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October 2000
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Acoustic Zen's Satori Loudspeaker Cables
And Audience's Auric Illuminator Disc Enhancement Treatment
Review By Jim Merod
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Satori Cable  For the past two years or so, I have employed Nordost's extraordinary SPM speaker cables as the delivery wire in my main monitoring rig. No cable I had ever heard presented such extended highs. None had ever been as quick, with such engaging transient ambience. Only Dave Magnan's rather odd, bulky, but, nonetheless, remarkable speaker cables -- a different but no less coherent presentation of sound -- rivaled the Nordost cables' ability to present music truthfully.

I was sure there would be a very long wait before I'd come across speaker cables that improve, or match, what the SPM cables deliver. Perhaps my pessimism was a wish. I do not enjoy the awkward time-consuming process of auditioning speaker cables. Second, the Nordost wire has been so good that I've had no desire to seek something different.

When cable-design wizard Robert Lee -- who left Harmonic Technology almost a year ago and founded a new cable company, ACOUSTIC ZEN -- told me of his Satori speaker cables, my reluctant curiosity was aroused. Recently I discovered, over long and careful months of auditioning, that Lee's ACOUSTIC ZEN "Silver Reference" interconnects are the best I have yet heard. As I carried out the job of critical listening, I put Lee's new "zero cystal" pure silver and pure copper interconnects up against all the best wire available: Nordost, AudioQuest, Magnan, van den Hul, NBS, Kimber, XLO, and Harmonic Tech.

Acoustic Zen wire exhibits almost magical transparency that is, at once, sonically accurate and seductively musical. Since that combination, in essence, is the 'holy grail' of cable design (and, for that matter, of amplifier and pre-amplifier design, as well), I was willing to take on the awkward, somewhat burdensome work of endless cable-swapping putting one set in and replacing with another. In and out, over and over, back and forth. Unlike other 'work' with similar rhythms, this one is not enjoyable.

In the case of Lee's innovative 'fine-tunable' speaker cable design, the work was worthwhile.* ACOUSTIC ZEN's "Silver Reference" (and, also, the less expensive "Matrix") cables deliver musical signals with extraordinary power and delicacy. That is a somewhat startling combination. Lee's elegant new interconnects deliver an awesome degree of musical coherence. Thus, I was hooked into taking on an extended audition of the Satori cables. During such a process, one gets a chance to re-assess the salient features of a sound system. The devil always lurks in details. Close inspection keeps you, at least, in touch with your system's sonic engine.

Let me confess that the Satori speaker cables will not leave their appropriate place between my big power amp and the Cabasse Baltic speakers. They are in place to stay. Never, and I mean "never" -- the old adage of 'never saying never ' notwithstanding -- have I heard my primary monitoring system sit up and dance as it now does.

One of the fundamental ways that you know something splendid is going on with your sound system is when you cannot tear yourself away from old musical favorites after you have added a new piece of gear. One gets inured to the sound of even an exquisitely seductive system. When a new element enters the sonic equation, and it improves (a) imag-ing, (b) dynamic range, (c) the degree and delicacy of musical detail, and (d) your own emotional engagement, then you know something worthwhile has been added.

That is precisely what occurred with the Satori speaker cables. Several musicians who I recently recorded in live performance, and who have visited my sound studio many times, came by to hear their latest recording. Each of them commented that, either my recordings had just leaped to a new degree of transparency or something in the playback system allowed a more intimate look into their on stage performance in concert.

I very much wanted to assure them of my own perpetual and ongoing recording enhancements. I do, in fact, work hard to improve my recorded work. One is always dis-satisfied. There is always a new recording wrinkle, an improved piece of gear, to try. Of course, therefore, one might assert, my new recording techniques have just taken a quantum jump into sonic heaven. There it is. You can hear the proof before you ! In truth, I gave credit where it deserves to be placed: with Robert Lee's new Satori speaker cables.

One of the musicians, an audio hound himself, asked "so how much do these awesome blockbuster things [the cables] cost?" I could not tell him at that moment since Robert Lee had not yet priced them. Later, when I asked for the purpose of keeping the cables right here, Lee's answer surprised me. At $598 for an 8' pair (+ $58/ft. for additional lengths), I regard the Satori speaker cables not just to be an astonishing value. In my estimation, they are under priced.

There is no question that a modest sound system will be well enhanced by the Acoustic Zen wire. But, in systems that are imaging-demons, powerhouse champions, state-of-the-art musical warriors, or merely magnificent heart-stopping sonic sirens, the Satori cables will stop you dead in your tracks... and rivet you to your listening seat.

* Lee reports that his white paper, "The Acoustic Zen Cable Design Philosophy," will be published soon on a website that he is now creating.

 

Auric Illuminator

Auric Illuminator When the UPS truck pulled up with an inconspicuous box bearing a hilarious outside message on each side -- "WARNING ! This box contains SAT (Space Alien Technology)" -- I knew that my recent habit, gassing myself with fumes of the sound enhancement liquid inside, had become addictive. Obsessive. Nuts. Audio-mania in extremis. The box's message could not be clearer.

When you see the whole of the message (a joke that I'll leave for your own discovery), you may begin to understand why our friends and wives look at us with squinty eyes. The box from Audience, bearing new disc treatment marker pens, was right on time to sustain my practice of sending off Auric-treated discs to listeners and, most important, to pressing plants. The box also delivered a joke in the nick-of-time, along with an enhancement process worth every penny of the $40 that the full Auric Illuminator package costs.

Let me back track. The good news is this. I'm happy to report that my never ending search for large and small ways to improve recorded sound sometimes succeeds. Every so often, I come across a tweak that enhances sound playback and/or digital recording. There are many (far too many) claims to membership in the elusive "realm of sonic tweakdom." Some tweaks are useful. Few triumph utterly. The UPS box brought me one that succeeds. The Auric Illuminator from speaker manufacturer, Audience, is a modest looking set of common objects: 

1. Two plastic bottles with a non-toxic disc cleaning gel

2. Cloths to clean the discs

3. A black felt marker with kick-a-poo magic light absorption edging to be applied to your discs.

 

Ordinary looking stuff. Extraordinary results. That's the good news. The bad news is that this stuff works so well, you can become addicted to its use. It will not blow your mind, but it will add to your listening enjoyment.

I first came upon this highly effective treatment of digital discs at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when I stumbled into the Audience showroom suite, at the Alexis Park, to find out how their complex but powerful speaker array system worked. It works very well. That's another report down the road. Before I departed the suite, my host, John McDonald, gave me an Auric Illuminator package.

In truth, I'd been sent over to the Audience suite not only to hear an unusual set of stacked speakers, but to check out their disc treatment process. Legendary sonic guru, Dave Magnan, had insisted that the stuff was good. After nine months of almost continuous use, I now see why Dave Magnan recommended it. Dave is seldom wrong. This tweak is the real deal. There are other such disc treatment systems on the market. I have used some that are fine. They, too, succeed it "illuminating" digital information. They, too, dig out improved musical reproduction from the pits and burns thrown at a compact disc or DVD player's laser pick up. So far, the best of these is the Auric Illuminator.

I recommend it because, for so little money, I do not know anything that so greatly improves the sound quality of music in our still-evolving, as yet imperfect, world of digital encoding. Using this treatment process on your discs, you'll hear improved imaging, more coherent harmonic structures, and heightened dynamic musical power. Sometimes you can spend several thousand dollars on an amplifier upgrade and not gain such vivid improvements.

Whether you are aware of it or not, you are built to receive analog information. 24-bits and DVD/SACD sonic improvements notwithstanding, your ears need all the comfort and refined audio resolution they can locate. The Auric Illuminator really and truly furthers the possibilities of that happy occurrence.

Auric Illuminator Optical Disc Treatment System
Audience
1525 Brian Place
Escondido, CA. 92025

Voice (800) 565-4390
Fax: (760) 743-2192

e-mail: auraphon@aol.com
website: www.audience-av.com

 

Acoustic Zen Technologies, Ltd.
800 Los Vallecitos Boulevard
Suite P
San Marcos, Ca. 92069

voice (760) 471-4899
CableGuy@cts.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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