Regarding a review in the Aug '02 Stereophile...

This has become of interest since the review in the August 2002 issue of Stereophile (ref. ppg. 85-87).

I guess the main focus is on how the speaker cables are compared in the article, seeing as though the Valhalla is about 8 times the retail price of the Au24.

I am interested to hear comments on the review, and even more importantly, listening impressions on one or both of these models.

References: |

H a p p y l i s t e n i n g !
I know nothing about Audience cables however I do know that certain cables jive with certain systems particularly well. This does not mean they are better for everyone or everyone would have the same "luck" in finding an inexpensive speaker wire that bests a more expensive brand.

System synergy is what its all about.
It never suprises me when people compare lower priced cables to higher priced cables and find them to be suprisingly similar or better. Most cables are unbelievably overpriced (even the cheaper ones), and the prices are certainly based more on brand name and demand than they are quality. I'm sure the Audience cables are good (though still far from cheap) and I'm sure the Nordost cables are good and ridiculously overpriced. No big surprise, really.

Reviewers are always making those comparisons and finding X-brand $1500 CD player 90% or 95% as good as y-brand $7000 CD player. They always mention that as if X-brand CD for $1500 is such a great player and a true hi-fi bargain, but being a bit makes me think that y-brand for $7000 is way too expensive and really not all that much better. I feel the same way about the cable comparisons.
From my vantage point where most reviewers fail is in the awareness that all cables and components are in many ways system specific. They don't seem to consider system synergy. They all list the system they use in their review, but they associate all that they hear to the cable or the component under review.

For example, if a revealing cable uncovers some harshness in the reviewer's CD player; the reviewer will still comment that the cable sounded a little harsh, even though it could be his CD player that is harsh, not the cable; etc, etc.
Phild - like all components in electronics, if you want to get the last 5% of performance out of cables, you have to resort to exotic materials and constructions. This is expensive no matter how you spin it. Low volume, high-cost = expensive. The challenge is finding the product that achieves the point of diminishing returns for a reasonable price. An most of all, ignore the price and listen to the performance.
Sugarbrie, as a reviewer, I completely agree with you. EVERYTHING is system dependent, room dependent and dependent on the reviewer's biases, experiences, personal tastes and preferences. It is VERY difficult (if not impossible) to ever ascribe any absolute terms or adjectives to a piece of gear due to this inherent problem. What I think a reviewer CAN do is try to describe what it did in HIS/HER system and, assuming only ONE variable is changed, describe what those changes, if any, are. Then the reader can extrapolate what they need from the context. This gets a little easier if you have been follwing the reviewer for years and are familiar with his/her biases, system etc. For example, I had read Brian Damkroger's reviews for years because, for a while, he and I had MUCH of the same gear and he found it to sound like I did. Therefore, with that as a point of reference, if Brian said equipment "A" was "bright" or "hard" sounding, I could relate better from his perspective being close to mine.

Conversely, if say a Sam Tellig, who listens to some nice single ended triodes, says a piece of gear is "bright" or "hard" sounding, what I may take from that may be completely different (not because Sam is better or worse than Brian, but because their systems, experiences, and points of reference are so different).

In the end, the reviewer can only serve as a limited information source to be taken in context (not to mention they may not even be setting the gear up correctly) and as only a start to a thorough audition by you (e.g., trust your own ears in the end and do not worry if reviewer "X" likes it or not). Just my $.02.
Fmpnd, may I multiply yr $0,02? I second, third & fourth your motion!
I recently purchased a pair of Audience AU-24 speaker cables & I/C's based on the review. The Audience is a VERY THIN CABLE and easy to connect to my EAD TheaterMaster-8, PowerMaster 1000 and Bohlender Graebener planar speakers which are bi-amped. As compared to the Straight Wire Serenade and Virtuoso, the AU-24 is more musical with crystalline highs, a definite improvement on the treble post. Santana's Supernatural sounded magical with this cable. I briefly put a pair of Red Dawn Rev2 on the treble post . The red dawn sounded nice but did not have the depth or substance that the AU-24 or Virtuoso had. The Straight Wire Virtuoso provided much better mid-bass than the Serenade but I had a hard time discerning a large improvement between the Virtuoso and AU-24 when connected to the mid-bass post.
Caveat-- my speakers only go down to 80 hz and I am using a Sony 7700 DVD player (next upgrade project) with Nordost Silver Shadow Shadow digital cable. I really like what the AU-24 did to top-end and would recommend trying this cable. If wife acceptace factor is important the cable is thin and easy to hide.
I could not agree more that components and cables sound different in other systems. Enjoy the music!
While there isn't much contained in all the posts above; that I wasn't already aware of--and agree with.--I would like to hear from someone whom has tried HMS VS Au 24. How'z that for world class in a"run on" sentence?
I have over the years learned how to better decipher the pertinent information from the reviewers. As for my impressions of the AU 24 cables based solely on the Stereophile review, they sound like an excellent "low cost" cable and a great place to start your search for a cable upgrade. As per the comparison to Valhalla, I looked a bit deeper for the answer. In that Brian Damkroger's system is a complete opposite of mine, I must determine how his thoughts would apply to me.
The common ground we both have is Valhalla cabling as our "reference" so with that I have some insight. For the most part, Brian has a analog/ tube system Not equipment I'd call dark like BAT but darker than my Plinius, Placette. He offsets the darkness with a "brighter" speaker Megnepan. My assumptions from this equipment is he wants the tonal value of tubes and analog and finds the imaging and detail from the speakers. Bass must not be of the highest in his priorities, but midrange and extension are.
Given these assumptions, I have the information to draw the conclusions needed from his review. First off, my impressions are that the AU 24 is darker and more laid back than the Valhalla. Secondly the Valhalla sound a bit more open and extended, less forgiving. Given these are also my impressions of Valhalla, I read on. Brian preferred the Valhalla over the AU 24 as an interconnect. He did not find a huge difference, which tells me the AU 24 is a very good cable. I believe his preference is solely based on the associated equipment, not the cable. The Valhalla is able to pass on more signal, in an open extended way, where the AU 24 by nature is restrictive. In that his tube gear is also restrictive, it's a double whammy. The Valhalla is offsetting the tube gear. When he got to the speaker cable, it was just the opposite. The Magnepan can sound harsh and bright by nature, thus the more laid back cable is a better fit. He preferred the AU 24 over the far more expensive Valhalla because it was a better match for his system.
So in conclusion, if we do not consider the whole story, the judgments drawn from the review may be wrong. The bottom line is AU 24 is a very good choice to consider while evaluating cables. If your running mainly solid state gear that has yet to resolve the harsh glare inherent with most solid state, these cables might be perfect. If on the other hand your system is tube base these cables may not be the best, maybe something with some or all silver should be considered. These of course are generalizations, I have all solid state and Valhalla with not a sign of glare or harshness. If the equipment is good enough the issues of both tube and solid state are fairly well resolved, meaning that the most neutral open signal is probably the best.
Bravo! I would assume this "yardstick" is applicable to whatever product is being reviewed.In my case something one just kinda suspects. Thanks for spelling it out so eloquently; in language and reason ;even I can understand.
The basic philosophy might indeed work as a starting point. When ‘we' speak of "system dependant" and "system matching" I believe these thoughts do indeed work for most cases. It's important to first understand the characteristics of the components we are using, and secondly try to identify the weaknesses inherent in that equipment.
As an example, Krell is a well thought of manufacturer that has produced some of the most revealing, transparent and fast equipment. The bass on Krell is as quick and tight as any I've heard and the mid-range is smooth but not colored. One the other side of the coin is a tendency towards harshness, edginess maybe even glare in the high frequencies. If I were looking for a cable to match these characteristics I would start with an all copper, "darker" cable. The speed loss inherent with copper is not important at the beginning in that we using an extremely fast component. Cardas would be a great choice to begin with, but this is a very well rounded market and there are any number of cables to look to.
On the other hand, when we are looking for the characteristics of silver (speed, high end extension, transparency) the matching becomes a bit more difficult. Silver tends to pass on any high frequency noise generated up stream more so than copper. This might be RFI, tube noise or glare in the circuits, so finding the right silver cable can be more of a challenge. I think this is why we see so many silver/copper combinations.
I guess what I've found is silver has far less leeway, it's much more demanding on the equipment and it's sonic qualities than copper. But with the right combination silver will do things that copper can not.
Here is another take on the same subject. When reading a review, again we must understand what the "system" of the reviewers consists of and how it relates to us. Let's take for example that a reviewer had my exact system. Sony SCD-1 (with mods) Placette pre amp, Plinius SA-102 amps and Dunlavy IVa speakers. Being all solid state the first impression might be that the sound could tend to be a bit forward and/or harsh in the top end. Now add to my system that I use Valhalla cables and the thoughts might be reinforced that this system sounds "bright". If I went on to tell you I felt the system was extremely neutral and natural, which is how I refer to my system, then we must consider why. One thought might be my personal tastes are towards "bright" and by reading my other posts you might substantiate that though. That would give you insight to read onward. I however do not like "bright" and edgy systems so the reasons must be elsewhere. Valhalla cable has been talked about by enough reviewers as being very revealing, open, fast and in some systems "bright" that we know the cable is not the natural factor. The SCD-1 has been written up to be "polite" and laid back compared to some other SACD players, but the modifications made tended to counter those aspects of the SCD-1. This might help us understand the SCD-1 is not an offensive component, and may help understand why the modified machine has been referred to as "analog" like. The Placette has been heavily reviewed as a "non" component, adding nothing to the signal, so I would conclude this is not the reason for a natural sound either, although I could also conclude it is indeed adding nothing objectionable to the signal. The Dunlavy speakers are full range, and in the latest Stereophile review JA claimed they were a bit forward, so that must not be it either. The Plinius SA-102 is new and is a second generation of the highly regarded SA-100. The original amp was said to have tube like qualities in the upper and mid range, with solid state slam in the bass. The conclusion I might draw from this information is the Plinius must be grain and glare free, and smooth enough to not be bright sounding even with Valhalla cables. So given this assumption, one could look at any one of these components and know they can be used in an open, very revealing system without adding the "bad" parts of solid state.
Jadem6, having read your comment which I can place very well, and agreeing to synergy and system dependability, is there a way to objectively interpret a review? Is reading and bearing in mind a review not such a thing as redefining an existing problem and/or defining a new one?
I think a review can only be considered a piece of information, something much deeper than simple specs, but it's hard to find any real answers in them. As an example I'm trying a pair of Air-Tight ATM-3 mono blocks right now for a review later this month on Audiogon. I'm trying harder than the magazines to be honest and relate useful characteristics plus trying to hypothesize what might be a better fit than my system to get the best from the amp. In effect my attempts at considering better matches is how I read reviews, only in this case I'm hearing the product. I'm hoping the effort will be a model for other reviews, in that the more information regarding sonic characteristics the more I can use the review as a tool.
As to your comment on redefining an existing problem, I'm not sure where you were going with the question. I guess that's one way to look at the whole picture, as a problem that requires a solution, I see it more as dating. We start out looking for different characteristics in people that we like. Over time we discover the good things and seek them out while avoiding the aspects we know irritate us. If we are lucky we find a fit that works for life, it may require small "Tweaks" but no major changes. So rather than seeing it as solving problems I see it as learning what qualities that fit my personal taste. Only listening can truly decide that for stereos, but the reviews can help us narrow the possibilities.