Levels of Excellence
Tara Labs has so many levels of cables that factory manager Matthew Sellars, who assists designer Matthew Bond with cable design and oversees implementation, had to draw a four-tiered chart just to explain where the company's newest offerings fall in the Tara Labs hierarchy. That may be an exceedingly long opening sentence. But so is Tara Labs' product list.
Tara Labs' top-of-the-line is the Extreme Series. That includes the oft-praised Zero interconnect and Omega speaker cable. It turns out that Zero and Omega have four levels. They are, in descending order from the summit, Cobalt, Gold, Onyx, and Edge. The higher the level, the greater the articulation. The Edge series uses a simplified all-Teflon construction compared to what is found in Gold and Cobalt, mimicking its daddy's articulation while delivering perhaps 90% of what you get higher up. Edge also lacks Tara Labs' special Zero connectors.
Due later this year are a top-of-the-line power cable ($4800/6') and Cobalt interconnects and speaker cable. I was not told projected prices for the other two. These will be Tara Labs' ultimate statement products, at least for now.
Shown for the first time at CES 2009 were the Omega Cobalt speaker cables (I hope I've got that rightI wrote down $22,000, but neglected to note for what length), and Zero Edge interconnect ($9000 for what I presume to be a 1m pair). Unveiled a few months back at RMAF were the Zero Gold interconnects ($18,000/1m).
In the room, I heard a system that included Zero Gold, Zero Edge, Omega Gold, Cobalt AC, and digital Zero Gold linking Dynaudio 30th Anniversary Sapphire speakers, an as yet unnamed prototype 500W DC amp, MSD CD player and DAC, Gryphon preamp, and Blue Smoke Black Box. Unfortunately, as John Atkinson explained to me afterwards, the Dynaudio 30th Anniversary Sapphire speakers were demmed with their grilles off. As pretty as they looked, these speakers were designed to be played with their grilles on. With the grilles off, the demo was sabotaged by excessively bright treble. The same thing happened in the Ultralink XLO/Argentum room, where the Dynaudios were also demmed with their grills off. Okay at low levels, but not when the climaxes come in Strauss' Alpine Symphony. (See the Sennheiser HD 800 blog, as well as my R2D4 entry in the February issue for more on this recording).
I did once hear the Zero interconnect in optimal conditions once, at Ultimate A/V in Chicago, and was incredibly impressed by its soundstaging, clarity, and full-range timbral accuracy. I look forward to the next opportunity.