January 1, 2010
Audience, LLC was formed in 1997 by
John McDonald and the late Richard Smith. With the companys current electronics
engineer, Roger Sheker, the three boast about 60 years worth of design experience.
The Audience name is now well established in the audiophile world, and the company
continues to strive to make a real connection with their customers.
The Conductor-e interconnect is Audiences least
expensive, at $379 USD per meter pair, followed by the Maestro Series ($442/meter pair)
and their top line, the Au24 Series ($797/meter pair). Audience has made the Conductor
line for some years now; but according to their website, in November 2007 they made
available a proprietary technology to enhance their cables conductivity, which, they
believe, improves their audio and video qualities. They call this upgrade "e,"
Description and setup
I particularly enjoy the Conductor-es appearance.
Unlike flashier cables, including some very expensive ones, the Conductor-e cables are
basic in construction, sleek and black. Like all Audience cables, the Conductor-e is said
to be designed for low eddy-current resistance. Audience believes that low eddy-current
resistance makes possible an audio or video cable of higher resolution.
Overall, the Conductor-e interconnects construction
is simple and light. Only 4.8mm in diameter, it has a 24AWG conductor of super-flexible
OFC copper terminated with Audiences Au24 RCA connector, which is made of a
gold-plated beryllium-copper alloy. The conductor is surrounded by cross-linked cellular
polyethylene (XLCPE), this in turn sheathed in a soft PVC whose weave permits a great
degree of flexibility. The Conductor-e can be easily snaked through any crevice, and
blends nicely into the background.
During my time with the Conductor-e interconnects, they
mostly linked a Sony CDP-CE375 CD changer to an NAD C 326BEE integrated amplifier. The
NADs 50Wpc into 8 ohms drove two Klipsch RF-35 floorstanding speakers.
Right from the beginning, the Conductor-e cables were
particularly efficient at producing a clear, vibrant, defined sound. The Conductor-e
highlighted the mid- and high-frequency tones without harming the overall balance. These
very positive first impressions of the Conductor-e made me anxious to try some of my
favorite test tracks.
Sarah McLachlans ballad "Angel," from her Closer:
The Best of Sarah McLachlan (CD, Arista 730263), has a deep soundstage through which
notes carry easily to the listening position. After my initial assessment of the
Conductor-e, I believed it would magnify the rolling tones of the song as they disappeared
into silence. I was correct -- the Audiences provided a clear, distinct reproduction of
McLachlans voice, and crisp distinction within note transitions. There was
definitely a marked improvement in the clarity of the overall sound in the bass. In fact,
with the Conductor-es I was able to distinguish two specific instances in which the
bassist ran down a string on his instrument. I have listened to "Angel" many
times through many different systems, but never before could I identify such delineations
in the background.
Then I played "Gabriels Oboe," from Ennio
Morricones score for the film The Mission (CD, Virgin 86001) -- one of the
most beautifully arranged pieces of orchestral writing I have ever heard. The clear and
distinguished sound provided by the Audience interconnects helped me to define the opening
timpani solo, which is so often lost to the listener. When the oboe enters, the higher
portion of the range of the instrument is again brought to the fore by the
Conductor-es well-established midrange and highs. The string orchestra filling the
background added depth to the arrangement. While the lower frequencies were not lost or
diminished, the Conductor-e was slightly less effective at reproducing them; the bass was
a touch lightweight.
I tried the Conductor-es with many other tracks from
various musical genres. Todays hip-hop, new age, and dance-music recordings contain
considerable treble energy, and the Audiences excelled at producing sharp, distinct
instrumental and vocal timbres. My most enjoyable listening experience with the
Conductor-e was while listening to classical and adult contemporary tracks, each of which
revealed the interconnects strengths of clean mids and highs while displaying
consistent accuracy throughout the audioband.
For the last six months my reference system has included DH
Labs Silver Sonic White Lightning interconnects. In my review of the White Lightning I
found that it produced a crisp sound, with well-defined highs and midrange. While at only
$49.99/meter pair the DH Labs costs only a fraction of the Audience Conductor-es
price, I thought that, given the two interconnects possible sonic similarities, the
White Lightning could make for an interesting comparison.
I listened to "Revenge," from James Horners
score for the film Braveheart, with the composer conducting the London Symphony
Orchestra (CD, London 448 295-2), specifically for its ample quantities of percussion and
low bass. Through the Conductor-es I heard greater clarity throughout the soundstage. For
example, airy folk instruments -- e.g., the pan flute -- sounded clean and defined.
"Revenge" is a complex and busy arrangement, but despite all the background
activity, nothing was lost through the Audiences. The midrange and high frequencies were
again accurately reproduced, particularly when the Uilleann bagpipes and chorus filled
those upper ranges.
Switching to the DH Labs, I was surprised to hear a slight
reduction in volume. The White Lightnings soundstage, too, was less well defined, if
not shallow. While its sound was pleasant overall, the White Lightning didnt provide
the precision of sound displayed by the Audience Conductor-e.
The Conductor-e provided clean, crisp sound with Josh
Grobans "Remember When It Rained," from Closer (CD, Warner Bros.
48450). Each instrument was easily distinguishable from the rest, and the sound was very
well balanced. Again, the Conductor-e provided incredibly vibrant mid- to high frequencies
-- which made it very enjoyable to hear this recording, whose focus is a tenor voice.
Switching to the White Lightning, there was again a subtle yet immediate reduction in
volume. There were also clear reductions in clarity and background detail. The White
Lightning, while excellent at the price, couldnt compete with the crispness and
distinctiveness of the Conductor-e. With the DH Labs in the system, there were times when
backing bands seemed to meld into a single instrument -- something that never happened
with the Audiences.
As I said, Id been listening to the White Lightnings
for six months. Id been very happy with their performance, and expected that
theyd hold their own against the Conductor-es. Reviewing cables is particularly
difficult because of the subtlety of the differences typically heard among interconnects.
That said, and to my astonishment, there was a distinct improvement going from the DH Labs
to the Audiences. Youll have to decide if the $300 difference in price is worth it.
To me, it is.
In every test I threw at it, Audiences Conductor-e
interconnect greatly impressed me by producing clean, well-defined sound, and by being
particularly effective at accentuating the mid to high ranges. The Conductor-es
ability to convey the natural tones of instruments and voices provided me with listening
experiences that truly evoked my emotions.
Im a cheapskate at heart, and it took me some time to
believe that switching out cables could make a meaningful difference. While at first I
felt that $379/meter pair was too high a price for an interconnect cable, I now have to
admit: If I were looking for a midpriced cable that would provide high-end clarity and
detail, Id look to purchase a pair of Audience Conductor-e interconnects. They
provided important improvements over the basic DH Labs cables Id been listening to.
Overall, Audiences Conductor-e was an absolute pleasure to listen to -- a truly
ear-opening experience. It is now my reference interconnect.
. . . Jarrett Dixon
Audience Conductor-e Interconnects
Price: $379 USD per 1m pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
120 N. Pacific Street, #K-9
San Marcos, CA 92069
Phone: (800) 565-4390
Fax: (760) 471-0282