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Magnan Audio Cable's signature speaker ribbon does so many things so well it may surprise you, especially its price

Last April at the Festival du Son et de l'Image, Montreal's consumer electronics show, we noted well-reproduced sound coming from the Gershman Acoustics Black Swan (reviewed in Vol. 17, No . 3) loudspeaker set-up. Further investigations revealed unusual speaker cabling made by Magnan Audio Cables, a small family business located in Camarillo, CA and headed by David Magnan, an avid audiophile with an extensive background in electronic engineering. Magnan has applied his technical experience in signal transfer technology to cable design, resulting in an entire line of products. The cables under review are Magnan's premier speaker cable, the Signature model.

Five-inch wide ribbons of the Signature terminate in pigtails, offering either spades or banana plugs.

To say that these cables look impressive would be an understatement. Magnan's philosophy and design approach arranges the conductors in a ribbon-like shape (.00075 inches thin), resulting in one rather wide cable for each conductor leg. Thus, each channel relies on a pair of five-inch wide ribbons connecting the amplifier to the loudspeaker. Wrapped in a glossy black, woven nylon jacket, the conductor material is terminated in a clever manner. Magnan narrows the last seven inches of the conductor into a narrow semi-rigid PVC boot which is attached to a short flexible lead that terminates with either a spade lug or banana connector. Magnan points out that this termination scheme allows the user to attach the speaker cable leads to even the most closely spaced amplifier and speaker binding posts. An arrow on each cable points in the direction of signal flow.

While impressive because of their substantial dimensions, not everyone will find the Signature speaker cables overly pleasing to the eye. The reasons for this, have much to do with David Magnan's theoretical perspective.

The Sound
As mentioned earlier, our first audition, informal as it was, took place in Montreal in April, 2006, where we listened to loudspeakers with which we were acquainted, the Gershman Audio Black Swans. The sound was impressive indeed. For our own more controlled listening tests, we connected the Magnan Signature speaker cables to our in-house Ethera Vitae loudspeakers, with which we were also familiar. Three different amplifiers were used for this evaluation: the Wyetech Labs Topaz (reviewed Vol.17, No. 2), the Bryston 14B-SST (reviewed in Vol.13, No. 4) and the Cary SLI 80 integrated amplifier (reviewed in this issue).

Though The Inner Ear rarely identifies the listening material used in its evaluations, we feel that in this instance noting the source material will allow you to better understand what the listening panel heard. First disc up was Carmen McRae's Fine and Mellow (Concord SACD 1005-6) played through the Topaz. McRae's voice has a mellow quality which can certainly be heard here. Magnan's cable revealed the transparency of the disc, an element of reproduction essential if you are to hear McRae's texture-rich voice. Details, such as environmental ambiance in this live recording, are stunningly real. While inner detail was conspicuous, background musicians on sax, bass, drums, organ and guitar remained immaculately balanced clearly audible, but not overpowering. We especially liked the cable's ability to reproduce Jack McDuff's Hammond B3 organ from the top frequencies all the way down to about 50Hz.

With the Cary SLI 80 in the system, the cable's sonic character was literally identical to the particulars described above. With the solid state Bryston, we especially enjoyed the smoothness at the very top frequencies, the midrange finesse and the awesome bass. Our Etheras go down with great resolution to about 45Hz and the cables did that well, yet they also allowed for full-bodied midbass and harmonics to come alive. Because we wanted to test both male and female vocals, the next CD was Ray Charles' final recording, Genius Loves Company (Concord Records SACD-1033-6), using track three, You Don't Know Me, a duet with Diana Krall. Again, we marvelled at the cable's ability to execute male and female voices with the transparency and articulation generally found only in the best cables we have auditioned. The powerful Bryston sounded well tempered and tamed for low-level musical information, yet dynamic and convincingly authoritative when the music demanded it. This was also quite apparent when we played back The Ultimate Mancini (Concord Jazz CCD-2237-2), a disc, thanks to an orchestra and soloists, that has enough dynamic energy to make you ears bleed.

One of the most important and difficult tests was performed with the help of Fidelio's CD Les Sept Paroles Du Christ (FACD008). A large organ with pedal notes down to 25Hz coexists with sopranos and tenors on passages that can only be described as musical workouts. With this final disc the Signature cable passed the ultimate test. Yes, we have heard better, but never in this price range. The speaker cable handled each note with singular attention to timbre, resolution and texture, and reproduced the sound stage with appropriate dimensions, space and air.

Synopsis & Commentary
It's apparent from our listening test that the Magnan Signature speaker cable can handle both solid state and vacuum tube amps with equal proficiency. We also found that space and time related elements remain amazingly coherent, which attests to the cable manufacturer's construction techniques. The Signature's ability to handle inner detail and carry deep bass, clear midrange and smooth highs all with solid, never-drifting imagery on a three dimensional sound stage leads one to wonder, can this be any better? Well, perhaps, but it will come at a much higher price.

We have auditioned hundreds of cables and found that, regardless of technical know-how and philosophical principles or beliefs, the (inner) ears can't be fooled. Hence, we do not generally worry about a cable's design technology. However, we have to give serious consideration to David Magnan when he states that skin effects can influence a cable's sound severely by acting upon the ear-brain system, to destroy a multitude of small but important sonic details, resulting in the blurring and flattening of sound stage, muddiness, etc. In light of its performance in our auditioning systems, we find the Magnan Signature speaker cable to be underpriced, for its performance rating is off the chart. Try it in your system, you might be surprised.

Magnan Signature Speaker Cables Magnan Cables,Inc.

Magnan Cables
$1,273 Cdn
$1,090 US
4.75(wide) 1/8 (thick) 8 Ibs

Magnan states that, during his early examinations of materials and designs in high-end audio, he determined that, contrary to general engineering opinion, the most detrimental influence in cable design is the potential for skin effect. A phenomenon that degrades a signal's time coherence, skin effect is especially noticeable as time smearing, mainly in the high frequency domain. According to Magnan, skin effect causes progressive slowing and phase shifting of the part of the signal current that propagates through the conductor below its surface. The result is that the entire music signal, which is composed of different frequency components, is slightly smeared out in time with higher frequencies arriving slightly ahead of lower frequencies.

Magnan set out to design a cable from highly conductive copper with a large cross-sectional area designed to achieve low total resistance. The result was a very thin yet wide copper ribbon with extremely low resistance measuring only .003 ohms per foot. Because of high drive currents and corresponding maximal voltage drops in the cable, Magnan came to believe that these parameters would allow time-coherent bass control and higher frequency extension.

He notes that these design prerequisites are, in fact, by far the most important elements for designing a speaker cable. He goes on to say that other parameters commonly applied to speaker cable design such as extreme metal purity, dielectric material and characteristic impedance are either comparatively inconsequential in a fine ribbon cable or not applicable at audible frequencies.

We have seen cables similar to Magnan Signature cables in the past, some good some not, but the speaker cables under review are different to be sure just keep reading.

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