Audience Au24e Tonearm Cable

The impedance and capacitance lurking in the short run of cable joining the phono cartridge to the phono preamplifier interface are important albeit often overlooked aspects. Some might argue that breaking the signal path with a connector compromises signal integrity. Yet, if there ever was a link in the audio chain that benefits from a few better strands of wire, this is it.

Analog and its associated tweaks continue to rise, yet, so do the number of users frustrated by the medium. Once the initial fever settles, that new turntable starts to feel like a slightly worn chew toy. The trinket still squeaks, but your tail doesn’t wag like it did when you tore the plaything out of the wrapper.

Relax. It’s not your fault. Audience’s Richard Colburn says the company’s inspiration for the Au24e tonearm cable came from the phono signal, “taking the cable out of the compromise is what it’s all about.” When the interface is compromised, fine detail, high-frequency response, and microdynamics get sacrificed. He also stresses that this approach should not be confused with cartridge loading, which is a “completely different issue. This is optimization for the impedance characteristic of the cartridge itself.”

A Choice of Cables

Three basic Au24e models comprise the line. The Low Z is optimized for cartridges with an internal impedance of 30 ohms or less; the High Z matches cartridges in the 30 to 100 ohms range; the MM is for 47k moving-magnet cartridges. Those using VPI turntables, or another brand with RCA jacks for the phono output, can save a few hundred bones since they don’t require a more expensive (and more labor-intensive) DIN plug. Colburn suggests opting for the lower-impedance version if your cartridge is on the fence at 30 ohms.

The 1m version of the MM version is $479 with RCAs, and $729 with DIN; the MC versions are $1,095 with RCA plugs at both ends, and $1,295 with the DIN plug. All are made by hand and hand-terminated with Audience’s latest Au24e cable, termination, and connector technology. As with all Audience cables, each is cryo-treated upon completion.

Down to Business

I’ve been enamored with the sound of the highly musical Denon DL-103R cartridge and its variants for some time. I currently use the Zu Audio version, potted in a metal body with the AVID Volvere SP turntable and SME 309 tonearm, feeding an Audio Research REF Phono 2.

It’s easy to get lost in cable comparison and freak yourself into thinking that you either hear a much bigger difference than is actually happening or, that you aren’t able to hear anything at all. The miniscule signal present from a moving-coil cartridge only compounds matters. Even listeners with canine-quality hearing can get caught up in swapping a tonearm cable in and out of a system, and there’s always the chance of knocking something out of alignment, corrupting the results. Fortunately. with another identical AVID Volvere ‘table set up on the same rack, it’s simple for me to make meaningful comparisons.

Benefits of Optimization

Switching back and forth between the two decks, the immediacy the Audience cable brings to the ‘table (pun intended) is not subtle. The layer of grain I’ve always found present in the 103 becomes greatly reduced, underscoring the Au24e’s abilities as an incredible transducer.

Vide, the quietest passages in the Egberto Gismoti/Nana Vasconcelos collaboration Duaz Vozes now possess more air and space, and it feels as if the recording studio has grown larger. Both the leading and trailing edges of the attack on Vasconcelos’ percussive excursions sound cleaner and more realistic.  An identical experience comes via “Sun Song” on the Sheffield Labs pressing of Dave Grusin’s Discovered Again.

Listening to other records I’ve spun extensively begets the same conclusion: There’s a level of cleanliness now available that wasn’t present before, and it’s easy enough to go back to the control ‘table and hear enough of a difference to justify the expense.

Remember, a great analog front end is a work in progress and always a cumulative proposition. I’ve found precious few things that are truly transformative, but every step in the right direction adds resolution without sacrificing in other areas. The Audience Au24e tonearm cable belongs in the latter category. Once I spent enough time between the two identical ‘tables to confirm the difference, I moved the cable to a few other arm/combinations with equally positive results.

While this cable is not inexpensive, at $1,100, it’s not crazy money, either. I’m keeping it as a reference in my AVID Volvere SP/Funk Firm FX•R/Denon DL103R combination; it’s that spectacular. Watch for a follow-up on the MM version in the near future.  -Jeff Dorgay

Audience Au24e Tonearm Cable

MSRP:  $479-$1,295 (depending on configuration)



Turntable AVID Volvere SP/SME 309/Zu Denon 103 (premium grade)
Phonostage Audio Research REF Phono 2
Preamplifier Audio Research REF 5SE
Power Amplifier Octave Jubilee Monoblocks
Speakers GamuT S9
Cable Cardas Clear
Power Running Springs Dmitri    Maxim PLCs
Accessories Furutech DeMag & DeStat    Audio Desk Systeme RCM