A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
Working in recording studios, podcast studios, on stages and in DIY bedrooms and basements, we're used to seeing thoughtfully designed equipment. We have compressors with classic faceplates and microphones with precision-milled grates. But the little things, like cables, usually go uncared for. Just because they're little.
I want to change that with a line of microphone cables that:
In California, there’s a company called Conway Electric that makes extension cords with beautiful, patterned cotton jackets. My family has used their products for years and I’ve always admired the way they made something thoughtful out of a tool that’s usually farted out of a plastic extruder and into our lives.
I wanted to do something similar for recording studios, so last summer, I asked Conway Electric if it would be possible to wrap XLR microphone cables in the same patterned cotton fabric that they use on their extension cords. Their founder, Kevin Faul, said yes, and I started work on a new company called Fjord Audio to make and sell those cables.
I’ve spent the past year making prototypes (with help from Alchemy Audio, an awesome guitar pedal builder/modifier in Chicago), finding the right parts, and deliberating about details like the diameter of the cable and the texture of the fabric. I think we’ve finally found something that sounds great, looks cool, and doesn’t cost absurdly too much, so I'm running this campaign to see if other people like them, too.
Fjord XLR is a “pretty face” product—its main feature is that it looks nicer than other cables. But its looks are backed up by components that make it sound great and feel great to use, too.
The wire inside is Canare star-quad cable, which is an industry standard for noise rejection and durability. The point of four conductors (the “quad”) wrapped around each other (the “star”) is that it reduces EM and RF interference by a factor of ten. It also has a braided inner shield instead of a spiral one, which is more durable.
The connectors are Switchcraft AAA series, which I chose because they feel good when you “click” them into inputs or outputs and because they have gold-plated contacts. Gold sounds like a gimmick, but it actually reduces the rate of oxidization, so the contacts last longer.
The jacket is a 100% American cotton braid woven by Conway Electric in California on badass 20th century machines. You may have seen other cables with colorful patterns or woven jackets on them, but it’s likely that those were nylon braids. I think our cotton ones look nicer, and they feel better to the touch. Conway Electric even has patents pending on this "X" pattern and others.
These thread colors might vary slightly in the actual cables you receive.
It doesn't cost that much more to make a 20-foot cable than it does to make a 5-foot cable (the "fixed" costs, like connectors, are the greatest), so I'm trying something kinda weird: I'm making all three lengths of cable the same price, and offering price breaks for bundles instead. It makes things simpler. And I think the cable is similarly valuable whether it's a small one for your desk or a long one for your tracking room, so it makes sense in that way, too. If that is really disagreeable to you, let me know.
I've sunk a lot of the money I've earned from touring and recording music into this project, and I want to make sure that people actually want it before I spend any more. It's also a cool opportunity to build a community around my new company, Fjord Audio, which I hope will start developing other products for music and sound after Fjord XLR is off the ground.
Risks and challenges
The company that dyes our cotton thread has been late in deliveries, which could affect the fulfillment of our orders. Also, it's really hard to photograph these colors correctly. The thread colors you receive may differ slightly from those which you see here.
I produced a first run of cables in collaboration with Alchemy Audio in Chicago, and they work great. They're in use in a few different studios. For the full run on this Kickstarter, I've narrowed it down to a few different manufacturing partners in Illinois and Massachusetts, and which one I go with will depend on the order quantity we get here. I'm only going to pick one that will meet all our quality control, and that treats their employees equitably. I'm still defining what that means in concrete, specific terms. If you want to talk about that, please write to me (contact button above).