Von Schweikert VR-22.

Audio Electronics Constellation Preamplifier; Audio Electronics Hercules Power Amplifier.

Digital: TEAC UD-501 USB D/A Converter; Oppo BDP-105 Universal Audiophile 3D Blu-ray Disc Player.
Analog: SOTA Series II Moonbeam Turntable.

Sennheiser HD650 Headphones.

Interconnects by Audience, Jena Labs. Speaker cables by Audience. Power cables by Audience.

Furutech Flow-28 Inline Power Filter; VansEvers Clean Line Reference Series High-Performance Line Conditioner.


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Positive Feedback ISSUE 70
november/december 2013



Conductor SE Cables - Accurately Delivering the Magic

as reviewed by Timothy Roth


I'm a skeptic when it comes to certain components in the audio chain having magical voodoo powers that can confer some kind of good vibration that takes your system to the next level and makes you want to sit down and listen to a thousand cherished records in one sitting. I'm convinced that people who think zeroes and ones read off of a gold disc sound better than the exact same zeroes and ones read off an aluminum disc (as if the laser, not to mention the DAC, knows the difference) are insane and vulnerable to hype designed to part them from their money. This skepticism, though combined with an open-mindedness that admits I have much to learn and much I could be wrong about (including all the above), and even astonished about, tends to follow me in the realm of gear like cables (especially power cords, which we'll talk about in a minute). I recently talked to an amp repairman in Portland who told me that gold is a great conductor that could really enhance the sound, if all of your cabling is gold straight through and every last electrical path in all your components is made of gold. That is, unless you believe in magic, that electrons shoved through a rusty pipe suddenly improve in sound if the pipe has a gold coating at the end, which costs you an extra sixty bucks. And, as Abbey Road engineer Sean Magee (one of the main forces behind the recent Beatles remastering project) told me recently in an email, use whatever cables you see fit "as long as the electrons don't mind". The question is whether the electrons do, in fact, mind. It would stand to reason that the cable, as an electron carrier, shouldn't change the sound at all. But we know that cables do, in fact, affect the sound. Famed mastering engineer Greg Calbi has noted that changes in cabling always affect the sound of his system, and he knows this from several decades of experience. Actually, there are innumerable factors in cable design that can affect the sound, and the science and art of cable design is extraordinarily complex. So there it is, cables are a crucial component that can dramatically affect your system, especially by degrading or coloring the signal.

The cables I receive from Audience, namely their Conductor SE RCA interconnects, Conductor SE loudspeaker, and four of their powerChord e AC cords, dramatically affected my system. Now this review is going to be brief because I'm not going to give you a story about how I switched out one awesome gold-plated cable for another awesome gold plated cable and it was such an awesome revelation from on high that I went back and dug out records I hadn't heard since I was young that sounded more awesome than I ever remembered and so on and so forth. I'm simply going to tell you what actual differences I noted in the system after installing these cables. When I first hooked up both my Yamaha NS-10M/Bryston 2B combo and my Von Schweikert VR-22/American Electronics Hercules and Constellation amps, one of the first CDs I tried was the 2007 remaster of U2's The Joshua Tree. This is a good album to test your noise floor (e.g., distinguishing tape hiss from system hiss) because the first track, "Where the Streets Have No Name," opens with a keyboard sound courtesy of sonic genius Brian Eno that emerges from nothing and is so extraordinarily textured I hear something new in it every time. The problem was my NS-10s were hissing so loud, and with more-than-decent connectors hooking everything up, all that fine texture was drowned. The VR-22s didn't hiss quite as loud, but they have a much more mellow sound that the NS-10s. This is the point I replaced my already expensive interconnects with the Audience interconnects. The hiss almost entirely vanished, unless you stuck you ear right next to the speaker. The sonic texture was back in full detail.

audience au24 se cables

Gears doesn't understand how these things work, only that they do.

Another problem I was having is that the VR-22s had a somewhat nasally voicing with a mid-range boost that made vocals nearly unbearable when the band was at a comfortable level. This is when David Robinson suggested I swap out all the power cords with the powerChord e they sent me. They sent me five of these things, which I thought was just an error on their part because I really only needed one to power my Oppo BDP-105, which was accidentally shipped without a power cord. Although I couldn't see how power cords could possibly affect the sound of my system, I swapped all of them out for the powerChord e's. I was astonished to find that this switch evened out the VR-22s, though not entirely eliminating the problem, which I attribute solely to the speakers, and that the musical playback was now much more enjoyable. I don't know why or how this happened, I just know the result was definitely a noticeable improvement.

I wish I didn't have to send these cables and powerChord e back, their only "flaw" being I can't afford them right now, because they really do enhance my system in fundamental ways. Perhaps "enhancement" isn't the right word. Audience has won my heart by stating on their website that their results are described by users as "neutral" and "natural." Their goal is to let the beauty and magic that is already there flow through the wires without coloration or degradation. I found these mysterious wires to do just that. Timothy Roth

Audience AV