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Positive Feedback ISSUE 44
july/august 2009


Following the Audio Avant-garde: Regarding Kubala-Sosna Cables and Audience Speakers
by Jim Merod


First Facts First

Last month's report on Kubala-Sosna's new Elation cables garnered more reader response and follow up commentary from viewers and colleagues than I've experienced for a long while.  The question asked most was on the order of "you're not kidding here, are you?"

Nope, I was not fluffing or exaggerating about the Kubala-Sosna cable breakthrough. The Elation wire is, simply, the most ear-opening and note perfect, flat out musically alluring and sonically accurate cable I've used in any guise, recording and/or mastering + listening.

In fact, I found myself—with so many replies and inquiries to my review coming at me—going back to read my text.  I discovered the salient truth of my review's understatement.

emotion analog speaker cable

I failed to note what may be the single most compelling and astonishing fact of the Elation's performance.  In a nutshell, these cables offer an order of magnitude leap in sonic delivery. They are not just "better" than other great cables (of which there are more than one or two). They are not "like" other cables. There's more sonic and musical "there" there, to invert Gertrude Stein's infamous put down of good old, much beleaguered Oakland, California.

Check It Out Yourself

The most frustrating aspect of writing about sound is how glancing each and every reach toward concrete embodiment becomes.  No one can "hold" the fleeting and mercurial truth of sound and music in a verbal grip.  Words are abstract.  Sound is forceful.  Music is seductive. Neither can be snared and held by syllables and statements.

Nonetheless, the reviewer's task is to try to approximate a stable view of lyric and sonic evanescence.  At least, it appears, my report caught the attention of readers who care about sound and the way in which it is augmented or damaged by the audio cable art.

But you must hear that for yourself... whether it's the financially demanding Elation cables or the budget-pleasing OPPO multi-format disc player.  We know there are genuine audio bargains to be had, just as we know that some high-priced gear is absurdly inflated and, ultimately, a rip off.

My point last month, again now, is to underscore the fact that (for those who can afford them) Elation cables are, ironically, a bargain despite their steep cost simply because no other cables I'm aware of deliver such absolute sonic truth and musical brilliance. However, my words are meant to merely suggest that a reader with the bucks to invest in such a venture CHECK THESE CABLES OUT as soon as possible... because, I suspect it may be the case that the supply of Elation cables may at some point lag behind demand for their glory. 

Why? You surely ask here. Because, put bluntly, the curious fact of cables such as these is the way they enhance both the musical value of your audio experience as well as the sonic quality of reproduction gear they supplement.

Bam-bam! Avant-garde Territory Once Again

A guy schleps along month after month with nothing dramatic to report and then, wham!  Twice in the space of six weeks or so the same dorky guy comes face to face with the Audio Avant-garde. In one sense, my second "close encounter" with the outer reaches of audio reproduction had a slow take off.  It began twelve years ago or so.

Richard Smith and John McDonald at Audience frequently invited me, across many years, to drop by their work place to audition the newest iteration of their evolving line array speakers. On numerous occasions I did just that. In fact, the interview with Richard Smith, posthumously published several years ago in this journal, derived from one of those listening sessions.

Sadly, for Richard, my shared assessments of his line array speaker work was, for the most part, divided (on one side) by sincere encouragement that he and John not abandon their exhausting revisions and (on the other side) by somewhat discouraging evaluations.

Nevertheless, Richard—who was an indefatigable audio designer—remained optimistic, as he should have, and bravely focused on perfecting his speaker work. To his very end, Richard stayed firm and true to his belief that he was on the right path.  One could hear justifications for his faith each and every time a new advance in the line array design was ready for auditioning.

It is a testimonial to Richard's career and to his partner John McDonald's loyalty and good faith (and astute judgment) that those long years of revision have now come to complete fruition with the additional work of Roger Sheker and new A3 drivers (to be discussed in a future moment).

My recent Audience "avant-garde" experience was prefaced a year and a half ago, at CES in Las Vegas, when I heard the large ClairAudient line array speakers at a level of performance that motivated me to publish a glowing review.  Harry Pearson and I separately heard the Audience set up within half an hour or so of one another. I noted to Harry, soon afterward, that I heard a degree of audio transparency in the Audience speakers that outflanked any speaker I'd heard to date—at least, that outflanked any genuinely musical speaker, since on occasions I've encountered marvelously open and transparent panel speakers with restricted range that reduced the full measure of their potential musicality. Harry, as I recall, agreed heartily and noted that the ClairAudient line array actually revealed sonic details of his test disc (Holst's Planets) he'd never previously discerned.

That CES experience with the big Audience line array was just a warm up to my recent cavorting with their ultimate incarnation—an ultimate and wildly successful arrival at the threshold of musical sexuality.

Horrible term, right?  "Musical sexuality"... but, then, that's exactly what, across nearly five continuous hours of hearing my own master recordings, I stumbled upon—as if a bulky old bloke, who lives with the demented illusion of his own permanently-arrested twenty five year old self, can encounter not so much his own youthful pulchritude as the never-waning seductiveness and vibrant sexual tug of live music created hilariously by great musicians and reproduced, hilariously with tactile force, by extraordinary (avant-garde) speakers.

That's what these newly crafted, supremely buffed and tweaked ClairAudient "LSA 16+16" bi-pole speakers concoct: tactile musical force of a sort that makes it impossible for any music lover not to be sucked in, swept up, and transformed emotionally into immediate proximity with surging musical grooves and lyrical kaleidoscopes of shifting melodic shapes.

If that's not an elegant, wholly innocent form of "musical sexuality," what the hell is?

Listening to these bi-pole speakers—no sub in the mix; Audiences' cables and mono-block amps plus an Audience preamp (fed by a seriously modified Denon transport)—was as close to a poignant aesthetic orgasm as anyone (at any age) is likely to blissfully endure in utter isolation.

The Second Time's Another Charm

Now add to Kubala-Sosna's Elation cables another contender for products you might not want to persevere musically without... since the Audience ClairAudient LSA 16+16 bi-pole line array is the Elation's companion-in-exile, a transcendent, utterly revealing sonic partner waiting in the wings.

However that works out (to be explored soon, I hope) I'll share my experience of it here. On the way to that promise of more hilarity, increased musical tactility, and further reversions to youthful heights, let me note that nothing stronger than a taste or two of Belgian beer augmented my recent time with the audio avant-garde noted here, even though the occasion carried the surprise and slam of what I'm told psychedelic sententia offers an unwary witness.

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