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Audience OHNO III speaker cable Review

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OHNO_111_cable-(1)

Just recently I penned a commentary piece bemoaning the state of affairs concerning speaker cables, binding posts, termination and how the twain shall indeed never meet. Keeping the hyperbole to the limit, let’s just say of all the speaker cables I managed to easily plug in and out of speakers and amplifiers, one manufacturer stood out from the rest in being the Universal Donor, the O Negative blood type of my very own speaker cable ecosystem. No contraindications with any of the seven sets of speakers at my disposal. The cables made for a solid, tight connection, but not so tight that they could not be inserted and reinserted with ease, putting the least amount of stress upon the respective binding posts and most importantly, most selfishly, myself. The company was Audience and the speaker cable was the OHNO III.

There’s something to be said for the OHNO III’s tactile nature, their physical texture almost reptilian, which was quite fitting as I lay prostrate snaking them about, in and around the plethora of interconnects and power cables poised to rise up and establish a new order in my home. The stiff nylon sheath works like a treat, not fancy but wholly functional and with the distinct feel in comparison I could route the cables behind equipment racks blindly.

The Audience OHNO III cables represent the company’s entry-level line of speaker cables designed to achieve what they deem to be the highest possible degree of performance without breaking the bank. If you’re like me you’re scratching your head contemplating the significance of naming their speaker cables after an Olympian short track speed skater, Apolo Ohno.

Turns out that while it would make for a cool story, in actuality the cables are named in recognition of Dr. Atsumi Ohno, the man who gave us, the world, the method of manufacturing mono-crystal wire, aka OCC for Ohno continuous cast. Props to #atsumiohno. Conventional copper, that with which we are too familiar, contains thousands of copper crystals per meter. The thinking here is that as the audio signal passes through the crystalline barriers of poly-crystal wire, the conversion of energy to heat results in dissipation. Carrying to its logical conclusion: the measurably lower resistance should net enthusiasts a speaker cable free of conventional poly-crystal copper’s inherent distortion levels.

The OHNO speaker cables are well shielded/insulated. For the dielectric, Audience employs cross-linked polyethylene, aka XLPE. Impressive is the ‘Walt Disney’ approach taken to cryogenically treating the cables to a temperature of -320 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of 24 hours. Let’s take a step back and ponder cryogenics and its effect on audio and what the process is acting upon. What is the chemical composition of these crystals and do these have any impact on audio? In researching not only this product but its backstory, I’ve spent hours re-acquainting myself with High School and University chemistry texts. Noted metallurgists are not in lockstep on this one as they remain unsure whether it is the crystals or the metal itself being affected in the process. Metals possess both electrical and physical properties.

I got to thinking about audio’s copper supply chain and wondered what if, in the process of making spools of copper available to manufacturers, the copper was cryogenically treated from the outset. From what I gather, it does not hurt the metal apart from most likely adding a cost for the treated copper to the manufacturer. That being said, the process need only be enacted once; there is no research I could find to support positive cumulative effects of repeating the process.

The jury is out on this one. It remains something the scientists, the metallurgists and the academics actively and continually debate. Can I point directly to the process of cryogenics making an audible impact on these cables? No. Can I disprove this? No.  #mexicanstandoff

Let’s talk numbers. The set of cables I have here are 3m long and are terminated with bananas on one end and BFA spades on the other, and are priced at $699 for the pair. Now, I have four systems ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. To put the cost of the cables in relative terms: 1.5% of the most expensive system [50K], 1.75% of the next [40K], 7% of  the next [10K] and finally 14% of the barebones entry-level system. That last bit is probably too much to ask, but for the others the OHNO speaker cables really did the job and that speaks highly to their versatility and suitability to task.

Dagogo readers who have been reading my reviews and commentaries also know of my Facebook group: New Album Releases -> https://www.facebook.com/groups/newalbumreleases/  and how I spend a great deal of time listening to and curating new recordings across a vast array of genres. I listened to all the selections on the most recent weekly list of newly released recordings as I swapped out comparably priced speaker cables every few hours. I left all other interconnect cables intact to establish something resembling a controlled environment. The results were startling at first, but sensing something psychologically at play, I rung up some of my local Irregulars to have them swap out speaker cables with my consent but not my knowledge. Was there still a difference? Yes. Was it as startling? No, but that’s to be expected across various sets of ears of different genders and generations. #subjectivityrules.

The OHNO III speaker cables are quality through and through. That Audience can make them available at the price should be a wonder to us all and might very well send a message to others, a call to arms of not only the speaker cable manufacturers but the prospective customer as well. Value for money, subjective and relative as that may be, can and does exist in the world of Hi-Fi.

Audience OHNO Dragon Slayer box

The OHNO III speaker cables were/are far more musical to my ears than the others in the comparably priced grouping. I found myself enjoying the experience of listening to the music to the point that I could kick back and forget that they were there. I was hearing all the instruments with that much more impact, that much more definition. The increased detail was obvious. No placebo effect here. These cables with respect to their price and function can be submitted in the category of “Dragon Slayer.”

 

Copy editor: Dan Rubin

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5 Responses to Audience OHNO III speaker cable Review


  1. As a result of my speaker cable review from yesterday, Audience’s OHNO speaker cables – relatively affordable in Audiophile/Hi-Fi terms – I have received much positive feedback but enough negative/inquisitive feedback to make me really wonder.

    Those respondents finding disfavor with speaker cables, pretty much all cables above and beyond a certain (yet TBD) price zero in on the following 3 factors: price, materials and jargon (marketing and advertising copy).

    On top of this at least one of them calls out the Hi-Fi press (Stereophile by name) and all speaker cable reviewers to engage in double-blind testing. To this end, I have engaged in asking the following in response:

    What is to be proven? Disproved?
    What constitutes a standard set of inexpensive cables?
    Is this to be the control environment?
    What would the cables be made of?
    How much would they cost?
    How would they be terminated?
    How would they be described?
    What jargon would be employed?

    I would really like to know to what end this shall be taken. Where would those who truly question the efficacy of cables like to extend this exercise? What if every link in the audiophile chain, in the system, were to be double-blind tested against a standard inexpensive link?

    The bulk of the negative comments came down hard on cost. There is no getting around that, as $$$ is an EASY target. Price is then followed by materials and treatment of such (shielding, braiding, stranding, etc.) which too is low hanging fruit. Lastly, and perhaps most troubling is self-inflicted by the manufacturers and that is the jargon used to not only describe the cables, but differentiate them from the competition.

    Looking back at Audience’s OHNO cables, they are not exorbitantly priced in relation to other companies’ cables, even Audience’s higher-grade ones, but if these can at their price point be the target of such scorn, I don’t really have to wonder what’s going on. Hi-Fi can be a seriously expensive rabbit-hole, but it need not be. Cables are a hot-button issue mainly because some are just so outlandishly priced and the lengths (pardon the pun) that those cable manufacturers will go to rationalize the expense can set people off like fireworks on Independence Day.

    Just as there is free-will, individuals can set their own personal limits when it comes to what they will spend on gear and enjoy the freedom to comment on just about anything related or un-related to the hobby (Hi-FI).

  2. William says:

    David how about a review of the Belden lconoclast cables. They are getting great reviews on the PS Audio forum.

  3. Frans says:

    Use Blue Jeans speaker cable as a reference. Order them with the exact same termination and AWG as the to be tested cable.

  4. jeffrey henning says:

    Hi.

    With no due respect or disrespect, you haven’t done the due diligence to ascertain whether a cable has any negative aspect. That’s all a cable will do.

    It will degrade the signal in some respect, but, if well designed, that degradation will be unnoticeable.

    You don’t understand that and, most likely, anything about the actual science of an audio cable. Please do, enjoy your life in faith-based science.

    Your review is without merit and not worthy of serious consideration.

    Sorry,

    Jeff

    • Dear Jeffrey,

      Thank you for your readership and comment. While in principle I agree with you that a cable ‘will degrade the signal in some respect, but, if well designed, that degradation will be unnoticeable,’ the rest of your comment suggests that you would appreciate the review better had it possessed more in-depth technical description of cable technologies.

      If so, then you may also understand that audio writers with deep technical background who also enjoy writing outside peer review groups for a consumer-based publication are a rarity, and even if we do have them on our staff, the mass majority of readership will not comprehend their writings. Most audio writers are mere audiophiles who possess the knack and energy of putting thoughts into words. By sharing our experiences, what we write about is from a layman’s viewpoint and thus highly relatable to our readership. Reporting on the performance of products in our own homes is evidence-based, and far and away from being purveyors of faith-based sciences.

      The crust of what we aim to do is to discover products that manufacturers claim cannot be surpassed for less, while in actuality we end up having to determine whether the reviewed product deserves our readers’ investment. There are artisans that create stunning visual arts out of their creations that otherwise sound comparably to much lower priced competitions, then there are those best sounding products with shells utterly indicative of the designer’s lack of artistic sense. Cable designs are no exception. The merit of a review is to expose our readership to new experiences, and the worthiness of it is in the eye of the beholder.

      Sincerely,

      Constantine Soo

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