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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
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Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 network switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R, Goldmund/Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox3awf + sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Qualio IQ; Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Furutech RTP-6 on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioner; 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: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport, Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 80Hz active filter; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustics SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; 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; Active DSP speakers: Fram Midi 120
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
Review component retail: €1.8K/1m XLR interconnect, €4.8/8K/2m speaker cables
In 2006, Tara Labs of Oregon had their €15K/m vacuum-dielectric Zero which advertising of the day called the cable God listens to. By 2012, Madison Audio Labs of Hong Kong had leveraged Chinese production for cables which Joe and Jill Civilian could afford. When Glen Wagenknecht reviewed their set in August that year, a pair of 1m interconnects wanted $124 or $210 depending on level. The matching 2.5m speaker cables were $780/pr. Ten years later, the Madison Audio Labs website no longer works. Meanwhile far older Tara Labs still go strong. What both had in common was designer Matthew Bond who since relaunched under his own name. As a 2022 PFO review on his top effort reports, pricing now is $4'800 or $8'000 for two different 2m speaker cables, $1'800 for a matching 1m XLR interconnect. One glance at the new speaker cable shows a geometry which Mr. Bond never used before: a multi-paralleled ribbon which purportedly drives inductance down to the lowest possible level. On the other side of the globe, Audio Group Denmark under the design baton of Michael Børresen pursue the same goal for loudspeakers with their proprietary 'iron-less' drivers of measurably lower inductance. And somewhere off the coast of the Azores, a butterfly produces a mental bubble which reads "great minds think alike".
Matthew's soft-anneal rectangular solid-core copper conductor.
As the Arnis Balgavis review on the top MBA ribbon cable explains, a 3-way conductor arrangement rebalances inductance and capacitance where a basic +/-/+/-/+ config would increase capacitance to levels that could have certain amplifiers oscillate. Bond's Tri-Path layout instead offers capacitance of 0.2µF/ft with 0.024µH inductance to match. Thirty-six 18AWG copper/silver alloy conductors create aggregate mass of gauge 4, top Teflon insulation is said to be stable from DC-100MHz, continuous then peak current conduction good for 100/500 amperes. The second ribbon model halves mass to 8 gauge. So form follows function and geometry bows to very specific enforced electrical behaviour.
Another framing says that these latest Bond wires leverage 40+ years experience in the cable sector of measurement-driven engineering not a sounds-good-to-me tinkerer. We also don't see external ground boxes of current Tara Labs cables; or Audioquest-style battery packs to charge a dielectric. In the MBA interconnects we do see a current-gen revisit of the rectangular solid-core conductors Matthew developed during his Tara Labs days. Actually, those are invisible to the naked eye. Visible are finely finished cables without massive terminator boxes, exposed drain wires or other exotic accoutrements whereby our High End still manages to cause irritated coughs. Matthew's pick for supplier of fine XLR connectors is Australia's Eichmann aka ETI Research. Also, "we want a dielectric to approach the neutrality of air; or a vacuum. After a chemical modification, our dielectric achieves this." Given how Matthew commercialized the first consumer cable with a vacuum dielectric, that claim has teeth.
Looking more uncommon but still executed as simply as possible are his ribbon speaker cables. That Matthew Bond thinks well outside the box of Textbook 101 we also appreciate with his new break-in CD v2. Recalling the 'irrational but efficacious' disc from Ayre/Cardas, it runs "cascade noise to burn-in audio electronics, cables and loudspeakers. What makes cascade noise really effective is the proprietary combination of pink and white noise, percussive pulses at 180bpm, sweeping sine waves and pulses of ascending and descending (cascading) multi-octave square waves." Who reminded me of MBA—we've not heard a lot of the brand yet through formal reviews—was Mark Gurvey. He heads SoCal's Source Systems Ltd. I'd worked with him repeatedly during his days as Esoteric's US marketing manager. Today his brands are Amadeus, fidata/Soundgenic, Lumin and Matthew Bond Audio. Seeing these cables in the same catalogue seemed telling; unapologetically upscale but still very much no-nonsense products. For example, "when the capacitance of an audio interconnect increases, high-frequency bandwidth shrinks. For every doubling of capacitance, HF bandwidth loses a full octave. Other cables call low capacitance 15 or 24pF/ft. The capacitance between +/- conductors of our interconnect is 1.3pF/ft." No-nonsense then is how this review came about. Matthew followed up Mark's introductory email by asking what cable lengths I needed. Except for one long 6m run between DAC with lossless volume and smart active crossover, it's 1.5/1m leads from there to the speaker and sub amps; and 3m for the speaker cables. Matthew was happy to supply the complete loom and predicted about 6 weeks to make it.
I reviewed/owned cables like Allnic, Analysis Plus, Ansuz, ASI, AudioArt, Crystal, Esprit, Furutech, HMS, LessLoss, Stealth and many more. While differences factor, beyond what I call basic yet competent designs where I play these days, I don't find them big. They mostly limit themselves to slight tonal-balance shifts. Last year I reviewed a €10K power cable. While its thick, dark, bassy effect was unmistakable, I didn't like it. Still, of all hifi cable types, I hear the biggest potential changes with AC cords. That said, I've been pleased with my assortment to no longer actively look beyond. When a job's done, I forget about it. I certainly don't return for regular inspections. Ditto power delivery. Except for my Vibex AC/DC filter, I prefer passive distributors. There too I feel all set. It's why in these categories I've long since stopped soliciting reviews. When that script flips and I get asked instead, I'm selective. In this instance Matthew's CV made all the difference then his clearly stated new design parameters—lowest inductance for speaker cables, lowest capacitance for interconnects—had me curious. I'd heard evidence of the benefits of low inductance with Børresen speakers. My techno-peasant brain wondered what the same principle applied to speaker cable might do. Reasons. We all do things for a reason. Now you know mine for this gig. That 8 grand for a 2m speaker cable eclipse my sandbox's comfort zone didn't factor one grain. Curiosity is simply curious. The rest goes to Cesar. Also, I pay my accountant to be in a bad mood so I don't have to be. Intro. Wrapped?
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