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Thursday, April 10, 2014

April - an RCA-plugs survey...

April... yes, it's April... a lapalissian reality, yet... how mysterious when I browsed for a disk, yesterday evening in the dimmed light of my music room, and... Susanne Abbuehl's "April" on ECM dropped in my hands.

This disk truly is a gem of seldom heard quality... but more later about this.

I got a new task, folks: I made out - of vintage, silk-covered Litz ultra-thin wire  - 50 cm long audio cables, using three different RCAs plugs: new KLEI (Keith Louis Eichmann Innovations) premium RCAs, ETI’s tellurium-copper RCAs and no-name, El Cheapos'  RCAs, very light, conventional RCAs which proved to sound surprisingly good, as used in The Peak 12 inches arm.

I planned - having the very same length and Litz wire, carefully hand-twisted, using very same soldering etc. - to test and taste the three different connectors in my system... scientific or not, I listened to both some reference recordings which I know very well, intimately I'd say, and other new, random choosen disks.

I planned to use this short cable run in some sensitive part of my system... mumble-mumble... as very same cable is used in The Peak arm from cartridge to the MC-iron, as I told you, wished to use the same cable, the above descripted, from MC transformer - beloved Peerless 4685 - to Mayer's LCR/EQ-600/WE 437A phono-stage AND between Meridian 563 24-bit DAC and Mayer's Cunningham CX-310 line-stage, alternatively, as a ring-around-the-rosie or a twirl;-)

A survey, an humble, home-made, yet sincere, one… and here are my findings...

These yellow, Litz hand-made cables twirling gave to yours truly shivers and a very exotic pleasure for about three hours... the choice of using Litz/Litz combo in phono didn't prove to be the best one... sound loose authority and overall correctness and that quality of sounding "right", balanced also if detailing improved, but exaggerating the coldness, a by-product of hyper-detailing... sound wasn't true to life and to my ideal, period.

All three Litz cables with the different RCAs had this sonic footprint, while my XLO Phono-Reference immediately re-balanced the relaxed, smooth, airy beauty of Garrardzilla with The Peak arm and Lumiere DST cartridge.

So, I focused my attention to the digital realm: I began with El Cheapos' cable and IMMEDIATELY, not suddenly but with soft-violence (sic...), I got shivers on my backbone.

The above mentioned April disk by Susanne Abbuehl on ECM which I know soooo well sounded just incredible!

Susanne's voice sounded - with my previous reference, a 20 cm run of Cardas wire with Rhodium Furutech's RCAs – like a body-less mouth in space, not a living, breathing female singer, with beautiful harmonics, sibilants and gutturalities, etc.

The body behind the beautiful voice - simply - wasn't felt, but only the voice remained.

All sounds were very clean, BUT to my surprise, after the so-so trial on phono, all the smoothness was here, with a greatly improved detailing, ambience and sense of size of all musicians involved, which almost magically reappeared after being hidden!

The Susanne Abbuehl's disk is a gem, pals... her superb voice is serving E.E. Cummings' poems and Carla Bley's music (YES!) shines brightly, zest-like. 

The piano and percussions, the melodica and clarinet and the harmonium are dynamic, almost limitlessly exploding in my room, from a whisper to a roaring thunder in nano-seconds...

... aehm, I was listening with a (maybe) 5 euros-worth (talking about material, not the time-consuming, annoying hand-twisting of the delicate, fragile, fussy Litz-wire) 50 cm cable-pair... I tried with one of my premium Audio Consulting of Switzerland, box-wood Eichmann Bullet-like RCAs, using cryo-treated solid-core silver 120 cm long cables, quite exotic and expensive strings and...


The sound was really nice, REALLY nice, I mean, but the a.m. described body-restitution SIMPLY didn't happen!

Had to stop for a while... quite frustrated.

After half-an-hour, took away the AC's and put again the El Cheapos' Litz... same disk and tracks and... voilà!

Susanne was here again: voice, mouth, face, right-sized body and all!

Braveheart or lunatic, I repeated the swapping... put in use the yellow Litz with ETI's tellurium-copper and... you won't believe... no, I didn't hear Susanne's hairs and her scent, while in front of the mike, in the studio;-)... no, but the sensation of a flesh & bones body in my room having the real, proper size was repeated, with - as a plus - more sense of air among the musicians, sure recorded in the studio with no over-dubbings.

More breathing, both nose and mouth, resulted more apparent and also if the gain resulted (apparently) slightly reduced, I realized the sense of zestness was improved, and a Mayer's TVC +1 db-step also improved the listening experience.

I also took a deeeep breathe and installed the last yellow Litz, the one using the ugly All Black, Aussie-made (Keith Louis Eichmann Innovations) KLEI Silver/Copper Harmony Phono/RCA plugs.

KL is The Man – omen nomen – the designer and mind behind the ®evolutionary design of this fantastic, strange plugs design…

… and I wasn't prepared to such a shock!

The ECM's disk was the same, everything was THE VERY same... my ears, as well... volume settings, everything was THE same, I swear!

Again, I felt the musicians between the Gotorama and at the outer sides of the speakers, the studio ambient retrieval was amazingly even better and "that" was the parameter which more impressed me... the music flowed weightless and amazingly heavy, dense and juicy at same time: real, beefy, as I began to call this very feature after beginning my sonic adventure with the mighty "The Peak" arm.

Beefy means "with body", a physical, enjoyable sound, not that annoying 2-D, unnaturally light sonic footprint some planar-speakers give... 3-D and correct size... that's beefy  sound.

The KLEI's plugs greatly improved the Litz performance: sure the short run helped... yet, the performance improved and improved further and further from El Cheapos' to ETI's to KLEI's.

Strange enough the silver Audio Consulting's was nicely performing, but loosing the magic of the 50 cm Litz and KLEI's... while being THE Very Best between Hiraga Class As and Mayer's crossover.

Forgot to say or wasn't it clear enough from my above, in-awe chronicle?

The best, THE best of the crop proved to be the KLEI's RCAs with Litz wire... sure un-scientific and un-measurable like the best audio is (...) but, that's what my two ears heard... ahhh, forgettin'... also THE best cable using KLEI's was worth some euros, sure not a billion-costing tycoon cable... but OMG, what a result.

BTW - buy, please buy "April" on ECM, pals... by Susanne Abbuehl

... and definitely NOT April’s Fool on KLEI/Litz cable.

Thanking my friend Lo for the GREAT twisting and soldering job… how would I do without him?

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