This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

When introducing the first interconnect or speaker cables, you will likely notice two things. First, the treble will sound surprisingly real; not forward, harsh, bright, rounded over or shelved down but just right. You'll hear it for example in the harmonic complexity of triangles. That of course matters only to people who listen to triangle concertos all day long. More importantly you'll hear it from the lower treble to the upper limit of your hearing capacity. Over time this picture focused for me into a complete lack of distortion and perfect timing. Because the treble component of transients more often than not is responsible for harshness when arriving too early or dullness when late, proper treble timing translates into more natural micro-dynamics throughout the frequency range. It seems paradoxical but when you catch on, elements that fail begin to suddenly sound off - either by being hifi-ish or a little lifeless.

I doubt anybody would object that this LiveLine effect is wholly beneficial – full treble extension and perfect timing result in no distortion. The result is extreme transparency without harshness. That sounds like a winner to me regardless of what your system might be. What may be more questionable at least initially is what happens below throughout the midrange and bass. The first impression will be one of leanness. If you know thin silver cables like the Kiwi Slinkylinks I keep in my toolbox for comparison purposes only, you'll jump to conclusions and say "I know this effect. The sound gets leaner and tighter to deceive us with an impression of greater responsiveness but quickly turns into lack of bass and dryness." If you've experimented with such cables, you'll pack up the LiveLines at this point and send them back.

Wrong move!

If you hang with things just a little longer and cue up some bass-heavy music, you'll quickly realize there's no lack of bass. Actually, depth is - well, deep; very deep in fact. This seems completely counter intuitive (another of those Tchang impossibilities): a cable that clearly sounds leaner and tauter but with more bass. The simple truth is, when you get to this level of control in the infrasonic range—when you remove the fuzz and blur factor—the deepest of deep bass becomes audible again. My speakers do not extend extremely low. The Essence has commendable bass but it's no Wilson Maxx3. As I alternated between the LiveLine set and the top-line Zu loom (Varial, Libtec, Mother), it became obvious over a few swaps that although the Zus sounded just a little plumper and richer, the LiveLines were tauter, more articulate, more detailed and lacked any imprecision to hear a little deeper into music's bass content. I am not going to tell you of a gigantific difference that was earth-shatteringly or orgasmically impressive. Yet it was audible and an incremental improvement over a full set of Zu cables.

Probably more critical is what happened to the midrange when going from Zu to ASI and back. I think what Franck Tchang was after is hearing the smallest of tone modulations, the minutest shifts in intonation, the most subtle rhythmic and dynamic nuances. Because that's exactly what you get. To reach that level of micro-dynamic transparency and expressiveness, the man had to strip out any harmonic cable enhancement which would inevitably obscure this level of subtle information.

I'm sure you've seen such questions before. "My system is too bright, what cables should I use?" The answer is hardly ever a new set of cables but if it were, the LiveLines would not apply. Those cables called warm or golden or comfortable usually achieve their voicing by smearing transients and scattering timing (that's why one can show a flat response curve from DC to infinity and still end up with a warm cable). The LiveLines do the opposite. While they don't outright project or accelerate transients, Franck Tchang has somehow managed to design cables which preserve signal timing and harmonic integrity better than anything else I own or have heard.

Of course it would be ludicrous of me to say he's the only one who has managed. In an almost infinite world of cables, I have barely scratched the surface. Still, the LiveLines best the Zus by a fair margin when it comes to hearing those minute inflections. They leave my balanced Audio Art interconnects by miles behind (the price is quite different too). The one comparison I wish I could have made—unfortunately the cables had to be returned earlier this year—was against the $4500/pair Esoteric Mexcel. I think the far pricier Japanese would have come close on micro inflections because my system took a small backward step when I had to remove them. I also think they'd show a hint more wetness in the midrange.

On my journey to understand and appreciate what the LiveLines do—Srajan was privy to this through our email exchanges—I immediately fell in love when they connected to my Yamamoto A08s but struggled when using them on my FirstWatt F5. When paired with the Japanese direct-heated SET, the LiveLines revealed so obviously what triodes do so well that it was a match made in heaven. Obviously the A08s delivers all the harmonic complexity one might desire and won't benefit from a cable (or other component) that adds or subtracts from those elements. The LiveLines really passed on those tonal colors, the fluid articulation, the micro resolution and huge soundstaging SETs are famous for and at which the Yamamoto excels. Any time I removed just one of the LiveLine cables for something else, a hint of the deep triode effect would melt away. If I switched to the Zu Varial, the treble turned a little glassy and the midrange lost some of its resolution. When I used the Slinkylink silver interconnect, everything turned drier and the bass attenuated. When I used the Audio Art Cables interconnects, everything slowed down and warmed up to get somewhat mushy and cuddly.

I think that in any system built around a superior SET, LiveLine cables are a must. What they will also reveal very clearly is that a SET's control over huge orchestral pieces and deep bass is tenuous at best when one pushes the volume too far (obviously this effect would have been contained had I more sensitive speakers - 2 watts are borderline with the Zu Essence).