Review of Argent Audio Jaden Signature IC's long
When this all started I wasn't really looking to change my speaker cables and interconnects. I had been using Coincident speaker cable and ic's for years and wasn't frankly sure if switching or spending more money would make any improvement in the system...boy was I in for the shock of my life!!
I heard about the Ric's Jaden ic's and speaker cable from some fellow audiophiles on Audiogon. These were seasoned veterans who had been in audio for quite some time and had high-end systems. They were claiming that the Jaden Signature not only replaced their previous ic's (Nordost Valhalla, WireWorld Gold, etc...) but, blew it away!
So I called up Ric (who by the way is a great guy - he is genuinely into this business for the love of music and will help you in any/all ways possible - even if that means losing a sale) and after talking to him, decided to try his speaker cable and ic's.
When I received the package, I opened it up and looked at the product. These weren't your giant, slithering snakes that look garden hoses on steroids. Instead the Jaden Signature are rather small in diameter with a grey cloth covering them. At one end is a sheath which Ric actually signs (nice little touch in my book). These certainly didn't look like expensive ic's and speaker cable!
Well, I inserted the speaker cable into the system and my jaw hit the floor! Was this really my system that was playing? Until I put in the Jaden Signature, I thought had some major issues with my system (it was on the warm side w/ mushy bass, highs weren't extended and airy, and the midrange was a little fuzzy.
With the Jaden Sig speaker cable in place, it was like a switch had been thrown and the system came to life! I was hearing tons more detail (including things I had never heard before on cd's I had listened to 1000's of times), and the extremes just blossomed! No longer was the bass mushy - instead it was tight, impactful, dynamic. A stand-up bass had a vibrance to it. I could no easily hear the fingers pluck the string. Bongos had layers to them and a kick drum could hit you in the chest! On the other end, symbals finally had that shimmer and decay that I was missing. Bells sounded like they were in the room and not a bad reproduction. All of this while having the most clear and vivid midrange I had ever experienced.
There were other improvements as well...the soundstage just opened up and for the first time, my system was able to produce the scale and size I expected from a large floor standing speaker. This increase in soundstage wasn't just width, it was also depth. With this change, the music became more lifelike.
The best part of all this? As good as all the pieces were, it was that the whole was better than the parts. The music I was hearing so coherant from top to bottom it was scary. No one part stood out over the other. There was an ease to the music. I could (and did) listen for hours at a time and never get fatigued or want to leave.
So I put in the ic's next and it just made what I already described that much better. If the jaden Sig's speaker cable was excellent, a full Jaden Sig setup was magical! I invited friends over and they couldn't beleive that the only thing I changed was speaker cable and ic's.
Well, it didn't end there...
If the jaden made such an enormous impact on my system, I must try other ic's to see if it can do even better. So I did my research and decided to bring into house the following for a head-to-head shootout:
Acoustic Zen Silver Reference MK I and II
WireWorld Gold III
Bogdan Audio ICS w/ Silver Eichman Bullets
Cardas Golden Reference
Empirical Audio Holophonic PC
Coincident CST 1
For comparison, I used the following music:
Rusted Root - When I Woke (great percussion, vocals, complex at times)
Sam Cooke - Night Beat (simple, clean male vocals)
Ben Harper - Fight For Your Mind (great acoustic guitar, male vocals, percussion)
Tori Amos - Boys for Pele (female vocals, piano, harpsicord)
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (nothing needs to be said)
Harry Connick Jr - She (New Orleans jazz/swing)
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (little bit of everything, great for testing the system's ability to pick up little details and neuances)
Well, since this review is getting a little long, let me just rank things and give a little summary of each ic (from worst to best):
Coincident CST 1 - I am embarassed by how bad this ic performed when directly compared to the competition! It is very bad at the extremes, and grainy in the midrange. Frankly, if I picked one word to sum it up, it would be unrefined.
Cardas Golden Reference - found this ic very warm and lacking in details and dynamics. Only a little better than the Coincident. On a positive note, it wasn't grainy and I could see it taming a very bright system.
Bogdan Audio ICS w/ Silver Eichman Bullets - Far and away the cheapest ic of the group. It was pretty neutral sounding and well balanced. It wasn't that it was bad, it just wasn't as good as the others ahead of it. It did need a long break-in time to sound its best (200+ hrs).
WireWorld Gold III - Like the Bogdan, it was well balanced, but didn't draw you into the music like the big three. It also didn't have the air and dimensionality of the other three. Lastly, it didn't potray the inner detail or have the extension at the extremes.
Empirical Audio Holophonic PC - This ic had a dead quiet background and let the music really come through. It was fast, detailed, and easy to listen to. Unfortunately, I found it a little too light in the bass area. It lacked heft and weight. This caused me to view it as unbalanced compared to the Zen and Jaden Sig.
Acoustic Zen Silver Reference MK I and II - This ic was the closest to the Jaden Sig. It really was excellent all around and deserves the good press it has received. If I hadn't heard the Jaden Sig, this would have been my choice. Compared to the Empirical, it had thunderous bass without sacrificng the details and nueances of the music.
Jaden Signature - As already stated above, this is a truly excellent product that proved itself to be superior to the competition in direct comparsions and over time. Ric's ic's have allowed me to take my enjoyment of the music to a new level! I can't emphasize enough what these ic's did to my system. The ability to handle macrodynamics while still maintaining the microdymanics is awesome. You miss nothing with these ic's, yet they in no way impose themselves on the music. These more than any other ic I have tried, let you hear what is on the cd and what your sysetm is capable of producing. At the end of the day, that is all I can ask for...
Kudos to Ric for producing such an excellent product at an "afforable" price. I highly recommend you call Ric and try out these ic's. My guess is that once you get them for audition, they won't be going back.
Silverline Sonata II speakers
Kora Cosmos Reference Mono blocs w/ NOS tubes
AVA Transendence 7 preamp w/ NOS tubes
Sonic Frontiers SFT-1 transport
Electrocompaniet ECD-1 dac
REL Strata II and III subs
Argent Audio Jaden speaker cable and ic's
Balanced Power Technology L-9 power cords (on dac and transport)
Balanced Power Technology C-7 power cords (on subs)
Chris Venhaus Flavor 4 with Gold option power cords (on amps)
Exact Power EP 15A Power Conditioner
Argent Audio Room Lens
Stillpoints (under dac)
Mapleshade Ultimate Triple Point cones (under preamp and amps)
Polycrystal feet (under transport)