It was just about fifteen years ago that I first became aware of and reviewed the Audience Au24 interconnects and speaker wires. At that time, I made particular mention of their user friendliness and was also favorably impressed with the musicality of these rather thin cables. Then as now, many audiophiles have been conditioned to believe that the better and more expensive audio cables are, the heaver gauged and more massive the cables have to be. I have friends who truly believe that “you need a thick cable to carry the full audio signal”. Personally, I have grown tired of cables that could be considered “Audio Pipes”.
Audience has steadfastly resisted this trend. As soon as I became aware that Audience had revised their entire line and the new Au24 SX interconnects and speaker wire were at the very top of that line, I felt that it was a good time to revisit Audience’s cables. I contacted Audience’s John Mc Donald to arrange for some review samples.
The most striking thing that you will notice about the Au24 SX interconnects, as with Audience's previous offerings, are the extremely small diameters. While this design is a benefit as far as user friendliness is concerned, the principal behind this design is to achieve an interconnect with as low mass as possible. The object being the virtual elimination of eddy current resistance. These currents are said to smear transits and dull musical details. This low mass design even extends to the proprietary RCA connectors.
Other improvements include purer six nines copper, the highest quality cross linked polyethylene XLPE dielectric insulation. This insulation exhibited the lowest dielectric absorption properties and results in less energy loss through signal transmission, while retaining a high degree of handling flexibility. A less restricted, more airy sound with better retrieval of low level musical detail are said to be the benefits.
The geometry of the Au-24 SX interconnects has been reconfigured as well, with each cable being treated differently. The unbalanced interconnect has been reworked by experimenting with different cable relationships between the two conductors. Each of the conductors is a coax, one inner and one outer. The strands in each conductor lay flat next to each other forming a ribbon. By adjusting the related angles of the two conductors, eddy current effects can be further minimized. When employing this technique, an improvement in coherence in addition to the improvements mentioned above is achieved. In both cases, each part of the cable is double cryogenically treated in house separately and then again after final assembly.
The balanced cables are an entirely new design. Previously, two runs of the unbalanced interconnect were used to produce a balanced cable. While this technique resulted in a successful true balanced design, the new SX balanced cable is a “True Differential Balanced Design”. The cable is engineered to take advantage of a differential circuit with a differential cable, built from the ground up. This new design optimizes the sonic characteristics inherent in a balanced circuit topology, (lower noise floor due to common mode rejection). The dielectric was also optimized for the balanced cable as with the unbalanced RCA cables. The improvements to the balanced cable are claimed to be higher resolution, improved coherence, better sound staging abilities and fuller timbral body and bloom.
The AU24 SX speaker cables have a heavier gauge than the previous Au24 SE. In comparison to the SE, the SX speaker cables are claimed to be more relaxed yet more dynamic with a richer tonal palette. The consumer has two choices of spades; they are rhodium over copper or gold over copper. Visually, the rhodium spades are smoother and shinier. Sonically they are said to be very close in in character with the gold being just a tad more smooth and natural. The rhodium over copper spades are said to be a bit more detailed.
It’s easy to see that the entire Audience cable line has undergone major design upgrades and improvements. I had the speaker cable with the rhodium over copper spades in for review. This still leaves the question of, how large does a cable have to be to deliver a full audio signal, to be answered? Of course, the answer always lies in the listening.
As I said previously, the slender design and flexibility of the interconnects and speaker wire, means that installing them couldn’t have been easier. I had my system wired up in no time.
At first listen to the Audience cables in my system, I immediately noticed an increased clarity that heretofore wasn’t there before. There was much more in the way of transparency throughout the sound stage. I am loathe to resort to the hackneyed phrase “The lifting of veils” but, in this case it applies. The “veils” that previously went unnoticed were suddenly gone.
I also noticed a mid-range emphasis that caused female voices to be pushed forward slightly. Mary Stallings' Manhattan Moods (Concorde Jazz ccd47502) is one good example of this. While I didn’t find this emphasis objectionable, after about one hundred hours of burn in, this disappeared. Fortunately, the articulation and texture of the vocals as well as with instruments remained.
Cassandra Wilson’s rich and smoky voice was presented with more textural detail than I’ve heard before on my system (Traveling Miles, Blue Note73428512325). Run the Voo Doo Down, the first cut from this album is a full bodied piece with a heavy bass line. The music came through full bore with everything intact. No area of the music from top to bottom was constricted or rolled off in any way.
The Riverside Profiles recording of Thelonious Monk (Riverside RCD-30070-2) is an excellent recording with some of the cuts recorded live. Off Minor was recorded at Town Hall in February 1959. I was very impressed with the extraordinary sound staging these cables provided. The stage was quite three dimensional with the instruments well placed from left to right; the stage depth was also impressive. I have always heard of various systems having the ability to float a stage that you felt that you could actually reach into; I had that feeling with this as well as with other very well recorded CDs.
Instrumental timbres were full and warm depending upon the recording. Cymbals had the right metallic ring, shimmer and decay. With good recordings, such as the Riverside and the Concorde, the timbres were spot on. Pianos had excellent clarity, with good sustain and decay. John Hicks’ Impressions of Mary Lou (HighNote HCD 7046) is a trio recording featuring John Hicks on piano. This well recorded session is another example of the AU24SX’s ability to present the music, especially the piano, accurately. The transient speed that the cables bring is quite evident with pianos.
Large scale orchestral works were presented with equal sure footedness. The symphonies by Haydn (72-74 Dorati), is a good case in point. The strings were silky and lilting. Could I hear the individual musicians or each string on each instrument? No. What I did hear was the string sections playing in unison. The music simply flowed from my speakers with the emotion.
Another excellent recording is the RCA recording of the Chicago Symphony playing Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra under the direction of Fritz Reiner (RCA Living Stereo 09026-61494-2). The full weight and dynamics of the orchestra was presented in such a way that it wasn’t very hard to imagine being there. The Audience AU 24 SX kit allowed the music flow into the room without being constrained with not a hint of hardness or glare even during the loudest passages. As such, all of the instrumental lines remained clear and easy to follow. From the flutes to the basses, the music had all of the authority and dynamics that I could ask for. I was left wanting for nothing.
Mark Isham’s original motion picture soundtrack recording of Romeo is Bleeding (Verve 314521231-2) has some of the lowest synthesized bass lines that I’ve ever heard. I used this recording to assess the AU 24 SX’s ability to handle these types of low frequencies. Once again, the cables did not disappoint. They allowed the midrange and the highs to remain intact while the lowest notes were pumping the woofers for all they were worth. Another example of the AU24SX’s ability to resolve complex passages.
It is very clear that the Audience AU24SX interconnects and speaker cables are much improved since I last reviewed them. The design revisions and upgrades have paid dividends in their ability to deliver the sonic goods. I feel that they would be at home in any high-end system; I could find no faults with their performance. They brought a clarity and focus to my system that was a very pleasant surprise. In addition, there was a sharp improvement in the rhythm and pace of the music. My system seemed to be faster with the cables installed.
After spending a good deal of time with the Audience AU24SX interconnects and speaker wire and given their excellent sonic performance, I can recommend them very highly. While they are not rock bottom price wise, in in the world of high-end cables, they are relatively inexpensive. For all of these reasons, I can easily nominate them for an Audiophilia Star Component Award.
Further information: Audience
1m Au24 SX RCAs - $1800 (+/- $575 per meter)
2m Au24 SX RCAs - $2375 (+/- $575 per meter)
2.5m Au24 SX Loudspeaker - $3290 (+/- $575 per meter
Turntable: VPI Classic One W/Transfiguration Axia Cartridge
Pre amplifier: VAC Standard LE ( upraded by VAC)
Digital: PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC w/Torrey’s firmware upgrade
Perfect Wave Transport
Power Amplifier: GamuT D-200i (review forthcoming)
Loud Speakers: Dyneaudio Contour 3.3
Accessories: PS Audio P-10 Power regenerator; Echo Buster Panels