In this second part of my review of the Aural Symphonics family of cables, I will be describing the progression of effect each Aural Symphonics “Chrono” interconnect has wrought on the sound of my system and the final cumulative effect. I will also be describing the final effect of sound after introducing the Aural Symphonics “Purple v3” speaker cables to the tail end of the signal path.
Having my system fully decked out with the Aural Symphonics Magic Gem v2t and Cappuccino power cords proved to create the ideal, clean, black background necessary for evaluating interconnects and speaker cables. The interconnects I will be reviewing at this time are the single-ended RCA Aural Symphonics “Chrono”. The speaker cables are the Aural Symphonics Purple v3.
The Aural Symphonics Chrono is quite an unusual interconnect. The positive conductor is comprised of multiple un-insulated solid core wires. These solid cores create a massive 8-gauge positive conductor; the negative conductor is smaller. All conductors utilized are cryogenically treated.
Another unusual and somewhat controversial aspect of the design behind the Aural Symphonics Chrono is the fact that it is unshielded. The manufacturer claims that the cumulative effects of the overall design of the Chrono results in a minimal audible sonic signature and also allows it to achieve a low noise and black background, despite its lack of shielding. Unusual as well is the lack of direction indicators on the cable. All review samples of the Chrono I received are terminated with the sonically excellent WBT 0110cu connectors. The Aural Symphonics Chrono are priced at $1995 /1m and upwards from there depending upon length.
My experience with solid core silver cables is such that I expect the break-in period to be long and painful. I was therefore quite surprised to discover that the Chrono’s break-in period was quite minimal, and while there was certainly a pronounced gain in midrange smoothness, bass taughtness, and overall dimensionality, the degree of change in sound was not nearly as pronounced as I have experienced with other cables. I suspect that the reason is likely in part due to the cryogenic treatment of the wire.
Once adequately broken in, I had the task of determining the direction of each cable. This I accomplished in the small set-up I use for breaking-in interconnects. Determining direction is quite straight forward, but time-consuming. Suffice it to say, I marked each of the cables and moved on. For sake of continuity, I utilized my reference system throughout the first round of listening sessions and will be giving my impressions with that as a baseline. I mention this only because during the course of this review period, I had two other power amplifiers arriving for review. One of these enabled me to finalize my overall impression and viewpoint of the Aural Symphonics family of cables taken as a whole.
Once again, as you read this review, please bear in mind that the results I will be describing are system dependent.
The 3-Step program
I first began with introducing the Aural Symphonics Chronos interconnects to the high-level end of the signal path, that is linestage to subwoofers, and linestage to power amplifier. I used ceramic high voltage insulators as cable lifters throughout.
As I settled in to have my first listen, it turned out to be very simple to discern the changes. My Chronos-equipped system now had a decidedly different sonic signature. These are not huge sonic swings, but nevertheless significant. First of all, this cable presented an almost eerie, black background. As I reported previously, this was a major strength of the Aural Symphonics MagicGem v2t power cord. The unshielded Aural Symphonics Chronos certainly left that blackness intact and in an almost act of audiophile defiance, actually seemed to improve upon it. Image width increased to beyond what I had previously experienced with my reference silver cables while image depth initially seemed to improve, but over time I realized that this was not the case. The entire image had actually taken a step back to behind the electrostatic panels.
After making note of the audible changes, room conditions, and volume settings via the very handy digital volume readout, I continued the process. Next, I replaced the interconnects with the Aural Symphonics Chrono, phono stage to linestage, digital player to linestage. Once powered up, I made a quick sound check and that’s when I first encountered the challenge of having no shield on the signal cables. The phono had a pronounced hum and I was receiving some ham radio as well!
Not a good start to be sure. A quick check of my cable routing and I discovered that indeed I had been sloppy. My huge Billy Bags equipment rack holds plenty of gear, but unfortunately, leaves no room for walking to the side of it and to the back in order to visualize where cables are laying and how they are routed with respect to proximity of AC power connections. After powering everything down, I very carefully routed each interconnect and power cord so that they did not come anywhere near each other. I even had to re-position my phono stage on the rack in order to achieve lowest noise possible. In the end, the results were well worth the time spent. The errant noises went away, as did the RF.
With the system now connected throughout with the Aural Symphonics power cords and Chrono interconnects, I had my second extended listening session. Once again, the most striking change from the very beginning is the sense of music emerging out of nothingness. The backgrounds continued to be jet black. With the Chrono now communicating the entire signal path, more pronounced changes to the system’s overall balance made themselves known.
First and foremost, is that the vocal range of the images continued to be clearly about a foot deeper from what I was used to. Image focus clearly improved as did low-level detail. There was also more ambient information being communicated through the speakers as well as fine details that were otherwise somewhat obscured or buried by my reference silver cables. Once I started playing more dynamic material, I realized that my system was now benefiting from improved bass response. Indeed, the sheer explosive nature and weight of the bass was immediately noticeable with my reference amplifier. Later it improved even further when the Pass Labs X350.5 I had in for review was swapped in.
I had never really had any complaints about my system’s overall bass response, but clearly the Aural Symphonics “Chrono” had improved upon it.
On vocal material, once again aided by the battery of female vocals used in my review of the Aural Symphonics MagicGem v2t power cords, a major difference emerged. The reproduction of female voice had taken on a smoothness and liquidity that was significantly better than previously experienced. While the image stayed decidedly “to the rear” of what I was accustomed to, there was more richness and body to the voices. Also, it was clearly evident that the there was greater weight, body, and texture to percussive instruments too. However, it appeared that I may have lost a bit in the upper frequencies. Had I lost a bit of high frequency extension, or was it simply the effect of the change in overall balance of the system? The answers would come remarkably quick as I continued the cable swapping. I noted my findings and powered down the system.
Next, I replaced my silver ribbon speaker cables with the Aural Symphonics Purple v3.
The Aural Symphonics Purple v3 speaker cable is quite an unusual design. It is comprised of a rather complex circuit network of solid core and stranded copper wire that is wound in a helical pattern. This is said to impart an ideal combination of sonic strengths of both types of wire within the same circuit. Much attention is also given to the termination of the cable itself. Using a patented design called “floating conductor design”, it is said to enable the cable to perform uniformly regardless of cable length.
The outer jacket of the wires is similar to the one used on the Chrono interconnect, just a bit smaller and of course, purple in color instead of black. This particular set of Purple v3 speaker cables are terminated with the same superb Cardas Silver spade lugs that my silver reference cables are terminated with. The retail price of the AS Purple v3 is $1,000/1.5m, and upwards from there depending upon length.
Having had two power amplifiers in for review during the same period of time, it was very easy to run a second system and accomplish break-in of these cables outside of my main system.
Having replaced the final remnants of silver ribbon wires out of my system and inserted the run of Aural Symphonics Purple v3 speaker cables, I was ready to settle in to a series of listening sessions with the entire system configured with the Aural Symphonics cables: Magic Gem v2t power cords on all electronics, Cappuccino power cords on the electrostatic speakers, Chrono Interconnects throughout, and finally the Purple v3 speaker cables.
Playing the same series of CDs and vinyls that I used in my review of the Aural Symphonics power cords proved to be revealing. First of all, the addition of the Aural Symphonics Purple v3 speaker cables yielded little change to the overall sound of the system over and above what I have noted this far. I did note that though essentially neutral in character, the Purple v3 was not quite as finely detailed as my silver reference speaker cables. This was especially evident in works such as the “R Crumb” piece from Dawn Upshaw’s CD. It was clear that aside from the slight softening of the high frequencies, there were small aspects of omission. The pristine transparency and rich overtones I am accustomed to from the cymbals was diminished.
This confirms that the entire Aural Symphonics cable “family” have essentially similar sonic characteristics and that indeed, the cumulative effect of these attributes yield the greatest impact on the power cord and interconnect side. Adding the Aural Symphonics Purple v3 to the mix did result in somewhat of a compromise in high frequency performance. This could be more an additive effect of what already exists in the other cables but barely perceptibly so.
Lessons in Compatibility, Synergy, and the art of the Tweak
To recap, thus far the Aural Symphonics cables have yielded a blacker background to the soundstage. In addition, the cumulative effect of each of the cables resulted in a wide and deep soundstage that is highly resolute and transparent. At the same time, the cables yielded cleaner, faster, and more powerful bass, yet softened and slightly rolled off extreme high frequency extension. The vocal range was notably clean, fluid, and silken smooth, while at the same time emerging from a slightly distant image.
Under normal circumstances, this would have been the summarization of the review, end of story. Well, the story doesn’t end quite yet. Extensive listening sessions with this new configuration of cables confirmed my assertions listed above. By that time, one of the amplifiers that I had in for review, the Pass Labs X350.5, was added to the mix. This amplifier change revealed much of what I was hearing as well as provided a partial answer as to why I was hearing these differences.
My reference amplifier, the Sunfire Signature Series II small chassis, is not an entirely neutral amplifier. It was intentionally “voiced” by Bob Carver, its designer. The engineered coloration in the amplifier is in the form of a Gundry plateau in the midrange region. This plateau is a reduction in output of less than 1 decibel and it is centered around 1 kHz. The designer did so with the intention of imparting a “tube-like” effect to the amplifier’s sonic signature. I have come to realize that the choices I made in cables have the effect of reversing the coloring effect of that Gundry Plateau. In other words, the silver cables I normally use are not neutral at all and were in fact, a well-executed “tweak”. They actually have a pushed-forward and lively presence in the midrange as well as a trace of grain in the sound. It was only after hearing the Aural Symphonics cables through a totally neutral amplifier like the Pass Labs X350.5 did I discover what was actually going on.
Through the highly neutral Pass amplifier, the sonic benefits of the Aural Symphonics family of cables I described above became highlighted. The odd recession in the midrange entirely vanished and in fact was replaced with an image that is slightly forward of the horizontal plane of the electrostatic panels, but remained dimensionally expansive, highly focused and involving, smooth, and silken as reported previously. The slight aspects of omission in extreme HF overtone information I attribute to the final addition of the Aural Symphonics Purple v3 remained as originally noted and largely unchanged after the amplifier change.
I would like to state once again that when it comes to cable performance, it is all about system synergy. My unwitting selection of a colored cable to compensate for a colored amplifier can serve as a lesson learned with regards to the challenges and pitfalls of system matching.
Summing it all up
The cumulative effect of the Aural Symphonics Magic Gem v2t and Cappuccino power cords, Aural Symphonics Chronos interconnects, and Aural Symphonics Purple v3 speaker cables is that of expansive and highly focused images, smooth and liquid midrange performance, clean, powerful, and tuneful bass. The Aural Symphonics cable system proved to take my system to a higher plane of enjoyment and performance when injected into my audio system, most especially with the Pass X350.5 amplifier inserted in lieu of the Sunfire Signature Series II.
With respect to my findings, it is important to consider the fact that my electrostatic speakers are 1 dB down at 20 kHz and continue to diminish in output at frequencies beyond that point. I believe that the largely neutral character of the Aural Symphonics cables bring this deficit to light in certain instances and may indeed contribute to the subjective observation of “soft” high frequency response. That said, the sonic excellence of these cables overall completely overshadow this minor quibble. They receive a solid recommendation from me and I opine that they also represent a solid value at their respective price point.
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