I encountered Emotiva products at two audio shows held in Manhattan, within the last two years. Based upon my brief auditions, I considered their components, a good value, and, considering show conditions, producing reasonably good sound.
Recently, I visited a friend whose stereo system I have auditioned many times, during the last 15 years. His speakers are Magnepan MG 3, one of my favorites. At my recent visit, I noticed he was using an Emotiva balanced digital cable. His stereo system was sounding very full-bodied without any loss of resolution.
Since a stereo system is as strong as its weakest link, and I did not observe anything objectionable that evening, I deduced that the Emotiva cable demonstrated the possibility of being a quality cable. Its price was around $24.00 .
Shortly thereafter I contacted Emotiva and discovered that all of their cables were very affordable (prices listed below). Having reviewed cables whose retail prices were considerably higher than those of Emotiva, I was eager to find out how inexpensive cables performed in my stereo system.
The cables to be reviewed include the following:
1/1 meter RCA X Series digital coax cable priced at $16.99
1/1 meter pair of X Series RCA interconnect cables. Each cable is priced at $16.99
7/2 meter X Series power cords priced at $69 each. The web site shows a price of $49.99 for a one meter cord
Note that the interconnect cables are sold separately at $16.99.
The company’s website, provides a description of the design parameters, for each cable type, with the exception of the following information:
The digital cable has a solid core ofc copper center conductor. The analog interconnect uses stranded ofc copper wire in a parallel geometry. Each conductor composed of strands of copper is insulated, and the ground conductor is twisted around the hot conductor. The power cords are 12 gauge stranded ofc copper wires in parallel mode.
Although one of the company’s representatives suggested a 24 hour break-in period for all of their cable, I chose to use a break in procedure that I have employed when reviewing cables. I connected the RCA cables to a break — in device for 5 days and then passed a musical signal into them for 200 hours. The power cords were also fed an electrical signal for 200 hours.
The review encompasses two sections. The first includes the analog interconnect cables and power cords, while the second includes the digital cable, DAC and the above-mentioned cables. In the second section the CD player served as a transport for the PS Audio Power Wave DAC.
My first musical selection is a test of bass impact and treble response, namely, Holly Cole, DON’T SMOKE IN BED, AlertZ2 81020, track 1. The acoustic bass was very full-sounding. The plucking of the strings generated sympathetic vibration of the wood body, creating a life-like impact — an impression of being in the room with bassist. Cole’s close-miked voice, while evincing a reduction in sibilance, was clear, and the lyrics of the song were easy to follow. The piano was also full-bodied and its timbre was natural.
Continuing in the jazz genre, I selected Steely Dan, AJA,MCAD3721, track 3. The tenor sax is not well recorded. On some stereo systems, the saxophone sounds more like an alto than a tenor. Donald Fagen’s voice was clear and robust. The contact between the wood drum stick and the cymbal was slightly obscured. The chorus was very full-sounding, but slightly congested. Yet, there was sufficient resolution to follow the words sung by the chorus. The tenor sax, although poorly recorded presented sufficient timbral cues to identify the instrument. There was no doubt that one was listening to a tenor. The instrument had weight one would expect when listening to a tenor and exhibited an appropriate spectral balance.
I next introduced more complex material — a symphony orchestra. My standard fare is Offenbach’s ‘Gaite Parisienne’, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, from a JVC disc, JVCXR-0224, track 1. The orchestra was full-bodied, with no loss of dynamics and no compression. There was a sense of balance, with no ensemble dominating another. The brass instruments were not thin-sounding, nor were the strings. The wood block and the triangle exhibited the spacing that I have heard when listening through other cables, but the triangle was less extended and lacked the sparkle that one hears when in the presence of a live triangle. Of special interest was the presence of the snare drum. It was more distinct than usual.
An interesting (musically) CD to add to your collection is TWO WORLDS, Decca 012157960. It’s an eclectic mix of classical, jazz and ethnic selections, featuring Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, Gil Shaham, Renee Fleming and Julian Llloyd Weber.
I chose track 8, Bartok’s ‘Roumanian Folk Dance — Stick Dance’, track 8. The violin sounded realistic, treble harmonics were not over emphasized and hence, there was no perception of edge or shrillness. The piano was extended from bass to treble, and it, too, sounded natural. Finally, the acoustic guitar strings sounded like nylon, but not overly thick.
The last selection was a Sophie Yates studio recital of solo harpsichord pieces, SCARLATTI IN IBERIA, Chandos 0635, track 1. The harpsichord strings were full-sounding, with a slight attenuation in the treble. The effect was to slightly dull the attack and release of the strings, and create a reduction in percussiveness exhibited by the instrument. There was a slight overall roundness, compared to what I have heard when listening to this disc using other cables. Listening with other cables produced a greater incisiveness, but a thinner sounding string tone.
In spite of the slight rounding and reduction in percussiveness, I thought the sound of the harpsichord was less timbrally inaccurate using the Emotiva cables than I experienced using other cables.
I think a brief explanation is in order.
Yes, there was subtractive coloration, probably in the upper mids/lower treble, resulting in some inaccuracy of timbre. In other cases, using other cable, there may have been subtraction in the lower frequencies. I felt that the error produced by the Emotiva rendered the sound of the harpsichord closer to reality than I did when there was an imbalance in frequency response caused by a dip in the bass region.
I listened to the CDs in reverse order. Thus, the first CD is Sophie Yates’ harpsichord recital, SCARLATTI IN IBERIA, track 1, Chandos 0635. There was more extension in the treble, yet the strings still sounded full-bodied. Thus, the attack and release of the strings was more prominent. Further, there was more bass extension as well, giving more emphasis to the body of the instrument. The attack was less percussive, yet, I felt the changes accruing from introducing an external dac and digital cable rendered the sound of the instrument more realistic.
The next disc was TWO WORLDS, Decca 012 157 960, track 8. I again noticed greater bass extension. Thus, the piano sounded fuller using the DAC. The lateral sound stage widened, and the nylon strings sounded a bit thicker and the guitar sounded more natural. The sound of the violin moved to the right, relative to the CD player, but I did not observe a change in its timbre.
With respect to the orchestral CD, Offenbach’s ‘Gaite Parisienne’, JVCXR 0224, track 1, I heard greater extension in the bass and treble, consistent with what I noticed from the above-mentioned selections. The orchestra still sounded full, the string section was more extended and present, but the balance between the ensembles remained. The wood block sounded fuller, and the triangle exhibited greater extension and sparkle, while the spacing between wood block and triangle did not seem to change.
There seemed to be a consistent pattern of greater frequency extension at both ends, and this phenomenon, occurred again when listening to Steely Dan AJA, track 3. The significance of this additional extension was to give the bass drum more presence, increase the weight of Donald Fagen’s voice, and render the contact of the drum stick and the system more clear. In addition, the chorus sounded clearer, while retaining its fullness. Finally, the sound of the tenor sax changed as well. It sounded fuller, on top and bottom. The instrument increased in scale and sounded less timbrally incorrect.
The sound of the last disc, Holly Cole, DON’T SMOKE IN BED, introduced a surprise. I listened to the disc twice to confirm my observations. While there was greater extension in the upper mids/lower treble, I did not notice a change in the bass response, indicating a slight dip, in the upper or mid bass. First, there was a slight increase in sibilance, but the difference was not objectionable. However, the plucking of the strings created less vibration of the wood body.
I would conjecture that this result may not be inconsistent with what I heard from the other CDs. An increase in bass extension does not preclude a dip in the upper or mid bass. Thus, I did not experience a loss of bass extension, but I perceived a difference in the upper band of bass frequencies. An acoustic bass is an instrument which does not usually go lower than about 40 hz. Of course, I am not sure of the resonant frequency, but my experience suggests that when one is evaluating a component, it is useful to listen to many instruments to ascertain if there are any frequency response anomalies.
I found the Emotiva cables unfatiguing at all times, able to take the edge off poorly recorded discs, somewhat attenuated in treble — less so with PS Audio DAC and noticed a slight degree of veiling — reduced when using the PS Audio DAC. In addition, there was some loss of resolution, again, less so with the PS Audio DAC. I repeatedly used the phrase ‘full-bodied’. I found that many instruments exhibited this type of presentation.
The cables exhibited a balanced frequency response, did not lack depth and were capable of a wide lateral sound stage. The dimensionality attributes may vary, depending upon the other components in a stereo system. The cable is suitable for most stereo systems, especially, where resolution is satisfactory, or where there is a peak in the upper midrange and/or the treble range. It also may not be ideal for stereo systems that are soft, dull-sounding or lacking bass response. Considering their inexpensive costs of ownership, these cables are competitive with other brands which cost a lot more. They provide an exemplary price to performance ratio.
Speakers: Quad 57 and Magnepan 1.6
Amplifier(s): VTL Deluxe 120 monos
Preamp(s): Bent TVC passive and Blair Chapman
Digital Sources: Vincent CD S6 and PS Audio Power Wave DAC
Interconnects: Mojo Audio, Fusion Audio and Soundstring Audio
Digital Cable: Original Illuminati
Speaker Cable: Ear to Ear
Power Cords: MAC, Ear to Ear and Mojo Audio
Accessories: PS Audio Juice Bar, Balanced Power Technology power strip, Original Quantum parallel line filters, Alan Maher parallel line filter, PS Audio Noise Harvestors, Sound Fusion Sound Boosters, Room Tunes, and egg crate mattress material
Emotiva Interconnects and Power Cords
Manufactured by Emotiva Audio Corporation
135 SE Parkway Court
Franklin, TN 37064
Phone: 615.790.6754 or 1.877.EMO.TECH (1.877.366.8324)
Prices. See above
Source: Manufacturer loan