Finally, it was my turn. As publisher of Audiophilia, one of my roles is not to be selfish, as most audiophiles assuredly are. Mark Jenkins of New Zealand’s Antipodes Audio had offered his cables for review some years ago. Our writers began with the Komako cables and were mightily impressed. Jenkins took some time off from cables to produce his incredible music servers. After time off for good behaviour, he returned to cables and to up the ante to Reference status.
Of course, my colleagues pushed and shoved (in the most polite way) to hear them first. How could I refuse? Trust me, I thought about ways.
Please don’t confuse us with the people who debunk cables. Of course, there’s a lot of nonsense written, reviewed and designed. But many times, a cable is a component and an important one. The perfect conduit. And all good systems need them. Our job is bring you the wheat not the chaff. I believe Audiophilia has done that over the years, and at all price levels.
So, good cables do make a difference. Anybody but a cloth ear or a hard as nuts cynic can hear the differences (improvements) in a well setup system and some listening patience.
My tried and true Transparent and Cardas cables have been wonderful companions in many great years in audio. From the birth of Audiophilia, actually. They do what all great cables do — get out of the way, lifting veils and layers along the way. But like many good long term relationships, it’s not the musical that gets stale. A little change is good and can be ear opening.
The Antipodes Reference Interconnects and Speaker Cables were the change (1m pair Reference Interconnect (balanced or single ended) – $2500; 2m pair Reference Speaker Cable – $2500). And stale they were not. First, they are among the most beautifully tactile cables I know and are exquisitely made. They are not inexpensive, but the quality of fit and finish is there to see (and feel). Jenkins sent me a specifically terminated pair of speaker cable (8 foot lengths) — spades for the ARC VT 110 and bananas for the Raidho X-1s. The interconnects (1.5 meters) were terminated with my choice, RCAs.
The difference between the old school Transparent and Cardas and the Antipodes was less than I thought, although very subtle cues became apparent after time and some loving ABXing with the help of my amazing wife.
The primary attribute I give to the Antipodes, perfect for my way of listening and is of the utmost importance. Sophistication. By this I mean tactile, beautiful detailed, warm, inviting, even sexy. Tingle time. Jenkins is one crazy, detailed, passionate audiophile. He tweaks, tweaks, and tweaks again until the electrons don’t have a chance. He does it with his magnificent servers and the sound story began with his cables. As such, they are a perfect musical match for my Antipodes digital front end.
My ultimate go to, the if-I-only-have-one-track-to-test-a-component, is Thomas Newman’s superb opening track to American Beauty. This recording has it all — incredibly deep synthesized bass, multiple Latin and western percussion instruments with huge (and subtle) resonance on the back end of the struck transient, and the most beautifully recorded marimbas (oh, so difficult). As heard for many years with my reference cables, brilliant. Equally brilliant on the Antipodes, but ever so slightly smoother and detailed on the synthesizer run shortly after the track begins. The run has layers of many tracks. No, I damn well can’t hear all of them. But, I know they are there. They were more evident with the Antipodes cables in place. Simply, a more ‘sophisticated’ presentation. I hope I’m making myself clear about that description? Think Zegna suit while sipping great wine in a 3 Star Michelin Restaurant.
Going back to my cable setup revealed lots of grunt where I like it and a very beautiful sound, but that last essence of you know what was not there. Some of you may prefer the more direct Transparent and Cardas.
Mixing and matching cables and interconnects left me with a myriad of feelings, all confused. As much as I tried like hell to convince myself otherwise, I had a very difficulty time telling one mixed set from another. Great products, all.
Yet, with an all Antipodes setup, that beguiling and refined sound really won me over. I decided to ‘shrill’ test it. My go to? Ansermet/Suisse Romande/Esoteric CD of Manuel de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat. A superlative recording from Geneva’s Victoria Hall. Shortly after the introduction and before the pastiche of Beethoven’s 5th, de Falla portrays screeching birds played by piccolo and harmonics on the violins. It is a torture test for great equipment — and ears on lesser kit. Not only did the birds fly but they did so in layers and in balance. Sometimes, the birds sound as if being strangled. Not here. And so clear, I could tell the type of articulation the piccolo player used — a very hard ‘tu’ (tip of tongue behind teeth, just touching roof) with a good shot of diaphragm accent. Amazing.
More amazing — is there nothing this man Jenkins touches that doesn’t earn him a star in these pages? Well, no. His cables are nothing short of remarkable in their musicality and refinement. Superb bass and wonderful ability to portray accurate dynamics. Like all his products I’ve heard and reviewed, Jenkins’ Reference Cables are winners.
Further information: Antipodes Audio