Linear Flow 2 External Tonearm Cable Review by The Audiophile Man
Hoping to improve the performance of the much vaunted SME arm by adding a third party tonearm cable, Paul Rigby reviews Origin Live’s Linear Flow 2 SME cable.
You can lead an arm to music…but how much it drinks depends on that lead. I reviewed Origin Live’s Shielded Linear Flow 2 cable technology some time ago so was very pleased to hear that the technology had now been brought to bear upon the cable that hangs off the back on my SME IV tonearm which sits upon my reference Avid Acutus deck.
The cable itself is a fully balanced design, although you can use it with unbalanced systems with no problems. Inside, you will find a twisted pair of leads that help to reduce inductance. The action of twisting a cable to reduce this effect is not unusual. What is unusual here is the employment of a combination of over five dielectric insulators to ensure an even response. High purity copper is used at the heart of the cable for a reported increase in natural tonal balance.
The shielding is promoted as being sonically superior. Origin Live says that it protects low level signals from the ever increasing RF interference present on the airwaves, helping to reduce noise and increase clarity. Add a screening of 95% nickel-plated copper braid shield with an attached earth lead and you have an intriguing, yet neat, cable. So how did it sound in anger? I hooked up the SME to my Icon PS3 phono amp and gave it a whirl.
Playing the jazz vocal LP Chet Baker Sings, the difference between the standard SME cable and the new Origin Live was immediately apparent. There appeared to be a dramatic drop in noise via the Origin cable.
This effect produced a quieter background that provided a solid base for the music, allowing detail to pour forth. This lower noise floor also meant that a previously annoying upper midrange bloom, that could be heard during the trumpet solo, was now absent. Crescendos, heard via the brass instruments, were just a little too severe via the standard cable. The Origin Live alternative provided focus for the trumpet, adding a richness to the midrange flavour. In fact, that focus was noticeable over all frequencies. The midrange also benefitted because emotive elements were now associated with the piano and percussion. This greater maturity of presentation, evident within the midrange, was also present in the bass, which offered an effective character and complexity.
For the prog rock oriented King Crimson track Three Of A Perfect Pair, the lower noise was the fount from which all of the positive aspects of the cable emerged. This meant that this rather compressed vinyl album, which could be a little grating in sonic terms, now sounded less harsh especially on vocal crescendos while the normally strident, complex guitar sound effects work on the middle eight was far less clamorous.
The lower noise also provided a background of silence that enabled subtle effects to have a dominant role within the mix. Before, ground noise was of such a level that these self-same subtleties were just drowned, making them almost invisible to the ear. Via the Linear Flow cable, all of the bass guitar was to be heard, giving it life, zip and a cheeky bounce. Upper mids evoked a passionate response that combined well with the greater instrumental separation leading the emergence of multi-tracked vocal sequences that now sounded like a collection of individual tracks melded together instead of a sonic stew.
The Origin Live SME cable provides a high degree of focus to the overall presentation. It’s almost as if a camera lens had been turned a touch to focus, the sound now reveals a clarity that the standard cable could never quite match. A great way to squeeze extra quality from the venerable SME design.