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A tiny Tale of two Ties

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.4, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 network switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box at 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Goldmund Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Denafrips Terminator Plus 12th Anniversary; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/80Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature;  Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Black python x white garter snake. I'm generally no wire wrangler. I don't have a mosh pit of vipers around to nip 'n' tuck sonics whenever review loaners arrive. Since over many years I've assembled a decent array of components and speakers instead, I tend to fine-tune by swapping them. That's neither better nor worse. It's just an observation on how I go about things. A few weeks ago I reviewed Kinki Studio's Earth loom. The brand is one of my personal faves. These new cables looked very much like Crystal Cable yet priced a mere fraction. They asked for a review, I agreed; which for cables is rare. I loved what they did for my main system against a resident Allnic ZL loom. Loom here means a 6m XLR from DAC to smart xover, a 1.5m RCA from filter to Kinki EX-B7 monos, a 3m run of speaker cables. Add USB then AES/EBU for digital, another RCA+speaker set to bass amp then sub. Toss about the necessary power cords. It's what ties this system together. Not very complicated.

Allnic's Kang-Su Park is first and foremost a direct-heated triode designer. Voicing his cables to emulate their sonics came with the territory. Think big tone with weight and warmth. Ivan Liu of Kinki Studio designs ultra-wideband DC coupled class A/B transistor electronics. Think speed, clarity, resolution and energy. Allnic's speaker cable and power cords are thick and heavy. Kinki's are thin and light. Allnic's are black, Kinki's white. It's really quite the yin/yang all around. With the 2.5MHz EX-B7 amps anchoring this system, it was no real surprise that the stablemate Earth wires were tailormade. Rather than beefeaters and bodybuilders, they were accelerators and energizers. What surprised was the gap. It wasn't hairsplitting digital filter doings. It was dead obvious and a gestalt changer.

As I lived longer with this new loom, I began to feel that perhaps I'd overshot just a bit. I didn't want the Allnic back. They were clearly more blurry, bloomy, warm, dark and less widebander direct. I didn't even want to halve the distance. I just hoped to tweak the new quickened sound; somehow. I'd recognize it when I hit upon it. What to try? My Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature linestage with Elrog ER50 DHT would overdo. Upstairs a Denafrips Terminator Plus DAC had undergone the free 12th Anniversary firmware update. That caught up its resolution with Cen.Grand's DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe. With the latter's Muses R2R-ladder chip for analog volume, it could swap the downstairs Sonnet Pasithea where I use no preamp. With Allnic's cables, I'd clearly preferred the Sonnet. With the Kinki ties? Aha. I didn't yet know. Duh! No sooner thought than bought. What the Cen.Grand does downstairs is exactly what it did before, naturally. Except now it's mere distillate not mega dominance. What its DSD flavor gives me now is that tangible golden glow of Raidho's fabulous planarmagnetic tweeter and diamond-coated midrange I know so well from their TD1.2. I can very clearly hear it as a consistent fine coloration. It's similar to the sugar in a sushi bar's teriyaki glaze on an unagi nigiri. You know it's there because it deepens the salty fish flavor into more complexity. Instead of two there's three or more layers of taste. Hence the triple yin-yang graphic above.

I also hear more temporal relaxation. This would usually bug me since I favour a rhythmically more drilled than chilled vibe. The Kinki amp/cable combo simply built out a sufficient lead in speed and lucidity that DSD1'024's more sashaying than brisk/crisp gait beds in amicably. How to know right from wrong? Here audiophiles all too often miss the plot. It's no mental puzzle to solve. It's no shopping-list accomplishment of boxes ticked. It's a feeling like being in love. That you can't prove the hard way either. Forget graphs, measurements and logic. Everything inside of us just has this very uncomplicated clear knowing. No peer pressure can touch it, no parental rejection overwrite it. If we listen not from the head, hifi is exactly like that. When it suits, we just know. It's how I knew that the Cen.Grand DAC with the Kinki Earth cables moved my sound closer to those inner crosshairs whose precise location I can't describe properly. I only know it by feeling; when that happens That's not a complicated trigger.

We just can't look to others to find it for us. Nor can we predict what hardware combination will push our button though experience certainly helps. So does access to alternate kit. I's all about doing it, dancing with it, getting stepped on; and finally floating above the floor. Eventually the music stops. It always does; even if just because sameness becomes staleness no matter how tasty. Because curiosity is the cat with infinite lives. So we continue tasting. Hearing refines. Priorities crystallize. Circumstances change. Applying the same inquiry and trust that our inner bell always rings when things are right(er) for how we're sonically wired, music restarts. We float again. Ahh. That's how it perpetuates itself.

For right now, my new combo waltzes along beautifully. Or is that a tango crossing another 't' on today's tiny tale of two ties?

PS: Though I don't do cables often, I am booked to review Matthew Bond's newest. Will those be Tara Labs toppers? Will they trample on my toes again to require new tailored tweaks? Stay tuned for more tea…