Eichmann eXpress 6
|Eichmann eXpress 6|
Wired Down Under
11 April 2003
Six1 22 AWG, 18 AWG four/9s OFC conductors
Teflon cover, polyurethane jacket
Bullet Plug® polymer/tellurium copper RCAs
1 meter $200, 1.5 meter $250, 2 meter $300
XLR connectors add $50
The Wizard of Oz
In The Land Down Under one finds Pullenvale, in Brisbane, home of Eichmann Technologies International, designers of audio and video cables and accessories, including the revolutionary Bullet Plug®, RCA connector. The Bullet Plug is the connector of choice for a number of cable designers; foreign and domestic, including the U.S. manufacturer of the interconnects in my reference. Do-it-yourselfers are also well acquainted with these plugs.
Known throughout Europe and Asia, Eichmann Technologies is represented stateside through Indianapolis-based Audiophile Systems, Ltd., which has an extensive network of more than 200 dealers in 40 states and Puerto Rico. In those states sans dealers, Eichmann products may be purchased directly from the distributor.
One of the company's offerings, which include speaker and digital cables, interconnects, power cords and resonance control devices,
is the eXpress 6 interconnect designed around the Eichmann Ratio™. Mate the polymer-tellurium copper Bullet Plug with the foregoing and something special happens.
"The magic is in the ratio," says inventor, audiophile and wire wizard Keith Eichmann, "which we believe essentially solves the problems of reactance (inductive and capacitive) and skin effect."
The ratio involves a highly precise variation in diameter between signal and return conductors, the return having a greater cross sectional area and mass than the signal wire.
"Electronic theory suggests that both conductors of a two-core cable (such as figure-eight cable) should be the same size and mass," explains Eichmann. "The ratio minimizes reactance and skin effect problems by forcing the return conductor to respond more rapidly to signals transmitted through the signal conductor. This provides a balance of reactance and a control of skin effect to the extent that all frequencies appear to have a uniform speed and arrival time, analogous to the effect of wind on a speeding bullet. The faster the bullet, the less influence wind has on its movement.
"The result," claims Eichmann, "is dramatically cleaner signal transfer, which translates to improved sound and image quality when applied to analogue and digital cables for audio/video applications. Cables incorporating this ratio provide superior performance in all systems-tube or solid state, analogue or digital."
Application of the ratio is heard at its best in the eXpress 6 interconnect terminated with the Bullet Plug. Rob Woodland, Eichmann Technologies Managing Director, points out that the
"6" in eXpress 6 refers to the number of conductors, not the purity of the conventionally drawn, solid Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) wire, which is rated four/nines pure. Only one pair of the 22 AWG and 18 AWG (gauges approximate) conductors is connected. The four remaining wires-two pairs of the same diameter for the signal and return-are the heart of the eXpress 6 EMF Control System.
Woodland stresses that signal and return wire diameters are held
rigidly to a tolerance of .005mm, ensuring that a conductor pair reflecting the Eichmann Ratio will perform as designed- and perform, they do. More on that, anon.
Eichmann Technologies speaker cable and power cords emphasizing resonance control are both subjects of future reviews.
The Yellow Brick Road or The Garden Path?
So, you say, does this interconnect from Down Under do whatever it is that the designer says it will? In a word, yes, in a listen, most assuredly. Let us stroll down the road together. C'mon Toto…
To my audition play list, add Caliente [Mesa 2-92764], a Willie and Lobo standout from which Arena Caliente and Sweet Alia exemplify the capabilities of eXpress 6. Arena opens with a violin solo by Willie Royal, thick with Latin connotations, and with Wolfgang "Lobo" Fink's amplified, flamenco-flavored acoustic guitar adding a touch of spice. The steel-strung guitar of George Nauful and Rick Braun's keyboard further color the piece. Stringed instruments were well defined and tightly imaged, the character of each rich with presence. Players were located firmly in place on a soundstage of commendable dimensions. The sound was natural and open.
Moving to Sweet Alia, which opens with a distant thunderstorm and low-level nature sounds, the eXpress 6 instantly picked out the nuances and defined them well-even at low levels. As guitar, violin and piano establish their voices, they are joined by percussion attacks which continue clearly, compellingly, and exactly in the background. The sense of depth was palpable.
Arena Caliente is an eclectic mix of Spanish and Hawaiian-titled (forget Don Ho and the grass skirt routine) writings, Moroccan bits and uh, Wellentänzer (Wavedancer). Ever heard a tuba with a violin and guitar? Okay, okay, Wolfgang Fink and long-time Willie and Lobo collaborator, George Nauful-both German-wrote the piece and it's captivating. Trust me.
To yet another much-played release on Chandos [CHAN 9210],Copland/Gershwin etc., featuring the Netherlands Wind Ensemble. Since the eXpress 6 did so well under fire in my reference system, it was time to see how it fared with some real heavy timbre tossed at it. Selections included Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man and Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, which, in this "original" rendition, is one of the better recordings of the orchestral jazz masterpiece to be found.
Copland conceived Fanfare-one of ten patriotic attention-getters written for the 1942/43 season of the Cincinnati Symphony-as a composition for orchestral brass and percussion. Although he was one of the first American composers to include jazz components in his work, Fanfare in its grand sweep, adhered to traditional themes.
At sonically satisfying listening levels, the opening trumpet salvo creates immediate goose bumps. As the brass resonates and fades, timpani hits you in the stomach with a left hook. The cycle repeats and transitions into the body of the piece, which concludes in a crescendo of horns in well under four minutes. Depending upon system capability, you may become catatonic.
No place for limp-conductor wire here. The eXpress 6 responded to the challenge with alacrity: the brass biting and soaring, subsiding and repeating, the kettles pounding with authority. The composition, in which brass and percussion nuances abound, moves smartly to its conclusion with the Eichmann interconnect leading the way. Fanfare was heard in a venue diminished, as compared to my reference. Overall, however, it was quite satisfying indeed.
First presented in 1924 at the Aoelian Hall in New York City, the initial outing for Rhapsody in Blue featured the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in a concert called "An Experiment in Modern Music" for which Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in less than three weeks.
As time was of the essence, Gershwin asked Whiteman's arranger Ferde Grofé, of Grand Canyon Suite fame, to score the music for instruments available at the concert. They included a clarinet, saxophones, a small brass section, a few strings, banjo, piano, timpani, and percussion, replicated in like numbers on the Chandos recording by the Netherlands Wind Ensemble playing Grofé's original score.
The piano solo in Rhapsody defines, exquisitely, the heartbeat and soul of Manhattan, and is performed on this recording by Louis Lortie, recognized as an outstanding pianist and interpreter of concert music. Gershwin was at the keyboard with Whiteman's small orchestra when Rhapsody debuted to an overflow audience.
The clarinet of then 68-year old Harmen de Boer, is stratospheric, plaintive, lusty and rich with inflection, and further identifies this orchestral jazz classic. The eXpress 6 reproduces both piano and woodwind with authenticity, sharp definition and adherence to timbral correctness. Once again, the orchestral portion of the presentation remains a group of separate instruments, each in their space, never becoming a homogenized mass.
Rhapsody in Blue was a resounding success in its first outing, and Grofé later scored the writing for full symphony (the manner in which Gershwin's jazz classic is most often heard and recorded).
Let us get unserious for a few. There were these two guys, Boris Blank and Dieter Meier, who called themselves Yello. It had nothing to do with cowardice, and more with Euro techno-pop expressionism back in the '80s, when the American music scene was rife with pop stuff like Mandolin Rain by Bruce Hornsby and The Range.
Blank and Meier debuted One Second [Mercury 832 675-2] in 1987, the fourth in a series of seven CDs-a high, hard one full of some the best sound recording then or now, as was the case with all Yello productions. They had to be; the duo was like a watch, Swiss and precise. In addition, the material was recorded and mastered in Germany by Polygram, where die Jungen did the engineering and production to ensure results. Considered to be the crème de la crème of the series, One Second is an excellent ADD recording that will run systems through the ringer and leave more than a few limp.
Dynamically explosive, the CD is loaded with dense bass figures and a cornucopia of notes in the higher registers, a wild montage of percussion and technical effects, and a mixed bag of spoken word, background vocals, and foreground solos. The eXpress 6 took all that was thrown at it and responded with composure, particularly in sorting out the kaleidoscope of sound loaded with macro- and micro-dynamics that issued relentlessly from the Avalons.
Back Home In Pullenvale
My usual reference suspects have been the markers by which wire in our system has been judged. Using these recordings and those above as a guideline, I found the eXpress 6 a resounding success and exceptional value; it more than holds its own at the price point and challenges interconnects costing much more, including my reference. The wire acquits itself well in all areas, particularly in timbre of stringed instruments, with clear articulation of individual instruments played together, and specifically, the ability to render piano and strings in a manner most arresting. Acoustic instruments and keyboards have long been a benchmark of mine when auditioning any component.
Brass and other wind instruments played very well through the eXpress 6: brash and full when called for, silky, sultry, and spitty as might be occasioned. Voices were vital, clear, and dimensionally natural, neither sibilant nor rolled-off. Bass was solid and well delineated, the transients quick. In all cases, highs were open, free of glare, hardness, or stridency, but with less air than the reference. Inner detail abounded and transparency was laudable. Allow me these nits: several cuts suggested a bit of midrange overbloom on certain passages, and the soundstage, while definitive and ample, was neither as wide nor as deep as my reference; thereby hangs a tale.
Packed with the review samples of eXpress 6 with the polymer/ copper Bullet Plugs was a pair terminated with silver Bullets-a more expensive version of the connector available to DIYs in four-packs-and a note from Rob Woodland asking for feedback. He indicated that such an option might be offered in the near future at additional cost.
My audition of the prototype sample suggests that the nits picked above were insignificant with the silver Bullet Plugs. I heartily suggest both versions of the cable be made available.
Whether it's Keith Eichmann's ratio or something he found in the Emerald City and isn't telling us about, his interconnects are most accomplished in their ability to transmit audio signals with engaging musicality. I have put in a fingers-crossed order for two pairs of the silver-tipped wire from Down Under. Until then, the copper-pinned will suffice nicely.
1 Wire gauge is approximate as Australian standards are based on the metric system and do not conform exactly to the AWG scale.
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