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"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is Music."
[Aldous Huxley]

If all this talk of recumbents was leading you to believe that the Audience cables are easy to listen to, you'd be right. If you think it means they're laid back, you'd be partly right - they are when the recording dictates. With such recordings, adding the Au24 cables puts the event horizon nicely behind the speakers. An ever so slightly narrowed stage becomes the dreamland for linear expression of musical motifs. No dual-mono bass below 100Hz appearing from two speakers - deep bass presentation is rock-solid, lively and true, the mid-bass is propulsive but not overblown to avoid muddying the mids and the air up there is unusually clear. But, take some time to get a feel for what's going on (or not); these traits may not become apparent to listeners who haven't logged a week or two under the wheels of the Au24 package.

A good example of this phenomenon is the Piltch & Davis album feast. You may recognize their names if you're a Holly Cole fan - Davis is her pianist, Piltch the bassist. This collection of tunes is a study in understatement, subtlety and the capturing of space between the notes where so much musical expression lies, waiting to grab hold of your attention with an unobtrusive natural magnetism. What is said? What isn't? Which one really matters? Can your cabling allow your hard-earned gear to communicate the ever-so-important mix?

There are some percussive fills that happen early on in Michelle Shocked's Short, Sharp, Shocked album that typically sounded pretty homogenized due to some smearing. Now they sounded different, not just in the clearly differentiated and adequately saturated strikes against the drum head but in their timbre, tone and dimensionality - so much so that, after a few days of listening and sensing comparable differences on other recordings, I was convinced that this was both different and better.

"Well, well, well, looky here, looky here. Well, well, well, what have we got here?"
Michelle Shocked]

I was eager to witness what the rest of the album, played a gazillion times over the last ten years, would reveal because, to once more borrow her words, I'd been "waiting for a station like some people wait for a train." Yeah, my hopes had been high and my expectations raised early on in the audition process. Exceptional cost-effective cabling has been an unrelenting priority during my long ride on the cabling autobahn. Here, today, subtle tonal differences continued to intrigue. How many nuances does a guitar have? Or a mouth harp for that matter? On Doug MacLeod's stellar Come to Find album (and with the Au24 in my system), he and Charlie Musselwhite cogently answered both questions to an extent I have yet to hear from any other wire. Will your cables do the same?

To the detriment of my wallet, I've almost always heard differences between wire whether they be power cords, speaker cables or interconnects. After taking notes, I've periodically assembled listening panels in groups of three to come in and comment. More often than not, their assessment of the differences was largely in consonance with mine. In truth, we also agreed that there were usually trade-offs. Here, today, I couldn't discern any trade-offs, meaning the only offenses might be those of omission, the kind you don't really notice - just like the wire. I consider this something unusual at this price point. Speaking of money, the only unease I experienced during my time with this cabling was figuring out how to pay for them and the bike. Despite the fact that I earn a seven-figure salary, there's no need for you to be jealous - there's a pesky decimal point involved. Fact is, I was flat outa bread.

These wires don't highlight any aspect of the frequency spectrum - unless of course, you already have a deficiency in some area thereof. Then you will notice a "highlight" but perhaps later come to realize that it wasn't that at all. The Au24s just lay it all out in proper proportion and do so at modest listening levels. I know, I always harp on this but it's only fair to come back to what I consider my vision when assembling my system.

The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.
Hubert Humphrey]

I'm a natural nuance freak. I prefer to listen at lower volumes than my peers. Much lower. And contrary to what many have said (before listening to my system), you can have both. The excessive volumes I encounter when listening to other systems are generally well-intentioned efforts to achieve a facsimile of "liveness". What took me so long to get is that this very liveness can be communicated better by qualities other than volume - if you've got the right gear.

When evaluating gear, I listen most intently for overall tone and rhythm (the essence of the musical message) and dynamic shading and low-level resolution (the elements that communicate liveness without the need for excessive volumes). When nailed, these characteristics conspire to create the level of immediacy -- the sense of aliveness and presence -- that convinces me I've got something special on my hands.

The best (and hardest) part of reviewing today's product was that the cabling in front of me did not draw attention to itself. Like others, it could have by virtue of size, pedigree or the ability to highlight/exaggerate various sonic details. As a social ecologist, I prefer continuous nuances as they seem to better support the process that is music unfolding, the voices talking to me. Details strike me as events or one-time flashes that fail to carry the overall performance. When a product only stirs my attention to the musical message, that's a rare and purchase-worthy accomplishment.

It's been said -- by Jeff Goldblum in The Big Chill I believe -- that rationalizations are more important than sex. Have you ever gotten through a day without one good rationalization? Surely most of us have had more of one than the other. Case in point: I'm a cyclist. It will be patently obvious to all who care to understand that my new bike did not cost me $1,850. After all, I got top dollar for my used Bianchi to reduce my cash outlay for the Strada (I always try to pay cash). And, well, uhm ... with all the money I'll undoubtedly save on quack-chipractor visits, the bike will pay for itself in no time! Yeah, that's it.

My bride insists that oddiophools, when they really want something, are the most gifted of rationalizers. She adamantly posits that not only do we regularly talk ourselves into believing we will break even (if we get rid of a few pieces of gear lingering in the closet), but that when circum-
stances dictate, we will go so far as to opine that if we sell the-vintage-this and the nearly-new-that, we can even make money! Trouble is, this time she knew the whole story: I don't have any idle gear hiding in the cupboard.

"A man's gotta know his limitations."
Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry

Where's my credit card? Really, it's okay. She'll only be jealous because now the voices are talking to me.

PS: Coincident with Stephæn's review submission, I received the following e-mail: "Srajan, just as a formal notification - I did make arrangements with John to purchase the complete set of review samples he sent my way. I made payment in full on May 19, 2004 for the following - 1m/pr interconnect; 1.5m/pr interconnect; 2m/pr interconnect; 3m/pr speaker cable - æ." So our man wasn't just talking the talk, he was walking his walk - er, pedaling, supine. Some guys have all the fun. Congratulations, Stephæn! Sounds like your rig has moved a few inches closer yet to that elusive goal we're all chasing. Ed.

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