The subject of this review is the top-of-the-line cable in the Romance series — the Romance 2, selling for $1600 per metre. This cable is supposed to provide a more euphonic presentation than the Romance 1 (review forthcoming).
The cable is available with either Vampire Wire gold plated copper or Cardas Audio gold plated copper connectors. I observed a small difference, sonically, between the aforementioned connectors. I will comment upon these differences later in the review. The differences were consistent across all musical sources.
Auditioning this cable brought to mind the dichotomy of accuracy — retrieval of that which is on the recording without errors, and musicality — the creation of a sound resembling the real thing, as close as possible, subject to constraints of budget and the acoustical environment. The Romance 2 tends toward the musical pole. I realize that I may be setting up an oversimplification, considering the possibility that some serious listeners try to attain a balance between the two extremes. I would conjecture that most hobbyists desire to listen to recordings varying in quality without wanting to run out of their listening rooms. This cable will assist in that endeavor, but it is not the last word in accuracy. However, I did not feel that I was missing any musical detail.
The Romance 2 has been a revelation. It has contributed to a sound in which instruments sound very realistic, more so than I have heard when using other cables. I have been able to enjoy all recordings, even those of dubious quality.
The main differences between the Romance 1 and Romance 2 is the connector and the presence of gold wires. The overall difference in gauge between the two cables is within 1 AWG.
Metal(s): Extremely pure and very expensive copper and gold stranded wires. Gold is about 20 karat
Geometry: Parallel runs of gold and copper wire
Gauge: Wires are multi gauge. The individual gauges and overall gauge is proprietary
Connectors: Vampire Wire Gold over copper and Cardas Audio Gold over copper
Connection: Cardas Audio silver solder
Note: Copper and gold wires are insulated separately. A shield is placed over the insulated copper wire and another shield is placed over the insulated gold wire. Gold and copper wires are joined at the hot and ground of each connector. Another shield covers the individual shields, and a 3rd shield of three inches covers part of the connectors, secured by shrink wrap.
Before mentioning my observations based upon auditioning musical sources, a brief comment regarding connectors appears below.
I would conjecture that listeners who have constructed interconnect cables have noted their effect upon the sound of their stereo systems. I would also opine that designers select connectors based upon cost and sonic considerations. While connectors contribute to the overall sound of a stereo system , it is impossible to quantify the effect, relative to other factors, such as wire, geometry and dielectric.
Note: the recordings used to review the Romance 1 are also being used to review the Romance 2, minus the CD, PRIME CUTS.
First up was Holly Cole, DON’T SMOKE IN BED, track 1, Alert ZZ 81020. It was immediately apparent that sibilance had abated. It was not totally absent, but “s” constance were less present than I have noticed using all other cables. With respect to the acoustic bass, strings sounded thick, while retaining articulation. There was no loss of detail. The wood body was full and resonated as a consequence of sympathetic vibration, when strings were plucked. The piano sounded very realistic, as the lower mids and upper bass were more present than I have experienced with other cable. The overall effect was somewhat more warmth than exhibited by the Romance 1, as there was slightly less treble emphasis. However, the bass was slightly less extended than I noted when using the Romance 1. With regard to the Romance 2 with Cardas connectors, the latter was more focused, less warm, but slightly more extended at both ends. Even so, this version seemed a tad warmer than the Romance 1.
The second selection was a solo harpsichord recording of Sophie Yates performing a Scarlatti sonata, track 1, Chandos 06354. Harpsichord strings sounded denser with the Romance 2 than with the Romance 1. The Strings had more weight and the body of the instrument was more present as well, than the Romance 1. The treble was more rounded and the release of the strings was less percussive, creating the psycho-acoustic effect of a rear hall location, relative to the Romance 1. The spectral balance slightly favored the lower mids/upper bass region, relative to the treble. The Cardas version was somewhere in between the Romance 1 and the Vampire Wire version, with respect to the aforementioned attributes.
Staying in the classical vein, I then listened to Wessanaer’s “Concerto Armonici #2”, track 5, Naxos 8.555384. The Aradia Ensemble was led by Kevin Mallon. String tone was slightly more rounded than the Romance 1, yet there was no obscuring of detail, but a slight loss in treble extension was noted. The effect was to enhance warmth as the body of the instruments was more noticeable. Bass was slightly less extended than the Romance 1. The Romance 2 — Cardas version, again, was more extended–top and bottom than the Vampire wire version but not as extended as the Romance 1. These differences, while audible, were small. Differences between the Romance 2 connectors, while audible, require attention and focus to perceive them. The ensemble never sound fatiguing with either version of the Romance 2. Both Romance cables excelled in their ability to allow the listener to get lost in the beauty of string tone and the enjoyment of the music, in spite of the small differences, previously mentioned.
Steely Dan’s classic recording of AJA, track 3, MCAD 37214 was my next selection. The cymbal’s were soft-sounding and very seductive, perhaps a bit understated. The cymbal was in the foreground, a bit further back than I had previously experienced using other cables, including the Romance 1. The sound of the stick striking the ride cymbal was more delicate than usual, and the fundamental of the cymbal was a bit lower than previously experienced with other cables, giving an impression of warmth and richness. The tenor sax sounded as natural as I ever heard. In fact, given the sound quality of this recording, which distorts the timbre of the saxophone, the sound of both lower and upper registers was closest to a live tenor I have ever experienced with other cables. I believe the poor quality of this recording is most manifest in the the upper mids/lower treble. On many stereo systems, the tenor has sounded like an alto. With the Romance 2–Vampire Wire version, the upper register sounded full and natural–quite an achievement. The Romance 2 — Cardas version was slightly less full and the Romance 1, a tad less full than either version of the Romance 2. However, both the Romance 1 and 2 presented a very satisfying sound of a poorly recorded tenor sax.
The last selection was Offenbach’s “Gaite Parisienne”, track 1, JVCXR 0224, conducted by Arthur Fiedler. At the outset, it was evident that dynamics were not lacking, nor were they exaggerated. The sound of the orchestra was very full, emphasizing ensemble play rather than articulation of individual instruments. Thus, there was no sharpness or edge. The soundstage almost covered the width of the rear wall, and instruments were positioned well behind the speakers. The woodblock sounded as if its fundamental was slightly lowered, while perceived as solid and full. The triangle was clear and full, slightly further back into the orchestra than usual, i.e., the triangle seemed to be located a bit further away from the listener than I have experienced using other cables. It’s fullness, was in contrast to what I have heard using other cables. I have often heard a more forward and crisp sound from this instrument listening to other stereo systems and other cable. The Romance 1 gave a slightly more focused presentation, while the Romance 2 — Cardas version was closer to the Vampire Wire version, but slightly more articulated.
The audio zeitgeist of cable design which is typical of cables in production is the extraction of as much detail that is on the recording as possible, without creating frequency response errors or an analytical perspective, subject to the price of the cable. It would seem that the designer of the Romance cables, Eric Love, proprietor of Audio Surroundings, has a different purpose in mind, that of creating positive feelings when listening to music.
Auditioning the cables reminded me of the impressionist period, whose chief proponents were Debussy, Ravel and Faure. The Romance cables facilitate the aural realization of beauty and accuracy of timbre. The composition that could represent my thoughts is “Afternoon of a faun”. The Romance cables help to communicate the mood of a composition to a greater degree than other cables I have heard.
I have owned and auditioned many cable products. The Romance 2 — Vampire Wire version has exceeded the Romance 1 and the Cardas version of the Romance 2 in smoothness, listenability, warmth, richness, and timbral realism, making the former, the champ, to date with respect to the aforementioned attributes.
Both versions of the Romance 2 contribute to the above mentioned factors, but there are subtle differences between them. There were small differences in frequency response, warmth and richness.
The Cardas connectors were characterized by a bit more incisiveness, extension at the top and bottom and slightly more detail. These differences were small, yet audible.
The Vampire connectors contributed to some subtraction in the treble and bass, giving a slightly tube-like response. They were slightly additive in the lower mids/upper bass, providing a more pleasant sound to poorly recorded CDs.
Both versions of the Romance 2 are not designed for accuracy, nor do they emphasize resolution. They provide sufficient detail to communicate the intent of the composer and maintain the ability to distinguish differences between instruments.
They have exceeded all other cables I have heard in warmth, richness and accuracy of timbre. With theses cables you can enjoy the music without concern for flaws in your stereo system.
In summary, The Romance 2 — with either connector has presented the most realistic rendition of the sound of the orchestra I have experienced. It has surpassed levels of depth previously attained. As a result, I don’t miss analogue.
Digital Hardware: PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC
Preamp: Bent TVC passive
Amplifier: VTL Deluxe 120
Speakers: Quads Unlimited Quad 57 and Magnepan 1.6
Digital Cable: Harmonic Technology HDMI
Interconnects: Ear to Ear and Soundstring
Power Cords: Ear to Ear and MAC
Speaker Cable: Ear to Ear
Accessories: PS Audio Juice Bar, Balanced Power Technology Power Strip Sound Fusion Sound Boosters, furniture foam, egg crate mattresses, Alan Maher Circuit Breaker filters, Millenium weight, Ennacom filters, Room Tunes, maple wood bases and Z System Z Sleeves
Fusion Audio Romance 2 Interconnects
Price: US$1600 per metre