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

Advertisements

Parting is such bitter-sweet sorrow

Today I pack up and send along to the next select individual a set of speaker cables that really impressed me. Candidly, I’d rather just keep them here…

These are either a final beta release or the gold master release for Sablon Audio of its soon to be released Panatela Speaker Cable. Sablon’s Mark Coles was kind enough to share these with me before they head out on their journey to a few others he’s sharing this pre-release version with. I suspect that after he gets their feedback he’ll make the decision on whether these are the GM or a final beta. If you ask me, they might as well be GM’s. They were that good!

Regardless of what their status is, I am grateful that he gave me the opportunity to first listen to the pair shown here!

Jonathan Franklin | © Franklin Six

Sablon Audio's new Panatela Speaker Cable

While I had them I was able to compare them to my existing “reference” cable, the Auditorium A23. My initial impressions were quite favorable, and as I reflect back on my experiences with them and my notes from listening, I would quickly say I REALLY liked these! I’ll get to an abbreviated review in the near future, meaning sometime Q2 2012…. I have a few other reviews in the pipeline that need to be posted. But it’s not a stretch for me to say that Mark hit another one out of the park with this new product.

Great work, Mark!

Reeled in today… Sablon Grand Corona – a 2M variety…

I recently went fishin’ and caught the little catch on the right… The one on the left, a sweet little Zu Audio Bok, just wasn’t legal…

Yep, I caught a pair of Gran Coronas custom made by the incredibly kind and gracious audio craftsman in the UK, across the pond. That’s right, Mark Coles at Sablon Audio. These power cords are simply amazin’! And Mark’s customer service is beyond what words can adequately describe!

Jonathan Franklin | © Franklin Six

Panatella | A cable revelation or a cigar…

I recently had the good fortune and pleasure of meeting Mark Coles. Mark, you see, is the founder and proprietor of Sablon Audio. This is a terrifically forward thinking company out of the UK – which means, as I love it said, they’re right across that pond we call the Atlantic.

Image

Well, at first glance, you’d wouldn’t appreciate that Mark has a slight interest in and passion for Cigars. But after spending some time with his products, you might begin to see how he likes to smoke the things around him.

All kidding and amateur comedic remarks put aside, I’ve had his Panatela interconnect in my system now for about 3 weeks, including the current multiple pairs that I NOW own! And I can wholeheartedly share that these little innocuous cotton sheathed gems smoke the few cables that I’ve owned and have had the opportunity to compare them to. Are they the be all end all? I’m sure they’re not, how else can you explain the Über  priced Nordost Odins….  But at this price point and anywhere near them I don’t think they can be beat!  Seriously!  And if you don’t want to take my word for it, then check out Jeff Day’s recent “Fresh Catch” post about them!  They really are spectacular and even if I could justify spending Odin kind of money, I really doubt that I would!  The performance gap just doesn’t justify price gap…

So let me share some preliminary broad concept thoughts?

Revelatory? Yes, for me it’s been beyond what words can describe!  More time is required for me to fully digest these cables impact, but they’ve been great.

Detailed? You got that right!  I continue to be amazed hearing things I never heard before, and even at a micro level!

Neutral?  Well, you may not truly “get” neutral until you plug these babies in and find out just how biased your existing cables are.  Wow!

Check back in early April for my full review!

Time to say goodbye…

Well, after nearly 2 weeks with the Sablon Audio’s interconnect and power cables, I must say goodbye.  They head out tomorrow to their next lucky demoing person!

It’s been a fun time, and I will miss them.  But any sense of sadness will be short-lived because I fell in love with the interconnects and have placed an order for some.  While I’ve not had time to adequately put pen to paper and write a review, I can briefly say that they were sensational.  They blew away my standard Zu Audio Wylde’s and Mission interconnects with little effort.  The differences were so pronounced on so many levels.  I’ll get more into the the other comparisons when I get the review up.

Separately, my tests and analysis with the power cords is incomplete.  I had a few variables in the set-up which precluded me from adequately sorting through Sablon’s and other company cables that I have.  I’ve since identified the issues (a PS Audio conditioner), and have removed it from the mix.  However, my time has run out, and I will need to await another opportunity to compare down the road!

Deceptive…, but not how you think!

Below are 2 preliminary photos of 3 cables that I’ve been evaluating. At first glance, it’s easy to see why people would conclude that the white cable is clearly larger or bulkier. In fact, a few, yet unapproved comments via WordPress that I’ve received on a post earlier this month suggest that it would not fit my (or any other) equipment’s jacks or that it might somehow crack RCA jack. But looks, photos, and shadows can be deceiving – so I’ll get some better photos up down the road. But I would like to note that I’ve taken the time to do some preliminary measurements and would proffer that these are all within micro-hairs of each other. So if you take account for human and tool variances, I believe they’re essentially identically sized.

As for how they fit, well my tests show the exact opposite of what you’d expect! In fact, when used with all of my equipment, the white cable proved to be the easiest to plug in. Curiously, the gold one required the most oomph to push in… Go figure, I guess looks can be deceiving!

More to come on my listening impressions…

Image

Image

Thick

Now that’s some gigantic cabling…  The black wired IC’s are from Zu audio.  There’s no comparison in terms of the size. And how about the power cord – dang!  Initial thoughts?  Let’s just say it’s been interesting…  But we need to leave it there as I sort out whether it is an expectancy value.  More to come!

March 3 | I’ve decided to forego further critical listening, and will simply plan to just enjoy these cables for now.  I’m working at keeping them in for now and will swap them out after a few days and start some comparisons then.  That said I do like them so far.  But I need to figure out if this is an EVT or substantive.

20120302-193104.jpg

20120302-193114.jpg