Exclusive interview with Jim Aud/Purist Audio Design

Where and how did it all start with your interest for audio?

I began Purist Audio Design out of love for high end audio, and a want to make things better. My interest in high end is a life-long ambition. It started when I was serving in the US Air Force. I was an electronic technician, and many of the officers had Marantz, tube gear, Dynaco ST70s, and other units. They would bring them into our shop for repairs.

When was Purist Audio Design established and when you've entered into the high-end audio industry? 

I took Purist Audio Design full-time around 1986.

Why the brand name?

I’ve always felt that when going from one source to the next, you want the signal to be the most pure, and as free from distortion as possible. It all comes down to design, and wanting to hear the music as the artist intended.


The name “Luminist” refers to an art movement that emphasized fine detail. The strokes of paint were so exquisitely done that the brush's mark was invisible. It was a style that emphasized depth, and light, and the beauty of the natural world. As an art movement, it developed after the Impressionists and alongside the Hudson River School. They had a similar emphasis on natural light; just a different direction.

The Luminist Revision emphasizes detail that is so finely done that the brush strokes become invisible. It’s all about the music.

Would you consider yourself as an audiophile?

Yes, absolutely. 

Can you kindly list all of your product lines?

- 30th Anniversary
- 25th Anniversary
- Purist Limited Edition
- Power Distribution
- Dominus
- Corvus
- Neptune
- Venustas
- Aqueous Aureus
- Aquila
- Poseidon
- Impresa
- Musaeus
- Genesis
- Vesta
- System Enhancer
- Various Adapters
- Purist USB and Ultimate USB
- Purist HDMI
- Purist CAT7
- Purist’s Krell Cast Cables
- Purist’s Focal DC Cable

The most provoking question. Do cables make a difference?

Everything in high-end audio makes a difference. Whether it’s a stand, the placement of the speakers, it makes a difference. The question is, how revealing will the cable be to the audio system that you place it in? If you place the cable in a lower resolution system, the difference may not be as great. In a higher-end system, that difference will be greater.

The cable carries the signal quality between different components. Imagine your high fidelity system as a high performance car. In order for it to perform at its optimum level, all of the parts in your finely crafted system must be of the highest quality. Nothing is left to chance.

What was a real breakthrough for you?

Probably when we came up with the Fluid technology. It began a lot of what we do here at Purist. 

What product are you most proud of?

I’d probably have to say the 30th Anniversary AC, and the Dominus Diamond AC.

Do you produce everything in-house?

We hand-craft each cable here in the USA, and make them custom to order. For parts, we do our best to source locally.

What is specific about your cable design?

- We produced “industry firsts” in many ways. For example:
- The first fluid-shielded audiophile-grade cable
- The first Cryomag©-treated cables
- The first system enhancer
- The first cables with custom, netted sleeving
- I like to think we’ve maintained that hand-crafted quality, that sense of innovation. You can still order a high quality, high-end cable, custom to your system, and I’ll craft it. It’s been that way for over 30 years.

Can you tell us more about your Fluid shielding?

Fluid was one of the first things that I developed as an audiophile. At the time, I was working at South Texas Nuclear Project. I studied today what we’d call nuclear physics. I observed that they used a heavy water to surround the nuclear rods to control the fusion. That sparked my interest. About that same time, other companies were doing underwater mapping out in the Gulf of Mexico. 

What they would do would be to place a sensor at the bottom of the ocean floor. They would then set off an explosion, and the sensor would tell them if there were oil or other products down below. The problem they encountered, however, is that the explosion would carry noise into the cable and bring that noise up to the computer.

So, they spoke with me, and a few other engineers, to find a solution. We ended up taking heavy oil, and surrounded it with PVC tubing. This was enough to shield the cable to allow the signal to get to the computer, and for them to be able to read the data.

All during this time, I’d been working out at South Texas, and putting a lot of hours on these projects. So, my family and I decided to take a vacation. I rented a cabin, and of course being an audiophile, I brought a stereo. It wasn’t anything special, but it was music. 

I couldn’t believe it though, once I got everything set up. The system sounded incredible! What I would learn, sort of put together later, was that we were so far out that there were no cell phones, and no interference. It was so far out that we could not even pick up FM radio. At the time, I just logged this as a curiosity in the back of my mind as something to investigate later.

When I brought the system back to my home, in the middle of the city, that same system sounded terrible! That’s when things started falling into place. I also remembered the heavy water, the insulation I’d made, and so on.

So, I did a crude experiment. I took the system upstairs. I made some insulation for the cables, and set things up in the tub. I insulated the cables well enough that it was safe to place them in the water—though I don’t recommend doing this outside of a controlled environment, these days! Lo and behold, it made a difference.

Noise pollution, EMI, RFI, will only get worse as technology develops and becomes more pervasive. Shielding over time, will become even more important. Fluid was one of the first technologies I’d developed for high-end audio, and to think, it came back to that little cabin in the woods, and just maybe, a little nuclear testing.

What about the Contego™ shielding and Cyromag© treatment?

The two are very different things. We developed Contego™ as a shield—it’s a shielding technology—to protect against outside interference. It’s composed of semi-fluid slurry of doped silicon and a proprietary fluid. This fluid lends a more airy, crisp, and extended top end. The midrange ends up being more smooth and seductive.

Cyromag© is a type of treatment, and we apply it as an extra to every cable we make. As part of the process, we’ll dramatically reduce the cable’s temperature a number of times. We also expose the cables to a strong magnetic field. Doing this aligns their molecules, and lends them better, more high-quality sound. 

This creates a permanent performance boost, deepens the sound stage. Again, though, materials matter. A Cyromag© treatment improves a cable’s sound quality, but it isn’t a replacement for higher quality materials or structure.

Please tell us more about your power distributors and what makes them different?

The AC Power Extension does not add, or take anything away, from the sound. When taken as a whole, its filtration system is designed to protect the sound quality. We used a number of methods to accomplish this, including what you’d call passive filtration. This is in contrast with some of the risks inherit in an active system, which can sometimes produce interference. 

Its resonator tubes are a part of that system. We’ve tuned the resonance tubes in such a way to filter out noise generation. They do this passively, and each resonator tube is tuned to the frequency of the country you are in, usually 50 or 60 Hz.  This design does not limit voltage, or current. It does not impose a limit on your system. 

The AC Power Extension is also going to eliminate noise frequencies that are beyond these cycles. The internal wiring is the same technology we use in our upper-line power cords. And, because audiophiles are as demanding as we are, we carefully selected, and matched, Furutech Outlets and an IEC Inlet to bring everything together. 

Taken together, it’s an entire system, designed around the most pure signal possible.

What is actually happening within the USB and Ethernet cables. How can there be a sonic difference?

The USB is an open-ended type of cable. It's like taking water and pouring it down a hose. You basically shoot stuff down the USB cable, and there's no bit checking or sum checking or other safeties like there are with HDMI. Is what you send what you get? You have no idea. You're also dealing in the megahertz range. You're not dealing in the audio frequency range. Things that affect the signal at high and low frequencies, it's a whole different game. Things like skin effects and reflections really come into play. RF and EMI reduction plays into the quality of the cable as well.

Purist has taken and applied finely-tuned Ferrite beads to our Ultimate USB to reduce noise at the higher frequencies. We've looked at the connectors, and opted for something that let the cable do what it's optimally designed to do. The design uses large gauge conductors. This allows for accurate signal transfer up to 5 meters compared with other computer USB cables, which are limited to a few meters. This means computers can be located away from audio components without compromising performance. It’s one of the ways that design matters.

Moving back to shielding for a moment, the double shielding on our USB cables provides superior noise reduction performance. Because of that, you’ve got a better resolution of musical details and a wider, more dynamic range.

For the ethernet cable, there is that same importance you get with anything digital. That is, precision matters, everything matters. In the ethernet world, if you are wiring the whole system--if you have just one CAT5 you plug in some place, the whole system becomes that speed. So if you do wire a system, you need to maintain the system to CAT7 tolerance. It isn't just a case of I buy one wire, I put one wire in and expect it to do miracles. That's not how it works. You have to evaluate your whole system.

Some of the electronics take up what CAT7 can do, and others, maybe they're only CAT6 capable. Then, even though you have a CAT7 wire, it's not going to give you CAT7 performance.

Our cable is a higher quality, lower noise product. But, you have to pay attention to the whole system.

Is there are difference in design between the interconnect and speaker cables?

The interconnect works into a high impedance load, whereas a speaker cable works into a low impedance load.

Can you tell us more about your system enhancer tools?

We developed the first System Enhancer in the early 90s, to improve break-in time during audio shows. During a show, you have very little time to get things to sound how you want them. The System Enhancer is designed to break-in a system as quickly as possible, and improve component synergy. An audio system just sounds better once everything starts working together. 

Over the last two decades, I’ve worked to expand its algorithms. For example, the LP version now features a de-magnetizing section. The System Enhancer will completely condition a system’s components, such as the speakers and cables, by—I’ll just say that the tones and signals generated by the Luminist System Enhancer are made in such a way, in optimal frequencies and amplitudes, to perform the enhancement process completely, and in the shortest possible time. 

The Luminist System Enhancer LP is simple to use, and is played like any other LP at 33-1/3. We invite you to try it. You should hear striking improvements in the sonic characteristics of your system, and an enhanced "air" and transparency. A more accurate, stronger, and sophisticated reproduction of overtones, harmonics, and dynamics will appear. It’s also available in CD, and a few other formats. Try it, and give me a call.

What makes most difference with the design of audio cables?

With an audio cable, you want everything to work together. It’s the total package. From the design of the core wires, the connectors you choose, even the sleeving, you want them to function together.

What is the role of capacitance?

From a sonic standpoint, the higher the capacitance, the slower and darker the sound. The lower the capacitance, the higher and brighter the sound. That's the simple description.

How would you describe the difference between the normal and high-grade audiophile power cord?

I’d say in short, the quality of the parts and how well they work together as a whole. A good cable will carry the signal in its most pure form, and shield from outside interference. 

Is there a particular way of installing/positioning the cables? 

Some of positioning can depend on your cables. For example, when positioning due to interference, the cable’s shielding will become important. Our shielding, whether it’s Ferox©, Contego©, or Fluid, blocks RF and EMI interference. It also helps eliminate vibration. For cables without this shielding, positioning becomes more important. 

For example, you might use lifters on your speaker cables, to raise them from the floor. Flooring can create an electrostatic charge. That kind of thing can influence an unshielded cable. 

If you're running an electrical cable or a signal cable, as a general rule of thumb, make sure these cables do not come in contact with each other. Some argue that no cable should touch any other cable. I've seen, in Japan, some truly exotic set-ups where cables are suspended from the ceiling. Again, the technology we use here at Purist makes this not as much of an issue. But if the cable does not possess this quality of shielding, it's definitely something to position for.

Other reasons you might pay attention to cable position have to due with the cable weight. Cables should rest comfortably when connected. If a cable is heavy, or is a distance from the floor, or if the connector is too light, weight can be an issue.

How do you deal with EMI?

The primary way we address EMI is through a quality shielding. Our Ferox©, Contego©, and Fluid shielding were all developed from the ground-up to address it. Today, you wouldn’t find a high-end cable that doesn’t at least give a nod towards EMI. It’s now an audio standard. We just helped pioneer it.

What would you say that set Purist Audio Design apart of the competition?

I’d say our focus on engineering. We’re not a big marketing company; we’re a manufacturing company. We were also there at the beginning, and developed a lot of “firsts” in the industry that have now become standard.

Is there a place for mystical/esoteric dealings/materials in high-end audio?

We believe in a highly-engineered, quality product. From its roots, Purist has always had a focus on engineering.

What does state of the art reproduction means through the eyes of the Purist Audio Design?

It means for the music to sound as close to live as we can possibly get it. We hope for the music to sound as the artist intended.  

What kind of reference system do you use?

We use several. For example:

- Amplifiers and Pre-amps: Vitus, Audio Research, Atma-Sphere
- Speakers: Peak-Consult, Magnepans, Quads, Martin Logan
- Turntables: VPI, TNT, Basis Audio
- DACs: Shahl~Tek, Bricasti
- Cartridges: Koteus, Airtight, Lyra

Would you say, that love for music reflects in the high-end audio end products?

We listen to music every day. One of our favorite things to share on social media is the current playlist. We produce products that we enjoy, and enhance our own experience as audiophiles.

High prices. A must?

The old saying is, you get what you pay for and that is true. Prices come from the quality of the product, and also things like shipping, and production. Purist pays our employees a living, quality wage. We use quality materials. We want a cable that in the end, sounds good and is made to the highest standards.

That said, our cables are actually less expensive than many of their competitors. It’s a matter of scale.

How important are the built-in materials?

I feel the built-in materials are very important. Just as you wouldn’t want your high-end car to run on a lower-quality fuel, an audio system should be built with care and detail. 

What do you see as ultimate music test for ultra high-end?

I’ve always believed in paying attention to your own ears. What do you like to listen to? How should it sound? Compare that to some concerts. Attend music live, and in venues that you enjoy. Does your system match that sound? How close can you get?

Where is the fine line between resolution, transparency, and musicality?

That is an experience determined by the ears of the listener. What I would say and what someone else would say could be two different things. While it is possible to share an audio experience, no two are exactly the same. It's one of the reasons that a person's own ears are the best determination.

What is the ultimate goal of Purist Audio Design?

Our focus is on a quality, engineered product and connecting you to the music. We produce products that we ourselves use.

How do you see the state of the present high-end society?

That may depend on what country you are visiting. Everyone has their different take, and preference for how to experience high-end. For example, in China, there are a lot of people just discovering the world of high-end audio, and many there prefer headphones. In Germany, we see many listeners who experience high-end audio as a family, and are aware of the classics.

Would you say that high quality is more affordable today or you have to pay premium price for best components and sound?

I’d say that overall, high quality has come down in price.

What we can expect in the future from Purist Audio Design?

High quality cables, attention to detail, and a focus on engineering. We’re audiophiles, too, and that guides everything we do.

Do you believe we can come close to the real life experience with high-end audio reproduction?

I believe that we keep getting closer. There’s never been a more exciting time than the present. Audio products today have the benefit of legacy, of building on past innovations. But, we aren’t there, yet. We should never stop innovating.

Where do hi-fi stops and high-end come in?

This depends on the person, their preferences, and price point.

Would you say that reproduction of classical music is the ultimate challenge for any high-end audio product?

It is a quality challenge to high-end audio. It is not the only challenge, but it is one of them. For example, reproducing a small jazz ensemble in a live environment can be challenging. Likewise, a full orchestra has its own nuances, and demands.

What would you say is the secret of Purist Audio Design’s continued success?

Our love of music is first and foremost. Everything else stems from that. I think, keeping that to the forefront—means we’re happy with ourselves at the end of the day. It means we’re happy with the products that we make, because it all goes back to that one purpose.

How would you describe the Purist Audio Design customers?

Music lovers, first and foremost. It’s about the experience you get from listening. This is why we love talking with our customers. We share a common interest.

Is there a cost no object dream product that is still in the secret vault?

I’m always working on something.

What music do you put on at the end of the day?

It depends on how the day went. If it was rough day, it might be Metallica. If it was an easier day, it might be jazz. If it’s been the kind of day where I need to relax, and just take life as it comes, then classical.

Any last thoughts for our readers?

Let us connect you to the music.