POSITIVE FEEDBACK , VOL. 6, #1 & #3
reviewed by Tom Davis
Marigo Audio Lab Apparition Reference Digital Cable, Fractal Reference Interconnect, and Fractal Reference Speaker Cable represent a cost-effective breakthrough.
One of the things that has emerged from phone conversations with Ron Hedrich the designer of the Marigo cable line, is his commitment to hearing live music. Indeed he is one of those designers that hearken back to earlier images of the High End: the perfectionist, music loving physicist who got into solving specific problems in music reproduction. He’s a designer who thinks from his experience of the claim of music itself–and then has the physics background necessary to design cables from basic principles to answer specific needs in a system seen as a whole. What you get with a full Marigo cable set-up is a consistency of vision rooted in putting music first.
With what result?
The draw to the acappella opening “Mining for Gold” on The Cowboy Junkies’ “Trinity Session” is that rush from the heat circulation system creaking reverberantly away in the background. With the Marigo cables, the creaks are, well, creakier. But in contrast to tone control cables trying to hype detail, that heat circulation system is now both more articulate and less distracting. I am not drawn to look at such detail–there is no distorted “halo” around high frequency transients shoving “detail” in my face. Instead the air, the creaking system, the sculpted volume of the church just fit so naturally together to open up this particular space. Timmin’s voice is freer here, the inflections reverberate in this richer space. She occupies this very particular space standing there, facing me. A history of electronic distractions melts away.
The outstanding improvement with the Marigo cabling is this greater freedom in following the emotional intelligence of a musical line. Such freedom follows from greater intelligibility: the blossoming air in this space makes sense, details emerge in a natural, easy to follow way. Instruments have fitting timbral signatures. Their arrangement makes immediate sense. The Marigo speaker cables have completed crossing the threshold that the Reference digital and analogue interconnects promised. The most noticeable improvements wrought by a full Marigo recabling of my system concerned the soundfield and timbral accuracy. The soundfield on both minimally miked natural acoustic recordings like “The Trinity Session” and minimally processed productions like Janis lan’s “Breaking Silence” became more complexly dimensional to show either a richer sense of instruments and voice in acoustic space or just how carefully a production had been crafted. The soundfield became more intelligible in revealing the claim of music. There was a startling improvement in the timbral presentation of instruments: suddenly their specific signatures took hold, the sense of electronic reproduction disappearing.
Your choice of cables directly changes the overall gestalt of your system as a whole. If in the spirit of “synergy” we conceive an audio system as an actively holistic web, then after five years of refining my system, a full recabling with Marigo’s best has radically reopened the clearing from which music blooms in my living room. Alone at night with my eyes shut, the room clears and a dialogue with the claim of music is taken up, now so freshly, as if I was hearing these familiar songs for the first time.
Ron is a designer with graduate work in physics and years of engineering work behind him, who knows how to measure up the yin-yang, but designs by ear. Meaning his heart is in his listening. I think we tend to underestimate how difficult it is to be true to your inner ear. Attentive listening begins with the power of discrimination that can’t show up on an oscilloscope.
Paul Simon’s “The Rhythm of the Saints” had a long production history trying to find the right place for Simon’s voice in a recording of rhythmic complexity. Marigo’s cables made two major differences in listening to this recording–that I thought I knew very well–improvements that just kept improving as I moved from the Reference digital interconnects to the Signature analogue interconnects added two months later, and finally to the Reference speaker cables. The most startling improvement was the openness that now allowed musical lines to emerge–so much more gracefully than before. Expressive nuances in Simon’s voice were now easier to follow with each Marigo cable addition. Simon’s voice moved further into its own articulate space.
The encompassing music lines, especially the drum rhythms, were “re-arranged” in such a way that song after song came into more coherent focus. I now began to read the different narrative elements of these songs with an ease that encouraged me to listen again to discover more. This impulse to explore further was encouraged by the improvement in timbral signature.
What I found myself better able to do with the complete Marigo recabling was progressively untold the nuanced complexity of the mix of rhythm and color woven into individual songs. Being able to explore this world is what an audiophile system should enable you to do.