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Upon the initial switch from my homebrew speaker cables to the AR (Acoustic Revive), I tried not to make too many critical observations since Joe Cohen had informed me that the cables were not broken in. I played them for a couple of weeks all day every day and then set out to take their measure. I was still waiting on the rebuild of my phono cartridges at Soundsmith, hence I was limited to CD playback. I started with the Harmony Audio interconnect from the Audio Note DAC to the Hovland preamp (in my system, the Harmony is no good between preamp and amp) and the Stealth CWS from Hovland to Red Rose. First up was Cassandra Wilson's new release Loverly [Blue Note 076992]. My favorite cut on this is her juiced-up version of "St. James Infirmary". One of my first impressions was that the AR cable was smoother in the upper mids than my homebrew. The AR cable also presented the dynamics and energy of this performance exceptionally well. Transients were crisp. Cassandra's voice was rendered beautifully with no sense of strain, just a nicely rounded, natural-sounding human voice. So, the AR cable passed my most crucial test with flying colors; that of portraying the human voice.

The next cut "Dust My Broom" has a great bass line that drives the song infectiously. The AR cable captures the rhythm and has the PRaT down pat! However, I would say that sheer bass power is not its major strength contrary to its promotional literature. It is a bit reserved in the nether regions as later cable comparisons would confirm. Soundstaging is well focused, with good separation of instruments between the speakers. Soundstage depth is good but not exceptional. There is more presence and information in the front of the soundstage. The AR cable is best characterized as giving a clearly defined sound with plenty of detail and life.

With this cable, one might need to exercise some care in system matching. To my ears, it conveys slightly more upper harmonics and has a mild treble emphasis (e.g., more prominent cymbals on the Cassandra Wilson CD) than some other cables and would not mate well with hot tweeters. With the LaScala paper cone tweeter, this fortunately was not an issue. Energy and involvement with excellent vocals are the hallmarks of the AR cable.

Pergolesi's Stabat Mater [OPS 30-160] with soprano Gemma Bertagnolli and contralto Sara Mingardo was a good test for the upper midrange. There was no edginess to Gemma's close-miked vocals. I did yearn for a bit more weight in the lower registers to balance the ethereal quality of this recording however. A great CD that Vinnie Rossi turned me on to is Ceu's self-titled album [Six Degrees/Fontana]. My favorite cuts "Malemolencia" and "Rainha" again showed the great vocal clarity of the AR cable. It gives a very clean and tidy presentation.

To borrow from Harry Pearson's description of a component's character falling along a continuum from yin (tending toward dark) to yang (sunlit to bright), the AR cable leans toward the yang. If a component deviates from neutrality, I personally have always preferred the yin character, finding it more listenable over the long term.

Robert Bastanis, designer of open baffle speakers and cables, sent a pair of his new Epilog II speaker cables, mainly to try on my upstairs Bastanis Prometheus Mk. II speakers. They are obviously voiced for his speakers but there was no reason not to try them also on the WLMs. Playing the same tracks as above, the Epilog II showed itself to be quite a different animal. The Cassandra Wilson cuts were rendered in a very open soundstage with a lot of air around instruments and good soundstage bloom. This cable leans slightly toward the yin. Moving on to a favorite bar band CD of mine, Ronnie Rathers, the second cut showed how the Epilog II fleshes out the harmonics of the synthesizer very evenly, with a good balance between fundamentals and overtones. Plus the natural decay of notes was well portrayed, lending to a richer overall presentation "Til There Was
You" has a strong electric bass line, which could now be felt in the listening seat and floor. The Epilog II has deep and powerful bass.

With the somewhat lightweight Pergolesi recording, the Epilog II gave the strings a smoothness and portrayed the soprano's voice with more body. My visiting friend Rich Brown brought along a CD of a recording he was commissioned to make of the Portland Baroque Orchestra doing Four Seasons and LaFolia. Rich said that the true sound of the performance in this hall is a little lightweight and top heavy. He felt that the Epilog II speaker cable portrayed the acoustic signature of the hall right on the money.

Lastly I played the Michael Musillami Trio The Treatment [Playscape Recordings 3050607]. On the title cut, the Epilog II cable imparted an ease to the sound that made listening very pleasant. My notes said that the upper mids, especially the electric violin, were very satisfying. I decided to hold off on further auditioning of the Epilog II for the upstairs Bastanis speaker system.

It was time to bring out the big guns, the Prana Nataraja. Joe Cohen of the Lotus Group manufacturers this expensive cable, painstakingly assembling it by hand. He was comfortable sharing the following details about its construction. Start with a pure 13-gauge silver ribbon; subject this conductor to various proprietary treatments, then begin wrapping the cable layer by layer. Each conductor has thirteen layers of insulating materials including two copper foil shields. He likes to use natural materials as much as possible. It really does make a difference, he says. The assembly process is very labor intensive. There is no way around it so they are trying to hire more people to increase production efficiency. There are actually two speaker cable models above the Nataraja: the Cosmos, which is made from 7-gauge silver ribbon and the Avatar, which is 2-gauge and introduces proprietary manufacturing processes beyond the others. This is a bulky, somewhat stiff and unwieldy cable. It requires some care getting a good solid connection of the spades to the speaker terminals without putting the cables under stress.

Going right to the Michael Musillami cuts, the soundstage grew even more spacious. As I later concluded, this was a hallmark of the Nataraja cable regardless of system. The second thing was an increase in the portrayal of tonal colors. Harmonic overtones and the decay of notes were revealed in a sophisticated and subtle manner. I'm not talking about a pleasing harmonic distortion but more of the true nuances that make up the characteristic timbre of an instrument. Another consistently positive effect of putting Nataraja speaker cable into a system is an improvement in bass performance. Bass extension seemed to go down another octave beyond the AR cable. Bass speed/transient performance improved too. It also surpassed the bass performance of the Epilog II. There was less overhang on the standup bass in Michael Musillami's "Brooms" where the bass line is very fast.

Playing the Cassandra Wilson "St. James Infirmary", there was more information and the sonic improvements seemed to be across the board. The music just became more involving. On the Pergolesi, I could hear deeper into the recording to unravel layers of soundstage depth. String tone was very good and the leanness of this recording was less objectionable.

Back to Ceu, the aforementioned sonic effects were heard again: deeper and cleaner bass, increased soundstage depth and more harmonic nuance. The complexity of the percussion on cut 5 was revealed with great intelligibility. The Prana Nataraja is a very cerebral cable, challenging your mind to take it all in. What else would you expect with such a name? Only after extended listening in both my upstairs and downstairs systems did I detect one area where it does not absolutely excel - dynamics. It ever so slightly compresses dynamics in comparison to some of the other speaker cables on review. This should be viewed as a mild criticism based on the cable's considerable musical strengths.