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Positive Feedback ISSUE 4
december/january 2003


ODDS & ENDS Stray Notes on Audience, Blue Circle, Harbeth, Spendor, and Reynaud
by Bob Neill


Audience Au 24 interconnects: I am having great success with the Au24 interconnects, despite a prominent reviewer's mild reservations relative to his current, and my former reference, Nordost Valhalla. I initially stuck a meter of the Audience cable at the head of the chain and was very pleased with the results. So I emailed the gracious John McDonald of Audience and asked for the "full monty." Since it arrived, I have noticed that the move from vivid to natural that I experienced by substituting Au24 for Valhalla speaker cable has spread through the system. I am now running a meter between my Naim CDS2 and Blue Circle RCA/XLR converter, another meter between the converter and my Blue Circle AG3000 preamp, and four meters between the AG3000 and my AG8000 mono-blocks.

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I am aware of no loss in "density of tonal color," or "the nth degree of inner detail," two shortcomings noted by the prominent reviewer. As for "speed and precision," the Au 24’s speed is not something one notices one way or the other and precision seems to me an elusive sonic term. I hear no imprecision of any kind, if that means anything to you. I find that the system as a whole with Au24 interconnects and speaker cable running from one end to the other now sounds more natural than it did with Valhalla. I am significantly less aware of "The System" and its sonic virtues, and more aware of musicians and music. I felt that way when I moved from Straightwire Virtuoso to Nordost SPM, from SPM to Nordost Quatro Fil and from Quatro Fil to Valhalla as well. So either I'm a will o' the wisp, or I have ascended the ladder of excellence.

Auric Illuminator. John McDonald is confident that his Auric Iluminator is superior to the long-time favorite, Optrix; but what does one do with such confidence, if one is a gentleman? He waits for the right moment, which turns out to have been when I emailed him to tell him how much I liked his Au 24 speaker cable. "While you’re at it.... "So within two days, I had a bottle along with a generous supply of 'hankies' to apply it with; and within an hour John McDonald's confidence was mine. It is better. One CD is enough to make that clear. Optrix is very good and, to my knowledge, was there first. I've used it for at least two years now. Auric Illuminator has been out for four years, but I've ignored it. I didn't want another damn variable in my mix. And now, Lloyd Walker's got some goo out too, which the king o' tweaks, Clark Johnsen, has pronounced it, "the best." But that stuff is $60 a pop and it is renowned in particular for vividness, a quality my system is not currently in need of. Frankly, I've had enough vividness to last a lifetime already.

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How is Auric Illuminator better, cry the skeptics, who still have several bottles of "Something Else" to use up? Some things are better for specific audiophilic reasons that can be itemized. Others are just overall better. Is that a cop out or an attribution of comprehensive excellence? Auric Illuminator sounds overall better at the same things Optrix is good at: reduced sense of glare, reduced sense of the medium, increased sense of natural clarity. I can hear the music better. I assume that means the laser is reading the discs better. Perhaps something else is involved as well, 'Essence du Au 24'! Who knows? That'll have to do for now.

Blue Circle CS integrated amp with Harbeth Compact 7's, Harbeth HP3's, Spendor S 3/5's, and Reynaud Twins. I discovered a couple of months ago in auditioning both the Spendor S 3/5's and Harbeth HP3's, two popular descendents of the beloved LS3/5A, that Blue Circle's $1150 integrated amp, the CS, can be both a very good and an ornery spouse. It loved the Spendors, it stared crossly at the less sensitive Harbeths. A month ago, with too much time on my hands and a pair of Harbeth Compact 7's collecting dust in the guest room while I wait for Garnet Lewis to recall them for his own use, I tried the CS and the 7's - and now pronounce them man and wife. Absurd. The speakers are twice as expensive as the amp and their RADIAL midrange/woofer brooks no bad behavior upstream. Doesn’t seem to matter. The great god Synergy has her own rules. Except for predictably less impressive bass performance (the CS has one-third the AG's power and is single-ended), the 7's actually sounded better in at least one way with the CS than they did with my many times more expensive and more accurate overall Blue Circle AG electronics. In a word, I don't hear the slightly recessed upper presence region here as I do with the AG's. Do they fill it in? Pass over it in silence? Since I wrote this, as you know, I have also heard the CS with Reynaud Twins III and found that marriage excellent as well. I do not yet know, from personal experience, what the CS cannot do well, beyond being not so hot with the fairly hard to drive Harbeth HP3's. It has to be the amp to be beat under $2000.

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