O2A are a speaker manufacturer from Liechtenstein headed up by Anna Robathin. Here Dominic Marsh tries out the company’s €1760 (2.5m pair) O2A Quintessence SUBLIM Speaker Cables.
It’s surprising sometimes where the products originate from for review by Hifi Pig. In this instance it is Liechtenstein, and it’s a first for me. Also another first is these products are designed and hand built by a lady called Anna Robathin who originates from Russia and I mean that as no sexist remark, rather than a shining light that hifi manufacturers should not always be male orientated and a big welcome for design talent of female persuasion. In 2000 Anna graduated with distinction Vilnius High Technical school as an engineer of telecommunication (transmission audio, video and high frequencies signals and has good command of 5 languages (English, French, German, Lithuanian, Polish) and Russian as well. In addition she has got solid musical education. That provides the possibility to expertise the quality of Hi-End products and audio quality. In 2008 she created the first line of acoustic cables under her own brand name O2A and at the same time acoustic speakers and amplifiers were created in cooperation with French engineers.
O2A also produce a comprehensive range of both analogue and digital cables.
The first thing that struck me when I opened the packaging for these SUBLIM speaker cables was how well built they are. The attention to detail is incredible even though the outward appearance is fairly basic and minimal. By attention to detail I mean the connectors are very good quality being made from copper. The heat shrink is cut and applied perfectly and the black outer mesh covering really is fitted tightly and evenly too. The outer diameter of the main cable is 12mm and reasonably flexible, which then splits into two tails at each end – one each for the positive and negative connections respectively.
The actual construction details elude me despite searching on the internet and the O2A website isn’t all that forthcoming with details either, but I am given to understand the conductors feature copper and silver. I could have asked O2A to give me a detailed reply to a query, but my job is to convey to you what the product sounds like and in the cold light of day that is what counts in relation to money outlay for sound quality achieved, which to me is always the bottom line to consider.
Price at time of testing is 1760 Euros (GB£1366.00, US$1992.00) for a standard 2.5 metre pair with the choice of either 4mm banana plugs or spade terminals. Other lengths and outer sheath colour choices are available to order.
Overall balance is very neutral with no emphasis in any area of the audible frequencies. Bass is solid and articulate, in correct balance and proportion to the other frequencies so it was very easy to listen to. Treble is sweet and ever so slightly rolled off at the very top end so less than perfect recordings don’t have a sting to them and this makes for long fatigue-free listening… a joy in that respect. What this cable is particularly good at is scouring out the micro dynamics in recordings, with more than one “not heard that before” kind of comments from me during the listening sessions.
For example, while listening to the opening track London Grammar’s excellent ‘If You Wait’ album there is a wealth of synthesized reverberation effects and a deep penetrating bass line to the music, underpinning the female vocals. The SUBLIM cable portrayed this track with both the delicacy and power necessary to make it an enjoyable and satisfying listen. Track two from the same album contains some very obvious and deliberate fret fingering on steel strings from the guitarist and that comes across as crisp, defined and uncannily real sounding. The whole album is infused with artificial ambience and the SUBLIM cable rendered this perfectly.
Ginger Baker’s epic drum solo on ‘Wheels of Fire’ by Cream has the drum kit close mic’d during the performance which is ideal for testing transient ability. Snare drum and tom toms sounded taut and dynamic the way they should be and the cymbals had a polished refinement with no splashiness or tizz. Kick drum too has a solid “whump” that feels like it’s hitting you in the pit of the stomach as much as you hear it with your ears.
Moving on to Derrin Nauendorf’s ‘Live at the Boardwalk’ which is a live acoustic recording with Derrin playing solo acoustic guitar and accompanied only by a basic set of drums, the tonality of the guitar’s sound was conveyed realistically and full of natural resonances and timbre. Every pluck on the strings was heard in great clarity and detail, although I cannot say that Derrin is the best of vocalists, but an enjoyable listen nonetheless.
Treble then is clean and clear, and I was able to pick out minute detail and finer points, even when the music got hectic. Bass has depth and power, without overhang or delay and is able to react to fast transients in a clear delineated fashion. Female vocals were up there with the best of the competition. Play a simple acoustic recording in a live venue and all the reverberation effects and ambience in a venue are delivered with solidity and competence. This was plainly evident when I played Fink’s ‘Wheels Beneath My Feet’ live album and noted that the venue ambiences for each track actually sounded all different because they were each recorded at different locations during one of Fink’s many European tours and in this respect the SUBLIM cable didn’t disappoint at all. In the track called ‘Sort of Revolution’ we can hear the drummer driving down hard with his Floor Tom strikes which does reverberate powerfully around my listening room and really does show up any loose or flabby bass immediately when it occurs, but again the SUBLIM cables renders this very well.
The acid test for me personally is whether or not I play entire albums or just my favourite tracks off albums and secondly, how long do my listening sessions last for, so each album played from start to finish and very late bed times without realising what the time actually is, is a huge endorsement.
How can I sum up these cables then? From appearance alone they are rather nondescript and I have seen a plethora of handsomely clothed cable confections over the years which had issues during the listening sessions. The O2A Quintessence SUBLIM cables on the other hand are no catwalk candidates as far as appearance goes, but had no issues sonically as best as I can tell, so priced at 1760 Euros for a 2.5 metre pair the majority of build cost appears to have been spent on the inside rather than the outside and that does impress me.
Neutrality is the keyword here and the entire frequency spectrum is in correct balance from top to bottom, so it isn’t a cable designed to impress with its attention grabbing fireworks. It is all too easy to play track after track, album after album through these cables and you feel well sated at the end of your listening sessions. Has to be a recommendation from me then and well worth searching out for to audition in your own system.
Neutral sounding with equal balance throughout the range from top to bottom.
Ranks highly in sound terms amongst its peers in the marketplace
External appearance doesn’t convey high quality commensurate with cost.