For years, the “sounds” produced by cables have left scientists with many unresolved problems. All hypotheses have been examined and all theories considered. All except one, that of “interface micro-discharge”, recently developed by Pierre Johannet of the Research and Development department of the French Electricity Board EDF. This new and important theory can be applied to all electronic components. Its broad scope of application could revolutionise the world of high fidelity and solve many of the puzzles that exist.

PhotoFor orthodox physicists the field of high fidelity has become very frustrating. It is almost impossible nowadays to find any connection between what is measured and what is heard, and the international “high end” market has been developing products based on concepts that would seem dangerously esoteric. Even the major brands are following the trend. The huge variety of 'special' cables with very expensive price tags is a fine illustration of how such irrational trends can be challenging for scientists. We could just smile and commiserate with them, but today the phenomenon has reached such an extent that to avoid the subject would be acting in bad faith.

After examining various scientific hypotheses, the researcher Pierre Johannet has just made an essential discovery that can finally provide the key to many paradoxes that have dogged Hi-Fi for years. He studied the most annoying of these paradoxes, especially for an engineer working for EDF. The audible interference produced by the mains cable of a piece of equipment, only one metre long, when it is produced after miles of electricity line. It might seem totally absurd and so illogical that we could be tempted to deny the whole thing. It was while trying to get to the bottom of the mystery that Pierre Johannet developed his theory.
This theory based on “interface micro-discharge” is as simple as all good ideas usually.

It states that wherever current passes through a conductor, molecular scale micro-discharges are produced within the conductor/insulator interface.

These micro-discharges are heard as short clicks. As opposed to static electricity, the clicks are audible because they are generated and modulated by the audio signal. The sounds are like high-frequency peaks, which are eliminated and gradually reappear further along the cable. Hence their audible impact over the last few metres. A specially treated cable (protected by a patent by EDF) was developed to neutralise the interference and immediately revealed the validity of this theory in spectacular fashion.
Loudspeaker and modulator cables are also subject to the micro-discharge phenomenon. In their case the intensity of the phenomenon depends on a number of factors. It depends on the electrical current but also on the nature of the dielectric, and how close the contact is with the conductor, as well as on the state of the conductor surface. This point is paramount as it finally explains why, for equal resistivity there is a difference in 'sound' depending on the metal: copper, silver, gold etc. Whenever current passes through them, however weak, all the electronic components (with the exception of tubes inside a vacuum) become the target for micro-discharge of greater or lesser intensity. The field of application for Pierre Johannet's discovery is therefore immense.

It could well extend beyond the field of high fidelity into that of video, IT and metrology.
For the Hi-Fi industry, this theory enables us to understand a multitude of well-known, but poorly-understood phenomena, including the audible effect of vibrations on purely electronic links inside amplifiers. Micro-discharges are very sensitive to the slightest vibration and also react to any change in air humidity and temperature... Their influence seems so widespread that it is surprising their existence hadn't been discovered until now. The main reason is that they are so pernicious and the methods used to combat them actually generate these effects. This is especially the case with condensers mounted on the ends of some cables. It is difficult to find the cause of problem when the remedy itself contributes!

All we can do is to develop the correct remedies. Pierre Johannet has discovered a few of them and their impressive effects on sound convinced us. EDF has protected them with licenses and they will doubtless interest a number of manufacturers. We listened to a basic Hi-Fi system which had been treated for micro-discharges and we were amazed by the quality, far superior to anything achieved up until now. We therefore believe that this discovery will remove some of the esoteric practises in the Hi-Fi world and provide the means for some exciting and long awaited progress.