Seems like I have forever been on the Audio Cable Merry-Go-Round. This was brought to a head recently when I was over at a good friend’s place listening to music. I helped him put this system together using our e.One C5i Integrated amp with the e.One Stream unit to stream Tidal music into a pair of the new JBL L100 Classic speakers and some USA made audio cables that I have used at the office. I was very pleased that this system sounded great right out of the box with little time on either the speakers or the electronics. We listened to a selection of Jazz, Classical and some Rock that evening and I thought to myself that it sounded good enough that I could live happily with the sound. Very dynamic, very present, and well balanced. The kind of sound where a solo piano heard from the other room could fool you into thinking someone was playing there. Over the past year we have had several occasions for an evening of music. Each time I came away thinking, wow what a great music system.
After these experiences I decided to pull out a pair of top line speaker cables from the same manufacturer as the cables in my friend’s system and put them back in my system. I had been recently using a hybrid combination of solid silver ribbon for the HF above 650Hz and a shotgun pair of medium gauge solid copper for the LF below 650Hz between the BLACK MPS1 units and the TAD2404 horn monitors. A combination that I have found to work well, better than some very highly pedigreed audiophile cables that I have had in and out of my system over the years.
Out with the funky hybrid cables, in with the old faithful that I had written off. Revelation. That evening I played some old favorites and I loved the rich, natural balance, the saturated tonal colors, and realistic dynamics. You could say that some ‘transparency’ was lost but the lack of any spotlighting of any frequency band made the sound more engaging and very musical. My wife was listening from the other room and commented on how good the music was sounding. I had not told her that I had changed anything.
A great recording from Ahmad Jamal, Blue Moon from the same album in full resolution on Qobuz, presents a concrete example of the impact of the good balance. This is an intense re-imagining of this classic tune. With the new/old cables the underlying harmonic and melodic structure of this famous tune remains present and obvious throughout Ahmad’s dynamic excursions and slashing attacks. The complex rhythmic support is woven deep into the tune’s fabric. With other cables the spotlighting effects could easily confuse the brain, making it difficult to hear the underpinnings of the original tune. It was always compelling but with these well-balanced cables the reinterpretation is clear and more meaningful.
The Cable Merry-Go-Round is over for me. I am enjoying music with these cables.
The engineer in me asks what makes these cables so good and why did it take me over 10 years to get back to them?
I have some thoughts about this:
- My system has evolved greatly over these years-the BLACK System is much more open and detailed, and natural sounding. Even the latest C5i/Stream combo with the L100 speakers are better in many ways than the older system I was using when first listening to these cables.
- These cables use solid engineering and technology; a modified Litz wire construction using specially processed high purity copper. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litz_wire Litz wire is designed to provide very uniform power transfer for signals below 1MHz, ideal for audio application. The custom design of this Litz wire would likely reduce standard Litz wire’s tendency to spotlight certain frequency bands. My engineer brain likes this kind of no-nonsense approach with clear engineering goals and application.
- I needed to ride the Merry-Go-Round for a while, living with alternative designs and technologies. My personal audio goals have also matured along with my system. The enjoyment of the musical experience gaining precedence over a ‘transparency at all cost’ kind of goal set. With the improvement of my system I find that these older cables do transfer the information in the signal but in a more natural and engaging manner than many other cable options.
Think about your personal goals with your audio system when putting your system together. I am happy to confirm that good materials, good design, and good engineering ultimately rule the day in audio cables, audio electronics and speakers. This makes both my engineer left brain and my music loving right brain happy.