Arkana Physical Research: http://arkanaresearch.com/Cables Reviewed:
Currus Hermes XLR IC’s (1m), Exquisotor SP/DIF XLR (1m), Suprema Flamen power cable (2m), Fortunae Rota speaker cables (1.5m)
I’ll note here that all the cables with the exception of the Exquisotor digital cable came in at over the $1k mark.
With Arkana recently switching from dealer distribution to customer direct, they've been able to signifgantly reduce their pricing. The "blue" IC['s now fall under th $1k mark ($under $800 actually) while the power cord and speaker cables come in just slightly over. You can see the new pricing in the Arkana store
where you will also receive free shipping.
For details regarding the two systems and some of the music we used, view our Full Loom Evaluation Intro
Arkana Physical Research, founded in 2012 by Vadim Plaxin, and a team of physicists who share a love of high end audio, has chosen to stray from the somewhat common use of copper, silver, and gold based conductors of today’s mainstream audio cables in favor of designing their solid core cables using conductors made from rare metals never used previously in the high-end audio industry. Arkana states that the conductors in each tier of their cables are made from a single metal, not an alloy, which has been smelted, purified, and polished. The wire is exposed to both galvanic and cryogenic treatments. Arkana is very secretive about these metals but a quote taken directly from the site does provide a bit of an overview of their characteristics: “The Arkana metals are distinguished through their stable properties in a wide frequency range. Their bandpass can reach 10 GHz. A drastic reduction of a skin effect influence and extremely low values of per unit length for capacity and inductance of selected metals cause the absence of the phase shifts typical for conventional materials, which minimizes a group delay time of signal in the Arkana cables. The combination of the above properties provides a coherent and perfectly linear character of musical signal transmission.”
There’s some more information
regarding the technology at the Arkana site, it’s interesting, intriguing, and of course, invokes some curiosity. When we contacted Arkana, they were more than happy to send out a loom of their cables for us to evaluate and then share our findings.
With the exception of the Exquisotor digital cable, all the cables we received from Arkana were from their blue tier which is one step up from the lowest level of their lineup. The Exquisotor digital cable was from their grey tier which is one level up from the above cables. Another thing worth mentioning about the digital cable is that it is not currently produced in lots and it is not listed on the website. Contact Arkana if you are after one and they’ll accommodate you.
While I can’t tell you much more about the metals used in the conductors of the Arkana cables, I can tell you that their preferred insulation for the conductors is pure cotton which is standard in all their cables. A teflon insulation is available for customers who would prefer that. Arkana uses high quality termination on their cables from Neutrik , WBT, Oyaide, Furutech and Acoustic Revive. Arkana says a considerable amount of time has been devoted to determining which conductor works best with specific termination options and the various tiers therefore use different termination.
A good burn in was suggested so after a couple of hundred hours of pretty much continuous play time, we sat down and began to do some serious listening. With the full loom installed in Don’s system (the Suprema Flamen power cable to his K&K pre/DAC) , the musical environment produced is extremely pleasant to listen to and very inviting. There is just a touch of warmth to the presentation but definitely nowhere near the point of being ”syrupy” or lacking detail. While not the widest soundstage reproduction, it is still very good, in fact I’d say excellent when it comes to depth and layering. Instruments and vocals are imaged very well and clearly defined. With that hint of warmth we are hearing, I wouldn’t say the Arkana cables are quite as defined or precise as the Zenwave loom we recently evaluated but that is not necessarily a bad characteristic. As mentioned in that last review, some folks may find extremely high levels of detail somewhat fatiguing or just not what they are after from their music. In such cases, a very slightly softer, possibly a bit smoother, dare I say more sultry, seductive presentation may be a better fit.
With just a slight emphasis in the mid range, the cables were very musical, especially impressive with acoustic stringed instruments. Listening to “Old Love” from Clapton’s “Unplugged” was wonderful! The tones of the acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, and the piano were very rich. Throw in Clapton singing and the interaction of the crowd, all present in a deep, layered fashion and you’re listening to a great compilation any Clapton ,or acoustic guitar fan can’t help but be impressed with. Govi’s “Guitar Odyssey”, another acoustic album, was also somewhat of a highlight. With a wonderful mix of various strings, flutes, piano, and percussion, these lively melodies seemed to be catered to by the layering and strong mid range of the loom. Everything is imaged in its own layer and is well defined although I felt there could have been a bit more separation horizontally which would open things up a bit more across the room. Bass and mid-bass notes are very accurate and clear; there is no smearing or rough edges. The loom just does a fantastic job at presenting a very rich listening environment. I’m actually listening to some Govi (on my system with the Arkana cables which we’ll get to a bit later) as I’m writing this. I keep finding myself paused and just enjoying the music which it is very engaging but not great for actually getting anything done !
In terms of the reproduction being forward or laid back , I’d say these cables are very neutral. As noted above, images are well layered and seem to be placed from slightly ahead of the plane of the speakers to a reasonable depth behind. I’ve heard cables that I’d say are recessed or laid back where the entire image is pushed well back, this is not the case here what so ever. At the same time, nothing is projected well out into the room. Personally, I like to have images in the foreground just a touch more forward than what we are hearing but that will obviously vary from person to person, system to system.
One exception to the above would be vocals which were, in my opinion spot on… I know above I noted that I’ve heard higher levels of detail and precision from other cables, I’m not sure I can say the same regarding the Arkana loom when it comes to vocals. Placed slightly forward and extremely well focused, the image was solid and did not drift or waiver. Vocalists seem to hover in position, their voices are realistically textured and convey emotion exceptionally well. Tones and characteristics of voices are distinguishable in a manner that brings life to the performance. Very cool !
We continued to listen to various albums from our list and pretty much found these characteristics to be very consistent.. The more we listened, the more we enjoyed the results.
There really isn’t a lot to “nitpick” about the loom in Don’s system. Aside from not providing the widest soundstage as well as possibly being just a tad shy on detail and precision for some listeners, both Don and I did feel the highs are just a touch subtle, ever so slightly rolled off. This is nothing that is overly apparent, there just doesn’t seem to be that little magic “sparkle” some people love to hear. Some people may find that so called sparkle too bright and prefer to just have the highs a tad flatter, I personally like that little extra at the very top. It seems to just add that little bit of openness and air. I suppose this slight roll off could be a contributing factor as to why we felt the soundstage was presented not quite as wide as we felt it could have been. On a few tracks mostly rock type genre, Don also noticed there seemed to be a bit of a discontinuity between bass/mid-bass and the actual midrange frequencies. Again, nothing painfully obvious, just in a few tracks, there seemed to be a bit of a “step” or an edge as frequencies rose into the midrange.
The above noted “nitpicks” are pretty minor and stood out even less, one has to be listening for any of the above to be noticed. Overall, the loom just sounded great in Don’s system, it created an extremely musical and engaging environment that draws the listener in.
Due to a bit of miscommunication between Don and myself, we didn’t end up with a pair of single ended (RCA) IC’s from Arkana and unfortunately, my DAC doesn’t have balanced outputs . We were not able to do a full loom listen with my system but we were able to try the 5’ Fortunae Rota speaker cables on their own and then add the 6’ Suprema Flamen power cord which we tried on both the DAC as well as the amp.
So, out came my OCC solid core copper, four conductor cables and in went the Arkana speaker cables that I’d been anxious to try here since hearing the great results up at Don’s place. After my initial listen, the Fortunae Rota speaker cables seem to be quite similar to my copper cables in terms of tone but they are provide more detail. I know, one of the things we noted from the time we spent listening to the full loom in Don’s system was possibly a slight lack of detail but compared to my DIY copper cables, there is a noticeable increase. I especially notice this increased detail when listening to acoustic guitar, I find it to be an excellent gauge of both detail as well as tone. After listening to a few random cuts from various albums on our list, I had a listen to Matt Andersen’s “Live from the Phoenix” which features some wonderful guitar, harmonica, sax, and male vocals. The increased detail is clearly apparent. Picking, plucking and strumming became more defined and sound cleaner. Finger movements are more distinguished as is the resonance of the instrument. It all helps to create a strong, life like image. Even with only the speaker cables in place, the music and vocals are rich and inviting. As stated earlier, it’s a very engaging presentation.
After spending numerous hours listening to various music and swapping my copper cables with the Arkana cables a few times, it really became clear that the Arkana cables were more resolving and appealing to listen to. Listening to a specific track on one cable then swapping cables before listening to the same track again really highlighted the differences. With the Arkana cables in place, everything becomes more refined and focused. I know, I’ve mentioned it already but both instruments and vocals are imaged with increased texture adding to realism and better conveying emotion from the artist. More little subtleties are audible; the vocalist breathing, the resonance of a room, the unavoidable sounds from a live event, it’s all more easily depicted. My copper cables would now seem to be a bit heavy on the lower frequencies and somewhat warmer but by no means any more musical. The soundstage image was very similar in terms of width but the Arkana speaker cables did seem to add depth and improved layering.
The next logical step was to add the power cable which appears to be made of what I’d guess to be approximately 14 ga material, I thought possibly it was meant to be used primarily with source components so I shot an email off to Vadim at Arkana to enquire: “The parameters you write are appropriate for copper power cords. The materials we use do not require such a large cross-section of conductors because of much less skin-effect manifestations, due to their different, relative to copper, crystal lattice. All the Arkana power cords are universal and can be used with all components including amplifiers.”
I tried the Suprema Flamen power cord for periods of time on both my DAC as well as my amplifier. In either case, it replaced one of my Marigo Audio Labs Ultra Five cords. I can’t honestly say I noticed any improvement or decrease in performance with the cord installed in either position. Again, I swapped the cord a few times both from DAC to amp as well as with the Marigos and I’d have to say the system remained very consistent. Not to say that is a bad result, the system sounds great and the Ultra Fives are great cords. I’ve had the Arkana cord on my amp for over a week now and although I feel no real preference nor dislike for the power cord, it has been a part of my system for a while now and appears to be doing everything it should. I am not looking overly forward to pulling the cables , especially the speaker cables and going back to my copper cables. I’m becoming extremely appreciative of the characteristics they are bringing to my system, they just seem to have an exceptional blend of definition and musicality that is making my system a real pleasure to listen to.
Whether we had the full loom in Don’s system, or just the speaker cables and power cord in my system, we both found the Arkana cables provide plenty of detail for all but the most detail crazed enthusiast. The presentation is very balanced, nothing is projected way out into the room nor is anything overly recessed. There is still good depth but nothing is taken to the extreme. I’d suggest that if you have an overly forward or recessed system, these cables probably aren’t going to help you make an adjustment. Did I happen to mention the texture and tone these cables seem to bring to the midrange, especially vocals, stringed and the brass instruments? After spending a fair amount of time listening, I’m still impressed and continuously find myself throwing on jazz and female vocals. That slight “roll-off’ to the highs we felt was noticeable in Don’s system is also being perceived in my system. Possibly due to having spent a considerable amount of time listening to them and my hearing/brain becoming accustomed to it, the characteristic doesn’t seem as obvious. I actually don’t think roll-off is correct, I believe the frequencies are still being played back in the response, the decay just seems to be shorter. So, when you hear that high-hat tap, you still hear the note, you just aren’t hearing the typical decay or what many call air you may be used to hearing.
A couple final points to make about the cables themselves:these cables are all made from solid core conductors and while they are not the most difficult cables I’ve ever had to deal with, they definitely aren’t the easiest either. I found the speaker cables a bit awkward to connect to my amp’s binding posts via the spade connectors and then nicely route the cables, they pretty much have a mind of their own. If your gear has the connectivity, I’d suggest using banana/banana, I know it would have really simplified things in my system. No major news here, it’s pretty much standard when dealing with solid core cables but still worth mentioning.
This is important too, these cables do take some time to burn in. Give them plenty of time before making any decisions. Vadim suggested we put at least 100 hours on the cables before doing any serious listening, I’d personally suggest going a bit further. We let these cables burn in for a long time checking in occasionally and I felt they just kept sounding better and better as the hour total increased.
It is cool to be able to inform you that after talking to Vadim Plaxin, founder of Arkana Physical Research, he’s informed me they’ll gladly offer a 30 day money back guarantee on their cables. As I mentioned to Vadim, it really gives the customer confidence to be able to try the cables in their own system, in their own home and not have to worry they have gone out and spent hard earned money on something that just doesn’t give them what they are looking for.
I also asked Vadim what people could expect by moving further up the Arkana line and into a higher tier of their cables: “The difference between Arkana product lines from bottom to top is the increasing of resolution, sustain and the scene depth, while the sound remains conjoint. Please bear in mind that each conductor material (metal) in a different Arkana cable lines has its own sound character. The higher the Arkana product line - the better sound you’ll get. However even the basic line is able to surprise with a great sound quality.”
Keep in mind, the cables evaluated in this review were from the blue tier which is one step up from their basic line.
The final point I’ll make, and it is one I want to comment on in each of the upcoming reviews, is regarding the customer service we received during the review process. Over the past few weeks, Vadim has been a pleasure to deal with. He has promptly answered most of our questions (understandably a bit secretive regarding the conductor materials) and open to some comments and suggestions. If you have any questions or need further information regarding the Arkana cables, I’m sure a quick email or phone call to Vadim will get yo the information you’re after
I must admit, I was somewhat skeptical about these cables when I first heard about them but after having the opportunity to evaluate and listen to them for many hours in a couple very different systems, I’m pleasantly surprised and impressed.
By seeking out these metals they’ve used in their conductors and spending a significant amount of time n R&D, Arkana has proven that the typical metals and alloys found in many of today’s mainstream cables are not the final word in hi-fi cable technology. Arkana Physical Research current pricingFull Loom Review IntroFull Loom Review: ZenWave AudioFull Loom Review: Triode Wire LabsFull Loom Review: Arkana Physical Research (grey loom)