The Entry Level #8 Page 2

Of all the albums I bought for Natalie's birthday party, I was most eager to hear Gang Gang Dance's 4AD debut, Eye Contact (LP, 4AD CAD3107). Previous releases from this exciting New York City band had impressed me with their combination of electronics, fiery electric guitar, restless rhythmic patterns, explorations of urban and world music, and Lizzie Bougatsos's strange voice, often as terrifying as it is alluring. Eye Contact's first single, "MindKilla," would definitely send bodies to the dance floor. It combines surprisingly powerful kick-drum blasts with deep synthesizer sounds, deft hi-hat work, and swift snare hits to create a sort of punk-fueled reggaeton beat. Bougatsos, meanwhile, sounds positively possessed, chanting and moaning and sighing in her mysterious ways—listening to her, I can't tell whether she's a small girl or an old woman, whether she's Greek or Vietnamese or Russian, or whether she's even human.

Through the RadioShack interconnects, Bougatsos's voice was solidly placed in the center of the soundstage; the kick drum emanated from some indeterminate location behind her, with hi-hat and snare to the right, ride cymbal to the left, and ray-gun synth sounds darting throughout. "MindKilla"'s momentum builds and builds to an ecstatic climax before the bass drum suddenly drops out, leaving the listener with a jagged little break beat, the track's propulsive rhythmic drive morphing into a jaunty, gentle sway. The first time I heard this, I wondered if the band had lost its balance: for one brief moment, the rhythm didn't quite hold, the song seemed poised to fall apart. Nonetheless, the RadioShacks proved capable of communicating the power and urgency of "MindKilla," illuminating the madness in Bougatsos's voice and presenting the song as the twisted dance jam that it is.

Through the AudioQuest Alpha-Snakes those opening bass-drum kicks were no less powerful or stunning, but were tighter, better controlled, and seemed to come from someplace farther away. Meanwhile, images that the RadioShack interconnects had simply placed toward the front of the stage now came flying out at me, as if I were watching a movie in 3D. The Alpha-Snakes' greater overall clarity and better delineation of images allowed musical highlights—small, shimmering details, accentuated pulses, and percussive taps—to shine more brilliantly and become more meaningful and enjoyable. While I enjoyed "MindKilla" through the RadioShacks, the AQ Alpha-Snakes had me screwing up my face and tossing my head to the aggressive, propulsive beat.

That was another thing: The AQ interconnects seemed better able to follow and communicate Gang Gang Dance's subtle rhythmic shifts. The breakdown that had previously seemed forced, almost on the verge of failure, now sounded more purposeful and solid: over several listens, I determined that the RadioShack cables were less adept at allowing the system to follow the music's subtle rhythmic shifts. Finally, whereas the RadioShacks really couldn't make sense of Bougatsos's vocals, the AQs revealed that she was in fact reciting a nursery rhyme—Hush, little baby, don't say a word—and presented her voice clearly and confidently, with all the creepy, sensual, disturbing allure preserved.

But are the Alpha-Snakes sexy? Not so much. In terms of appearance, they're only slightly more appealing than the modest RadioShack interconnects.

AudioQuest's G-Snakes have a more luxurious look and feel, and offer a more refined overall sound. Switching to the G-Snakes, I heard more precise starts and stops, faster transients, more extended decays, and an even more pristine overall sound that allowed more detail to rise through the heavily layered mix—all without sacrificing scale or impact. With the G-Snakes, I was simply hearing more music—always a good thing.

Signal Cable Analog One and Analog Two interconnects
It was time to listen to something new. I pondered my stack of LPs and reached for V Versions of Black Noise (12" 45rpm LP, Rough Trade RTRADLP613), which comprises, as its title suggests, five remixes of songs from Pantha du Prince's excellent 2010 album, Black Noise. I replaced the AudioQuest interconnects with the RadioShacks and cued up Die Vîgel's version of "Welt am Draht." As gentle percussive taps keep time in the distance, rising and falling chord progressions are built from loops of saxophone, trumpet, flute, and human voice. The progressions repeat and grow, repeat and grow, building tension and begging patience. Just when you think you can no longer stand it, the beat drops—hard. Another perfect dance track. After a couple of listens, I replaced the RadioShack interconnects with Signal Cable's Analog One ($36/2' pair).

If there's such a thing as a sexy interconnect, the Signal Cable Analog One is it. Thin and flexible, with conductors of 18AWG oxygen-free copper, its gold-plated RCA plugs created a much tighter fit than all other cables I tried—tight enough to make them a pain to install and swap out. But now the sexy part: In the Analog One, Signal Cable uses what they call a "double carbon/braid copper shield construction." What's so sexy about that? It's red! And it looks like it's wearing fishnet stockings! (So hot.) Call me kooky or irrational—obviously, this has no relationship to sound—but I loved handling and looking at the Analog One, and I swear that that tactile and visual enjoyment led to my greater listening pleasure. As a wise man once said, "Sound isn't everything."

Compared with the RadioShack interconnects, the Analog One offered a more organized and forceful portrayal of the music, setting images on an expanded soundstage, allowing each musical element to spring from a place farther away, to grow larger and more robust. Bass notes were rounder and tauter, with greater weight and physicality, while the percussive taps throughout "Welt am Draht" were accompanied by well-focused undertones I hadn't previously noticed.

Less flexible and a bit thicker than the Analog One is Signal Cable's Analog Two ($49/2' pair), which employs a coaxial construction: Its 22AWG bare copper center conductor is surrounded first by Teflon insulation, then by a shield of bare, braided copper wire, and finally by an outer jacket of Teflon. It's blue—not quite as sexy as red.

Overall, the sound of the Analog Two was very similar to that of its hot young sibling, but seemed slightly faster, more insistent, and even more forceful and assertive. The tapping sounds in "Welt am Draht" were brought closer to my listening position, presented at a larger scale, and given more vitality.

John Hall's picture

Beautiful picture! What type of insect is that? This column is a breath of fresh air. Thanks for the nice review on the cables. I read alot of stuff on the net but you almost never see reviews for budget cables on the big boy websites. Keep it up!

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks for the comments, John.

The insect is actually a sleeping butterfly covered in morning dew! Cool, right? The photographer is Miroslaw Swietek.

Catch22's picture

And it didn't have the girl's contact information. broken heart

ponggoy's picture

I enjoyed reading your column. I read through #1 to #8 in one sitting. I do not remember doing this ever. Keep up the good work!