Interconnecting cables have many characteristics, but the most important one is, that they must be in our system. Because if we have separated components, meaning a player, an amplifier, and similar devices, then it is natural, that we have to connect them together some way. In an ideal situation, the quality of the connecting cable, as long as the basic electrical parameters have been taken care of, should not have any influence on the sound. But this is only wishful thinking and a nightmare of the cable manufacturers. In reality, the interconnect can dramatically change the sound of a given system. And “best” is most of the time “most expensive” in the audiophiles vocabulary. Top offerings reach absurd prices, not reflected in material or research costs. But... here, as in all other sections of audio, we pay for the KNOWLEDGE, for somebody that knows which button to press. But this hurts us more, because in case of an amplifier or player, not mentioning a gramophone, we see what we pay for, and with cables that what we see seems a bit schizophrenic. And it really is. In my opinion almost all cables should cost many times less. Just like cars. But the ones and the others cost what they cost, and there is no change to that in foreseeable future. So for having the best we must pay.
Those thoughts are mostly aimed at the cable from the American company XLO Electric. They are academic, in the way that in the best systems those or other equally expensive cables are used, based almost only on listening tests and a cool calculation: does it sound better or not and if the change is worth the money. The cable from the Dutch company Pink Faun is in a different situation. Similar to the tested in the may issue (No 37) HFOL gramophone/line preamplifier Fettle, IL-1 is made in short series, mainly by hand, and mostly upon order. Actually it was designed to connect the components of this company, but the technology behind it as well as the used components point to a much higher price level than it would seem from the price list. Again, it was similar with the mentioned preamplifier...
SOUNDLimited Edition LE-4
Going from the Velum, I use in exchange with the Wireworldem Silver Eclipse 5² is like changing the car – from a speedster, with nitro booster, the tuned car from The Fast and The Furious to a noble Lexus. Those are completely different concepts of the sound and different ways of seeing the world. XLO is the expanse of tranquility, absolute maturity, the midrange on the pedestal. It's sound does not have the resolution of the Velum, at least in terms of describing the timbre, its shape. This could be heard always, regardless of the type of music listened to. And so for example the remixes of the song “Martyr” from the Depeche Mode single with the same name were treated by the XLO slightly softer, without absolute knowledge what was done wrong with the sound of the pieces, but with absolute knowledge about what this music is about. It seemed, that this kind of music sounds better with the XLO. It was similar with the disc Dreamland from Madeleyne Peyroux (Atlantic, 82946, HDCD). The piece “Hey Sweet Man” is opened by a guitar that resembles by way of playing and timbre the guitar of Muddy Waters. This blues, played as if just appeared from a cotton field, full of feeling and passion. Velum showed clearly what kind of guitar this is (I mean way of playing, timbre, and similar) the noise of the master tape was clear, without underlining but also without masking, also the air in the recording room. XLO played this softer, without that large amount of information, but with better defined timbre. When in a moment the trumpet sounds, somewhere far back, then it is perfectly localized by the XLO, “far behind” and not “just behind”. The vocal was not as well defined as with the Polish cable, but its timbre was splendid. The American cable is a master of the timbre. This is what I miss a bit in the Velum, and what made me almost cry when I had to give back the Tara Labs ISM The 0.8. However an inherent characteristic of the XLO is something that was not present in the Tara, namely a slight equalization of dynamics. The effect is not especially bothersome and it can be heard only in a really resolving system, but it is there. When in the piece “Austurias” from the brilliantly prepared by First Impression Music disc Suite Españole of Albinéz (Decca [SXL6355]/FIM, FIM XR24 068, XRCD24) the brass hits, then with the Velum those are incredibly quick, explosive, just as in reality, you can hear how the sound is born in them, XLO showed the violin nicer, their timbre and co-sounding in the orchestra, what the Velum treated more roughly, but the attacks were reproduced by the American a split second longer, with a slight hesitation, what is perceived as a rounding of the attack, as if the phrase would be split for a longer interval. But just a moment later (OK, maybe a little later...) we have the beautiful “Cordoba”, where the XLO showed fullness and vividness, that ca be rivaled probably only by the sounding of the Tara Labs. And for the latter many would commit suicide.
Because I want to stress all products, testing them in the most sneaky way, as only in borderline conditions they reveal what I want to know from them, I plugged the Pink Faun cable just after the beautifully playing XLO Limited Edition. And from the very beginning it was obvious that this is completely different sounding. If you remember the test of the preamplifier of that company named Fettle (No 37, May 2007), then you probably know that this device did not play with warm sound. So the quick, resolving character of the cable should not be a surprise to anybody. Just with the Velum the PF preamplifier sounded best, much better than with the Wireworld Silver Eclipse 5². This is a perfect example for synergy of the elements, their fitting one to another. Having that and not another preamplifier, and wanting to exploit its assets to maximum, we have to help it. And the IL-1 does it very well. Its tonal balance is surprisingly close to the Velum and with the latter it was finally compared. But – it keeps much of the assets of the beautiful XLO...
From the Velum, the Pink Faun takes the open character of the sound, much more open than from the superb cables of the Swedish Supra, a company, that in all its cables uses the same conductors – copper covered with tin. And in addition the Dutch cables have very good dynamics, probably even better than the tested XLO. On the disc from Peyroux this can be heard especially well, because this disc is recorded in a very precise, thorough way, with splendid resolution. PF showed the drawing not much worse than the Velum or the XLO. From the latter it differs slightly in terms of the timbre structure, as it is not that saturated and filled. On the other hand its upper bass was more mature than from the Velum. But we will not get this incredible perspective as from the XLO. The mentioned trumpet from track 2 was here closer, “just” behind the first planes than “far” behind. Also the trumpet from the track “Was I?” was not that precise. But... In comparison to the Wireworld, a fantastic cable, also with many other, more expensive cables, PF has a splendid drawing, not as absolutely precise as in the Polish product, but nevertheless splendid. Also the treble of the PF is nice, similar to the Supra it sounds like it would be... how to say... tubey, but without warming, with vividness and the ability to distinguish subtle changes in timbre, also sparkling. The upper midrange is harder than the treble, this makes this openness (I am also stating that this is not done by brightening the treble). The resolution on the level of the drawing is comparable to the XLO, meaning very good, and for the give price range splendid. The phenomenal in that area Velum is able to differentiate very quiet sounds. But it sometimes happens that this differentiation is an art for itself, and this never happens to the PF.
Dynamics is a further asset of the Dutch cable. It is almost as good as from the Velum, what is a huge compliment, as I do not know another so dynamic cable. This was shown by the Albinéz disc, where by low as well as high sound levels the neighboring instruments had a clearly defined way of sounding. Bas with both the XLO and the PF does not go very deep, there is no such unshakable base like offered by the Cardas Golden Reference Transparent cables. But it is not bad, but it can be heard that the cable does not cost 10000zl.
DESCRIPTIONPink Faun IL-1
The Pink Faun cables were designed with special care for the problems related to high frequency transmission. This allows for an extremely wide frequency response, and due to to that the elimination of the time delays. For production very tightly wound, copper strains, covered with tin during the straining process were used (a similar technology is used by my favorite Supra), with Teflon as the dielectric. As mentioned in the company materials, the construction is based, on the experience gathered by Matijs, the owner of PF during his work in aviation industry – that is the way the cables in airplanes are made. The internal twist has a different orientation than the external one, this allowed for a very low inductance. The copper is covered by tin to maximize its lifespan without surface oxidation. All PF cables are shielded. The plugs are the splendid connectors from Furutech, model FP-120. I don't know if I already mentioned it, but one of the upgrades of my CD player Ancient Audio Prime will be the exchange of the sockets to the Furutech ones – I really count on that, as I heard how much such a seemingly insignificant change makes with the sound. The cable is engulfed in a black sleeve (how could it be else) and is not really flexible. Small foiled stickers were placed on the outside with the cable name, company logo and connection direction. It seems that the cable has a semi balanced setup, where the plus and the minus are sent by the same cables and the shield is connected onlyXLO LE-1
The XLO is a part of the top line of the company, the Limited. All exemplars are numbered. The conductors are made from polished copper wire of 99,99997 % purity, wound on Teflon AF tubes used in aviation technology. Like all XLO cables the LE-1 is made in multi-Litz technology, in a pseudo-symmetrical setup, similar to the Pink-Faun. This time however, we do not have any shielding, as the company believes it influences the sound in a negative way, and its role is maintained by a third lead of the conductor. The connectors are manufactured by the company itself, from the same copper, only covered with gold without any substrates.
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