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Audio Art SE cables
The ‘I-Factor’

 

  May 2010

 

 


I am a fan of cables, but I am not a fan of cable reviews. Oh, like you, I LOVE to read them, but writing them? Feh. Try it sometime. Listen to some cable versus some others like you always do, then, when you think you’ve nailed it and are ready to write that killer Audiogon review, throw in the mandatory reviewers’ monkey wrench we call switching up speakers and components.
Now give ‘er another listen. ‘Well maybe the bass wasn’t so bloated,’ you muse to yourself. ‘In fact, with this new Diaphonium preamp and the Uncanny Mk. II CD player, it actually sounds a little anemic—wonder if it’s down to the cables or maybe it’s down to…’ Catch my meaning?

Maybe ex-reviewers Bob Neill and Jonathan Scull did it best. The former I admire for doing what to me seemed undoable; describing coherently and believably, the sound of a piece of wire, and the latter, for giving such descriptions a shove toward the cosmic and Harry Potteresque. “Twinkling molecules of sound” indeed!! Ah J-10 we miss thee. Sort of.

The Sysyphussian task before me here today is a description of the intrinsic ‘sound’ of the Audio Art SE speaker cables, interconnects and power cables—the Audio Art cable loom, in trendy P.C. audio-speak. Said loom is the front-and-center modernized version of a budget fave of mine, Audio Art’s standard versions. I raved about the valuosity of these cables in ST some time ago, bestowing upon them a Most Wanted Component award, along with three long, slow, wet kisses. Okay, I’m kidding about the kisses.

Designed along the DH Labs value-for-money paradigm and ideologically aided in their design, in point of fact, by the big ‘DH’ in DH Labs, Darren Hovsepian himself, the original Audio Arts, particularly the speaker cables, pushed my ‘balanced sonics’ buttons in a big way. While, as I recall, not quite in league with my then-favorite Ensemble Megaflux FSF’s when it came to sheer involvement, dynamically unrestrained and relatively unflustered by system swapping, the Audio Art speaker cables lingered in my system until the Ensembles had to go home and the JPS Labs cables arrived. The JPS’s ultimately proved a slightly better match with my ProAcs, taming the admittedly hot treble a bit while maintaining their sterling detail.

Since then it is many a year and day, and cables have come and gone. Some remain, such as the DH Labs Air Matrix IC’s and the Stereovox HDSE/Vespa IC’s. These stout survivors haven’t necessarily earned their right to stay on my island because they do everything right- they’ve just done most things well enough (and here’s the kicker) in the widest variety of systems.


Twinkling Molecules of Sound
It’s all down to system synergy. In this vein, I’m man enough to admit my current speaker fling, the Daedalus Audio DA-RMa’s, are a mite warm. There I said it. And I’m saying too, the Audio Art SE loom is all about excitement and a dash of sparkle. Now if they were bright, this review would be short. Well, shorter. No, not bright—a bit lit up and involving. They are in fact among the most involving cables I’ve had in my current system. You want a breakdown? Power cord; punchy, more dynamic and more bass heft as compared with the stocker on my Plinius P10. I preferred it too, to the Signal Cable Magic Power cord employed in this capacity, though admittedly that cable has always been a better performer on preamps. Incidentally, I very often (too often!) prefer the stock power cable to the some of the oddities and eccentricities foisted upon my system’s tone by purportedly ‘better shielded’ and certainly very ummm…. thick, after-market power cables. Audience’s well-regarded original power cord was one such ‘legend’ that seemed to me on many of my amps mostly less good (somewhat distant and hollow) than the stock alternative. Haven’t heard the newer ones.

Interconnects? Involving, dynamic, a bit lit up, and with a bit more bass heft than others in my arsenal. Speaker cables? Ditto. Fast and involving with a spacious stage and a dynamic sound, with well-endowed nether regions, albeit like the IC’s, less defined on the down-low than some others in my stable. Yes Virginia, there is something of a ‘house sound’ afoot here and fortunately I likes it!

Now as I say, I did not feel the Audio Arts were quite as defined in the bass or adding to that, as ‘quiet’ as some of the other cables in my weave/loom. The Skywire 1200’s (under review) and Artisan Ultimate Silver Dream IC’s for example, both listened to head to head with the Audio Art SE’s, come to mind here.

But every time I put the Audio Arts into the system(s), I felt subtly more involved than with a bevy of others. There was that certain je ne se qua that is the bane of lesser cable reviewers like myself. Was it their excellent PRaT that had me? The touch of extra treble sheen livening up the Daedalus presentation just a hair? Their obvious take no prisoners dynamism?

In a more fervid attempt to discern the very possibly indiscernible, I decided the stark, interrogating glow of the Sennheiser HD600 spotlight was needed and I pressed them, along with a good headphone amp (iCute Beyond) and my kitchen counter (not butcher block- sorry), into service. I put La Nozze di Figaro (Harmonia Mundi) in the mouth of the Lector for first blood, and sat at the kitchen counter preparing to get metaphysical.

About an hour or so in (okay- about 20-30 minutes in) and yup, it was apparent that a few other IC’s on hand, notably the Skywire 1200’s and the Artisan Ultimates, did indeed deliver more nuanced nether regions, improved string and choral separation and a more filigreed tone. The Skywire 1200’s for one, are after all, one of the most ideally tonally balanced cables I have ever come across. But more on that in a future spot.

But with many recordings, particularly instrumental ones with a broad dynamic sweep (read: symphonies), the Audio Art SE’s had me by the heart, if not by the short and curlys as well. I like that in a cable! In this regard, in my current system(s), they surpassed cables such as the always large-and-in-charge JPS Labs Superconductor 3’s, which tended to sound broad-shouldered as ever, though a bit homogenized and somewhat dynamically lackluster by comparison.

Similarly, the AA SE speaker cables pulled ahead, not only of their older non-SE siblings, which tended to be at once less detailed and dynamic, but also of the Stereovox Firebirds and the JPS Labs Petite Superconductor+, both of which seemed shut in and less contrasty in head to head comparison. Most all the above were also, and once again I must apologize for the abstraction, to varying degrees, less involving.

I’m no Bob Neill

In sum, you can have a bit more bass definition and a bit more tonal accuracy and refinement, but for toe-tapping dynamism and the kind of intangible, I dunno, ‘I-Factor’ (X has been taken) the Audio Art SE’s deliver? Well, your choices are very limited indeed, and not just at this admirably reasonable price point.

Audio Art’s SE cables certainly perform the handy trick of improving upon their first-born siblings, notably in the areas of detail and dynamics, and in the process, have succeeded in joining the ranks of the relatively few cables I’m pleased to have entertain me over a leisurely Sunday brunch at home. Very highly recommended. Nicely and mo’ better done, Audio Art!





Audio Art IC3-SE Interconnects:
Technical Specifications:
• Connectors Xhadow Precision RCA/XL
• Solder Cardas Quad Eutectic Silver Solder
• Conductors Silver-coated OFC copper
• Dielectric Foam Polyethylene
• Capacitance 30 pf/foot
• Resistance .009 ohms/foot (each conductor)
• Shield coverage Aluminum Mylar 100%
• Diameter 8 mm
• Color Silver
Retail price/meter pair w/Xhadow RCAs: $239.00


Audio Art SC5-SE Speaker Cables:
Technical Specifications:
• Conductors Silver-coated OFC copper
• Dielectric Polyethylene
• Capacitance 39.0 pf/foot
• Resistance .00125 ohms/foot (each conductor)
• Diameter 20 mm
• Color Black TechFlex
Retail price/8 foot pair w/spades: $475.00


Company Info:
Audio Art Cable
4665 Altadena Avenue
San Diego, CA 92115
Phone: 619-255-6451

Website:www.audioartcable.com
Email: robfritz@cox.net