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Volume 7 No. 3

Subjective Sounds
Article By Paul Messenger


  Do hi-fi enthusiasts spend too much time going round in circles? It's all too easy to effect a modest improvement on one element in the performance of a system while not noticing that some other parameter has suffered a minor deterioration. It's never likely to be a deliberate oversight, but it is easily done, and is all too public if a reviewer commits findings to print.

By and large I'm cautious and conservative side in making hi-fi system changes and component judgements, which is one reason why I try to avoid the sort of internet chatter that all too often seems to involve mistakes (and all too rarely subsequent retractions). And because the timescales involved are so much more extended, hopefully giving time for some mature reflection, I've long felt much happier writing for monthly (in this case quarterly) magazines than for weeklies or dailies. One advantage of having a decent interval between editions is that it allows at least a fair amount of time to run in components. When Martin Colloms told me of his NACA5 speaker cable epiphany, I still had a reasonable amount of time to prepare a set and arrive at my own opinions. I don't normally check up on MC, I should add, but I was particularly intrigued by his NACA5 findings as I'd spent some twenty years using this cable and stubbornly resisting the many blandishments of a very profitable cable sector. The last few years I have used Chord Signature for a while before purchasing some mechanically damped Vertex AQ cables. Going back to NACA5 would be interesting as well as nostalgic. I managed to find an unused run of NACA5, carefully flexed it section by section along its length, then plugged in both ends. I was then able to 'run in' the cable for a couple of weeks before starting to write, and have to admit it was an entirely pleasant experience – much of time I wasn't even particularly aware of the change during low level casual listening.

Winding up the volume and paying more attention did render the differences more obvious, and also incidentally the reason why I'd made the changes. That's not to put down the Naim cable, which is actually a thoroughly solid performer that sells for an exceptionally competitive price. It shows brilliant time-coherence and fine dynamics, and also became significantly better when I took the precaution of 'cleaning' the various Burndy connectors that link the external power supplies to the Naim pre- and power amps. (This merely involves unplugging and replugging both ends of the lead a few times in order to clean the contacts, and is a procedure that ought to be carried out roughly every six months or so.)

Despite its undoubted good points, NACA5 also has some less enjoyable characteristics, which is why I started looking elsewhere. The top end sounds rather untidy and edgy, so I started searching for something a little sweeter, eventually settling on Vertex AQ's Hi-Rez Moncayo cable, which has silver conductors and incorporates vibration absorption and RFI shielding. This Vertex cable is a rather different proposition: the mechanical damping and shielding make it sound significantly quieter and tidier than NACA5, with notably better imaging, while the silver conductors also give a rather brighter tonal balance. Thus far I haven't found a good reason to go back to NACA5, though I'm currently giving it another go, still like much of what it does, especially in its coherence and dynamic expression. And I guess two weeks may not be long enough, so I'll persist for a bit longer. But like I said in the editorial: "hi-fi is a broad church", and it needs to accommodate a similarly broad range of individual tastes.



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