A Truly Outstanding $120 Phono Cable
Audio Sensibility’s Impact SE Phono Cable
Review by Noam Bronstein
This is where I come out on the whole cable debate: Cables make a difference, but unless something was really “off”, the difference tends to be subtle. But – phono cabling is one area where a well-designed cable upgrade can make profound changes for the better, since the tiny signal is very sensitive to its environment – including RFI and EMI interference, and good signal transfer from A to B.
Enter the Impact SE cables from Audio Sensibility.
Audio Sensibility’s philosophy here is pretty simple. Take the best materials available at a reasonable cost, and construct a great sounding cable by hand. Offer it direct to the public at a terrific price, with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. Think you’ve heard all this before? You might want to read on…
There isn’t much doubt in audiophile circles that the Ohno Continuous Cast (OCC) processes are the single biggest advancement in wire technology we’ve seen in the last 30-40 years. I’ve always struggled with physics, so I’m the last one who should be trying to explain metallurgy. But in essence, the extrusion of OCC wire results in extremely long, continuous crystals – something like 125 meters in length, compared to as little as 1/125″ for traditional casting methods like OFC. And OCC casting is a strictly patented and guarded process that is only licensed to a few industrial metal facilities for production use. Most of the truly high-end cables sold to audiophiles are based on wire sourced from these companies, Furutech and Neotech among them.
Audio Sensibility is based in Toronto, Canada, and its principal, Steven Huang, besides having an engineeering background, is knowledgable about OCC for very personal reasons. Steve’s father was a university professor who worked closely with Dr. Atsumi Ohno, when Dr. Ohno was part of the active collaboration between the Chiba Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto. In fact, Dr. Ohno received his PhD in Metallurgical Engineering from U of T. Dr. Ohno is still alive and remains in contact with U of T. Audio Sensibility’s website has a lot of information on OCC, and Cryogenics. It’s worth a visit to understand more.
In this review I compared the sonics between a stock cable from the Audioquest PT-6 tonearm (mounted on an Ariston RD-11), against the Jelco “tribute” cable based on Mogami 2534, and finally against Audio Sensibility’s Impact SE DIN to RCA phono cable. Cartridge was the Charisma MC-1. Signal fed into the Altec 4722 step-up, feeding a Lounge LCR MkIII MM phono preamp. The stock cable, which must have been 25 years old, sounded ‘OK’. In my fairly revealing system, I heard a layer of grunge with this cable, that I wouldn’t want to live with on a daily basis. It did the job, and would probably be decent enough in a low-budget system. Moving to the Mogami cable removed much of the edginess and grunge – it was smoother and more pleasing overall, but not really any more detailed or musical. Better, yes, but not what I would call great. When I set up my deck with the Impact SE, I started listening immediately – without regard to a possible need for burn-in time. The result was pretty shocking: this cable not only removed all traces of dirt from the signal, it also opened up the music in a very profound way. Details came to life, the music flowed in a more wholistic way, the soundstage expanded – it was an amazing transformation! I’ve been at this audio thing a long time, and I don’t recall ever replacing one cable and hearing such a dramatic improvement. Friends, this was not subtle, at all. I would dare say nine out of ten audiophiles with decent hearing would pick up these differences immediately, even in a blind listening test. Yes, it was that major!
I’ve continued to use the Impact SE from that day forward, it has become an integral part of my analog setup. After switching back to my original Teres turntable (with a new Jelco SA750 tonearm), I never felt any need to consider upgrading the phono cable. The Impact SE has continued to impress me, and performs brilliantly, with no issues whatsoever. I love it.
Technical details? As Steve explains, this cable is made with cryogenically-treated, Teflon-insulated, 7N Ohno Continuous Cast (OCC) copper. It also uses a braided copper shield, instead of the spiral copper shield used in the Mogami 2534, for better noise rejection. Being the first model in the AS line to use OCC wire, the Impact SE phono cable is AS’ value champ, and handily outperforms competitors in this price range. Steve uses Furutech’s excellent FP126G RCA connectors – again, this piece is the sweet spot in the line, as far as value: it’s nice and small, and beautifully made, with 24k gold-plated contact surfaces (a rhodium-plated version is also available), and most importantly, it uses Furutech’s PCOCC copper center pin. Even Steve’s CNC-machined DIN connectors use gold-plated copper contact pins.
Which brings me to, perhaps, the most shocking part of this cable’s story. It doesn’t retail for $500, or $1000+. Audio Sensibility sells it direct, for C$169. At today’s exchange rates, that’s about $120 USD. This is a lovingly hand-assembled, top-quality phonograph cable, selling for a price low enough to elude the attention of many, if not most analogphiles. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that we have a cable here that’s very worthy of consideration, at around the cost of taking your spouse out for a nice dinner. Give it a shot if you’re in the market – you won’t regret it.
Audio Sensibility Impact SE Phono Cable in 0.7m length, $169 CDN
Available with Straight, Standard Angle and Jelco angle DIN connector
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