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Audience Cables Review & Factory Tour Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Article Index
Audience Cables Review & Factory Tour
Conclusion and Interview
Photo Slideshow

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.


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