SSS had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Farinella, of Evidence Audio Cables. With a vast experience in cable technology, and years of “nerding out” in the sandbox for electronic geeks all of his life, Tony has come to offer some of the best musical instrument, speaker & studio cables on the market. Evidence Audio cables can cover just about all of your needs, and Tony gets into the “nitty gritty” of cable technology & how it relates to the musician in this exclusive interview.
Get to Know Evidence Audio Cables
SSS: If you had to sum up Evidence cables in one word, what would that be? Why this word?
Tony: Music. Music is what this is about. Music is why we are having this conversation. Why people play guitars, sing, or bang on a drum. Why some guys push the envelope with A/D conversion algorithms and other guys like me tinker with wire to make it all as fun and enjoyable as possible. We all get together and do our thing, for the singular purpose of music.
SSS: If you had to sum up the typical gear head’s first experience with high-end cable in one word, what would that be? Please divulge.
Tony: It’s typically, “Wow…. COOL!”. Wait — that’s two words. I have to choose one? Okay, “Cool!”
It’s the sort of experience where you notice something small yet meaningful you didn’t really expect, so you give it some attention and do a few more swaps between cables to make sure what you hear is reliable and repeatable. Things start to sink in and stand out, such that after you’ve played a few riffs, strummed a few chords, and finished comparing two (different) designs, you start to think that maybe there’s something to this. Most people already have a handle on the differences between a Strat and a Les Paul, tubes vs. transistors and various classic effects, and it’s always cool to make a new discovery after years of taking a “category of gear” for granted.
SSS: So, it’s obvious. Gear heads “sink their critique” into cables well after they’ve tried every boutique overdrive that they can afford. Let’s face it, cables aren’t sexy, but they do make a difference in sound/tone as we’ve established. But is it really worth the extra investment?
Tony: Oh that’s totally personal. Sometimes it is and sometimes isn’t. Before you decide there are a few important considerations. For example — the cable is the “backbone” of your sound and plays a part in transmitting all the “other” decisions you make. Whichever guitar you pick up for a song, and whether or not you choose to use an overdrive, which overdrive — at the end of the day, and whichever choices you have made to make music, all of the sounds you choose and the touches from your hands are going to go through the cable. For this reason it’s worth giving the cables you use some thought and pick something that doesn’t get in the way of your other efforts. Pick something honest to what your hands are doing and to the gear you’re using. But like anything…nicer strings, a pedal that costs 1.5X the average in its category, matched tubes… none of these things make up for or replace the mind/hand relationship. A good player can make average gear sound fantastic. I can’t make a $10,000 guitar/cable/amp combo sound good to save my life. But the tools are out there and everyone has to decide on their own terms if the expense brings a value that can be justified. It also makes sense to have a budget and find the “least offensive” cable in that price range. Even if you are spending 0.5X (less than) what the average cable costs, with good decision making, you can get the best cable for your money. The dirty little secret is that it may actually sound better than many cables which cost 2X the price of an average cable. With cables there is not always a direct relationship between what you spend and what you get. Some companies go to great expense to solve all sorts of “problems” which do not exist, and you end up paying extra for a cable that causes more problems than it solves.
SSS: What is your background and how did you get involved making cables?
Tony: I am a professionally tinkerer who loves music and science. Never studied either enough to impress the academics, but I’m still in “school” and learn something new every day. It was apparent early on that I wasn’t going to make a living as a rock star, so I got involved on the hardware side building hi-fi and recording equipment while learning about the signal path from input devices (microphones) to the output devices (speakers), and everything in between. It’s actually impressive how microphones and speakers operate on the same principle (a diaphragm pushing a coil in a magnetic field to generate current), and they aren’t terribly different from decades ago in terms of operating principles. Yet so much has happened in between those devices and it’s been wonderful to watch. Oh I’m not smart enough to keep up with the guys doing circuit topology or DSP programming. However, there was a sandbox that the smarter kids ran past, but which I crawled into and got dirty. That was the sandbox where various wires, insulating materials, geometries, shielding, metals, alloys, gauges, strand configurations, and so on were there for me to experiment with and get a real handle on what makes a difference for better or worse. Other kids were off doing impressive things while I was spending hours comparing (all other variables equal) the difference between 19 and 20 AWG conductors. I was having a lot of “Wow… COOL!” experiences which kept me fascinated, and when I was able to consistently repeat them to myself and others, it was obvious that given a fixed budget there were ways to build a cable so that the music would sound better. Most cable up to the time was not built really for the music. It was taken for granted that wire pretty much sounded the same, and so other priorities got pushed up such as flexibility, durability, ease of production and ease of assembly. It turns out that if you put the music first, you need to skin the cat a different way.
SSS: Have you made some lasting partnerships in the musical equipment industry along the way to where you are now?
Tony: Lasting implies a long duration, and it really feels as if I’ve just started this journey. The limited number of people I work with in this industry are all wonderful, and we get our jobs done with a passion for music, quality and service. I’m not anti-social but I’m not really a networking type either. There are guys who work a party at NAMM and fill their Rolodex. I keep my Rolodex pretty small, and I know that anyone I call today, or years from now, will go to bat for me. Just as they know I will for them. That is very satisfying to say the least.
SSS: In order to give readers a quick rundown on Evidence Audio Cables, can you run through your product line for us?
Tony: Sure thing. Basically there are four line-level cables which vary in design and cost; all implementing variations on the themes I think are important. My best is the Lyric HG but it costs a lot to build and is a bit large and stiff (if just slightly more than average). With sound as the top priority it is the best cable I make for any application. Because budget can constrain how many people can use this cable, I cut a few corners in intelligent ways so that the models below it cost less but meet the goal to be the best (most musical) cables I can produce at those price points. It turns out they end up being a bit smaller as well, and that can be a bonus for people who want to take up less space on a pedal board or want something a bit more flexible.
In addition to the line-level cables I build a speaker cable named the Siren, and an AC power cable called The Source.
SSS: In all unbiased fairness, are you able to recognize any other cables on the market that are worthy of praise in terms of both sonic & reliability qualities?
Tony: Reliability? I love the Whirlwind Leader cable. If reliability is the top priority that’s the cable to buy. Sonic qualities? These days there are more producers putting sound as the top priority than ever before. It’s a good time to be in the market for sound quality. Years ago when I was started out, 99% of the cables you could buy were all built the same on the inside and sounded the same. I think I was the entire 1% doing something different besides thinking capacitance was the be-all-end-all arbiter of tone. Today there are perhaps a dozen companies who build cables using their ears, with valid designs that reduce the negative effects caused by strand interaction, skin effect, material quality and so on. Some of them build cables that indeed sound different yet I wouldn’t want to use them. They get things partly-right, but then do something else to that keeps the cable from making music to my ears. But the guys who build cables that get out of the way and let the music happen (and very well) include Two Rock, Tara Labs and Audience.
SSS: What do you foresee in the developmental future of musical instrument & studio cables?
Tony: It’s hard to say. Sadly, the ingredients that go into cables have been on a horrible trajectory.
There are other components which have a similar curve, and when you start chasing that last 3% in performance the price of the end-products just get scary. I’m really happy with the value proposition offered by many of today’s cables but wish there weren’t such diminishing returns. I have a few ideas in play but I’m always trying to build something for a price that bears some sanity.
SSS: In a world of Nano-this and Micro-that, and with digital modeling taking off over the years (whether we like it or not), do you think we might see effects/tuners being actually built into cables?
Tony: Oh I hope not. To some extent we already see “tuning” offered in cables with some companies making various models so they are more “appropriate” for one type of music or another. That sort of marketing will never go away, and if you can adopt and implement some new technology to play that game, I’m sure it will happen.
SSS: Okay, we usually end these interviews with a question of absurd origins, so here it goes: Let’s hear you describe the current presidential candidates in guitar-related tonal terms.
Tony: Oh great. What timing for me to end up with this one. My chance to alienate people. Let’s see we’ve got three. In alphabetical order there’s Hillary Clinton. Maybe she sounds a bit like a classic Crybaby Wah. McCain is vintage…really vintage…sort of like adding some decay to your sound. Obama? He’s the equalizer right? Oh man. I played that safe enough didn’t I?
SSS: Ha ha, now that’s funny. Thanks Tony!
For more information, please visit Evidence Audio Cable’s website.