Associated Equipment:
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PNF Audio Symphony Speaker Cable and ICON Audio Interconnect Cable

Lush Life

Nelson Brill                                                                                   May 2004



Romeo, Where Art Thou?

This audiophile’s search for affordable speaker and interconnect cable has taken him from the smoky depths of the metal casting process to the heights of glamorous proprietary jacket mesh with gold thread. It is an elusive search, marked by the uncertainty of the way, guided by the ideals of tonal accuracy and neutral, dynamic flow at an affordable price. But for an encouraging editor, many would turn back, convinced that cabling is the least important piece in a listening system’s synergistic whole and not worth the arduous and frustrating journey. Other muses beckon from the surrounding wood to offer their philosophic view that the search for affordable cable is not a worthwhile subject for an audiophile equipment review simply because one’s perception of the virtues of a set of cable in one’s own system cannot be meaningfully translated to another person’s setup or set of sonic priorities.

A talk with Joe Guida, founder of PNF Audio, Inc., presents a different perspective on this debate and convinces me that all is not necessarily for naught in this elusive search for affordable cable, even given, a priori, the subjective nature of this art form of ours and our differing perceptions of the conduits to carry our precious music signal. Joe founded PNF Audio in 2000 with a noble and simple goal: to research and design his own cable, at a reasonable price point. He set this goal because he couldn’t find a cable configuration offering the neutrality that he sought for his own reference system. His research led him to apply principles from his own background in aerospace engineering and to the discovery of other people’s work that had found a new way to process metals, in this case, copper. According to Joe, the natural conductivity of copper is very high, but under standard copper processing, the metal is cast while it is cold, leaving multiple crystal barriers up to 10,000 per meter. These multitudes of crystal barriers can naturally cause distortion to acoustic signals and lower the conductivity of the finished copper wire. In contrast, scientists have also experimented with casting copper while it is still hot and less brittle, discovering that this “continuous casting” process averages less than one crystal barrier per meter in the finished copper wire. PNF’s speaker cable and interconnect are based on this continuous casting copper product, claiming that this warm casted copper cable increases clarity and smoothness in the conductivity of the music signal. Their Icon interconnect also contains an unusual dielectric configuration composed of teflon and an air foam honeycomb matrix to absorb the electrostatic energy stored in the conductor. This dielectric composition measures very close to an absolute vacuum, the best possible dielectric. Finally, ultra pure copper RCA connectors are utilized on the Icon, to insure over 94% of the conductivity of the signal.

Diggin’ Deep

Although their appearance was utilitarian, sporting a somewhat bland but durable PVC jacket, (which can be upgraded to colored mesh jackets for minimal cost), the Symphony speaker cables and Icon interconnects placed in my office listening system immediately drew me into the dynamics of the music, regardless of the genre explored. I would define the critical sonic signature of these cable products as interjecting a lush, yet detailed quality into the entire range of frequencies. My office listening space is a small room (12’x10’) where a pair of highly resolving Talon Khite monitors, (sitting atop sturdy stands handmade by my mentors at Father & Son Audio), have the capabilities to offer pinpoint imaging from my sitting position, about seven feet away. I imagine that many people have similar setups in smaller rooms in their apartments or dens and treasure their listening time in such an intimate setting with the magic that a resolving pair of monitors can provide. What a nice dimension of sound the Symphony speaker cable and Ikon interconnects brought to such a setup! They brought a full-bodied detail that was enticing in its roundness and yet with no excessive colorations or bloat. For example, one of my favorite bassists these days is the always-unpredictable Victor Wooten, who on Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Live At The Quick, [Columbia CK 86355] offers us a sublime solo on Amazing Grace with harmonics and spirit out the wazoo. The Symphony and Icon cables captured all of the energy of this solo, with a neutrality, yet warmth, that was spot-on. The lower registers offered through this cable combination was one of the best I have heard in this price range, adding a lush yet quick quality to bass lines in every genre sampled. Another example was the prodigious drum work, contrasted with inspiring trumpet and vocals, of Hugh Masekela and his band, in his timeless condemnation of apartheid in Stimela from Hope [Triloka 7203-2]. This song, written about the plight of migrant laborers working in the mines of South Africa under oppressive conditions, portrays the trains that carry these workers to these mines. With vocal hoots, hisses, shouts and drums, Masekela and his band dramatize this train journey and bring it to musical life. A huge bass line carries all of this motion to its resting place, (in an imaginary train station), and the Symphony and Icon combination do fine justice to this injustice portrayed. Masekela’s voice was captured in all of its emotion and deep anger, with again, a warmth that was not overly boated, but drew one into the sonic picture.

On solo works, such as solo piano or guitar, this affordable cable combination again gave the listener all of the detail of the event, plus a lushness and body that was sonically exciting but not distracting or distorting. A wonderful recording of Beethoven’s piano sonatas is found on Earl Wild, Beethoven Piano Sonatas, [Chesky, CD77], particularly Wild’s interpretation of the Hammerklavier, Op. 106 a piece which has been called the most titanic of all of Beethoven’s sonatas. Once again, the PNF Audio cables captured all of the detail of Wild’s emotional rendition of this work with focus and heart. One could follow the grand scale runs and furious pace with accuracy, and yet there again was the warmth left in the decay of the final notes and a good sonic hint of the Abbey where this recording took place.

The same observations applied to solo acoustic guitar recordings with these cables in place. Pat Metheny’s gorgeous and introspective recording, One Quiet Night [Warner Bros. 48473-2] was given the royal treatment with the PNF Audio cables doing their connectivity thing. String and wood were clearly portrayed in accurate detail, with a fine sense of warmth and body wrapping the mix. Fine stuff indeed, especially in this intimate listening space. Lastly, I would also mention more full throttle electric material, which again, this cable combination handled with accuracy, detail and warmth. Look no further than Ronnie Earl, in his recording Healing Time, [Telarc CD-83409, for a blast of blues and Hammond B3 bliss. My energetic integrated amp, the Portal Panache, seemed to get an extra boost of electron flow through the PNF Audio cables, pushing Ronny right out front with his strutting blues guitar and giving a well rounded and accurate sound to Jimmy McGriff’s B3 undercurrent. On Catfish Blues, Ronny’s low register guitar cords were nailed perfectly, next to the foundation of the Hammond B-3 lingering steadily in the background.

Found At Last?

I have had the pleasure of auditioning several affordable cable combinations lately, and the PNF Audio cables fare quite well in comparison to the best that I have heard in my monitor listening space. To give some guidance, I would conclude that the Symphony speaker cable brought the best bass dynamics and portrayal, in comparison to my most recent reviewed favorites, the River Cable’s FLEXYGY 6 speaker cables. The FLEXYGY 6 scored higher in the mid and treble energy and detail department, although the Symphony brought good detail and that nice enticing luscious quality to this area. The FLEXYGY 6 was a more forward and incisive presentation, while the Symphony offered a more relaxed, deeper and rounded, but not overly so, presentation. The differences in the Ikon interconnect from those, for example, from Custom House in the same price range, was more difficult to discern. They were clearly competitive in all areas, for accuracy, speed and neutrality. The bottom line was just that: more bottom depth, roundness and lusciousness with no discernible loss of pacing or neutrality with these wonderful PNF Audio cables. Mix in the fact that these cables are very affordably priced for their build quality and sonic delivery, and you have a winning combination. PNF Audio also offers a risk free 30 day trial period for their cable products.

I would highly recommend these PNF Audio cables as a wonderful synergistic companion to a sweet and reasonably priced hi-end listening system, where you are looking for accuracy, speed and an inviting sonic landscape to explore.

 

 
Specifications

Symphony Speaker Cable:
4-12 awg continuous cast oxygen free high conductivity copper with teflon dielectric and spiral geometry. Offered with either PVC Jacket or optional colored braided mesh coverings. Terminated with choice of gold plated spades or banana plugs, silver soldered and crimped.
Price: 6 foot pair- $165; 8 foot pair- $230; braided mesh option: $10-15
Icon Audio Interconnect cable:
Continuous cast copper with unique teflon and air foam honeycomb matrix dielectric and dual copper and aluminum mylar foil shields. High copper alloy RCA connectors.
Price: one meter - $199.00; 2 meter: $239.00; braided mesh option: $10-15

Address: PNF Audio
598 Tuckahoe Rd
Frankinville, N.J. 08322
Telephone: 1-877-57-AUDIO
Website: http://www.pnfaudio.com

                                

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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