Audience Cables Review & Factory Tour 
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Written by Andre Marc   
Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I had the pleasure of reviewing what I think is one of the most musical, beautifully made stand mount monitors, the ClairAudient 2 + 2 , by Audience, located in San Marcos, CA. I was not only impressed by the sound, but also the excellent workmanship. I found head honcho John McDonald to be one of the nicest guys in the high end audio business, and he constantly strives to improve his products in a highly competitive marketplace. And speaking of competitive, the audiophile cable arena is extremely crowded, with everyone from kitchen table type one man operations to established corporate entities offering cables of every conceivable design, and at price points covering the entire spectrum.  But Audience has managed to stand out from the fray for many years now with many positive reviews, an established dealer network, and yearly recommendations from various publications in their annual buyer guides.

I have come to believe that cables are basically another component in the chain, and careful consideration should be given when deciding on what manufacturers offerings to match to your system. I also believe that one should not decide on cables based on pseudo scientific claims or questionable “breakthroughs” in design.  I would also say that the one should avoid the urge to buy cables based on impressive physical appearance.  System matching is very important,  and auditioning is absolutely essential.

Vince Nguyen
Vince Nguyen (6 years at Audience)starting the buildup of an aR6-T Adept Response power conditioner harness.

All that being said, I received for evaluation a full set of  updated Audience cables, including their Au24e interconnects, Au24e speaker cables,  and PowerChord e AC cables. The cables are priced at $877 for a  single ended one meter pair of  IC’s, $1523 for a two meter pair of speaker cables, and  $594 for a 3 foot length of the power cables. I was very much looking forward to installing into my system the full “loom” , as I had just recently read a very enthusiastic review of the revised cables from a highly respected reviewer and publication. None the less, I decided I would start with a fresh perspective, and a clean slate. I also decided to have a specific methodology in mind. This was because last year I reviewed multiple groups of cables, from different manufacturers, which almost drove me to the brink.

I also decided to pay Audience a visit, and put together a factory tour to show how meticulous the manufacturing process can be and to spotlight a company that has managed to keep production state side with long time employees.  As you will see, there is a lot involved in running a high end audio company.  See that feature at the conclusion of this review. You will see that besides speakers and cables, Audience makes highly regarded power conditioners, and supplies high end parts to many other OEM’s.

Audience Cables
Wall of cables on Audiodharma break in device. All Audience cables and power cords are burned in 48 hours before shipping.

The Audience cables I received had just gone through a designated "e" upgrade, which according to Audience involves a new method of termination, as well as a special treatment that is they claim dramatically enhances performance. There is also a new, protective outer sheath. Owners of previous Au24 cables can send in their cables for the “e” upgrade starting at $195 for the interconnects.

I decided to evaluate the cables by introducing them one by one into the system. I started with the power cables on the preamp and power amp, then with single ended interconnects between CD player and preamp, and then from preamp to power amp, then finally with the speaker cables. The PowerChord AC cables feature high quality Marinco plugs and Wattgate IEC connectors. The cord is fairly flexible and easy to work with.  The interconnects feature custom RCA plugs, which I really liked, and the cable itself is slim, low mass, and for what it’s worth, they are quite attractive. The speaker cables share the same basic characteristics as the IC’s. Mine came terminated with banana plugs. They are the best banana plugs I have encountered to date.  They fitted the various speaker terminals I used perfectly and never once came loose.

Audiodharma cable cooker
Audiodharma cable cooker
My first impressions were that the Audience cables produced a very refined, balanced, and neutral presentation. I was surprised how silky smooth they were right out of the box, with no run in. The notion that they could only improve from there was quite appealing. And they did improve. I felt the Audience wiring was highly resolving, offering coherence, excellent bass weight, and natural, extended high frequencies. There seemed to be nothing missing at all and no sense of congestion.

I should note I had some very resolving gear in house during the evaluation period, including, the Audience 2 + 2 monitors, the McIntosh MA6600 integrated amp, and the mighty Thiel CS3.7 floor standers. So if these cables had any deficiencies, even subtle ones, there would be no place to hide. But the Audience loom performed beautifully, creating wonderful, evenly balanced sound regardless of whether they were paired with tubed or solid state components, monitors or floor standing speakers, and regardless of program material.

And speaking of program material I threw everything at the Audience loom to see if they were homogenizing everything. And differences were easily heard. It was easy to hear how knarly a late 80’s CD like Keith Richards, Talk is Cheap was. A real stinker of an early CD sound wise, which is a shame, since it is a funky, rocking effort from Mr. Richards.  And conversely, new, high quality recordings like Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, and Lizz Wright’s Fellowship sounded amazing.

Conclusion:

Audience LLC has been around since 1997 because they make excellent products, with pride, in California, for what are fair prices considering the quality of construction, performance, and research involved in bringing these cables to market. The same applies to their power conditioners, and speakers, which I saw being assembled first hand during my visit to the factory.

While the Audience cables are not cheap, they easily go head to head with competition charging two to three times as much. I was seduced by their refined, balanced presentation and their ability to disappear from the proceedings and allow the music to flow gracefully. I get irritated by companies promoting “magic wire”, and Audience is refreshingly 100% free of any outlandish claims. They offer properly engineered, well built cables with high quality conductors that should work in most systems. Audience also provides custom lengths and terminations upon request. If you are shopping for state of the art interconnects, I would highly advise you include Audience cables on your short list to demo.

John Mcdonald
John McDonald, President, weight lifting a 5uF/3,000 volt Auricap. His secret to that muscular build!

Interview with John McDonald, CEO, of Audience LLC:
 
Avrev: I really enjoyed evaluating your cables, and in addition to sound quality, they were easy to work with.  Did you end up with a low mass, flexible cable by design?
 
JM: Absolutely! The Low mass, low eddy current and flexible design is intentional for the best possible transmission of low level information.
 
Avrev: It is never easy to stand out in a crowded field, what do you think distinguishes Audience cables from the pack?

JM: Audience was first to break the “bigger is better” syndrome about 13 years ago with the ultra thin and flexible Au24 cables. Audience is not about flavors; we strive for absolute tonal accuracy and naturalness in every musical aspect.
 
Avrev:
I love the RCA and banana plugs, can you tell us a bit about them?

JM:
Like the Au24 cables our proprietary RCA connectors were designed for low mass, low eddy current and natural sound qualities.

_____________________________________________

Pricing: Interconnect: 1m pair, unbalanced, $877 1m pair, balanced, Speaker Cable: 2M pair, $1523.

Manufacturer Contact Info: Audience, LLC, 120 N. Pacific Street #K9, San Marcos, CA 92069. Tel: (800) 565-4390, (760) 471-0202. Fax: (760) 471-0282.  www.audience-av.com

Playlist

  • Robert Plant: Band Of Joy-Rounder-2010
  • Lizz Wright: Fellowship-Verve Forecast-2010
  • Bert Jansch: Birthday Blues-Sanctuary-2001
  • Roy Orbison: All Time Greatest Hits-Mobile Fidelity-2008
  • Renaissance: Ashes Are Burning-Repertoire-2006
  • Renaissance: Turn of the Cards: Repertoire-2006

Reviewer's System 1


  • CD Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X,
  • Preamp: Audio Research SP16
  • Amplifier: Audio Research VS55,
  • Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Audience 2 + 2; Thiel CS3.7
  • Cables: DH Labs, RS Cables, Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)/Element Cable, Shunyata, Pangea, Audience
  • Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands, Timbernation platform, CablePro Noisetrapper

Reviewer's System 2


  • CD Player: Marantz 5003
  • Music Server: Squeezebox 3
  • DAC: CIA VDA-2 with VAC-1 Power Supply
  • Tape Deck: Revox A77, Edirol 96/24 WAV recorder
  • Amplifier: McIntosh MA6600
  • Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio, RS Cables, Element Cables.



 

 



1

 

aR6-T Adept Response power conditioner
 Inside view of completed aR6-T Adept Response power conditioner…lots of stuff in there!

2

 

cables
Wall of cables on Audiodharma break in device. All Audience cables and power cords are burned in 48 hours before shipping.

 

3

 

aR2p
Finished aR2p and aR2 Adept Response power conditioners, on the bench ready for shipping.

 

4

 

Corie Gist
Corie Gist, recently hired, customer service manager in training.

 

5

 

gist again
Corie Gist holding a bag of Auricaps

6

 

ClairAudient
New ClairAudient 2+2 loudspeaker in Cherry Ropey wood finish.

 

7

 

2 by 2
Stacking 2 pairs of 2+2 for test. Look out…might be a new product coming soon!

 

8

 

Uly Torres
Mr. Uly Torres (3 years at Audience) showing the inside view of a ClairAudient 2+2 driver/plinth assembly.

 

9

 

clairAudient 2+2 loudspeaker plinth
ClairAudient 2+2 loudspeaker plinth, CNC machined from aircraft quality aluminum…one of the secrets to the ultra high performance of the 2+2.

10

 

ClairAudient 2+2 loudspeakers
Packed pair of ClairAudient 2+2 loudspeakers, ready to be shipped to you!

 

11

 

shipping box
Audience shipping box.

 

12

 

Vladimir Sherstnev
Vladimir Sherstnev (1 year at Audience) installing passive radiator on ClairAudient 2+2 loudspeaker.

 

13

 

john
John McDonald showing off his heavy duty “copper ground plane” for aR2 power conditioner.

 






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