Hardware Reviews phono cable Tech

Argento Flow Master Reference Phono Cable

Argento Flow Master Reference Phono Cable

Argento Flow Master Reference Phono Cable

Rounding third and heading for house, the fourth (and I hope last) contender in my phono cable shootout has arrived. Under no circumstances exhaustive, this mini survey includes solely these on my brief listing, with the added qualification that the winner needed to be worthy of “the bomb,” as Invoice Parish of GTT Audio refers to my Kronos Sparta turntable/Air Tight Opus cartridge front-end.

Argento Flow Master Reference Phono Cable

The Stage III Analord Master Phono Cable

It was a tragic day for me when Aaudio Imports’ beneficiant long-term mortgage of the Stage III Analord Master Phono Cable ended. The Analord set a really excessive bar (MSRP $6,600/1.5 m, evaluate HERE). Who is aware of? In the long run it may be the one. Its return put me out there once more, however fortunately aid arrived briefly order within the type of the STEALTH Audio Helios Phono Cable (assessment HERE).

The STEALTH Audio Helios Phono Cable

The Helios is a breakthrough design with the very best signal-to-noise ratio I’ve encountered in analog. Its precept advantage—noise discount with out music attenuation—is the stuff of fantasy. It’s analog such as you’ve by no means heard it and a particular contender, though at a good steeper worth (MSRP $10,400/1.5 m).

The Argento Flow Phono Cable

Then got here the Flow Phono Cable, the mid-level entry within the Argento Audio lineup (MSRP $7400/1.5 m, evaluation HERE), and we moved to a vastly totally different sonic panorama. The Flow backed off from the precision of both the STEALTH or, to a lesser extent, the Stage III phono cable. It clearly wasn’t designed to be resolute to the nth diploma. As an alternative, its power was intense musical communication—a welcome aid from the relentless audiophile norm.

the Flow Master Reference Phono Cable

The brand new arrival, the top-gun Flow Master Reference Phono from Argento, additionally occurs to be the costliest by far (MSRP $14,500/1.2 m). That is some huge cash. To place it in perspective, this wire prices greater than my Air Tight Opus shifting coil cartridge—one of the costly available on the market—and almost as a lot because the Sparta turntable itself.

The Flow and FMR phono

On the floor, the FMR shares many elements with the Flow: it has the identical black dielectric and proprietary connectors. It’s equally versatile and ranks excessive on ease of use. However the physique of it’s at the very least double the Flow Phono; the FMR seems to be two (or extra) Flow Phonos bundled collectively. I requested Ulrik Madsen, the proprietor and chief designer of the Danish agency, how they differ.

The FMR is so much totally different from a development viewpoint due to the totally different conductors and the geometry. The FMR has the next “extras”:

-Three occasions the quantity of silver distributed in 20 occasions as many conductors.

-Particular person carbon fiber shielding for plus and minus.

-Larger purity silver that has gone by means of two cryo remedies and sprucing.

The Floor wire is just not shielded. The plus and the minus every have a separate defend versus a standard defend as within the Flow.

For comparability, recall how Ulrik had described the Flow Phono:

The Flow Phono makes use of just one conductor for every polarity in a twisted geometry with a spacer. Carbon fiber is used across the array to offer just a little shielding with out [introducing the ill effects of] lowered area and freedom that you simply often get when utilizing shielding. The bottom wires are silk-insulated copper litz.

Set up & Grounding Choices

My pattern FMR Phono Cable was terminated with RCAs on each ends to suit on my Kronos Sparta turntable (which does not have a DIN plug). Just like the Flow, the FMR has brief pigtails with spades at one finish. The spades are for optionally grounding the cable defend to the phono stage. I like to recommend you interact them: it brings extra focus and extra fascinating sound.

The Sparta Floor connection

The Argento phono cables include a separate floor wire that must be related between the turntable (the underside of the arm tube) and the phono stage floor publish. This can be a absolutely completed cable with spades and cosmetics quite just like the brief pigtails on the primary cable and in contrast to most phono floor wires that are merely reduce from a copper wire spool and crimped at every finish. Construct high quality is worthy of inclusion in a $14,500 product.

Let’s start with the (un)well-known Live performance Piece For Cello And Chamber Orchestra by Aarre Merikanto (Finnish EMI, recorded in 1974). Some individuals rank Merikanto’s early twentieth-century cello works among the many prime dozen. I would not go that far, however they’re fascinating and nicely value testing.

How the Flow Phono Cable Does It

First, let’s hear it by way of the Flow Phono Cable. In musical phrases, you may say the system has acquired a pronounced holistic tic, like some acoustic seasoning has been sprinkled on it. Coherency and integration are pronounced; all the frequencies arrive collectively and are delivered in a single package deal. An Previous World, “speaking with one voice” high quality is clear, a century-old aesthetic originating in Japanese Europe that has been out of favor in America for a very long time. Within the USA, we favor a New World fashion characterised by spot-lit devices and frequencies heard disconnected from one another. Nearly all of audio cables are on this camp.

Orchestra in a Field

The Flow positioned the soloist up entrance and middle, and relegated the orchestra to second fiddle, so to talk. Its low-level noodlings coming from behind and on both aspect of the cellist are virtually like an afterthought and made me assume the LP had a stability difficulty. That is comparatively widespread with many concerto recordings, nevertheless it was excessive on this case. The soundstage occupied the area between the audio system, additionally in its method typical of many audio techniques.

How the FMR Phono Cable Does It

By means of the FMR Phono Cable the cellist stays outstanding, however the eager acuity of the FMR uncovered a dimension of texture and low-level dynamic occasions within the orchestral half beforehand unheard. The stability challenge isn’t as disturbing. Although the orchestral scoring is sparse and marked piano, the counterpoint is critical. These aren’t throwaway elements.

The FMR delightfully resolves slight timbral variations and discriminates which of the 4 strings of the solo instrument is being performed as he strikes across the instrument. The FMR has a bias in the direction of magnificence—its timbres are merely beautiful. Texture, timbre, internal life—the FMR enhances all, however the embellishment doesn’t appear misplaced. Nobody questioned its truthfulness. And it does this with out incurring the disagreeable penalty of creating the listener really feel assaulted by an overload of element. It is there, however not thrust on you. For sure, you aren’t getting this degree of differentiation from the Flow—or any cable I do know of.

I haven’t got a dB meter, however I might swear dynamic vary widened. I do know this as a result of I matched preamp quantity ranges when switching between the Flow and the FMR, and the FMR pressured me to show down the dial. It is fascinating that the STEALTH Helios did this as nicely, however from the opposite aspect. With that cable, dynamic vary expanded on the low aspect. The noise flooring dropped precipitously (nothing can match the Helios right here) and low-level, barely liminal stuff surfaced. It made me flip up the quantity management.    

How the STEALTH Helios Does It

The STEALTH Helios has what I (and I belief, most audiophiles) would name precision. Its expansive stage is full of pictures and knowledge and resembles a densely populated duplicate like a table-top set piece. The pictures are small, though full-bodied, and every owns a parcel of this actual property. The residents keep put of their little acre, by no means commingling or socializing with their neighbors. It’s extremely clear and tidy, nothing is misplaced, and it’s extremely straightforward to comply with the person musical strains. However there’s additionally a level of rigidity.

The Orchestra Escapes the Field

The FMR presents an equally exact, expansive stage, however the photographs are bigger and have tender boundaries—softer than the Helios (however not as smooth because the Flow). This makes the FMR soundstage extra versatile than the Helios (and rather less than the Flow). It additionally makes the FMR much less forgiving and a bit more durable than the Flow.

Because the sound swells, the devices enlarge together with it, tending to spill over and commingle with their neighbors. They transfer round freely and also you by no means get a way of rigidity.

And when the orchestra crescendos, it typically jumps out of the imaginary field between the audio system, pushing towards the aspect partitions. At these occasions it sounds prefer it wants a much bigger room.

Conclusion

We’ve got reached the top of my mini phono cable shootout. I auditioned 4 cables that might make any audiophile comfortable. All had superlative qualities, but every was fairly distinct.

It was lucky that I completed up with the Flow Master Reference Phono Cable from Argento Audio. Positive, it pushes each button necessary to the audiophile, however it went past the previous canine and pony present. The FMR opened up new prospects in vinyl copy. It’s in all probability probably the most musically ingratiating cable I’ve encountered and, in the identical breath, it’s wholly credible. The FMR is one thing you do not come throughout each day: a cable that reproduces beautiful magnificence and is extraordinarily persuasive that it is the fact.

Flow Master Reference Phono Cable

Retail: $14,500/1.2 m RCA-RCA or XLR-XLR       

Retail: $15,500/1.2 m DIN to RCA or XLR             

(worth topic to vary as a consequence of fluctuating trade charges)

Argento Audio

Denmark

www.argento.dk


Half Two: The Floor Wire Saga Continues

Some cable designers consider the bottom is an important wire in an interconnect or phono cable.

When reviewing the Flow Phono cable I stumbled upon a relationship with an out sized influence that no one’s speaking about: the phono floor wire. Most individuals assume floor wires are just for eliminating hum. Sure, however…

Right now we perceive floor potential results extra completely. The truth is a minor tweak business has spawned. Out of the blue there are third events providing competing options that often contain grounding elements to a central chassis. Skinny wires are run from the central chassis (which serves in its place earth) to every element. The aim is that every thing sees the identical floor potential. A few of these corporations have found utilizing a greater wire makes the sound higher and have began to market premium wires.

Questioning if this may apply to the turntable floor as nicely, I did an experiment with three floor wires: the one which got here with the Kronos; the one which got here with the Flow; and a do-it-yourself one. The phono cable was untouched, solely the bottom modified. Though not large (not as a lot as you’d get by altering an influence cable, for instance), sonic variations have been famous in all instances. The bottom wire that got here with the Flow was the clear choice.

Prototype Floor Wires: First Iteration

Then the enjoyable started. I emailed Ulrik these outcomes and he obtained on board with the undertaking. When he despatched me the FMR Phono he included a prototype floor wire. It has the identical spade termination and black dielectric because the one which got here with the Flow, however it’s bulked up quite just like the FMR itself. It has 4 copper wires in a twisted bundle, as an alternative of a single just like the Flow floor has.

We started a dialog.

MN: Preliminary outcomes with the proto floor cable are good. It’s a bit darker and hotter; you lose some brightness and crispness. However the sound is MUCH extra resolving and insightful than with the usual one.

UM: Thanks for the enter. I’ll undoubtedly attempt different designs given the numerous enchancment in sound high quality.  Are you up for an additional floor proto or two?

The subsequent day I emailed him:

Final night time I attempted the bottom wire packaged with the STEALTH Helios phono with the FMR. It was good, in most respects nearly as good as your proto floor, besides a bit darker nonetheless.

The STEALTH phono floor is a really vital floor wire. It seems to be like a 3rd sign bearing cable as huge because the conductor wires, with the identical dielectric and diameter. In different phrases, it’s an elaborate, absolutely conceived cable. 

Interconnect-High quality Floor Wire Prototypes

The comparability to STEALTH should have greased the wheel. Sooner or later, a parcel arrived with two extra prototypes. Now we enter the realm of interconnect-quality floor wires.

UM: The cargo with the extra floor cables ought to arrive at your home tomorrow. The cargo incorporates two cables:

Cable 1: The very same cable as we use for the conductors within the FMR phono.

Cable 2: four occasions the cable we use for the conductors within the FMR phono.

Ulrik was cautious to level out none of those protos make use of any type of shielding. He has robust considerations concerning the overuse of protecting: it have to be used with warning. For consistency’s sake, let’s label these floor wires as follows: The primary with the quad copper is Proto #1; the one with the identical silver because the FMR phono is Proto #2; and the final with quad silver is Proto #Three.  

Second iteration

Proto #2 drastically shifted the tonal stability upwards. It is getting repetitive, however I remind you as soon as once more: the phono cable itself was not touched; solely the bottom was changed. It sounded so shiny I needed to shortly take away it, however I questioned if probably burn-in could be mandatory so I gave it three days of burn-in, then observed it had calmed down and adjusted considerably. So, sure, floor wires do have a settling in interval. What’s extra, it solely counts as burn-in if sign is flowing. Go determine.

Proto #2 continues to be a lot lighter in tone than the quad-copper Proto #1. Nevertheless, it introduced out a degree of element and nuance not heard with the copper floor wires.

Three floor cables

Third Iteration

Proto #Three is a monster. It does not appear to be Proto #1 with 4 cables twisted collectively, or just like the FMR phono itself with two cables twisted collectively. Proto #Three got here in a tube a lot thicker than the FMR phono cable. Inside is a bundle of 4 cables organized with the type of elaborate geometry that you simply discover in interconnects.

My hopes have been excessive once I slipped in a virgin Proto #Three. They have been shortly dashed. It was vibrant, harsh, and sounded so confused I even went behind the rack to verify if the preamp had one way or the other gotten out of part. I left it to burn-in some extra. A day later it was nonetheless unlistenable. After one other day I used to be surprised by the metamorphosis.

Again to Proto #1

I did a number of demos of those protos for guests utilizing the Merikanto LP. Proto #1, the quad copper conductor, has a ballsy type of sound with lots of heft however not a lot delicacy. Jonathan famous it had fabulous string tone. Joseph identified the descending triplet performed by the harp originally of the Merikanto is sort of clearly said as “ding, ding, ding.”

Swapping to Proto #2, the descending triplet receded and the soloist blended extra with the chamber orchestra. I used to be struck by the unimaginable degree of element! It’s nonetheless brighter, however not in a great way.

Slipping in Proto #Three, there’s final readability within the descending “ding, ding, ding” on the Merikanto. From my very own notes for Proto #Three: “Wow! The sound got so BIG. Amazing staging, more color, powerfully dynamic—more of everything.” The impression was drastic. Proto #Three combines the weighty tone of the copper Proto #1 and the finesse of the silver Proto #2.

Universally, guests have been in disbelief. How a floor wire might yield the sorts of sonic variations that you’d get from swapping from low-end to mid-level to-high-end cables boggled their collective minds. It doesn’t carry a sign! Additional, plainly every little thing essential in interconnect design—the conductor materials, its geometry, probably even shielding and dielectric—all appear to use to floor wires as nicely.

Ulrik indicated that the upgraded floor wires can be out there someday subsequent yr.

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