I really hate testing cables. This is real torment and pain. There is more work than with “normal” components and the results are not as unambiguous, because cables have to be listened to in at least two systems, to see what depends on the cable, and what on the load and even then, it is not certain for 100%. This is the reason we rarely test cables in larger groups. This is also the reason the results may not be treated as an oracle, but only as a hint, in what direction to go. This time we decided to test a larger amount of them, because we had the opportunity to test the newest interconnects from Audionova, Audioquest, and for the first time in Poland (there is still no distributor here) of the Taiwanese Neotech. This is one of the world’s largest cable manufacturers; producing wires for most of the known European and American companies (the data is confidential). As always, when the cables come directly from a manufacturer, we state the prizes that were given to us. While importing, the costs of the transport and duties must be added.
As reference served the cables from Velum (XLR: NF-G SE Blues; RCA: NF-G SE, loudspeaker: LS-G – test of both HERE), Wireworld (RCA: Silver Ecipse 5) and XLO (XLR: UnLimited UE-2). Two systems were used for testing. One of those was composed of the CD player Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, preamplifier Leben RS-28CX and the power amplifier Luxman M-800A. When the XLR connection was used the preamplifier was bypassed. Loudspeakers – Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (new). The second system: Naim CD5i + NAIT5i with the loudspeakers Nexton M-100.AUDIONOVA
Switching to the Aurora from the Velum or the quieter Wireworld dynamics comes down. The change is not dramatic, as it comes out after longer listening, but evident. It was different when the Audioquest Columbia was in the sound path – comparisons of that parameter showed, that those cables are comparable. Interestingly such way of presenting music does not influence tonal balance. Most of the time cutting the treble and upper midrange as well as dampening of some of the bass is responsible for the lower dynamics. Nothing like this happened here. There was still the same fresh and opened sound that is so characteristic for this manufacturer. Detail and resolution are on a very good level, because Wes’ guitar and Howe’s contrabass from the beautiful disc The Montgomery Brothers Groove Yard (Riverside/JVC, JVCXR-0018-2, XRCD) were readable and clear. Special attention was drawn by the coherence of the contrabass. The stage was deep, well drawn, however further from the listener the cymbals did not have that clear attack. Also the guitars from the Japanese edition of Hotel California The Eagles (Asylum/Warner Bros, WPCR-11936, CD) were softer than with the Velum or Starlight. This is the best characteristic of the Aurora: fresh, open sound, with good detail, but sounding with slight restraint. This duality was shown best while comparing two discs with guitar and voice: Old Friends – New Roads Allana Taylora (Stockfisch, SFR 357.6047.2, CD) (here also a piano) and August Sarah-Jane Morris (Irma Records/JVC Victor, 6151071, CD). The first one was recorded in a warm, silky way. Aurora showed Taylor’s acoustic guitar superbly, and the piano attack and his voice were a bit deprived from the warmth. On one hand this “bettered” the tonal balance, on the other this vocal has a full, deep descent. Also the upper part was a bit brightened. This was confirmed by listening to the disc August. This is also a splendidly recorded disc, but without that intimate vocal and where the attack of the guitar and the voice are a bit underlined. Aurora showed the change of the paradigm without problems, but showed everything in more direct, expressive way. This is a nice cable, but with a distinct personality. It has a very good resolution, but is a bit dry, that will make it not fit in bright systems.Starlight
A completely different cable than the Aurora. I know, that the difference in price is almost double, but the change in the quality of the sound is also double. This is not a slight bettering, this is a class better. First of all the sound has a much better tonal balance – much warmer, with much energy in the midrange. That is why the guitar of Jones had not only a strong attack but also a nice timbre. Immediately in the piece Into My Arms vinyl guitar strings were audible. The upper midrange was still quite strong, and to verify it we had to put on Taylor’s disc. With the Aurora his voice was “cleaned” a bit from nasality, but the spatial relationships were not outstanding. With the Starlight the depth and warmth returned, even stronger than with the Velum. The upper treble was also stronger than in the reference cables, but then we had the smoothened lower midrange. This gave a full, but also live and open sound. The upper part of the voice was laid back – maybe not objectively, but with the stronger upper midrange and the smooth character of it, it was audible like that. This was also the case with the guitar. The return to The Eagles showed similar things. Bass was strong, although not that super-controlled like in the Aurora. The cymbals had a nice timbre, but were not as open as with the Velum. The stage, although nice, was not as deep as with the Aurora, probably by the character of the lower midrange. But older recordings, like the mentioned Montgomery brother sounded fabulous – saturated, with a full guitar.
DESCRIPTIONAurora (1 m, RCA)
Wrapped in bright, red sleeve 5mm diameter cables are made from silver plated copper with 99.999% purity. As usual the systems NRS and AGS were used. The hot wire is a copper solid-core wire with a layer of polished silver, with a thin anti-static layer on it. This is engulfed in a solid layer of hard dielectric and shields. There are three shields: AGS shield no.1, copper foil shield no.2 and AGS shield no.3. The whole is isolated with a thin layer of PVC and a red nylon sleeve. In the middle there is a thickening – this is the NGS filter system.
Material: copper 99.999%, systems: AGS, NRS, RFS. This is the thickest interconnect from Audionova. The whole is made from AGS braid. It has two shields and the NRS filter system, as well as the best plugs with regulated fit, known from the Nightflight model. The isolation is made from many layers of foamed PTE, PE and special rubber.Price:
Aurora – 629 zł/0,5 m
Starlight – 1199 zł/0,5 m
Rockefeller (2 x 3 m, banana)
This cable can be bought in meters (from spool), confectioned in the shop and confectioned in Audioquest. The second version was tested. However, if you can pay a bit more, then the company made confection is much better.
This cable sounds with a bit restrained sound, with the bass often being in the front line. Compared to the model Sky of the same manufacturer the treble is more to the back, but the midrange does not come to front, despite this. This is due to the fact, that dynamics is rather quiet than explosive. This is just a cable for systems, that need some quieting down, but do not need any timbre correction. When the vocal is strong, like on the Sara K. disc, it will sound like that. But if it is not a recent recording, like in the mentioned Tormé disc, then the voice will be further away than with the Sky or Niagara, but not is such a spectacular way like with the Velum. The treble is the new recordings is open and smooth, although without aspiring for special resolution. In general the recordings mentioned for the broader public, many times sharpened and brightened, sounded well with this cable. Audioquest is cleaning them and smoothing them out from harshness, what made them “listenable”. The stage with the Columbia is not very expanded to the sides and concentrates on the middle.Niagara (1 m, RCA)
I know, I know – Niagara is more than twice as expensive as Columbia, but every zloty extra seems to be justified. This is a refined interconnect, completely different than the cheaper model tested above. At first sight it is not as “open” as Velum, but we recognize such presentation as less nervous. And where could this be heard – not in the Japanese remasters, but on the Gahan’s disc. Switching to Niagara we also had to put the volume down, because dynamics wanted to tear the loudspeakers from their suspensions. It seems that the corossing between the midrange and the treble is especially good, and element that is repeated in the NEI-3001 NeoTech interconnect, but not that well. It was especially clear with Sara K.’s voice, where the reverb after each phrase run freely, smoothly, and was not that quickly cut like in the Columbia or even Horizon. The whole frequency range seems to be better arranged and subjectively better. The lower bass was not underlined (like in the Columbia) but the most upper part was not as open as in the Velum. Finally Mel Tormé was revived, with much better drawn cymbals and clear band behind the vocalist. The latter did not sound as magically as with the Sky, but it was really good. And I am not telling you that the Columbia is bad, but that the Niagara is better.
This cable is built from two separate runs, tied together with the external PVC sleeve. Every run of the cable carries four conductors of the Litz type from PSC+ (Perfect Surface Copper+) with polished surface. There are four of them, so a bi-wiring version of the cable can be prepared. The conductors are woven around the core. Each of the conductors has a different diameter, to average the surface effect and minimize vibration. The four negative conductors are enclosed not in an dielectric but a material that conducts electricity – polyethylene with an addition of coal, that is supposed to kill RF noise not allowing it to return to the amplifier.Columbia
Interconnect Columbia was made from three Litz type conductors enclosed in polyethylene tubes, so that air would be a big part of the dielectric (similar to Tara Labs cables). This allows for using XLR plugs or a semi-balanced configuration while using RCA plugs. Hence the directionality markings on the cable – the shield made from copper foil and a silver wire is attached only from one side. Proprietary silver plugs are attached to the cable without solder, by crimping only. The cable is equipped with the DBS 72V system, that polarizes the dielectric to loose isolation polarity.Niagara
The Niagara is built exactly like the Columbia, but the conductors are not made from copper but from 8N silver, thus the name: PSS= (Perfect Surface Silver+). Also the packaging is from another tale…Price:
Rockefeller (z metra) – 282 zł/m
Columbia – 1150 zł/0,5m
Niagara – 4000 zł/0,5 m
Distribution: Audio Klan
NES-3004 (2 x 3 m, banana)
Loudspeaker cables from Neotech do one splendid thing – the show a vivid, full stage. However they define the vocals worse than the partnering interconnect, as for example the voices of Dean Martin and partnering him Tiziano Ferro (nr 12) had a very distinct signature and definition with the Velum, and also a better, distinctive timbre, that was more unified with the Neotech. I know, this is a tenfold difference in price, but the tested higher Audioquest Rockefeller handled this a bit better. Only a stronger upper midrange resulted in getting a fresher, more open sound than from the latter cables. The cymbals are nicely separated, but their timbre is a bit dull, not as resonant. I am nitpicking a bit, but after listening to the interconnect I expected more from the loudspeaker cable. I do not want to have it sound as if this would be a bad cable – I mentioned it earlier, it is an interesting choice for the money. But it is worth to remember, that this is a slightly energetically dimmed cable, and when choosing it should be regarded as such. Its asset is the flat frequency response – without the lowest bass, but higher without any hills and gaps, and this is really something.NEI-3001 (1,5 m; XLR)
This is by far the best cable from this set, although all are from a set recommended by the manufacturer. It is not that the loudspeaker cable and the power cable are bad, but the interconnect is splendid, two classes better. First of all, after the switch from Velum to Neotech, the latter sounds quieter. I think, this is related with the incredibly smooth, tasteful sound of this cable. The treble is not as lighted up as in the Velum, but the timbre in its lower registers is splendid. Also the attack is not so instantaneous as in the Polish construction. On the other hand the recordings from Kraftwerk from the disc Minimum-Maximum (EMI, 33499, 2 x SACD/CD) sounded incredibly coherent. In general, one could say, that the most important element of the sound was the midrange – similar in character to that what can be heard from full, sonically dense amplifiers from Manley or Audio Research. Switching to older recordings (although not fully – those are older recordings with additionally recorded new duets) like from the lately issued disc of Dean Martin Forever Cool from the Japanese edition (Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-70324, CD+DVD) confirmed that coherence of sound. The vocal was a bit larger, closer than from the Velum, a bit in the manner the XLO UnLimited sound. And although not as open as earlier, all basic nuances, details, etc, are kept. Fluent, full, coherent sound., with a very good timbre of the cymbals and a nice stage.NEP-3002 (1,8 m; AC)
Connecting the mains cable it is worth to realize, that it is quite stiff and some space must be left behind the device it connects to. The sound, after disconnecting the Oyaide Tunami Nigo with the P-046/C-046 plugs (we listened to that cable during the KSS #50 meeting – reportage HERE), somewhat “slumped”, in terms of dynamics and timbre. But on the other hand, when compared to a standard computer cable, then the assets of the Neotech are undisputed – the sound was smoothened, without harshness and nervousness, that can be regarded as an asset at first, but that is tiring in the long run. So there were no miracles, with the given price it is a good supplement to an inexpensive system.SYSTEM
I listened to the Neotech also in a complete set. And as a set it sounds with a smooth and full sound. The attack is a bit rounded, and the bass does not reach very deep. But everything is coherent and smooth. Some problems can be associated with the high energy of the midrange-treble crossover – this subrange sounded strong, with swing. With Dean Martin, the diminished resolution, after changing from reference cables, did annoy a bit, but the sound remained beautifully smooth. The differences between disc pressings were obvious, and this is really something. If I had to point to a thing, that should be taken into consideration in the first place, that thing would be the not fully evolved dynamics. With the disc The Montgomery Brothers Groove Yard everything had a splendid timbre, but everything sounded a bit too quiet, without sparkle.
This cable is built as a multi-Litz with eight bundles made from UPOCC copper with 3.3mm² diameter. The bundles, in star topology (like Audioquest) are layered alternating (positive-negative-positive-…) around the internal core. The cables are directional and confectioned with nice, solid banana plugs.NEI-3001
In this interconnect the same conductor was used like in the loudspeaker cable, the multi-Litz made from UPOCC copper (99.99998% pure copper). The dielectric is made from polyethylene, and the shield from copper dusted Mylar foil and OFC copper plait. The conductors are placed in Teflon tubes with air – the best isolator. The cable has very nice, gold plated XLR plugs.NEP-3200
As usual – the conductors from UPOCC copper, with Teflon dielectric. We have six positive Litz, six negative and four grounding – all wound around a thick internal core from PVC. The plugs have gold plated connectors (the IEC plug is the model NC-P302, I cannot read anything from the second plug).Price:
NES-3004 - 530 USD/2 x 3 m
NEI-3001 - 335 USD/1,5 m
NEP-3200 - 369 USD/1,8 m
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