We live in a world that is caught up in being glamorous and ostentatious, and let’s admit a good part of our hobby fits these adjectives. To this world, the Audience au24 cables come along like a basic little black dress—one without a celebrity designer label.
When you first unpack the au24 cables and you pick up the thin, wonderfully flexible cable, you might think these are cheap cables. You might think like that until you listen to them. Audience claims to make the best-sounding cables they could, not the most impressive. In fact, if you talk to the people at Audience, they will tell you they tried to use more impressive-looking connectors, but they could not find any that sounded as good as the low mass, gold-plated beryllium/copper ones they ended up using.
A look at their web site gives clear insight into the Audience design goals. Let me share two short paragraphs with you:
“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. Eddy-currents are created by the magnetic field found around a cable when an electrical signal is present. This magnetic field builds up and collapses as the signal varies. When the field collapses it induces an opposing voltage back into the cable. This opposing voltage causes eddy-currents in the conductor. If they could be seen, eddy-currents would look like swirling water in a river. This late arriving, opposing voltage disrupts the original signal by inducing a time-smearing artifact. These effects are clearly audible. Cables that sound “detailed” or “powerful in the bass” are usually victims of high eddy-currents. Eddy currents plus high capacitance can cause a cable to sound overly “relaxed.” The particular type of coloration caused by eddy-currents is dependent on the materials, construction techniques and the geometric configuration of the cable. The Au24 cables exhibit extremely low eddy–current resistance.
Many cables are designed for the lowest possible capacitance. Other cables are designed for the lowest possible inductance. Actually, for properly balanced sound reproduction these inductive and capacitive values should both be minimized and the ratio of inductance to capacitance (L:C) must be optimized. By designing for the lowest possible eddy-current resistance at the correct specific frequency, proper L:C ratio is naturally arrived at and both of these properties are minimized. The result is natural reproduction as heard in real life without added emphasis or editorializing. The Au24 cables may not sound as exciting at first but the virtues become apparent as the listener becomes familiar with them. Perhaps even more importantly, the musical overtones arrive in their proper time relationship with the fundamentals. This creates a more convincing illusion of reality and improves sound staging. For example, when properly recorded, a drummer’s cymbals will now be placed back with the rest of the drum kit instead of appearing to emanate from the speakers.”
You see, I have been an audiophile long enough to remember when we hooked everything up with free wire you were given when you purchased your equipment. The interconnects came in the package with the electronics, and I remember the salesmen walking over to a spool of 10- or 12-gauge lamp cord and asking how much speaker wire you wanted him to cut off for you. These speaker wires and interconnects may not have been the best-sounding, but they were flexible and easy to hook up.
That may be where I started, but I have been down a long road with cables, I remember owning some of Bob Fulton’s cables, Monster Cables, Mark Levison’s silver cables, plain old Romex, Home Depot some color or other, Audioquest, Meitner, Van den Hul, Nordost including Valhalla, Virtual Dynamics “Nite” series, and others I can’t recall. Some of these wires were thick enough to be water hoses; some were heavy enough to lift a light weight preamp or CD player up in the air. Worst of all, some had connectors that were so heavy they broke the less-sturdy binding posts off the speakers or amps.
A Word About Audience
It would be remiss on my part if I don’t mention how wonderful the people at Audience have been to work with. If everyone in high-end audio was so caring and customer service-oriented as they are, I’m sure our industry would reach more people. I know you’re thinking “sure, that’s because you’re a reviewer”, but nearly all of my dealings with Audience took place well before my first review was ever contemplated, and I have owned their cables for several years.
The Audience Cables
In fact, I have used Audience au24 cables as my reference cables for over three years. They are so good I just haven’t thought about them. For most of that time I have used them as a system and that’s how I’m talking about them here. I used bi-wired and single runs of speaker cables, as well as the interconnects and the power cables. I find that as a whole, they are very musical, and I think they all have an honesty to how they sound. So I will not break the review down to each of the cables but comment on the sound of the Audience au24 cables as a complete system.
I have tried other cables; but none made my system sound as much like music as the Audience. They replaced the incredible Nordost Valhalla cables that had replaced the Virtual Dynamics “Nite Series”. Both of the other cables sounded much more impressive on a quick A/B comparison. The Audience au24’s take a more musical approach to sound. They are very coherent and sound natural. They sound smooth but never boring. The people at Audience seem to have spent a lot of time figuring out how to reduce timing errors introduced by many cables, because their cables can sound smooth and yet never smeared, warm yet they let you hear every detail. Still, they never sounded overly etched or overly warm.
If you are used to cables that sound clearer then life (this somehow happens with cables or other equipment that does not let you hear the harmonics of music), the Audience cables may take some getting used to. On the other hand, if you are used to the Audio Note or the Shindo cables, you will be accustomed to a cable that lets you hear more information, including the air and space around the instruments and performers. I think it is not hearing these two things that can make some cables sound so clear and fast. If you are not used to this at first, you may think something is missing with the au24’s and then come to realize that you are actually hearing more information with the Audience cables.
I believe a good example of this can come from the comparison between SACD’s and Redbook CD’s. I have heard people on a quick A/B, thinking the Redbook CD was clearer at first. Upon further listening, they came to realize how much of the spatial information and hall acoustics they were missing when listening to the Redbook CD.
The effect that au24 cable has on a system is to make the music sound honest. They allow your system to just sound more like music than it will with most other cables, regardless of price. I found that I was more aware of a musical performance with au24’s and less aware of how the system was sounding. I don’t know how you will feel about this, but I found it a breath of fresh air in my audio world.
Time For A Brief Confession
I want to make a confession. I would not have come to use au24 cables as my reference cables if it had not been for a series of interactions on Audio Asylum in 2003 between Bob Neil and myself.
I was sure that my Valhalla cables had put away another challenger, even though a very nice-sounding one. Bob encouraged me to put the au24 cables in for a week and then go back to the Valhalla cables. I did and I learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of quick comparisons. The Valhalla was the more spectacular wire, but it did not, over the long run, allow my system to sound quite as much like music as the Audience au24 cables did. In the end, I had to agree that the au24 cables were the best I had heard.
The au24 wire was not always sweet or pretty. It did not always have powerful or tight bass. No, what it did instead was sound more like music with more recordings than most wires. Whether it was a trip to Yoshi’s or over to the city to hear the San Francisco Symphony, the first thing I noticed was never how clear it was, or how extended the top-end was; but I did notice how rich the harmonics were, and how ‘right there’ the sound was. Somehow, this was what the Audience cables allowed my system to do. Again, they just let it sound more like music.
From the rhythmic, driving, dynamic bass, through the lifelike transparent midrange, on up to the very-extended, but never bright top-end; these cable always sounded like music. If your other equipment is up to it, the au24 can give you a wide, deep, and very realistic soundstage that never sounds overdone or phasey. Again, if your equipment has proper PRaT, the Audience cables do nothing to slow down your toe-taping. In fact, all the music arrives coherently with a wonderful sense of pace.
In the end, the Audience au24 cables were simply natural and relaxed cables that made no sacrifices in detail. Their interpretation of harmonics and timbre was simply right on. I don’t want you to misunderstand and think I’m saying these are warm, fuzzy cables. No! Not at all, you will get all the detail that is there, but in a way that is more like live music. These are cables of exceptional value, holding their own with or exceeding the musicality of cables that cost several times their price.
The Review System
Audio Note AN/Es, WGA Ikonoklast Model 3s
WAVAC MD300B monos,
deHavilland Aries 845Gs
deHavilland UltraVerve RC
VSEI 5+ modded Sony 777ES SACD player,
Audio Note CDT 3 Transport and 1.1x Signature Dac
Clearaudio Ambience table with Satisfy Carbon Fiber Arm and Benz Ebony L moving coil cartridge
Audience au24 ICs and Speakers,
Warren Gregoire’s Speaker Cables,
Auditorium 23 Speaker Cables,
Audience au24 speaker cables,
Shindo Power Cords,
Audience au24 power cords
Two of the ISOs built for JC Audio Amps,
and speakers are placed on Sistrum stands
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