Arkana Physical Research: http://arkanaresearch.com/Cables Reviewed:
Exquisotor RCA IC’s(1m), Aequilibrium Speaker Cables (2m), Corona Magi Power Cord (2m)
I’ll note here that all the above cables came in at over the $1k mark.
For details regarding the two systems and some of the music we used, view our Full Loom Evaluation Intro
A number of weeks before Christmas, Vadim from Arkana Physical Research contacted us again to determine if we’d be interested in reviewing their “grey” line of cables which are a step up the ladder from the previously reviewed “blue” line. We’d been pretty impressed with the results we experienced using that “blue” tier and weren’t about to decline the opportunity to see what else Arkana had come up with
These first couple paragraphs are basically a carbon copy of the first Arkana review providing a brief introduction to the company and their design philosophy. If you read the initial review, this may seem a little redundant but there is some worthwhile information here.
Arkana Physical Research, founded in 2012 by a team of physicists who share a love of high end audio, has chosen to stray from the somewhat common use of copper, silver, gold, platinum, and palladium 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.
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. When asked about health/safty issues with the rare metals, Vadim assured me that these metals have been tested and pose no health risks.The Cables
From Arkana’s “grey” tier we received the Exquisotor RCA IC’s(1m), the Aequilibrium Speaker Cables (2m), and the Corona Magi Power Cord (2m). All the above cables use the standard pure cotton insulation in their construction and all use the samerare metal conductor.
|The Exquisotor RCA IC’s use a single 1mm conductor for each leg of the cable and are terminated with the WBT 0102Cu locking RCA plugs. These plugs are known for their excellent connectivity and utilize a pure copper, one piece signal conductor. They also provide excellent EMI shielding and offer secure signal transmission via the WBT collet chuck. The Exquisotor IC are also available in a balanced version which are fitted with the Oyaide Focus 1 XLR connector or in a S.E (special edition) model that uses the Furutech CF-102 ( R ) XLR connector.|
|The Aequilibrium speaker cables are constructed from the same 1mm solid core, cotton insulated conductor but both the signal and negative legs of the cable consist of three of the conductors. This time around, the speaker cables are connected to the gear via Oyaide SRBN bananas at both ends. The bananas are constructed from deoxidized phosphor bronze which is both Silver and Rhodium plated. These bananas are designed to ensure maximum contact. They insert smoothly into the terminal and provide maximum grip. For folks who prefer spades, the cables are also available with the Oyaide SPSL spade connectors.|
|Also with three of the above described conductors for the hot, neutral, and ground circuits, we’re using the Corona Magi Power Cord in the systems for this review. Connectivity for both incoming and outgoing AC power is handled by the Oyaide C-004/P-004 wall plug and IEC connector. These connectors are modeled after and include many of the core features of the cost no object Oyaide M1/F1 plug/connector pair. They’ve been designed for maximum electrical conductivity; contacts of these connectors are made of Bryllium Copper that is plated with both Platinum and Palladium. The bodies are machined from 30% glass filled PBT that provides excellent electrical isolation.|
All the cables seem to be well crafted, fit and finish is excellent. All cables are housed in a grey “tech-flex’ type covering. On the power cables and IC’s, Arkana has the cables running through a small block of wood with a titanium id tag that really doesn’t serve any other purpose…..it’s just a unique id badge.
Something interesting I learned from Vadim was that Arkana does not twist their conductors together in the multi-conductor power cords and speaker cables. The conductors are just laid parallel to each other over the length of the cord/cable. They say they’ve tested both ways and feel the optimal sound quality is achieved with their conductor types by not twisting them.Listening
Even though Vadim recommends 100+ hours of burn-in time ( I easily have accumulated well over that to this point), it only took a couple of minutes to realize I was going to very much enjoy this loom of cables in my system. With my amp and pre being 12V powered, the power cord was connected to my DAC, IC’s obviously were run from DAC->pre & pre-> amp, and the Aequilibrium speaker cables connected the electronics to the GR Research OB7’s, there was an immediate and very easily perceived feeling of openness and focus. This is not subtle at all, I’d actually be quite shocked if a person didn’t let out a very impressed “WOW” within the first 10 minutes of listening to familiar recordings with the “grey” loom. I’ve now had the cables in the system for close to 2 months and still find myself feeling that same way pretty much on a daily basis! Sound too good to be true? Read on…..
If you read my review of the Arkana “Blue” tier of cables, you’ll recall I felt that loom left just a little something to be desired up top…. Let me tell you, there is definitely no such issue with the “grey” series. The top end is crystal clear, extremely well focused, and what I’d call, very, very open. There is obviously a very high level of resolution, the listner hears an amazing amount of “real” resonance and sound decay from cymbals to the cow bell to an Xylophone, it’s all very natural sounding. The highs are well extended and there was no early roll off or “flattening”. You might think an extreme level of detail could come across as being “cold” or become somewhat tiresome, no need to worry as neither are a problem. The image of these instruments is extremely accurate and one is clearly made aware of their presence and location in the music. At the same time, I’ve never once felt the highs to be overwhelming or un-naturally harsh, there is just simply no hint of fatigue. Here’s an example, listening to “Li’l Darlin” from the Ray Brown Trio’s “Live At The Loa – Summer Wind”, I’ve never heard the piano imaged so clearly and with so much definition. The resonance from the instrument is so apparent, it can clearly be heard and is as close to real as it gets. There are some pretty high notes here, and while I sometimes find the upper frequencies from a piano can get a bit piercing, that was not the result here. It’s a great track with a fantastic blend of bass guitar, piano and percussion, all clearly defined and imaged in a live performance.
I just love the feeling of space and separation highs can help create when using extremely high resolution cables especially when nothing becomes abrupt or edgy. You may become tired of hearing this as I continue on with the review but I feel it is really important to convey just how well defined each part of a recording can be presented and yet still be an integral part of the larger, overall image in any music recording.
Definition and clarity are traits that continues right from the top and down through the always important “heart and soul” mid-range. Since adding the “grey” Arkana loom to my system, the midrange of the response in everything I’ve been listening to has seemed incredibly rich and full bodied. The music is just brought to life with an abundance of texture and warm tone that keeps you tuned in and wanting to listen for hours. In the Arkana “blue” loom review I said “There is just a touch of warmth to the presentation but definitely nowhere near the point of being ”syrupy” or lacking detail.”, the “grey” loom is similar in nature but with increased resolution and a more inviting, even richer tone. One word I’d use for this is “Harmonious”, If you listen to any violin performances, it’s more than likely you’ll notice an improvement in the tone and realism of each instrument. You’ll hear more resonance and liveliness, again, the impression of the performance being “in the room” is conveyed. There is phenomenal level of detail and yet everything is gentle and pleasant.
Contributing to those individual images is a deep and well layered sound stage. With the “blue” tier of Arkana cables, an image with decent layering was created but not to the same degree as what we have here. There is more definition creating increased separation and “air”. Images in the foreground are exactly that, in the foreground but not aggressively so. I can’t imagine anyone considering these overly forward, they give the sense of being very “right” in terms of placement. The same can e said about the far side of the stage where typically percussion is positioned, it was never presented as distant or faint. I think I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, Hubert Sumlin’s “Blues Guitar Boss” is a great album for demonstrating both tone and stage. Sumlin’s solos are always rich and focused, he’s got a unigue sound that demands attention and these cables, with their high level of resolution and transparency seem to enhance it. Filling in behind and to the sides of Sumlin there’s guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, acoustic bass guitar, organ and percussion. While it may not seem like an abnormal amount of different instruments, have a listen to a few cuts and you’ll see what I’m talking about…. Listen to a few cuts with the Arkana “grey” loom and I think it will become even more apparent. Just amazing tone and air! I’m continuously impressed at how the music can be heard so much as a whole but still maintain such distinct and clear images of each and every part of that whole.
Vocal reproduction falls right in line with what’s described above. Extremely well focused with lots of texture would appear to be the norm with this loom. Whether you’re listening to the raspy Koko Taylor, Dianna Krall’s contralto vocals, the always powerful Luciano Pavarotti, the smooth, soft voice of Randy Travis or anything in between, there is never any lack of detail which allows plenty of feeling and emotion to be interpreted by the listener. Being extremely transparent again comes to mind here,. One also gets a genuine sense of realism and presence, close your eyes and the vocalist is right there in the room with you, the sound is that transparent and the image that precise! I noticed too that background vocals tended to have a stronger image and came across as being slightly more separate than what I’m used to. That’s not a complaint, in fact, I’m sure it’s just one of the many little factors that contribute to the open and spacious presentation we’re hearing.
Dynamics are always a tough characteristic to judge with regards to cables, they can be even more difficult to describe. Over the past couple of months, my system would seem to have become more capable and effortless at generating the music it is re-producing. The music seems to flow very naturally and almost feels “light” or as some may describe quick. An increased ability to emphasize and focus upon any particular instrument, say a horn in a solo for example, has been perceived. Don has commented numerous times how he feels snare drums are cleaner and are presented with much more snap. There is a notable increase in low level detail or micro-dynamics. While none of these traits are painfully obvious, they do add substance and help produce a more realistic representation of the original music that was recorded.
The results from our listening sessions up at don’s yielded almost identical results, there isn’t really any point in repeating what’s written above. I’d say an exception would have been even more resolution and increased detail, most likely due to the capability of his DAC. Again, nothing was aggressive or “too mcu”, just more of the incredible focus was made apparent.
Here are a few paragraphs Don jotted down regarding what we heard up at his place :
“I’m pretty even keeled , don’t get to high, don’t get to low and generally speaking I’ve been quite satisfied with my audio rig for some time. To be honest however, over the last 6 months I’ve listened to a lot more music at Jay’s than I have at my house, largely in part to the fact that we have been working on speaker project together, and partly because Jay always has his stereo on. So when we embarked on this cable evaluation journey I was quite pleased that I knew I was going to be able to fire up my system more than usual, you see my rig sits in our main living room and my family rarely allows me to indulge in my favorite sport… Audio.
It should be stated up front that I currently own a $20+k loom of cables that I’m really quite fond of. They’re from a small company that produces pure silver cables with magnetic technology built in. Point of fact, I like them and never thought that I would be anxious to change. That’s not to say that I don’t like to play around with different cables, it just to say that I didn’t think that I would end up wanting anything different. That said, I have truly enjoyed the looms we have evaluated as they have all demonstrated the cable builders art to some extent and have all brought their own unique character and sonic signature into my system. Since we have been listening to moderately priced cables, this has been quite an achievement.
Enter the Arkana “grey” cable loom. As mentioned, I’ve been listening to a lot of music at Jay’s lately so I had heard these cables at his place for about a month or so, and frankly think that his system has never sounded so good.
I have not made any changes in my system for quite a while, so when we started our listening session with the Arkana loom in my system last weekend, I knew immediately that these cables were something special. The only thing I did which I usually don’t do was warm up my K&K dac/pre, a heavily moded piece with Dueland caps and platinum wire with nano carbon sheaths.
With the Arkana loom in place and the signal being fed through my Berkeley USB/SPDIF converter I would say it is a high resolving without being sharp or etched in anyway. New layers of previously unheard detail shown through like beacons of forest light in a falls mist ( that’s reviewers speak), but seriously, resolution seemed to go up to previously unheard levels without being the least bit cloying. Two examples, Olu Dara from Natchez to New York is a disk that I really love and have listened to many times, on more than a few tracks, there is a lot going on, background talking, guitar, horns and every note perfectly delineated without any confusion at all. This was a real treat to hear it again, almost for the first time!! The second example will seem strange, I have a pair of GR triple subs in my system and every now and then I like my neighbours to know it, so I thought that Jay and I should listen to Bela Flecks Flight of the cosmic hippo at around 95 db or so. However, instead of marveling at Mr. Wootens bass playing, we were both shocked at the amazing underlying banjo playing that seemed to be an afterthought before, for this time it was so clean and accurate, you couldn’t miss it.
In the first sentence I stated quite accurately that I don’t get to excited over the next great thing and stay relatively grounded for the most part I’m not aware if Arkana has a cult following for their cables or not, but consider me a fan, and if they have a fan club, consider me a member! They are without a doubt the best cables that I’ve had in my system, and maybe the best that I’ve heard. Well done Arkana!” Other Notes
If you have read my previous reviews, you know I like to try and point out a few possible areas of concern that may be of some relevance to certain readers. Sometimes I have to dig awfully deep and really nit pick, this is one of those cases. This was discussed in the cable descriptions above, the fact that all the Arkana cables are made from solid core conductors does caue them to be a bit more rigid and less flexible than a typical braided design. The IC’s are made from a single 1mm conductor so they are not really an issue . Even the speaker cables and power cords which are made using 3 conductors per leg are not overly troublesome but it is worth noting. This time around, I had Vadim send the speaker cables with bananas at each end which made them much simpler to manage than the previous “blue” speaker cables which were terminated with spades at one end. The other point I was going to bring up was the expense of the Arkana cables which WERE being marketed via various dealers. However, Vadim has recently informed me that this is no longer the case. The entire line of Arkana Physical Research cables will now be sold direct to the consumer which has resulted in a substantial reduction in pricing and turned my 2nd possible concern into a big positive !
I know I’ve done a lot of raving about the cables throughout this review but trust me, this loom deserves every bit of credit I’ve given. It’s not just based on a synergy with my system either, we had pretty much identical results with the loom installed in Don’s system. High praise to Arkana Physical Research for seeking out some unconventional audio industry metals that work extremely well as audio conductors.
I found the “grey” tier to be a significant step up from the previously reviewed blue tier. As noted in that earlier review, Arkana is now offering a full 30 day money back guarantee giving the purchaser piece of mind that he/she is getting a quality product that does what they expect in their system. With the announcement that Arkana Physical Research will now be taking a direct marketing approach with their cables, they have been able to offer competitive pricing similar to other direct marketed, high end audio cable manufactures. Vadim has also mentioned that people who order from the Arkana online store
will receive free shipping, another nice plus.
As with the first Arkana review, Vadim has been more than helpful and eager to answer questions throughout the period of time we’ve had the cables. Final Words
The bottom line is that the “grey” loom from Arkana Physical Research is easily among the most resolving, detailed, and musical looms we’ve heard in our systems. The real plus for me is that there seems to be a level of what I’ll call refinement to them, they are hyper detailed and accurate yet relaxed and warm sounding at the same time bringing a huge degree of musicality to the system. I can’t imagine anyone ever finding these cables too forward or aggressive, there is no need to be concerned about such things here. This loom will satisfy both those who crave incredible levels of detail, resolution and accuracy as well as those who tend to prefer a warm, gentle presentation. You get the best of both worlds and there is no sacrificing one for the other. Arakana has done their homework and produced some very special cables, these should not be overlooked.
Our other Full Loom Reviews:Full Loom Review IntroFull Loom Review: ZenWave AudioFull Loom Review: Arkana Physical Research (blue loom)Full Loom Review: Triode Wire Labs