On first talking with Fabio, I immediately made a connection with a friendly, kind-hearted music lover, a modest and experienced minded guy, who expressed his love of many different genres of music and knowledge of many different brands of world class equipment. His cables have been carefully constructed using some of the purest materials available and extensively tested on many high-end systems with different characteristics and variables, to achieve his goal of producing the Neutral Cable brand.
We talked of our first childhood experiences, both with Technics receivers and Pioneer loudspeakers and a shared love of many different types of music.
Fabio agreed to send me a pair of his Fascino interconnects and 3 Fascino power cables for evaluation in my system.
The cables arrived promptly after our initial chatter in their nice velvet bags, no over the top packaging to increase the costs and in order to keep delivery charges from Italy down. Sporting a pink and blue braid, with Eichmannn pure copper bullet plugs on the interconnect and a Wattgate 320i and what seems to be a generic type Schuko fitting on the mains cable (also available with a standard UK plug or any custom plugs on request) the cables looked very well made and a little retro.
Choosing cables for a system can be a lengthy, tiring and expensive process. Some choose cables on ‘hype’ factor, some on visual appeal and others use and choose cables to attenuate and control the tone of their system.
Personally I believe a well put together system should require cables which simply ‘get out of the way of the music’ and add no coloration to the sound, this is where Neutral Cable’s ‘Fascino’ cables enter the musical arena!
Firstly I connected the Fascino interconnect from my PS Audio Reference Dac into the Emille KI40-L amplifier and left the system to warm up a little with my trusted Ayre Acoustics burn in disc which is ripped to my NAS and fed through the Fidelity Audio modded Squeezebox Touch with Teddy Pardo PSU for about half an hour to get the tubes up to temperature and firing on all cylinders!
The first track I played was ‘Gypsy’ by Fleetwood Mac. Immediately I noticed an instant sense of clarity and overall clean up to the background which sat there as black as I had ever noticed it, with great depth combined with a more layered 3D image. Vocals were extraordinarily natural and conveyed an articulate pronunciation which breathed a new life into the central focus of the soundstage. Bass was taut and extended with great layering and the top end sparkled in a silky manner, ‘this is like a great analogue setup’ I thought, there was so much control and texture to the presentation.
The cables signature was definitely perceived to be one of neutrality with no discerning coloration or character, although the music itself had a huge character to its flow.
For a cable that sounds so neutral it is very lively and energetic, yet handles delicate passages with finesse. A sense of atmosphere and ambience overlays a pin point soundstage, resulting in layers of texture which captivates the performance in an engaging way and had me toe tapping and singing along to the music very quickly!
Acoustic guitars have a lingering ring, timbre and body and chords hang in the air as the next is plucked out of an ambient fading layer on Nils Lofgrens ‘Keith Don’t Go’ from his Acoustic Live album.
Vocals have charisma and charm with an obvious openness, projecting themselves out of an accurate central focus – not forward but with enough presence to really stand out and shine,
Newton Faulkners range of tones in his voice were displayed in an organic and natural way as he tickled the strings of his guitar and tapped the cabinet on his ‘Hand Built By Robots’ album.
One of my favourite vocalists and an extremely hard act to live up to is Loreena McKennit, her album ‘Mask and the Mirror’ is a joy to listen to and the track ‘Full’ has some of the most beautiful liquid vocals of any I’ve heard. A cable too smooth sounding will add unwanted body and mush to her voice and one which is overly clean and bright will pin you to the ceiling.
Neutral Cables Fascino gave her voice the natural clarity it deserved, delicate and powerful with body retaining that liquidity I mentioned. The track is all about the vocal – nothing more – and this Italian piece of wire correctly animated its presence in a wonderful way that once again put a smile on my face – I wanted to pet it like a dog that had returned the ball without being distracted by the other dogs in the park!
Bass is extraordinarily controlled but never dry, with great extension and drama giving that wonderfully open midrange the body it needed to really reflect a natural and full presentation.
At lower listening levels the quality of the Fascino are still apparent, with details and dynamics still holding there own, the cable will let through whatever is in front of it without colour or restriction and it doesn’t enhance the top end, or most importantly the upper mids which, for someone who enjoys acoustic and vocal music, is an absolute no-no, Fascino keeps pitches in the tone in check and presents them in a natural and controlled manner.
Jack Jonsons ‘Broken’ starts with a few lines of vocals which leads to the band kicking in a glorious manner, dynamics are large enough to be convincing and not over the top; I have heard some hugely dynamic kit in the past and it becomes very fatiguing very quickly but here the track sounded so bouncy and musical, really rhythmic and full of body and details, with out of phase nuances creating a spacious atmosphere and giving an impression of great layering front to back.
Soundstage depth on Dire Staits ‘You Me and Your Friend’ was fantastic – the band really spread out across the soundstage with the lead singer a couple feet behind the lead guitarist on the left, but his presence was clear and concise and not over shadowed by the higher notes of the guitar. Three quarters through the track is where the lead guitarist hits his amazing solo and its position on the soundstage is accurately displayed as the strings rang across the room, it’s a fantastic solo which can sound bright but the Fascinos dealt with its tone very well.
Busier music in general was displayed in a more airy and less mushy way, giving each instrument more space in the soundstage and its own window for dynamic range and expression. This was a welcome addition which I thought at first was part of an initial wow factor (too much separation can become disengaging) that may wear thin on me and may become too clinical but this wasn’t the case, it just made performances more natural and believable.
There is nothing warm and romantic about the Fascino’s sound, it’s not bloomy or smooth, nor is it harsh or bright, what it does do is accurately convey the music with a neutral presentation, with grip and bandwidth. There is lots of attention to detail, once again in a control manner without edginess. The Italian can present delicacy in harmonies and gently portray little nuances in the music, as well as command huge dynamic passages and slam with authority. It allows the music to determine what is required from a track.
If you have a bright sounding system and are trying to find cables to adjust the tone to a smoother sound then this cable is not for you but on the other hand if you have a well matched system and want to unleash its inner detail and open up the midrange without losing the musical tonality, then Neutral Cables Fascino interconnect is extremely good value for money and will make you think twice about the cost of those other bits of wire that resided in your system.
Price – €800 1m pair
Swapping out my DHLabs AC Power Plus mains cables for the Fascinos was an interesting experience; the cables are constructed from a blend of different conductors made with different types of materials which gives them a great detailed approach to the sound with an overall essence of control. Dynamics became richer with as much presence as before but seeming to emerge from a deeper background, vocals having a slightly more textured approach. Bass had more impact and the highs became silkier. I would say that the sound now began to lean towards the warmer side of neutral slightly.
Listening to Norah Jone’s ’Come Away With Me’ album really expressed a new texture to the performance throughout instruments and vocals. Timbre had a new layer of depth and insight which immediately became apparent on her track ‘Feelin’ The Same Way’ picking up on the acoustic guitars strings being rubbed quite excitedly! Bass guitar single notes were full and rounded and the delicate tones of Norah’s voice simply flowed from and very black yet ambient background…as did the notes from her piano in ‘Come Away with Me’.
Curious from this new found body and texture, I considered what to play next, ah I thought, lets try some Damien Rice, so I picked up the iPad which controls the user interface for the Squeezebox, scrolled back up the list and put on the album ‘O’ and chose the track ‘The Blowers Daughter’; Damien’s vocals are a triumph and with the Fascinos in place they were given a lease of life which impressed me immensely. The bass on this track is beautiful, something usually only mentioned when talking about vocals, but for me on the right system it’s just so simple and carries the vocals along wonderfully.
I quickly went on to listen to ‘Older Cheats’ and ‘Cannonball’ from the same album.
The mains cables seemed to add a sense of freedom to the music, allowing it to express itself with manners and grace, never detracting from the overall control of busier passages or demanding bass notes.
If I had any quibbles at all it would simply be that I would have liked better plugs on the power cables, which I know from experience add to the quality of the sound – I am assured by Fabio that any special plug requirements different to the standard are absolutely no problem and to simply contact him to discuss requirements.
I could go on, but in short if you take all the experience and comments from the Fascino Interconnect and inject that slight bit of warmth, add a ladle full of texture, dim the background so it’s a little darker and add another couple of sheepdogs to the overall control you are left with a combination that will stimulate the strings in any high end system.
quality materials by a music lover that demands the best from his products.
Price €450 1m, €550 1.5m
Author – Dan
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