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REVIEW: Bocchino Brenda B9 Accessory

Model: Brenda B9
Category: Accessory
Suggested Retail Price: $99
Description: Pure HCOFC RCA Connector
Manufacturer URL: Bocchino

Review by Sam N on May 30, 2012 at 19:31:00
IP Address: 68.50.30.158
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The issue of the quality and sound of interconnect connectors has recently come increasingly to the fore. It is an area frustrating to audiophiles, as there are not many reviews of connectors. And it is not easy to compare connectors, as they would all need to be installed on the same model of interconnect and/or speaker wire.

My initial effort went into finding the best possible interconnect cable. Initially, I tried terminated cables, including top-tier Audioquest, Nordost, Transparent Audio, Straightwire, Audio Synthesis, and Kubala-Sosna. Each had their pros and cons. Then, I focused on unterminated interconnect wire, using the solderless top-of-the line WBT connector (more on the connector below). After a lot of trial and error, I settled on a superb interconnect cable the Furutech u-P2.1-50, made of Ohno Continuous Cooper. I found it extremely transparent, grainless, balanced, and neutral, with superb transient response and accurate timbre reproduction. No frequency aberrations just a natural see-through transparency.

I wanted to get the most of what this cable had to offer given the revealing nature of my stereo system, comprising a Krell KRC preamp, a Krell KSA-300S amp, a Wadia 6 CD player, a Marantz Pearl KI SACD/CD player, a Bang and Olufsen Beogram 8002 linear tracking turntable with MMC2 cartridge, and Magnepan MGIIIa speakers with Mundorf resistors on the ribbon tweeter. Speaker cables are Straightwire Maestro, which Jim Winey had apparently used in the design of the MGIIIa. Power cords are by DH Labs.

To get the most of the Furutech interconnect cable prompted me to experiment with a variety of connectors. What shocked me was how different each set of connectors sounded from the other. I tried the solderless copper alloy WBT 0108 RCA connectors, the Furutech FP-108(R) solderless Ohno Continuous Copper Rhodium Plated RCA connectors, the Vampire pure cooper 800C RCA and balanced XLR connectors, the Neutrik silver and gold plated copper alloy balanced XLR connectors as well as the Rean RCA copper alloy direct gold plated connectors, and several others. Each set also had its pros and cons. More on these connectors later.


The Brenda B9

But the big surprise and jump in sound quality came when I tried the Bocchino Brenda B9s pure High Conductivity Cooper silver and gold plated RCA connectors. I am grateful to Todd Krieger for his review of the B9s in the General Asylum; his insight into the quality of the B9s is admirable.

I had ordered the Brenda B9s directly from Bocchino Audio. I exchanged e-mails with Carmine Bocchino, who was very gracious and helpful. He accepts PayPal, which is very convenient. In four days, they arrived in the United States from Australia. They cost $99 each (on sale from $200 each) plus $75 for shipping. Though I initially balked at the high price, I am very pleased I ordered them. These are now discontinued and I received the last four; the new models are similar in construction but solderless. The new models are the B19, B11, and B3 solderless connectors (http://www.bocchtech.com/bocchinoaudio/bna2.htm). Given the benefits of a solderless connection, one can expect the new models to sound even better!

When I received them, it was clear why these connectors are and should be very expensive to manufacture. I was amazed at how massive these connectors are. They are 8.6 cms. in length and 15.3 mms. in diameter. Each weighs 80 gms.! They thus require sturdy high-quality female RCAs in the preamplifier, amplifier, and cd/sacd player being used. The center of the female RCA terminals has to be at least 16 mm. apart. Most high quality components meet these requirements. The B9s will take interconnect cables up to 13 mm. Each B9 has three grub screws to hold the cable firmly in place.

The Brenda B9 has an outside gold over silver plated pure copper barrel (termed a ClawLock) that allows the B9 to firmly lock on the outside of the female RCA. Carmine Bocchino explains on his web site that "What this means is that the Brenda B9 connector has a firm and secure anchoring for transmitting its signal from interconnect cable to the appliance with no effects from vibrations or micro-arcing or ringing due to a loose fit or other unnecessary rotating locking mechanisms."

According to the Bocchino web site, the Brenda B9s are fabricated from Solid billet High Conductivity Oxygen Free Copper (HCOFC); Pure Copper > 99.94%Cu! They use Teflon as the insulator between the polarities. They are electroplated with 15.0+ microns of pure Silver and then 1.0+ micron of Hard Gold Plate (23.5 Karat). The signal pins' are electroplated with a total of 3.0+ microns of Hard Gold Plate
(23.5 Karat). They offer what Carmine Bocchino calls a "full envelope earthing geometry." According to him, "this design property results from the Claw Tongs fully enveloping the chassis socket with Pure Copper. Being made fully from Pure Copper enables the entire outer Copper (ClawLock) Body to act as an optimum earthing shield for both the return wire and against radio frequency and electromagnetic radiation frequencies that impinge on the ability of a connector to keep background noise quieter than the signal it carries. The result for the listener is a greater dynamic range for the music being listened to."

As an aside, the B9s I received seemed to have silver center pins. Carmine Bocchino explained that "The gold on the pins was extremely thin and the pins have absorbed the gold through the silver electroplate into the copper pin. Pure copper does this. No matter how much electroplate one places on Copper the Copper will eventually absorb everything. That is why so many connectors have a Nickel subplate to stop the brass and other copper alloys absorbing the top electroplates with the subsequent deterioration in sound quality from having the Nickel barrier. Hence the absorption is a natural process and will not affect the sound quality. Now you can say you have Copper/Gold pins, silver plated!!! The same will eventually happen to the other surfaces but not as rapidly. If you keep the surfaces clean, this will delay the absorption for the life of the connector. Where the pins are concerned, due to their small size and the fact that they are shielded by the large return surfaces, this isolates the pins and the absorption process continues more rapidly, though it does take years."

I was impressed not only by the build quality of the connectors, but by the responsiveness of Carmine Bocchino to a single end user. He answered courteously, promptly, and in full all my e-mails, and shipped immediately the four RCA connectors.


Sound quality

To listen to the B9s, I had to first solder them to the Furutech cable using WBT solder. This proved more difficult than with any other connector I had soldered. First, I was unable to get the solder to hold onto the connector using my 25 watt soldering iron. Only when I used a fully heated 40 watt iron did the solder hold onto the connector. Second, the solder on the return leg of the cable would not hold on the interior body of the connector. It was only when I soldered the return leg on the "bridge" that it held. Apparently, because pure copper is an excellent conductor of heat, it is important to have the soldering iron as hot as possible. Since the whole body acts as a huge heat conductor, the use of the bridges facilitates the transfer of heat from a very hot iron. Soldering, of course, would not be an issue with the new solderless Brendas.

Although the cable was not burnt in, it was immediately evident that the Brendas raised the quality of the Furutech cable to a new height.

Compared to the other top-tier connectors I had used with the same cable, the Brendas provided a greater soundstage, significantly improved transparency, clearer and more distinct bass, a solid and palpable midrange, and extremely refined highs.

The whole sound was more organic, natural, three-dimensional, and musical, bringing one closer to the live performance. It was nothing short of incredible.

Though all the other connectors I mentioned before sounded different from each other and were good, only the Brendas sounded right.

The musical flow was seamless.

A few examples of the recordings I listened to may help shed light on the specific sound quality of the B9s, although it is the "wholeness" of the natural sound of the B9s that is so remarkable.

First, to test for soundstaging and dynamic range, I listened to Telarc's SACD of Paavo Jarvi's "Symphonie Fantastique". The B9s produced a vast and deep sounstage, with a natural perspective. The violins were correctly placed back on the stage on the left, the cellos had the proper perspective and weight on the right, the trombones and trumpets were further back with a lot of air around the instruments, and the drums were way back in the soundstage with the proper resonance. The dynamic range was reproduced without any constraint or strain on the crescendos and massive drum strikes.

Second, for timber, I listened to the CD of Bebo Valdes and Javier Colina entitled "Live at the Village Vanguard". The B9s allowed the sound of a real piano to come through, with the leading edge of the piano strikes being clear and distinct. The cello had the correct tonality and wood resonance, and the bow passing over the cello strings had the gravitas and grunt one hears in real life. There was no smearing, as can happen with other connectors.

Third, to test more specifically for transient response, I listened to Mapleshed's CD "The Art of the Ballad". On cut 9, the blare of the trumpet was reproduced with full realism and the strikes of the cymbals that followed were distinct, clear, and, as in live music, sweet. The last cut has a wide variety of bells that are difficult to reproduce naturally, as they require a very fast transient response. The bells were reproduced flawlessly, a clear testament to the lightning transient response of the B9s. All the performances on the CD were suffused with air and the atmosphere of the recording venue.

Fourth, to verify the low level resolution that I had heard on the Mapleshed CD, I used the SACD MA Sampler. On this extremely well recorded SACD, the low level detail, dynamic gradations of instruments, the air and atmosphere of the recording venue, the decay, and the low level natural reverberation cues were in ample evidence on all cuts. Two particular cuts (2 and 8) revealed the exceptional low level resolution of the B9s.

Fifth, to ascertain the bass response, I used one very well recorded CD and two SACDs. On the CD "Moonlight Serenade" with Ray Brown and Laurindo Almeida, Brown's cello came through extremely deep and with a full woody resonance. On Telarc's SACD of Jacques Loussier "Plays Bach, Encore!", the drum was distinct and very powerful. On the Proprius' SACD of "Domnerus Plays Antiphone Blues", the organ was deep and clear. All these cuts benefitted from the soundstaging and resolution characteristics of the B9s as well.

Sixth, selecting a cut to test the midrange in particular is not easy. A very difficult midrange test involves the female human voice. A specially revealing cut is the first one on Eva Cassidy's CD, "Simply Eva", where she sings "Songbird". Her voice can generally sound sharp and unnatural on lesser components. Using the B9s, her voice was absolutely clear with no sharpness, as if she was performing live without amplification. I was again struck by the amount of ambience recovery of the B9s, as the whole performance was suffused with air. The clarity of the guitar reconfirmed the superb transient response of the B9s.

Seventh, the high frequencies were remarkably clear, grain free, and natural. On Telarc's SACD, "The Four Seasons", with the Boston Baroque, the violins were reproduced with the right sheen. On DG's CD of Nathan Milstein playing Bach's violin sonatas, the highs of the violin soared without sounding edgy or unnatural. On several other well recorded CDs and SACDs, cymbals sounded pristine and natural, with a lot of decay.

Overall, more than any other connectors I have used, the B9s sounded much closer to real music.


Other connectors

Before concluding, let me say a few words about my experience with the other connectors referred to above, briefly highlighting a few of their salient characteristics as I heard them.

Furutech FP-108(R): Extremely transparent, grainless, and clear, with great transient response. Very clean bass, extended highs, and very musical.

WBT 0108: Transparent, clear, and musical, with excellent soundstaging. Mellow and relaxed.

Vampire 800C RCA and pure copper balanced XLR: Sweet and musical. Grainless. Good transparency and natural midrange. Smooth highs.

Neutrik balanced XLR: Very good connectors. The silver plated ones are more transparent than the gold plated ones. The gold-plated ones are warmer. Extremely respectable performance for a very modest price.

Rean RCA connectors: Very high sound quality, though not as grainless and sweet as Furutech, WBT, and Vampire. They are nonetheless exceptionally good for their almost insignificant price.

Very good interconnects can be made very cheaply with the Mogami or Canare starquad interconnect cables, using the Neutrik balanced connectors or the Rean RCA connectors. These are very neutral and can rival some of the most expensive finished interconnects from some widely-publicized high-end audiophile companies. The Mogami and Canare interconnect cables seem to have an almost synergistic quality with the Neutrik and Rean connectors. They do not seem to benefit much from more expensive connectors. The Mogami seems to have more extended highs and more snap than the Canare, but the Canare may well be the more neutral.


Conclusion

Will the Brenda B9s turn a poor stereo system into a first-rate one? Will low-quality interconnect cables sound great with the B9s? The answer is emphatically no. You need a high-end stereo system and a high-quality interconnect wire to fully realize the potential of the Brendas.

In the context of a high-end stereo system and with high-quality interconnect wire, the B9s will raise the quality of the system to new heights. They are supremely musical and naturally revealing. In my opinion, they are absolutely the very best connectors I have tried!

The Brendas are also the best kept secret, used in some top-flight interconnects priced in the thousands of dollars. The Brendas most probably contribute critically to the sound quality of those interconnects and the acclaim they have garnered.

I hope more audiophiles become aware of Bocchino connectors. Although I am sure production costs are high, if Carmine Bocchino can find ways of reducing costs and price, more audiophiles will be able to enjoy the benefits of these connectors. This may be wishful thinking as maintaining the product integrity of precision machining pure copper and electroplating with tight tolerances is inherently costly.



Web site: http://www.bocchtech.com/


Product Weakness: Expensive but justified by high quality of manufacture and performance.
Product Strengths: Supremely transparent and musical.


Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Krell KSA-300S
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Krell KRC
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Wadia 6; Marantz Pearl KI; Beogram 8002
Speakers: Magnepan MGIIIa
Cables/Interconnects: Furutech, Straightwire
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical and jazz
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): DH Labs Power Cords
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner




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Topic - REVIEW: Bocchino Brenda B9 Accessory - Sam N 19:31:00 05/30/12 (9)

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