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December 2013
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Audience Au24 SE Cables
No fancy window dressing or exaggerated physical size, just great sound.
Review By Anthony Nicosia

 

Audience Au24 SE Cables  Founded in 1977 by John McDonald and the late Richard Smith Audience has established itself within the high-end audio community as a no frills let the product speak for itself company. There are lots of audio cables on the market today unlike back in the early 60's when choices were extremely limited. As there are many different cable manufacturers equally vast are the range of pricing within these brands. You can buy inexpensive interconnects, loudspeaker or Phono cables and power cords or if you prefer spend your money on mega buck products as well as choosing from a whole lot of in-between products. Where do these particular Audience cables fall, definitely on the higher side of in-between but still way shy of mega buck territory. You might rightly ask why not buy those lower priced cables since they all do the job of allowing the signal to flow through to produce music. The answer my friends is yes all cables do that to a degree, kind of like all cars can get you to your destination. Would you however rather drive a Nissan Sentra (nothing wrong with that) or a Ferrari 458 Italia; I'm in for the later. If you can afford it go for the cables that give your system the most benefit, otherwise spend less and be happy about it. Fortunately Audience has some excellent cables that won't force you to take out a small second mortgage. At the time of this writing a pair of 2.5m Au24 SE loudspeaker cables BFA-BFA will run you $2295 while a 1.0m run of Balanced XLR-XLR interconnects cost $1895 or only $1190 if you opt for RCA-RCA termination. As for the phono interconnects my review pair of the High-Z DIN-RCA terminated cable cost $1395 for a 1.0m run. The Au24 SE Power Cables will run you $2420 for a six foot length. The rest of their product lineup, starting with the Conductor series, comes in at a cost considerably less.

Being the owner of Conductor interconnects and loudspeaker cables, I can attest to the fact that even these much lower priced cables are very good performers. Points being you do not have to spend big money to outfit your system with cables from Audience.  Now however after hearing their new Au24 SE lineup the upgrade bug has bitten me and I have my eyes fixed heavily on them. The nice thing about the SE's is they sounded great right out of the box and placed in my system cold with no break-in time before listening. A lot of people get caught up in the hype of how various manufacturers make their cables so special and the design philosophy behind each decision. Me, I let the engineers and scientists sort out the hows and whys but rather just concentrate on the end conclusion. If a boxer walks into the ring and throws either a left hook, jab or overhand right to deliver that winning knockout blow what's the difference, the victory is his (or hers). The fighter trusts the trainers to devise plans before the fight and measures their worth at the end of the day based on the decision in the ring. For a cable to sound good it must let the music flow through as untouched as possible and without outside tampering. Just keep that nasty EMI (electromagnetic interference) at bay and do not impede the signal in any way. Maybe it sounds easy, but it's not.

 

Some Details
First let us look at the quality of construction and appearance.  All Audience interconnects, single ended or balanced, are only 4mm in diameter, that is 1/8 inch for those not overly found of the metric system. As for loudspeaker cables, it's the same, 4mms and again pencil thin. To my wife and me the new cables were a welcomed addition to our humble home. Cables that are thin and easy to bend that do not call attention to themselves due to their large size are always welcomed around our house. I remember having "garden hose" thick loudspeaker cables running across the floor and thinking it would be nice if cables could do the same sonically while looking a whole lot "neater". Well my friends those cables can be found right there on the Audience website. Not only was their minimalist approach to design refreshing but custom Audience XLR connectors looked marvelous as they fit snuggly in place. RCA connectors were a tad simpler in appearance while claiming a low contact resistance; yet still providing an excellent grip on my gear. Rhodium plated spade connectors are available on the Au24 SE loudspeaker cables but I opted for BFA to BFA termination. Again these looked sleek and fit tight. As for the Phono interconnect it was their High-Z RCA-RCA model that fit the bill in my system. If you need XLR termination it is available at an extra charge. In order to assure that you get the best possible Phono cable to place in your system they make three-impedance matched cables to choose from.

"Each model is designed to carefully optimize the electrical characteristics of the cartridge to the cable and to preserve signal flow to the phono stage without detrimental influences as follows:
 Low Z – for moving coil cartridges with internal resistance up to 30 ohms.
High Z – for moving coil cartridges with internal resistance between 30 and 100 ohms.
MM – for all cartridges with internal resistance above 100 ohms which includes high output moving coil cartridges rated at 47k ohms and most moving magnet or moving iron models."

My recommendation is to send them the information on which cartridge or cartridges you use, and then let them offer you a suggestion. I originally felt the High Z would work best with my Lyra Delos Moving Coil cartridge and they concurred, with the caveat that that cartridge might actually be borderline High Z or possibly Low Z. We went with the High Z version and it worked wonderfully.

Lastly let us not forget their Au24 SE power cords; four of them arrived at my doorstep to use in my system. The SE's AC connectors are Cardas' new Rhodium plated copper connectors that have been cyro treated by Audience.  The fit was snug, secure and tight on both ends. Low impedance and flexibility is how they built them and while not as thin as their loudspeaker cables they easily bent around corners and where a pleasure to work with.

"The Au24 cables are constructed of OHNO continuous cast single crystal copper conductors with polypropylene insulation and cross-linked polyethylene jacket material. Relatively few people are aware of the role geometric configuration plays. If a given cable is not optimally configured to perform the task it was designed to do it will never sound as good as a cable with the correct physical/electrical characteristics regardless of which exotic materials are used in its construction. All Audience cables and especially the Au24 series are designed for low eddy-current resistance. This is the key electrical characteristic for good time response."

The following explanation and this video link was sent me from John McDonald to explain the relationship of a Low Eddy Current design in regards to audio performance. Eddy current reduction, importance to audio cable design...

"When an audio signal flows through wire, the magnetic fields associated with the signal, are shorted or interrupted by the conductive material. The result of this action is the generation of an opposing field phenomenon called eddy currents. Eddy currents then collapse back upon the conductor, generating a time delayed signal, a form of distortion. The period of the delayed collapse is based upon eddy current resistance, that is directly associated with the strength and speed of the signal and the mass of the conductor.

To illustrate this, we pass a magnet whose fields represent audio signal fields, through a copper tube that is representing the conductor for the audio signal. What you see is the interaction of the magnet fields with the copper. The magnetic fields generate a current in the copper in direct proportion to the field's speed, strength and the resistance of the copper. Changing any one of these parameters affects the outcome. This induced current in turn generates its own opposing magnetic field that resists motion of the magnet. This is known as eddy current resistance. Eddy current resistance is such a powerful force that it is often used in braking systems to stop trains.

To demonstrate the effect of increased eddy current resistance, we pass the same magnet through a thicker copper tube. The greater the mass of an electrical conductor, the greater the eddy current resistance. This means that the collapse of the opposing eddy current field happens at an even later time, resulting in a greater smear effect of the audio signal. This is why, the timing and coherence of an audio signal is directly affected by the conductive mass of the cable. The thicker the cable, the greater the eddy current resistance and induced distortion.

As in any resistance, the induced eddy current energy is converted into heat and is lost forever - it cannot be recovered. Lower mass cables and cable connectors minimize eddy current resistance. As such, Audience believes this to be as important as any other design parameter for optimal performance of audio signal cables."

   

RCA And XLR Analog Cables
Audience Au24 SE CablesIn this section all notes were based on using single ended cables from my power amplifier and balanced cables from the CD player to preamplifier. This decision was based on the OPPO Digital universal players tendency to sound a bit quieter in balanced mode rather than in a single ended configuration. Listening to The Ultimate Luther Vandross [J Records/Epic/Legacy 88697 25687 2] on the track "Take You Out" it was immediately clear that the soundstage appeared quite wide. Also noteworthy was the cables ability to reproduce good depth with regard to the soundscape. The Au24 SE's not only gave the musical landscape a good holograph presentation but seemed to scrape away some of the haze surrounding vocals as well. Not that my system hid much before but never did voices sound quite so clear. It can best be described as when one hears a true state of the art system for the first time. Up until then you thought your mid-fi setup was just fine, later to only come to the realization that there can be so much more. "Any Love" was transformed as if having a face lift, with the bass notes "firming up" to become tighter and stronger. On the CD The Mormon Tabernacle Choir [CBS Masterworks MK 37206] layer upon layer of performers were laid upon the stage in front of me in a realistic manner. Ladies on the left, gentlemen on the right all clearly voiced and when the occasional horn section rang through did so with the proper sense of pitch. While differences between cables can be subtle it is this type of an increase in performance which audiophiles seek when fine tuning their system.  With my equipment they leaned more on the revealing side rather than sounding as if tuned to be pleasing but not overly accurate. Those that will step up and buy these cables will probably fall into the category of seeking a more accurate presentation of the original performance and are willing to invest the time and money into the necessary associated equipment to go along with them. Once done the rewards can be great and worth every penny spent.

 

Loudspeaker Cable
Audience Au24 SE CablesYou have to love these cables, ultra-thin yet packing a powerful punch. Once again like the companies interconnect they do not look impressive from the perspective of their physical size. In fact they reminded me of a jockey, powerful yet compact. Even though thin in appearance the Au24 SE loudspeaker cables never did fail to convey the proper weight of music and were a great joy to have in my system. There was never an overabundance of bass but rather just the proper mix within each song. They actually surprised me with how deep bass notes sounded played back through my Magnepan 3.6R loudspeakers, which are not normally revered for its lower frequency strengths. Do not think that these cables were a one trick pony though, oh no. They were equally adept at reproducing mid-range and high frequencies. One thing of particular interest to me was the cables ability to lock-in a great center imaging within the soundstage. "Sing For You" on the Tracy Chapman CD Our Bright Future [Elektra 514061-2] found her vocals correctly filling the space between my two loudspeakers which seemed to melt away. Not fond of gear yielding forward images that seem to throw the performance at me; these cables gave an overall presence that was natural and realistic. It felt as though a pleasurable center row 7th seating effect was on hand, not too close but yet not too distant either. As they said in the fable of the "Three Little Bears", this one felt just right. Do you like your rock and roll? Well then a listen to the AC/DC Black In Black [Epic EK 80207] CD would be in order. Here on the opening track the chiming of a large bell tolling was revealed in great splendor as its echoes overlapped the sound of fresh ringing just as if in a church steeple. With these sounds bouncing back and forth into each other the opening guitar riffs of Angus Young and later Malcolm Young laid down their tracks accompanied by the drumming of Phil Rudd. The SE's kept it all together with each layering of the performance sounding uniquely distinct and in proper placement. This was truly a great holographic experience from a classic rock song.

 

In Steps The Audience Au24 SE Phono Cable
It was now necessary to switch the Audience Au24 SE cables around so I had enough to outfit everything for the review. Power amplifier to preamplifier connections were switched from Single Ended to Balance mode so that the Single Ended cable could be used to go from Phono Stage to preamplifier as my phono stage had no XLR connections. Power Cord for the VPI turntable had the Audience Au24 SE substituted in and the High Z Phono Cable connected my VPI Classic 3 turntable to the Phono Stage. After this switch it was possible to experience an all Audience SE Phono cable musical event within a proper setting.

Courtesy of a gift from my friend Len Kinsey over at Blue Moon Audio in Pacifica California, came a Japanese pressing of Grover Washington, Jr's Winelight [Warner Pioneer Corporation Inc. P-10974E]. I love this album and back in the 1970's had a chance to see him at an outdoor concert in Berkeley California. What a great concert that was and how beautiful this album now sounded. Here the SE's did justice to his Saxophone, as it followed his lighting quick movements yet constantly remaining every so smooth. No brass harshness was evident as song after song carried me away to a more relaxed place then I have been to in quite some time. When he hit and held onto those high notes, it was sheer poetry. Was he actually there behind my loudspeakers playing just for me? Why even my wife came by and asked what was new. Glancing over I could see her head moving to the music, courtesy of Audience, now you cannot argue with that.

It seemed an appropriate time to place an equally fantastic record on the VPI turntable with a recording from 2L, the Mozart Violin Concertos [2L-038-LP].  This amazing piece was recorded on location at the Selbu Church in Norway on May 2006 by Lindberg Lyd AS. If violins are not presented in a manner pleasing to my ear it just does not work for me. Everything has to be just right, the recording, the room and the entire system. With the SE's in place all was correct with the world as the listening session ran on for hours as it was just too hard to resist not playing both sides of the LP over and over. The enormity of hearing a concert in a large church environment over that from a recording studio was not lost on the SE's as beautiful waves of music poured forth from my loudspeakers. The true quality of the violins tonal aspects became so clearly evident that listening sessions with this recording took on a newer more interesting meaning. I was drawn into the concert discovering new and exciting characteristics of the recording as time marched forward far into the night. The cables added that bit of extra excitement to the music with which I could enjoy each performance anew.

 

Power Cord Insertion Into The System
Audience Au24 SE CablesAn Audience Au24 SE power cord was in constant use throughout this review process, connecting an Acoustic Revive passive power conditioner directly to the wall outlet. Plugged into that conditioner was either turntable or CD player as they shared the SE power cord as needed. Amplifier and Preamplifier were given their own dedicated SE Power Cords and plugged into Audience's own Audience aR2p-TO Power Conditioner, another favorite product of mine. People often ask me, "Do power cords really make a difference?" The answer to that of course is yes they can, within the right system and with a listener who cares to pay attention. Substituting the factory power cord from my Aesthetix Saturn Calypso Preamplifier for the SE's certainly got my attention. Like interconnects there are plenty of power cords around my house, mostly of an aftermarket variety collected by me over the many years. Each one does something slightly different to my perception of the music and it is difficult for me to part with any of them, I am a hoarder after all. Do not ask how many amplifiers or preamplifiers I have, and loudspeakers of my yes.

Playing with various cables told me one thing, these Au24 SE's are something special. Once inserted into the system they allowed my preamplifier to "breath" and expand the musical experience. It was like putting an aftermarket exhaust system on a high performance car. Instead of holding back all the racecars power (harnessed at great expense). Music was no longer bottled up but instead is free to express itself. The soundstage experience was enhanced with an added layering of depth and performances exhibited a greater sense of power as evident on tracks from the Carlos Santana's Supernatural CD [Arista 07822-19080 2]. Placing the power cords on CD player, preamplifier and power amplifier added to the experience and in my opinion justified the price of outfitting the entire system rather than just one component. Again cumulative effects pushed the one single effect just enough over the edge as to make the difference worthwhile. My Magnepan's 3.6R's which are very sensitive to changes upstream proved quite revealing of the abilities of these cables.

 

In Steps A Different Preamplifier
Being that my Aesthetix Saturn Calypso is a hybrid tube/solid state preamplifier it kind of nagged at me how these cables might react to a pure solid-state design. Since the Proceed AVP preamplifier shares time within my system, in its two channel mode, my thinking was why not give it a go as well. Loudspeakers, preamplifiers, amplifiers and cables all switch in and out of my room at any given moment just for the pure enjoyment of experiencing different gear. A listen to YO-YO MA & FRIENDS Songs of Joy & Peace [Sony Classic 88697-24414-2] quickly revealed the difference these Audience AU24 SE cables made with regard to the Proceed. The opening track of "Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace)" took away some of the harshness found in the upper frequencies of the Cello. At the same time the lowest notes seemed to dig down a bit lower while sounding clearer and more distinct. With regard to vocals, Diana Krall's voice on "You Couldn't Be Cuter" appeared sharper as if a thin layer of haze had been removed from the recording. All in all the difference was quite distinct. My Proceed preamplifier now sounded as if it had been given a major upgrade. It was difficult going back to my other cables after having heard the sonic improvements and true capabilities of that preamplifier stemming from the interaction of it with these new cables from Audience.

 

Conclusion
This of course was the moment to wait for, when all four cylinders fired together in unison, Single ended/Balanced interconnects, loudspeaker cables, Phono cable and power cords. As expected and as my son used to say, "Sweet".  It is the culmination of many little changes in our hobby that when properly put together can create a vast improvement.  So it was with this pairing of cables which made for a very positive and easily perceivable change in my review system. Not quite have the funds allocated to purchase everything quite yet? Well my recommendation would be to purchase loudspeaker cables first, interconnects second (XLR or RCA) and then power cords to round everything off. Your needs of course may vary. Either way what a great system of cables, sounding phenomenal while also helping with the overall appearance of your room with their simple uncluttered appearance. Definitely thumbs up! John McDonald hit the proverbial nail on the head when he said, "The Enjoyment of Music is at the heart of every audio component that we make." Listening to the cables from Audience I would have to whole heartily agree. The design team did not go in for fancy window dressing or exaggerated physical size in order to justify the pricing structure. Instead they marketed incredible sounding products to then let audiophiles the world over decide their fate. I for one stand tall in saying the Audience Au24 SE lineup is truly world class sitting high atop my list of products worth owning.

 

The Listening Environment
The review room is 18' 8" long by 13' wide with loudspeakers and equipment kept on the short wall. The cathedral ceiling starts at eight feet on the short wall slopping upwards to reach a height of thirteen feet in the middle than returning to eight feet at the opposite end. The hardwood floor is partially covered by a nine by six foot oriental rug lying down the long ways facing toward the loudspeakers, placed dead center between but not under the listener or the audio rack. The room has no doors but there are two openings. One opening is in front of the right loudspeaker on the long wall giving access to the hallway the other behind the listening position to a formal dining area. There are three large floor standing acoustical panels one in each corner of the short wall behind each loudspeaker the third located behind the listening seat slightly off to the left.  Numerous Auralex Studiofoam panels are placed around the room on the walls and two floor standing GIF Tri-traps in each of the two corners in the rear of the room.  All the audio equipment is located in a Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack placed about a foot away from and in the middle of the short wall opposite the listening position.

 

Review Equipment
Von Schweikert VR-35 Export Deluxe Loudspeaker
Magnepan 3.6R Loudspeakers
McIntosh MC452 Power Amplifier
Aesthetix Saturn Calypso Preamplifier
Proceed AVP Preamplifier (for surround and two channel, used here in two channel mode) 
Musical Surroundings Nova Phonomena Phono Stage
VPI’s Newest version of their 16.5 Record Cleaning Machine
VPI Classic 3 Turntable
Lyra Delos Moving Coil Cartridge
Audience aR2p-TO Power Conditioner (connected to amplifier and preamplifiers) 
Acoustic Revive RPT-4 Ultimate Power Supply Box
Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack

 

Specifications
Type: Analog interconnect, speaker and power cables
Audience Au24 SE Loudspeaker Cable:
Pricing: 2.5m Au24 SE Loudspeaker BFA-BFA, $2295/pair

Audience Au24 SE RCA Interconnect:
Pricing: 1.0m Au24 SE Audio Interconnect RCA-RCA, $1190/pair

Audience Au24 SE XLR Interconnect:
Pricing: 1.0m Au24 SE Balanced Interconnect XLR-XLR, $1895/pair

Audience Au24 SE Phono Interconnect:
Pricing: 1.0m Au24 SE Phono Interconnect High-Z DIN-RCA, $1395

Audience Au24 SE Power Cord:
Pricing: 6 ft length $2420

 

Company Information
Audience 
120 N. Pacific Street #K-9
San Marcos, CA 92069

Voice: (760) 471-0202
Website: www.Audience-AV.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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