Visit to Igor Paljar, constructor of 'Z Audio' HIFI cables
I think I won’t exceed if I write that all of us, sooner or later, were in the situation to think that nothing will surprise us anymore because we have already seen everything and then happened just the opposite. Exactly that happened this spring in Poreč when I visited the work-room of Igor Paljar. Moreover, I believe that what I have seen there writes the most creative pages of Hi-Fi books.
Strange are Istria’s ways
The story begins in Istria, not in Poreč where I will meet Igor, but in Rovinj where for Easter I have visited with my family another good friend of mine. He is Alen Barbar, experienced audiophile to whom I owe my passion for jazz music because he showed me a jazz’s part totally unknown to me. In fact, jazz connected us about 7 years ago when we went in Italy on a Jan Garbarek concert. Since then we meet often, exchange visits no matter of the seasons, go to concerts and spend hours talking about music. About Hi-Fi too.
During the first day in Rovinj, Alen asked me if I was interested to hop to Poreč, to see and hear something unusual. Word after word I realized that he was talking about Igor Paljar, a man whose Hi-Fi cables I have been seen on an audio presentation in the Audiophile club in Zagreb.
In that occasion I got a certain idea about the manufacturer of these cables because they reminded me on a dorsal spine of some kind of alien creature. They weren’t lookalike to any cable I have seen before. Since Igor and I didn’t meet that night, my picture left hanged on a wall of an imaginary Hi-Fi gallery and I have spent the rest of the evening listening the presented Hi-Fi system.
Regardless to these pale memories Alen’s call was enough to make me accept with euphoria his invitation. I was warned again that I will see something I have never seen before, but as I already mention in the introduction to this text, I was convinced that in Hi-Fi world this can not happen. Actually, so far I visited dozens of specialized fairs, several private listening rooms and really see any kind of wonders. You won’t believe what audiophiles could do to achieve high fidelity sound.
Few phone calls and the meeting was set. That evening I put in my bag few bottles of Velebit’s beer, to not come with empty hands but Alen warned me that Igor do not drink alcohol. Like the whole introduction to the story wasn’t peculiar enough! Damn it, beer is not alcohol!
Moment of surrender
We arrived in Poreč in the evening, around 9 pm. Igor was in front of the house because he just came from the town and we entered the house. Ten seconds later the scent of the working area fulfilled my nose. While certain senses were delighted by the well known scent, other senses like the sight were in shock. In front of me there was a bunch of – something.
Alen was looking at me with a smile; it was so obvious that I could not hide the surprise on my face. Probably in that moment you could read more from my eyes, my eyebrows and mouth than from a newspaper. I raised a white flag, high in the air, brandished it and surrendered. That was the moment – I have never seen something like that in my whole life.
I was looking at a Hi-Fi system that Tim Burton would probably mount for some of his surreal movies. But that system would have only a scenery role for a difference of this one that has a more important role; to deliver the high fidelity sound. It was impossible to discern what and where is the amplifier, pre-amplifier, CD player, gramophone and all other components that make a Hi-Fi system. The only things I recognized immediately were the loudspeakers. Maybe I wouldn’t recognize them neither if they have not the particular design of planar loudspeakers. Although these were so modified that for a moment I wasn’t sure what I was looking at.
After a brief introduction I sat on a sofa and started with questions. As answers were coming I stood up looking for confirmation in the room because words were not enough. Igor was showing where the amplifier was, what is the sound source, which are the connections etc.
Better is not good enough
Within the audiophile community the acronym DIY (do it yourself) is not unknown. At the contrary, many improve their own system or rebuild it from the beginning. I met several manufacturers of loudspeakers, amplifiers, players, cables, audio elements and other stuffs. Few times I dared to make some modifications by myself, therefore I know the feeling when you build something with your own hands in order to achieve the high fidelity sound. Anyway, what Igor did of his Hi-Fi system goes beyond the “do it yourself” and hides a much deeper story.
The first pages are written according to own concept of high fidelity sound and how to achieve it. Everything industrially made was rejected already at that point. It is not that the team of engineers did a bad job on some devices; it is that Igor sees a space for improvement in everything in order to get a better sound.
Although, someone may call Igor’s way of loudspeakers modification a barbarian act because he ripped them off, extracted their viscera and crucified them on a cross, the real truth reveals that the separate treble is freed from negative vibrations of the panel, the modified switches immersed in a jar with sand have the same function and all together, firmer that ever, are held by carbon tubes borrowed from the nautical environment. In that chapter there is no place for esthetic. That will come later but under different circumstances.
The CD player can be hardly called in that way because it is almost vanished. It is disassembled into pieces, upgraded and in a certain way disseminated in the room. But also this chapter reveals that the extracted motor freed other components from vibrations. The same for other components that live in a separate world. All together they are the source of the sound, in a kind of weird but meaningful symbiosis. The best proof of that is the analogical sound of the digital player. A slightly reduced detaility and spatiality but with a fine flow of music material.
The amplifier and pre-amplifier are also separate components, or better say disassembled. Even now, when writing this text I can barely recall how it looks no matter how much I look at the photos. The power unit in one position, capacitors in another, tubes in third and so on. Igor explained me what is what but my knowledge of electronic is too limited to see the broader picture. The scene was so fascinating that I completely forgot to make questions like: which is the power of the amplifier, is it transistor, tube or hybrid technology, is it A or A/B class and other “usual” questions.
Unfortunately I hadn’t the opportunity to hear the gramophone because it was in the upgrade phase but the look at it was enough to understand that the analog system is a story apart. I was assured that I will be able to hear the gramophone in another occasion.
Serving her majesty – the music
We were listening jazz and classical music. Overall, I would rate the system as pretty much neutral with less pronounced dynamic and narrowed stage. Magneplanars are not able to deliver, at least not this model, a powerful bass or treble area with the finest details. However, what is between pulls the balance and high level of involvement. The music will drag you in its tissue and won’t let you go. I have the feeling that I could listen that system for days and that absolutely nothing would lack.
As the time was passing it was clear that this Hi-Fi system was designed with double goals. The first, designed and tuned to enjoy the music in accordance to Igor’s ear. The second, as consequence, a system created as a tool for work. Finally, Igor is the manufacturer of audio cables and the system serves as tool for fine tuning his products.
Reading this text you have probably figured a picture about Igor Paljar. Maybe you recognized the eternal boy in love with electronics, maybe an eccocentric, maybe just someone who wants to be outside the system and harmony we all live. Whatever is your conclusion do not forget that behind all that is a huge knowledge of this matter and that these systems are not made by someone who attended the tech lessons twice in his life.
Something bad for something good
Upon my return to Zagreb I was thinking with how much euphoria I will be writing on my blog about that encounter. I was particularly happy that I recorded everything with my camera. But then, the tragedy. Do not ask how or why, but with a careless act I cancelled all the pictures from my computer. I can hardly describe the desperation when I realized it.
Days and weeks were passing but the bitterness in my mouth didn’t. Until the day I decided to go again to Istra. I said to Alen what stupid thing I did and explained him why I couldn’t finish the text. I asked him to arrange a new meeting with Igor. At the end it turned to be better then I was hoping because I made even better photos. Besides that, this time I came back to Zagreb with Igor’s cables for loudspeakers, interconnections and power in order to test them on my system.
I will leave the detailed description of cables and hearing experience for the second part which will follow soon. Now I prefer to go back on the backstage of the story.
Two worlds in one
When I summarize what I have seen and heard during these two visits and recall about what Igor and I were talking and finally which is the approach to the manufacturing process it becomes clear that we are talking about a unique journey toward the high fidelity sound.
In Igor’s worlds each material has its own philosophy and acoustic value. Each material is approached with respect during the process. Each cable, beside the engineering based solutions, involves also a certain life aspect. Such combination, of the real and imaginary, can live only in someone who really loves what he is doing and who bases his work on years and years of experience in electrotechnics, study of music and sound in general.
In the end, the sound result doesn’t have to be necessarily the one that will decide about the value of the product, but everything what was invested in it. Many audiophiles won’t agree with me, especially in the context of high fidelity sound but ask yourself how many of them have at home a high fidelity sound and of which level.
Often, while sitting in front of my “tidy” assembled Hi-Fi system and listening the music I remember the Igor’s “untidy”. I think about how we both love good sound and how we achieve it in different ways. Then I close my eyes and enjoy the music. In that moment it is not important anymore what I am looking into. Only the sound is remembered.
Comments from Croatian version of text:
Squirrel on 02/10/2014 at 19:19 said:
Determinate and excellent
I can’t wait for the sequel
A big bow brother
on 02/10/2014 at 20:59 said:
Thanks! In meantime Criss quoted therefore I will include also his video. I hope that this will make the story complete.
zdenko rogić on 03/10/2014 at 03:49 said:
Excellent!! Go for more.
on 03/10/2014 at 08:18 said:
Dupli on 03/10/2014 at 11:56 said:
Knowing Alen I know that every company with him is at least full of laughing and good vibes and here we are talking about good vibes. I see that Mr. Igor with his constructions insists on complete elimination of “bad” vibrations on the system.
Unfortunately I had no chance to see and hear the system, nor the story behind. I’m sure it is very interesting. I would be very interested to hear or read few explanatory sentences written by Mr. Igor. I am sure he has a lot to say, so if there is a will and the opportunity…. ;-)
It is expected that I as member of “objectivists” and “cables as themselves skeptics” starts immediately to joke with comments like: “Maybe Mr. Igor thinks that a system disassembled and spread around works better just because he made of it a giant diffuser”, “Did you checked what is inside the candy box?” etc.
This would be very unprofessional, unnecessary and impolite, especially without having heard his cables, what thanks to Nebojša I did. I won’t tell much before the sequel of the story, but I can tell this: It works !:-)
I, as “objectivist”, am always happy with stories like this one, they give to this hobby an additional dimension and value, and reminds me how much the exclusiveness is bad.
I can’t wait for the sequel. MkII
Squirell or Squirrel? Big difference!
Is it the Rovinj’s Sherlock Squirell :-)
on 03/10/2014 at 16:52 said:
I will be glad to share few thoughts and good vibrations that live on Nebojša’s blog and say few words in relation to the beautiful reportage.
Considering actual duties I will wait for the night for serious writing about my experiences and conclusions emerged from dealing with vibrations and will just confirm that the mess is really a kind of acoustic treatment of the space ☺ considering that the room for listening is at the same time a work-room and a lab and the nature of this activity changes continuously the landscape of the room due to the introduction of materials, positioning stuffs on three tables etc.
Exactly because the exclusivity you are mentioning at the end of your text, against which I am fighting, was created this system “without head and tail” which allows me to think ”out of the box” and to focus on the construction of cables which this vibrational chaos, or more politely, uncanalized mechanical vibrations canalize and deliver without trying to brutally suppress (damage the transients, the dynamic and length of the tone) but deliver it to the final goal, to our ears and body in a human way. The energy that flows in our bodies is impossible to eradicate because is undistroyable, just like any energy in nature, it just change the form from electric into mechanic and as consequence into heat. Then it starts from the beginning and goes in a loop forever.
The construction we were listening is doing this, harmonizing the transfer of energy (which is not only electric as often is simplified) and I’m glad it had a positive effect on your system :-).
The goal of my constructions is the balance of parameters that make a single audio-musicophile experience which is not merely analyzing the musician’s technique, a quantity of something in the air without a clue that comes, but the connection of the music material in a way that after the listening you are not exhausted if the loudness of the amplifier was properly set. On the other hand, I expect from my cables that increasing the volume the listener whishes to dance and to connect more intensively with the music, in accordance with loudspeakers and the whole system performance. The music should be the most desirable seductress (according to Ivan ;-), Alen and many others including me). That’s it.
This is of course my point of view and I don’t want that somebody reading this text and the description of the whole matter about cables find himself threatened due to the attitude (I know that we are on a voodoo territory called – cables but my constructions have nothing to do with witchery ☺, they are very intuitive and logic) or thoughts that “the monitor” was not good ( I have met many people who have about an hour daily for music listening and they expect form their system an adrenalin injection from the first beat, to recharge their batteries). Moreover, if the monitor sound wouldn’t exist what we will be listening after the production of the music? Everything has its place and reason…
The spider design has the function to combine the quality and production principles of recording since 1933 till nowadays. To pull out of them the music in the first place, with the right timing and rhythm and to lower the actual loudness effect in the way that the sound in the room be the “glue” as my good friend that comes for a half an hour cigarette and stays much longer calls it.
We all have the perception of sound in certain way and I am happy if the person with completely opposite requests from my are satisfied with “the different sound”, which is the ONLY (from my point of view) purpose of thinking about this meaning of life called audio, hedonism and good vibrations in own arrangement according to individual point of view although sometimes isn’t bad to perceive the music as a TV news, for experience and warnings ha,ha.
To questions of system owners after the setup and fine tuning like “How it sounds? Are you satisfied? my only answer is always “Are you satisfied? And that is the point: who is satisfied?
When I have time I write: why and how I see the construction, off course if Nebojša allows ☺ because there is a lot to say…
There are no more candies in the candy box, kids ate them ☺ but left two hand-made resistors of thin copper wire. They were ignored by the kids so I used them (they are covered with paraffin instead of caramel) and their purpose is to voltage swich s/pdif signal from the CD transport into the DAC.
It was my pleasure, Igor
on 03/10/2014 at 23:12 said:
Thanks, Dupli. I am really glad that Igor replied and gave a partial answer. I say partial because I see that Igor left something for the second part of the text.
I’m joking off course. I often wish that manufacturers or retailers reply after the text is published but for some reason they stay in silence or are modest with words. Igor spoke and I am really glad about that because I think that is always interesting to hear also the other side.
Dupli on 04/10/2014 at 09:49 said:
Thanks for the fast, sincere and relatively exhaustive answer. I say relatively because I assume that, as you said, this is just a “short abstract” of your thoughts about HI-Fi and everything that surrounds it and it can be intended that we could talk about it a whole night.
I must admit that based on the photos and the short encounter with cables I noticed your romance by vibrations, or assumed the focus of the story.
Unfortunately I enjoyed with Spiders only one evening, more concentrated on listening and had no time to observe the construction of the wire in detail, although their appearance was truly intriguing, especially the “static / mechanical” part. As far as I noticed you tried to achieve that the wire that carries the signal “floats” as much as possible and have minimal physical contact with the environment. I presume you tried to achieve that by some kind of counter weights system which makes the cables relatively rigid. Anyway, interesting at least from the constructional point of view. In that context (if its not classified) which wires do you use as conductors and do you aim for some specific RLC parameters. I believe also behind that there is a story or the focus is more on the vibrations?
I am sure that with a detailed inspection of the entire system I would discover many things and be delighted by many static dynamic solutions you successfully implemented also in your 2 in 1 (that is modern now) system/acoustic treatment ☺
It is hard to evaluate with precision the sound levels of your claims and the cables to. I had them for a short period, I didn’t perform any AB tests (which is almost impossible with loudspeakers) or direct comparisons but one plug-in with my own DIY wires and honestly I don’t believe in lyric descriptions of Hi-Fi problems solved by changing the cable. Regardless, what I heard and saw positively surprised me and if your goal is the customer’s satisfaction I can only tell that Nebojša and I had great time that evening listening the music! I won’t agree that your “Spider” cables add or reduce something that may push someone to dance or not. I perceived them as extremely neutral what according to some prejudices could be described as “studio sound” but in my dictionary it is a compliment ;-). Also, I cannot see how a cable could “domesticate” the aggressiveness and artificiality of the (mainstream) production, nor I think that the cable or the complete system should. From the system I expect fidelity and technical accuracy and if I will start to dance, share a tear or get nervous, is a lot more complex mix of circumstances. But these are topics for a listening session and a live talk without ”bad” vibrations ;-)
In any case a big LIKE for your work, enthusiasm and human approach to Hi-Fi and everything that surrounds it with obvious knowledge of the matter. With these “few” sentences you intrigued me more about the whole story so if there will be an opportunity in Po or ZG I put myself on the list for an audio/tech/friend company.
Paraffin resistors, now I understand Nebojša’s olphative description of your listening/work-room. It is good that he didn’t open that box, he would eat both resistors thinking that they are a new TicTac flavor ☺
on 06/10/2014 at 03:56 said:
A little delay due to an order…
RCL parameters are adjusted to some constructions of each of three series of Z Audio cables. The capacity of the series previous to Spider is much more important factor in the final sound due to less sophisticated construction solutions of the chassis. So, the key are always the vibrations, which are proportional to the distance of conductors placed on a surface. Spider can accept all geometric variations due to its control system and resonance adjustability.
The conductor in signal cables is OCC silver while power cable uses copper.
I am glad that Spider didn’t threatened the good mood of your company during the listening ☺. The Spider from that listening is really a neutral cable and I awkwardly wrote about neutrality because I didn’t mention that exist few more variations of this basic Φ500 model plugged in your system that allow fine tuning of the color which still don’t affect the neutrality I appreciate too because all this effort about re-creating the music wouldn’t have sense and the too-analytic amplification can make more musical without loosing the neutrality and details – according to happy owners words. I mentioned the war of decibels in that context.
I look forward for a future company ☺ when it will be much easier to present with sound these complicated thoughts expressed in written form.
Thanks for supporting my work and goodbye, Igor.
There are more TicTac flavors, Bee wax, terpentin, oil… ☺
ZOKI.B on 07/10/2014 at 11:33 said:
…nice reportage, comments confirm it and photos talk their languages, ha, haa ;-) …I am glad to notice that some firm points of view in Hi-Fi are changing, also here where some audiophiles insisting that everything is or black or white because they build in their heads points of view without a firm basement in their little heads and when something unusual or non-commercial or unpopular, by name or price (read convenient and is not a 5 or 6 digit number) remain shocked when with their own ears experience something that brings them into the audio nirvana they were swearing that can not sound “majestic” and remain painted by colors on their faces and face expressions. I witnessed that many times or better say every time. Therefore, never say never. Nobody knows everything and didn’t hear all combinations and systems in the world. Also here in Dalmatia there are cases where people come to the person with a firm position and leave with another, totally shocked. I won’t name them but if someone is interested I can bring him to hear a system/s where they will be splashed by the sound and can stand au pair to a high end, no matter the price considering the home use. I support the gentleman who works on these interesting projects and about some of them, I have heard from few audiophiles that is about extraordinary cables (I use too interconnectors from a similar passionate constructor that surprised me in every way and made me very satisfied) and if I wasn’t personally ended all researches about the sound of the system, with no doubt I would request-buy a specimen of that cable from the above mentioned manufacturer.
…congratulations to aqua for the recension and the quality and direction you go because it appears to me he hits the point because this is unique in Croatia and very valuable experience, without prejudices and open minded. There will always be surprises but I would like to have them more from the direction better but cheaper and not necessary expensive is better, that is not always true ☺ ..and yes, a small comment about the sunset, for that you have to come to Zd and watch and record the best sunset in the world and listen to some systems I was talking before, that opens the jaws till the floor ☺ ..considered that we moved north it would be nice to go also south and make a little tour through Croatia (look at the idea!!!). A big goodbye to all and keep going that way !
on 08/10/2014 at 08:34 said:
First of all, thanks for the comment and good words. These topics are always interesting because they differ so much from usual topics related to Hi-Fi. Depending of available time I will continue with reportages because as I can see texts on the blog are the most read. Thanks again and I hope to see you in Zadar one day.
on 08/10/2014 at 11:13 said:
…great, thank you and I would really be glad to see you and talk about our experiences and host and present someone from the blog that are here. Something for the eyes, something for the palate and something for the ears ☺ Greetings form sunny Zadar ! Good luck for your blog and all other things that life brings!
on 10/10/2014 at 13:33 said:
Thanks for your nice words.
Hobo Chang Ba on 11/10/2014 at 07:07 said:
First of all, compliments to Nebojša for the reportage and blog in general. I was following him from before but now I decided to comment.
I met Igor thanks to a person, now a mutual friend, that came to me about 5 years ago to buy a pre-amplifier. With the pre-amplifier I was selling one interconnect so I mentioned it, who knows, maybe he will be interested to buy it. He said that he has a friend who produces them and he is very good so he won’t buy it from me. Considering that this person has much more experience in that field off course I was interested and I wrote immediately Igor’s phone number. Igor came to my place with his “beginners” interconnection which I bought the same day. It wasn’t necessary to leave it for a few days evaluation to be sure that this was what I was looking for. Since then I use only his wirings because it gives more than the others I tried until then (and some I have tried later) and what is more important – they present the music faithfully in the most natural way. I think that is not necessary to describe in detail which positive changes his cables brought to my system. It’s enough to say that I passed completely to Igor’s wirings made of two power cables, 2 interconnectors and one pair of loudspeaker cables. The phono cable is currently in construction. What is more important to say is that with Igor you can always go for an upgrade with the model old for new, he values the 100% price of the old model for the price of the new one and with each new manufactured cable Igor exceeds his own. Try to believe ☺
on 11/10/2014 at 21:30 said:
Many thanks, Hobo (Ivan, is it you?)
I am glad that you find the courage to write few sentences. Comments are more than welcomed especially when contribute the topic. Your first hand experience gives additional weight to my text and to Igor’s comments. Beside that, soon will be interesting to compare the listening experiences in the second part of the text.
Hobo Chang Ba
on 12/10/2014 at 08:58 said:
I am not Ivan. There are more of us satisfied consumers of Igor’s wires :)
on 12/10/2014 at 09:52 said:
Huh, so it seams. Namely, considering that Alen was unavailable, the second time I visited Igor with Ivan, another true Istrian audiophile who uses Z Audio cables. Mea culpa!