Review: Darwin Ascension Interconnect

Category: Cables

This review is for the Darwin Ascension interconnect, their premium
IC. They also offer a lower priced version called the Darwin Silver.

To understand why this cable is so effective, you have to look at the basic
design features - silver conductor, air dielectric, and low mass ends. This
kind of simplicity of design is just the opposite of most high end cables.
But this cable makes it clear - perfecting a simple design works much
better than those other, far more complicated designs. The trick is in preserving signal integrity over the entire length of the cable. The Darwin
Ascension does that better than any other interconnect I have ever had in
my system. Period.

Just a word about the importance of properly breaking in this cable. Like most silver cables, it takes quite a lot longer than copper based cables. I
would say 2 to 3 times as long to reach the full break in point. I broke the
Ascension in for 200 hours and found it to be about right. If you assume
the Ascension is fully broken in after 50 or 100 hours, it has quite a bit farther to go before reaching full performance capability.

And what is that full performance capability like? Like everything you've
ever wanted in an interconnect ... 3-dimensional sound stage, superb
inner detail within that sound stage, terrific localization, full, rich tonality,
realistic attacks, realist decays, amazing timbre ... the list goes on and on.
All the things you've ever wanted to hear - are there with the Darwin
Ascension interconnect. AND in perfect balance!

How many interconnects have been in and out of my system in my quest
for the perfect interconnect? Far more than I can possibly remember
since getting into audio. All the frustration with overhyped products,
costs way out of line with product quality, one disappointment after another ... on and on ... and on. All of that ends when you put a Darwin
Ascension cable into your system like I did in mine.

If you have been searching for "realism" when it comes to listening to
music, the Ascension delivers that realism like no other cable I have ever
heard. And for me, this is the perfect way to describe this outstanding
cable design - truly exceptional realism.

It is said that all cables have weaknesses. Really? Can't find any with
the Ascension. Everything you want is there. And everything you don't
want -- isn't there.

One of the ideas we are supposed to mention is that if money was no
object, would you still own this? My answer to that question is "YES"!
And I would feel really good about not spending several times the cost
of the Ascension for markedly less quality.

Just getting off the cable roller coaster is reason enough to own the
Darwin Ascension. At least it was for me. My long search for the
perfect interconnect is over. Listening to music has taken on a whole
new sense of satisfaction, using this very special cable.

Would love to hear what others think.
I haven't heard the Darwin Ascension but I have heard and now use the Darwin Silver ICs and your views on the Ascension mirror mine on the Silver. These are fantastic ICs, not only for the money but fantastic, period.

The only difference I experienced was a much shorter break in period. The Silver ICs settled down and were just fine after an hour or so and although they did get better over time, it was incremental. A first for me. It's probably due to more material and work in assembling your Ascensions but the basic concept remains the same: getting out of the way of the music requires less to get in the way to begin with.

Nice review.

All the best,
Based upon the good word of others including Nonoise, I took a leap of faith and bought the silver digital cable about 5 months ago. I had high expectations based on the design theory which made a lot of sense to me, and after a short few days I did write some positive words, not a full review. I didn't and still do not want to hurt the company's sales in any way, but I feel at this point that I should update my findings.
I had a good initial reaction because the digital cable has a smooth pure sound. I started to notice that I was taking it out and putting my LAT International cable back in too often.
After a lot of listening, I realize that it is good, but not what I am looking for. To begin with, there seems to be a drop in volume as soon as I put it in. Bass strength and volume are noticeably diminished, although if you didn't have something better, you would likely be satisfied. What troubled me the most was softened transient response which affected the perception of correct timber as well. I kept feeling that the music was artificially smooth and at the same time dynamically restricted, which is a real no-no for me.
On the plus side, I felt that the treble extension was consistently better and airier/cleaner than the LAT. Overall though, that just wasn't enough.
So, although it is a very pleasant cable, and in no way irritating, it has a light, non-incisive balance that didn't do it for me. Sadly, it is now sitting in my closet with other cables I have tried
Hey folks, Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. Budmoe, your break experience does ring true with our Ascension cables. My experience with all of the Darwin Cables is they start fast but take a good while to really stretch out. Nonoise, thank you for your praise about the original Darwin Silver IC's. I had two people in the space of a week say it was better than the Nordost Tyr. And Roxy54, I appreciate your candid remarks. While your criticisms are quite mild, they are the first I have received from any Darwin Digital Cable owner. A couple of thoughts. I have noticed that with all analog cables, any disruption—moving them in and out of a system, can unsettle them. I suspect this happens with digital cables, too. It is possible you are hearing the cable at less than full potential. If you have not given the cable 200 hours straight it may well be rewarding to do so. At Darwin Cable Company we are taking a closer look at the break in process, even experimenting with a cable cooker and enhanced cryogenics trying to draw a bead on the break-in process. We do have a Darwin Ascension Digital Cable that features a superior dielectric approach to the RCA ends and a better wire. We cannot pretend the Darwin Silver Digital is the "ultimate" if we believe we have improved upon it—but it's pretty good. Call us sometime. W'd love to hear from you again! Tony Bender, Darwin Cable Co.
Hi Tony,
I'm glad that you chimed in, because I had wanted to add to my previous remarks by making readers aware that this digital cable only cost $175, a price that makes it a very good buy.
It is also true that I did not break them in for 200 hours of continuous use, which I will try.
Thanks, and I will be in touch.
Hello Budmoe what speaker cables are you using currently ?
For I am sure not everyone had $1500 to spend on speaker cables
To other owners please share can their interconnects stil work well with
Other brand Loudspeaker cables, thank you.
I currently have the Darwin Assention plus interconnects ,these replaced my MIT 23 interconnects which were over $1,500 and very respectable
A bit warmer balance ,these had also replaced my Acoustic zen Silver reference cable. I found in my system left on 24-7 that after 10 days or roughly
250 hours these interconnects were fully settled in. I am using the Excellent
Revelation Audio Labs digital USB cable which also uses high purity Solid core as a conductor.i thought maybe all this Silver would be to bright ,
Not so ,after the first 100 hours it started smoothing out and developing
Focus inner detail and soundstage. The MIT cable was a bit smoother ,at the expense of inner detail, speed and soundstage width.which now goes
Way beyound the Loudspeakers. If the recording has little inflections or back ground noises now they are much more developed and focused.
Bass is fast and articulate, Ihad a friends transparent reference in here
And bass was a bit more full and taught ,and mids a bit more full but upper mids were at least as good even a tad more airy in the treble with the Assention plus interconnects. Which I feel these interconnects compete very well with cables even up to the $2,000 range ,everything system dependant. My Krell amplifier is MOSFET based and not too warm
I have Analysis plus Solo oval 8 Copper loudspeaker cables which offer
Great balance for my system.In my friends system the Assention plus cables were excellent with his Audio magic Silver loudspeaker this hobby Nothing is written in stone .IMO a best buy for sure.
I had a chance to talk to John (Roxy54) this week and was pleased when he told me that after the extended break-in we advised with the Darwin Digital, it's a keeper. I'm sure John will chime in here soon enough. Most of our cables start fast but don't really peak and stay consistent until 200 hours—about 8-9 days. I find, too, that taking a rest during the process seems to have a positive effect. You don't have to play music for the entire time. Thanks, John, for the thoughtful call.
Hi Tony,
Tony is 100% correct. When I first bought his entry level silver digital interconnect, it was not so much that I was dissatisfied with my LAT International digital interconnect, but I had read the review here, visited the website, and I was intrigued by the design concept as well as the affordable price.
I liked its purity and treble extesion from day one, but it sounded light in the bass. For a couple of months I kept on switching back and forth between the Darwin and the LAT. One day, I put the Darwin back in, and realized that it was now all that I had expected and more. The bass was fleshed out fully, with better texture than the LAT, and everything else was pure and clean with great separation. If you are looking for hi-fi pyrotechnics, look elsewhere. If you are looking for naturalness and balance, this my be the one for you.
I don't know how the Ascension could sound much better, but I plan to find out when I can afford it. I would really love to try the cables.
It is refreshing to find this level of performance at sane pricing, even if I can't afford all of it right now.
Thanks Tony!
I just wanted to chime in here now that I just got my Darwin Ascension ICs.
Okay, enough hyperbole-just kidding, I meant it.

Having half the capacitance of the standard Silver ICs (which are no slouches) these Ascensions deliver in spades. Coherence, timing, that misnomer 'speed' which can now be used without guilt, detail, ambience, tighter firmer bass, oddles of nuance, you name it, it does it.

What these ICs give is a more complete end result, be the note, the separation, the phrasing, the accompaniment, the very back of the venue. I can now tell just how quickly the cymbal closes on Brubeck's "Take Five" and when the bassist lets the note go and splinter and then tightens up his grip, and all the background playing on "Build Me Up From Bones" by Sarah Jarosz which beforehand was nothing more than musical smoke ( there's so much going on there).

None of this great detail retrieval is at the expense of anything else nor is it highlighted or exaggerated. It's just there. Bravo!

If anyone is on the fence about getting these, then do what I did: sell off some old gear or eat less for awhile as I don't know how long Tony will offer this discount. On another note, now that I have all my ICs from Darwin, the regular silver ICs went on my Marantz tuner which sounded like one you'd find playing in someone's garage to a great way to listen to FM. Who says that nowadays?

All the best,
I just wanted to add to what Budmoe said about allowing a good 200 hours for these cables to sound their best. It's not to say that they don't sound great right out of the box, far from it.

When I chimed in with my thoughts I only had about 25-30 hours on them so I let my CDP on repeat for 24 hours and I was gobsmacked with what I heard. I'll probably have an epiphany at the 200 hour mark but so be it.

Anything I play simply sounds different and better, no matter how familiar I am with the recording. These cables can allow you to spend less on amp and source and still have a killer system. We always wonder if we're getting all we can from 16/44 redbook and now and then something comes along and improves on it enough for anyone with decent ears to sit up and take notice. That's how it is with these cables. One customer review on Darwin's website stated how everything sounds like HiRez with these cables. I thought it was hyperbole but now I agree.

All the best,