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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Apple iMac 1TB with WAV and AIFF files, Weiss DAC2, Yamamoto YDA-01, Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, Wyred4Sound DAC2 [on review]
Preamp/Integrated: Esoteric C-03 (transistor), ModWright DM 36.5 (valves)
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5, ModWright KWA-100 [on review]
Speakers: ASI Tango
Cables: Complete loom of ASI Liveline, ALO Audio USB cable, Weiss-supplied LaCie FireWire cable, Stealth Varidig S/PDIF, generic S/PDIF, Crystal Cable S/PDIF
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters, Advanced Acoustics Orbis Wall & Corner units
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail: $123

Chris Sommovigo: "As you already know from the earlier press release, I have a new product. It's a 75-ohm digital coax cable under the Black Cat Cable name. This is an entry-level brand with a hybrid direct marketing. I have an exclusive arrangement with The Cable Company to be my only other retailer aside from myself. This keeps the price down. The Cable Company agreed to shaved margins to enable this from their end. The cable is called Veloce and made in only one size: 1.23 meters for $123. It's a truly kick-ass product if I may say so. I basically distilled the XV-2—which we updated and upgraded into the XV-Ultra as sold by my main Stereolab cable brand—into a leaner meaner digital cable. It delivers all the precision for half the price the XV-2 used to be."

The website lists ±1ohm impedance stability; flat-wound metal foil and woven silver-plated copper shielding; bandwidth into the tens of Gigahertz limited admittedly by the connectors and ancillary gear; 75-ohm BNCs with better than 6GHz speed; custom BNC/RCA adaptors; cryo treatment; and a 60-day money back guarantee. With computer audio the new big thing to promote a renaissance of outboard DACs for more ambitious sound, an affordable high-performance true 75-ohm digital link from the 'inventor' of the category seems quite timely - even if it were a rebadged XV-2 with cryo treatment for 50 cents on the dollar.

Incidentally, I'm a way late adopter of computer audio. Peachtree Audio's groundbreaking $995 iDecco turned my head for the iPod. Hearing how good WAV and later AIFF files converted outside the iPod could sound, it was only a few months later when I decided to grab the - er, bull of gold-plated audiophile servers by the horns. This Windows man opted for a 1TB iMac connected via FireWire 800 to a Weiss DAC2. My customary Yamamoto YDA-01—a single-ended transistor affair with no feedback and resistor-based I/V conversion—connects via coax to the Weiss as would the DAC2 review loaner from Wyred4Sound. The Weiss then only functions as FireWire to S/PDIF converter in the digital domain. I had the infrastructure to evaluate the Veloce. Both Ancient Audio Lektor Prime and Raysonic Audio CD228 legacy machines have coaxial digital outputs.

If your audiophile prenup didn't include cables, wire is wire and bits are bits. How could a digital cable possibly make a diff? You might concede that super high-speed microwave transmissions received and then distributed over miles of cable could warrant certain stringent parameters. But 1.23 meters hardly qualify as miles. Nor is our encoded audio signal as fragile as microwave stuff. Don't we successfully download files from the iTunes stores wirelessly without dropouts? All that's sensible. But high-performance systems hold up a magnifying glass to the small stuff. Now there can be acknowledged issues which has many prefer integrated digital solutions precisely because those don't require jitter-prone external data transmissions. With computer front ends of course, going offboard is still de rigueur. Hence no rigor mortis for the digital cable category.

One cited issue are signal reflections from impedance mismatches between the conductor and its terminations on the cable and then components. Those were at the heart of Sommovigo's first true 75-ohm Illuminati cable at a time when jitter was still primarily associated with hangovers. With a 60-day satisfaction guarantee and low sticker, today's Veloce is a good candidate for hearing is believing (or not). Of course the real meow would have been a USB cable*. Most computers lack BNC and coax. What they all do have is USB. Fewer add Toslink, even fewer FireWire. To directly tack Veloce to a PC or laptop requires an already upgraded sound card with the right connector. Or a USB to coax interface like April Music's U2.

* Chris Sommovigo again: "With regard to computer audio and S/PDIF cables, I'm told that the M2Tech HiFace USB converter with BNC output option is a better solution than a USB cable made for the purpose. I haven't tried the HiFace myself but will be ordering one asap. I've had a few people push me toward making USB cables but there are changing standards (USB 3.0 coming soon) and I suspect that converters like the HiFace will remain better solutions until we get into serious HiRes and need Firewire 800 for everything. I was a bloody early adopter of computer audio via USB. I bought Gordon Rankin's s first Cosecant DAC (still have it and the PS is signed by Gordon) so I'm not unfamiliar with the USB end of things. But once the chili hits the cheese, I still think there's more flexibility to be had via off-ramps like the HiFace into conventional DACs."

"The Veloce design itself is simple, robust and—most importantly—correct. It establishes and maintains the proper impedance characteristic for its length and by virtue of its internal shielding, reduces leakage which otherwise leads to an internal loss of energy and external interference while protecting the digital signal from outside noise sources. The dielectric constant is low, signal velocity high. The raw cable itself is manufactured for us by a military contractor who holds very tight tolerances and provides extremely precise communication cable solutions for the military, aerospace and surveillance industries sectors. You'll find some of their products in Air Force fighter jets, AWACS, Phalanx and AIMS missile systems and MIL-STAR Satellite Communication systems."

Special ops cable? Actually, specialized apps - digital hifi. The packaging is a simple cardboard box gussied up in retro graphics (the above image shows both sides). The 1/4"-thin hard cable itself is sleeved in slinky black weave dressed at the ends with blue shrink wrap and a piece of the same shrink wrap silk-screened Black Cat Veloce in the middle. Plain and simple and not expensive. You might say that the current economic crisis prompts extra resourcefulness with certain manufacturers to continue tapping into shrinking audio spending. Cutting out middlemen, tightening profits and stripping the fat from proven existing models is one way to do it. "I gave your loaner a little time on the Audiodharma Cable Cooker but it will probably need a bit more given that it was wrapped up tight. My German distributor Willi Bauer actually cooks new cables in an oven on low heat before using them to take the mechanical stress out of them."

"All of my digital cables since HDXV were improvements based on a core design I settled on as an ideal specific geometry for the job. That development was HDXV to XV2 to XV-Ultra. Veloce sort of sits between XV2 and XV-U. It employs the better BNCs we recently adopted for XV-U and the deep-cycle cryo treatment for that cable but none of the RF carbon fiber shielding (and extra labor for that matter) that makes XV-U so quiet. In terms of production costs, Veloce is actually slightly more expensive to make than the old XV2 but because it is a directly marketed product, we can offer it at a substantially lower price. All the 75-ohm goodness, half the calories! is my fun tag line. In a way it's not entirely cynical to say that Veloce is a repackaged XV2 but it's not entirely accurate either. Veloce is an improvement on XV2 as a core product, still every bit as precise but with wider functional bandwidth and cryogenic treatment.

"I adopted cryo after being nudged for ages by Bryan Bilgore, a good friend and dealer who had done it for his old XV2 and found the results to be more refined. I tested it for myself but this was during the development phase for XV-Ultra (and the phase-out of XV2) so we adopted its use as part of the build protocols for the XV-U. After a fashion then, Veloce is a 'repackaged' XV2 but with clear improvements. Given the new connectors and procedures, it would probably be more accurate to say that the Veloce is a hot-rodded (i.e. stripped down to basics) XV-U. We have programmed in an upgrade path for users to move up to the XV-U even though that product does not sell directly. Veloce owners can get full credit for up to 365 days after their Veloce purchase against an XV-Ultra through The Cable Company.

"This in combination with our 60-day guarantee makes the Veloce a very safe bet. My hope was that Black Cat would offer a tremendous no-brainer value to the consumer, then add value on top by protecting the buyer on both ends of the sale."