…Rod Alexander listens to four cables from Polish artisan manufacturer Albedo.
I want to be a working-class hero. I want to strike a blow against corporate marketing-speak and be a champion for truth and justice. I never used to think like this, but having read the overblown marketing gumph provided by Albedo Cable’s UK distributor, believe me – I want to lead a class war to fight ‘the man’.
I’m familiar with most of the worlds leading hi-fi cable manufacturers, but have never heard of Albedo Cables, a manufacturer of all silver interconnect and speaker cables. Maybe they’ve somehow just slipped under my radar. Maybe my view is too Anglo-centric, I don’t know. Whatever the reason for my ignorance, I found my initial curiosity wearing away with line after line of Albedo’s marketing hyperbole. Get this,
“Albedo, simply put, is one of those manufacturers that one can recommend at the drop of a hat.”
“…is the only company I know of that takes personal control of all stages of the manufacturing process.”
Even a truth in their marketing blurb,
“…many manufacturers are repackaging and rebranding products and wrapping them in marketing glitz.”
is spoiled by their claim that,
“…for this reason alone, Albedo products stand out from the norm like a glittering diamond.”
Albedo supplied four of their, ahem… ‘glittering diamonds’ for review. Retailing at £80 for a 0.5m pair, ‘Blue’ – actually one rung above their entry-level offering, is formed, apparently, from paralleled square solid core silver wires. The next model in their range, Flat One’, at £200, uses silver tape conductors in a symmetrical configuration. One rung up their price/performance ladder sits the £400 ‘Geo’ – using, like the cheaper ’Blue’, rectangular silver wires. Monolith, at £500, was the most expensive cable supplied and uses silver conductors extruded into tapes as wide and thin as Albedo are able to produce.
With steam coming out of my ears (thanks to Albedo’s hyperbole) I was determined to upset their corporate apple cart and decided to meticulously assess their 4 cable offering via blind testing (with my fingers crossed in the hope that I would reveal at least one of their cheaper offerings to buck their oh-so-logical product range and pricing).
With an assistant pressed (OK, bribed) into service over several hours, spread over a couple of days, I was confident that not knowing which cable I was listening to (they had been randomly numbered and all I knew about each cable I was listening to was its number) would result in me discovering at least one cable in their line-up that punched well above its weight. If I got really lucky, their whole neat and tidy corporate ‘performance matching price’ schema would be revealed as complete bunkum…
Blind testing arrangements set up, it was time for serious listening. Test tracks included ‘What’s a Little More Rain’ from Sarah K’s ‘Closer Than They Appear’, Sarah McLachan’s Angel, from the City of Angels soundtrack and (continuing the movie soundtrack theme) ‘Walkaway’, from the Meet Joe Black soundtrack. Sting’s ‘We’ll Be Together’ a vile, bright, forward, all digital recording, provided punch and dynamics, while acting as an easy trap for any excessive brightness.
First and foremost, the Albedo cables do share family characteristics. They’re a clan of brothers, if you like. Specifically, these brethren major on sound staging and articulation, with complex instrumentation and syncopation handled with emphatic precision by all four cables. Although, like all siblings, each cable has its own unique characteristics, if you’re hoping that one of them will offer a soft, dreamlike, ethereal presentation, look elsewhere.
The Monolith and Geo are the most expensive members of the clan and both major on hear-through transparency, a wonderful sense of spaciousness and truly mammoth soundstaging, providing not just astonishing stage width but also that normally elusive representation of stage height. Bass is reproduced with not an ounce of fat and the texture of each bass note is almost palpable. Think of them as the two elder, competitive brothers who are balanced, knowledgeable and good at pretty much everything. In terms of differences between the two, although Geo provides more than most cables – in particular transparency to die for, compared to the more expensive Monolith, Geo is almost trying a tiny, tiny bit too hard. While its emphatic and definitive presentation provides wonderful articulation in bass and midrange, at treble frequencies, this translates as a slightly diffuse, ‘obvious’ quality. Albedo suggest that Geo is an ideal partner for valve amplification – and if by that they mean lusher, triode amplifiers, I can see why.
Monolith matches Geo in every department, providing the same incredible soundstage width, height and depth and the same incredible hear-through transparency and articulation, but then adds what I can only describe as ‘polish’. Horns and brass, for example, sound wonderfully natural and treble, in particular, has a smoother, more refined quality, all without any editorialising or loss of detail. Both cables will knock you off your feet with their incredible soundstaging and transparency, but Monolith just sounds more like music.
Flat One’s presentation was a radical departure from Monolith and Geo. In fact, if this cable were a child, I can well imagine its parents comparing it to its older siblings and wondering whether there had been a mix-up at the maternity unit that led to them taking home the wrong baby. No ‘academic precision’ for this guy. No extended, spot lit treble or forensic digging up of micro detail. Just relaxed, easy going music, man…You see, while this guy is just as able as his older siblings (the detail is there and everything is in it’s place) he took a gap year before university to backpack around the world – just for a year, you understand. Listening to this cable, its obvious that that was several years ago and guess what? He’s still travelling. In fact, we all know this guy. We’ve seen him at every backpacking stop – the relaxed, easy-going guy, popular with everyone, friendly and instantly likeable. Who cares if he doesn’t get the phrasing, pronunciation or grammar perfectly right when he’s talking to you in your language? He’s still communicating man and you instantly find yourself smiling, laughing and joking with him. You understand everything he wants to say and you love his easy-going approach.
Bass is slightly fuller and more resonant and that same resonant quality extends through the midrange with treble having a wonderfully, sinfully smooth, relaxed presentation. The characteristic Albedo deep and wide soundstaging is retained, but the aural soundscape is smaller and more focused. No, it’s not strictly accurate, but review over, I found myself hooking this cable up as a self-indulgent, guilty pleasure.
While Monolith and Geo have long since left university and made a success of themselves in the worlds of science or academia (and Flat One is years into his easy-going, backpacking exploits around the globe – I’m not sure even he knows or cares exactly where he is) mom and dad were a little err… ‘careless’ and produced ‘Blue’, dashing their hopes of early retirement. And guess what, with Flat One’s globetrotting adventures having meant he’s never met his youngest sibling, unsurprisingly, Blue adores and idolises his older brothers, Geo and Monolith, desperately trying to be just like them.
As the baby of the clan, soundstaging is far smaller by comparison, not really extending beyond the speakers in the spectacular way that its older siblings do, but already, he has the same orderly, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ attitude, with good transparency and the same emphatic presentation.
At a fraction of their price, unsurprisingly, Blue lacks the absolute polish and refinement of the more expensive cables in the range, with bass being full but not as controlled – achieving a similar level of control as Flat One, and treble, which while not suffering from over-emphasis, just doesn’t have the absolute quality of its older siblings.
Soundstaging was perfectly proportioned and ordered (and easily on a par with rival cables in this price range) but compared to the rest of the Albedo range, it was, well, just smaller.
So all in all, a pleasant surprise from a cable manufacturer new to me, but apparently one which has been successfully designing and producing technically advanced cables for over 15 years. Their expertise shows. Albedo have produced a family of silver cables that all major on transparency and soundstaging, with each step up their price range delivering an appropriate increase in transparency and spaciousness. Blue provides a compact resume of the entire cable range, with its detailed ordered soundstage, definite presentation and transparency. Flat One expands the soundstage while providing perhaps the smoothest high frequency reproduction I’ve ever heard from a silver cable. Geo amazes with its huge soundstage and ruthless transparency, while Monolith builds on Geo’s transparency by adding real polish and finesse.
Why does the world work against me? Why can’t I strike a blow against super-logical corporate speak? Why can’t I expose Albedo’s marketing-speak as all lies? Well, because, annoyingly, Albedo’s talk of ‘unprecedented space’, ‘phenomenal resolution’ and ‘naturalness’ are, annoyingly, completely true.
My attempt to start a revolution was a dismal failure. ‘The man’ won. I lost this battle, but do you know what? The more I listened to these cables, the more I stopped caring about the war and just enjoyed the music.
Author – Rod Alexander