That cat has given me nightmares.
I can’t even remember when I first saw the Black Cat logo. Stereophile, maybe? 6moons? Not sure. It’s just been in the background for some time now, and like Alice’s favorite aggravation, the Smiling Cat has always bordered just a bit on the creepy side of cool. I mean, it’s looking at me … and, ah … those canines are rather pointy! Anyway, as far as distinctive logos go, nothing currently in high end audio can touch this cat, and in that sense, it’s brilliant.
I met Chris Sommovigo, the man behind Black Cat Cables (as well as Stereovox, and his current solo project, Stereolab) at Command Performance A/V in McLean, VA. Chris was lugging around a couple of very impressive speakers from Transmission Audio. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to hang out with the little M1i speakers that so moved me, but the experience still leaps out at me as a watershed moment in my exposure to so-called “resolving” speakers. In short, the little M1i has become my reference for resolving power — I’ve never heard anything like it, either before or since. It’s just crazy. And the imaging? Just to die for.
I met Chris again at Axpona this past March when he was showing the Transmission speakers with MA Recordings. It wasn’t until this point that I made the mental connection that this was the guy that was making those crazy audiophile cables for the insanely un-audiophile prices. And that he was also the guy that was making those reference-level Stereovox cables that Stereophile and Positive Feedback went absolutely nuts over.
I’ve since spent some time being schooled by Chris online via Facebook (he’ll debate 19th/20th century philosophy as readily and with as much aplomb as he will high-end audio), so it was with great pleasure that I was able to wheedle a small box of cables out of him to try out. He sent me 3: a Black Cat Veloce S/PDIF cable, a Draco balanced interconnect and some Morpheus speaker cables. Out came the Clarity, in went the 10x less expensive Black Cats and …
But Chris was adamant that these cables were in no way ready for prime time. The word “prodigious” was used when discussing how much time these guys really need before fully blooming. Now, this is odd. Because if these are going to get dramatically better after 300+ hours of burn in, then I may have a new reference. Yeah. They’re pretty good right OOTB. But in the interest of giving them their fair due, I’ll table the review part of the Black Cat discussion until we get some “serious time” on them.
Which brings me to the Audiodharma Cable Cooker. This little device has been kicking around in various iterations for the last decade or so. Alan Kafton, the proprietor of Audio Excellence AZ, out of Phoenix, has been making the Cable Cookers as a direct result of his dealer’s experiences with cable performance. To wit: cables get better the more they’re used, which in some instances could take quite a long time. Enter the Cooker. The unit is designed to vastly accelerate the process by which cables are broken in. I don’t really have time (or inclination) here to open a debate about cables, their sonic contributions (or lack thereof), the role that different dialectric materials might play in sound, nor in the (alleged) benefits of break in. Suffice it to say that at this point, I’m a believer — and the Cooker is a tool which can be used to “cook” (break in) power cords, phono cables, interconnects and speaker cables. The device generates a signal, pumps it through the cables, and 3-5 days later, said cable sounds as if it has several hundred hours of actual use on it. Even better, you can do a whole loom all at once. Chris Sommovigo suggested that I invest in one if I was serious about looking at cables for review, and after talking with Alan, I had to agree. One is now on the way.
Which brings me to the other thing that is now “on the way” — my new AV rack, courtesy of Audiav. I placed an order for a double-wide Zirconia with 8 of their super-sweet platforms. Finally! My penultimate step toward total isolation (Symposium Rollerblocks will finish this off). I can’t wait.