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Reviewer: Edgar Kramer
Source Digital: Sony XA-5ES as transport; Bel Canto Design DAC 2
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Sylvania tubes
Amplifier: Pass Labs X 250.5
Speakers: Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy System 6
Cables: Cerious Technologies Interconnects (in for review); Harmonic Technology Magic Digital; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Bocchino Audio Morning Glory interconnect cable (in for review); PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon (on loan); Cerious Technologies (in for review) and Harmonic Technology PRO-9+ loudspeaker cables; Harmonic Technology Fantasy AC; Shunyata Research Diamondback power cords, Eichmann eXpress AC power cable; PSC Gold Power MKII AC cable (on loan)
Stands: Lush 4-tier, partly sand-filled
Powerline conditioning: PS Audio P-300 Power Plant (digital equipment only), dedicated 20 amp circuit
Sundry accessories: Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3, Bright Star Audio IsoRock 4 isolation platforms and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions around DAC, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment; ASC Tube Traps
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 10'/11' h [stepped ceiling] in short wall setup, opens to adjoining office room
Review component retail: $750/pr balanced/unbalanced interconnect, $995/8'/pr speaker cable

For cerious consideration
Alice: "Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?"
Cat: "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."

Much like Lewis Carroll, my final destination was also clear. As far as cables were concerned, that is. The desire was to find a family of cables that reaped my components' full potential, satisfied the technical performance expectations of my system and placated my sonic palate. However, the pathway to Wonderland for this audiophiliac Alice was unclear and ramified with many potential roads to travel. Indeed, many such journeys were embarked upon with grand fervor only to end at virtual destinations that were pleasant yet turned out to become temporary stopovers instead. Thus, the odyssey continued.

In parallel, personally and as a reviewer, I've taken pleasure in discovering and bringing to light some of the more unusual and unique examples of esoteric equipment that exist on the fringe of our beloved hobby. A unique example that comes to mind was my inaugural review of the DanA Digital 108:db active speakers, an uncommon approach to loudspeaker design. Another example of eccentricity are the aesthetically and sonically beautiful Supratek preamplifiers. On a revolutionary level, there is nothing else in the world like the DEQX digital all-in-one solution. I am thus excited to bring to you my latest discovery that falls into all of the above categories: The Cerious Technologies cables.

"Curiouser and Curiouser!' Chapter 2 - Alice In Wonderland
The Cerious Technologies interconnect and speaker cables are a symbiotic mix of proprietary and undisclosed conductive fibers and a liquid ceramic carrier that are unique to CT. Not surprisingly, the use of such techniques and materials necessitates complex, time-consuming manufacturing processes.

Robert Grost, founder of Cerious Technologies and previously of Unity Audio, explains: "Each interconnect bundle begins with medical grade Teflon tubing being cut to length. This process is further complicated by the varying sizes used dependent on length. A 2m length is of larger diameter than a 1m length, allowing the inclusion of greater amounts of conductor materials. This step is crucial to providing a uniform operating characteristic throughout the cable line. The "Cerious Sound" will vary little with the length chosen.

The next step involves many proprietary elements so exact
details will not be forthcoming. A custom winding room is employed where a trained technician (Kyle Grost, the son of owner Robert Grost) chooses the exact micro fiber size (in microns) and fiber count and cuts them to length. As the fiber is drawn from the spool, it travels through a complicated path where it first passes through a series of ports to slowly compress its diameter with no damage to the fiber. Next it passes through a submersed saturation bath to become first cleaned, then primed to open up the fiber and improve its absorption capabilities. The fiber next passes through the proprietary Cerious Liquid Ceramic reaching full saturation.

The saturated fiber is then pulled through its matching Teflon tube. This is time-consuming as the fiber must not be stressed. The process is further complicated by the fact that each tube is smaller in internal diameter than the fiber bundle so when pulled through, the fiber bundle is
compressed, resulting in the fiber being under pressure to damp internal vibration. Each conductor bundle is now terminated with a WBT crimp connection and sealed with adhesive-lined heat shrink to seal the conductor bundle and eliminate any chance of loss of performance.

The appropriate number of conductor bundles is then fed into fiber-reinforced tubing where they shall receive a bath in Cerious Reactive Liquid Ceramic. This is the single most complicated step in the manufacturing process. The damping fluid is inherently self-healing and modeled after platelets in the bloodstream. For this reason, it simply does not want to flow down any length before it creates a barrier, sealing the injection of further damping fluid.

In order to achieve enough flow characteristics to suit production, a liquid additive was developed that thins the Liquid Ceramic and inhibits 'cauterization'. The difficult aspect was creating a liquid that was effective yet could be removed after filling each tube. Anyone who has ever seen the interaction of oil and vinegar can begin to get the idea of the actual process. The damping fluid and its thinning agent are mixed under high-speed conditions until thoroughly combined, then immediately injected. Even when thinned, filling a 2m pair of interconnects can take over an hour.

At this stage each Cerious cable is hung in a settling room where the Liquid Ceramic settles to the bottom of the cable. The thinning agent rises to the top where it is poured off at regular intervals and more of the thinned mixture is added to fill the void. This process takes roughly two days per foot of interconnect, yielding one week to fill a single 1m interconnect. You can now get an idea of why long runs of interconnect (3+ meters) are so time consuming."

What a saga. In addition and for a balanced interconnect, the WBT-crimped conductive fibers are in turn soldered to the superb Xhadow XLR connectors in a gas-tight, high-pressure copper-to-copper termination which is potted in airtight expanding adhesive. Similar termination methods are applied to the RCA connectors, which to my eyes look significantly inferior to the balanced brethren. All this termination TLC ensures oxidization-free operation with zero deterioration in sound for at least a couple of decades, something run-of-the-mill exposed copper and silver can't match. In addition, the cables are cosmetically very attractive and come packaged in Cerious Technologies badged laptop computer carrying bags that are classy and useful beyond their one-time audio duties.

In light of these heroic construction methods alone, you'd expect very steep price tags. Your financial dread would be justifiable only given the stratospheric prices of competing statement products of rather more conventional makeup. Amazingly enough, Robert manages to keep the retail pricing extremely reasonable. How he does this is beyond me but quite refreshing in this crazy high-end audio industry. [I'd call it realistic pricing based on honest build cost rather than setting the price based on performance and what the market will bear - Ed.]

Further advantages of the non-metal design are complete immunity to EMI and RFI, a feature that promises tremendous benefits for us folks in the big city. Turn on all your florescent lights, computers and refrigerators. This cable will merely shrug its shoulders. Another major advantage, especially for reviewers, is that the running-in process is a thing of the past aside for a sonically inconsequential settling-in period for the liquid reactive ceramic surrounding the conductors. Don't you just love that? Skin effect, crystal length/alignment and inter-crystal distortions are non-issues as are vibrational distortions that are naturally damped by the liquid insulator. Straight out of their pretty boxes, the CT's are as music-ready as imaginable.

Now, all of the above applies to the CT interconnect and -- to a certain extent -- to the loudspeaker cable. Listening tests conducted by Robert concluded that for the complex interactions between the ground conductor and a given speaker's crossover and varying load impedance, a mixture of traditional materials and Cerious' fiber/ceramics was the superior topology. The recipe for the positive lead could r remain the same as the one used for the interconnect cable -- all fiber and ceramic -- while the return leg contains both metal and composites, providing a hybrid solution to the transmission of high-level signals.

"Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves." Chapter 9
Surfer Jack Johnson's Bushfire Fairytales [MODCD019, 2000] is truly a reference quality recording, produced by Ben Harper's long-time collaborator J.P. Plunier. On "Middle Man", the timbre and dynamic accuracy of the drum kit and in particular the snare was quite mesmerizing with the Cerious cables. Towards the end of the song, the drummer flings into a little run hitting snare and toms left and right, followed by the bassist reiterating the opening riff. With the Cerious in the system, that short 20-second section was as if I'd never heard it before, the tightly skinned toms' harmonics resonating with a natural decay and that hollow doommm sound that is so difficult to replicate. Similarly, Jack's acoustic guitar was presented with such true timbral quality, such transparency and resolved detail that the end result was
complete involvement in the music. The Cerious cables peel away layers of background noise to reveal an inner core of purity, beauty and music. Play any piece at a realistic volume level and you could be forgiven for almost thinking that instruments were in your HiFi room. And I don't just mean enhanced presence. The dynamic range of the system seemed to escalate as well. Jack Johnson's drummer loves to whack those suckers and the Cerious didn't at all rain on that parade.

Jesus Gonna Be Here from Bone Machine [Island Records 512 5802, 1992] is a great showcase for Tom Waits' difficult-to-reproduce vocal style. Also a challenge is the distorted slide electric guitar that accompanies Tom. The growl of the man and guitar were distinctly separated as two individual though intertwined entities, with the Cerious allowing the performance to once again approach reality in a way that involved the listener and captured the attention. This CD was recorded as a bare-boned exercise to allow the acoustic environment to feature as an important part of the sonic picture. With the Cerious' black hole background, the ambience of the recording was palpable and transported me straight to the recording session as I would imagine it.

The delicacy of Ricky Lee Jones' Pop Pop CD [Geffen 24426, 1991] was gorgeously and precisely rendered. On "Hi-Lili, Hi-lo", Ricky's voice was true in tone and when she lets fly in those brief vocal transients, the Cerious cabling allowed the system to rise to the dynamic challenge. Her intonation, word pronunciation and low-level lip and spittle smacks were clearly discernable and perfectly preserved. Are spitting noises important or even relevant? Yessir! If you can hear that, you know that micro-transients contained in music won't be MIA. That level of detail retrieval is presented completely natural and not thrust in your face. When the stand-up bass comes in, you get bloom not boom, the low notes are powerful, deep, detailed and harmonically resonant and those micro-transients enter the sonic image as the player's fingers pluck the strings.

Not metallurgy but alchemy
I could go on about the dozens of recordings I enjoyed while my system was hooked up with the Cerious cables but I'd be repeating myself. Everything I played seemed more involving, possessed of a greater sense of presence and realness and with a dynamic range that bordered on the scary. I can only speculate that this heightened sense of presence is readily attainable once metal-based conductors and their inherent properties such as skin effect, susceptibility to RFI and EMI, corrosion issues etc have been transcended.

You won't get tizzy highs and the lean mids as some less-than-stellar silver conductor examples can give. You also don't get an over-ripe low end and mediocre resolution as per lesser copper designs. I'm not saying that great sound isn't achievable from metal cables. Of course it is. I am saying that the Cerious Technologies materials and design allow for a neutral, quiet and black background, which serves as a launching platform for musical propagation. These cables are head-scratchingly dynamic and smooth yet detailed in a non-HiFi sense. They throw precisely focused images within a wide and deep stage rich in ambient sound (recording permitting). The Cerious cables are superbly transparent and simply get out of the way of the music, allowing for its full expression without the shortfalls I've endured from many of the metal-based designs that have come through my system over the years.

These are the hallmarks of a truly great component. Yes, component. The improvements wrought from the cables were tantamount to a component upgrade of significant measure. These are novel and unique products in a market full of imitators, regurgitators of established technologies and terminators packaging and dressing up common off-the-spool $1/ft materials. Therefore, it is my pleasure to bestow on Cerious Technologies a Blue Moon Award for Innovative Cable Technology under $1000 for Price-No-Object Performance. No 'bole or bollocks here.

Robert, seriously mate - what more can I say? You're onto a winner!
Editor's comment:
Cerious believes that its technology is exponential, i.e. wiring a complete system with their composite conductors to eliminate all metal from the wire-based signal path is believed to bestow clearly additive rewards. To report on this, Edgar will revisit the Cerious subject for an all-ceramic wire loom. This will include the new digital cable and power cords and a slightly improved version of the speaker cable that was supposed to be included in this review but, due to the vagaries of international shipping to Australia, got delayed or lost by the carrier. I will add a second opinion of the interconnects by way of a head-to-head comparison against the Stealth Audio Indra (the best interconnect in my personal pantheon thus far but prohibitively expensive) and the Zu Cable Varial (a just-delivered $459/1/pr cable based on a proprietary geometry and metallurgy that promises to be real value for the money.) So stay tuned for more on this exciting new Liquid Ceramic cable technology.
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