Audience Au24 e Interconnects and
by Vade Forrester
||"Right off the bat,
I could tell the Au24 e cables possessed a special quality: focus.... Everything seemed more
sharply defined." "The leading edge of transients were fast, clean, and well
defined, but not exaggerated, thank goodness, and the notes trailed off as accurately as they
began. The abundant instrumental detail was extremely well defined, and the deep bass emerged
with unusual power." "Massed strings, an area where early digital reproduction often
failed miserably, were tonally rich and downright gorgeous." " The Au24 e cables
have...temporal coherence. All the sonic elements fuse together at the right time to create an
eerily realistic picture of the musical performance."
||"With all of its
cables, Audience aims for a specific electrical outcome: low eddy-current resistance. Audience
believes that this is the key electrical characteristic for good time response, allowing 'the
musical overtones [to] arrive in their proper time relationship with the fundamentals.'"
"In November 2007, Audience announced an enhancement to the Au24 cables, adding the
"e" to the model name. This consists of a 'proprietary technology to improve the
conductivity,' resulting in 'a more refined product....' Theres no real explanation of
what the e upgrade consists of, but Im betting on cryogenic and possibly magnetic
||"Audience says that
the Au24 e cables will begin to sound good after two or three hours playing time and will
continue to improve for approximately 50 to 100 hours.... Sure enough, the sound did change
during the break-in period. At first the music seemed to lack bass, but with time the bass
became quite robust, proving to be one of the strong points of the cables' performance."
although not cheap, were certainly not out of line with the other components in the system --
maybe even on the low side."
I hate reviewing cables. I know, I know --
you cant build a hi-fi system without them. But reviewing cables is an exercise in
frustration because they often sound different in different systems and with different
components, so there's no real consistency, no "their sound." And to make things
even harder, most cables undergo a noticeable change as they break in. Some will assert
that cables have no sound of their own, so break-in is a myth. My experience -- based on
listening to cables from quite a few different manufacturers -- has been that during a
period of use, lasting sometimes as long as several hundred hours, their sound changes.
Thus it's especially important that if you try a new interconnect or speaker cable, it
should be broken in before you form an opinion about it.
Given all these problems, how can a poor
audiophile possibly pick the right cables for his system? You can read umpteen reviews and
identify cables with the sound characteristics youre looking for, but theres
still no substitute for listening to cables in your system. A knowledgeable
brick-and-mortar dealer can be invaluable by loaning you cables to try. But if, like many
audiophiles, you arent fortunate enough to have a local dealer, try The Cable
Company, a dealer with over 60 brands to loan, including the Audience Au24 e interconnects
and speaker cables under consideration in this review.
Although Audience is an established company
thats been making cables for some time, my first encounter with Audience products
was an audition of the company's AdeptResponse aR12 power conditioner. It was one of the
very few power conditioners Ive tried that actually made an overall improvement in
the sound of my system. So when offered a chance to review Audience's latest Au24-series
interconnects and speaker cables, I put aside my dislike of the idea and accepted.
The cables I received consisted of two one-meter
pairs of Au24 e balanced interconnects ($1250 USD per pair) and one eight-foot set of Au24
e speaker cables ($1554 per pair). Both are rather modest in thickness, especially the
speaker cables. If you assess a speaker cables worth by measuring its diameter, the
3/8"-diameter Au24 e speaker cables might surprise you. My reference speaker cables
are from Crystal Cable and even thinner than these from Audience, so clearly I have no
prejudice against the small diameter.
With all of its cables, Audience aims for a
specific electrical outcome: low eddy-current resistance. Audience believes that this is
the key electrical characteristic for good time response, allowing "the musical
overtones [to] arrive in their proper time relationship with the fundamentals."
Visually, the Audience cables dont stand out from the crowd. They are neatly
constructed from quality parts, and covered with a black mesh outer cover that looks like
hundreds of other cables. All Au24 cables have continuous-cast single-crystal copper
conductors, polypropylene insulation, and a polyethylene jacket.
In November 2007, Audience announced an
enhancement to the Au24 cables, adding the "e" to the model name. This consists
of a "proprietary technology to improve the conductivity" resulting in "a
more refined product." Interestingly, Audience offers e upgrades for standard Au24
cables. Theres no real explanation of what the e upgrade consists of, but Im
betting on cryogenic and possibly magnetic treatment.
During the interconnects' and speaker cables'
extended use in my system, nothing ever broke, frayed, or fell off. I had requested large
spade lugs on the speaker cables, and they came with gigantic Cardas spades that made a
solid connection to every speaker and amplifier I tried them with. The thin interconnects
were fairly easy to install in my rack, although they were a bit stiff.
For essentially all of the time the Audience
cables were in my system, I was using the Opera Audio Consonance M12 speakers. I had hoped
to use the far more revealing MaxxHorn Lumination speakers for this review, but it turned
out that the Luminations Feastrex drivers were incompatible with the relatively high
capacitance of the Au24 e speaker cables. Was the incompatibility a fault of the speaker
cables or the speakers? Neither. It was just another example of how components interact.
Initially, Au24 e balanced interconnects went
between my CD player and preamp, and between the preamp and the balanced Atma-Sphere S-30
Mk III amp. Later on, an Audio Research VS115 amplifier arrived for review, and it
replaced the Atma-Sphere amplifier. It further substantiated how system-dependent cables
are by absolutely loving the Au24 e cables. It proved a very synergistic match, the
best of all the gear I used. My review comments are based on using the Audio Research
amplifier, although the cables also allowed my Atma-Sphere amp to sound better than ever.
Audience says that the Au24 e cables will begin
to sound good after two or three hours playing time and will continue to improve for
approximately 50 to 100 hours. The cables were in my system for several months, so they
had several hundred hours use -- way more than the 50 to 100 hour break-in time
recommended by Audience. Sure enough, the sound did change during the break-in period. At
first the music seemed to lack bass, but with time the bass became quite robust, proving
to be one of the strong points of the cables' performance.
Right off the bat, I could tell the Au24 e cables
possessed a special quality: focus. Let me use a camera analogy to illustrate what I mean.
When you take a picture through a digital SLR camera with its autofocus turned on,
everything in the picture appears to be pretty sharp, but when you adjust the focus
manually, the parts of the picture you're most interested in snap into even sharper focus.
Inserting the Audience cables into my system was like using manual focus -- everything
seemed more sharply defined. I suspect thats what the people at Audience are talking
about when they claim "the musical overtones arrive in their proper time relationship
with the fundamentals." Lets test this claim, thought I, cueing up an
old favorite CD, Chris Joness Roadhouses & Automobiles (Stockfisch SFR
357.6027.2). First, I played a simple solo-guitar piece, "The Last Fallen Leaf."
The fundamentals and overtones of the guitar coalesced into a strikingly realistic
portrayal of a guitars sound, and the extraneous noises you hear when sitting close
to a guitar were reproduced with amazing accuracy. The Audience cables passed the
solo-instrument test with flying colors, beautifully rendering the songs luscious
sonorities and portraying both the body and the strings of the guitar with equal poise.
The Audio Research VS115 I used for my review of the Audience
interconnects and speaker cables has a 20-amp IEC connector for its power cord. Obviously,
the 15-amp cords I had on hand wouldnt work. Audiences John McDonald offered
to send a powerChord e ($674 per two-meter cord) with the requisite connector. It arrived
well after the rest of the review was done, and I was able to contrast it separately with
the high-quality stock power cord Audio Research includes with the VS115. In fact, this
stock cord was chosen because of how it sounds, not because the VS115 really draws 20 amps
After breaking in the powerChord e for about 150 hours, I
started listening critically. The differences were not subtle. Most obvious was the bass,
which seemed deeper and more powerful than with the stock cord. Initially, I thought
perhaps the powerChord e provided too much bass, but I soon got over that. What I
heard was the deepest and weightiest bass Ive ever heard from my system.
The second obvious improvement was that the powerChord e
sounded quieter than the stock cord. At first, I thought the cord rolled off the high
frequencies, but after re-auditioning some CDs, I discovered that the highest musical
tones were still present in full strength; it was just the high-frequency noise that was
gone. Its one of those things you cant identify until its gone, and then
To use a reviewing cliché, music emerged from a blacker
background. Musical details (tonality, microdymnamics, and transients) were easier to
follow. Although the stock power cord definitely sounded first-rate, the powerChord e was
better across the board -- and easily worth its cost.
Next, I challenged the cables with a more complex
piece from the same CD, "God Moves on the Water." The leading edge of transients
were fast, clean, and well defined, but not exaggerated, thank goodness, and the notes
trailed off as accurately as they began. The abundant instrumental detail was extremely
well defined, and the deep bass emerged with unusual power. It was perhaps the best
reproduction of this piece Ive heard. Another test passed.
Solo instrument, small rock band -- whats
left? How about a symphony orchestra? Into the CD player went Jonathon Nott and the
Bamberg Symphonys performance of Schuberts Symphony No. 6 on SACD (Tudor
7143). This symphony isnt power music, but a lighter, fleeter piece, full of many
graceful, felicitous moments. The tone of the woodwind instruments was particularly well
depicted, with the wooden bodies of the instruments realistically portrayed. Massed
strings, an area where early digital reproduction often failed miserably, were tonally
rich and downright gorgeous. The Au24 e interconnects made my solid-state Meridian CD
player sound as if someone had sneaked some tubes into the circuit.
OK, so the Audience cables were adept at
portraying instruments, but what about vocalists? To check this out, I cued up Gregorio
Allegris "Miserere," from a collection sung by A Sei Voci and titled Gregorio
Allegri (Astrée E 8524). This piece was sung a capella by a group of nine
singers in what sounds like a largish, rather reverberant room in Frances Vivoin
Priory, and the purity of the singers voices was quite astounding. The Audience
cables precisely located the singers in space, and when one of the sopranos wailed out
some of the baroque ornamentation that was later written for the piece, the cables
projected her powerful voice without compression. Everything seemed perfectly placed in
time and space, although the reverberant acoustic did tend to make voices sound blended on
On both vocal and instrumental music, dynamics
were precisely rendered and powerful at points. The transition from soft to loud, and vice
versa, didnt stand out as something separate and distinct; it just fit naturally and
realistically into the fabric of the music. It never commanded special attention, but
neither was it ever lacking. Dynamic range was just there when the music called for
it. Macrodynamic detail was finely rendered, enabling me to follow the musicians
When I reviewed the MaxxHorn Lumination speakers
in September 2008, I praised their "temporal coherence," a term I used to mean
that every part of the sonic picture -- fundamentals, overtones, dynamics, details --
coalesced at the right time to produce an unusually realistic reproduction of the musical
picture. The Au24 e cables have this same temporal coherence. All the sonic elements fuse
together at the right time to create an eerily realistic picture of the musical
Side by side
I wanted to use the outstanding Purist Audio
Design cables for comparison to the Audience cables; however, the interconnects are
terminated with RCA connectors instead of XLRs, so they wouldnt provide a valid
comparison. Therefore, I had to compare the Audience cables to my usual assortment of
cables from different manufacturers: Clarity Cables Organic ($1900 per meter pair) and TG
Audio High Purity Revised ($1000 per meter pair) interconnects, and Crystal Cable
CrystalSpeak Micro speaker cables ($2320 per two-meter pair).
Loudspeakers MaxxHorn Lumination,
Opera Audio Consonance M12.
Power amplifiers Atma-Sphere
S-30 Mk III and Audio Research VS115 stereo amps.
Preamplifier Audio Research LS26.
Digital Meridian 508.24 CD player,
Oppo DV-970HD universal player.
Analog Linn LP12 turntable, Graham
2.2 tonearm, van den Hul Frog cartridge, Audio Research PH5 phono stage.
Interconnects Purist Audio Design
Venustas, DNM/Reson TSC, TG Audio High Purity Revised, Blue Marble Audio Blue IC, Clarity
Speaker cables Purist Audio Design
Venustas, Blue Marble Audio speaker cables, Clarity Cables Passion.
Power cords Audience powerChord e,
Purist Audio Design Venustas, Blue Marble Audio Lightning, Clarity Cables Vortex.
Accessories Walker Audio
Talisman LP/CD treatment, VPI HW-16.5 record cleaner.
With my melange of cables, bass was extended and
powerful, but not as well controlled as with the Audience cables. The treble was quite
extended, possibly due in part to the fact that the TG Audio interconnects and Crystal
Cable speaker cables have silver in their conductors . In fact, I heard a smidgen more
high-frequency detail than with the Audience cables, although the sound was not overly
bright. With both sets of cables, the soundstage was very expansive, instrumental timbres
were spot on, and dynamics were awesome, but my cables lacked the last degree of focus
that the Audience cables had in spades. There was an extra dollop of realism with the
Audience cables in the system, and who wouldn't want that?
Theres obviously an advantage to using
cables from a single manufacturer throughout your system. The Audience cables projected
more coherent, better controlled sound, which resulted in greater musical enjoyment, for
lack of a better way to put it. This was particularly evident in the low frequencies,
where the powerful but tight and well-defined bass firmly grounded the rest of the musical
The Audience Au24 e interconnects and speaker
cables offered a rather extreme illustration that the sound of cables is system-dependent.
With one speaker, the cables were unlistenable and with another superb. They also worked
exceptionally well with two amplifiers used during the review, illustrating that
theres no substitute for auditioning cables in the system where theyll be
In the most synergistic system, the Audience e
cables were brilliant. Frequency response was extended on both ends of the spectrum, and
midrange was detailed and sweet. The soundstage was both expansive and precise. And the
cables were easy to install, thanks to their relative flexibility. The prices, although
not cheap, were certainly not out of line with the other components in the system -- maybe
even on the low side. It doesnt seem weird to use $1554 speaker cables to connect a
$6495 amplifier to $6000 speakers, or $1250 interconnects to connect a $5995 preamp to a
Ive implied that the Audience cables were
the sole basis for the first-rate sound I heard, but, of course, thats not the full
story. I didnt listen to just the cables, but to the whole system, including the CD
player, preamp, amp, and speakers. All these pieces had to play together extremely well
for the sound to be as rich and detailed as it was -- easily the best Ive achieved
with the Opera Audio speakers. But the system sounded better than ever with the Audience
cables installed. In a world of incredible hype, they lived up to Audience's claim that
they "create a more convincing illusion of reality and improve soundstaging." My
reference cables do that pretty darn well, but the Audience cables improve the
systems performance in those areas.
Dont rush out and buy Audience Au24 e
interconnects and speaker cables based on this review. But if my review makes them sound
appealing, you really ought to audition them in your system. You may be surprised at how
much improvement they make. I was.
|Audience Au24 e Interconnects and
Prices: Interconnects, $1250 USD per meter pair with XLR connectors, $797 per
meter pair with RCA connectors; speaker cables, $1554 per eight-foot pair.
120 N. Pacific St., K-9
San Marcos, CA 92069
Fax: (760) 743-2192