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Lotus White interconnect, speaker, and AC cords, along with a brief bit on the Nebula THB digital cable
as reviewed by Mark Katz
Cables, cables, and more cables! That's what it looked like when a fellow member of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society, brought me a box of interconnects, power cords, digital power cords, and digital interconnects for review. Bill Artope is the West Coast representative of the Chicago-based company Dynamic Design. The company slogan is "Where Neutrality Becomes Reality." Most of the cables Bill brought came from their Lotus White series, just above their entry-level Lotus Blue series. The line also includes the Heritage series Silver Meidland and Platinum cables, the more exotic Nebula series THB, and the top-of-the-line TBK. The company was founded in 2000, although, according to the company's website (www.dynamicdesignav.com), they have been making cables since 1994. The company's founder, Olufemi A. Sonuga, says that they consider everything—from the conductor, insulation, jacket, shielding, grounding, and connectors—in their attempt to achieve minimal alteration of the signal. For example, they use a concentric array of ultra-thin-wall, low-storage insulators in what they call a Multi Layer Insulation System, as well as Unitized Multilayer Shields to give low noise, low total and coupling capacitance, high-purity bi-metal (copper and silver?) or ultra-high-purity bi-metal conductors, and Resonance Control Multi-Layer jackets to protect and damp the cables. My review is the result of spending several months with these well constructed, hefty, and attractive cables.
The system I used to evaluate the Dynamic Design cables consisted of JM Lab Mezzo Utopias, Kora Cosmos amps (upgraded with Dynamicaps), a Muse 8 transport connected by a Marigo Ref 3 digital cable to a Kora Hermes II DAC (also with Dynamicaps), a McIntosh MR-78 tuner updated by Classic Audio, Goertz MI-2 copper speaker cables, Wireworld Eclipse III+ interconnects, and a PowerWedge 116II power conditioner. I use the transformer-filtered outlets only for low-powered and digital electronics, i.e., the DAC, tuner, and transport. The preamps I used included the Kora Triode and Cary/AES-3 DJH. The power cords included Eichmann Series 2 for the amplifiers, a previous-generation Mapleshade Omega Mikro for the preamp, a modestly-priced older Marigo cord for the transport, and a Yamamura Millenium 500 for the DAC.
I first hooked up what I thought was the Lotus White digital interconnect ($350/meter) between the transport and DAC, but on careful inspection, I discovered that it was actually the much more expensive Nebula THB ($1000/meter). I guess I have expensive taste, because I loved this cable! On CD after CD, voices took on greater texture and vividness, piano had more subtle tonality and better dynamics and clarity, and stringed instruments sounded more precise, with the leading edge of the bowing balanced by the resonance of the instruments. I thought my old Marigo Reference 3 was as good a digital cable as I would ever need, but the Dynamic Design cable did just as well in dynamics yet improved deftness and tone.
I brought the cable to the home of Art Shapiro, fellow Positive Feedback reviewer and classical piano fanatic. He had been using a Nordost Silver Shadow digital cable between his Wadia 3200 transport and Kora Hermes II DAC because of its smooth, natural, yet dynamic character. After listening to recordings of classical piano, two pianos, pipe organ with saxophone, orchestral music, and male and female voice, we reached the same conclusion—the Dynamic Design Nebula THB digital interconnect was the best we had heard, in both his system and mine. I then called Bill to ask him to send a Lotus White digital cable for comparison. Although the results were surprisingly similar, the Lotus White was not quite as refined or dynamic. It gave, say, 85 percent of the performance of the Nebula THB for one-third the price. The Lotus White was comparable to our best digital cables, but the Nebula was a nice step up. Subsequently, Art and I both purchased a Nebula. Bill reported that after our initial audition, the company improved the terminations on all of their cords, and I can report that on Art Shapiro's system, the Nebula with the new termination sounds as good or better than the previous version of the cable.
Next up were the Lotus White interconnects ($750/meter). I connected one pair between the Kora DAC and either the Kora Triode or Cary preamp, and another between the preamp and the Kora amplifiers. I also tried a pair in Bob Levi's SET system, with similar results. In that case, they were connected between his E.A.R. 834L preamp and his maxed-out Cary 300B stereo amplifier. We left the existing cables between his Denon 2200 universal player and the preamp. The Cary, which was plugged in with an Audioquest power cord, was equipped with EAT 300B output tubes, and was hooked to a pair of Paradigm Studio Ref 20 v3 loudspeakers by very high-end Kimber 3038 Silver Select speaker cables. When we compared the Lotus White interconnects to the high-value Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway MK3s, both interconnects worked well, but the Lotus White had a bit more warmth and slightly better texture. The Dynamic Design Lotus White interconnects are very good. Their construction is impressive, and the connectors plug solidly into the gear. These cables do just about everything right. They are very dynamic, clear, and nearly neutral, with just a hint of warmth, depending upon the system.
I then substituted an 8-foot pair of Lotus White speaker cables ($1300) for my Goertz MI-2s. This took a bit of effort due to their relative bulk, and the European-standard binding posts on my Kora Cosmos amp. These cables are pretty hefty for a near-entry product. Having already heard the Dynamic Design digital and analog interconnects, there were no surprises. The Lotus White speaker cables sounded solid and well balanced, and gave the music a bit more energy and weight. I was starting to recognize a pattern, perhaps due to Dynamic Design's consistent design philosophy.
You'd think that power cords wouldn't matter, but they have become a factor in the sound of a system. I compared the Lotus White power cords ($750/6 feet) to Art Shapiro's Gutwire Power Clefs and my Eichmann Express series 2 cords on the Kora Cosmos amplifiers. I tried them directly into both the dedicated outlets and the non-transformer outlets of the Power Wedge. The changes in tonality were subtle, with the Gutwire giving the best dynamics, slight warmth, and the most vivid tone. The Eichmanns had a leaner tonal balance, and the Dynamic Design power cords fell in the middle, with good dynamics and a relatively neutral tonal balance.
Next up were the power cords specially designed for digital applications, the VLTs ($1500/6 feet). They have a small battery holder, with two AA cells that can be Velcroed to a collar on the cord. Since I have both a transport and a DAC, I needed two of these battery-shielded power cords. Trying just one, on either the DAC or the transport, didn't help nearly so much as using them on both. Since separate DACs and transports are becoming less common, most listeners will need only one digital power cord. With the electrical shielding turned on, the VLTs seemed to bring the music into greater focus, and the background was quieter. I also tried them on Art Shapiro's system, where we alternated turning on the additional shielding and turning it off. We both preferred them on. It was almost a game to turn the shields on, then off, then on again, paying attention to the sonic differences on a variety of recordings. The cords worked well, even when off. According to the Dynamic Design website, battery life is measured in months. I imagine you could stretch the battery life a lot longer if you turn off the shielding when it's not in use.
I enjoyed my time with the Dynamic Design cables. The Lotus White cables make a strong statement at their price point, reflecting the vision of their designer. The Nebula THB digital interconnect gave me a glimpse into the world of the very high end. The VLT active power cords can help quiet some of the noise that can be introduced into an audio system. Dynamic Design cables should be on your consideration list. Mark Katz
Recordings used to evaluate the Dynamic Design cables included the following: