by Martin Appel
After reading Andy Fawcett’s wonderful review of the Antipodes Komako analogue interconnects my interest was piqued. I emailed Mark Jenkins at Antipodes and requested the Kokiri digital cable for review (I do plan a follow up to Andy’s review with two pair of Komakos in my system). Mark was happy to oblige but first he informed me that he had changed the cable terminations to his own design. This improved its performance over the generic ones he had tried. Also, he had made a slight change in the geometry of the cable.
Before shipping the cable he put some time into pre-burning — much appreciated. I won’t go into all the construction details other than to say it’s of high purity silver. Andy’s review covered the construction so well, that I highly recommend you read it and peruse the Antipodes website.
My reference digital cable is Acoustic Zen’s MC2 = Zen and is also all silver construction. It has served me very well for quite sometime. As such, it was with great anticipation that I awaited its challenger’s arrival. Let the games begin.
The cable arrived in its doubly protected packaging in pristine condition and immediately went into the system for burn-in. I’m using my Marantz SA-7s1 as a transport connected to the digital input of my DEQX 2.6P’s internal DAC. I let it burn-in for at least 150 hours before I started listening, and played music through it for at least another 100 hours before judging.
My first impression was how similar these two cables sounded. That’s a good thing. As time went on, differences made themselves known. The Kokiri was open and dynamic with accurate musical timbres. Separation of instruments in space was also excellent with perhaps the edge going to the Kokiri. Images were solid and three dimensional from both cables with the Kokiri having a slightly fuller character and the Acoustic Zen being slightly more focused. Still, very close. As time passed, it became apparent that the MC2 = Zen edged ahead in portraying more inner detail greater textures whereas the Kokiri had a smoother, slightly warmer presentation. Vocals, particularly, were glorious with the Kokiri, full bodied and rich. These characteristics often compete and depending on the interaction within your system one may be preferable over the other.
Bass performance also showed differences. The Acoustic Zen had a tighter, more, well defined sound, whereas the Kokiri’s bass was fuller and bigger with equal depth and impact. Again, what’s your preference?
Another area of performance where differences manifested themselves was high frequency extension. The Acoustic Zen was further extended then the Kokiri and this extension seemed to give images a little more height and snap. On the other hand, the Kokiri allowed for some of my harsh sounding CDs to be more listenable, reducing ‘digititus’ and edginess making the CDs more palatable (sounding more like quality analog).
In conclusion, this was a tough call as the Kokiri was so good — there was no clear winner. Most of the differences between the cables were subtle. After several sessions of critical listening with different gatherings of audiophile friends and musicians, there was no unanimity of opinion. Certain CDs sounded better with one cable and some with the other. There were some very spirited discussions at the house.
Suffice it to say that Mark Jenkins of New Zealand has joined the ranks of top cable manufacturers and produced an excellent digital interconnect that will win many fans. Highly recommended.
Amplifiers: 4-Hephaestus HMA-1000 Monoblocks
Speakers: Levy Acoustics
Preamplifier: Marantz SC-7S2 Phono
Preamplifier: AQVOX 2 Ci Mk II.
CD source: Marantz SA-7S1
Analogue source: Avid Volvere/SME IV arm/Cartridge: Shelter 7000
Speaker cables: Acoustic Zen’s Absolute, Wasatch’s Ultama (no longer being produced)
Power Cords: Acoustic Zen’s Absolute and Kaplan GS Copper
Interconnects: Acoustic Zen’s Absolute (xlr)
Accessories: Herbie’s Audio Lab Tenderfeet, Black Diamond Racing Cones, Soundcare products, Acme Audio Labs wall outlets
Surge Protection: Brick Wall 2R and 8R Surge Protectors
Power Conditioning: PS AUDIO Power Plant Premier
Processor: DEQX 2.6P Modified
Reference Recordings RR-96CD Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances Oue/Minnesota Orchestra
Pablo OJCCD-744-2 Clark Terry/Freddie Hubbard/Dizzy Gillespie/Oscar Peterson: The Alternate Blues Telarc CD-83373 Ray Brown: Some of My Best Friends…The Piano Players
Capital 72434 94756 2 5 Frank Sinatra: Sinatra Sing for Only the Lonely
Telarc SACD-60042 Moussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition-Maazel/The Cleveland Orchestra
Napua Davoy-ALL I WANT, www.napuadavoy.com
Nuforce LIVE BLUPORT JAZZ SAMPLER Blueport
Thanks for letting me see the review prior to publication, and for the time you have taken to get the measure of the Kokiri digital cable. You have hit the proverbial nail on its head in your review – particularly in terms of contrasting how our digital cables sound different from conventional digital cables – and I expect that is the best way to help your readers assess whether the Kokiri might be right for them.
The key design goal with all of our cables is to achieve the highest possible levels of time-domain accuracy. What audiophiles tend to perceive as tonal, dynamic or detail differences between cables is caused by time-domain distortions and how these are processed and perceived by our brains. One of the problems with conventional cables is that they use plastic insulation which smears the signal over time five times more than the natural unbleached cotton that we use – and in a digital cable this naturally adds jitter, because the signal transition is smeared in time. The use of plastic tends to accentuate loud and fast transients more than other areas of the dynamic spectrum, and leads to a perception of more top end extension and leading edge definition. But the truth is that it tends to make the sound more aggressive in loud and dynamic passages, and less musically expressive in quiet and gentle passages.
By using no plastics, and by use of novel geometries, our cables will accentuate the beginnings of notes less, and be more accurate to the way real instruments sound in real space. This translates to natural smoothness and warmth without becoming slow, muddy or compressed. More importantly, we believe our cables are more musically expressive throughout the dynamic range. Conventional cables tend to lose that expressiveness towards the micro-dynamic end of the dynamic spectrum.
Another way of putting it is that a conventional cable draws the outlines more distinctly and obviously, but fills in the body of the music less completely, than one of our cables. Your review makes the point clearly that which cable is preferred will come down to taste and system. If your system needs a little “lighting up”, then a conventional cable is likely to be preferred. We argue that in a system with good time-domain accuracy (little smearing and good phase coherence), our cable will sound more like real instruments in real space, fast yet unfatiguing, and more musically expressive with everything from micro to macro dynamic swings.
About three weeks has elapsed since I submitted the review and with this additional time the cable’s performance took another leap. As such, I understated just how good this cable is. During this extra time period, the cable ‘ripened’ — it has the ability to extend and improve lower frequency performance significantly. I’ve never heard this level of clarity and definition, along with power and sheer weight, coming out of my system. Many of my audio friends ask where am I hiding the sub-woofer? When I tell them I don’t have one they are in disbelief. This also speaks volumes about the Levy Acoustics speaker system’s capabilities.
Images grew in solidity and scale and with greater definition. The soundstage continued to open up and become more three dimensional, breathing more air between and around instruments and performers. Inner detail and articulation, while extraordinary, were achieved without any edge or hardness. Complex musical passages became more understandable and massed choirs sounded more real with the ability to hear individual human beings singing within the various sections of the choir. My digital doesn’t sound digital. Who new 1s and 0s could he so smooth and sound this good with Redbook CDs?
As I said earlier, I unerringly understated this cable’s abilities. Extended listening has revealed these improvements, I would strongly recommend it for an Audiophilia Star Component Award. Some things just get better with age. I’m still not sure it has stopped improving.
Keep listening. Martin Appel
[It is with great pleasure that we award The Audiophilia Star Component Award to the Antipodes Audio Digital Interconnect. Congratulations! - Ed]