Audio Art SC-5 and JW Audio CryoNova
Having made several major improvements in my system by adding a Belles 22A preamp and an Emerald Physics 100.2SE into my system i decided to audition some cables in my system as well.
I wouldnt say that i am a cable skeptic, but i just didnt have enough previous experience with audiophile cables to put me in one camp or the other. So, going into this cable trial i had a clear mind and was open to any and every possible conclusion.
For reference my system is:
Salksound Songtower QWT speakers
Belles 22A Line Pre
Emerald Physics 100.2SE Amp
Clearaudio Concept w/ Concept MC
Halide HD DAC
Prior to this review i was using Blue Jeans Audio speaker speaker cable, bare ends. After doing some research i narrowed down my cables of interest to a few internet direct brands. The first cable i decided to try was the JW Audio CryoNova. At the suggestion of Mr. JW himself i decided to order an 8 foot pair w/ bare ends as this would provide a more pure sound with better resolution and extention per JW.
I noticed an obvious difference in the sound between the Blue Jeans Cable and the JW CryoNova. The JW's had a little more extension than the BJ's but it was what it did with information that it presented that made it stand out. There was less haze and etching around images and performers were more clearly rendered in space. The bass extended a little bit deeper and was clearly tighter and punchier. Vocals were obviously smoother and rendered more freely in a space of their own. Images didnt bleed into one another but were more clearly seperated in space. One caveat i like to relay is concerning the connectivity of the bare tips on the CryoNova. These are solid core cables and as such do not crip down as easily as stranded cables. I had a very hard time getting my amp to grip them tightly. However, i was doing a lot of cable switching, if you just set and forget they may be just fine. Regardless, I really liked what i was hearing at this point but wanted to try at least one more cable before settling down.
On to the Audio Art SC-5. These cables arent really the new kids on the block anymore. They have a lot more competition in their price brack which is a little bit above the JW Audio's ($10 a foot). However, Audio Art runs sales occasionally and i was able to take advantage of a run of 8' cables w/ spades at a lower price than normally advertised.
After adding the Audio Art SC-5 to my system in place of the Cryo Nova i noticed a couple of differences. First, i initially thought that the JW's were smooth, well the SC-5's are almost effortlessly smooth throughout the whole frequency band. There is a sense of ease with these cables that i had not heard before. I could turn the volume louder than i was able to before the sound would turn hard and piercing in the treble. There was more body to the sound. For example, on Lights of Louisianne by Jennifer Warnes, you could hear the body and wood of the guitar and not just the shimmer of the strings. Images were bigger and fuller. Bass was deeper though maybe not as tight as the JW CryoNova but only by a matter of degrees. Subjectively there may also be a tad less space in between the images but this is countered by a lifelike and organic fullness to the presentation which made things sound more real and less "hifi". Now, i don't mean to say that there is less information. The detail is all there, its just presented in a fuller package.
I preferred the trebles in the Audio Art SC-5's over the JW CryoNova's. Depending on the type of person you are the SC-5's are either less extended or the JW CryoNova's are a bit bright. Being very sensative to treble, i favored the SC-5. I didnt feel as though i was losing any detail there so i would simply refer to the treble as relaxed and smooth.
The differences in the midrange echoed both the treble and the bass but to a lesser extent. If i had to describe the difference i'd say that the mids were slightly more forward with the JW's and were very nicely detailed while the AA SC-5s were less upfront though still very nicely detailed. I never felt like i was struggling to hear detail in the mids, though systems with speakers that have a boomy low end might want to be careful that the lows don't overpower the mids and mask the detail. Luckily, the Salk Songtowers have a very punchy and controlled low end.
I didnt notice much difference between either cable in the soundstage department in terms of width. On my best soundstage recordings like Roger Waters Amused to Death, images were placed to the left, right, center, rear, and just about all over the soundfield with wounderful accuracy and depth. I believe the JW's brought the soundstage forward a little bit while AA SC-5 provided more depth.
Though i havent much experience comparing my system to many others i'd have to say that it is very neutral and definitely reveals the differences in components and recordings. For instance, i can easily hear how bloated some tracks of the reissue of Pink Floyds the wall is on vinyl compared to on original. Likewise, i could easily hear the improvements that the JW Audio CryoNova and Audio Art SC-5 made over the Blue Jeans Cable, although for a price.
In the end i chose the Audio Art SC-5 for its tasteful blend of detail, organic smoothness, and dynamic presentation. While the JW CryoNova had just as much detail and packed a dynamic punch, and subjectively more air between images i was always relieved and more relaxed when i placed the SC-5's back in the system. I am able to listen longer with the SC-5's and still enjoy all of the detail that my system is capable of giving.
So, i'll conclude by saying that the Blue Jeans Cable's are no slouch for the price but they can be easily beat by the JW Cryo's for what is essentially not much money at all (excepting very long cable lengths). The CryoNova's beat the BJ's in every way possible. The Audio Art SC-5's are the speaker cable i chose for my system. They had all the detail i could ask for in this price range and a sense of ease i had never heard in my system before. What they gave up in "air" surrounding the images they more than made up for in low end extension, treble smoothness, and a fullness that just makes the music sound right. Both the JW CryoNova's and the Audio Art SC-5s are very dynamic and exciting to listen to.
*** An additional thought ***
I recently added the Audio Art SC Jumper cables to replace the jumpers that came with my Salk Songtowers. I'm not sure what brand the original jumpers were but knowing that Salk rarely uses expensive cables in his demo's i'd say that they weren't overly fancy! I havent done as detailed a comparison as with the speaker cables but i will just take the time to say that i think these jumpers are a worthy upgrade worth making if you have the cash. They arent that expensive all in all and they took all of the things i liked about the SC-5s a step further, especially in the treble.
Good Job Mr. Fritz, can't wait to hear your SE versions some day!