Montaudio Cables REVIEW
Montaudio Cables REVIEW
RICHARD VAREY auditions some rather special audiophile cables and is surprised at the sound improvement.
From $349 for 1 meter – Waitaki Digital Cable
From $639 for 1 meter – Bowen Interconnects
Following my satisfying audition of their vibration control footers, I took a long listen to a pair of Montaudio analogue interconnects and a digital cable.
The job of an interconnect is to conduct electrical ‘signals’. It couples the output and input stages of audio components, and due to the electrical characteristics of all wires, inevitably the signals are also ‘conducted’ like an orchestra.
The resistance, inductance, and capacitance of a conductor configuration has an effect on the input signal and may change it such that the alteration is audible. Susceptibility to pickup of electromagnetic ‘noise’ from the surroundings is also an issue with tiny audio-level currents. The matching of interconnects to components is a consideration often overlooked, yet it’s important in the overall sound quality of a hi-fi system because the cables can affect the performance of the sources, amplifier, and speakers.
How an interconnect conducts, how it couples, how it endures use and how it looks are all design considerations, and it’s complicated as these interact and can be in opposition. At the extremes, low-cost durable high-performance cables may be ugly, while luxury sonic jewellery may spoil the sound.
The Montaudio team seem to have got it right with the Bowen AC-1 analogue RCA interconnect and the Waitaki DH-1 Silver hybrid digital coaxial cable. They look and feel right – attractive and reassuringly engineered and well made, and certainly not mere fashion bling.
The wood and heavy metal connectors feel very solid and look very elegant; the cable is flexible which is great for connecting lightweight small components and for routing the cables between components, the sleeve is a subtle and quite attractive colour, pattern, and texture; and, the sound quality is excellent. Then there’s the price. It sometimes seems that audio cables are priced according to the size of the audiophile’s wallet. Yet, here in New Zealand, I have found a range that is sensibly priced, and thus easily affordable and good value for serious audiophiles.
The Bowen AC-1 is a triple-conductor balanced cable using high purity 5N 99.9997 percent Linear Crystal-Oxygen Free Copper (LC-OFC). It has two 19-core 0.15 mm diameter conductors and a 7-core 0.25 mm dia. conductor, in a high quality Polyethylene dielectric. Shielding is copper foil and OFC braid. The connectors are pure red copper conductor, 24K gold-plated in a stainless steel case with hand-polished natural walnut sleeve.
The Waitaki DH-1 is a silver hybrid digital coaxial cable of silver-plated 5N 99.9997 percent LC-OFC comprising seven cores of 0.35 mm diameter, in a high quality Polyethylene dielectric. Shielding is copper foil and braided silver-plated OFC. The connectors are the same as the Bowen.
What carries the electrical current is crucial for effectiveness, as is shielding from intrusion, and also configuration and mechanical durability. I asked about the materials and construction, and here is what the Montaudio team told me:
“Every Montaudio terminated cable is finished with a direct braid-on jacket rather than an off-the-shelf slip-on jacket, to ensure the tailor-made fit. Each braided jacket comes with an easy visual identifying system of either platinum-grey strips for cables with silver-plated conductors, or gold-yellow strips for cables with copper conductors.
“With the prevalence of wireless signals such as mobile phones, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in and around homes, shielding in audio cables plays a critical role in maintaining clean signal delivery. By employing a fully shielded design with end-to-end Copper or aluminium foil in combination with either silver-plated or non-plated OFC braided mesh, external interferences are prevented from reaching the premium conductors, ensuring distortion-free transmission.
“Insulation serves as a key design component of an audio cable where it separates and prevents signal crosstalk between the different bundles of conductors. The designers have chosen Polyethylene PE as the base insulation material, because its high dielectric strength, low dielectric constant, and low dissipation factor at all frequencies, makes it the ideal insulation material across the different cable types in the Montaudio range.
“The use of natural solid wood on every connector is both a practical and an aesthetic design choice by Montaudio designers. Precision-machined and expertly hand-polished, with colour and patterns visually matched, every connector is imbued with a unique character as no two connectors are alike. Apart from being non-magnetic, solid wood is also a natural vibration dampener, which works in conjunction with the underlying precision-machined metal casing to further isolate the cable from external vibrations, such as those from equipment. The result is a connector that is warm to the touch with alluring looks, and yet highly practical.
“To best preserve signal conduction paths, Montaudio have designed and developed in-house premium connectors with a solid single-piece conductor. Covering BFA Banana, Spade, unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR connections, all connectors share this key design principle. Every design detail was meticulously tested and refined, from bend angles to mould design, to ensure exceptional fit and finish. In addition, all main conductors are fabricated from a solid piece of premium pure red copper, which are plated with precious metals to guard against oxidation, ensuring long-lasting performance.
“Extra effort is made in securing and shielding of fine signal interconnect cable terminations, such as the analogue RCA, XLR, and Digital Coaxial Cables. Electrically neutral sealants are used to fill any air gaps between the conductor and the connector, which are then wrapped in copper foil. This provides long-lasting protection against oxidation and reduces vibration, as well as further shielding against external electromagnetic interferences. Every cable is manually tested before it is carefully packed and labelled by hand”.
I’ve been using a 1.5m Bowen RCA pair to connect my phono preamp to my Black Ice Audio Fusion F360 tube preamp, with very pleasing results. The 1.5m Waitaki has been connecting my Pioneer PD-30 SACD player to my Black Ice Audio DAC Transport. All of the plugs are a firm fit to the sockets, and the flexible cables were easy to route neatly. I have no doubts over the effectiveness in supporting a most enjoyable rendering of my recorded music. I use Viganoni & Viganoni Sachem v2 monoblock amplifiers, which were designed to be very clean and dynamic. Thus they are very revealing, especially of shortcomings in clarity, detail, and recording quality. The Montaudio promotional materials for these cables talk of crisp, clean, smooth frequency response, and natural, powerful/muscular tonal delivery. In use over several weeks, these cables have been a satisfying asset for my system, and at no time have I discerned any shortcomings in the sound quality.
Montaudio’s promotional line is “Pure – Natural – Simple – Elegance”, and I agree wholeheartedly that they achieve this with these soundly-engineered interconnects.
The cables are supplied in smart, appropriate boxes that are not wastefully ostentatious.
These cables are highly recommended for neat, smart, effective, durable, value-for-money equipment connections. If you enjoy high-fidelity home listening, that’s exactly what you need for your system.
The cable range is available from www.montaudio.com