Expensive cabling systems have become something 'common'—both for you, the readers of High Fidelity, and for us, the members of the Krakow Sonic Society. On one hand one might consider it a 'sign of our times', the average price of products of high-end companies sky-rocketed, but it's also also a sign of catching up with the rest of the audio world; now we have face exactly the same situation as everyone else. Nevertheless, the release of the next stratospheric set causes an ejection of adrenaline into the blood, goose-bumps and blushing of the cheeks. When additionally this set comes from the brand, which we know and respect, with the products we use, we can't help ourselves, we need to check it out.
Do I exaggerate? Of course, but don't we go overboard each time when a small improvement unnoticeable for 'regular' people is named by us a revolutionary, ground breaking and so on? Isn't is so that every small change noticed in our system gives us sleepless nights? Well, duh... But that's what we are, that's what makes us tick and just as every mood swing of the person we are in relationship or some noticeable change in the behavior of a friend, also these changes affect us in an intense manner. Because listening, active listening, ie. One that thrives on the essence and form, is an extremely personal experience that touches us in places where no one and nothing else is allowed. After all it's been known for a long time that music is the most powerful natural medium of emotions.
TARA LABS EVOLUTION
A great example illustrating what I just wrote was the arrival of long-awaited set of TARA Labs cables from the Evolution series, The Zero interconnect Evolution (72 000 PLN/1 m) and speaker cable The Omega Evolution (126 000 PLN/2 x 2.4 m) ( TARA = The Absolute Reference Audio). The fact that I had been using the almost top model, Tara Labs Omega Onyx speaker cable in my reference system for the long seven years and until recently, when I heard SILTECH Triple Crown, I had no doubt that it was the best cable I had a chance to listen to in my system and one of the few best available on the market.
The new version of the reference product is a challenge and a threat. Because we never know if the painstakingly built balance in our system will not be destroyed by it, even if objectively it will be a better product (I understand "reference" as a reference point, not necessarily the best, but well known). So in order to be sure of what I hear and to describe the Evolution series properly for you I divided this test into two parts. You're just reading the first part describing our impressions from Krakow Sonic Society meeting. The second will be a description of a test in my own reference system, and these two cables will be also accompanied by The Omega Evolution Power Cable (46 000 PLN / 1.8 m).
TARA Labs products have a special personal significance to me. But for members of the CSS they are not a stranger either. I recall that already in 2006 we listened to The Zero interconnect (KSS # 67, see HERE) and Janusz, one of our members who hosted most of our meetings, has been using the original version of the Omega speaker cable for almost 10 years now.
HOW DID WE LISTEN
The meeting was divided into two parts. During the first one we compared the Onyx Omega and Omega Evolution speaker cables; CD player and power amplifier were connected using The Evolution Zero IC. During the second part we compared sets of TARA Labs Evolution and Siltech Double Crown cables. We chose these particular Siltechs for this comparison for obvious reasons—Janek has been using Double Crown interconnect for 2 years now, and recently he also added the speaker cable. In addition, the Evolution series is not the most expensive within TARA Labs offer. Although one might find it hard to believe, this company with their The Grand Master Evolution series offers even more expensive cables—interconnect for 112 000 PLN/1 m, and the speaker cable for 159 000 PLN/2 x 2.4 m. Same goes for Siltech—there is still the more expensive Triple Crown line. So a comparison of the products of the second most expensive lines of these two brands seemed to make sense.
Recordings used for the test:
- Carlo Gesualdo de Venosa, The Complete Madrigals, Delitiae Musicae, Marco Longhini, Naxos 8.507013, 7 x CD (2013)
- David Oistrakh, Violin, perf. by London Symphonic Orchestra, Decca/Lasting Impression Music LIM XR24015, XRCD24 (1968/2006)
- Jean-Michel Jarre, Electronica. Vol. 1: The Time Machine, Sony Music Labels SICP-30788, BSCD2 (2015)
- Jerzy Milian Trio, Bazaar, Polskie Nagrania "Muza"/GAD Records GAD CD 017, "Polish Jazz | vol 17", CD (1069/2014)
- King Crimson, In The Court of the Crimson King, Atlantic/Discipline Global Mobile/Wowow Entertainment, Inc. IEDG-01, 7" Platinum SHM-CD (1969/2016)
- Mieczysław Weinberg, Concertos, perf. by Göteborgs Symfoniker, Chandos Records CHSA 5064, SACD/CD (2009)
- Siciliane, The Songs of an Island, Glossa GCD P33001, CD (2013)
TARA Labs Omega Onyx vs TARA Labs Omega Evolution
I was very surprised. At first, with an older cable, Omega Onyx, I heard that something bad was happening at the lower end, as if the upper band was out of control. It didn't really match the class of the rest of the system. Also, the distribution in space was not especially good, especially with the vocals on the album with Gesualdo Madrigals. With the new version of Evolution an order was restored, sound became complete. But still, the whole presentation was focused on abundance of details and I still missed more 'body' in the sound. On the other hand the performance was incredibly spatial. Here was the biggest difference - Evolution is doing in this regard everything as it should be.
For me the new Evolution cables were more convincing, at least in most cases. With classics everything was so beautiful, natural and interesting that I simply loved what I heard. But the difference was not equivalent to doubling of the price, so each potential buyer has to consider himself whether he wants to pay extra so much money for this scope of improvement. The second thing—when we played Milan, the recording sounded so much more energetic with the new Evolution cable. There was a proper pulse, energy and speed. Voices a cappella of Gesualdo sounded with this cable much better. With Jarre I did not hear much difference. Tonally it seems to me a very similar sound—better, but the same type of presentation—it's simply better cable, but surely of the same sonic family.
I also like this new cable of the Evolution series more, although—as Tom said—the aesthetics of the sound is almost the same. TARA Labs Evolution, which is a new edition of the cable takes a step further up the quality ladder. I didn't notice any deficiencies in the bass area, I do not know why Wiktor pointed it out. I think it's a characteristic of this system—there is a lot of low end in the presentation and yet the whole presentation is not so "physical" as in systems with large loudspeakers. But what I noticed, was this particularly this energetic presentation of Milian's recording—every strike, every attack with the new Evolution cable was incomparably better. The smallest difference I heard from Gesualdo—if we had finished with this recording I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between cables; and the largest difference was with David Oistrakh's recording—this albums would make a great 'seller' of the new Tara Labs cables. Violin sounded ingeniously.
I like it when system does not present weaknesses of the recording—TARA Labs Evolution does not. I don't listen to music to hear mistakes made while recording. That's why I loved these new cables so much and they were an obvious choice for me.
It seems easy and difficult at the same time to evaluate these cables. Difficult, because the sound of Omega and Omega Onyx (I'm talking about Janusz cable on one hand and Wojtek's on the other), which are similar to each other, gave me a strong bases for such assessment as I have been listening to them in this system for seven years or more. I also don't really want to assess their performance, because it's a very individual choice, but I will try to give you the most important qualities that I noticed during this listening session. Older cables (Wojtek's cables), ie. the Omega Onyx deliver a little chaotic sound. It is, however, also more tonally differentiated, and there is this aura around instruments, which isn't there with the new Evolution cable.
TARA Evolution is very dynamic, has a great bass impact, is closer to the dynamics of a real concert. The second thing is smoothness—the new cable delivers pastel, pleasant, analog, particularly enjoyable performance. But I also claim that it features a specific sound signature—it attempts to treat each tune in the same way: performance is always enjoyable, smooth, clean, extremely clean. It is very pleasant, and the vocals are excellent. This cable offers a great focus, it brings instruments closer to the listener, focuses them, so that they are more visible/audible. And there is this unique quality, a thing that I have never heard before in my life—an amazing presentation of what happens behind the front of the soundstage—TARA Evolution shows the depth of the stage and everything happening there better than any cable I've ever heard. Their resolution and clarity is astounding. Both cables are fantastic, but the choice depends on the preferences of the listener: TARA Labs Omega Onyx differentiates music collection in a better way, and the new TARA Labs Evolution makes it even more beautiful, more enjoyable.
I have to second everything that Rysiek said. In general, I will say this—it is a remarkable cable, I'm delighted with this new Tara. But I also would like to emphasize what Ryszard said, namely, that the Evolution series shows everything equally nice, smooth, clean, and so on—it's undoubtedly true. Therefore, if someone wants to have all his records sounded just like that, buy this cable and don't even think twice about it. It's just that this cable dies not properly differentiate. Timbre, pace, dynamics are always somewhat similar. When compared with Siltech Double Crown, TARA Evolution seems colorless, monochromatic. In addition, I noticed the lack of proper vividness of the sound (I mean as for an absolute high-end level), also dynamics in terms of attack and decay phases of the sound, pace changes within a phrase (those who know Verdi's Choruses on XRCD24 should know what I mean). Simply those aspects that go beyond the typical, though phenomenally presented high-end features such as: space, planes, dynamics, scale of the sound, are virtually absent in TARA Evolution's performance. Therefore, in my opinion TARA, unfortunately, can not quite match the level of Siltech's performance.
I still believe that these cables are great, but at this price range I would expect a greater sophistication. Simply put: what TARA offers is nothing new. Without a doubt, it is presented in a better, but still familiar way. Well, maybe my opinion is 'contaminated' by the extended period of three week that I spent with these cables listening to them in different configurations, with different albums at various time of night and day. After this long period of listening and comparing I finally decided to purchase Siltech Double Crown. It offers exactly what I expect from such a 'high-end plus' level product. On the other hand the older cable, TARA Omega Onyx, is a little chaotic, but is capable of presenting differences in a better way.
A huge advantage of the new Evolution series is how well balanced its sound is. With Milian it was sensational, it is the recorded which with Tara Omega Onyx sounded horribly. This, of course, is a matter of this particular recording, but also of how it is played. On the other hand the TARA Evolution presented this recording in a fantastic way—so that it was actually enjoyable. A proper balance for me is an ability to show everything in accurate proportions to each other, in sync, so to speak. Nothing should stand out, nothing should overshadow other elements, nothing should overwhelm—and that's how TARA Evolution sounded like. All these percussion instruments that sounded so bad before now were acceptable, didn't bother me at all. Because they did not dominate the presentation, and the resolution was even better, which really surprised me.
Another issue were voices, like on Jarre's tune—performance was even beyond comparison, at totally different level with Evolution cable, especially when it came to breathing, voice physiology and so on. The difference in voices presentation was huge. And finally—the cello played with its full sound spectrum, it was CELLO, and with an older cable, Tara Omega Onyx, only cello. Now it had a real body, sound was rich and timbre accurate. Kind of like the violin on Oistrakh recording—the Omega Onyx was a little sharper, more flashy. With Evolution it was softer, smoother, more beautiful. And voices on Gesualdo?—with Evolution a differentiation of voices was incredibly good. But the progress is linear—these are the same cables, but the better ones do everything better—higher, deeper, farther, but in exactly the same direction. But, I must say—it's a beautiful cable. I want to hear the beauty of music and that's what TARA Labs Evolution has to offer. In this particular respect it might be the best cable there is.
I agree with everything Rysiek said, but I'd like to add a bit too. TARA Labs Evolution is, in my opinion, much more resolving cable and maybe that's why it shifts the focus towards upper part of the range. What struck me is the gap between the Omega Onyx and Evolution in terms of openness and dynamics in favor of a new cable. I've been listening to music with Onyx for years and I tested hundreds of devices with him and I always considered it to be particularly open and resolving cable. Even more so since here we did compare even its previous version, Omega, with many other top cables and conclusions we had drawn aligned with mine.
Because TARA Omega Onyx IS unmistakably dynamic and open. And TARA Evolution is even many times better. These are not small shift, changes, but a completely different performance. In this respect, the Omega Onyx sounded warm, showed large phantom images. But at the same time treble seemed dull so there was this wide stage, enjoyable sound but a dull one. It is clear that we are talking about the absolute top product, about comparison with the best cables in the world, and above all with a live sound. But that's how I perceived this presentation. As if little has happened. Evolution offers so open sound, so smooth, clean, that it makes you want to listen more and more. Also with Jarre it sounded much better—everything opened up, straightened out. But also, in my opinion, Evolution has a smaller body. Bass goes deeper, and yet I felt it in a less "physical" way.
TARA Labs Evolution vs Siltech Double Crown
The first thing is that the Siltech should play in this system. Gesualdo sounded brilliantly with it. Very good balance, great positioning on the stage. Weinberg, that to me with Tara Omega Onyx sounded as if it was poorly recorded, now I heard almost as if I was sitting in the middle of orchestra (Victor is an active musician - Ed.). With Milian it also seemed to me that this was a very bad recording, as I could barely hear as marimba passed over to a vibraphone, and yet SILTECH was better. But with Jarre, Lang Lang's piano sounded closest to what I know from real life. This setup with SILTECH cable become one I could listen to 3.00 a.m. every night.
TARA cables were very easy for me to describe using few words—they present the audiophile world with a lot of nuances, etc. SILTECH cables deliver darker sound and the one that suits me. So for myself I would choose Siltech. Although, perhaps they deliver less detail, less nuances. I like this type of sound.
I agree with Tomek that Siltech offers more natural sound, ie. less spectacular. That is why I would choose TARA Evolution—I repeat myself, but after all there is no such thing as "natural sound" of the recording. We all know that the recording is a creation that does not have much in common with live music. The TARA Evolution sells its own vision of sound, has its own idea about its sonic signature, sounding as a component, rather than trying to be "natural". When I feel like listening to a natural sound, I go to a concert or to the Philharmonic. And I want to listen to music played by an audio system I play it with a system. And TARA Evolution offers me more pleasant and better way to do so.
I'm surprised by what you say, because I was convinced that everyone participating in this presentation would criticize SILTECH, because what I said was very obvious to me. And I'm a SILTECH fan, I love these people, because they are great guys, I love their work, because they do great job, but in this case the choice was obvious—I choose Tara Evolution.
I have a problem with the assessment of these cables, because each of them—TARA Evolution and SILTECH Double Crown—has its advantages and its drawbacks. For a start I will say about the advantages of Tara—it is analogue, smooth, resolving, enjoyable even during long listening sessions and is great at manipulating / creating further planes and large scale dynamics. These are its advantages over SILTECH.
On the other hand, Siltech offers a more colorful sound, it differentiates it better, is more musical, it swings better... Although I can hear a slight chill, this sort of 'studio-sound' signature. However, it provides more information about the recording. Everything will probably depend on the preferences of the listener. And it can also be so that with some other recordings I my assessment would be quite opposite. After individual listening of 5 different albums my subjective rating says: 5:2 for SILTECH.
Listening to SILTECH I felt like I went back to listening sessions from a few years ago. It's a dark, dense sound, which sometimes has a tendency to emphasize the colder part of the band, in which I agree with Rysiek. TARA Evolution delivers much more pleasant sound, in the sense that it does not allow certain recording errors to listener's attention. And all that while it is also clearly brighter, with more emphasis on upper part of the range. I imagine that wherever there is a need to illuminate sound, but without making it brighter, TARA Evolution will be the perfect fit, I do not know any better cable for such purpose.
Siltech sounded more "vintage-like". There is a shift of tonal balance towards lower end. That and not so great perceptible dynamics made it sound smaller. Probably a large role here played a not so great presentation of the events happening in the back layers of the soundstage, so fantastically portrayed by Tara Evolution. Despite the less sound energy Siltech differentiates recordings in a better way, showing more differences between various realizations, also between the various instruments. In this particular system it is the right way and that is why I understand why you liked it. But I have to repeat that TARA Evolution offers such a beautiful sound, that if we do not focus on the differences, but simply want to truly enjoy the music, then there is no better choice. However, if you want to know what's going on in the recording, know exactly, you should rather choose Siltech.
TARA Labs Evolution is a phenomenal cable, it is unbelievable what it is able to do. But I have a feeling that with it we hit the wall, as I can't imagine even better treble, higher dynamics and so on, because one can not play the music in a better way than it is written on the disc. I have an utmost respect for Rysiek and I want to emphasize that already ten years ago he was telling me here not to look at how detailed sound is, but on how musical, how the presentation is built. For me Siltech Double Crown is more akin to what he then said. Color richness, saturation, presence—all that was, in my opinion, better with SILTECH. Performance might not be so pleasant, so smooth, but it is more homogeneous and organic.
I believe that a division between members of the CSS becomes more and more clear. It first started with our listening session of dCS Rossini SACD player, continued while listening to the MSB CD player, and finally clarified when listening to Evolution series by TARA Labs. These initially incomprehensible differences in opinions, often even contradictory ones regarding the same product seems to be based on individual visions of what a high-end sound should be like. Because that's what we are talking about here. These are all phenomenal products of absolutely top sound quality, and if someone says that "it doesn't perform as I expected" it does not mean that the device for 1000 PLN that 'sounds as expected' is actually a better one. One shouldn't understand such statement this way. Saying that some top quality product doesn't "sound well" members of CSS refer to their own expectations towards the product; so they actually say, "it doesn't sound the way I wanted it to." If one of us says that he likes the sound he doesn't mean that this is the best performing product in the world but simply that he would like to have such sound at home. Obviously, everyone will defend his opinion, believing that his is the right and valid one. But in reality it's only an expression of his subjective opinion.
The value of such opinions should helps Readers to figure out what they want themselves. Meetings are not supposed to validate products, which Rysiek pointed out, but describe them. It is only natural that each participant makes his choice, because that's what listening to the music is about. But Readers' choices don't have to be the same. Texts that you read are supposed to make you think, to search best options for yourself. The more people feel offended, or surprised—the better. The search is about confronting opinions with those of others which helps us to form our own opinions.
Summary of this meeting is therefore extremely simple and should not raise many emotions as the previous two meetings, despite the fact that after all we are dealing with the same situation. TARA Labs Evolution is a brilliant cable. It will work perfectly if one wants to get a nice, smooth, detailed, but at the same time completely devoid of shrill elements sound. The dynamics and events in the back of the stage are presented in an absolutely remarkable way. I have never heard anything like it.
Siltech Double Crown delivers darker sound, it seems to be less dynamic. Sometimes it may seem that it also sounds colder. But it also differentiates sound and recordings in a better way. Although the energy of the top and lower end is lower than with TARA, but the tonality range of both range extremes is wider. Soundstage with SILTECH is smaller, it is not so deep, but also varies in different recordings; TARA Evolution presents everything in an impressive, big way.
Which way is more real? As Bartek said, there is no truth in the recording, there is a creation. It has to have a semblance of truth, and is performed to sound like a real event, but it never is. So we have a choice, and every choice is the right one, provided that we are talking about high-end products. TARA Labs Evolution is a system of absolutely top-quality, which can be compared only a few other top cables and in many regards it will come out victorious of many such comparisons. So if you are looking for beautiful presentation and we want to get it of all the recordings that we have, without fear that something will sound badly, you can start to sell our real-estate property, and tell your children that they shall inherit not a house with a garage, but a set of cables of similar value.
SYSTEM USED FOR THE TEST
- CD Player / preamplifier: Ancient Audio LEKTOR GRAND SE
- Power amplifier: Ancient Audio SILVER GRAND MONO
- Power conditioner: Ancient Audio Re-GENERATOR
- Loudspeakers: Sonus faber ELECTA AMATOR
- Interconnect: Siltech DOUBLE CROWN (1 m)
- Speaker cable: Tara Labs OMEGA ONYX (2 x 3 m) + Siltech DOUBLE CROWN (2 x 2,5 m)
- Power cables (for all components): Acrolink MEXCEL 7N-PC9500
- Rack: Base
- Anti-vibration elements: Acoustic Revive
- Wine: delivered by LocusVini.pl and by participants
Prices (in Poland)
The Zero Evolution: 72 000 PLN/1 m
The Omega Evolution: 126 000 PLN/2 x 2.4 m
TARA Labs, Inc.
716 Rossanley Dr.
Medford, OR 97501
MADE IN USA
Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Images: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Ewa Muszczynko