The DNM/Reson Solid Core Interconnects and Speaker Cable
|The DNM/Reson Solid Core Interconnects and Speaker Cable|
It was 20 years ago today, Denis Morecroft Taught the Band to Play
A Classic Design Lives On
Few audio products are still in production 20 years after their introduction. This is particularly so in the fly-by-night world of audio cables, where it seems every Moe, Larry, and Curley has a pretentiously-named, horrifically-priced, and short-lived cable line to titillate the loose pockets of jaded audiophiles hoping for some magical fix. That the DNM/Reson line of Solid Core interconnects and speaker cables has survived 20 years of fads and ‘cables of the hour’ speaks volumes about the inherent rightness of their original conception.
DNM are the initials of the UK’s Denis Morecroft, one of the truly original brains working in the field of audio. Innovative and able to think outside the dogmas of conventional thinking, he has pioneered some of the most unique and musically successful products to appear on the market in the last two decades. The list includes the Ringmat turntable platter mat, his DNM line of electronics, the Rota turntable, his early advocacy of ‘star grounding’ in circuit applications, the Reson line of phono cartridges, and his line of capacitors. UK-based and partly Swiss-manufactured, his products and the lines he inspired are highly sought after for their compelling and coherent musicality.
I’ve always had deep sympathy for mavericks – for those who can think outside of conventional mindsets and dogmas. Though the word is American, it seems that the UK is blessed with more of these individualist designers: a maverick Morecroft certainly is. The DNM interconnects, terminated with Eichmann Bullet connectors, retail for $245 a meter. The speaker cable is $25 per meter. Though the recent decline of the US dollar has jacked up the price of foreign goods, the price of the DNM cables still signals “Entry Level” from the point of view of The High End. That enough is liable to list him as a High End Heretic. High quality cables a normal music lover might actually afford? Call the Inquisition! His cables were equally controversial when they appeared in 1984.
Resembling superficially the thin twin-lead “T” antennas given away with tuners, the DNM/Reson interconnects and speaker cables shocked a cable world already deranged with ever-increasing cable thickness, rigidity and weight. Ethereal in its physical form, it used solid-core copper of 0.5 mm thickness, its positive and negative leads kept separate and equally spaced within its jacket. Although originally designed to optimally transfer signals for Morecroft’s own DNM preamps and power amps, the Solid-Core cables quickly found enthusiastic support in non-DNM applications and created a furor and a cult following in the UK. The controversy spilled off into the US, where the imbecile dogma of “Bigger, and More Expensive, is Always Better” was challenged at its very core. Audiophiles with long memories might recall enthusiasts raiding Radio Shack for its ultra-cheap 0.5 mm solid core wire, rolling their own cables, and reveling in the musically coherent results.
Unfortunately, DNM/Reson had spotty distribution in the US at the time, and I, like many, was prevented from hearing the real thing. Fortunately, Concert Sounds of Austin, Texas (run by the esteemed Creston Funks, Sr. and Jr.) is now importing the Solid Core line of cables, along with Reson cartridges, and the DNM electronics. Since Denis Morecroft developed the Solid Core cables exclusively to bridge his DNM electronics, he makes no claims to universality in application. This is less a matter of electrical mismatch per se than a difference in the goals and abilities of the components used. Compatibility revolves around the issue of whether the components are capable of reproducing the essentials of musical expression, i.e., coherent articulation of the musical universe of time through the media of rhythm, pulse and tempo; and the explication of the narrative of melodic line and harmony by correct accent, emphasis, phrasing, and punctuation.
I was not able to audition the Solid Core cables with DNM electronics (a review of which is in the works.) I did try the interconnect with 4 different preamp/power amp combinations and with a variety of CD players, integrated amps, and phono sections; the speaker cable was auditioned with 5 different sets of speakers.
The jacket of the cables is only partly flexible, precluding serious bending by accident: a good thing since solid core wires do not thrive on excessive flexing. The Eichmann Bullet interconnect RCA plugs can be somewhat tight on first connection, so care should be taken to apply force on the plug itself, rather than on the cable. The same applies to removal. I tried various treatments on the cables, including Z-Cable’s Z-Sleeves and Stillpoints ERS cloth and found no change, indicating that, at least in my environment, the cables are not sensitive to the vagaries of EMI. Burn-in took a good 30 hours or so; initial hook-up, while sonically acceptable, offered only a hint of what the fully broken in cable could do.
Immediate impressions are of speed, tautness, and control – with an almost disorienting lack of the weird artificial brightness and hash that is still the most common listener complaint of the sound of their systems. This is enough to guarantee deep satisfaction for the cables’ users. Unlike other cables that eliminate offensive brightness by rolling off the offending frequencies, the DNM cable leaves the top octaves intact. The quality difference between the top octaves of CD versus analog LP is easily perceptible. If you’ve relegated metal-dome tweeters to the “Avoid” bin, a listen to the DMN cables will challenge your prejudice. Indeed, this ubiquitous high-frequency hash and harshness is so pervasive that one is almost disoriented by its sudden disappearance.
A cross-section of a comparatively simple ten strand multi-core cable showing damaging field interaction. This magnetic mess reduces midband clarity and often creates a bright treble and indistinct bass.
A cross-section of a DNM reson cable shows its simple, clean and uniform magnetic field. Without such an illustration, it is easy to forget that music signals have an almost tangible shape in the form of magnetic fields.
Whether the DNM/Reson cable achieves this grace and freedom from nastiness by the lack of Skin Effect of the 0.5 mm diameter solid-core wire, by the lack of eddy currents generated by the cable’s spacing in its dielectric jacket, by the single ground created by the Eichmann plugs, or by the special Deltron single banana plugs is ultimately immaterial to a music loving listener. The end result is a musical clarity and coherence that is instantly convincing, and above all, moving.
Lovers of rhythm-based music will instantly glom onto the DNM’s wonderful way with rhythm, dynamics and drive: Boogie Factor is top drawer. The cable infectiously ‘teaches the band to play,’ and if they already know how, allows deep appreciation of a band’s tightness and drive. Immersion into music’s special universe of time is instantaneous.
Melodic lines and harmonies are equally coherent: there is a sense of rightness and natural clarity that is integrative rather than analytic, and that conveys the message of the musical narrative clearly and directly. Lyric intelligibility is first-rate; the cable tracks simultaneously occurring variations in volume levels very well, allowing perception of lead/accompaniment and the slight difference in volume of group singing and harmonies to be easily grasped. It does all this with an ease that is self-effacing: one listens to the music rather than to the “sound.”
Like most involved long-time in the audio trade (I guess 33 years qualifies as a long-time) I have my own Closet of Snakes – the depository of years of speaker cables and interconnects, now hopelessly intertwined, Hydra-headed, and snarled. The Closet is the history of disappointment, failure, obsolescence, near-misses, and “Close, but no Cigar!” Neatly coiled and labeled are the 10 or so cables that have passed muster and that I regularly use for listening and reviewing. Significantly, none of these cables outperform the DNM/Reson in every aspect of reproduction. Some might have a bit higher resolution in certain bands, some might present a more vivid soundstage hallucination, one might have a more dramatic sense of arrival at phrase endings, but none of them do as many things right as the DNM/Resons do. Even more alarming is a direct comparison with some of the current darlings of the High End cable world. There’s something disheartening about ultra-expensive cables that can’t do rhythm, can’t dance, and that mumble the musical narrative. On the other hand, it is extremely heartening that the reasonably priced DNM/Reson cables can. This makes them a must-have.
Which is not to say the cables are perfect. They lack ultimate ‘ultra-fi’ detail. There was a slight lack of rhythmic dynamics in the upper frequency reproduction, making some cymbal work less vivid than what I would prefer. The speaker cable’s series resistance can interact with some amplifier and speaker combinations (particularly those speakers which require an iron fist to control less than well-engineered woofer alignments,) leading to a somewhat ‘loose’ bass response. In my auditions, this only became a problem with tube amplifiers driving low-impedance speakers. It never led to boominess and, more importantly, rhythmic pulse was not affected, making this a quibble rather than an objection. Those, however, who would like legato bow-drawn string bass and cello to sound like staccatoSeinfeld segues might be disappointed.
The DNM/Reson cables are seductive and addicting: the complete immersion into musical performance makes it very difficult to return to cables that don’t have their élan and coherence. Engineering is the art of the trade-off; audio engineering art is the correct trade-off to suit one’s larger musical goals. I have to applaud DNM’s choice of trade-offs to pursue musical goals. Far too many High End companies operate under a single-minded, perpetually frustrated, Ideal design philosophy; attempting through high price and increasing complexity to copy, by definition, an unrealizable Ideal. Since the Ideal is unattainable, the audiophile embarks on an endless Quest of component changes and tweaks, desperately hoping to improve the minutiae of sonic artifacts. I have always favored companies who goal is the reproduction of music – of the seduction of the Illusion of music. The UK has excelled in this type of product.
Since the DNM cables’ introduction 20 years ago, a number of US cable companies have pursued solid-core technology. All of them immediately gave up the 0.5 mm wire thickness in a rococo multiplication of braiding, spiraling, and increasingly Anaconda-ish designs. None of them matched the DNM cables’ performance. Those music lovers tired of their own Closet of Snakes and fed up with obscenely priced “Cables of the Hour” will love the DNM/Reson cables. Twenty years ago, Denis Morecroft taught the band to play. He’s still doing it today.
Solid Core interconnect with Eichmann Bullet connectors: $148/meter.
Solid Core speaker cable: $25/meter. $18 for 4 Deltron Banana Plug termination.
830 W. 3rd St. Suite 1138
Austin TX 78701
Phone: (512) 236 9100
DNM UK Website: www.dnm.co.uk
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