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REVIEW: Aural Symphonics Optimism EMM Cable

Model: Optimism EMM
Category: Cable
Suggested Retail Price: $3,000.00
Description: Fiber-optic cable for EMM Labs gear
Manufacturer URL: Aural Symphonics
Manufacturer URL: Aural Symphonics

Review by Quint (A) on December 01, 2005 at 15:11:45
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One of the many lessons I've learned during my time in audio is that everything can be improved. Everything. This can be a daunting reality for some, since many of us spend a small fortune on this hobby, and technology never stands still. So it is with even the mighty EMM Labs gear.

Aural Symphonics is a company new to me. I heard through the grapevine that they were working on a replacement fiber-optic cable specifically designed for EMM gear, specifically the company's CDSD transport and DCC2/DAC6 processors. Ever the curious audiophile, I contacted the Cable Company to see if I could audition one. I then phoned Aural's founder, Tommy, who graciously sent me the first set in the country. It wasn't long before I realized what a privelege it was, though the price of entry was steep--$3,000 worth of steep, to be exact. But audiophilia is not a cheap disease, so the price didn't exactly shock me, though I did take a deep gulp.

The cable arrived very quickly, as I was demoing my system for a few interested visitors the weekend after I ordered the set. The Optimism-EMM, as it's called, proved a snap to install. Everything was color-coded in the same manner as the stock cable. Even I, who possess the technical ability of a three-toed sloth, managed it is a scant five minutes--which means the average person will be able to do it in three or less. :)

Before installing the cable, I dabbed a bit of Tommy's Io-Gel on the tip of each of the six connectors. According to Tommy, Io-Gel is supposed to enhance signal flow, thereby providing a clear improvement to the sound. In fact, he considers it mandatory for use with any of his optical cables. Since I didn't A-B the cable with and without the Io-Gel, I can't speak to its effectiveness, but I'll take Tommy's word for it.

Now on to the sound. I used a variety of discs and songs to A-B the stock cable and Optimism-EMM. My references are "Water of Love," off of Dire Straits' eponymous first album, and "Telegraph Road," from the band's "Love over Gold." I also use all of Johnny Cash's masterful American Recordings CDs as sonic benchmarks.

Let's cut to the chase: The Optimism-EMM was a decided improvement over the stock EMM cable. Most obvious was the gain in low-level detail. Resolution, which was already scarily good, became absolutely supernatural. "Water of Love" has a very faint percussion part at the beginning of the track. With the stock cable, it was only barely audible. With the Optimism, it was clearly audible. Faint details in Johnny Cash's "Unchained" were similary brought forward. But the added resolution did not come at the expense of naturalness. Music attained a liquidity and warmth--particularly on vocals--that was not present with the stock cable.

Dynamics and bass were also greatly improved. At a point in Dire Straits' "Telegraph Road," the drummer hits a series of thundering kick-drum thwacks. With the Optimism, they were not only more clearly resolved, they also hit and decayed with startling power and quickness.

I fear I'm coming down with a case of verbal diarrhea, so I'll conclude my little treatise. In short, the Aural Symphonics Optimism-EMM is a clear upgrade over the stock cable. In fact, I heard no weakness. It is superior in pretty much all respects. Its only weakness is its cost. At $3,000, it is undoubtedly expensive. I will do whatever I can afford to to keep my system at the top of the curve, but even I took a deep breath at the expense. But if you're an EMM owner and can afford the price of admission (a pretty important qualification), it's a no-brainer. It's taken an already SOTA products into the stratosphere. I'm sure I'm missing something, so if you guys have any questions, I'll try to answer them as best I can.

Product Weakness: Cost
Product Strengths: Just about everything: resolution, dynamics, naturalness, you name it

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: DarTZeel NHB-108 (2)
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): EMM Labs DCC2
Sources (CDP/Turntable): EMM Labs CDSD
Speakers: Von Schweikert VR-9
Cables/Interconnects: Jena Labs Dreamdancer
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Rock, classic country
Room Size (LxWxH): 24 x 20 x 7
Room Comments/Treatments: ASC Sound Planks, Cube Towers
Time Period/Length of Audition: Purchased
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Jena Labs Fundamental 6.1
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Aural Symphonics Optimism EMM Cable - Quint 15:11:45 12/01/05 (14)

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