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Secrets of the Armónico Ethernet Cable from Fono Acustica

02-01-2023 | By Marshall Nack | Issue 125

The last of the Fono Acustica cables had been sent back about six months ago. Already, their sonic profile was receding. It's difficult to retrieve what you can barely describe in words because sounds are not stored in long-term memory. So it was amazing and a testimony how fast that profile resurrected when the newly arrived Armónico Ethernet Cables were installed. Immediately, even before adequate burn-in, Lynn was all smiles. (Give them a day with music signal and they get even better.) I had forgotten the many ways that FA wires distinguish themselves from the pack.

The Concert Experience versus at Home

Audiophiles don't often discuss it, but classical concert-goers are more vocal. While acknowledging modern audio systems can be quite good, they quickly proceed to spoil the fun by adding it's still not like being there. There are many reasons for this: the sense of presence for one. When listening to unamplified acoustic instruments in a good hall you sense the sound coming from all around, it's immersive. Principally, it's arriving from the stage, but several of the room's boundaries may be contributing (the bounce from the side and rear walls, maybe the ceiling and floor as well). 

Most of us own dynamic speakers which don't normally project the soundstage forward into the room. We perceive it at the speaker plane, spread laterally between them and receding backwards (if it has depth). If echo and reverberations are resolved, they are also located at the speaker plane. Cables can impact our perception of stage location and move it forward and back. Some wire brands throw it well behind the speakers. A few, including Fono Acustica, push some sound in front, maybe not a lot, but enough so the performance doesn't seem to be held at arms length and distant.

Start and Stop and Start 

Another point of departure is the way sound energy is dispersed over time. In the audio den, tension builds with the arrival of the transient, is held through the sustain, then releases at note end. It starts up again with the arrival of the next note. This start and stop and start again produces a discrete succession of notes. In classical music that is called staccato. Often notated in the score, it is considered an accent or effect—definitely not the default mode to be applied all the time. Most of the cables in my inventory do this to some degree.  

The Armónico handles the transient and sustain in a similar manner but tweaks the decay, letting it fade slowly, giving it full expression. Very often the tail of the note can be heard declining even as the following one picks up, with little or no pause in between. This simulates hall reverberation and imparts more musical flow, while lending it a slight romantic hue. 

Motion and Emotion

Let's listen to one of my go-to titles for reference-level streaming, the Dvořák Violin Concerto, with Augustin Hadelich as soloist and Jakob Hrůša conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Bohemian Tales, Warner Classics 527476, FLAC 48kHz 24-bit streamed from Qobuz). You won't need more than a minute to appreciate that Hadelich is not your run-of-the-mill soloist and Hrůša is a sensitive, first-rate accompanist. This is something special, not just another entry in the overstuffed catalogue of Dvořák Violin Concerto recordings. 

Perhaps the largest point of departure lies in the details. The Armónico will not make you exclaim, "Man, that's a wall of detail," like some cables. Yet, it definitely brings a better understanding of the artistic choices underlying Hadelich's interpretation by teasing out a rich trove of musical details. The soloist and the orchestra relax—the Armónico hardly ever sounds strident—and the listener finds himself breathing deeply. There are moments when the cable unveils an emotional layer and establishes an intimacy with the violinist.

The Sound Room

Moving on to an entirely different genre and engineering style, let's listen to Blues and Ballads, with the Brad Mehldau Trio (Nonesuch, FLAC 88.2kHz 24-bit). Very smooth, tasteful interpretations of a range of popular rock and jazz standards comprise this crowd pleaser. Quite a nice outing released in 2016 (although recorded in 2012 and 2014 at Avatar Studios, a well-known, busy, NYC studio). Sitting in the sweet spot with my reference ethernet wires in line, I encounter the instruments compartmentalized in their own space. More than likely, each musician had a set of headphones and sat in an isolation booth for the recording.

The Armónico takes the listener out of the studio and locates you in an acoustic space, a warm, midrange-dominant, reverberant, nice sounding space. If you choose to you can isolate the instruments, but there is no resemblance to "audiophile imaging." The Armónico moves away from compartmentalized sound and lets the session get a bit "dirty," blending it and presenting the musicians as if they were together on stage, relating to each other. You have the impression that the event is unfolding in a club where minimal or no amplification is in play.

A cache of supporting details provide evidence of the piano's physical mechanism, i.e., the force of the finger on the ivory key; the pedal action; the resonance of its wood case. It is definitely not an electronic instrument. Yet, even as the Armónico moves towards musicality and away from an analytical POV, it boosts the integrity of each instrument. This is the Armónico's specialty. Every FA wire I've auditioned does this and how it is accomplished is FA's secret.

Installation and Set Up

I use Qobuz for streaming music files and Roon for file management. I find the Roon user interface very easy to navigate. The streaming gear for this review was from Fidelizer, an audiophile boutique based in Thailand, consisting of their Nimitra2 Server (MSRP $2495), EtherStream Network Switch, and Nikola2 Linear Power Supply. My reference ethernet cables are Audioquest Diamond.

The Fidelizer Nimitra2 Server

The Fidelizer gear may be inexpensive, but if you surround it with higher quality ancillaries it can step up. (Unlike a lot of low-priced components, that act like limiters when surrounded with higher quality gear.) Everything I did to improve the Nimitra2 Server's environment—situating it on a Marigo L2 Isolation Platform and moving up to the Nordost QNET ethernet switch—resulted in worthwhile gains that pushed it well into mid-fi level. For the same reason, I put a $9900/2m Audioquest Dragon power cord on the $749 Nikola2 LPS.

An Important Design Note

Important note: the Armónico Ethernet Cable is designed to function at 100BASE-TX (100 Mbps) and requires an ethernet switch with that capability. Most switches are limited to 1000BASE-T (1 Gbps) speed and do not support 100BASE-TX.

The reason behind the 100Base-TX is due to the RJ45 connector space limitation for our solid core conductor wires. It is not physically possible to make the Armónico 1000BaseT since it requires twice the amount of wires. In our Allegro series, the Ethernet cables uses a 1000BaseT RJ45. 

The difference between 100baseTX and 1000BaseT is speed. You can transfer more data faster in a 1000BaseT (1G).

Nordost QNET ethernet switch

One of the reasons I acquired the Nordost QNET ethernet switch is it supports both transfer rates. According to Nordost, the lower transfer rate allows the switch designer to incorporate internal noise reduction, making the lower speed ports best used for primary audio servers/players or external media sources.

Virtuoso & Armonico XLR IC

The Family Cosmetics

I've now auditioned the Armónico speaker cable, XLR interconnect, power cord, and ethernet cable. The family resemblance in sound and appearance is thorough going—they may as well be twins (or quads)—and quite unlike the Virtuoso cable. While they vary in diameter, all sport the same color scheme and design elements: a loosely fitting white fabric covering; an African hardwood block with the company logo on it. One difference is the black RJ45 connectors are sourced from a German manufacturer.

The cable is well-made and not ostentatious looking, nothing shouts expense. Other than the hardwood block, there are no parts without an obvious purpose. The ethernet cable is light-weight and totally flexible. The Armónico aesthetic is distinctive and grows on you. As for what's inside the white outer sheath, Felix Avalos, the proprietor of Fono Acustica, provided these notes:

The Armónico Ethernet conductors are made of silver/gold (as is the entire series). There is no need for burn-in, just give them 5 hours for them to fully settle into your system. They are non-directional.


I've auditioned a fair number of Armónico series wires from Fono Acustica. Expect them to be consistently warm, full-bodied, midrangy, rich—in short, solidly on the musical side of the spectrum. This favoritism lends them an overt coloration not present in the Virtuoso interconnect I reviewed last year (and beyond other cable brands in my inventory). Typically, this is not the profile Lynn and I want in our audio den. We prefer to locate the dial closer to neutral, but not dead on: a slight seasoning of bloom and beauty is most welcome to compensate for less than perfect recordings.

That said, last night I heard the Orchestra of St. Luke's in the Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center, NYC, and was struck by how much it recalled what we've been listening to at home. Warm, full-bodied, midrangy, flowing—those same colorations were undeniably present at the live event. This makes me ponder the many flavors of real sound; it's all over the spectrum. You can derive your own conclusions from this.

Apart from those sonic attributes, the Armónico presentation also resembled the live experience in ways that home audio often doesn't. For example, the cable pushes a measure of sound forward in front of the speakers; it rearranges how sound energy is allocated over time, giving the decay its full measure. Even the way it resolves information is not conventional. The Armónico is not a high resolver as we usually define it, yet you will be most appreciative of the many insights it brings. Musically relevant information is resolved, while the incidental extra-musical details are left behind.

But enough words. The bottom line is the Armónico Ethernet cables are undeniably fun and a pleasure to listen to. To our ears, they lessen the disjunct when we come home after a concert and fire up the system.

Armónico Ethernet Cable 

Retail: 1.0M €5500, 1.5M €6800

Fono Acustica