Darwin Ascension Silver Interconnect Review - AVRev.com
Darwin Ascension Silver Interconnect Review 
Home Theater Accessories AV Cables
Written by Andre Marc   
Monday, 10 June 2013

Darwin Cables very much impressed me with their Silver Interconnect, which I evaluated not too long ago. At its $295 asking price, the Darwin Silver is amazingly coherent and musically complete. In fact, it's still in my system, performing admirably. But my personal Darwin story does not end there. Tony Bender, co conspirator at Darwin Cables, sent me a note, indicating they had developed a cable a notch up from the Silver, called the Ascension, and wanted to know if I'd like to hear it and do a formal review. I said yes (of course).

To “ascend” means to go climb, or go upward. It seems the folks at Darwin felt they had a legitimate breakthrough in performance via careful tweaking of materials and build. The Ascension's appearance differs from the standard Darwin IC in that it features clear tubing, one for each silver conductor. The cables sell for $595 direct from the Darwin Cables web site, but as of the time of this publication, are on a $495 introductory special.

According to Mr. Bender, here are some particulars about the Ascension's design and development:
  • Low Mass Ends: Heavy ends create unwanted signal anomalies and eddy currents, smearing the sound. Through trial and error, the development team found the best combination of low mass, quality metallurgy and synchronicity with their unique design.

  • Silver Core Wire:  Bender says, “We learned that seemingly infinitesimal variances in gauge, purity and build quality can make a huge difference. Silver is vastly superior to copper in conductivity in low voltage applications. Hours-long, computer-controlled cryogenic treatment enhances molecular structure and lowers noise floor for better dynamics. Darwin Cable Company relies on an industry leader that meets military specifications.”

  • Air Dielectric: By suspending the wire in an oversized Teflon-like tube, the Darwin Cable Company says they eliminate the veiling introduced with coated wires. “ANYTHING that touches the wire diminishes the sound,” Bender said. “Even quality dielectric in close proximity to the wire will diminish performance.”
Bender notes the original Darwin concept evolved by subtracting “the mistakes” most manufacturers make. “First, you have to identify the elements that detract from cable performance and to what degree.” Bender said. “We are fanatical about building a cable with the least amount of compromises possible. The Darwin Ascension has been voiced with a unique selection of wire and tubing as well as other dielectric improvements. The cable requires significantly more build time.”

Lastly, and most unusually, the Darwin team sent out Ascension prototypes to a group of trusted audiophiles for feedback before finalizing the design. I personally had have not heard of this unique strategy -- a form of crowd sourcing in high-end audio? An interesting concept that may have its day!

Listening

I used the Ascension in a few different settings, but mostly to connect a Bryston BDA-1 DAC directly to a Bob Carver Black Magic tube amp. No preamp was in the signal chain since the Carver has a volume pot. I also used it to connect the DAC to a Music First Audio transformer based Classic V2 passive line stage, driving an Audio Research VS55 amp. I rotated a few other familiar cables in and out for a few days to get a handle on the Ascension's sonic personality, then let it sit in place for a good six weeks.  

Once settled in, the Darwin team's numerous performance tweaks paid off because, quite simply, the Ascension proved to be a real revelation. The enormous soundstage, regardless of musical genre, became a recurring theme in my listening sessions. Another Ascension characteristic was how much recorded detail it allowed to come through the speakers, but not at the expense of body, flow, and coherence. No spotlighting. It made great recordings more pleasurable to listen to while exposing bad recordings for what they were without any sugar coating.

Darwin Cable Company Ascension Interconnect

With time, the Ascension improved; more nuances of various recordings came through, like the acoustic guitar strumming in “Sour Girl” from the Stone Temple Pilots' classic No.4. The album’s closing epic track, “Atlanta,” gained a sense of scale and drama that approached what I heard live in a recent performance by Scott Weiland, the band’s on again, off again lead singer. I also found it easier to follow the various guitar parts in “I Got You”, another standout track from the album.

Rhythm And Repose
-- an excellent 2012 album by Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard, of the Frames and the Swell Season -- is wonderfully recorded. The Ascension, more than any other cable I have used, allowed the warm, yet precise production to shine. Hansard's clever arrangements and heartfelt songs are difficult not to fall for, and the Darwin cable cut right to the chase, allowing this song cycle to flow beautifully.

Young British songwriter Laura Marling's beguiling new album, Once I Was An Eagle, was simply ravishing as presented by the Ascension. The album is very nicely produced and throws in a few new twists on Marling’s overall sound. We get her heavy Joni Mitchell and Neil Young leanings with some Eastern motifs thrown in, which gives the album a Led Zeppelin III feel, of all things. All the gorgeous nuances and emotional inflections were there, with the Ascension delicately framing the whole picture.

I ran through a variety of more offbeat favorites to see if there was anything that could trip up the Ascension, but to no avail. It remained coherent and drew me into the music regardless of genre. I listened to a lot of world music during the review period, including albums from Bombino, Rokia Traore, Salif Keita, and Raghu Dixit. In all cases, the music flowed with liquid ease, and that same coherence, despite some rhythmically challenging recordings.

Conclusion

The folks at Darwin Cable Company have turned the price-to-performance ratio on its head with their new cable, the Darwin Ascension. Within the context of my system, I have not heard a “better” cable.  I can honestly say I wanted for nothing sonically. The cable's balance was spot on, and never had me fidgeting or feeling something was not right. When audiophiles talk about a cable “getting out of the way” of the music, this is what they mean.

It is an undeniable fact that high performance audio cable pricing has become comical in recent years. This, in my estimation, has allowed small artisan cable makers to flourish and offer frustrated audiophiles a way to enjoy a carefully crafted product without having to rob a bank.  Darwin is one such cable maker who, as detailed above, set out to make a cable that sonically competed with the very best, regardless of price point. Making a compromised cable was not the game plan; I believe they have achieved their goal.

Darwin Cable Company Ascension Interconnect

With many complaining about price-to-performance correlation in the audiophile cable market, here is a nice alternative. Count me as a believer in the Darwin philosophy -- start with solid engineering theory, trial and error, and ultimately listening to finalize your product. Hats off to the Darwin Cable Company for offering relief from audiophile cable pricing sticker shock. Highly recommended.


Specifications


Darwin Ascension silver interconnect: $595
(June, 2013 introductory special $495)
www.darwincables.com

Darwin Cable Company offers personalized sales via phone consultation. They also make a suite of audio cables for most applications, including speaker, digital coax, and phono cables.


Review System 1


CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT
Server: Squeezebox Touch w/ CIA VDC-SB power supply
via Ethernet to MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate
external drives.
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Audio Research SP16, Music First Audio Classic Pre V2
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Bob Carver Black Magic
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4, Bogdan Audio Creations Art Deco
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids,  Darwin Ascension (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner,Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Onkyo C7000R
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, MyTek Stereo 192 DAC
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, Electrocompaniet ECI3
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, M.A.D. 1920S
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB,  DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS






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