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Opus 2 interconnect and speaker cables
as reviewed by Ed Morawski
I helped an exhibitor at this year's CES/T.H.E. Show, and as a result became keenly aware of the difference that cables can make in a system. Three of us spent hours listening to cables in order to find the perfect balance. It was startling to hear the differences between silver, gold, and rhodium plating over bronze and copper—and that was just in power cords and AC receptacles!
We had a few brands to choose from, including Analysis Plus, Empirical Audio, Xtreme, and Michael Wolff, all of which I had used in my own system at one time. One glaring exception was the absence of any cryogenically treated cables, a type I had yet to hear, so when Bruce Richardson of VooDoo asked PFO to review his cables, I was very interested because all VooDoo cables are cryogenically treated. I was also intrigued by VooDoo's reasonable prices—a 1-meter pair of RCA interconnects in the Opus 2 line costs only $150. I specifically requested VooDoo's lowest-priced cables so that I could hear what cryogenically treated budget cables sound like. Bruce obliged by sending several pairs of Opus 2 interconnects, a pair of speaker cables, and a digital interconnect. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and workmanship of the cables. All were flexible, attractive, and well made, with very substantial connectors.
The wire, the shielding, and the connectors are dipped in a tank of liquid nitrogen at -315 degrees Fahrenheit (-192 Celsius) for 100+ hours. Deep-immersion cryogenic treatment is more effective than any other cryogenic process. The treatment aligns and fuses the molecular structure of the conductive metals and alloys. At the molecular level, the electrons that make up an electrical signal jump from one conductive molecule to the next. The more direct the signal path, the less electrical noise within that signal. The result of cryogenic treatment is significantly lower line resistance, and significantly less harmonic distortion. The sonic benefits include better harmonic resolution, greater detail, more transparency, and more accurate dynamic response. Unlike some other marketing ploys, cryogenic treatment makes a lot of sense. You only have to look at the world of superconductors to see that ultra-low temperatures affect metal in completely new ways. Admittedly, superconductors must remain at extremely low temperatures in order to function, but from the number of cable manufacturers jumping on the cryogenic treatment bandwagon, it is obvious that something is going on.
I began by replacing all of my cables with the VooDoo cables. The system consisted of a Musical Fidelity A308 power amp, a Balanced Audio Technology VK-3ix preamp, a Musical Fidelity A308 CD player with Tri-vista 21 DAC, and Olympic Audio speakers. My first test CD was Mirabilis by the Mediaeval Baebes, a glorious choir of young ladies singing Celtic tunes. It was immediately apparent that the cables sounded extremely detailed, more so than any cables I have heard at this price point. This improvement was slightly offset by lighter-than-usual bass and a tiny bit of harshness, but the cables were brand new, and Bruce recommends at least 100 hours of break-in time.
I let the cables settle in for 24 hours, with the system playing at low levels. After 24 hours, the texture of the music was much more evident, the bass was firm and deep, and every hint of harshness or grain in the highest reaches of the recording was gone. There was a noticeable improvement almost minute by minute, and I found myself playing many tracks over and over to appreciate newfound nuances in each. On "The Lament," all of the women sing, and I don't believe I've ever heard a choir sound so glorious. On "Umlahi," I was transported to some magical Irish kingdom. "Come My Sweet" sent goosebumps down my neck. I probably listened to "Temptasyon" a dozen times. The Baebes sing this in pretty high key, so if any grain or harshness were to be revealed, it would be on this track. All I heard was airy, dreamlike voices. Drums sounded exactly as they should—very organic, with a satisfying, hollow sound.
Despite Bruce's recommendation of a 100-hour break-in period, after only 24 hours, I could hear that the VooDoo cables sounded just great. They were very neutral, and though they brought out an immense amount of detail, I could not detect any coloration. I love acoustic music, and the VooDoos seemed especially suited to my taste. Not once did I hear a hint of harshness. One of my favorite test CDs is Diana Krall's Look of Love. On "Love Letters," the opening electric guitar notes can sound overwhelmingly shrill, but with the VooDoo Opus 2s, those notes sounded bearable. I don't think they will ever sound wonderful.
Over the next week, I continued to listen with my usual test discs. On acoustic recordings like those of Alison Krauss and Union Station, the VooDoo cables exhibited lots of air and transparency. The trailing edges of stringed instruments like guitars, banjos, and mandolins lingered in a very satisfying manner. I often found myself emotionally drained when a song ended, and the air continued to vibrate for a second or so before receding into silence. On larger-scale recordings, including classical pieces like Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances performed by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra, the VooDoos produced astounding detail and a wide and deep soundstage. On every recording of more than four or five musicians, I was thrilled to hear all of the instruments at their fullest potential. This was also true of voices. Diana Krall came across with rather more emotion than usual—due, I believe to the fact that the VooDoo cables were revealing more of the subtle details of her voice.
I was very pleased with the way the VooDoos presented smooth jazz like Keiko Matsui, and Tift Merritt's Bramble Rose and Antigone Rising's From the Ground Up sounded extremely realistic. Nothing was overemphasized or de-emphasized, and while the details were very, very clean, the sound was also very, very musical. From the Ground Up was one of the last CDs I played, and I played it loud. I couldn't help but marvel at sound of the electric guitars. I'm usually not fond of the way they sound on this disc, but with the VooDoos, they were anything but harsh. Still, the most enjoyable instrument (aside from the voice) was the drum, which was deep yet well defined. I felt like I was listening to a live performance. Even the audience applause sounded real.
After two weeks, and well over 150 hours of playing time, I was ready for the final test of the VooDoo cables. I removed one set at a time and replaced them with my reference cables. I began with the digital cable, since I suspected that it would make the least difference. Due to my belief that "bits are bits," I had been using a generic, 75-ohm, professional video cable. When I first substituted the VooDoo digital cable for mine, I couldn't hear any difference, but after three or four tracks, I had to admit that with the VooDoo, the bass had a tiny bit more definition. Still, I had to call it a draw.
I was most interested in the speaker cables, so I compared the VooDoo Opus 2s to two others—the Empirical Audio Clarity 7s and the Analysis Plus Oval 9s. The Oval 9s were an immediate and obvious step backward, with less detail and more smear. I could detect almost no difference between the Empirical Audio cables and the VooDoos—quite a feat for the VooDoos considering that they cost one-fifth as much. I kept the VooDoo speaker cables in the system and moved on to the interconnects. I first replaced the preamp-to-amp connections with Empirical Holophonic Perfect Crystal. Again, it was too close to call. On tracks like Keiko Matsui's "Dream Walk," the Empirical cables had a bit more bass, but on Alison Krauss' "It Doesn't Matter," I could hear no difference. Perhaps it depended upon whether the bass was synthesized or acoustic?
I then reinstalled the VooDoos between preamp and amp, and installed the Empirical Holophonic interconnects between my DAC and preamp. This time, I wasn't as certain. In fact, I had to reinstall the VooDoos several times in order to detect subtle differences. I preferred the Empirical Audio cables most of the time, but the VooDoos won me over on at least a third of the CDs. The Empirical Audio cables seemed better suited to rock and electronically-generated music, but I preferred the VooDoo cables with acoustic music, where I appreciated their ability to render low-level detail. Again, considering the fact that a pair of Empirical interconnects is $620, while a pair of VooDoo Opus 2s is only $150, I think the VooDoos could be the bargain of the year!
When I removed the VooDoo cables and reinstalled my reference cables, my system still sounded excellent, but I couldn't help but wonder: If the low-end VooDoos are this good, how would the more expensive ones sound? I was very, very impressed with the VooDoo cables. They are attractive, well made, and a cut above any other cables in their price range. Ed Morawski
Voodoo speaker cables
Ed is currently involved in the manufacturing of Olympic Loudspeakers.