Antipodes Audio’s ‘Reference’ Speaker Cable and Interconnects

by Audiophilia on October 10, 2013 · 3 comments

in Cables, Stars

Andy Fawcett/ I recall a friend once observing, only half jokingly, that his system was sounding so good he was afraid even to dust it, in case the magic disappeared! Suffice to say that, for the two or so years since reviewing Antipodes Audio’s entry-level Komako speaker cables, I’ve had a very dusty system. In combination with the matching interconnects, they helped me achieve a sound of such intense coherence, refinement, energy and sheer naturalness that I was completely absorbed in the pure pleasure of listening to music, and wanted for nothing more.

Even prior to publishing that review, I had accepted the company’s offer to move straight on and sample the top-line ‘Reference’ speaker cable … but things didn’t go entirely to plan. Antipodes’ designer, Mark Jenkins, has been preoccupied for much of the intervening period in turning his long-term passion for music servers into a new product range. And each time he contacted me to say that the cables were made and soon to ship, another message would follow shortly after apologising for the fact that somebody had just bought them (being in no hurry, I’d insisted customers must get first shout). One risk of using the most common lengths, I guess! If that is a reflection of the company’s success in a difficult marketplace, then it is thoroughly deserved. We make many changes to our systems and, once over the novelty period, quickly forget them … but I can honestly say that not for a single day had I ceased to be amazed by the transformation that the Komako speaker cables wrought in the performance of my system, nor failed to be entranced by their sublime reproduction of music.

Jenkins also kindly sent over two pairs of his flagship Reference interconnects. These have already been highly praised by colleague Marty Appel, on which basis they would constitute a necessary step in exploring the maximum potential of the speaker cable. I have deliberately avoided refreshing my hazy memory of Marty’s review in order to provide, as near as possible, my own independent appraisal – and shall look forward to correlating our impressions after publication! When the box of goodies did finally arrive, I lent them briefly to a friend in need (and fellow Komako owner), Ted, who was unable to connect up his recently reconfigured system … and he went ahead and bought them, sending me straight back to square one again. Sometimes you just get the feeling that things aren’t meant to be easy!

The Science

Across three separate reviews of the Komako cable range, I have touched frequently on the highly innovative science, materials and thinking that goes into this New Zealand-based company’s products; but, because I’m nice, I shall reprise it again here. A common constituent of all the cables is high purity silver wire of varying gauges, entirely manufactured in-house from raw ingots to achieve the required crystalline structure and ductility. Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, but is prone to a damaging fundamental resonance, heard as the treble peakiness that audiophiles recognise as the “silver sound”. By infusing the wire’s outer layer with small amounts of gold and platinum (an Antipodes Audio innovation, unrelated to traditional alloying or plating which bring their own compromises), this resonance is largely dispersed but all of silver’s inherent advantages remain. A microscopically-thin coating of natural oil is then applied, to combat silver’s propensity for tarnishing.

The guiding ethos behind the Antipodes range is shaped by Mark Jenkins’ conviction that most audio ills result from distortions in the signal’s phase or time domain, coupled with a radical insight (derived from Mark’s work in related scientific disciplines) into the electrical principles governing signal transmission in audio cables. Interconnects and speaker cables each use their own proprietary geometry; markedly different from the norm, it was developed to prevent the mutual interference between conductors which is a major cause of phase distortion. The unusual electrical properties of these geometries are also claimed to greatly reduce noise pickup – removing the need for sonically-undesirable shielding – and avoid the unpredictable system-dependency of conventional designs. A uniquely thick and dense dielectric of natural, unbleached cotton provides mechanical damping while closely simulating an air dielectric, though it also requires an outer sheath of proprietary formulation to combat the cotton’s hygroscopic tendency. It is not generally appreciated that the audio signal is also conducted in a field surrounding the wire, not solely through the wire itself, and any plastics falling within this extended field will store and later release the signal as it passes, causing time-smear and a distinctive ‘quacky’ colouration. Cables that claim an air primary dielectric invariably, so my survey suggests, place the conductors in (relatively) narrow-gauge plastic tubes, and thus fail to solve the problem they seek to address.

Where the speaker cable is concerned, a four-year development process was required to perfect a novel geometry which has the desirable electrical properties of a thin-gauge cable, but is effectively able to fool the amplifier into seeing it as a thick-gauge cable. Despite having had its electrical parameters pre-determined by calculation, almost a hundred prototypes were still required to perfect it; this uncompromised design became the Reference model, with later experimentation determining that an exact halving of the wire count sacrificed relatively little performance in most situations, yielding the Komako. The company’s claims were quite modest – which is what happens when you don’t employ a Marketing Department! – originally stating (if memory serves) that the Komako should achieve 80% of the Reference’s potential, and possibly more in lower power applications.

Antipodes Audio’s 'Reference' Speaker Cable.

Antipodes Audio’s

The Reference interconnect bears a similarly close relationship to its Komako sibling; this time, the only difference is that half of the wires are replaced with pure gold, also self-manufactured by the company from ingots to exacting specifications. Cables made solely from gold conductors have always been coveted by audiophiles for their exceptional midrange and Antipodes did manufacture them in the past, but achieved superior performance by combining them with the proprietary silver wire, furthering the “balanced resonance” aspect of the design. If you consider that copper costs a few cents per ounce, while silver and gold have recently traded at up to $50 and $1800 per ounce respectively, this has an understandably injurious effect on the price. For several years the company has been trying to find a satisfactory alternative to gold, and even seriously considered dropping the cable altogether due to the low margin that resulted from rising gold prices; the fact is, though, that this is a zero compromise design, representing the finest cable the company can manufacture. Its tariff is still well below most other “uber cables”, some of which even the Komakos have shown a clean pair of heels!

In Use

There is a certain type of audiophile who, rather than obtain their better half’s approval for new purchases, makes them stealthily in the hope they won’t be noticed. If that’s you then you’re right in luck; barring the discrete labels and a subtle change in the colour of the RCA connectors from silver to gunmetal, there is no visual distinction between the Komakos and References, either in the interconnects or speaker cable. To recap, then, the interconnects are satisfyingly thick, with that firm-yet-soft consistency of tightly wadded fabric. While reasonably flexible, allow a good 6 or 7 inches of clearance behind components and don’t bend them too fiercely – they’re plenty robust, but gold is a soft metal and there’s no plastics present to protect it. The RCA plugs fitted are a proprietary design comprising gold-plated, high copper content conductors with an impeccably-finished barrel made from anodised, aerospace-grade aluminium rod, appropriate to a cable of this price.

Offering a physically separate run for each pole, rather than the more common conjoined pair, each channel of the Reference speaker cable closely resembles a pair of the interconnects – similar diameter, tactile consistency and appearance. The attractive alloy end-caps lend a discrete touch of class, while slender lead-out wires make connection to the amplifier a breeze. Construction is, as with all Antipodes’ cables, top flight for artisanal products. The supplied instructions suggest that each channel’s cable pair be lightly twisted together once or twice per metre, to ensure they maintain a close physical proximity, with the option of increasing the number of twists to “constrain the cable’s liveliness” … somewhat akin to running a Ferrari in economy mode, I feel, so I didn’t try it! The twisted assembly ends up being satisfyingly bulky, given that we all subconsciously associate thick cable with good performance, so perceived value is still decently high even at a price premium of around 50% over the Komako.

Almost overlooked was the fact that I’m still using the company’s jumpers with my bi-wireable speakers; short links of the Reference grade speaker wire, which proved so effective in tandem with the Komako speaker cable. Those audiophiles who believe that bi-wiring is essentially a con, dreamed up by cable vendors to sell more product, will be reassured by the fact that Antipodes Audio have always recommended against it, both on technical and (especially) ROI grounds. If you specifically need jumpers or have previously bi-wired, these are neatly constructed, don’t cost much and – in terms of achieving a continuous run of Antipodes wire – are entirely self-recommending … so I’ll say no more.

Burn In

Antipodes cables need longer to burn in than other cables, for several reasons – their use of silver and gold (which have heavier atomic weight than copper), the cotton dielectric (which takes longer to cure) and a geometry that places less stress on the wire as it conducts signal. To mitigate this fact, every cable is subjected at the factory to a proprietary, 10-day preconditioning regime (requiring installation in an audio system, not your traditional cable cooking) that reduces the severity of the burn-in symptoms … but cannot ultimately shorten the process. Many people are perplexed by the idea of burn-in, as they cannot rationalise what is happening. The company insists that the audible effects we hear during burn-in are largely caused by the cable gradually adjusting to the system’s ground plane (a theory also supported by Stealth Audio, I note). Crucially, this helps to explain many otherwise perplexing aspects of the phenomenon – such as cables needing additional burn-in when removed from the system for a long period, or after use in another system. It also explains why the duration and severity of burn-in varies so much between systems (being determined by each ground plane’s specific value and direction), and why there is no substitute for leaving the cables in-situ and undisturbed.

Jenkins had predicted, based on customer feedback and continuing improvements to the preconditioning, shorter burn-in periods than I’d previously experienced. However, while they did sound much better upon first installation, the Reference cables were ultimately to take almost twice as long to burn in than had the preceding sets of Komakos … during which time I compiled some forty dense A4 pages of shorthand listening notes! In fairness, with all of my previous experience I am now much more attuned to these effects. Plus, my system is invariably a royal pig where burn-in is concerned (that ground plane, presumably); the same cables slotted straight into Ted’s rig with nary a complaint.

The whole process was, though, a remarkable education and, in many ways, a living validation of Jenkins’ theories. The extent to which the sound oscillated, on a daily basis, and the sheer range of sonic abberations introduced – narrow or flat soundstage, vague imaging, thin treble, excessive treble, murkiness, dull leading edges, boomy bass, absent bass, smearing, incoherence, harsh sound, unengaging sound … every flaw you’ve ever heard, basically – served as a graphic indication that timing/phase errors alone (for, as a test disc easily revealed, that’s all they were) are capable of causing pretty much all of a stereo system’s failings. This is a hugely important point, which I hope readers will take on board … though the time to reflect upon its implications is not now.

Reference Interconnects

So, what to expect when you really don’t see how things can get much better? The Reference Interconnects didn’t make me wait long to find out; even replacing just one of my two sets of Komako ICs produced a change akin to fitting the system with a supercharger! Like the Man of Steel emerging from a phone booth, a big increase in the richness and weight of its lower-midrange gave my system a swagger and confidence with the more muscular and dynamic musical genres it has never shown before. Having long been convinced that the speakers were inherently incapable, due to their topology, of moving enough air through this region to do full justice to the more aggressive forms of rock music, for an interconnect change to turn them into rock gods is seemingly just another example of Antipodes cables achieving the impossible! That said, all this was achieved without a major shift in tonality; a corresponding increase in bass power and control, and a real vividness to the top end allows overall balance to remain broadly neutral … albeit with the familiar hint of silkiness and (natural) warmth that applies right across the company’s range.

Also on offer is a really surprising hike in detail resolution, but resolution done correctly – ‘inner detail’, as it’s termed, not that wildly exaggerated caricature of musical detail that used to pass for high-end sound in the past – decaying into a backdrop of the most intense, inky silence. The soundstage grew in scale, with a “set in concrete” sense of composure and focus to its imaging that is very relaxing, while an obvious increase in transparency (attesting to the lack of any electronic signature) and presence gave the effect of moving several rows closer to the stage. That undercurrent of energy and momentum, already so vivid in the Komakos, seemed even more unstoppable – which rather undermined any idea of gold cables being “mellow” – though with an effortlessness that could occasionally leave its junior sibling sounding a touch frenetic. Microdynamic definition was still more potent, improving articulation and providing a fresh insight into that universal language of musical expression which all great performers know instinctively, while the glorious fidelity of timbral colours and textures contributed to a sumptuous and unmistakeably realistic presentation of acoustic music. I do believe that much of the preference for vinyl as a playback medium relates to the poor timbral definition typically achieved by many digital sources – yet, with Reference interconnects running to my CD player and the turntable handicapped by its captive arm lead, the gap between them was narrowed substantially.

A signature quality of all Antipodes cables is coherence – the ability to dig out all of the various threads within a piece of music, and structure them in a way that the ear recognises as correct and the brain finds easy to comprehend. It is the realisation of that promise of time and phase integrity built into them and, without doubt, the Reference interconnect does even better than the Komako, telescoping me right to the very heart of a performance and revealing the musical message within previously elusive discs. It also has another surprising, and very desirable consequence. Like most naturally analytical listeners, I have spent many years in this hobby obsessing about recording quality … albeit that the Komako cables had already done much to improve the listenability of my poorest recordings. Over the course of this review, the supposed “recording quality” of discs has become almost a non-issue; I rarely gave it a thought as, with only the barest handful of exceptions, every disc I own now sounds at least ‘good’ and most sound superb. I know an audio system is a team effort but, seriously, the Antipodes cables deserve the lion’s share of the credit. While audiophiles love to blame recordings for their sound – including that oft-spouted twaddle “my system’s so good it highlights all the flaws and makes poor recordings unlistenable” – I’m convinced it’s much more often the case that system faults make perfectly acceptable recordings sound bad. When the reproduction chain is working optimally, you will hear the best that a recording has to offer, not its worst.

It took back-to-back comparison with the Reference interconnects to confirm an occasional and mild degree of shrillness or treble “edge” in the Komako’s sound, mainly on violin. It’s something that’s always previously been in my system – the Komako had actually minimised it – but as it’s gone now, I guess that every interconnect I’ve used previously (A LOT!!) must have been culpable to some degree. That aside, I could pick no fault in the Komakos, which remain a remarkable value and surely the only cable offered in their price range with such high-quality materials and technology? The visually-identical Reference cable commands a hefty price premium but, unlike most of its competition, you do know where your money’s going; more importantly, they convincingly outperformed the Komakos in every respect, and I really wouldn’t have thought that possible without hearing it for myself. The substantial benefit achieved from installing just a single pair suggested that – in my system’s current state of fettle – the same money could not have been spent more productively elsewhere.

Reference Speaker Cable

Fittingly, this portion of the review effectively commenced when I lent my Komako speaker cables to Ted (to compare with the Reference cables I’d also lent him!), and returned to the perfectly respectable mid-market set I’d been using previously. The drop in performance was catastrophic, really shocking, but it did at least confirm afresh that the glowing observations in my review of the Komako speaker cable were not the least bit overstated. It’s also a reminder that I have restricted my scope here to comparisons between the two Antipodes models; if you still need convincing why you really shouldn’t be using anything else, please refer to that earlier review!

Knowing that the difference between the Reference and Komako speaker cables is just a doubling of the wire gauge inevitably raised certain expectations – ‘more wire equals more bass’ being hopefully the crudest of them! – and these were met easily. Yes, there was more bass power, and also substantially better grip and control of the bottom end, along with clearly increased macrodynamic authority. As with the interconnects, this further extended the system’s confidence and prowess in handling rock and orchestral music. Our unceasing quest for an ever tighter bottom-end often seems to come at the expense of realistic texture and a bass that ‘breathes’ naturally; the Reference cable gives you both. It also has a special finesse in rendering the depth perspective, allowing it to faithfully recreate an impression of huge acoustic space. I still recall having to take a few deep breaths to recover from the most physically and emotionally shattering rendition of a trusty old warhorse – Rachel Podger’s incendiary recording of Vivaldi’s Opus 4 La Stravaganza (CCS 19598) – I’ve ever heard.

Not to be outdone by the interconnects, scope was found for still further significant gains in resolution of fine detail and outright transparency … by which point, as you can imagine, the sound quality was occupying some pretty rare air! Microdynamics were also along for the ride with a very healthy improvement in subtlety and finesse evident, particularly illuminating of the lightning contrasts in pace and dynamic accenting with which the Casals Quartet bring Ligetti’s bizarre Metamorphoses Nocturnes so vividly to life (HMC 902062). Counterpointing those fiery dynamics was a liquid sense of unstoppable musical flow that made listening so relaxing and absorbing, which those of us partial to ‘extended’ sessions can appreciate – whether ten minutes or ten hours makes no difference, listening fatigue is absolutely zero. Timbral colours, always a special strength of Antipodes cables, achieved a ravishing richness and beauty. I sense a suspicion of the word “beauty” in some quarters, as if it represents an unacceptable departure from the ultimate goal of “neutrality”. Yet, at a recent performance of Haydn’s “Seven Last Words” in a glorious church acoustic, sitting just a few feet from the musicians and choir, it was the spellbinding beauty of the sound that overwhelmed me above all. Fail to reproduce that, and there is no fidelity.

A purist recording of rainforest birdsong, made close to my home, is among my most played and most useful reference discs; the sounds of nature, especially those familiar from our daily lives, are incredibly difficult to reproduce authentically. Changing from the Komako to Reference speaker cables, each of the multitude of individual sounds woven into its rich fabric was animated with an extra dimension of realism – closing my eyes, I really could have been sitting under those trees as the dawn chorus swelled to a gentle cacophony. This audio disappearing act was equally vivid with more typical musical fare; sound hangs utterly weightless, suspended in air and with no discernable sense at all of having emanated from a transducer. How often have you ever sat in front of an audio system, no matter how good, and been able to forget that you were listening to reproduced music? The very idea probably comes across as an oxymoron; there is always a level of mental engagement required to complete the illusion, which is why we listen differently to our systems than we do to live music – and the sensation we feel is different too. For me, with the Reference cables in my system, that gulf is regularly crossed. But rather than get all zen-like on you, I’ll let a friend (and highly knowledgeable enthusiast) have the last word; at the end of an evening playing a diverse range of music, he commented, ‘I came over to hear your system but, in truth, at hardly any point have I been aware of listening to one!’

The company has refined its original advice on speaker cable choice, now recommending use of the Komako with ’speakers known to be easy to drive with low power amplification’ and predicting that the improvement gained from the Reference will be greatest with ’speakers that have a moderate or difficult load, or are known to respond well to high power amplification’. As my hybrid electrostatics fall squarely into the latter category, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that the Reference cable worked as well as it did – though I had happily used the Komako for a good many months with no clear indication of any compromise. Indeed, the only fault as such that my listening disclosed in the Komako speaker cable was a small degree of ‘clanky’ colouration on piano right hand, plus confirmation (albeit by default) that it had been limiting the system’s macrodynamic potential. You’ll have noticed that the improvements I’ve attributed to the Reference speaker cable are of a broadly similar order to the interconnects; as both ostensibly aim to achieve similar goals, that is perhaps to be expected. The magnitude of the gain was less than the interconnects – for the sake of argument, I’d guess that the speaker cable contributed around 30% of the total improvement in my system – but, especially given that I’m using two pairs of interconnects, that makes it a compellingly cost-effective upgrade.

The devastating transient speed of ‘FOC’ from Rodrigo y Gabriella’s Live in Manchester & Dublin cuts through the slight murk of the hall acoustic, yet its rhythmic complexity is appreciated not as the system-killing sonic spectacular I used to hear, but as an artfully-crafted, superbly played and utterly uplifting musical statement. Perhaps it is in the unique setting of a live concert that the amazing energy, the sheer ‘aliveness’ of the Reference cables’ sound finds its truest expression; all I know is that they have turned my every listening session into an experience, an alternate reality which absorbs and consumes me entirely. There may, indeed, be systems in which the Komako speaker cable can rival the Reference, but it’s hard to imagine given the gulf that separated them in mine.

Conclusions

Let us banish forever that preposterous old nonsense about audio cables being ‘tone controls’! A cable is a technical device with a clearly-defined mission; to transmit a signal from one point to another without losing any of the frequency information or its time and phase coherence. It is the extent to which cables routinely and seriously fail at the latter (not the former) part of this task that causes them to function as tone controls. Spend the time that I have examining the cable market and you soon realise there are precious few manufacturers who really have a tale to tell when it comes to the science of signal transmission. Mark Jenkins’ quest for ‘time-domain accuracy’ has shown that distortion of time and phase relationships as a signal passes through a typical conductor underpins a whole litany of sonic ailments. Other vendors may acknowledge some of Antipodes’ design points – the wisdom of avoiding plastics in close proximity to wire has been more evident over recent years – but none comes close to addressing all of them, or does it nearly so uncompromisingly.

Family DNA runs strongly in the Antipodes Audio range; one vision, one set of materials, one standard of excellence. In the Reference speaker cable, the conductor count is doubled over the Komako; for the interconnect, half of the silver wire is replaced with pure gold. The very briefest summary I can devise (and it seems to hold for both interconnects and speaker cable) is that the Komako is a delicate-sounding cable with surprising dynamics, while the Reference is a dynamic cable with surprising delicacy. For everything I have loved about the Komakos, the References just keep going in the same direction, coaxing a barely comprehensible amount of extra resolution, energy, coherence, beauty, weight and sheer believability from a system that had lacked none of them. Their ability to much improve the sound of supposedly ‘poor recordings’ was the very thick icing on the cake. The effect of one of these cables, as I have proven before and others have taken the trouble to tell me, can easily surpass a substantial component upgrade.

All of that said, the Antipodes cables are not a universal panacea; aspects of their performance, resulting directly from the way they work, need to be understood. They have an unusual – and sometimes protracted – way of burning in, which will likely provide you with an education about your system whether you want it or not! And I’m still not even sure I’ve heard the best of what the Reference cables can offer as, after close to eight months in my system, they are still subtly improving week by week. I also find that they don’t much like being disturbed, taking a little while to find their feet again after even a short period of disconnection so, if you’re inclined towards regular component swapping, bear that in mind. The time and phase coherence that is their raison d’être also results in the speaker cables and interconnects forming a strongly symbiotic partnership; while still able to demonstrate their exceptional quality when paired with conventional cables, once heard in combination one is forced to conclude that (as melodramatic as it sounds) their potential was being not so much reduced as actively undermined! Likewise, it is reasonable to assume that systems with inherently poor phase integrity (perhaps due to a convoluted signal path, or speakers with particularly complex crossovers) will not exploit everything that these cables can do – though I know of no instance where they have sounded anything less than first rate, regardless.

These cables represent an obsessive’s pursuit of perfection and, in the context of using only proprietary materials and unique, self-produced wire, their cost-plus pricing has always compared well to the incomprehensible sums charged by many competitors. If value for money is important to you then yes, the familiar law of diminishing returns dictates that the Komako interconnects inevitably offer more bang for your buck … and, I believe, represent one of the great bargains in high-end audio. But our hobby doesn’t work that way and, though it costs substantially more to achieve it, what the Reference interconnects offer is irresistible. With the speaker cables, I think the relatively small upcharge for the Reference cable turns the tables; unless you have forsworn high-powered systems for ever, the scale of performance gain I witnessed suggests that not digging a little deeper for the Reference could well prove a false economy. One thing I do know – when the final shortlist is compiled of cables that are sufficiently ambitious, innovative and inspired to genuinely be the finest in the world, the Antipodes References must be on it. You really will never know what your system might be capable of, and how much more pleasure it could give you, until you try ‘em!

[We recognise the Antipodes Audio Reference Speaker Cable as an Audiophilia “STAR COMPONENT”, duly extending that accolade to every model in the company’s ground-breaking cable range. Congratulations!]

Antipodes Audio’s ‘Reference’ Speaker Cable & Interconnects

Manufactured by Antipodes Audio

website
email

Prices:
As the company is in the midst of changing from online direct selling to a global distribution network, you will need to contact your nearest retailer for pricing. Available in the US from Perrotta Consulting, retail prices there are quoted as:

1m pair Reference IC (balanced or single ended) - $2500
2m pair Reference SC - $2500

Source: Manufacturer loan

Associated Equipment

Analogue: Linn LP12 / Lingo PS / Ittok LVII / Audio Technica OC30
Digital: Audia Flight CD Three
Amplification: Modwright LS100 (inc. phono stage & tube upgrades) / Modwright KWA100SE
Speakers: Acoustat Spectra 1100 hybrid electrostatics
Cables: Antipodes Audio Komako interconnects and speaker cable / Custom-built copper foil power cords to all components
Accessories: Sound Mechanics Performance isolation platforms (for each source component) / Target & Sound Organisation stands / Herbie’s Audio Labs isolation products / Caig ProGold / Belkin PF40 power conditioner / Granite Audio Phono Burn-in CD

Manufacturer’s Comment

First of all thanks to Andy and Audiophilia for a typically comprehensive review. There is a little déjà vu here.  As usual, Andy has taken the time to get fully to grips with, this time two of, our cables.  As usual, something in the marriage of his system and our cables has led to a protracted burn in period.  As usual, I have made life difficult for Andy by seeking a review and then during the review process deciding to launch new models.

We are very confident in the designs we use, but we also know that we can improve everything we do.  For this reason we continuously research ways to improve every aspect of the cable design and its manufacture.  Some months ago we made some breakthroughs that led to new insights on how to improve our wire-making methods to improve the characteristics of the metal that we conclude are the most critical to achieving natural sound.  The resulting wire is more costly to make but sounds significantly clearer and more natural, and so we tried to find a way to save costs elsewhere in the cable, so that we could introduce the new wire.  Those attempts were not satisfactory, so we accepted there would have to be a price increase if we incorporated the new wire.  If I had that marketing department Andy refers to we would call the new wire something very fancy, but we would all feel a little silly if we did.  It is simply even less resonant than our old wire and a little purer. The biggest gains are in the silver wire.

Alongside this, we had been working on a variety of other improvements, mainly to the cable geometry (due to computer modelling of the cancelling effects in the design) and the precision of the cotton weave (due to new braiding machinery), so we accelerated that work to incorporate in the new designs.  Finally we decided to design and introduce new connectors so that we could cease using heatshrink in the finished product.  This last move means our cables are very flexible from the point they exit the connector, and this is useful for customers with restricted room behind their components.

At the time of Andy’s review we have made our first run of the new cables, and apart from some we have kept back to use at RMAF and Melbourne shows, we have more or less sold out of that short run.  The next production run will be large and will be ready to be shipped at the end of October.

The only point I wish to add to Andy’s review is to raise the issue of synergy between the cables.  In general I see no reason to buy cables from the same manufacturer as each interface is its own challenge.  However there is a good reason to put our Komako cables together or our Reference cables together.
-          The Komako interconnects (less so in the new models) can sound very slightly crude after listening to the Reference – probably more refined than anything near its price, but the flaw is nevertheless there.
-          But you will only hear this with a very open speaker cable like the Reference.  The sins of the Komako speaker cable, compared to the Reference, are to very gently smooth over the leading edge of transients.  When teamed with the Komako interconnects, the Komako speaker cable tames the slight overhang the interconnects have on transients.

As Andy found, when he previously used the Komakos together there were no obvious faults.  But inserting just the speaker cable, because it is so open and fast, exposes the Komako interconnects a little.  Using both Reference cables together gets things back in balance but as Andy has found, takes things way beyond what the Komakos can achieve.

Mark Jenkins, Antipodes Audio

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

MARTIN APPEL 10.09.13 at 9:31 am

Hi Andy
Great job. I re-read my review and we absolutely agree on the REFERENCE. What a great cable. I wonder how the new version of interconnect compares to the ones I have. I will be in touch with Mark about getting a pair for evaluation.
Stay well, Marty

Andy Fawcett 10.12.13 at 12:04 am

Thanks Marty. Having now read your review, our verdicts are indeed very similar … hopefully readers accept my protest of ignorance!

Never mind the new version of the interconnects - you won’t find out what your current set can do until you get hold of the Reference speaker cables. Such powerful synergy …

MARTIN APPEL 10.18.13 at 1:22 pm

Andy, pls send me your email. I seem to have lost it.

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