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Positive Feedback ISSUE48
as reviewed by Robert H. Levi
I have good news and bad news. The good news: Origo Interconnect and speaker cable from Jorma Design of Sweden is, based on my extensive auditioning, the most superbly neutral wire I have ever heard. The bad news: none. Oh yes, it's a bit pricey at $5250 per meter, but its competitors are even more expensive! Born of the $11,000 per meter Jorma Prime cable [a combination of the Origo's copper wire plus Bybee filters] the new Origo interconnect is the latest and most expensive edition to the Jorma lineup sans Bybees. Though I like the Prime a lot, I have never heard a complete Prime system and know the included Bybees behave differently and unpredictably in every application, and as such I don't think they are necessary in this application. Why? Because audiophiles at this exalted level already use top-notch power conditioners and such making the Bybees superfluous. The Origo joins another favorite of mine—the Kubala-Sosna Elation which have a different sonic signature and similarly superb definition—as the ultimate wires defining today's state of the art in connectivity.
I have been cable rolling for half a century, searching for the most transparent, neutral, unfailingly musical and harmonious wire around. I started with Belden 8421 and Fulton cables…50 years later… I am now listening and seduced by the Swedish Jorma Origo…which in English translates to absolute zero. Absolute zero just happens to be the amount of total interaction, coloration, distortion, noise, and artificiality I detect that the Origo contributes to a cutting edge super reference system like mine. The Origo provides an extraordinary and sonically shattering experience. I hope you love your amps, preamp, speakers, cartridge, phono stage, and CD player because you will hear them naked and revealed as never before when mated with the Origo. No tone controls these! Meaning you may be happy or unhappy with your gear with the Origo, because it will be your gear's innate flaws and colorations you will clearly hear. Or, you may be in nirvana like me, as one audiophile buddy remarked on hearing my system connected with Origo.
I recently reviewed the amazing London Reference [Decca] Phono Cartridge with the Origo as a tonearm wire between arm and phono stage. Of the many fabulous wires with which I tried to maximize the London, only the Origo brought it to life. This is the most interconnect sensitive cartridge that I have ever reviewed and it required the neutrality of the Origo. It got my attention folks! [I continue to use Kubala-Sosna Elation with the Grado Statement1.]
The power and abounding definition of the London Reference is dramatic because it has no cantilever. This direct coupling eliminates a major dampener of LP energy and this is apparent from the moment the stylus hits the record. Just about any coloration or extra energy at any frequency (from the interconnects) will pervert the London's performance. Add the Origo and you hear clarity, smoothness, and mighty slam as harmonious as a master tape. All other cables I had in house made the London sound rather lumpy and bumpy or dry and ordinary. Only the Origo let the London be exactly right.
The Primary Review System
The speakers are the Marten Birds from Sweden with diamond tweeters and Accuton ceramic drivers. A REL Stadium III sub is carefully tuned to 22Hz to provide the lowest octave. The amps are two E.A.R. 890 stereo amplifiers ran in mono mode. The preamp is the top of the line E.A.R. 912 Tube Preamp, and the CD player is the E.A.R. Acute sitting on a Townshend Seismic Sink. The phono stage is the solid state E.A.R. 324. The LP front end consists of the E.A.R. Disk Master Magnetic Drive turntable, two Helius Omega Tonearms one with Grado Statement1 cartridge and the other with the London Reference cartridge. Power conditioning includes the World Power Wing with all Kubala-Sosna Elation power cords. An Origo power cord was used for a brief period. The entire system is balanced throughout.
As amps, sources, and speakers have improved over the last 20 years and became more neutral and reliably musical, cables have lagged behind. Sure, there has been no shortage of cable brands and models, but most lacked the applications of advanced science. This is partly the fault of high-end equipment manufacturers who continue to claim that cables are snake oil or that their gear or speakers are so fantastic that nearly any cable from any top manufacturer will work just fine. These manufacturers of great front-end gear and speakers are just adding to the confusion. I have discovered from hours of listening to acoustic music in the form of LPs and CDs that compared to live unamplified performances I am very close to reliably reproducing the real thing in my home with two-channel reproduction! If you have the finest and most advanced electronics, speakers, and table like the E.A.R. Disk Master Turntable combined with the London Reference Cartridge, then proper connectivity is very probably all that's separating you from duplicating a compelling sound in your home.
I heard this in the Hansen room at CES with the huge and spectacular top of the line Hansen speakers, all Tenor electronics, DCS front end, and Kubala-Sosna Elation wires and AC cables. It was real music in real space when playing my reference CDs. Do you think that it would have sounded just as good with some lesser cabling? No way! How about Radio Shack or Best Buy wires, not a chance! Wires are truly important and essential components in getting the best from the best!
It has only been in the last few years that cable manufacturers have really come to understand that wire must be neutral [add or subtract nothing at any frequency] in a variety of audiophile applications. This is much more complicated than just providing low capacitance which was the cable penicillin of the high-end past. Hey, why do you think cables are not even being terminated with solder? Pressure sealing cables adds nothing sonically. Solder does. Cable manufacturers are learning about purer copper and other metals plus newly advanced connectors. Everything matters in cables just like in the electronics, and cable science and the cost of manufacturing and materials cost big bucks too; which is why the price of admission for the best is what it is.
The musical tastes of the cable developer have a big role to play. I love reading about a cable manufacturer that loves to record live music [Joe Kubala], adores acoustic instruments or plays one. J. Gordon Holt wondered how anyone could judge good sound and any sense of realism from anything other than acoustic music.
I surfed the Jorma website for clues to its uncanny performance. Other than a brief conversation with Jorma at CES, here's what I read…
From the Jorma Design Website: The Technology
Not a lot here about the "why" of this extraordinary cable, but according to Jorma, they use a proprietary treatment that affects the color of the copper resulting in part to its unique sonic properties. The 6000-volt jolt to the wire may affect it, too. Not really sure this is important, but it's fun to ask! Also, the Origos are very well shielded.
The Performance or the Sound of Nothingness
The Origo sounds quite unique. Its rendition of neutral is easy to hear and very attractive, but a sonic surprise nevertheless. I hear no added or subtracted dynamics to the musical flow at any frequency, subtle or otherwise. I hear no euphonic glazing or etch no matter how tiny. I hear no subtraction or added color to system definition from what should be there. Dynamics are precisely natural and even-natured top to bottom. The bass is most tuneful and highly detailed down to the lowest note. I can say the same of the mid-band and high-band responses. Ambience retrieval is unequaled. Airiness is unmatched. Imaging is top drawer. It's like driving a brand new Ferrari on a racetrack for the very first time; one you just received as a gift with all taxes prepaid. It's like the sound and temperament of a master tape playing only masters.
Origo is additive and addictive. Each meter added to my reference system demanded another. The combination of two sounded so improved and startling, I added a third. Single-ended or balanced were all just as fine. One meter or five meters long, it didn't matter. I added speaker cables…two and a half meters bi-wire…WOW! The Marten Birds sang and sang and disappeared even further from the room. The diamond tweeters sounded absolutely exquisitely right. The huge Accuton mids were unflappable. The big Accuton woofers were faster and cleaner than ever before. You get the picture. The parade of audiophiles to my home to hear this most amazing and revelatory sound continues. Call before you come, and when you do, please take a number. Next!
My favorite reference CD is Dialoghi from Yarlung Records. This faithful recording of a piano and cello, is for me, near perfect. With the Origo, it was in the room; clean and clear. I am convinced that prior to the Origo, no other cable brought me closer to the 'actual' recorded performance. Some cables made it sound more dramatic, and others enhanced ambience or added a lovely golden glow. But the Origo sounded like nothing at all. The instruments existed in space. There was a 'nothing-added' dullness in the reproduction just like you hear from instruments at a live concert from third row center without amplification. Let's call it a musical ease and relaxation. I've never tried wires that performed like these.
Listening to Harry James on the famous Sheffield LP, The King James Version, I hear the same sense of ease and naturalness, and it's more dynamic with the London Reference and more delicious with the Grado Statement1. The Origo defined the cartridge's performances. Now I know why Sheffield made the best LPs ever. They just get better and better as the envelope is pushed by the state of the art. The naturalness and mellifluous-ness of the trumpet must be heard to be believed with the Origo in the system.
Witches Brew, the RCA classic, is renowned for its dynamic range and musicality. I have the master lacquer cut by Bernie Grundman for Classic Records. With my usual interconnects throughout, the lacquer is exciting and most realistic. With the Origo, I hear something else. I hear the textural cues of the master tape itself. I hear the bland yet exhilarating sound of solidity and naturalness. I hear the colorations of the vintage electronics and mic's more clearly than before. Listening is more of an experience to be enjoyed, more triumphant, more intense.
Quibbles? Are you kidding? As I said above, there are none. By the way, Jorma breaks in the cables for the most part before shipping. Another day or two of listening is all they need to come to full potential.
The Origo Power Cord
Jorma makes an Origo Power Cord. I was only able to try one cord before press time and was very impressed. Cut from the same sonic cloth of suave neutrality as realized in the interconnect and speaker cables; it was clear, clean, and intensely musical. It had a relaxing and realistic character and was a welcome addition to every piece of high-end gear I tried. It was particularly superb and revealing on my E.A.R. 912 Preamp. I hope to get a few samples to try throughout an entire system, so more to report on when this happens.
My Other Top Reference Cable
The other reference cable in play is the Kubala-Sosna Elation cabling which continues to provide extraordinary definition though it appears to highlight midrange dynamics when directly compared to the Jorma Origo. I was hugely impressed with the all Elation system at CES and in my reference systems, and therefore absolutely recommend it. The Origo may be best with systems that are tuned to the edge. The Elations may be best for systems a bit more relaxed and reserved [though they sound great with the Martens, too]. Both cables have so few flaws (well for the Origos, none that I can ascertain) I must continue to include both as "best of class" for the audiophile perfectionist. I will continue to listen and study cable interactions as I review the upcoming Audience AU24 cables next month.
Jorma Design of Sweden has released its newest addition to its cable line of all copper interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords called the Origo. No Bybees on board, they are flexible, beautifully constructed, and expensive cables. Oh yes, I almost forgot, they redefine neutral and natural musical connectivity for today's most sophisticated audiophiles. They clearly deserve the state of the art designation. They are unsurpassed for ambience retrieval and have so little sonic signature of their own I don't hear it even with diamond tweeters on my loudspeakers or with Stax electrostatic headphones. There's something truly new here. My boundless recommendation for Jorma Origo. It's that good. Robert H. Levi
Interconnects, 1-meter (XLR/RCA): $5250/pair, each additional meter: $1875/pair
Revised interconnect rankings to include the latest listening sessions with cables ranked by reviewer preference within price categories as follows:
Over $4000 per meter
$2000 - 4000 per meter
$1000 - 2000 per meter
$450 - 1000 per meter
$250 - 450 per meter
Under $250 per meter