I like equipment. I really do. But I’m foremost a music lover. My point of view is that when you buy something, it should last for a long time. I also try to avoid any ‘parallel’ upgrades when you change one piece of equipment for another in the same price bracket or category. Basically, I try to avoid losing too much money.
About 10 years ago, I did a painstaking comparison of audio cables. My system was modest, and a bit on the bright side. I did sample what the high end had to offer (6 interconnects and speaker cables in the $500 to $2000 range, from established companies). I did settle for Discovery Signature interconnects and speaker cables because of their smooth sound, and never regretted this move. Cables should last you a very long time. I consider them an investment in time.
Fast forward 2007, my editor (hello Mark) strongly discourages me about the process of evaluating cables. They are a pain in the… Minute details, system variant, not sure you can hear the same thing twice; I think you get the picture. After discussions, I wasn’t optimistic about evaluating cables, even though I’ve already done this in this magazine. But a heavy box came to my house, it was too late to have second thoughts.
Virtual Dynamics Cables review
The package came from Virtual Dynamics, a Canadian company that seems to be on the cutting edge of technology. They have a long list of cable-s, running in price range from ‘almost affordable’ to ‘God, if only I win the lottery’. The samples I received were a Power 3 power cord, a Testament 2.0 interconnect and Testament 2.0 speaker cables. I know they seem a bit pricey for this magazine, but keep reading, please.
When I opened the cable box, what I saw was very interesting. First a big black cable of 1’’ diameter with what looked as a Kevlar outer shell. Then a set of interconnects that resembled braided stainless steel under a clear outer jacket. Ditto for the speaker cables. They all are very rigid. Virtual Dynamics suggests ‘pre-bending’ to create a bit of flexibility. Another strange characteristic are the magnetic ends of the Testament Series. They clamped on a steel piece adjacent to my stereo with a lot of force. I was curious about them.
So they are not your typical cables. They look very high end. But what is really going on? The list of technology is so exhaustive I will only scratch the surface (check out their web site for more information).
The Power 3 has Dynamic Filtering level 1 (utilizing specially designed spheres or particles as a mechanically-based circuit to displace vibration from the conductor via dampening), 5 Dielectric Layers (a substance that is highly resistant to electric current providing electrical insulation), True Float Ground Technology (banning radio frequencies and electromagnetic interference), Cold Crimped Cardas terminations (to avoid any other material contamination) and Protect X (a steroid contact cleaner).
Testament Series 2.0 interconnects and speaker cables , Level 1 Speed of light (a “magnetic circuitry” as a means of amplifying, aligning, and filtering the signal) and are already ‘cooked’ (burn-in process partially done). Yes, a lot of techno babble…
I’m more into music than I am manufacturers’ claims. So out go the Discovery cables and Signal Cable power cord on the CD player, and in go the Virtual Dynamics. I had to wrestle with them a bit, and had to rearrange my equipment as well. The Testament cords are so stiff and heavy, they wrestled my 55 pound amp into submission (in their defense, the amp sits on Vibrapod Vibracones [with a ball bearing?]). I didn’t expect much on first list en; I just wanted to make sure everything was working and let the [cables?] burn as usual. I put in Peter Gabriel Up disc and pressed “Play.” I wasn’t expecting what I soon heard. [The combo that cost, ten years ago, more than these cables had lost the battle in about 10 seconds of music. I didn’t believe my ears. I told myself to still let them play and to try them another day.
What was remarkable was the instruments’ ‘aura’. The air and space around them are much more defined [than?]. In the jargon, we call this image density or specificity. I got a better sense of the instruments’ relative positions in space and their relationship to each other. The track ‘Sky Blue’ from Peter Gabriel is a very complex, dense mix, and I was able to differentiate more easily each layer of musical information.
Some good components can do that by tilting the frequency response curve upward. Less bass and more treble often seem to convey more detail. This wasn’t the case at all. I even needed to readjust my speaker positioning by bringing them farther into the room in order to tame the powerful, authoritative bass. The signal seemed to pass on more information, and the lower section acquired punch. But these things were coupled with great articulation, which that can sound bigger than life on some percussion or electronic music. Hits from DJ Shadow’s The Outsider were deep and tight, a credit to the great production of this diverse album. Dynamics across all the range were top notch. [Mark: am I reading this paragraph correctly?]
With better information retrieval comes better soundstaging, too. Never before have my speakers (KEF mini-monitors with separate 8’’ passive subs) thrown a soundstage so large and so deep. The height also got a boost. This is audio porn, unnecessary for the musical message, but oh, so involving. Outside of some very specific albums I know I love, I’ve always had problems listening to classical? Music, but with the Virtual Dynamics cables, I enjoyed more classical music than ever before.
I recently brought a compilation of one of Quebec’s most enthusiastic personalities, Edgar Frutier. This guy is an encyclopedia of classical work. Last year he put out Les Grands Classiques d’Edgarand this year the suite Les Grands Classiques d’Edgar Encore Plus, 6 CDs of the best works (well-known and less known pieces), many of Frutier’s best performances all in one box. This set is, in my opinion, perfect both for enthusiasts as well as those looking to start on classical music. It features a wide variety of styles, eras, and recording techniques, all of which sounded particularly wonderful with the new cables in place. I heard just a smidgen more treble than I remembered hearing with my reference cables, but the sound was still neutral, and better defined, with very little grain if any. Low level resolution was extraordinary, further helping me enjoy these wonderful classical works.
When I tested them individually, the Testament 2.0 speaker cable was the clear winner; it kicked the Discovery Signature into oblivion. There was simply no comparison. Michael Arnopol’s bass, clear, powerful and detailed, gave Patricia Barber’s Companion mini album a solid foundation and put me in a toe tapping mood during all the songs. Also on this album, ”The Beat Goes On” had details I’ve never heard before; hands clapped in time to the beat were simply not there with my other cables.
The Power 3 power cable was a couple of years ahead of the stock cable and some steps from the ‘affordable reference’ Signal Cable Magic Cable reviewed in the December issue by Ian Thorson (stood out in a comparison) and in the April 2007 by yours truly. It gave more definition and low frequency information to the digital source. Very clean and not astronomically expensive, they proved a worthy addition to my system.
The interconnects were better than Discovery Cable’s. with better frequency extension at both ends of the spectrum and more specific imaging, but they have a more clinical sound (the Discovery slightly rounded dynamics in a tube-like manner, not unpleasant at all). Taken individually, it’s a great cable but when combined with the power and speaker cables, it produced too much detail and punch, and lost some warmth. Very interesting in some aspects and with some records (think percussions?). It just depends on your taste.
Cables are one of the most difficult purchases in our audiophile world. What works great in ones system can destroy the sound of another. The Virtual Dynamics cables have some family traits among them: awesome extension at both ends of the musical spectrum, great detail and ‘air’ around instruments. They got my ‘thumbs up’ for their first class sound. Maybe they can do the same for your system.
from aﬀordableaudio, By Charles Painchaud