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|Reviewer: Michael Lavorgna
Source: Audio Aero Capitole MKII
Preamp: Déjà Vu Audio
Amp: Fi 45 Prototype (based on the Fi 2A3 Stereo amp, optimized for the 45 tube by Don Garber)
Speakers: Cain & Cain Abby (Normal) and Cain & Cain Bailey
Cables: Nirvana S-L interconnects, Auditorium 23 Speaker Cable, JPS Labs Digital AC Power Cable, Audience PowerChord, ESP Essence Power Cord and Z-Cable Heavy Thunder V2 on the Blue Circle MR
Stands: pARTicular Basis Rack
Powerline conditioning: Blue Circle Music Ring MR800
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks Series II under AA Capitole, Yamamoto Sound Craft PB-10 Ebony Bases under Abbys, PS Audio Ultimate Outlet and AudioPrism Quiet Lines. Room damping provided by lots of books.
Room size: 13' w x 14' d x 9' h
Review component retail: $290 for 1.2 meter interconnect pair, $406.34 for 3m/pair for unterminated speaker cable, $696.28 for 3m/pair terminated w/PHY banana connectors
Like all of us writers here at 6moons, many of our readers are hard-core involved enthusiasts. Some of them alert us to typos that escape the editor -- it happens -- and keep suggesting wild and wacky discoveries we may have overlooked (that happens routinely). And sometimes, an on-line dialogue will form between a reader and a writer whose commentary by the reader can take on review-like insights. This recently transpired between Michael Lavorgna and Jeff Day. Jeff was so taken with Michael's descriptions of the PHY-HP cable that he suggested they should get published. Without anticipating our reaction, Michael nonetheless followed Jeff's suggestion, formalized them and sent 'em to me. I agreed with Jeff. This was good stuff on the francophile/Japanese connection of back-to-the-roots audio thinking. So much for the creative community spirit in action. Mike's second installment here just had him convinced this reviewing stuff is fun so welcome our newest moon man. - Ed
|Why PHY - WiFi?
I had come across the PHY cables by accident and as part of some online research into the Auditorium 23 speaker cables. Intrigued by PHY the company and the simple all-natural construction and relatively low price of the PHY interconnects, I contacted the US importer and ordered a pair. Inserting this one interconnect into my system changed its character in no small terms. Their level of performance especially at their asking price coupled with the relative lack of information available led me to share my excitement initially with Jeff Day and at his suggestion, Srajan and 6moons proper.
I also contacted Bernard Salabert, the man behind PHY. I requested more information about PHY the company and his cables and he suggested I try the PHY speaker cables as well to get the full effect of the qualities of the PHY cable. I took him up on his offer and recommendation and purchased a second pair of the interconnects while Tony Minasian of Tonian Labs (the PHY US importer) followed up and sent over a loaner pair of the PHY speaker cables.
I have since found one intriguing reference to the PHY cables by none other than Dr. Harvey 'Gizmo' Rosenberg in his review of the Ocellia Kedros speakers:
"I am in the middle of a massive cable re-thinking so I can't get you a full evaluation of the cables supplied with these speakers which are designed by Salabert, except to say I like them very much, and they sound much better with this speaker than my Alpha-Core silvers - I think, but you will have to wait for my full evaluation.
What I am detecting now is the profound effect that the cable dielectric has on the personality of the cable. These copper cable use cotton/silk insulation, which is right. The speaker cables are also a pain in the ass they are so stiff. PHY-HP is mostly known for their hand-made full-range drivers. PHY also makes a shielded interconnect, balanced interconnects, a power cable and triple outlet power cord all based on the same principles and construction. They also sell their connectors, which include RCA and 4mm plug and socket."
From Bernard Salabert: "All our cables are manufactured according to the principles -- and for the first time respect the conclusions of the work -- of Dr. Pierre Johannet, Head of Research at the EDF (Electricite de France) regarding interface micro discharges (MDI) and benefit further from two years of development at PHY-HP. Our R&D and Salabert's work explain a lot of things, most of which audiophiles have confirmed by listening already for many years. What's more, it also shows why all natural materials perform much better in audio than modern synthetic substitutes."
Art Dudley once compared the task of reading cable manufacturer's claims to a level of hell. "Dear, sweet, merciful God, they're making us read these things. For all eternity." In terms of the claims relating to MDI, my ignorance turns out to be a damnation-saving bliss as I do not read French and the majority of information about the theories & related discussion behind MDI are in French. Many thanks to Klaus for forwarding Dr. Johannet's original paper on MDI but when my French-translating friends had a look at the content, they all politely passed. A read-through of the US patent application does not really get me any closer than the French to understanding the practical side of MDI as it relates to audio cables - the effects discussed take place at GHz frequencies.
Skin effect, on the other hand, is a well-documented problem and MDI can be viewed as another manifestation thereof. Companies including Cardas, Stealth, Van den Hul, Acoustic Zen, Analysis Plus, Alpha Core Goertz and many others make reference to the methods they employ to minimize skin effect in their cables. Its adverse effects are commonly described as causing smearing and time alignment problems across frequencies, loss of detail and air and reduced soundstage depth.
How well the PHY cables avoid skin effect and keep MDI at bay remains to be heard and I voluntarily suspend disbelief as I plod along. From the manufacturer's web site, we learn that the PHY interconnect cables are "3 conductors ø 0.6mm mono wire cable, silvered pure recooked cooper insulated by hydrophobic natural cotton." Speaker cables are "3 conductors ø 2 = 3.1416 mm2 mono wire cable, silvered pure recooked cooper, insulated by hydrophobic natural cotton."
By Way of an Introduction
People get angry about audio cables. If an audio cable manufacturer is perceived to be marking up his raw material cost above some reasonable profit, it's a call to arms. The DIYers are on the march, Belden a means to a fair and honest alternative to the devil that lurks in the cable business. Forensic surgeons are scalpel'ing their way through all manner of shrink-wrapped sleeving to uncover the hidden scandalous secrets of OEM rebranding. There's enough fodder here to make Dan Brown green with envy.
Since writing about manufactured cables could well be a pact with this wily beast, I've spent some time scouring audio cable reviews looking for the telltale 666 hidden in the grading system of the usual suspects. Alas, they are all too clever and must be using some new math or cryptic ancient cipher to disguise their evil doing. What I did notice was a heretical conspiracy that has manifested itself as the supposed relation between neutral and natural. Aha! A quick Google reveals the only other places where these terms are as commonly conjoined: henna hair care products and the neutral theory of molecular evolution. Need I say more?
|Do you remember Wooly Willy? Willy, in addition to being our savior from the neutral/natural dilemma, is a great toy that's been around since the 1950s. He comes with a magic wand that you use to move metal shavings around to give his head hair. The original ad copy read 'change his character with the wand". I like to think of cables as the audio equivalent of Willy's magic wand.
Change its character? Wait just a minute! As in add or take something away? I thought the best cable is no cable, short of that its the one you can't hear. As hard as I try, I can't get my thoughts to embrace this simple aphorism and variables are the seeds of my discontent.
Color me irascible but I think what you end up hearing depends on what else you've got going on; system variables, room variables, music preferences, listening preferences, the direction you spin your vinyl. In other words, I'd suggest the correlation between an implied objective observation (neutrality) and the subjective impression of a natural sound is not one-to-one due to the lack of a neutral environment to begin with. A random auditory drift if you will.
So I prefer character. While being much less resolute in
|terms of any universal effect, each cable in this review has a distinct character, which it then imparts on the system. How these traits will affect your system is similar to rearranging the hair on your head; add a beard, mustache, goatee perhaps; it'll definitely change your character but it's still you underneath.
Methodology: 6 cables, 4 configurations
I started this process by inserting all the PHY cables into my system, which meant 2 pair of French interconnects and their PHY speaker cable. Over time, I reintroduced the Nirvana S-L interconnect, the Nirvana S-L speaker cable and finally, the PHY interconnects with the Auditorium 23 speaker cable. At times I would swap a cable for a track or two to verify impressions.
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