Review: Darwin Cable Company Truth Interconnect
Andre Marc, Audio/Video Revolution, June 2014
Over the past year or so I have come to rely on a few cable manufacturers that make reference products at their price points and even beyond. Darwin Cables, who I first heard about from Mark O’Brien of Rogue Audio, initially sent me their standard Silver offering, which sells for $295. I was so impressed, I went on to review their higher-level Ascension, which featured several design enhancements essential to high-end cable performance: low mass ends, military grade solid core silver conductors, and air dielectric.
Darwin is a bit unique in that they not only use scientific methods to voice their cables, but they also rely heavily on subjective impressions from a carefully chosen listening panel, for lack of a better term. Sometimes what looks good on paper does not translate into improved performance.
I have to admit, after having the Ascension in my system over the past year, I wondered where Darwin could go from here, as the Ascension is simply a superb cable. Well, I was not surprised when Tony Bender, point man for Darwin, dropped me a line and noted they were working on a new design that would shatter previous performance barriers. The new cable has been dubbed The Truth, and sells for $995 for a 3-foot pair (though, as we publish this review, they are currently discounted by $100). Tony also informed me of some recent changes to the Darwin line and nomenclature. He noted the following:
Digital Cables are available in Darwin Silver, Ascension lines and The Truth.
We overhauled our shielded cables. Our new design is no-holds barred, impervious to outside noise while retaining excellent resolution.
We now offer the Ascension speaker cable, which lives up to the Darwin tradition of transparency and balance.
Tony offered up the following additional information, "our main criteria is that our cables must significantly outperform other cables costing 3-5 times more. It is important to us that we remain a big price/performance ratio value. We have a cost-is-no-object approach, as illustrated by the super-chill cryogenics we have committed to at 40 times the cost of "normal" cryogenics, BUT our mission is to outperform any cable at any price, especially with our Ascension and Truth lines. The more resolution the source has, the more our cables will reveal.
We have concluded, based on some pretty good data, that while our cables start fast, they do not seem to reach their full potential until around 200 hours. We now offer "cooking" by a Hagerman FryKleaner but The Truth cable I sent you was cold so you can experience any break-in naturally. We started out cooking our cables 72 hours but have come to the conclusion that really only provides a head start. We've had the best results doubling the time, and even then we think you need to play real music in the last stages of break-in."
Tony continued, "while I think our 200 hours by natural means is solid, different listeners seem to experience different things at different intervals. A difficult phenomenon to quantify. The interesting thing with The Truth (in which both the wire AND terminations) are deep-cryo-cooled (CryoWise II) as opposed to just the wire in the Ascension Plus while ends get the standard cryogenics). We really liked the sound of an untreated RCA shell that we discovered, which we thought approached the performance of our cryogenically treated RCA and overall the performance of the Darwin Ascension Plus, which has exceptional focus and accuracy."
I spent about three months with The Truth, using it in multiple systems and with many different components. I cycled through Roksan Kandy A2 and McIntosh MA6600 integrated amps, a CLONES Audio 25p power amp, and my Audio Research and Carver tube amps. The power amps were used with a CIAudio PLC-1 MKII passive controller. Speakers were the just-reviewed Anthony Gallo combo, along with my reference Thiel CS2.4 and Harbeth Compact 73S3s. Sources included my Bryston BDA-1 DAC, the Simaudio Neo 380D DAC/streamer, and even a Sony TC-530 reel to reel.
Darwin Truth silver cable unbalancedI decided to give The Truth some burn-in time just so it could be inserted into the main rig "fully charged" or, at least, further along. All listening notes are post 75 hours of continuous use. I should, at this point, note The Truth is beautifully made; low mass, flexible, and attractive.
From the very first recordings cued up, The Truth created an enormous soundstage -- the largest I have heard from any cable, regardless of price, geometry, or conductor type. It rendered the sublime Columbia SACD recording of Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky: The Right Of Spring as a massive wall of sound that befitted the epic drama of the piece. To say I was glued to my chair would be an understatement. Yes, the piece is also filled with nuance, and The Truth was able to transition from bombast to delicacy without a hitch.
Still on my Flamenco kick, a genre of music I was exposed to as a child, I pulled up perhaps one of the most famous modern Flamenco recordings, Flamenco Fever! This was a direct-to-disc recording on the M&K label, and friend of mine archived the LP to 192 Khz PCM and DSD for me. The Truth revealed more information, produced other worldly dynamics, and simply astonished on this album as decoded by the Simaudio Neo 380D DAC, connected directly to my power amp. This was one of those "file it away for later" moments you call on when you discover a new reference.
I found myself pulling up a lot acoustic recordings, initially, because The Truth -- with an absolutely seamless, delicate top end, and a buttery, liquid midrange -- seems suited for naturally recorded and mastered material. With Rodrigo’s Concerto De Aranjuez, The Truth captured the complexity and layers of the strings, the woody overtones of the guitar, and the varying degrees of hall ambience on each recording. Stunning, to say the least.
Time to move onto modern recordings. While I have taken to Coldplay’s brand new Ghost Stories album -- thanks to tastefully arranged songs and vocals from Chris Martin that have never been stronger -- The Truth unfortunately revealed a pretty compressed, bass-heavy mix throughout, as well as a digital sheen.
The Smoke Fairies, whose self-titled album I bought after exploring their previous works, is a British duo who meld folk, rock, and mysticism with mild electronica. Cycling through their catalog of excellent recordings, and well-balanced mixes, The Truth revealed beautifully intertwined vocals and intricate arrangements. Highly recommended.
Darwin Truth XLRAfter trying to find some sonic flaws in The Truth, I essentially gave up. The cable is as neutral as I have heard. No cable should "do" anything. As a matter of fact, we should judge them on what they don't do. They should do as little harm to the music as possible. The Truth gets out of the way as much as any cable can, based on my experience, providing a halo around the music to give it safe passage to its final destination: your ears. Don’t look for tone controls here.
Darwin Cables has yet again shown that outstanding products appear from unexpected places. In the world of high-end audio cables, where no cable is the best cable, the Darwin Truth silver cable is the finest interconnect I have had in my system. However, I am going to refrain from saying Darwin cannot improve on it, since they proved me wrong once with the Ascension.
At $995, The Truth may be at the very top end of what I would personally spend on an audio cable, yet it competes directly with cables costing many multiples of that. Then again, Darwin does not have a magazine ad budget to support, a crew of squeaky clean, bushy eyed sales folks with matching polo shirts to feed, or PR firms to create mythical product names and catchy buzz phrases. No, Darwin Cables simply represents good old trial and error, sound design principles, a drive to excel, and the use of high quality raw materials.
The Darwin Truth gets my highest recommendation for audiophiles with an above average cable budget, who are tired of pseudo science and cables whose price seems to have no relation to the cost of manufacturing or production. If any of this rings a bell with you, or somehow my listening impressions caught your attention, call Tony Bender for a consultation. The Truth may be your last cable.