Full disclosure: The Audience Au24 SE has been one of my reference power cords for some time. But recently I got an enticing taste of the firm’s latest—its newly upgraded SX version. However, the SX cord I encountered was specifically designed with a Neutrik connector for use exclusively with Audience’s own Adept Response power conditioners—in this instance a six-outlet aR6-TSSOX, a sample of which I had already been using. Even in this more limited context my impressions were nonetheless that these Audience products delivered outstanding results. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. There was still the question of how the standard SX with IEC connectors would perform with individual system components. That question has now been answered as I’ll explain below.
Au24 SX incorporates Audience’s latest wire geometry using the company’s standard high-purity six-nines copper (99.9999% pure) with XLPE insulation on the power conductors and Teflon on the shielding conductors. They are double-cryogenically treated in-house, and this version features a new approach to mechanical isolation. Earlier Audience thinking on this subject had left its power cords unshielded in the belief that full shielding constricted dynamics. Audience now shields only the ground leg, and as mentioned, insulates these individual shield conductors with Teflon. Construction is nothing less than superb. Although thicker than its predecessor, the Au24 SX remains flexible—and more handsome in its formal black jacketing with classy silver Furutech FI-50 NCF (Nano Crystal Formula) connectors. These cables look and feel like “money,” as they should at this price point. The Au24 SX is also available in 10-gauge (10AWG) for power amps and 13AWG for medium power components of 200W or less. (To ensure the power cord is making good contact with the wall outlet, a custom outlet such as the Furutech GTX DR NCF is recommended. See my review of same in this issue.)
With the SE cords at my disposal it was fairly easy to glean the differences between the SX and SE. The distinction begins with an ever-lower noise floor—a virtual black palette of calm. And it’s only with such a reduction in grunge and glaze that the acoustics and ambience of a recording studio or concert hall venue can be fully revealed. It’s the dark silences before the conductor lifts his baton, the first beat of music played, the shifting atmospherics during pauses that enliven the anticipation and urgency of any performance. The upshot was a soundstage of rock-solid stability and continuity that was ripe with low-level micro-detailing. Bass response wasn’t necessarily more extended but the reproduction of bass cues on organ, acoustic bass, piano, bassoon, and percussion was markedly more complex texturally, and the instruments’ identities more fully expressed. Again, SX provided a more immersive and airy experience, the cable better conveying the signature of the venue itself. When I listened to Beethoven’s Ninth with Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony [Decca], the Au24 SX zeroed in and focused images, particularly the specific layering of the orchestra, chorus, and soloists. It prompted a specificity of time and place that was eerily realistic.
I’ve probably said this one too many times but power cords are not tone controls (at least they shouldn’t be). Nonetheless, the upper-tier cords elicit shifts in dimension and image focus that can influence the character of a piece of music and the listener’s relationship with a familiar recording. This trait was evident during Itzhak Perlman’s performance of the Bruch Violin Concerto No.1 [LSO, Previn: EMI]; his Strad revealed ever more textural personality than before—never sweeter nor more lively, yet equally demanding and aggressive when necessary. And the timbres of the lightly struck kettle drums and other background instruments at the rear of the orchestra were further clarified. The final and perhaps key distinction I observed with the SX was a more fully realized sense of dimension and depth of focus in a great orchestral performance. As a listener I could peer more deeply into the soundstage and note tiny amplitude distinctions as I tracked the musicians.
If there’s a caveat in all this, it probably has something to do with system matching. The “cart-before-the-horse” argument is to say that the SX will work in any system, but to receive the full benefits of this heady investment, your rig should at least match in potential the performance gains that the SX was designed to deliver. That being said, Audience is to be congratulated for its finest effort yet in this popular segment of the high end. A new reference if ever there was one.
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