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Positive Feedback ISSUE 50
july/august 2010

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kubala-sosna

Elation Speaker Cables Revisited

as reviewed by Jim Merod

 

elations

 

 

 

 

JIM MEROD'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
TETRA 606s (also: Apogee Stages, SP TECH Time Piece 1.2s, Vandersteen 2Ce-modified, Acoustic Zen Adagios, van Scweikert VCL-15 monitor reference and sub, Tetra Manhattans),

ELECTRONICS
Z Systems UDP-1, Birdland Odeon-Ag 24-192/SACD Upsampling DAC, Manley Shrimp, Meridian 518 mod plus, Audio Research SP-8 Dahong Seeto version preamplifiers. McCormack 125 Platinum Full-Rev Edition, Nuforce P-9 mono blocks, KR VT600-MK tube mono blocks, McCormack 0.5 "Lady Day" Edition amplifiers.

SOURCES
OPPO DV 970HD, Denon 1650-AR, Pioneer Elite DV-45A , Samsung DVD R135, McCormack CD Drive-plus, Alesis ML 9600 MasterLink 24-96 digital recorder, Tascam RA1000 DSD recorder, Marantz "Professional" Recorder, Tascam RW750 Pro CD Recorder,

CABLES
Nordost Valhalla, Stealth Meta-carbon and Stealth ZERO limited edition, Kubala-Sosna Emotion and Emotion "cryo'd", van den Hull carbon, Acoustic Zen Matrix and Silver Reference "Exact", Magnan Silver Bronze, Silversmith Paladium, Analysis Plus ULTRA PLUS, Wireworld Eclipse III, Audience Conductor, Bogdan Silver Spirit, Silverline "Alan Yun Special Edition" balanced digital, Acoustic Zen MC-Squared, Magnan digital RCA. Kubala-Sosna Emotion, Analysis Plus, Acoustic Zen Absolute. Gargantua, Krakatoa, and Tsunami power cords, VH Audio Flavor 4, Stealth, PS Audio, WireWorld power cords.

ACCESSORIES
Audience AdeptResponse 12 outlet power conditioner and Magnan ultra power strip.

 

Jim previously wrote about the Elations in Issue 47.

Goom-bye!

Next to the "sonic instrument" I most dislike (speakers) I have considerable doubts, merging with not wholly muffled disdain, regarding speaker cables. Over twenty five years, at a pace that grows more rapid, I've slogged through the in-and-out rigors of this season's Most Lauded Speaker Cables Ever and the next season's Blow Your Mind Speaker Hi-End Glory Wire. Much fun (not). Much more educational (forget it).  Much to be suspicious about (yup). Much stupidity (absolutely affirmative).

The unabashed low point of a quarter century of my idiotic hope arrived a dozen years ago when a very expensive cable company (let's call it BBB, "better ball busters") dropped off a hundred pounds of lamp cord in varying lengths wrapped in delightful jacket disguises. These cables were supposed to be the end of the sonic voyage, you dig? They had to be since they were very, very pricey. And we all know that spending more money on an audio product translates directly into better sonic quality. Direct correlation. A can't miss equation. Open your wallet wide and take home a wide open invitation to an audio grand canyon. Shell out your bucks. Step off the canyon rim.

Sayonara, chump!

Why Not?

My geezer pal, Mularkey, always asks me that question: "why not, huh?" Doesn't make any difference what the issue is (especially with new gear). Why not? Huh? As, for example, Mularkey snags a "slightly used" multi-thousands of dollar tube preamp on the internet from some dolt who, he's sure, didn't know what a fantastic bargain he just handed ol' Mularkey. Five grand for a chrome-finished box with nice glowing lights inside.  My pal hooks it up and invites me over. We listen and, after fifteen minutes, I mention that the "nicely broken in" preamp is somewhat short of bottom octaves compared with the cheaper pre he just un-loaded in his garage sale.

Thankfully, this story has a (momentarily) decent conclusion, because Mularkey recently found audiophile religion by listening closely before plunking out his cash. Better yet, he started out in search of ways to build a genuinely engaging sound system with "el cheapo" gear.  Mularkey made out like a stealthy bandito and, for less than $1500, now has a CD-based audio system that sounds very much like music. I'll laugh or choke myself silly when (if) he remembers to thank me for assistance... ah, but that's my point, you see: this sport of high end (rear-end) audio is not about glory or money or any human proclivity so much as generous enjoyment of life's second best past time: digging great music.

Genuine "No B. S." (Take No Prisoners) Speaker Cables

I can name a handful of "very good" speaker cables, but—when the issue is truly world class speaker wire—perhaps two are possible to rank, in my (somewhat exhausted) experience, as "truly world class."  I'll forego discussion of a relative newcomer to the (potentially de facto) state of the art in order to look closely at the Reigning Leader of the speaker cable universe as I hear it: Kubala-Sosna Elation speaker cables.

For quite awhile I've enjoyed the warm transparency and highly detailed musical reality of K-S Emotion speaker cables. Those blue cloth-enclosed fat guys are a wonderfully hilarious partner for great speakers and superior sound systems.  In one word, I'd characterize their audio landscape as joyful. I've found that it's almost impossible to find anything not to like (not to thoroughly enjoy with maximum respect) when those sound- and music-friendly behemoths go into the rig.

Frankly, I'm certain I could live with those wires without any real sense of sonic deprivation or musical diminishment... until, that is, I plopped the new Elation speaker cables into their essentially permanent place in my main system. {Note here that an equipment reviewer is forced (blessed) to swap out gear, wire, and associated ancillaries as part of his or her analytic fun.} But, wow... these even more bulky Elation cables have climbed to the K2 pinnacle by the oldest, strategy imaginable: less is more.

elations

To digress uno momento: I challenge any serious audio listener to a friendly wager (say, six four packs of Boddington's ale, coming here, against a fifth of Johnnie black, going there) that, in a blind shoot out with speakers that are not over-damped or underwhelming dynamically, the K-S Elation speaker cables will best any cable at any price in sheer musical pulchritude, musical texture, dynamic heft and complete audio vivacity.  K-S "Emotion" speaker wire is a bad ass party animal that resembles the nearby champion race horse, Zenyatta, stabled at Del Mar after her eighteenth straight victory. Emotion wire is athletic and indefatigable with musical cheer. It seems to be smiling when you install it. "Emotion" cables put a smile on your face because, somehow, they make music feel more... well, "musical." The newer Elation, however, has that ne plus ultra lyrical magic which is damned hard to define precisely. Without exaggeration, "Elation" speaker cables appear to be directly affiliated with the self-confident aesthetic cockiness that Duke Ellington used to call a hipster's "groove" and which Count Basie boiled down to the "pat your foot" factor. The only cable that outperforms Emotions are the authentically expensive—as in audiophile Rolls Royce expensive—Elations.

Less Is More ?

Kubala-Sosna's Elation cables live up to their joyful name. Isn't elation what music intends to create or, at least, approach? Foregoing such lofty philosophical height, one is stranded in the dessert of inadequate terminology to describe what these loveable, fiendish, and fantastically respectful (of sound and music) cables are up to. Believe me, they are up to something you may not be prepared for. The better the audio system, the more these cables strut their innocently wicked mojo. Remember my challenge a moment back? Bodington's ale for me when you lose your feckless wager against these pricey priceless wonders. What the hell did Howard Sosna and Joe Kubala put in these beautiful (if, also, industrial-strength looking) pythons? Whatever it is, the fundamental laws of electromagnetism have apparently been stretched to the point of Maxwellian-Heisenbergian war page. Is it possible for ordinary "real world" objects, such as audio cables (how mundane) to reflect the logic of nano-subtexts at the Planck scale? Come on, guys... that's surely not the case, right? If it is, how about the K-S guys just coming out with it: "Secrets of Ultimate Sonic Trickery in the Age of Stephen Hawking and Late String Theory-Quantum Loop Gravity Misdirection."

As I ponder that weird, wild publication possibility (a great Christmas present for all the Geeks and Nerds in your family!), it dawns on me that there just may be something thoroughly over the top at work in these Elations... something on the order of a mundane, humble (mere "audio") product achieving a breakthrough into the infinite asymptotic trajectory of cyber hypertopia.

Shit, I'm sorry I wrote that sentence. If it's close to the truth of the brilliant trickery and outright damn-near-mystical sonic results of Elation speaker wire, then I may be vulnerable to permanent razzing from the Sonic Nazis.  Forget what I just said !

Momentary Reconnoitering

Musical jubilation should be the outcome and end of the line virtue of great audio reproduction, an inextricable partner to all musical experience. Thus, consider these related terms of melodic and harmonic endearment. Euphoria. A profound gas.  

Zen Focus.

You get my point. These costly new Kubala-Sosna wires earn their way into your heart and mind and soul. They are "on the side" of musical jubilation. If, indeed, you have a soul, Kilroy, you may discover its elusive proximity to the rest of your life when you set up audio shop with equipment good enough to let these cables shine sonically by way of subtraction.

Why? you ask. Because these bloody amazing Elation cables seem literally to disappear. Seemingly, there is no wire driving your transducer boxes.  Nothing going in. Everything you've never heard with this degree of transparency and immediacy coming out.  I'll betcha you can't find these wires tangled in the musical outcome.

Whatever sonic "coloration" or limitation inherent in your audio set up sits in front of your musical signals—alright, your "electrical wave forms"—that hit your speakers "as music" you will hear, precisely, as ‘coloration' and ‘limitation.'

Elations are the most revealing speaker wires I have heard. Or never heard. Ever. They're not "analytical," as in opposition to "musical." They are the zero degree partner of well recorded, gloriously reproduced music. How much "less" can you achieve than escaping into the void, evaporating (annihilating) the cable messenger?

Let me admit that the degree of sonic enhancement Elation wires bring into play makes your experience "seem like" music simply "appears" at the open point of musical delivery, with your speakers... as if (no kidding!) a sort of impossible quantum entanglement is at work. Music starts at the moment and place of origin; moves through vinyl or digital delivery into preamp focus and amplifier boosting. Viola! It explodes or whispers (waltzes, boogies, or grinds) dream-like with absolute material reality before your startled witness. No wires. No signal-corrupting plumbing. Music at its origin is here. Bang.

And yet there are "wires" in the signal chain !  Pero si muove !

I'm well aware that my amazed pleasure will inevitably be trumped down the road. Someone, without question, will improve the "audio invisibility factor" that is so much the alluring secret of Elation cables. Until that occurs, I am not merely impressed by these absurdly wonderful cables. I'm now at work defending myself from incredulity.

Less Is Absolutely Better Than More

I can cite any master tape, any personally recorded session that I've lived with for a month or for twenty-plus years: delivered through Elation wire the music is more three- and even (somehow) four-dimensional than before.  No less bracing, I now hear, with no confusion or retreat, exactly what each and all of my audio components accomplishes. I hear the sonic truth of each analog interconnect and digital cable in the sonic chain. With spooky consistency, Elation speaker wire in my audio realm has been like Windex cleaning every inch and pane of sonic glass, opening recordings with increased information and beguiling me with more sonic and musical accuracy: more "there-ness" in each recording I play and, most of usefully, hear in my own recordings. I hear every mistake, glitch and less than optimum choice I made. I also hear how surprising, brilliant and outright fantastic the musicians are that I've recorded. They are here with me, closer, more tangible. Buster Williams' enormous bass authority is unrivaled. Tom Harrell's trumpet is heartbreaking with lyrical pathos. Mike Garson's piano sings with his unique touch. With stunning boldness, a Fazioli piano demonstrates its difference from a Steinway. Now, here in my studio, these pianos are present. They are HERE with their magnificent dynamic heft and pianistic decay. More than ever before, I feel connected to music and am genuinely humbled by the good luck of recording so many uniquely gifted musicians... the power and elegance of Kenny Barron's piano; Duke Ellington's unrivaled orchestra; and Sarah Vaughan's inimitable voice. The joy of such immediacy is endless. This is now, no question, the second greatest pleasure on earth.

Despite the "more" I've now testified to, I subscribe to Kubala-Sosna's Zen wisdom. Alas, it arrives with paradoxical bluntness. There is definitely "more" in these new cables. More material (whatever the hell it is). More sound. More "there" right here. More musical bliss. More sonic bulk (not bloat) that somehow creates more joyful audio vividness-with-truthfully-accurate sonic reproduction. Counter-intuitively, perhaps, but Kubala-Sosna's "more" arrives with (at) a zero point where less sonic distortion and blur obscure one's awareness of the cables' innate work as music delivery vehicles. I'm stumbling here a bit trying to say, simply, that these cables in this system for all these many months of constant challenge, doubt, allure and "mixing it all up" have plumbed the this wire's sonic and musical Karma. Should I note that, in a funny sense, Elation cables are shy because they refuse to show off or call attention to themselves? They merely do that ultimate and perfect "audiophile" thing: let music shine, whisper and, sometimes, majestically shout.

If a recent editorial, in Stereophile (Sept., '10) by Stephen Mejias, is on target (and I think it is: i.e., that our present culture erodes intelligence and diminishes thought) then it seems pertinent to add this final kudo for the remarkable Elation wires. Their elegant and truly "noble" audio invisibility—enhancing musical magic, releasing the full voice and erotic flesh of music as seldom heard in musical reproduction—provokes both thought and feeling by the sheer haptic immediacy of their undetectable sonic force.

It's not an overstatement to assert, thus, that intelligent emotion and deeply felt thinking are marks of refined consciousness. To that degree, I'm fully able to regard Kubala-Sosna's Elation cables not only as a bulwark against encroaching habits of eroded awareness, but as a positive contribution to that last bastion of higher human education: Audio Literacy. Here is the bottom line : Anyone who can afford Kubala-Sosna's Elation speaker cables should indulge their refinement and enjoy their enhancement of life at its most vivid. For my part, I cannot imagine plowing ahead without these gallant, magical cables in my musical world. Even old guys can make a wish before blowing out the last candle. Miracles, on occasion, appear. Jim Merod

Elation Speaker Cables
Retail: $6000 first meter, $1200 each additional meter (or $600 each additional half-meter)

Kubala-Sosna
www.kubala-sosna.com
TEL: 973. 993. 1952

Jim previously wrote about the Elations in Issue 47.

 

 

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