copper is
• number of copper strands
• jacket material
• shielding material inside the jacket

CONSTRUCTION:
• circumference of each core
• size of each core group in the cables
• technique in which the cable itself is built and constructed
• technique used to wrap the ground around the other cores

For all of its microphones, preamps, compressors, and EQs introduced over its 10-year history, Warm Audio strives to provide high-end quality at a price that’s as affordable as possible. For the Warm Cables, all of the materials and construction techniques listed above come at a cost, so how does Warm Audio keep them affordable? Halley says that they are “priced aggressively,” meaning that profit margins are kept low, but they also have to save production costs somewhere. Because cutting corners on materials would not fulfill the mission of quality, Warm Audio instead ships premium-quality materials to be assembled in countries where the labor is not as expensive.

When it comes to materials, Warm Audio has partnered with Gotham Audio of Switzerland, the preeminent cable-maker in Europe, to provide the cable stocks for Warm Audio’s all-new interconnects. Gotham actually comes from a spinoff of Nuemann in the 1970s when the legendary audio company decided to concentrate on just microphones rather than make cables.

Warm Audio already had a working relationship with Gotham, which supplies the specialized seven-pin GAC-7 cable’s for Warm’s tube condenser microphones. So when Warm needed a cable supplier to put together some educational bundles for audio students, the company decided that instead of outsourcing them, it could be the right company to solve the high-end/affordable price equation for audio cables. Soon after, Warm Cables were born.

Warm Cables: Premier vs. Pro Lines
While the company plans to add more options to the Warm Cable line in the not-too-distant future, Warm Audio’s premium cables currently come in the configurations of XLR to XLR, XLR (male or female) to TRS, TRS to TRS, TS to TS, and TS to right-angled TS. For each of the following cable-length varieties, there is both a Pro version and a Premier version available, except where noted below:


Warm Audio Pro Series XLR cable for studio and live use.

XLR (male) to XLR (female)
  • 3'
  • 6'
  • 10'
  • 15'
  • 20'
  • 25'
  • 50'
XLR (male) to TRS
  • 3'
  • 6'
XLR (female) to TRS
  • 3'
  • 6'
TRS to TRS
  • 3'
  • 5'
  • 10'
  • 20'
TS to TS (unbalanced)
  • 5' (Pro only)
  • 6' (Premier only)
  • 10'
  • 18' (Premier only)
  • 20' (Pro only)
  • 25' (Premier only)
TS to right-angled TS (unbalanced)
  • 6"
  • 1' (Pro only)
TS to right-angled TS (unbalanced)
  • 10'
  • 18' (Premier only)
  • 20'(Pro only)


The Warm Premier TS-2RT-6inch instrument cable.

While the Pro Series are traditional, high-quality cables, the Premier Series of Warm Cables include several step-up features: gold-plated connectors, Double-Reussen shielding, and “Starquad” construction, which uses four conductor cores in the cable instead of the traditional two.

Double-Reussen shielding has to do with the grounding wrap that acts as a shield from RFI (radio frequency interference) in cables. With Double-Reussen shielding, the internal cores of the cable are wrapped with two separate shields, and the outer shield is wrapped in the opposite direction of the internal shield, creating a more comprehensive shield from RFI. Going even further, the Starquad method doubles the standard balanced cable configuration of two shielded cores to four shielded cores: two hot/positive legs, and two cold/negative legs, as well as a grounding core. That also helps to combat RFI, and along with the Double-Reussen shielding, Halley says that the Warm Audio Premier series cables are some of the quietest cables you can buy.

Both techniques of Double-Reussen shielding and Starquad construction add to the manufacturing process of the cables, but because Warm Audio saves costs on assembly, rather than R&D or materials, the price increase for Warm’s Premier series of cables is modest. “We take all the time necessary to engineer our gear and make sure it sounds how it’s supposed to sound,” Halley says. “And we only ship high-quality components. Soldering Starquad cables however, to quote my English wife, is quite a fiddly thing indeed. It takes a long time to do it right.”


The Warm Audio Premier Series cables look smart in their braided outer jackets.

Your Sound Is Worth It
At least a few times a year, another audio gear manufacturer announces a new line of studio monitors, seemingly from out of nowhere, but nobody really thinks it strange because they’re desensitized to the situation. On the other hand, a high-quality analog gear maker introducing new cables actually is something you don’t see every day, and it also makes sense in the context of what Warm Audio does with its other products.

As Halley says, with audio, you’re only as good as your smallest known component, and Warm Audio strives for attention to detail down to every last part. For example, for the WA2A tube opto compressor/leveling amplifier with a classic 1960s sound, Warm assigned David Geren—a stalwart gear designer who goes all the back to the late ’60s—to pour over the box and make sure it was true to the original, if not a little cleaner and quieter.


Warm Audio Premier Series cable, with gold-plated connectors and thicker, Starquad cores.

And cables may be the smallest part of your signal chain, but they are not to be ignored. If, for example, you’re trying to record a brilliant vocal sound and are using a beautiful microphone and recording to tape, don’t skimp on the cable. Or if you’re serious about your guitar tone, because guitar signals are fundamentally very quiet signals coming from a pickup, you want a cable that’s going to shield those precious, quiet signals as much as possible.

Warm Audio aspires to make “desert island” gear—the unit you’d take with you if you could only take one unit. With its Warm Cables, the company is so confident that these are the only cables you’ll ever need, that it offers a lifetime warranty on them. Because in the end, audio cables are neither mysterious nor a hoax. They have real benefits associated with them, but they are not all made equally.

“This stuff isn't magic,” Halley says. “It’s not about, ‘Oh, we shave material off a rock from Mars, and no one else can get it.’ We're not being snobbish about it, but cables are hard work and expensive, and they take engineering, skill, and expertise. If you want something to sound great and to emotionally connect, and you want the best articulation of transients and frequency information from your mic preamp and microphone, I'd say it's worth investing in something that is, you know… bad-ass.”


The Warm Audio WA-MBA microphone boom arm.

Postscript: Here Comes the Boom
Now that Warm Audio is also known for cables as well as microphones, preamps, and more, the small business has also translated all that aforementioned attention to detail to the next logical accessory: the new WA-MBA microphone boom arm. With the ubiquity of podcasting and live streaming of music and DJ sets, the microphone boom arm has become about as hot as a stand can be.

Designed for professional broadcasting, the WA-MBA mounts to a desktop or table with a sturdy C-clamp. The arm rotates 360° in the base and has three tightening bolts for adjustability at the elbow joints at the base, the middle, and top of the arm. The full arm extends to a maximum of 38" in length, and standard 3/8" and 5/8" threading at the top fits nearly every hardmount or shockmount mic. As a nice final touch, a hidden cable channel runs along the length of the arm, so you can keep the mic cable secure and tidy using the plastic chucks that fit it in place.