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The Tao of Q is so simple, innocuous and apparently lo-tech that naysayers might presume that to sell it successfully would require a whiz-bang marketing campaign. Extol the virtues of silk, Ebony, conductor aging, low-mass connectors. Whip up some frenzied shameless capitalist propaganda with an aggressively subversive anti-establishment slant. However, none of this mentality is evident on Q's website. The design choices are left to speak for themselves. Any conclusions a listener will draw -- about what the individual parts contribute or don't contribute to the sound; whether and how other choices would or would not have affected the final sonics -- are left to our imagination and wild or educated guesses. The only thing Steve Eddy is prepared to say? That he's designed these cables for his own hedonistic pleasure. This hedonism embraces the many intangibles that make up the music-listening experience. That includes cosmetic and tactile responses as well as attunement to a particular aesthetic. Do the Ebony casings look attractive? You bet. Is that's why they're used? You bet. Is that the only reason they're used? Your call, not mine. Ditto for everything else about the Tao. I find this utter lack of pretentious white papers, wacky or earnest claims and ill-disguised machinations to establish a new credo or cable manufacturing empire refreshing in the extreme. Leave all of that crap parked outside the little Q shack. Inside's just one guy asking questions, trying out different things, inviting a few fellow travelers to share in his explorations. His arbiter is a simple consideration of solid finality. Do the results please him or not? That's it. Who needs smarmy explanations for that? 

The resultant rationale to offer the Tao as a commercial product is equally devoid of complications or grandiose ambitions. You either share Steve's enthusiasm for the overall gestalt of his approach or you don't. By avoiding technical claims altogether
-- Eddy will be the first to admit that the dielectric constant of filament silk is not as good as that of Teflon -- the designer pulls out the rug from underneath those who would argue rather than listen; who would require science (or pseudo science) to reaffirm (or substitute for) trust and conviction in their own emotional responses to the results. You could say then that this is a product for the mature listener. It's for those who believe in the authority of their own ears. It's for those who are secure enough to consider a 'biodynamic' cable just because. It's for those who would be attracted to the concept even if the sonic were identical to some complex hi-tech contraption filled with foamed amorphousTeflon and complex and advanced geometries. It's for those open to the idea that their sympathy for the concept becomes part of the overall experience.

After all, some chain-smoking, beef-eating, liquor-drinking, cholesterol-celebrating rapscallions well outlive their self-righteous organic and macrobiotic brethren. It's okay to embrace the organic lifestyle as a matter of aesthetics only. Conclusive
proof that it's really healthier may be far more fragile than you think. Contrary evidence exists to suggest that what you believe about the food you eat has just as much if not more of an effect than your actual diet and its balance of living enzymes versus artificial preservatives. That's the kind of aesthetic the Tao of Q embraces as well. It could just be 'organic' for its own sake. You might be attracted to it just for that. The name Tao then is curiously fitting. It recalls one of its most famed sages, Chuang-Tzu. His slogan was "When the shoe fits, the foot is forgotten. Easy is right, right is easy." If the Tao of Q generates that reaction in you -- a pleasing combination of feel, gestalt, listening pleasure, beliefs and concepts that's easeful and comfortable -- that's the only justification and explanation necessary for its existence and your appreciation and ownership thereof. On now with the listening impressions, conducted with the Eastern Electric M520 integrated to run only a single analog interconnect for ease of comparisons and to avoid diluting its sonic signature with a different -- preceding or following -- analog cable of different composition. Remember, I only had one Tao review loaner pair. Going integrated seemed like the ticket. However, I did stay two-box with the digital front end for the highest resolution and used Serguei Timachev's fantastic Stealth Sextet BNC-to-BNC digital interconnect.

Compared to the Stealth Indra which I would characterize as a subtractor of artifice that does not engage in any tone-control shenanigans except for "exploding the soundstage" as I described in my review of it, the Tao performs an additive service in the domain of texture and tone. I recently acquired five very unique piano recordings on the Pierian label. They are original performances by Debussy, Granados and Ravel of their own works, as well as performances by Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler and Teresa Carreño, left for posterity on rolls for M. Welte & Söhne reproducing pianos, then recorded in Austin on a fully restored such player piano. The rolls include not just pitch but pedal pressure commands to make for highly dynamic piano performances. Like a time capsule, they allow us to listen to the composers playing their own compositions nearly -- or more than -- a hundred years after the fact.

Exploring these recordings -- which occasionally reveal stridency and brightness unlike the famous Telarc CD with Rachmaninov's rolls reproduced on a player piano -- immediately demonstrated the subtle but active contributions of the Tao. It injected a skoch of billowing bloom and slight edge softening. This action drew me more into the decays and ambient acoustic charge than the Indra. The amorphous cable seemed perhaps cleaner and a little more articulate on the leading edge but thereby also emphasized the not always ideal microphone placement when the going got intense. Imagine a tone like a physical event that appears in empty space. The Stealth portrayed this space as empty while the Tao allowed you to sense atomic particles which sprayed away from the tones taking up their space. This imagery attempts to visualize these subtle changes in presentation. It explains why the Indra seemed cleaner and more precise, the Tao bloomier as though the visible appearance of those particles acted like dither to make the fading portion of tones seem to interact more with the environment.

This radiating action around sounds was reminiscent of the illuminated effect valve aficionados talk about. It's instantly obvious when eliminated. Still, it's hard to explain without defaulting to poetic descriptions. Sam Tellig's lit-from-within phrase is probably the most apt. It describes this radiation extending beyond the boundary or skin of the sounds to light up the space around them. A side effect is the softening that occurs when clear-cut borders or distinctions -- between sound and nothing, between tone and silence -- blend and intersect. Just as in love, where one begins and the other ends becomes a bit more ambiguous. It's a subtle romanticizing effect, a bit more water-color wash than hard-edged acrylic definition. It's akin to lowering the damping factor to have things ring out a bit more for added decay wafting.

Sezen Aksu's Bahane [DMC 20153] is a recently discovered treasure, mixing a higher than usual number of purely acoustic down-tempo tunes with the obligatory disco-fied Pop tunes (but even those are forgiven with a voice as glorious as Sezen's). The same tao-seño qualities already described transferred intact from solo piano to Turkish Ethno-Pop and -- as clearly as how this cable interacted with my system and what I hone in on -- to anything else I threw at it: the muted trumpet improv of Jerry Gonzales y los Piratas De Flamenco mixing Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk with Flamenco [Sunnyside 1135]; the Fado of Ana Moura [Guarda-me a vida na mão - WorldVillage 468038]; the Russian Romance of Ella Leya [B-Elite 807727702]; and Dhafer Youssef's spine-tingling vocals on Mercan Dede's ambient Sufi masterpiece Su [Escondia 6510-2].

The Tao emphatically does not blunt transients. The small softening effect occurs by what happens at the tail end of aural fades. Those are unusually extended and visible. Like other minimum dielectric designs I've encountered (the extremist Omega Mikro comes to mind), the Tao is extremely open, fast and unfettered and thus doesn't hide flaws in recordings. Unlike the Omega Mikro which always struck me as a bit lightweight in the bass and tipped up in the treble, the Tao does not redress the tonal balance.

Theorizing alert: Does the absence of bundled stranded conductors eliminate the need for mechanical damping to allow a low-mass 'undamped' design to ring out longer and preserve the energy encoded in the signal? This is the sort of lazy surface explanation that abounds in audio - hard dome tweeters sound hard, soft dome tweeters sound soft, cables with soft or barely there insultation sound softer or faster. Does the absence of a conventional dielectric sidestep the issues of dielectric charge? Q doesn't pander to any of these questions. We can theorize or give up on explanations and listen instead.

Risking shoe-horning and pigeon-holing for the sake of further descriptions, I would like to call the Tao an S.E.T. type of cable. It's got the texture of an amp like the Art Audio PX-25 I may have to revisit one of these days. It's got the immediacy and tactile directness of such designs and thus doesn't exhibit the slightly fatter, denser mien of certain high-power push-pull tube amps. It's lithe but fully develops tone, particularly noticeable on piano. It's very fast. It's also doing that Zanden-esque extended-decay trick. At $400 for 13.8 inches (the shortest length available), the simple construction here might inspire DIY clones because on the surface, it seems like an easy design to copy cheaply - if you knew what the conductor was and where to obtain it. However, without the specialized equipment required to 'coat' the 30-gauge solid-core wires with the silk sheathing, any notions of doing by hand what Q farms out to a French firm with the requisite machines will likely generate far more frustration, curses and broken wires than joy-joy feelings.

I like this Tao of Q cable very much. The theme of natural materials and design purity appeal to me. It's why I recently ordered an essentially single-driver speaker (8.5-octave coverage plus super tweeter above 12kHz) with 101dB of reflexes, the Zu Cable Druid Dark [left,] to kick off an exploration into this new beat of miniaturization and back to basics. This specific variant on the theme includes micro and low-power transistor rather than tube components, examples of which are Peter Daniel's radical Patek chip amp [left overlay] and RedWine Audio's Clari-T. Like the Tao cable, these components represent a special artisan's approach to audio in both concept and execution. That trend is something to which I  plan to devote a few upcoming reviews. Today's Tao of Q writeup simply kicks it off.

This 'underground' movement is creative, fun and educational. It prompts questioning certain mandates of common knowledge. Trimming the fat on complexity reduces parts costs to drop the price of admission. But without performance, it would be just different to be different. That alone is clearly not what Steve Eddy's Tao cable or these components are about. The Q cable sounds extraordinarily good, belonging in the wide open, fast, immediate, highly dynamic camp while adding a modicum of S.E.T. texture and spatiality. There's no added girth, body, warmth or any of the usual comfort colorations. There are none of the artificial look-ma enhancements in bass and treble either.

These performance attributes suggest solid reasons for why this unshielded interconnect looks as it does and is constructed as it is. Skinny and super flexible are definitely with it. To revisit this subject in greater depth, a forthcoming review will compare the Q Tao to the Crystal Cable Piccolo and Chris Sommovigo's micro-tube Stereovox HDSE.

For today, let's conclude that Steve Eddy -- who once was (and still might be) banned from the Cable Asylum for certain heretical notions about the unequivocal audiblity of cable differences -- has now fashioned an unusual cable about which nothing seems capricious or off the cuff just to be different. It seems like a really intelligent minimalist design. It's a real performer, it's silly-easy to work with and the lack of external shielding didn't cause any issues in my environment. Arguably, the lack of shielding might even have contributed to the very direct, fuzz-free and unmitigated performance? Who knows. For once, a cable makes no claims and just asks to be judged on its own merit. To these ears, it's seriously heavy on merit and an ignoramus on bull and hype. That's quite the relief in the hissing snake pit off cable boulevard. And while some will invariably suggest that the Tao is "expensive for what it is" (and what is that, exactly?) the performance doesn't suggest anything to that effect. As always, personal trials are mandatory to see what you think. If nothing else, it would broaden your mind especially in these days of patented ultra-complex cable geometries and manufacturers taking pride in high-count spacers, diameter girth and colorful Flextech. You'd discover that apparently contradictory and mutually exclusive approaches can all work. It merely depends on your needs and sensibilities (and budget) what will ultimately work best for you. If there were two equally satisfying sonic solutions in the end? Perhaps you'd opt to go with the one that was simpler, thinner, more flexible and made from 'home-grown' materials - nothing fancy but special because of it? Stay on the Q-T. Our upcoming cable comparison will tease out further performance descriptions.
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