Audience Au24 Interconnects
and Speaker Cables, and powerChord Power Cord
Nothing chills the heart of the seasoned audio
critic like the words "I have a new audio cable -- would you like to review it?"
...Au24 speaker cables...
...and powerChord power cord
There are the practical considerations: You just know
theres going to be a lot of crawling around on the floor, connecting and
disconnecting gear in bad light at awkward angles. Then theres the fear: What if
this is the time you finally dont hear any differences? Some would claim that
that would signal a return to sanity -- but, of course, just as many philes would
see it as proof that the critic has finally lost it.
Then theres the whole reputation thing: Once it gets
out that youre willing to audition cables, everybody will offer to send you
theirs. After all, youve already established what you are -- all thats left to
negotiate is how often youre willing to do it. Besides, as John Atkinson once
confided to me over a spirituous beverage, "Cables are for rookies -- you cant
easily persuade an experienced reviewer to ever do that again."
But I kept hearing about Audiences Au24 line . . . Its
good . . . its affordable . . . its flexible. Flexible? Now thats
different. So I asked for the full kit: interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords --
Im such a glutton for punishment.
Flat and flexible truths are beat out by every hammer
Audiences literature assures us that "the Au24
cables are constructed of Ohno continuous-cast single-crystal copper conductors with
polypropylene insulation and cross-linked polyethylene jacket material."
Ohno? Thats a joke, surely?
Turns out its very serious. I Googled "Ohno +
copper" and was directed to www.musicpoint.nl/Furutech/furutech_occ.htm,
where I was given a quick lesson in copper. Normal copper, Furutech explained, has about
1500 grains, or individual crystals, in each foot. This means that, while traversing a 1m
cable, the signal must "cross the junctions between these grains" some 5000
I had no idea of this -- nor do I know why thats a
problem. But the company insists that it leads to "the same type of irritating
distortion as current crossing from strand to strand."
Thats "normal" copper, of course. Copper
comes in grades. Theres oxygen-free high-conductivity copper (OFHC), which
more properly should be called reduced-oxygen copper. But heres the important
part about OFHC copper: The way its cast and drawn into wire reduces the presence of
copper oxide within the wire and makes the grains "longer," a combination that
minimizes the number of grain boundaries -- and, presumably, the distortions they cause.
Youll often see references to the purity of OFHC
copper -- 99.99%, 99.999%, even 99.9999% (aka "six nines") pure. It does make
you wonder how much better 99.9999% pure is than the street-level 99.999% stuff.
But theres better stuff out there: linear-crystal
oxygen-free copper (LC-OFC), which is drawn in a process that results in only about 70
grains per foot. In 1986, the Ohno Continuous Casting (OCC) process was developed by
Professor Ohno of the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan. The process has been
patented as the Ultra Pure Copper by Ohno Continuous Casting Process (UP-OCC). Furutech
has a picture of the machine that produces what it calls "single crystallized
copper" through a process involving heated-mold continuous casting. That machine
turns out small rods of OCC pure copper, from which wire can be drawn with copper grains
over 700 long.
But thats just materials -- if all it took to design
a good-sounding cable was good materials, everybody would be using em. Audience
determined that they also needed to focus on reducing eddy-current resistance. They
explain it thusly:
"This is the key electrical characteristic for good
time response. Eddy-currents are created by the magnetic field found around a cable when
an electrical signal is present. This magnetic field builds up and collapses as the signal
varies. When the field collapses it induces an opposing voltage back into the cable. This
opposing voltage causes eddy-currents in the conductor. If they could be seen,
eddy-currents would look like swirling water in a river. This late arriving, opposing
voltage disrupts the original signal by inducing a time-smearing artifact."
That doesnt mean that Audience ignores the effects of
capacitance or inductance, however. In order to properly balance sound reproduction, the
company claims, inductive and capacitive values should be minimized, while optimizing the
ratio of inductance to capacitance (L:C). However, Audience observes, "by designing
for the lowest possible eddy-current resistance at the correct specific frequency, proper
L:C ratio is naturally arrived at and both of these properties are minimized."
A happy and gracious flexibility
That rumor of flexibility proved to be the gospel truth --
the Au24 cables are all slender and very bendable. While "everyone knows" that
loudspeaker cable must resemble a garden hose to sound good -- and have low DC resistance
in order to provide good bass response -- it seems that no one has informed the audio
signals themselves of this. According to Audience, DC resistance is relatively
unimportant. What really matters, they claim, is the cables characteristic impedance
Audience: "Most of these large diameter/low DC
resistance cables have excessively high characteristic impedance anywhere from 100 to 600
ohms, with some measuring in the 1000s of ohms." With a diameter of 1/8", the
Au24s DC resistance may be higher than that of the audiophile-approved hoses, but
its characteristic impedance is only 16 ohms. Audience maintains that musical signals pass
through its cable with less actual impedance than through a cable with a lower DC
Audience uses an advanced, unprepossessing RCA connector on
its single-ended interconnects. They connect snugly and easily and are said to have low
contact resistance. The balanced analog and AES/EBU digital interconnects employ Neutrik
XLR connectors. The speaker cables are terminated with rhodium-plated spade connectors --
simple, and a pleasure to use after some of the unruly designs Ive wrestled with.
The powerChords arent quite as svelte as the Au24
interconnects and cables, but they are flexible, thanks to their multistrand
construction and lack of shielding. Audience states that it avoids shielding because that
raises the cables impedance. The powerChords insulation is low-dielectric,
meaning that it does not store electrical energy (capacitance), which might then be
released back into the conductor in an uncontrolled manner. The powerChord is wrapped in
mesh vinyl and sports a Marinco plug on one end and a Wattgate IEC socket on the other.
I did say affordable, didnt I? A 1m Au24
interconnect is $502/pair; a 3m speaker cable is $1313/pair; powerChords are $449/6
(all prices USD).
Well, affordable by high-resolution audio cable standards,
One needs a flexible virtue
I used the Au24 cables in a system that included my Musical
Fidelity Nu-Vista preamplifier and CD player, the Linn
Klimax Twin and dartZeel NHB-108 Model One power amplifiers, and Aerial Acoustics
Model 20T loudspeakers. I also used the powerChords in a headphone system comprising Sennheiser HD 650 headphones, a Musical Fidelity CD Pre 24, and HeadRoom BlockHead.
Give us things that are alive and flexible
The Audience Au24 and powerChord cables share a family
resemblance -- they balance tonality extremely well, have superb detail (again, in
balance; neither too much nor too little of it), and theyre smooth. Not
colored-smooth, but just-right-smooth.
Should scales have fallen from my ears? Should veils have
fallen? Should notes have shone like diamonds on black velvet? Well, Ive been doing
this for a long time. Yes, in the past, scales and veils have fallen, notes have
shone, backgrounds have been impressively flat-black. But my systems
steady-state resolution is pretty high, thanks very much. And while, like a surgeon, I can
just bury my mistakes, I also get to live with my successes -- and the cables I currently
rely on are pretty darn good.
So the absence of drama in my listening sessions did not
mean that the Audience cables werent impressive. They were, and kept up with the
best I have -- for about half the price
of my current reference Shunyata Aries and Lyra
The Au24 interconnect was silent as the grave. David Russells Plays Bach [CD, Telarc
CD-80584] sparkled in its portrayal of harmonic overtones -- and the decay of those
harmonics was extended and gradual. The woody warmth of the Peggy and Yale Gordon Center
for the Performing Arts clearly embraced Russells notes, supporting and sustaining
his guitars sound. Detail, warmth, truth -- whats not to like?
The Au24 speaker cables may not have had the depth of the
tomb, but thats only because I didnt feed em anything with bass that
unnaturally prominent. On more normal material -- like that music stuff -- they did just
I like to use Steve Swallow to test bass response because
he always plays so rhythmically and so in tune. When Swallow lays down a walking beat, as
he does on "The National Anthem" on Carla Bleys Looking For America
[CD, WATT/31], it doesnt just walk -- it saunters, swaggers, struts.
The Au24 speaker cables reproduced Swallows
loosey-goosey bass line with impact and precision. And swing? They sure didnt sound
as if they were storing any energy. In that respect, based on the way they caught
Swallows drive and slam, they were mighty close to the state of the art.
The powerChords were a tad harder for me to get a handle
on. Maybe its me -- I just dont hear day-and-night differences between
well-designed power cables. When they do work for me, they seem to reduce steady-state
noise and grunge. But Im guessing at that -- what I notice primarily is that
its easier to hear the music, so I assume Im hearing less noise. In this, the
powerChords were at least as effective as my current favorites, Shunyata Researchs
PowerSnakes Sidewinder Venom 2 ($998) -- an awfully nice neighborhood to be in.
Access -- your flexible option
Are the Au24 interconnects and cables as good as the very
best Ive heard? Pretty darn close. The Shunyata Aries and Lyra allowed me to hear a
tiny smidgen deeper into the recording venue than the Audience combination, but
"deeper" is not an absolute value. On even days, I view it as necessary detail;
on odd days, I wonder if its not a bit too much. Cables arent tone controls,
but hi-fi isnt rocket science -- what I choose might not be what youd choose.
Heck, it might not even be what Id choose on a different day, or in a
different room, or with a different rig.
Of course, when you add its ease of use (flexible!) and the
ease of affordance (thats got to be a word, right?), I wouldnt
necessarily say the Audience cables wouldnt be my choice. I liked em a
Not scared of nothing -- thats me!
Audience Au24 Interconnects
and Speaker Cables, and powerChord Power Cord
Prices: Au24 interconnects, $502 USD per one-meter pair; Au24 speaker cables, $1313 USD
per three-meter pair; powerChord power cord, $449 USD per six-foot length.
Warranty: Lifetime parts and labor.
1525 Brian Place
Escondido, CA 92025
Phone: (800) 565-4390
Fax: (760) 743-2192