Darwin Cable Company Truth II Interconnect and Power Cables 
Home Theater Accessories AV Cables
Written by Andre Marc   
Wednesday, 22 March 2017

There is one thing that all high end audio components require to function as a system, and that is signal and power cables. No getting around it. Of course, there is no market segment more controversial than audiophile cabling. This is partially due to questionable scientific claims and pricing that would make even true believers raise an eyebrow. The great news is there are a good number of smaller cable designers that offer products at all price points, made with the greatest of care, and that use their unique take on established audio cable design principles.. One such example is the Foxtrot and Symphony duo I reviewed recently from U.K. firm Black Rhodium. The are among the best sub $300 cables I had heard.

Another company that is at the top of my list is the Darwin Cable Company.  I have been around the block with the firm’s earlier cables, and their Truth and Ascension cables are among the best I have heard at any price at that point time, several years ago. Tony Bender and Bill Magerman, the principles of Darwin Cable are among the most passionate audiophiles and cable designers I have dealt with, and the products are made in the U.S.A with careful selection of materials and some distinct design goals.

Among these design goals are the use of solid core silver wire, the use of cryogenics, low mass connectors, air dielectric, and low capacitance. Probably their most important mantra is the end result must be neutral and transparent. Darwin Cables are not to be used as tone controls. This is similar to the philosophy of Wireworld, whose cables I reviewed last year. Using cables to “tune” your system is not a recommended approach according to both, and I agree.

Darwin, to my understanding, zeroes in on the final design in no less than four reference systems, which they detail on their website. Hearing the cables in multiple rooms with different components is really a unique and intelligent way to get an idea if the design goals are being met.  I believe there are things that measurements cannot tell us, and that human senses are the ultimate measurement instrument for final voicing.

Tony Bender contacted me and asked me if I would like to take a listen to their Truth II interconnects, and power cables. The last time I reviewed Darwin cables, they had no power cords in the lineup. I was absolutely curious to hear what they guys at Darwin had done to improve the original Truth series. The Truth II, typical for Darwin, was the result of several years of development that included trial and error, experimentation, and a lot of listening to get the result they were after.   To borrow what I said from earlier reviews, the name Darwin is apropos, as their cables evolve over time through a determined and organic process. I am inclined to believe there are no miracles in cable development, but I am sure there are some “eureka” moments at times during the process which can be applied.

http://www.avrev.com/images/stories/equipaccessories/darwin/black-pc-best.jpgI discussed my current set-up with Darwin and Tony agreed to send the following: Two 1M pairs of the Truth II XLR cable ($1195), a 1M pair of the Truth II RCA cables ($1095), and two Truth II Black PC cables ($1295). The cables are beautifully made, attractive in appearance, if that matters to you, and the terminations are absolutely first rate. And all of this should be considering the prices, which without a doubt, are not entry level,  In fact, these cables are hitting the upper limit of what I would consider reviewing or purchasing.

“The second generation of Darwin Cables was no small challenge,” said Darwin Co-Founder Tony Bender. “We knew low mass, air dielectric cables with the precise materials were the key. You might liken the original design to a drag racer. Super fast from start to destination. Performance—speed and accuracy—was everything.”



The sleek design required a 4” radius at the connection for the tubing (a variant of Teflon, with silver conductors inside) to float from connection to connection. “That minimalist design still works beautifully and it’s resilient,” Lead designer Bill Magerman said, “Our goal with the Darwin Series II cables, was to advance sonic performance, flexibility and durability.”



Magerman incorporated a convoluted (ribbed) tube with superior dielectric properties and internally pushed the envelope far past convention—he won’t reveal exactly what he did—but the effect is wall-of-sound obvious. “We experimented with conventional schools of thought when we decided to advance Bill’s original design,” Bender said. “But we figured out manufacturers were making a lot of concessions to sound in order to mass produce cables. At this point, we can look at a cable design and identify its shortcomings. Science is science.” 



As for conductors, ”silver, because it is 7% more conductive than copper, simply performs better,” Magerman said. “But a bad design will accentuate its properties, and poor designs have given silver cables a reputation for being ‘bright’.” I agree with Magerman that silver being “bright” in general is simply a falsehood repeated over the years, and any forwardness is just a bad cable, and has nothing to do with silver. “The reality is, when you get it right, the sound is huge. Rich, full and organic,” Bender added. “The gauge is of the utmost importance. Skin effect, in which higher frequencies gravitate to the ‘skin of the conductor and arrive sooner than other frequencies, leads to listener fatigue.” 



“Capacitance is another key to performance,” Magerman said. The 1M Truth II RCA Interconnect measures an astonishing 7.20 pF/ft, which they believe to be the lowest in the industry. “Higher capacitance cables have large amounts of energy stored and released in unscheduled fashion. Our goal is to have the most pristine, neutral signal possible.” Magerman said. The company is also a believer in cryogenics. They use NASA-caliber CryoWise II cryogenics on Truth II and Ascension II Series cables and industry standard cryogenics on other cables.



“Our clients insisted that our original interconnects consistently bested cables costing as much as $18,000,” Bender said. “So, in some regard we felt we were competing with ourselves.”
The biggest news coming out of Darwin is their development of Truth II Speaker Cables and Truth II Power Cables—both based on their tried and true methodology. Silver conductors. Air dielectric. Fastidious attention to materials.  “It took us years in development,” Magerman said. “A lot of fussing with materials and analyzing the effect of certain wire in certain applications.”



“We’ve had customers replacing entire systems of big name cables, selling them off at a profit, and getting better performance,” Bender said. “Our customers tell us the speaker cables and power cables have the same kind of dramatic and truthful effect as our interconnects.”  The company offers a 30 Day “Peace of Mind Money Back Guarantee”. “That almost never happens,” Bender said. “But, even though the cost to performance ratio is we believe the best in the industry, we realize it’s a big investment. You ought to have that kind of peace of mind.”



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Set Up & Listening

Running a fully balanced system for the first time allowed me to use the Truth II XLR cables. One cable ran from the Bryston BDA-3 DAC, to the new Schiit Freya preamp, and the other to the mighty Simaudio 760A power amp.  The Truth II Black power cords were connected to the Freya and 760A.  Everything was plugged into a Bryston BIT-15 power conditioner. 

The Truth II cables are designed for gentle bends, and Darwin’s Bill Magerman recommends no bending at least six inches from the connector for the power cords, and about three inches for the signal cables. I was able to follow this protocol with all the cables. After plugging everything in there was nothing left to do but listen. I had a good three months with the cables, and I am certain I understood how they performed within the context of my system.

The new Schiit Freya preamp is rather unique, and it allows for three separate output modes, selectable with the touch of a button or remote. There is a totally passive mode, JFET Buffer mode, and fully active mode with a 6SN7 tube gain stage. I used the tube output with the Simaudio amp, and the JFET buffer with the Audio Research amp.

I cued up dozens of albums from across genres, and as usual, from some of the most obscure ones at that. I listened to whatever I was in the mood for, regardless of recording quality. A good number of albums were culled from the classic progressive rock cannon, and quite a bit of classic jazz and fusion as well.

First up was the Jethro Tull classic, Minstrel In The Gallery box set, with remixes and remasters by Steven Wilson. It is one of my all-time favorites, and the 24/96 flat transfers of the original mix, and the beautifully crafted remix are stunning. With the Darwin loom in place, the music took on a dimensionality and texture I honestly have not encountered to this degree. It was apparent from the get-go that mythical noise floor with the Truth II cables was as low as it was going to get in my system. The system brought to the forefront little subtle touches in the mix like intricate percussion parts, vocal overdubs, and reverb choices made during final mixdown.

An album I have been listening to in every format, Pentangle’s 1968 debut, The Pentangle, sounded fantastic on the Japanese SHM SACD remaster. It is scarily analog like and the Darwin system produced the sharpest focus and most lifelike textures I have heard with the album.

I went really deep into obscurity with Quintessence, a U.K. band known for serious space jams, mysticism, spiritual lyrics, and Alice Coltrane-like cosmic compositions. Cycling through their stunning, long forgotten discography, superbly remastered on CD, it was a time travel back to the late 60’s/early 70’s.  It is easy to dismiss their output as quaint hippie timepieces, but that would be way off the mark. The Darwin system put the spotlight on the sublime musicianship, the incredibly skillful guitar work, complex arrangements, and the surprisingly punchy mixes. The songs were augmented by crafty touches like flute solos, and the Darwin loom brought out some of these fine details effortlessly.

Heading further down the path of rare and vintage material, I cued up Mission Suite by the Chris Hinze Combination, a seriously hard to find album by the Dutch flutist. The album is high-level fusion, strongly influenced by early King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The Darwin system was allowed for the interplay of the musicians to come through without spotlighting any one player, exactly as these arrangements were intended to be heard. A very enjoyable excursion into psychedelic jazz fusion was the end result.

I was in the mood for the glorious voice of Julie Felix, a criminally overlooked progressive folk songstress from the 60’s and 70’s. Her magnum opus, 1971’s Clotho’s Web, in the Darwin system, really stunned me with the separation of instruments and how the emotion in Felix’s voice came through. Her penchant for dramatic melodies and her acoustic guitar work are show stoppers, and I can’t recommend her hard to find albums more highly. The low noise floor paid dividends here where the music seemed not to be connected to any physical body, it just appeared in space.

One final spin in the progressive genre, a long lost classic, the self-titled, and only album by Australian band Fuchsia. Vinyl copies of this gem are fetching insane prices, but the recent remaster by the Esoteric label, with two bonus tracks, sounds excellent. This is grand, orchestral rock with folk and classical shades, and the Darwin system brought out fine details, yet preserved the classic analog lineage. A real treat, and again, it is recordings like this that really benefit from a low noise floor.

At this point, I had put the balanced system through its paces, and I switched over to the Truth II RCA using my Audio Research VS50 KT120 tube amp. Along with digital, I spun a large amount vinyl at this point on a Rega Planar 3 through a Lehmann Cube SE.  All the hallmarks of the Truth II sound were there. Amazingly low noise floor, clarity, a total lack of any coloration, and a naturalness of tone. 

I used the Truth II RCA in a number of locations. From Phono stage to preamp, from DAC to preamp, and from preamp to power amp, and I heard subtle differences in where they worked best, but if I had to pick one location above all, it would be from source to preamp, but that will vary with your system in my opinion.

The Truth II power cords, in my estimation, are simply sensational. When used on my Freya preamp and both the Simaudio and Audio Research power amps, they unlocked new levels of clarity, bass articulation, and smoothness. My Acoustic Zen power cords are very cables indeed but the Truth II cables, from what I heard, were a significant step up.

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Conclusion

Tony Bender and Bill Magerman of Darwin Cables are have taken no prisoners with the Truth II series of cables. All of the previous Darwin cables I have reviewed were stellar sonically, and here they up the ante -- providing new levels of build quality, ergonomics, and drilling down what made previous generations so appealing, and then refining it.

Yes, the Darwin loom I enjoyed for many months is not inexpensive, but they are essentially a long term investment. The company offers a risk-free in home trial, so you can be absolutely sure these cables can maximize the performance of your system. A note on that: I am confident that I have sorted out my system pretty well (speaker placement, noise, component matching etc) and I think that once this is done, the Darwin cables are the icing on the cake, and let you hear the full result of your work. To my ears, Darwin Cables essentially represent the state of the art of cables today along with a few other manufacturers, but I have to tell you, that is a very small club.  Darwin Cables get an unconditional recommendation for an audition.


Specifications


www.darwincables.com

Truth II RCA: $1095 1M
Truth II XLR:$1195 1M
Truth II Black PC: $1295 1.25M

Review System 1


Server: Bryston BDP-2
DAC: Bryston BDA-3
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Turntable: Rega Planar 3
Phono Preamp: Lounge Audio LCR MKIII, Lehmann Cube SE
Preamp: Schiit Audio Freya
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Simaudio 760A
Speaker:  Bryston Mini T
Cables:, Wireworld, iFi, Transparent, Black Rhodium
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Bryston BIT-15, Salamander rack

Review System 2


Music Server: Sonore microRendu
Turntable: Project Debut Carbon DC
Phono Preamp: Graham Slee SE
Preamp: Schiit Audio Saga
DAC/Streamer: Simaudio 280D
Power Amplifier: Onkyo M5000R
Speaker: Magnepan MMG, Spendor S35R
Cables: Wireworld
Accessories: Cable Pro Noisetrapper, iFi iPower, Audience aR6

 






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