POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 31
as reviewed by Larry Cox and Francisco Duran
I discovered Tommy Hills of Hudson Audio a few years ago, when I purchased a Moerch DP6 tonearm and my Amazon Model 2 turntable. I talked to Tommy for a long time—I think everyone who talks to Tommy does. He's a friendly guy, and he's got lots to say. Tommy is not an accountant who discovered audio cables as a great place to make a killing. He seems to be following his heart, and using his extensive background in electronics to both play and earn a living. He's a tinkerer, and it shows up in his conversation the way tall shows up with Shaquille O'Neal.
Tommy imports a number of really interesting products, including the Bluenote line from Italy and the Scheu-Analog turntables and FJ speakers from Germany. He has also created a number of interesting products, including the AudioPath cables. I found out about these when Tommy told me that Hans Henrik Moerch prefers the AudioPath cables to his own. Since I was buying a Moerch arm, Tommy asked me to try his tonearm cables. I ended up reviewing several, and liked the top-of-the-line ones, which retail for a very reasonable $450. I bought a pair, and remain a happy owner.
Tommy and I have continued to talk periodically about where the audio industry is going, and about other products he is making or importing. When he told me that he was finalizing the design of a line of interconnects and speaker cables, I became enthused about listening to one or more of them. Tommy sent me his top-of-the-line silver interconnects ($275/meter) and speaker cables ($45/linear foot). Both use the same Teflon™-coated wire, but the speaker cables have sixteen strands, while the interconnects have eight. The cables are hand made, in the best sense of the word—their fit and finish are exemplary. They are built like an excellent pair of expensive Italian loafers that come out of a three-hundred-year-old artisan's shop, and have a look that machines can only try to emulate. They are gorgeous and robust. You wouldn't want to pull a motor home with them, but they're built more than well enough to last for their intended purpose.
Both sets of cables are braided to provide a certain amount of shielding, though Tommy told me that that longer lengths of interconnect might need additional shielding. I experienced no such problems, with either the eight-foot pair of speaker cables or the one-meter pair of interconnects. Tommy uses Eichmann Bullet RCAs on all of his interconnects, either silver- or copper-based depending on the application and level of performance. You needn't worry about wrestling either the interconnects or the speaker cables into position and hoping that they stay put. Both are are quite supple, and will easily snake around furniture, other components or what have you, and stay connected to your components. (Actually, let me rephrase that. The speaker cables were fitted with the smaller of two sizes of banana connectors, and the connection to my GamuT speakers was a little loose. When ordering speaker cables, specify either the thinner or thicker bananas.)
Not surprisingly, the interconnects and speaker cables sound similar. Their chief characteristic is a rich—and welcome—portrayal of tone. Though they are silver, they have NONE of the brightness or edginess often associated with silver cables. Instead, they sound like a denser, more full-bodied and detailed version of copper cables, which is to say, they have lots of musical color. This is a great place to start (and perhaps finish) your system, as they aren't terribly expensive, yet have a presentation of timbre that I, at least, could live happily with for a long time, without accounting for the audiophile itch for different, if not better.
For those who want a spacious, airy sound, the AudioPath cables will probably not be your cup of tea, but consider the idea that spacious, airy sound is a coloration. I don't mean to suggest that spaciousness was absent with the AudioPath cables—it was there when it was on the recording. Want prodigious bass? You'll probably need to go with some other cables there too, though again, low-end impact was available with the right recording at the right volume level. To put all this another way, the AudioPath cables don't add much to the proceedings. Given that we all tend to use an imperfect measuring stick (we think we know how a recording should sound, even if we weren't at the recording session), the AudioPath interconnects are in the realm of correctness.
Though attack and decay are not as temporally elongated as they are with some lighter, brighter cables, the AudioPaths provide a proper sense of the sound of bare hands on drum skins. The tap/clink on cymbals, as well as the shimmering disappearance of that cymbal, is there, but if you're looking for cables that will add detail to your diffuse and/or dark system, these aren't for you, and your system is in a world of trouble that cables can't fix. In the upper midrange, the realm of female vocalists, the AudioPath cables sound full and rich. The emotionally and musically inert Holly Cole was rich and "smoky" sounding, as she should be. Jonatha Brown of The Story showed great tone, as did Joan Osborne on her One of Us disc, which can sound bright and unrelenting. A little lower down in the midrange, Andrea Bocelli was emotionally engaging, and a pleasure to hear.
You'll pay more for the AudioPath interconnects than for the Oritek X-1s ($200), but will get a less bracing, more natural sound. The more expensive Oritek X-2s (around $400) are a bit brighter, though more detailed than the AudioPaths. The AudioPaths cost the same as Silver Audio's Silver Bullet 4.0s, but are less grainy, more natural, and a bit more detailed. The AudioPath interconnects sounded remarkably similar to a pair of Ensemble Dynaflux ($850) cables, with a similar timbral character, although the Swiss interconnects were more detailed and provided more musical insight without losing any musicality. Ensemble's Megaflux FSF speaker cables ($1600 for a three-meter pair) sounded very similar to the AudioPath speaker cables, but the Swiss cables were a bit darker, a bit fuller in the midbass, and a bit more detailed. Neither could plumb the absolute depths of the GamuT L5 loudspeakers.
Did the AudioPath cables have any shortcomings? Not really, but I did notice that the speaker cables were remarkably directional, meaning that one end should definitely be on the speaker and the other on the amplifier. When connected the other way, they sounded considerably harder. I don't recall ever noticing cable directionality as clearly as I did with the AudioPath speaker cables.
Given a scale with soft, musical sound at one end and hyper-detailed, analytical sound at the other, the AudioPath cables are on the softer, more musical side. There are certainly cables that will give you more detail, but I find the AudioPaths enjoyable, and suspect that they will fit into more systems than most cables. While they are capable of satisfyingly communicating the minutiae that give a sense of a live event, they also provide a slightly burnished, "golden" sound. This was not at all objectionable. In fact, I only noticed it when I had to force myself to dissect the sound of these cables. This is not the way most people listen to music, and is certainly not how I listen to music unless I'm functioning as a reviewer.
Late in the review period, Tommy sent me a couple of his digital cables, one silver and one copper. As with the silver interconnects and speaker cables, the Silver Digital cable sounded warmer in my system than the copper version. Both retail for $200, and punch well above their weight against some pretty stiff competition. The AudioPath digital cables sound less veiled than my reference Ensemble digital cable ($450). I like the Ensemble cable. It's good, but perhaps a bit darker than my system now warrants. Imaging and soundstaging are better with both AudioPath cables. Images are clearer, but not hyper-focused. The AudioPaths have the sort of imaging that gets people hooked on audiophilia. Having said that, I preferred the Ensemble digital cable to the copper AudioPath, which was brighter than I liked in my system. I didn't have the opportunity to try it elsewhere, so it might be magic in yours. Like the silver interconnects and speaker cables, the AudioPath silver digital cable is a real bargain. Its frequency extension is good, and it renders timbre well, without the darkness of the Ensemble cable.
The AudioPath cables are products I like, respect, and recommend. They sound good, they're well made, and they're affordable. Dig in. Larry Cox
With a myriad of cables on the market, it is no wonder that some people look forward to the day when audio systems will be networked. Think of it—wireless speakers, amps, preamps, even CD players (I mean, music servers). Not only are there many cables, but many materials used to make them. Exotic materials, and the performance claims made for them, are usually accompanied by high prices, but fortunately, there are manufacturers who produce high-quality, high-performance cables at affordable prices. AudioPath, of Closter, New Jersey, is one of these. Thanks to my friend and fellow PFO writer, Larry Cox, I recently had the chance to listen to AudioPath's Pure Silver Interconnects and Pure Silver Speaker Cables.
According to the information sheet that accompanies the cables, the company makes hybrid (silver/copper) interconnects and speaker cables, silver interconnects and speaker cables, copper and silver digital cables, a couple of power strips, several phono cables, a number of power cords, and an iPod cable. The Pure Silver Interconnects are made from 99.9-percent-pure silver wire, braided for shielding and Teflon™ coated. The Pure Silver Speaker Cables are also Teflon™ coated and braided for shielding, with sixteen strands of 13-gauge, 99.9-percent-pure silver wire. Silver solder is used in the construction of all AudioPath cables, and custom lengths and choices of termination are offered.
I installed the interconnects between my amp and passive line stage, listened for quite some time, then installed them between my CD player and preamp. Soon after hearing the AudioPath interconnects, I wished I had a few more pairs, because they gave a very good account of themselves. They had their work cut out for them, too, as they had to challenge my long-time reference interconnects, the Analysis Plus Ovals, not to mention the new kid on the block—a pair of gen-u-ine, custom made Cat 5s.
For starters, I played Jack Johnson's Brushfire Fairytales CD, a solid recording that consists mostly of guitar and voice. The first thing I noticed about the interconnects was that they sounded articulate, clean, and neutral. They proved to be slightly more open and spacious than both the Analysis Plus cables and the Cat 5s. After switching back and forth for a while, I also found that the AudioPath cables were slightly cleaner, clearer, less opaque, and less grainy. Johnson's voice and guitar sounded cleaner and more natural, and his guitar sounded more articulate, within a clearer soundstage. The top end, while very clean and extended, was not at all bright. The lack of grain paid dividends. In my experience, "silver" often equals "bright," but in this case, definitely not! In fact, of the three pairs of interconnects, the AudioPaths came across as the warmest, though only slightly. The edges of instrumental images sounded round and smooth rather than sharp, clean, or bright. How does AudioPath do this?
Although Brushfire Fairytales is a fine recording of great music, I wanted to hear dynamics and bass extension, so I switched gears to the reggae group Midnite. On their CD Ras Mek Peace on Wildchild, bassist Joe Straw's bass lines sounded deep and solid, as did Dion (Bosie) Hopkins' drumming. There was no loss of pace or dynamics, and these instruments sounded more full and taut than they did with any other cables that I had on hand. I also played a Reference Recordings Classical Sampler CD that went considerably deeper than 38Hz. On some cuts, the AudioPath interconnects showed that they could handle acoustic basses or kettle drums with just as much authority as they could deal with a Fender electric bass. On the Reference Recordings sampler disc, I heard a spacious soundstage with very solid images, and the effect increased when I added the AudioPath speaker cables. With the speaker cables included in the party, the music also had more air and dimensionality. Cymbals gained a slightly sweet shimmer, along with a slight "glow" as they were struck.
Slipping in Ulu Dara's Neighborhoods, an old favorite CD, I noticed that voices popped slightly forward, while instruments occupied specific places in a soundstage much deeper and less grainy than the one created by my reference cables. Dara's voice sounded slightly more natural, and it seemed to come from the entire upper part of his body instead of just his mouth. My reference speaker cables, while matching the AudioPath in bass performance, again sounded slightly thinner, with a flatter perspective.
One day during the review process, my son came into the listening room and asked me what I had done to my system. "It sounds like the guy is singing right in front of you," he said. "It sounds wide open." Remember the old saying, "Out of the mouth of babes?" My son hit the nail on the head. Aside from being flexible, well made, and very nice looking, the Audio Path cables break the stereotype for silver cables by not sounding bright. They performed very well in my system, and bested my reference cables in many respects.
In recent months, my concept of how high-end cables should sound has been completely shattered by the introduction of a single one-meter pair of $60 CAT-5 interconnects. The performance of the CAT-5s has been holding its own with cables costing up to $500 per meter, but the same holds true for the AudioPath interconnects and speaker cables. The AudioPath cables are slightly more expensive than the Cat-5s, but for the extra money, you get build quality and performance way above their price class. And you don't have to build them yourself. Highly recommended! Francisco Duran