AUDIO EXPERIENCE FROM FRANCE
I know that bringing up the subject of cables will elicit some sighs among my readers. It is a topic that has caused much ink to fly and that sometimes prompts the most irrational responses. Yet, cables are an integral part of HIFI systems, just like sources, amplifiers, speakers, and even the rooms where we listen to music. Today, I want to introduce you to two craftsmen, whose approach and work you may find intriguing. My visit with them wrapped up with a highly interesting audition in which I compared the performance of a suite of different cables.
To reach them, I had to head south from the city of Rouen towards Dieppe. After passing through the Normandy countryside, I eventually reached the unassuming business district in which can be found the brand-new building that houses the workshop for Absolue Créations .
In 2009, Alain Yzembar and Christophe Condouret decided to embark on an adventure. One worked as an electrical technician in the IT industry, and the other was, among other things, the manager of a HIFI retail store in Rouen twenty years ago. Their quest was prompted by the fact that no cables on the market were to their liking. The two men, thus inspired, started putting together some experimental products and then prototypes, which immediately made believers of out some of their clients. They traveled all around France to meet with a large number of retailers and HIFI professionals to convince them of the quality of their products.
Yzembar comments, “Basically, a cable is nothing more than an assortment of defects (e.g., distortions, crosstalk), and I searched far beyond the world of HIFI for information to help me tackle this problem. In the beginning, I wasn’t, strictly speaking, a cables expert, but I think that fact ended up being an advantage because it allowed me to come at the problem from a rather fresh, unbiased perspective: only the final musical result mattered to us ! Our first job was to identify the constraints and defects we were dealing with. Then we could progressively try to manage them satisfactorily and eventually eliminate them.”
He continues, “Starting off, our goal was two-fold: to respect the integrity of the signal and music as recorded as much as possible while enhancing the cable’s neutrality and to offer our clients a cable of exceptional speed. That’s why we decided to use copper. In our opinion, it is the best material you can use to obtain as much neutrality as possible.”
The first step involves making use of the cable’s core: the copper is wrapped in an insulation layer. The material used depends on the particular cable model. Then the real work, so to speak, begins: Absolue Créations’ unique technological expertise comes into play as the pairing and stranding take place. The last step consists of covering the cable with a cotton and silicon sheath (the exact cover depends on the model) and mounting the connectors without using any sort of soldering. Absolue Créations has taken great care to choose quality suppliers and, all other things being equal, preferentially works with French companies. For instance, its wire manufacturer is French, the cotton insulation layer is braided in Normandy, and the aluminum cases for the cables are made in Ardèche.
It takes 8 days to manufacture and break in a TIM-REF or a TIM-SIGNATURE cable. Condouret underscores, “All our cables are assembled by hand. They are hooked up for 24 hours to break them in, and we systematically conduct listening tests with them.” All these steps help guarantee the quality of the final product.
Absolue Créations has made a name for itself in the world of high-end cables. The company works with around 10 retailers in France and exports its products to other European countries and to Asia. Its expertise also comes in handy in technology-focused partnerships with other companies—it helps with the internal cables used in certain products (amplifiers and speakers)—and in the professional customized cabling it does to create high-quality sound recording materials for the Fontamenta record label.
Auditions & Tests
I did not arrive in Normandy empty handed. I brought my own « starter » Atoll electronics (an IN30 amplifier and a CD30 CD Player) as well was some Odiosis HF pro BM cables. All this equipment was hooked up to Grand Cru Audio speakers made available to Absolue Créations for use in their listening room. We carried out multiple tests, making sure to change only one cable type at a time, whether it was the speaker, modulation cables and the power cable. We gradually increased cable model quality without ever switching out the source (the CD player) or the amplifier.
The audition was essentially carried out using a single track: a piece by Renaud Garcia Fons entitled “Oriental Bass” (ENJA Records, 1997). This track comprises very varied audio scenes, some beautiful percussion tones, and numerous instrumental overlays spanning several registers. It would undoubtedly be overzealous to describe each change that took place as we moved from the lower-end to the higher-end cables. However, here are some of the highlights:
– When I switched out my speaker cables for the Absolue Créations ES-TIM starter model cables, I immediately perceived the difference in clarity. It was as though my source had somehow been cleansed; the higher transmission speed made a very noticeable difference.
– When I used the OP-TIM speaker cables, I had the definite impression that a certain amount of information had become audible, as though my source had been enriched. The energy was such that the sound volume seemed to be augmented. The sound landscape was breathtakingly detailed, and my little Atoll electronics suddenly sprouted muscles.
– When I replaced my interconnects with ES-TIMs or OP-TIMs, there was an undeniable increase in the level of detail and precision.
– When I switched out the power cable, there was a crystal-clear difference: the energy level was much higher.
I was absolutely stunned that, by using different cables, I was able to unlock hidden energy in my Atoll electronics and enhance the level of detail in the sound they conveyed. However, my electronics nonetheless butted up against their limits when we used the very high-end cables. It was then that the differences became far more subtle. The result of the audition can be summed up quite simply: one can only do one’s best. While my lower-end electronics did as well as they could, I can easily imagine the results higher-quality electronics could produce when paired with such cables. These tests were done for the sake of experimentation because no one would want to use speaker cables in a system where the cables cost more than the amplifier alone. However, I would never have imagined that such results were possible—the richness of detail or the energy levels—using starter level materials.
Absolue Créations is a manufacturer of high-end cables who has clearly earned the right to call itself such. Although the two magicians running the company won’t reveal their magic tricks, their unconditional love of music and their unique approach to the cable-making business suffice to explain the success they have enjoyed. Instead of using marketing-heavy yet empty commercial tactics, Absolue Créations plants its roots in the HIFI world day after day by remaining faithful to its role as a craftsman who seeks to convey music’s full vivacity and soul.
Absolue Créations : 6 models of speaker cables, modulation cables and power cables . Accessories : USB cables, Ethernet cables, electric guitar cables, and specialized high-end power strips; the cost for a set of assembled speaker cables (2.5 m) ranges from € 595.