Soundstage! - Workin' Man Audio

Audio Magic Mystic I2S Digital Cable

August 1996

Audio Magic
456 South Potomac Way
Aurora, Co. 80012

Audio Magic Mystic I2S digital cables
suggested retail $99.00 (1 meter), $69.00 (1/2 meter)

Being the happy (read: still digging) owner of the Audio Alchemy DDS PRO transport, DTI.PRO 32 interface, and DDE V3.0 D/A converter, I was pleased to hear that someone was attempting to create a better I2S cable than the stock cable supplied with the AA units. It only figures that if different cable geometry's and design can make a difference elsewhere, then they will also from the I2S bus.

The I2S format is clearly a superior method of digital transmission over the SP/DIF format as used by most digital products. By providing five separate conductors (one ea. for bitclock, wordclock, masterclock, data, de-emphasis, and ground), the digital signal does not have to be combined; only to be torn apart again at the next stop in the transmission process, as is done with the SP/DIF. The result of the I2S method, is extremely low amounts of jitter introduced by the digital cable. Jitter is a timing error that Robert Harley best described when he wrote that "the right amplitude at the wrong time, is the wrong amplitude." Jitter has been identified as a major cause of the dreaded "Digititis"; commonly associated with the harshening often heard with digital sound.

The standard I2S cable that Audio Alchemy supplies with their products is certainly a very good improvement over typical coaxial SP/DIF transmission. Let that be a tribute to I2S, and not to the stock cable, as it was not until I decided to lay down the green did I realize that things could still be better.

The Audio Magic Mystics' conductors are a copper core with a silver coating. The silver coating is said to be thicker on the Mystic, than on their other cables. The conductors are then treated with Audio Magic's' special "thermal treatment," which while they did not go into detail about how this is done, did indicated it to be "an enhancement to the crystalline structure of the wire" that imparts "a very noticeable sonic impact." Shucks, I wanted the dirt on how they do the process! Must be a top secret, or sumptin'. The conductors are then covered with a 10 mil. FEP Teflon jacket. The cable is fully shielded and all connections are hand soldered using 4% silver solder. The outer casing is also Teflon (in a mighty cool purple, I might add) and the mini-din plugs are sourced from overseas.

Burn-in time for the Mystic is recommended at 70 hours. Straight out of the box the cables exhibit the brightness one associates with a silver cable product. Burn-in is essential (as it is with most audio components), and I actually felt it was not until after the 100 hour mark did I ever find out what the final sound of these cables would be. I ran the burn-in track (track #38) from Chesky Test Disc 3 for three days straight, prior to any critical listening. During this time I felt I heard the sound change several times, and to be honest about it, I wasn't sure if I liked the differences along the way. While the detail and resolution had improved, there was that edge or brightness that I hadn't been used to.

After approximately another 30 hours of music listening after burn-in, the cables settled into their final destination, and this boy experienced pure listening pleasure. The brightness had said bye-bye. I was left with a detailed, yet non-fatiguing presentation that hit all the right buttons with me.

The biggest difference between the AA supplied I2S cables and the Mystic is transparency . Was I surprised when yet another layer of layer of veiling had been removed. Hell, with the improvement the I2S format alone had made, I had no idea there was yet another layer still in the way. Is there no end to the improvements that can be made to reproduced music? I'm becoming convinced that even though the music is wonderful here at Casa de Good Grooves, there are always going to be small levels of improvement to be had. Folks, let me say at this time that a lot of those newer thresholds are going to come from working with the acoustics of your room. Don't ever think that throwing dollars at the electronics is going to be the only answer to the total satisfaction that reproduced music can provide.

The further "cleansing" of the soundstage presented itself in a more prominent midrange and treble. My system lent itself to sound a tad on the darkish side, so this change was not unwelcome. Low level detail was more evident, and I felt closer to the being in the same space as the musicians. The soundstage was still laid back, but a gain was noticed in the layering from the front to rear. Excellent recordings really started to show their salt, and recordings that once sounded veiled now appeared to be more open and accessible.

Now with the added transparency, one would think that the bottom end might suffer; maybe the overall sound being a little on the lean side. FAWGETABOUTIT! The bass comes through tighter, better defined, and at the same time more visceral, than as heard through the stock Audio Alchemy cables. My PSB Stratus Golds were pleased to make the acquaintance of the Mystic.

The Audio Magic Mystic I2S cables made me appreciate further my Cardas Cross interconnects and Crosslink speaker cables. These cables are very good at letting upstream differences be heard, as I feel they are extremely neutral. They clearly let me know that they were more than willing to not get in the way of anything further up in the chain of events. Differences between components become readily discernible if you don't have something else throwing an overbearing sonic signature of it's own in the way.

If you own, or are considering looking at the Audio Alchemy products, you owe it to yourself to check them out with the Audio Magic Mystic Cables. In my system they made an impressive difference in soundstaging and transparency. True, no one else (to the best of my knowledge) is producing cables for the I2S format, so I can't tell you the Mystic is the end of the upgrade road for I2S digital cables. I can tell you that I am very pleased with how they bring me one step closer to the music. I certainly hope that the I2S format evolves further into other manufacturers product lines, making compatibility between different companies products possible.

Workin' Man gives the Audio Magic Mystic cables a hearty recommendation as an economical upgrade to the fine Audio Alchemy equipment. I'd like to say thanks to Jerry Ramsey and Dave Kinser at Audio Magic for being bold enough to design a cable for a market that is certainly small, and for providing technical support for this review.

See Ya....Dave Duvall