Discovery Cable Company
Essential Loudspeaker Cables
Review by Karl Lozier
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Joe DePhillip's Discovery Cable products came onto the high-end audio scene almost fourteen years ago. In his advertising Joe did not (if my memory serves correctly) make any outrageous claims or claim any new discoveries or new materials used uniquely in Discovery cables. At that time he had four competitors in the cable field. His company and advertising has always seemed to be low-key. In person, when questioned he is the same say, "trying to make an excellent cable that is very competitive with the "perceived best and most expensive cables" at a significantly lower price. In essence, that goes for both Discovery's interconnect and their loudspeaker cables. Incidentally, Essence is the name of Discovery's top model interconnect!
The review samples of the relatively new top-of-the-line Essential model are attractive enough but certainly not eye-catching. They have a typical diameter for loudspeaker cables. They are definitely not as thick as Kimber's Select series or as Purist Audio's Dominus series. The outer PVC covering is perfectly smooth giving no hint of underlying braiding or twisting. The tough outer covering is as black as black gets and probably appeals to dedicated audiophiles. My taste definitely leans to the beautiful light blue of the Discovery
MK. II and I believe the Plus Four's rich purple/violet color. The last five inches of the cables do not have the outer covering and reveal multiple twisted wires covered in bright red on the plus group and a gleaming white on the negative group. My samples had high purity copper with direct gold plated spade connectors. Banana plugs and pins are also available. The spades were not perfectly smooth with the gold plating soft enough to intimately adapt when tightened.
For your information, the gold plating on the spades is not directly a conductivity enhancement. Copper is a better conductor than gold - no matter what you may have been led to believe - but copper can oxidize and degrade the connection noticeably. The gold does not oxidize. Audio purists have been known to grind off gold plating (definitely not advised as then the spades must be cleaned thoroughly and regularly). Some years ago, while researching information about metals, I found a textbook statement that high purity silver does not oxidize (tarnish) - unless exposed to impurities in the air! Anyone know where to find pure air? As always, silver was listed as the best conductor, copper almost as good and gold well back in the pack.
With its relatively thin overall diameter and great flexibility hookup was a snap. The spade connectors are a typical size, not one of the maxi-size ones with huge contact areas that at times creates hookup problems in tight spaces. As is my norm, I let the Discovery Essential cables burn-in for a bit more than forty-eight hours. I did not notice significant improvement with continued use. Some day I am going to remember to request an extra pair of cables from the manufacturer and after a few hundred hours of burn-in plus listening use, compare them directly with the other untouched pair. Unfortunately, I always forget to ask. Oh well, a failing memory is probably a great deal better than no memory.
I really had little idea of what to expect with my listening evaluations. I realized that I had not ever had any of Discovery's loudspeaker cables to listen to in my home - interconnects, but not their loudspeaker cables. Their Essence model interconnects, I remember as basically neutral in tonal balance with fine performance and no negative qualities.
The Discovery Essential loudspeaker cables shared many of the qualities I remember about the Essence interconnects. Overall I have not heard its equal at a lower price. It does not take extensive listening comparisons to rank the Essential cables superior overall to the last few loudspeaker cables I have reviewed in the past year. That would include Harmonic Technology's Harmony Wave and Ecosse's ES 2.3 model; this is to be expected, as each is only a fraction of the price of the Essentials by Discovery. Extensive comparisons with my usual reference Kimber Select Series KS3035 at more than twice the Essential's price were done. In this rather exalted price range, the Discovery's loudspeaker cables must be regarded as almost moderately priced. Listening to entire albums first with one and then the other immediately after, gave subtle but repeatable audible results. The results were the same and unchanging no matter the testing order. As typical in my experience, the results were the same when comparing recordings of vocalists (male & female) jazz and various classical orchestral selections. Comparing individual passages yielded essentially the same results repeatedly.
Compared to my more expensive reference loudspeaker cables the Discovery Essential was overall very, very close. In certain audible parameters the two were practically identical. The few areas of slight differences (and who can say with certainty if the differences are just that and neither better or not) start with the upper bass range. In that octave just below the range of a baritone (Frank Sinatra for example), the Essential is just a tad (relatively speaking) on the lean side and not audible on vocals. Tad is a common southern word and of course is short for tadpole, an extremely small critter as critters go. A second very slight difference is somewhere around the top of the mid-range or lower treble range that adds a tad of brightness, brilliance or sparkle to the top third of the audible range. These are simply statements of fact as I hear them. Last evening, a casual listener situated off axis of the right speaker had a definite preference for the very slightly different sound of the Essential loudspeaker cables from the Discovery Company.
That last sentence pretty much tells all that is important here. The Essential model is competitive overall with the best of more expensive cables - it simply does not sound quite identical to them. The Discovery company, responding to the need for more and often longer cables in home theater systems, is now developing some less expensive models that will retain most of the audible quality of their Essence interconnect and these reviewed Essential loudspeaker cables. Joe DePhillips says that the construction of the aforementioned products is actually very similar, though the loudspeaker cables do not need all the shielding of their interconnects and therefore are a bit less expensive to manufacture. Each conductor has a proprietary stranding technique for the individual strands. This stranding technique breaks up the tendency to pickup radiated interferences of any kind. Then the six positive and six negative conductors are wrapped around a center hollow Teflon tube. I believe each conductor is 18 gauge. Half are wrapped in a right hand lay and the others are wrapped in a left hand lay. This technique is used to keep capacitance low. Then the tough smooth PVC outer layer covers and protects all. Terminations are added at both ends and the result is the "Essential" loudspeaker cable by Discovery.
If I were trying to apply our numerical rating system to the Discovery Essential cables it would create real difficulties. My system requires a particularly full or rich tonal balance from cables. Other fine but fuller sounding systems could be improved with the Essential, which in other aspects is extremely competitive. In my system a tonal rating might be 80 and in another system, 90. All that ties in with value and even though a bit on the expensive side it can be well worth its price in the right systems. I'll rate value at 85 and fit and finish as a solid 90. If the price is a bit expensive for your system and its fine qualities seem to be right for you, just hang in there as there will be a lower priced model on the way before long.
Twelve conductors spiraled around a hollow Teflon tube
Price: Eight foot terminated pair $800
Discovery Cable Company
P.O. Box 7
Stuart, FL 34995
Voice: (772) 219-7979
Fax: (772) 219-2668