Another World Wide Web 1st for Audio-T Reading
Yesterday saw the launch of The Chord Company Sarum Tuned Aray (spelling intentional) flagship range. This is a major revision of the entire range excluding the speaker cable.
I’ll cut to the chase right away and say that this in my view is an industry game changer; such is the profound improvement in the enjoyment of music it makes in all the systems we have thus far used it in. With that out of the way I’ll elaborate.
The current Sarum interconnects have been with us for a while now (previous called Solstice) and have received heaps of well-deserved praise throughout the press and online. Indeed so impressed was I with the XLR balanced version I bought a pair for my own Rega Isis/Osiris CD/amplifier combo. I collected these direct from their factory on a training day and Nigel, their chief designer gave me a sneak preview and demo and a promise of a loan in October of what is now called the Sarum Tuned Aray .
So, for the last week or so I’ve had the new version at home as promised and I have to say, even more so than the brief listen at Chord, I’m totally floored by what this has brought to my digital replay.
It has to be said, this is no minor tweak or tart-up but a major redesign of the make-up of the cable (see Nigel’s full explanation below). The result is the most musically engaging experience I have ever had from a CD source. I should say at this point I’ve only had the XLR version to listen too but can’t wait to experiment with the RCA pair and the Din-Din version specifically for all our Naim CD and Streamer customers of which Nigel claims even bigger gains!
It’s very difficult to put what I hear into words but one can’t help feeling that the inclusion of this cable is what one has always wished a cable to do, everything, yes everything. Gone is any trace of added ringing or harshness one often associates with the digital format but at the same time it doesn’t smooth out the treble in a masking fashion at all. Bright sounding CDs remain so but they don’t scream anymore they just sound the way they were meant too, the music engaging instead of making one feel uncomfortable. The same is true of those awful overly compressed recordings too. It doesn’t make them sound as if the compression wasn’t used but because one is so engaged in the music it matters less.
Bass, for the first time now has drive and a real sense of power that I’ve only previously experience with vinyl and on top of that there’s real texture to the bass and the leading edges are how they should be, taut but not overly so like so may attempts before.
Focus is a term many bandy about their products but here you really understand exactly what is meant by focus. EVERYTHING is rock solid in the soundstage and because of that, hitherto unidentified sounds, noises etc startle you in their sudden appearance. Returning to the old Sarum, great as it is, everything seams to have disintegrated somewhat, like an exploded diagram where you can see all the parts but not the actual object. You have to imagine what it really looks like. This is what the Tuned Aray does with its sonic picture, it creates the whole image in font of you in a way that just allows you to relax and enjoy the performance by the artists rather than the kit reproducing it. Like I said, I’m floored!!
Is there a catch? The only one I can think of: the price. At £1800 one could hardly call the original Sarum cheap (for XLR, £300 less for RCA) but this has only risen by a mere £100 for the Tuned Aray version, which is commendable. It would have been all too easy for Chord to have dressed the cable up with some über-fancy plugs and jacket/packaging and charged an outrageous sum for the improvement, bravo to Chord for not doing so.
Without a doubt, my product of the year and some. Naturally we’ll have the Sarum Tuned Aray on demo as soon as we can lay our hand on them.
As Apple said on the launch of the original iPhone:
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.
From Nigel Finn:
Tuned Aray, the principles and the performance.
What is it? It’s a very different conductor configuration. We were experimenting with ways of reducing reflections in digital cables and the first prototypes with reconfigured conductors were really impressive.
Things got really interesting though when we started to experiment with a tuning process that we could apply to the conductors. The results were extraordinary, and we began to understand just how important it was to get this tuning process right. Once we had successfully applied the process to our Sarum Digital interconnect, the results were so astonishing we began to experiment with the Sarum analogue cables as well.
What does it do? In truth the improvements are huge and in a musical sense really quite profound. So much so that the work we’d done with the Sarum Tuned Aray conductors forced us to rethink, redesign or revise almost every other interconnect type in our range. So the Sarum Tuned Aray has directly influenced almost every analogue and digital interconnect we produce.
What does it sound like? It sounds right, and right in a way that we perhaps had not thought possible from a digital source. There are all the things that you might listen for: space, definition, detail and dynamics, but there’s more, instruments sound about as real as we’ve ever heard.
That’s not just a Telecaster, it’s the bridge pickup, bratty, fierce and stinging, and that’s a Gibson with a Bigsby Vibrato, and the sound that makes is just so rich and harmonic. Check out “Down by the River” on Neil Young’s Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere for a perfect example of this.
It’s not just guitars though, there’s the same sense of realness to everything, and that realness leads to an extraordinary insight into whatever music is being played. Micro dynamics are so clear and because of this rhythms are beautifully stated, if the drummer is driving the song then you going to hear that.
Perhaps most importantly there’s a sense of connectedness with the music, you can sit down to listen to something and the time will disappear. This really is about getting caught up in the music.
What does it work with? Every piece of equipment we’ve tried. RCA, DIN and XLR cables all work in the same way. Sarum Tuned Aray has forced us to re-evaluate the performance potential of every piece of equipment we’ve tried it with. Think you’ve heard your System? Well you probably haven’t.
I hate the way modern recordings sound so compressed. So do we, and one of the really positive things we’ve noticed with Tuned Aray cables is that brightness and compression is nowhere near as intrusive. It’s still there but the focus is so on the music, that it becomes far easier to ignore both brightness and excessive compression.