February 2004Virtual Dynamics David Interconnects and Speaker Cables
by Jason Thorpe
Virtual Dynamics, based in Barrhead, Alberta, here in my home country of Canada, is a company that has waded right into the audio deep end. Although the company has been around for several years, selling factory direct during that time, it has recently appeared on the audio radar thanks no doubt to a complete line of well-finished high-end cables.
Although you might think that the cable market is close to saturation at this point, Virtual Dynamics certainly stands apart from the crowd. Its cables incorporate several proprietary technologies, which were revealed to their chief designer through the power of prayer. While this method of design is diametrically opposed to the commonly accepted scientific method, you should be aware that Rick Schultz and the entire Virtual Dynamics team are sincere, devout Christians whose faith infuses the entire company.
The cornerstone on which Virtual Dynamics builds its cables is the belief that Coloumb friction, which is described as mechanical vibration due to the resistance in the flow of electrons, causes mechanical energy to develop in conductors. This, according to Virtual Dynamics, results in distortion. The company claims that its Dynamic Filtering damps vibration from the conductor by using specially designed spheres or particles as a mechanically based circuit. The end results of Dynamic Filtering, says Virtual Dynamics, are a reduction of skin effects and an increase of speed, linearity and bandwidth of electrical frequencies. This elimination of mechanical vibration allows Rick Schultz and crew to use large ultra-low-resistance solid-core conductors for a signal thats claimed to be stronger, cleaner and more linear.
Virtual Dynamics bombarded me with a multitude of pizza-sized boxes containing enough cables from the David series, which is the second from the bottom of Virtual Dynamics' extensive lineup, to wire up my entire system. The David cables are smartly finished and are encased by a snug-fitting black braid that resists both heat (one interconnect rested for months on a baseboard heater with no ill effect) and abrasion. All connectors are by Cardas, with deluxe rhodium-plated-copper spades on the speaker cables and silver-plated RCAs on the interconnects. All metal contacts are treated with ProTecX, which is a PTE lubricant, in order to protect the metal against oxidation and enhance conductivity. Further, all Virtual Dynamics cables are burned in by their proprietary Cable Cooking procedure.
The eight-foot biwire speaker cable that I received was a true shotgun setup and retails for $1500 USD per pair. A single-wired run is available and will set you back $1000. The two lengths in my biwire pair fuse near the amplifier end into a single unit, which contains two very powerful magnets. Watch out here, as the positive and negative sections can easily clack together, and if you trap a digit in between the two I wouldnt be surprised if the result was a blackened fingernail. These magnets are part of Virtual Dynamics Speed of Light circuit, which, according to the company, sets up a magnetic field stronger than the electromagnetic fields formed in the circuits of the components. Virtual Dynamics claims that this cancels any detrimental effect on the signal, as the highly concentrated magnetic-flux lines deliberately laid onto the conductor promote the flow of electricity. According to Virtual Dynamics, SOL dramatically reduces inductance (AC resistance) and more power is allowed to flow into the system, thereby increasing throughput of the connected components. Virtual Dynamics claims that SOL increases the efficiency not of the component, but of the energy itself.
The David interconnects retail for $600 per meter pair (I required single-ended interconnects for my configuration, but balanced runs with Neutrik XLRs are available at an extra charge) and lack the magnetized terminations of the speaker cables, but they share, along with the power cords, the dubious distinction of being the stiffest cables imaginable. The conductors are solid-core, tough-pitch copper thats been cryogenically treated at almost -400 degrees Fahrenheit, but it honestly feels as if they are fabricated from multiple runs of straightened-out coat hanger.
Although Virtual Dynamics cautions against initiating any sharp bends in its cables, I found that I pretty much had to muscle them into place, bending them past the point where I needed them to go, and allowing them to spring back into position. While the multiple in-and-out sessions required for comparison had me cursing the day I started reviewing audio equipment, this should be of little concern for you, the end consumer, as youve only got to struggle with them once on initial installation.
The Virtual Dynamics cables took up residence in my main system. The source was my Roksan Xerxes/Artemiz/Shiraz analog combo, which fed a Sonic Frontiers SFP-1 Signature phono stage. From there the signal traveled to EAR 509 tube monoblocks, with the last step being Hales Transcendence Five speakers. The David cables replaced Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval interconnects and speaker cables, and Cardas Hexlink 5 power cords. Power was conditioned by a Chang Lightspeed CLS6400.
As Rich Schultz requested, I refrained from introducing the David-series cables into my system on a piecemeal basis. Instead, I replaced the entire signal-carrying infrastructure as a whole. I did, however, wait until Id got a good handle on the sound of the interconnects and speaker cables before I swapped over to the David power cords. The following analysis of the David cables sound excludes the contribution made by the power cords, which is described in the attached sidebar.
After inserting the David interconnects and speaker cables (remember that they arrive burned in), one of the first records I spun on the Roksan was East Broadway Rundown [Impulse IMP-161]. This Sonny Rollins album is angular and challenging, with the bass, sax and drums weaving their own disparate pathways toward a tonal resolution that sounds as though its never going to arrive. The addition of the David cables made it seem as if my speakers were suddenly much more efficient, quicker. The drums, which guide and drive the title track on EBR, stood out with more jump factor, especially on the leading edge of the cymbals. After the switchover, my Hales Transcendence Fives suddenly possessed more of the sharp dynamic contrasts that I associate with more sensitive speakers such as the Tannoy TD10s I reviewed last year.
Due in part to this increased transient and dynamic agility, the David cables present tightly defined images with very solid outlines. Jimmy Garrisons bass on EBR was notable for its generous size and rhythmic intensity, but more so for its realistic outline and firm position in space. I had just purchased Talking Heads Stop Making Sense on DVD from Amazon, and while I was waiting for it to arrive I gave the LP a spin in order to whet my appetite. The percussion and guitar in the introduction to "Psycho Killer" projected outward with an exciting realism, due in part to the realistic and holistic images that are the sonic earmarks of the David cables.
Next, I cued up Keith Jarretts Standards, Vol. 1 [ECM 1255], which I picked up last year at a local record stores half-price Boxing Day sale ($5 for a mint German pressing!). Standards, Vol. 1 is a brisk, crisply recorded live set that provides a dynamic, front-of-the-club perspective, wherein all of the instruments sound immediate and larger than life. Here again, the David cables brought the music front and center with a snappy, detailed presentation. Jarretts grunting and groaning were quite prominent on "All The Things You Are," and by which you might infer that other instruments would likely suffer the same fate, and thereby run the risk of falling prey to that devil named etch.
Fortunately thats not the case with the David cables. While they do contribute to a slightly more forward presentation compared to what Im used to, they do it without sounding coarse or bright. I still play Giant Sands Chore of Enchantment [Thrill Jockey, Thrill079] almost daily -- I get that much enjoyment from this eclectic mix of country, rock and folk. "Satellite" has some scratchy feedback at about one minute in, and as write this Im playing this track rather loud. That feedback just scared the bejabbers out of me, as it sounded disconnected from the speakers, as if something nasty was directly in the room, ready to tear me to bits. While the recording of Chore of Enchantment is superb, the David cables definitely increased the startle factor here, yet the fact that Im listening to this aggressive track as loud as I am speaks volumes about the crisp, detailed yet ultimately unfatiguing nature of the David cables.
Two songs later, Howie Gelb starts off "No Way to End the Day" with the line "Last night I got wasted," sung in his trademark sore-throated growl. He later goes on to tell us that he only did so to end that period of his life, and "When I woke up it was a new morning." The David cables brought the musical meaning across in such a way as to make me want to decipher the lyrics and get even closer to the artist. The David cables highlight the lower midrange through the lower treble and thrust the music out in a totally cohesive manner, but paradoxically, this doesnt come across as an overly forward presentation. In my case, the slightly recessed midrange of my analog/tube system still portrays instruments just behind the plane of the speakers, but transients through this range are possessed of extra energy, which, when combined with my systems slightly distant perspective, ratchets up the musical enjoyment factor by a significant notch.
On certain recordings the dynamic crispness of the David cables could be a little bit too much of a good thing. I pulled out ABCs Lexicon of Love [Vertigo VOG-1-3316] and had a listen to what I thought was a really good record at a rather naive point in my life. To say that the recording is a bit strident would be an understatement, and the David cables showed it for what it is. The already piercing treble did take on just a tiny bit of extra glare -- not enough to make me want to stop listening (the music did a fine job of this by itself), but just a slight amount that I was more than able to look past. This trait was only noticeable on the most foul of recordings, and on anything that sounds even remotely decent the David cables only served to bring more excitement to the party.
Virtual Dynamics makes much of their Speed of Light technology, and while Im no engineer, I am somewhat skeptical of the scientific basis for this feature. That said, I cant dispute that the David cables do sound distinctly fast. The Analogue Productions pressing of Chet Bakers quasi-eponymous Chet [Analogue Productions APJ 016] is an incredibly juicy recording, as every instrument on this album seems possessed of a wet, glossy, burnished tone. Via the David cables, the shimmer of the cymbals attained a notable quickness that came without any significant glare or brightness, and the fundamental note of the baritone sax gained a striking raspiness that raised hairs on the back of my neck.
Bass-wise, the insertion of the David cables brought about a distinct and pleasurable solidity. The third track on Massive Attacks Protection -- appropriately titled "Three" -- is a lilting ballad whose message is one of strength and caring, which is a theme that resonates through the entire album. This song relies on the solid underpinning of the bass to accentuate its meaning, and the David cables helped to portray this instrument in all its depth and power, albeit with just a small amount of extra bloom that actually proved quite pleasurable. Protection isnt an audiophile LP by any means. The bass on my pressing has a bit of a quaver to it that isnt present on the CD, but even while I listened to this wafer-thin, poorly pressed record, the David cables contributed to, rather than got in the way of, musical enjoyment.
The Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8 speaker cables ($870 per eight-foot pair) and Solo Crystal Oval interconnects ($399 per meter pair) are a tough act to follow, and should be considered components in their own right. Theyre also the only interconnect/speaker cable set to receive a Reviewers Choice nod here at SoundStage!. After a long, uninterrupted stay in my system, the David cables were out and replaced with Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval. The differences were immediately audible, but not entirely what I expected.
The return of the Analysis Plus cables was accompanied by a lessening of the dynamics that I described above, but also with an increased feeling of ease through the upper midrange and treble. This surprised me, as other than on horribly bright recordings, I hadnt noticed any significant brightness or glare with the David cables in the system, nor had I felt any less relaxed while listening to music. In the bass, the Analysis Plus wire didnt seem to reach as deep as the Virtual Dynamics cables, but the bass was slightly more in control. The David cables very slight looseness was, however, compensated for by additional lower-midrange snap, which gave a subjective impression of additional depth in the bass region.
A metaphor is always useful. The David-series cables are racing machines in comparison to the Analysis Plus all-around Gran Turisimo flexibility. I cant imagine a system where the Analysis Plus cables wouldnt fit in just fine and sound terrific, but I can imagine systems that would skyrocket in performance if the David cables were to fit in synergistically. In my system, and especially with my musical tastes, I preferred Virtual Dynamics David.
Bass, midrange, treble, imaging -- blah, blah, blah. As a reviewer, I have to cover each of these points so that you can understand what Im hearing as I listen. However its hard to quantify an intangible such as musical satisfaction, and thats where, in my opinion, the Virtual Dynamics David cables excel. Admittedly the goal of this insane sport that is high-end audio is to be able to experience music in a more satisfying manner, but component changes dont always -- heck, don't often -- increase the enjoyment I receive from music. Sometimes a component change results in different sound, but its not always better, and even when some aspect of the sound is tangibly improved -- such as bass deepening -- its not always more satisfying. The David cables are one of those rare products that directly and pretty much without qualification increased the satisfaction that I received from listening to music.
However, making cable recommendations makes me nervous. In my system, with my associated components, the David cables sounded fantastic -- their strong dynamics, superb imaging, and overall energetic nature made for an engrossing listen. Your mileage may definitely vary. If your system is already balanced somewhat on the forward, lively side, you might find the David cables to be too much of a good thing. If, however, your system is neutrally balanced, or even slightly voiced in the mellow direction, they may well be just the ticket.
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