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Positive Feedback ISSUE
New Generation Lotus digital interconnect
as reviewed by Mark Katz
One small cable for man... Well, maybe not quite that momentous, but I did get a call from Bill Artope asking if I'd be interested in reviewing the next generation of Lotus digital interconnect from his company. Bill is the West Coast representative of the Chicago-based company Dynamic Design. The company slogan is "Where Neutrality Becomes Reality." I've been the happy owner of their higher end Nebula THB digital interconnect, depending on it until my digital transport passed into the great audiophile beyond. I've switched to a single box CD player in my living room system, the great E.A.R. Acute. However, I thought , my Kora Hermes II DAC works well, I could use the E.A.R. Acute, various DVD players, and bring it over to Art Shapiro's house to hook up to his Wadia 3200 and his Kora Hermes II. So, I told him I'd be interested. Within a few days, a box arrived with a moderately, though not excessively thick white digital interconnect with high quality RCA terminations. I noticed right away that it was more flexible and not as massive as my THB Nebula digital interconnect. The Lotus series is their new entry level series and first series of the new generation of cables from Dynamic Design.
Single box CD players have displaced many two box solutions. High quality digital interconnects may again grow in importance as CD players seem to be giving way to music servers. More discriminating audiophiles could easily go looking for better outboard DACs and cables to link them.
For background, 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. The system I used to evaluate it consisted of JM Lab Mezzo Utopias, Kora Cosmos amps (upgraded with Dynamicaps), a various transports including the E.A.R. Acute CD player, Marantz 8200 Universal player, and an old RCA DVD player. These were connected by a THB Nebula or Marigo Ref 3A digital cable to a Kora Hermes II DAC (also with Dynamicaps), a McIntosh MR-78 tuner updated by Classic Audio, Dynamic Design THB Silver Meidland speaker Cables, balanced Harmonic Technology Magic I to the preamp and Kubala Sosna Expressions to the amps, 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 Bill Jensen's balanced and heavily regulated tubed unit—based around 12AU7 tubes with an outboard power supply—the Kora Triode, and Cary/AES-3 DJH. With the single-ended preamps, I used Wireworld Eclipse III+ interconnects. The power cords included Marigo RMX Ref series C and Gutwire power Clefs (borrowed from Art) for the amps, Vitus Audio Andromeda for the DAC and Audioquest NRG-5 for the preamp.
I first hooked up my reference digital interconnect, the much more expensive Nebula THB ($1000/meter). No surprises here. This is a great digital interconnect with the somewhat unwieldy nature. No matter if it was a cheap RCA DVD player or the more expensive transports, it worked well. Clear, powerful sounding, articulate, smooth, a touch on the warm side with a mid range that makes one want to continue to listen and forget about reviewing for a while. Next up, the new Lotus (New Generation). Bill said it needs a good 100-200 hours to completely break in, so on went the DVD player with the cable hooked to the Kora Hermes II. The 2nd generation Lotus cable appears well constructed with high quality connectors, and being markedly thinner than the THB, it was easier to maneuver.
I thought the previous generation Lotus cable was a good value, perhaps not quite as refined or dynamic as the THB. The new Lotus cable simply widens the envelope on the older Lotus and dare I say it, edges out their older more expensive THB Nebula! On my system, the slight warmth of the THB gave way to greater clarity and detail in the mids. The highs were more focused, extended and still sweet. Bass felt better controlled with greater impact. I was impressed.
After a stint in my system, the cable went to Art Shapiro, fellow Positive Feedback reviewer. He'll give a more detailed description of his system. In summary, his Wadia 3200 Transport is hooked up to a Kora Hermes 2 tubed DAC, which in turn goes to a CAT Sig II (upgraded at CAT) preamp and Manley Neo 250 monoblock amplifiers. Interconnects are Monster Sigma 2K with Luminous speaker cable. Power is though dedicated lines to a Brickwall power filter for the front end and directly from the wall for the amplifiers, all using Gutwire power cords. Speakers are older ESP Concert Grands with a Rel Stadium II subwoofer hooked up via the amplifiers, to act as bass augmentation. His system is optimized for getting the power and tone of a classical piano. It also works well on most other music.
We had several hour to two hour long sessions with his system fully warmed up. First we compared it to several of the digital interconnects at our disposal, including Marigo Apparition 3A, Nordost Silver Shadow, Kimber D60, and the Dynamic Design THB Nebula. We narrowed the field down to the two Dynamic Design cables for most natural tone and dynamics. It was apparent why we ended up each buying the THB Nebula as our reference digital interconnect. The same pattern I heard on my system was there on Art's.
Earl Wild's, The Romantic Master on Sony has pretty impressive and complex piano runs. With the new Lotus cable, the individual notes were slightly clearer, more distinct, the energy of the playing came though, especially the left hand while preserving the tone. Realistic piano playback is incredibly difficult due to dynamics and power that can overshadow the beautiful harmonics. The "Harmonious Blacksmith" gets progressively more intricate. Isabelle Moretti's harp recital CD on Harmonia Mundi makes the problem of clarity of complex runs of notes a real challenge. All was laid out for the listener. This was not the lean vs. warmth tradeoff that we audiophiles can struggle with, but a more incisive presentation on both the piano and harp.
Antiphone Blues is an unusual CD from Proprius featuring a saxophone and pipe organ. With the new Lotus digital interconnect, the pipe organ seemed to take on a bit more rumble and the sax had good bite to it.
For voices, we used Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau famous baritone from the Sony Sampler, the entertaining soprano, tenor, and baritone from the Dorian Bach Coffee Cantata, and the haunting Strauss "Morgen" from John Marks Records. In every case, the voices were clear, natural and lost nothing to their big brother. What was pleasantly surprising was the greater impact of the bass drum in Das Lied von der Erde.
Kodaly's Hary Janos Suite is a musical depiction of some tall tales about the title character. The Koss CD is a particularly fine Kodaly recording, both in performance and sound. It features the cimbalom, an uncommon stringed instrument, a sort of damped dulcimer that evokes the exotic flavor of Gypsy music. The initial pluck and tone came through beautifully, no blurring or excess edge.
When one thinks of Audioquest, audiophile recordings are not the first thing that comes to mind. Bruce Katz's Crescent Crawl features piano, bass, drums, and tenor sax. Everything seemed dead on including the snap and impact of the drums and cymbals, pluck and growl of the bass, the hands flying over the piano keys, the bite and reediness of the sax. Lot's of fun and a good test for your system if you like jazz.
The new entry level digital Dynamic Design cable is beyond my expectations. It's not just a good value, but a statement that they're serious about the next generation of cables. Instead of starting at the top and trickling down the improvements, Dynamic Design has started their new generation with a moderately priced over performer. Highly recommended! Mark Katz
Recordings used to evaluate the Dynamic Design cables included the following:
New Generation Lotus