Tara Labs makes some of the prettiest cables I’ve ever seen. They have an upscale appearance with a glittering gold sheen to them. They remind me of Tiger Eye, the semi-precious golden toned stone which shimmers as light strikes it at different angles. The RSC Air Series 1 cabling looks rich enough, but how rich would it sound?
Tara Labs has a rich tradition of developing the lowly wire into an audiophile product. They refer to themselves as, “The Cable Technology Leader.” Their company history states, “Every major innovation in cable technology, from the use of solid core inductors to air-tubes and vacuum dielectric, was done here first.” This is certainly a sweeping statement, which does not encompass the whole of cable development. I think of two cables that I have used, MIT with its passive networks, or Magnan Cable’s ultra thin and wide conductors, as exceptions to that claim. However, the developments achieved by Tara are extensive and noteworthy.
“They all seem to largely ignore each other’s standards, so the audiophile is left wondering which science supports the best sound.”
It seems as though every cable company develops their own testing to verify their cable designs. Taking the two above examples, MIT charts their multiple “poles of articulation,” while Magnan checks the “relative audio time resolution,” of conductors. They all seem to largely ignore each other’s standards, so the audiophile is left wondering which science supports the best sound. The one good thing is that there seems to be a serious effort to crunch the numbers in developing a cable. If I’m going to buy a higher price cable, I want some scientific justification for it, not just the pretty exterior!
Tara emphasizes that their developments are worthy of imitation. Australian Matthew Bond, the company founder, produced breakthroughs in solid core technology, floating unterminated conductors (called the “Temporal Continuum”, which almost sounds more metaphysical than physical!) with user adjustable high frequency, with materials and properties such as rectangular solid core conductors, air dielectrics and vacuum dielectrics.
Multiple rectangular solid core conductors housed in air dielectric are employed in the RSC Air 1 speaker cables.
Think of the Chunnel. (The “Chunnel” stands for the Channel Tunnel underground train system that was built in 1994, connecting the south of England beneath the English Channel to the northern France. –Ed) It has three interconnected tubes, one massive tunnel housing separate galleries for two trains. Similarly, the RSC Air series uses the larger outer housing as scaffolding into which are built the individual galleries for each rectangular solid core conductor. It is a nifty engineering feat, if on a more diminutive scale than the Chunnel.
The RSC Air 1 Series 2 interconnects similarly utilize “hollow channel” construction.
A proprietary “Air Suspension” filament system is used to displace the cable shield away from the conductors which yields “even less dielectric, even more air.” Tara Labs uses their own dielectric material called “Aerospace Polyethylene” or “Aero-PE”, which is claimed to have low dielectric absorption and a quicker return to its natural state, the goal being more sonically neutral than other dielectrics.
Larger, gold plated spades with beautiful, blue anodized aluminum cuffs make for a high-class presentation. I found the spades to be generously proportioned and sturdy. Thankfully, there are much more flexible leads approximately 8” long at the ends of the cables, making connections a breeze. While I had to pay attention not to push the angle of the cable’s dielectric too far, the leads worked perfectly to compensate for the cable’s stiffness.
The RSC Air Digital 75 interconnect is a 75-Ohm single-ended cable created on the same platform as the speaker cables. A 110-Ohm XLR version is also available.
The build quality on these wires was second to none, as fine as I’ve encountered. For reviews, some manufacturers send previously worked over (as in reviewed) cables which can be pretty scruffy; these were immaculate, hermetically sealed specimens – a true joy to behold. I appreciated the professional care with which they were designed and packaged.
Working with the Cables
While quite the cable eye candy, the Tara Labs offerings were somewhat stiff and not entirely easy to work with. There is a sweeping arc to the speaker cables, which if followed works acceptably. It’s when the direction of curvature goes against the dielectric that one has to be cautious. The instructions guard against too tight a turn in the cables, not so much to protect the solid core conductors, but to prevent kinking the dielectric. There is a fair bit of resistance if one moves the cables against the flow, but I found that if I worked cautiously, never pushing past the 5” limitation on the circumference of the bend, everything was fine.
Graciously, Tara Labs provided me a copy of their Cascade Noise Burn-In Disc, which sounded like an audio oscilloscope gone wild – a bunch of static with oscillating high and low notes. It is in reality, “a mix of white and pink noise with tone bursts, harmonic tone and multi-octave square wave sweeps,” according to their press release on the disc. It’s pretty tough to take, so I set it up to run it for days…and closed the door as I left the room.
About four days later I opened the door. The cable had not changed appearance (as if!), but the quality of the white and pink noise had improved substantially! I could hear the square wave sweeps much more distinctly. Ok, I’m B.S.’ing that… It still sounded awful. Infinitely better was the accompanying disc Into the Infinite with live performances of artists produced by Grammy Award winner Jeff Weber. I found it relaxing and incisive in determining the clarity and extent of frequencies this cable can achieve.
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