Von Gaylord Audio Cables
|Von Gaylord Audio Cables|
2 June 2003
Chinchilla Interconnect Cable (XLR and RCA)
Chinchilla Digital S/PDIF Cable
Chinchilla Loudspeaker Cable
Chinchilla Power Cord
(All cables listed above are made of high purity copper and silver and are finished in a acid-free tubing.)
Chinchilla Interconnect (XLR) $1,350/1m pair
Chinchilla Interconnect (RCA) $1,450/1m pair
Chinchilla Digital S/PDIF cable $995/1m each
Chinchilla Loudspeaker cable $3,600/8′ pair
Chinchilla Power Cord $795/6′ each
Von Gaylord Audio
2430 Fifth Street
Unit G & H
Berkeley, California 94710
Von Gaylord Audio (formerly Legend Audio Design) has been in business since 1992. Until 1995 they were mainly known in Asia and Europe. But in 1995, while still under the name Legend Audio, they were finally introduced to the U.S. market. Since that time, Von Gaylord Audio has garnered high praise from audiophiles and a good deal of critical acclaim from the audiophile press. While the company has never indulged in loud or splashy advertising campaigns, Von Gaylord Audio has chosen to concentrate its efforts on high quality parts and the kind of circuit refinements that result in superior sounding products. Excluding a turntable, Von Gaylord Audio now offers audiophiles a complete ensemble system including the new Chinchilla range of cables that are the subject of this review. Typically when a component manufacturer develops a line of cables such as these, there is a tendency to assume that these cables are intended to be used only with their equipment. In this case, nothing could be further from the truth.
This was the first opportunity I had to audition any Von Gaylord products in my system. I have become quite familiar with the sound of their electronics over the course of many listening sessions at the home of my Stereo Times colleague Marshall Nack. So when presented with the opportunity to review these cables, I was quite eager to do so.
The Chinchillas sit at the very top of Von Gaylord’s cable line. All Chinchillia cables are finished in a blue/gray acid free tubing that from a distance, has the appearance of cloth fabric. The interconnects can be terminated with high quality RCA or XLR connectors, while sturdy spades terminate the speaker cables.
According to the manufacturer, all Chinchillia cables and interconnects are made of very high purity copper and silver. The speaker cables are made of multi-gauged strands that are placed parallel to each other inside of the tubing. One set of speaker wire consists of four individual cables. This can allow more flexibility with regard to placement. If you have a small area for your equipment and your rack is also crowded with gear, this flexible quality can make life easier.
The interconnects also contain multi-gauged strands of copper and silver, however some are twisted, while others are placed in parallel inside of the jacket. Both the interconnects and digital cable are braided in order to provide good RFI and EMI rejection.
As I have already said, Von Gaylord is a quiet company. They never make any claims of discovering “revolutionary new technologies,” or to have re-defined the laws of physics. Rather than indulge in such hyperbole, they have spent their time and resources developing very high quality tube gear that delivers a large degree of musical satisfaction. Judging by the growing number of satisfied customers, they are reaching their goals.
Since I received the cables at different times, it took much longer than usual to burn them in. I found that they needed about one hundred hours before any serious listening could be done. I don’t mean to say that they were in any way unlistenable right out of the box, because this is not the case. In fact, they sounded pretty good from the beginning.
Once the Chinchillia interconnects had arrived, I installed them and began to give them the necessary hours of burn-in that they required. At eight hours a day, we’re talking about roughly twelve days of burn-in time to reach one hundred hours. I hate to think of what reviewers who have large tube mono blocks must do in this situation. After a full burn-in, everything was in place. At that point, I sat down to give the system, fully wired by Von Gaylord, a serious listen.
My listening for review purposes began with my usual references. Patricia Barber’s Companion album [Blue Note/Premonition 7243 5 22963 2 3] was first up. The bass solo that opens cut two, “Use Me”, was slightly less detailed or textured than I have previously heard it, but at the same time it was rounder and somewhat richer sounding tonally.
With the Chinchillia power cords in the system, I would best characterize their effect as a slight sweetening of the sound. While the low-level detail seemed further diminished, there was a corresponding increase in tonal richness. The reduction in the level of detail was so slight that I didn’t feel that I was missing anything significant. The overall result was more musical to my ear. Returning to Patricia Barber, her vocals sounded quite full. The breathiness was still there, yet there was the perception of more resonance or body. The tonal balance from top to bottom was good. While the bass was full and round, it was never loose or flabby. I have a number of recordings that contain a good deal of low-end energy. Three in particular are: Mino Cinelu’s self-titled debut CD [Blue Thumb Records,314 546 403-2], Etta James’ Life, Love and the Blues [Private Music 01005-82162-2] and the most unusual of the three, Mark Ishim’s Original soundtrack from the movie, Romeo is Bleeding, [Verve Digital 833 235-2]. In my opinion, Mino Cinelu is a multi-talented musician who has produced a very interesting CD. Track two, “Moun Madinina”, is very percussive and includes a number of heavy whacks on the bass drum. The Von Gaylord cables maintain their balance with this piece. The sometimes intense low frequency energy was maintained with the rest of the spectrum. I have heard this piece with other cables that could not maintain this kind of balance and allowed the low end to get quite out of control. In those instances, the bass was totally overwhelming.
The same can be said for the Etta James CD as well. Track two on this album is the heavy hitter as far as low-end punch goes. Here again, it was handled with good balance and never allowed to become overwhelming.
Mark Ishim’s recording is a very moody introspective piece that will really work your woofers. While an acoustic bass is used on almost all of the tracks, it is also quite prominent. Here, it was reproduced with a good sense of solidity, weight and detail. With the Chinchillia lineup in place, the full weight and impact of these CDs were reproduced very well. I would have to describe the bass performance of these cables as full, well-controlled, while also rounded and tuneful.
The all-important midrange was served equally well by the Chinchilla cables. You will especially enjoy well-recorded material with these cables. Jon Faddis’ Remembrances, [Chesky – JD166], is a superb recording of standards and original material by Jon Faddis and Carlos Franzetti. The Chesky brothers have earned an enviable reputation for their audiophile-quality recordings, and this one is no exception. You can easily hear the tonal shadings and delicacy of Jon’s trumpet solos throughout this recording. The strings were never edgy or strident. Rather, they came across with a “silky” quality that allowed them to sound more realistic to me.
Female voices were also very enjoyable with these cables. The sampler Chesky 2k [Chesky – JD200] includes several cuts that feature female leads. Track six, “Africando” by Ana Caram, is a good case. The Chinchillas present Ana’s voice very clearly while preserving all of the nuance and color. Track eight features Carla Lother performing “The Lake”. Again, the difference in the vocal detail is readily apparent. She has a slightly warm, smoky rasp to her voice that I enjoyed listening to. This entire CD is worth having, simply because it is an excellent recording. Throw in great music and you have a real bargain.
Two other CDs that I used were by Shirley Horn, the first of which was a live recording, I Thought About You: Live at Vine St. [Verve Digital 833 235-2]. Track six, “Summer” (Estate’), is a very intimate piece, allowing you to clearly hear the subtle phrasing Ms. Horn employs. You can tell by some of the small details that she is very close to the microphone. If you listen very closely at the beginning of the track, you can hear when she opens her mouth to begin the song. I have heard this song on systems that exhibited what I call “hyper-detail”, where it sounds as if Ms. Horn’s mouth were inches from your ear. Needless to say, I did not enjoy that experience. With the Chinchillas in my system, I heard these low level details but at a realistic level. They were exactly what I felt they should be – details whose levels are in proper proportion to the musical event. I was able to clearly hear the sonic clues that indicate the size of the room with live recordings. However, I felt that some of the kinds and levels of detail that some audiophiles and reviewers alike carry on about, could be ignored since they really have nothing to do with music in the first place.
The second CD was I Remember Miles [Verve 314 557 199-2]. This is a studio recording, but the sonics are very good. Again, the Chinchillas never obscured any of the delicate phrasing or intonation of the vocals. Roy Hargrove’s trumpet solos were clear and harmonically rich.
The midrange performance of these cables is the equal of anything that I’ve had in the system thus far. Transparency was enough to be convincing. By that I mean it wasn’t excessive or in any way over done. I have heard systems where transparency seemed to be the goal rather than the reproduction of music. It far surpassed anything that you would hear if you were at a live performance. When this happens, I find it more a distraction than an enhancement.
Treble extension was more than adequate. Jack DeJohnette’s intricate cymbal work on the CD Rypdol, Vitus, DeJohnette [ECM 1125 78118-21125-2] was very easily followed. The timbre changes were clearly audible when different areas of the cymbals were struck. These cables allowed the full harmonic characteristics of instruments to come through on disk after disk. I would describe the top end as sweet, but not excessively so.
Imaging was first rate. The Chinchillas float a very wide soundstage with excellent image specificity from left to right. In some instances, the images seemed to extend beyond the speakers. Vocalists were well centered and didn’t tend to wander about the stage. Images were well drawn, so to speak, without being “etched” to the point that draws your attention to the system, rather than allow you to focus on the music. Instruments were layered, although the sense of depth was somewhat foreshortened. I attribute this to my room rather than to the cables. I will say that what depth there was, was as good as I have heard with any cables in my system.
Large orchestral works were also well served by these cables. Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, [Reference Recordings – RR-93CD] is a large symphonic piece that sounded that way. That is, the largeness of the hall was appropriately indicated – neither too large nor small. The various sections were well placed across the stage quite naturally. The weight and solidity of the instruments from the lower midrange down resulted in a room-filling sonic presentation that did not require high volume levels to achieve.
If you look at the prices listed for the Chinchillas at the beginning of this article, you can easily make the case that they are very expensive. Conversely, if you look at the materials used and the labor involved in producing them, then look at the prices some other cable manufactures charge, these will seem reasonable.
This was a difficult review to finish because of what these cables don’t do. They do not call attention to themselves at the expense of the music. I won’t go so far as to say that they are “neutral” simply because I do not have a valid definition of that term as it is applied to audio. During my listening sessions, I had to constantly redirect my focus to how the Chinchillas were handling the sound rather than on how much I was enjoying the music.
“Musical” is an overworked term that is used to describe all manner of audiophile gear. But in this case, I find that it is the term that best describes how these cables performed in my system. They were also exceptionally well balanced from the bass through the top end. Tonally I would say that they were just a bit on the warm side of the street.
There was a total lack of edginess, hash or hardness. Instead of these qualities, there was a “roundness” to the music that I found appealing. These may not be the fastest cables out there, but I found them to have an engaging quality that made them very enjoyable during long listening sessions. Some of the cables I have heard that claim to have extreme speed and/or hyper-transparency, are also not what I want to listen to over the long haul. As I have said earlier, with the Chinchillas in my system, I kept forgetting about the audiophile checklist and simply enjoyed the music. After all is said and done, this is how I want it to be.
If you are an audiophile that evaluates and purchases equipment based on its abilities to bring you closer to the music, then you should investigate the Von Gaylord Chinchilla cables. If you are merely interested in “hi-fi” tricks, you should look elsewhere.
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