Reeled in: Auditorium’s new T2 SUT

Matt Rotunda at Pitch Perfect Audio in San Francisco recently sent me the new Auditorium T2 SUT to try for a demo.  The T2 is the “hommage” (a/k/a “homage”) SUT by Keith Aschenbrenner of Auditorium 23 that Matt explains is specifically designed for the higher impedance carts like the  EMT (or a Denon DL103) cartridge.  I have a Koetsu Urushi Vermillion, which has a similar impedance to these, so this should work!

The T2 arrived Thursday, and while I’ve only had it in my system since for 3 days, I’m beginning to think Matt set me up!  So here’s a brief snapshot of my opinion.

The T2 puts you more “there” than anything I’ve heard.  It’s probably the first product I could honestly and convincingly say I felt my place in the room listening.  I’ve run it through several musical genres, but right now Madeline Peyroux is playing, and I feel like I’m right there, sitting in the lounge about 2 tables back from where she and her band are playing.

Interestingly, when I put the standard issue A23 back in I feel detached and more in MY room.  The other thing I notice is that each element, vocal, piano, bass, etc is more defined with the T2 than anything I’ve heard with any system I’ve had in the past 3 years! Where you notice this the most clearly is when you go from the T2 to the A23 and listen to the same material.  The differences jump out at you.

Candidly, I was a little surprised by this.  I’ve had some exposure to other SUT’s, and the SUT built into my Shindo Vosne Romane is supposedly a fine product.  But no other SUT that I’ve heard really jumps out at you like this.

But don’t take my word for it.  Earlier today my dad (76 years old) was over so he could listen to the new reissue of The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out by QRP, and specifically Take Five.  I did a test with him and did not share my thoughts.  When we switched from the T2 to the A23 he immediately observed the differences.  He described the sound as now being muted.  He opined there was less energy.  He then described how he felt with the T2 he WAS “there”, but now, he felt he was no longer “there”, but rather “here” listening.  Curiously to me, he observed that the instruments were also less defined.  Not bad for a non-audiophile!

More to come, including photos and my decision on whether I will part with this little gem!

PS – August 1, 2012 – I decided to keep this bad little box…

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No time out here

One of my top five albums, if not most favorite, is The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out.  I have an original, first pressing in mono from Columbia on the famed 6 eye label.  And, FWIW, it was one of the first Lp’s I tracked down when I jumped back into audio and vinyl.  Simply put, I love this album.

I later acquired the Classic Records reissue (stereo), which was ok, but the pressing was a little noisy for my tastes.  And the noise was nothing like the nostalgic ambient sounds that come through my original mono when I play it back.  That sound is more the product of time than poor pressing.  But even if something like the Vinyl Cleaner could cure some of that acquired sound from the passage of time, I doubt that would ever allow that original masterpiece to compete with the new Analogue Productions and Quality Record Pressings newly touted, “definitive” version.

But what AP & QRP have reissued is a masterpiece.  They’ve packaged it in a beautiful gatefold jacket, with nice black and white photos from the Columbia Studios recording session. This looks and feels very similar to Music Matters’ Blue Note jackets.  QRP pressed this gem on 200-gram vinyl cut at 45 RPM by Bernie Grundman.  Amazin’!The Dave Brubeck QuartetThis is a spectacular album, and an even better reissue pressing.  It is by far the best version I have ever heard!  Highly recommend.

PS – my order of preference for my versions?  1) AP & QRP’s 45 version discussed here (country mile); 2) Original 6 eye mono; 3) Classic Record’s reissue.

Nibbling on the line: upcoming reviews

I know, I know, I’m behind on getting out some reviews.  I haven’t forgotten.  Upcoming reviews that I hope to issue this Summer include:

  1. Shindo Vosne Romane | sneak peak – sublime…
  2. AcousticPlan’s Digimaster DAC – digital finally sounds right… (forever in progress – but I love the DAC!)
  3. Auditorium A23’s new T2 “Denon Style” SUT (Preliminary – done)
  4. Analogue Productions’ remaster of Dave Brubek Quartet’s Time Out. (Done)
  5. Sablon Audio’s Panatela interconnects (2012 version).
  6. More vinyl reissues to follow!  (Ongoing)

But I would ask for your patience with me as I try to get to these…  For now, take care – I’m heading back to Uncle Tupelo’s for some more sublime sounds!

A Revelatory Experience | Sablon Panatela Speaker Cables

Product reviewed:                 Panatela Speaker Cables

Manufacturer:                        Sablon Audio

Specs:                                   2.5M unshielded cables, spade terminations

Ownership interest:              I purchased these directly from Sablon.

Time used:                            Approximately 2 months

Similar products:                   Auditorium A23 (4M); Zu Audio Libtec (3M); Zu Audio (2.5); Wire World (3M)

Why review:                           I finally feel like I get these, and I firmly believe others should give them a try

Short opinion:                        Spectacular!  These really opened my ears up to what cables could do.
Thankfully, they’re priced where I get to enjoy some amazing sound!

Summary

The Panatelas opened my mind and ears to layers of music, sound, and audio enjoyment that I never knew existed.  They’ve reinforced my evolving opinion that with better equipment, properly matched, comes more of everything enjoyable about audio!  These seemingly innocuous little cream colored, cotton-sheathed speaker cables have taken me to a higher level of enjoyment.

Sablon Audio

Mark Coles is the man behind Sablon Audio.  Since first making his acquaintance earlier this year I have gotten the chance to get to know him more.  He’s been nothing less than a gentleman and a professional to deal with.  Mark strikes me as a down to earth guy.  His designs invoke for me a simplicity of delivering a product with a lot of bang, but without all the trappings of glitz.

Visuals

What is striking about these is that there is nothing really that striking.  They’re configured with rather simple looking spade connectors.  They are sheathed in a cream colored sock.  They’re not glitzy, and I like that.  They don’t draw attention to themselves, and seem content to just lay there doing the work of transmitting a more robust and fuller spectrum of sound from your equipment to your speakers.

Shipping and Packaging

Mark keeps the minimalist theme going with delivering his products.  Candidly, I’ve seen a few different approaches to this, but rarely recall any of it with any specificity.  The bottom line is this – Mark packs up his cables is straight-forward bubble wrap, tape, and simple boxing.  He ships from across the pond over in the UK using a speedy 2 day service.

Installation

These are straightforward cables.  There really is nothing fancy about them.  Follow the Sablon Audio lettering from amp to speaker, and that’s really it!  That said, if I had one minor request for Mark, it would due to provide an optional banana termination.  These sure make swapping out cables a lot easier.  But then, I only need to do that when I try something new…

Manufacturing

The way Mark describes how he made these cables sounds to me a lot like Mario Batali making a delicious Bolognese.  A little mix of conductors, differing in terms of materials, gauge, stranding, insulation etc, and then pulled together to achieve a delicious sounding mix allowing the best of each element to join in the symphony of sound. Well done, Mark.

Initial impressions

These cables provided an instant impact in my system.  It was freaky just how significant and notable the differences were!  I’ve had a pair of Auditorium A23’s in my system since last year.  They’ve been great.  But as good as they’ve been, the Sablon Panatela speaker cables really opened up my listening experience in a way that I never knew or expected could happen.

Spatial reality

These cables bring a 3 dimensionality unlike anything I’ve tried before.  I’ve certainly read about this and have experienced it to some degree.  But the Panatelas deliver in ways that I did not expect.  They simply expand the audio experience front to back like nothing I’ve heard.  Listening to many of my favorite records for the first time with these cables is a revelatory experience.  Take, for example, Brubeck’s Time Out.  Playing now.  The depth, air, and sense of spacial realism is freaky.  The music goes from being flat dimensionally, to carrying a depth that allows you to close your eyes and not only visualize but hear Joe Morelo on the drums and the movements he engages in to deliver that amazing beat!

My experiences with other albums is often the same.  The music is delivered in layers front to back in a meaningful way that livens up the whole experience.

Tonality

Everything about a review is subjective.  And taking the time to try to convey to you why I believe these are more tonally accurate is subjective.  So I will approach it slightly different.  Unlike the Zu’s, Wireworld, and Auditorium cables before these, the sound from the low end to the highs, from the strum of a guitar to a brushed cymbal, these cables deliver sound through my system in the most realistic sounding way I’ve heard yet.  Everything just sounds pitch perfect.  Vocals sound real, and not artificial.  Vocal intonations and undulations come through in a sweet way, too.  And then things like trumpets – whoa…  There’s a depth to their sound that is so often lost in today’s concept of sound.

Sterling silver

So why do these cables sound so good to me?  I’m no scientist, but I suspect it’s in the composition of materials used here.  More specifically, I believe that single most important element to achieving this is the mix of silver used.  I’ve tried several cables and have had several pairs of coper based Auditorium products in my system for roughly 8 months.  This includes interconnects and speaker cables.  I’ve also had a pair of Shindo’s ICs, with which I’ve been able to compare some of the differences between those, the Auditorium ICs, and a pair of Sablon Panatela ICs.

Drawing upon those comparisons, I’ve formed the opinion that the best redelivery of my source material in my system occurs when I use cables like the Shindo and Sablon, which are based around silver materials.  These bring out a sense of life, energy, and oh, yes, sparkle.  But everything is so natural sounding, with no hint of harshness or brightness.  You know, maybe silver based cables are the ideal for tying into a tube system.

But its more than that.  I have found that the Sablons and Shindos provide a level of detail lost in every other cable I’ve ever used.  So using my experiences with these in the context of ICs, I will extrapolate that the same would be true with speaker cables, and that is why I love these Sablon SCs so much.  For me, sitting back and listening to a great recording from the 1950’s by Billie Holiday, reissued, remastered, and then played back through this system transports me back to the studio.  The realism, micro-detail, and tonality that pops from this mix is spine tingling!  I get to enjoy my music so much more.

Houston, we have a problem

One thing is clear to me, these cables do not help a poorly mastered recording.  If the original sound pressed into the album is muddled, it stays muddled!   And compressed recordings are even more obvious, as the wonderful extension that you know can occur with a well done album simple doesn’t show up as anticipated…  Frankly, it sucks to find out you got cheated on your album purchase…

Candor, please…

I question reviews that gush.  So I encourage you to question mine when they do.  The best thing I can say or recommend to you is to get on the demo list and try these out.  I think they’re great, and you may to.  I also like the price point, which is right in between the price of the Auditoriums that I still have and  the Shindos that may be preferred by Shindo san, who made my pre-amp.  All in all, though, they’re a well priced product that delivers well beyond its price point.

Having said that, here’s a few criticisms, they’re terminated as a spade.  I would actually have preferred a banana plug option.  This is mainly because I have 2 separate systems using my Orangutans.  One runs through the Auditoriums, which are banana plugged, and the other, my all tube set-up, runs through the Sablons.  This minor issue adds about 2 minutes to change overs – so it’s not really a big deal.  Just a minor nuisance.

Sablon’s response:

The reason I use xhadow spades rather than bananas is two fold – they offer a bigger contact area with a shorter signal path and can be crimp fitted rather than soldered. Both give better sound quality, which is what Sablon is all about

Certainly sounds reasonable to me.  And the reality is that most people won’t care.  I just happen to need to be able to do double duty…

My other criticism will follow.

What about the others

Here’s my opinion about the other cables I’ve owned.  Each time I’ve ventured out and looked for a step up, an upgrade, I find that there is an appreciable improvement.  The original Wireworlds I owned were a good entry into this world.  The first Zu’s and then the Zu Libtecs were likewise a nice improvement.  But as nice as those where, I really didn’t begin to hear a performance level that was awe inspiring until I got the Auditoriums.  Those delivered the first real sense of awe and amazement that really captivated me when I sat to listen.  The brought the music out in a meaningful way that I felt the experience.

Again I write to be continued