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The companion gray metal Corona Magi power cords come dressed like the rest of the gray loom and are terminated with Oyaide P004, P004e/C004. The contacts of P-004/C-004 are made of beryllium copper and the plating is a combination of platinum and palladium. The body is made of 30% glass-filled PBT and the outer cover is polycarbonate for rigidity and hardness according to Oyaide. The Suprema Flamen power cord is from Arkana’s blue metal tier with Teflon insulation and blue mesh. It uses Oyaide P-046, P046e/ C046, C-246 connectors with phosphor bronze contacts, 24k gold and Palladium plating.

Time to select music from my digital jukebox. A few snippets were as follows. "7 Atom Nine Adventures" from Atom 9 Adventures: Robert Gulya Moviescore [Media MMS07011]. This was from a tiny movie but composer Robert Gulya and Budapest's Symphony evoke the styles of Hollywood cinematic titans to realize a classic serial soundtrack way above and beyond budget. Rousing heroics and daring do show dramatic verve with aplomb. This recording goes for instrumental texture and nuance over perspective and venue information. There lots to like musically and it’s all tons of fun. "Keith Don’t Go" from Nils Lofgren: Acoustic Live [Vision Music Inc VMCD1014] is a popular show favorite but there is definite reason for that. Lofgren gives a dazzling live performance to unleash lightning from his guitar strings. It’s also a clean recording of a live venue and a great performance with real dynamic snap and energy that was captured in 1997 at the Barns of Wolftrap, Vienna/VA by Ron Freeland.

"Chances" from Chances: Jill Barber [Outside Music] proved Barber to be quite the chameleon. Where her latest album Chansons unleashes the styles of Edith Piaf and Eartha Kitt to name a few, this lovely 2008 release features a wealth of original works in a 50s jazz lounge style that borrows from pop and jazz country to build some new ground. Almost familiar yet totally unique, she can contort that voice to evoke whatever style suits the emotional needs of a piece. It’s a decent recording with talented orchestra and background singers nicely preserved. This is a playful cut to show off all these qualities. "Shock to Your System" from Heartthrob: Tegan and Sara [Vapor/Warner Bros. 2-532232] is a strong release from Canadian artists Tegan and Sara Quin which stuffs quite a number of popular chart hits into one disc. The album sports multiple engineers and recording locations which is reflected in the variety of styles. Wispy vocals with dense overlays on this song attempt a little extra hard-hitting meat on the orchestral/synth backup. Overall the album goes more for Euro pop ambitions with its light and bouncy tonal balance and processed density. The music is catchy and lighthearted.

"The Bloody Shot" from Skyfall Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Thomas Newman [Sony 88765410402] shows quick-paced tight percussion work in a rapid fire orchestral piece recorded in the Abbey Road and Sphere studios of London. There’s good dynamic range with steep transients to get the blood pumping for proof that composer/conductor Newman doesn’t shy away from Zimmer-style drum work. "I Want a Little Girl" from Clark Terry The Chicago Sessions 1995-96 [Reference Recordings RR-111] is big-band material by Clark Terry and the De-Paul University Big Band under the directorship of Bob Lark and engineered by the renowned Professor Johnson for this Reference Recordings release. It’s got all the soundstage detail you could ask for, full dynamic nuance and muscle at the service of a great performance with engaging vocals. "Stuck in a Moment and Can’t Get Out of It" from the 24/96 digital download of The Persuasions Sing U2 on Chesky has a seasoned acapella group take on U2 hits to lend them a fresh perspective. It’s a clean warm close-miked recording that captures the full vocal weight and delicate interplay.

"This means war!" and "The Good, the Oil and the Beauty" from Big City: Erwann Kermorvant [Moviescore Media MMS-10005] has French composer Erwann Kermorvant tackle a rare French Western for his second outing with Moviesore Media. Call it enthusiastic plagiarism or heartfelt homage, you‘ll hear Copland, Alfred Newman, Bruce Broughton and Danny Elfman themes intertwined but done to perfection. Produced by Mikael Carlsson and masterfully recorded by Jean Christophe Messonier, this wonderful soundtrack departs from the norm by not only capturing accurate instrumental timbre and texture but also by carving out phenomenal soundstage information with big air and dynamic excitement that does honour to Reference Recording. And now on with the show.

With a full gray loom plus a blue tier of power cords to play with, I decided on an incremental approach to maintain a floating reference point and keep the listening results meaningful. Exquisotor interconnects began the proceedings. First one interconnect was replaced between DAC and preamp and allowed to break in. This was followed by two more interconnects to replace all line-level cables with Arkana. Next up was the speaker cable. In this case my usual bi-wire run was replaced by a single run of Arkana Aequilibrium supplemented with a set of JPS jumpers. Last came the power cords. The Corona Magi first replaced my regular AC cable feeding the DAC followed in turn by the Suprema Flamen in the same position. The last round of swaps went to the Bel Canto EVO 200.4 amp. The descriptions in these circumstances amount to an escalating progression towards a full Arkana loom. The context of these descriptions should therefore be noted.

Replacing the Madison Audio Lab E3 Extreme 1 with the Exquisotor was in some respects déjà vu. The Exquisotor exhibited the same intense 3D density and tonal balance of Madison’s mid-priced Extreme Standard 1. Both cables focused attention on the midband through the upper bass where the majority of musical instruments find their voice. The manufacturer recommends 100-hours break-in so I let the Arkana settle in. The end results came down to the same basic character with more refinement. The Exquisotor retained its intense organic quality but gained resolution, dynamic muscle and localization finesse over the 100 hours. In terms of tonal balance the cables didn’t stray from initial insertion. The emphasis remained on the mids and lower mids. High frequencies were extended and smooth but lacked the air some audiophiles perceive as transparency. Bass was slightly elevated around 50 cycles compared to the Madison but the extreme low end was near identical, quick and precise.

Resolution was high although steep transient attack was not sharply pronounced. The Exquisotor preferred a little more complexity and detail on the leading edge, lending a rounder tubular analogue voice to the material. This proved beneficial on instrumental material and I found the term ‘natural’ cropping up in my listening notes. The Arkana also produced no apparent cable noise, no mild hiss, no upper-end grunge. In this regard it equalled the effects of the CA Electronics Ceramic cable clamps, proving the Exquisotor to be an inherently quiet cable. Dynamics evolved from mild compression in the upper mids upon initial insertion to uniformly unfettered as time went on. This combined with the inherent tonal balance lent considerable weight to the lower spectrum and intensity to brass instruments for power and glow. Soundstaging was wide and mildly forward, exhibiting a good blend of depth and projection in keeping with its Technicolor 3D presentation. The Exquisotor could conjure up big dimensional images floating in space. In this respect it was exemplary but in terms of venue information the Arkana paralleled the Madison Audio Labs Extreme Standard 1. Hall acoustics were dark, existing only when excited by instrumental reflections. Overall the Arkana interconnects were forgiving of source material. The organic presentation smoothed out rough edges, concentrating more on acoustical instrumental weight and proportion rather than transparency and transient speed. That opened up a larger catalogue of material for musical enjoyment rather than inspection. How much did it alter the character of the system from my previous reference, the Madison Audio Labs cables? The Wyred4Sound DAC-2 sounded considerably more like the AURALiC ARK MX+. Think less matter of fact, with more palpable density and midrange intensity. The tradeoff was a little less of Wyred’s trademark attack prowess.

The Aequilibrium speaker cables were next. Insertion proved painless and no shocking departure in overall signature from the Madison Audio Labs Extreme 2. Here the Arkana cables were consolidating the contribution of the Exquisotor interconnects with small embellishments. There was a little more focus, a little more pronounced dimensionality and small gains in acoustical envelope although still very much centred on the mid through upper bass. The changes here were subtle rather than drastic but not inconsequential. Those small successive gains added up to superior absolute resolution and more performance subtleties. The system clearly revealed changes in placement information relative to microphone position (in purist recordings where that information does exist). If a singer moved his head slightly, the action was made obvious.