Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Cairn Fog v2.0 as transport; Zanden Audio Model 5000 MkIII DAC; Ortho Spectrum AR-2000 filter/buffer on the DAC's analog outputs; Accustic Arts Drive 1; Eastern Electric MiniMax CDP [on review]; Ensemble Dirondo transport & Dichrono HiDac [on review]
Preamp/Integrated: Bel Canto PRe2 GenII; Eastern Electric MiniMax [on loan]; Acoustic Reality eAR Pre2 [on review]; Antique Sound Lab MGHead DT/OTL 32 [on review]; Wyetech Labs Opal [on review]
Amp: AUDIOPAX Model 88; Bel Canto eVo 4 GenII; Eastern Electric MiniMax amplifier [on review]
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic DUO; nOrh SM 6.9, Gallo Acoustic Reference III
Cables: HMS Grand Finale; Analysis Plus Solo Oval and Oval 8; i2digital X-60 and Stereovox HDXV S/PDIF cables; Mapleshade Ebony active S/PDIF interconnect; Furutech Digi. Reference BNC-BNC digital cable; ma recordings BNC/BNC reference digital cable [on review]; Mapleshade Planar power cord with DC bias; Audio Magic Clairvoyant power cords; Crystal Cable Reference complete wire set of analog and digital interconnects, speaker cables and power cords; Z-Cable Reference Cyclone power cords on both powerline conditioner; 2 x Stealth Audio Cables Indra analogue &Varidig S/PDIF cable [on review]; Artistic Audio Vacuum Reference S/PDIF [on review]; Dynamic Design digital interconnects [on review]; Audience Au24 digital interconnect [on review]
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: BPT BP-3.5 Signature; Walker Audio Velocitor for source components
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for tube amps; GPA Apex footers underneath stand and speakers; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell wall sockets; Musse Audio resonance dampers on DUO subs; Mapleshade 4" solid maple platform under BPT conditioner
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan and significant 'active' cubic air volume of essentially the entire (small) house
Review component retail: $5,750/pr
|The cat's outa the bag. A whole chorus of observers -- Jim Merod of OnSoundandMusic.Com, Marshall Nack of Positive Feedback, correspondents on AudioAsylum plus our own Jules Coleman and yours truly -- have seen her high-tail it from obscurity to blatant visibility. We all went on record that her color is a deep jet black. Black as in black magic to hint at the impossible. Black also as in hideously expensive. I'm of course talking about the Stealth Indra amorphous platinum+ molybdenum+gold alloy interconnect. Its magic is so black as to now garner it the byline of "Best in the World" with a very high level of probability.
I was very curious to learn how reviewers after my world premiere review would describe their own reactions to Indra. Marshall Nack's concluding paragraph is very telling in that regard: "The Stealth Audio Indras are truly neutral interconnects that, unlike others in the neutral camp, do no harm to the musical gestalt. They excel in the areas of dynamic freedom, treble extension and focused sound energy. In their unique ability to avoid the impurities imposed by the medium (electron flow) on a signal-carrying wire, and in their chameleon-like adaptation to the source, the Indras help us transcend the awareness that we're listening to an audio system. There's no hype but plenty of liquidity. Returning to a pair of my reference cables, I'm saddened to note the coarseness and noise riding on the signal, the treble deterioration in crescendos, the general lack of finesse and polish and the inescapable credibility gap. If you want to impress people with hi-fi sonics, the Stealth Audio Indra interconnects may not be for you. What they do best is just what we're used to hearing every day - they come closer to recreating the real thing than any cable I've yet encountered."
It's one thing to say something is the best one has yet encountered. It's quite another to explain concisely why. In his own precise words, Marshall describes exactly the same thing I heard - a level of neutrality that becomes truly appreciable only once you return to prior references and notice the high degree of signal manipulation they're still guilty of. The Indra is like purified water frozen in metal form to pass signal without any colorations whatsoever - or at least, colorations so much fainter than usual that we'd only know them to exist if some other cable came along that, by subtraction, proved an even higher degree of bona fide sonic invisibility.
There's one point I promised to add to my original review: Would 2 Indras in series net further dividends? Or would the second Indra in the system be merely a show-off expenditure with little aural benefits? I'm sorry to having to report today that things are about to get even blacker yet. Despite my own earlier rumors to the contrary, a second Indra is not a frivolous trophy acquisition as much as your accountant might wish it to be so. But then, if any of us truly involved our accountants in our perfectionist audio pursuits, would we own much or any perfectionist audio to begin with? From a financial aspect, it's undoubtedly a terrible investment. How much do professional pencil pushers and number crunchers know about passion though? Once we consider the deep soul satisfaction of musical bliss, financial musings 'repent' in best Christian tradition. They make a complete 180° turnabout into both commitment and 'committed' terrain.
|Having by now spent considerable time with two Indras (one black, one white), ultra-revealing source components including the Accustic Arts Drive 1, the Ensemble Dirondo transport, the Zanden Model 5000 and Ensemble Dichrono HiDAC and both the Gallo Reference³/SA combo and my statement Avantgarde Duos, I'm forced to retract my earlier 'one is sufficient' statement. It was one of those typical 'what you don't know can't hurt you' preemptive reflexes. The actual truth of knowing better now hurts a lot. While the second Indra doesn't make quite as drastic an entrance as the first, its subsequent insertion is anything but hohum and probably nets slightly more than half again the benefits of the first. If you reread my original review, you'll have to concur that this is very significant indeed. Rather than repeating myself, I'll share with you how moon man Jeff Day characterized the sound of my system during his recent visit:|
"The music just flows and breathes completely organically, without any effort or signs of artificiality." Jeff nailed it. Of course he listened to the system as a whole and couldn't know that this very specific quality was a function of the Indras. We had too much fun socializing to even worry about proving this point by substituting the Stealth Cables with something else. If things are right, why worry about proof? Hearing and the emotional response thereof is all the proof we require.
By using the Orthospectrum AR-2000 buffer on my DACs' outputs, I could increase the number of required interconnects to three to add one non-Indra pair somewhere in the chain. I experimenting with the 'odd' cable in position 1 (DAC), 2 (buffer) and 3 (Bel Canto PRe2). It quickly became apparent that its relative contribution to a lessening of performance was most significant in the #1 spot and least noticeable in #3. This confirmed conceptual notions about putting your best cable at the source. With the odd cable, whatever deviations from absolute neutrality it introduced at this early juncture became more objectionable than in the later hand-over between preamp and monoblocks.
|Needless to add, this cable is pricey - though not as bad as some which manage to double its asking price. After a chatroom response to my original writeup in which the poster ridiculed the claims of inherent expense for true amorphous metals, I did a bit of research. Amorphous metals -- or metallic glass alloys as they are also known -- are a flourishing new field of hi-tech research. For example, from July 11-16 of this year, the Metz University of France is hosting the 12th International Conference on Liquid and Amorphous Metals while the Caltech Center for Structural Amorphous Metals is a university-led research project aimed at developing bulk amorphous metals for structural engineering applications. It was initiated in May 2001 as part of a broader program sponsored by the Defense Sciences Office of DARPA.|
|The project is administered by the Army Research Office. "One novel method used for identifying new alloys systems utilizes centrifugal processing. Spinning the molten metal at accelerations of up to 120 G results in sedimentation and stratification of phases, allowing easy identification of crystalline and eutectic phases in the solid. Processing is being addressed by the development of a high-pressure injection casting system in the Material's Science lab at Caltech. This system will allow the fabrication of high quality specimens for use by the mechanical testing group."
Visiting DuPont's website, one learns that Teflon® AF is a family of new amorphous fluoropolymers with unique properties that distinguish the amorphous variants from their non-amorphous or standard cousins. For example, Teflon® AF polymers have the lowest dielectric constant as well as lowest refraction index of any known solid polymer. Without becoming any more specific, this miniature brush against the type of corporations and military/government agencies that are involved in these amorphous material sciences clearly indicates very complex methods of manufacture, protracted research and associated costs.
Confession time: I'm not someone who has dabbled far and wide in the ultra-expensive realm of cables à la NordOst, Purist and Transparent though I did have a $100,000+ wire set of NBS Black Label for a short while. One must insist that a reviewer render ultimate performance judgment purely on his or own authority. With that, I simply refer you to my original review. But how to assign contextual value? That requires appropriate experience. Experience is not something you can fake. You've got to put in the requisite time to divine the outer limits of any given component category. Until then, you need assistance in the form of open dialogue with peers and colleagues. In fact, that's the very definition of audiophile community. It's why 6moons keeps close ties with Positive Feedback Online whose owners and contributors believe in the same principle.
Hence I've waited whether or not to bestow an award on the expensive Indra. I now feel as certain as it is possible that Indra's stunning performance in Taos is indeed universally applicable and unique. To put the final nail into this coffin, Dr. Jim Langham from Berkeley called me a few days ago. Jim is one of the West Coast's most dedicated audiophile extremists and soon-to-be-owner of a 5-way aluminum horn speaker system whose Japanese compression drivers weigh in at $10,000/pr in raw parts cost alone i.e. eat up $30,000 for merely 6 of its 10 transducers. Ouch!
|Xtreme audio? You bet. Jim's been through some of the finest components money can buy. [And yes, Jim's already invited me to an informal on-site "review" of this Alon Wolf-designed Magico system when he's taken delivery and set it up.] I asked the good doctor about his interconnect cable of choice. Can you guess? Indra. The parallel findings of our own Jules 'Coolman' Coleman with his prior references of 20+ years in this hobby, the above-referenced reviews elsewhere, my own ongoing experiments and additional e-mail feedback from Indra owners in the wake of 6moons' two prior Indra reviews now amounted to a veritable mountain of independent contextual data. Serguei Timachev's Stealth Indra is most likely the best interconnect in the world. And without any qualification whatsoever, it is a bona fide breakthrough product no matter how and where you twist it.
To recap: Serguei's cable is not an even subtle tone control. Rather, his Indra let's you hear your components bare-ass nekkid. Think Adam and Eve gallivanting in Paradise prior to the fall of the (Persian?) apple. Forget the usual layers of cable-induced clothing and the associated matters of style and alterations. Those will be stripped away. Clearly, not every system is ready for the full Monty on prime time audiophile stage. Not every system will withstand the scrutiny of component mismatches that were previously disguised by cable-specific complementary colorations. However, you could also find that your components are even better than you thought. There's no knowing until you try.
And that's what it really comes down to in the end: If you have any chance at all to try just one pair of these hyper-thin-conductor super-exotic Indras with their proprietary Carbon fiber/Teflon/silver Stealth connectors, consider it your audiophile duty to check them out. When it comes to cables, you could discover that bare-ass nekkid really is the way to go. Even us aging audiophiles can look absolutely splendiferous in this type of nudist colony. And here's one last reason: The level of transparency and effortless gushing which Indra so readily affords means you can listen at far lower-than-usual levels and not miss a thang. In other words, you no longer need to drive the missus out of the house with raise-the-dead volumes.
On second thought, that could be an even better reason than joining an audiophile nudist colony. Hell, it's definitely the better reason. The Indra is my new and uncontested reference in low-level signal cables.