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Interconnect, speaker cable, power cord
Acoustic System International Liveline

Price: IC: RCA (1 m) – 650 EUR, XLR (1 m) – 900 EUR
Speaker: 1400 EUR (2,4 m)
PC: 800 EUR (1,8 m)

Polish distribution w Polsce: brak

Franck Tchang



Text: Marek Dyba
Photographs: Marcin Olszewski

Franck Tchang is quite somebody in the audio world. Many people think of him as an audio-voo-doo maker, because of his acoustic resonators made of wooden bases and proprietary alloy's bowls mounted on top of these bases. Nobody really can explain why they work so it's easier to say that they can't work. If one hears in addition Franck's own „statement”: „I don't know how to make normal products” can you blame him for the conclusion he might come to – that's surely audio-voo-doo. When he came up with the idea of his own audio cables he made an assumption that it was not only about transmitting signal but also or maybe even most of all about emotions. That was what caught me – when I listened to the music I always craved for emotions – music without them wouldn't be enjoyable at all. It's never only about the notes that a composer wrote but about meaning of them, about the story they tell us and each story carries tones of emotions. It's on the performers to deliver it all to us, but it is about all the elements of the the system if we listen to a recording. For me to enjoy music I can do without wall-crushing bass, endless reverberations and so on, but I can't do without musicality and emotions. It is important how these are delivered to me – they have to touch my soul, make me smile or make me weep or make me dance if it's dance music. So when I read that this was what Franck wanted to achieve with his cables I contacted him asking for review samples. For many different reasons it took a year before I got them but I finally did – RCA interconnect, speaker cable and power cord.

Cables came in nice, solid but surely not fancy wooden boxes – good idea as they were well protected during shipment but such packaging didn't cost too much raising price of cables unnecessarily. In each box apart from cables I found also a short note – manual if you will, informing about cables being directional and that they were not supposed to be bent too much. Surely only few people would have chosen these cables because of their appearance – again no fancy stuff, no garden hose, batteries or whatsoever – just quite thin cables with regular Techflex sleeving, and good connectors (but again not the top ones). If you need cables to impress your friends look some place else. IC was equipped with Neutrik RCA connectors and that was no accident – these were carefully chosen. If you take a closer look you will find also some holes drilled in these connectors – that made them even lighter and less exposed to vibrations which seemed to be favorite Franck's solution. As I heard it was possible to get this IC with more fancy connectors (like some WBTs) – but these would have been a special order. The most interesting part was hidden under the sleeving – the general principle of the design was known but not really the details. According to our audio-voo-doo master it was not necessary to make whole cables out of some super-material. It was enough just to add some small splices of such materials and that's what he did. So he used solid core copper wire and added small splices of same materials he used for his acoustic resonators – silver, gold, platinum. This way he could achieve great performance but keeping costs (and price) at reasonable level. I don't know about you but I somehow like manufacturers who care about me not going bankrupt when buying their products. Another „funny” solution was that while hot run was made of solid-core copper, the return of … solid-core silver. Why? Franck claims that it allows sound to be faster. That's out-of-the-box thinking again – other manufacturers to make a „faster” cable do it all silver – and the price becomes „silver” too. Insulation is a Teflon tube so dielectric is in fact mostly just air.

The real „magic” starts only now. As already mentioned these cables are about small splices of precious metals as long as 2 mm. These are put in particular sequences at both ends of the cables (hot run and return) but also in the middle of the length. Sequences are different for each kind of cable but also for each end of the cable! Does it seem to you that it must be hell of work to make such a cable? It surely does to me. So it is probably worth mentioning that Franck Tchang was in diamond trade business before – working diamonds surely requires lots of patience and very precise work. His knowledge of precious metals was used for resonators, Tango speakers and now for cables too. Of course he wouldn't give us a recipe for making cables like his even though he claims that building them requires so much time and effort that even if someone have cracked his secret he wouldn't bother to make their copies. Surely joining all these tiny pieces of different metals is damn difficult and time consuming so who would bother? It's easier to buy them since prices and not that bad. Except all that „voo-doo” there is also one very practical solution – interchangeable connectors for speaker cable – you need bananas – no problem, other amp that accepts only spades – just replace connectors (both type are delivered with cables).

Franck's science seems to be based more on intuition and less on known physics and that's why so many simply refuse to accept his concept as they can't understand it. And I can understand them but on the other hand we would have still lived in a stone age if not for those who were able to think out-of-the-box, who were visionaries often misunderstood and disregarded in their times. I won't also be surprised if one day physics agrees with Franck Chang. Until than I encourage you to try yourself – forget about physics and just give his products a try. You might like them a lot and if you don't … well you can join the pack of unbelievers but with personal experience backing you up.


Records used during this review:

  • Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, Autumn in Seattle, FIM XRCD 043, CD.
  • Peter Gabriel, So, Toshiba-EMI 28VB-1088, LP.
  • Kate Bush, Hounds of love, Capitol, B000002U9E, CD.
  • Tchikovsky, 1812, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with Erich Kunzel, TELARCDG-10041, LP.
  • Tatsuya Takahashi, Secret Love, AEOLUS ALP-1, LP.
  • Daniel Gaede, The Tube Only Violin, TACET L117, LP.
  • Jan Garbarek, Legend of the seven dreams, ECM 837 344-1, LP.
  • Midnight Blue, Inner City Blues, Wildchild, 09352, CD.
  • Patricia Barber, Companion, Blue Note/Premonition; 7243 5 22963 2 3, CD.

To be honest I really don't like reviewing cables because their influence is usually quite subtle unlike amplifier's, player's, speaker's and so on. So called high-end cables should be the a final touch to a very good system, first of all they should not harm the sound and in some cases just polish it a bit. And these are just … „cables” that should simply deliver signal from one audio device to the other and try not to spoil it. Many audiophiles claim that the best cables are these that have no audible effect on the sound, that are perfectly transparent – and not the ones that improve bass, midrange or spacing effects. So which is true when trying new cables – you can easily hear the difference but does it mean that cables have introduced this difference or that they are more transparent than the previous ones and you can hear more of what your system is capable of? I can't tell and somehow doubt it if anybody really can. But on the other hand it doesn't really matter – what counts is the final effect. That's also why I'm not even trying to guess why there was a difference in the sound of my system when I tried ASI cables but I couldn't deny that difference was clearly audible.

Our reality here in Poland is that we are lucky to have a device for two weeks for a review. Franck fortunately didn't know that so I could enjoy listening to his cables for two moths which gave me opportunity to use them not only in my own, but also in some reviewed systems during same period. Anyway most of my review is based on what I heard with best known system which of course is mine. 300B SET from ArtAudio, horns with fullrange speakers but recently extended with Fostex horn tweeters and Velodyne subwoofer offer involving, bit sweet and slightly warmed up sound but with lots of details, „airy”, wonderful timbre, and spacial effect.

During my tests when my turntable served as a source of sound than ASI IC went between phonostage and amp and PC was used for phonostage. Later PC went to ARC CD5 that was connected with Franck's IC with amp. Yes, I was bit lazy as I chose to use the whole set rather than checking each cable separately – I had quite some time for tests but I preferred to listen to the music instead of playing the game of exchanging cables every other piece of music.

At the very beginning I wasn't too impressed with Liveline cables – no significant changes in the sound that I could have recognized at once – I mean no good changes nor bad ones. It was only after third or fourth record when I realized that when one record ended I was immediately reaching for the next and all of these were my favorite ones and I acted like automatically – like my subconscious took the lead. When I finally broke the „spell” I tried to analyze what changed in the music so that I became so compelled. Well it became obvious that I wasn't a reviewer with 30 years experience that would have helped me and I couldn't make my mind. Sometimes easiest solutions work best so if I couldn't hear what exactly changed for better I decided try other way around. I used my own cables again to find out what would change for worse – from my experience quite often it was easier to define the change for worse than for better. The whole cable switching operation took time but once completed it gave me the solution almost immediately. Sound became … dull, gray – comparing it to picture it was like the light went suddenly dimmer so I could see less, colors were no so intense, whole picture not so realistic. Until that moment I'd thought that the treble with my new Fostex's horn tweeters had been fabulous sometimes even bit too bright (in some pieces) but with tones of details and air, top quality spacial effects and so on. But Liveline cables proved me wrong – there was even more going on in the top frequency range and I simply had not been aware of that before. I also had thought before soundstage had been exemplary, built starting from the fronts of my loudspeakers and going deep into the next room – it had felt so realistic. But using ASI cables was like switching from regular movie to a 3D one. Everything seemed right – several layers, precise phantom images and so on. Comparing it again to the movies – 3D makes you feel everything so real that when you go back to a regular movie it starts to look very flat, unreal. That's what Liveline cables did for the music – it was about even more palpable presence of the musicians in my room. Trying to be even more clear – my cables also made music sound realistic with the band playing somewhere behind line of loudspeakers which was „here” but not so close „here” as with French cables. And these were not like pushing the soundstage forward – there were simply no more loudspeakers in the room but music filling this very room with sounds coming to me from different directions and involving me in a wonderful musical spectacle. I had some problems with description of my impressions and that's what I finally came up with – hopefully it would allow you to imagine what these cables did to my system. I want to come back for a second to this impression of mine when I got back to my own cables and sound became dull, gray. The name of these cables – Liveline – seems to be quite accurate – they bring lots of live to the music, they add some of this natural glare and colors making sound much more alike a live performance. Credit should go probably pt least partially to very rich harmonics that decide about the timbre and tone of each instrument and voice.

ASI cables can also play greatly … silence. Not the silence between musical pieces but those tiny, short moments when all instruments stop playing for a friction of a second – then you can hear this wonderful, black silence, black background. And it makes then everything to sound more distinctly, clearly, more dynamic, colorful – just in contrast to this black, total silence. When it happens and right after that vocalist starts to sing it is easier to hear the timbre, strength and texture of a voice. Same goes for instruments – they also sound more distinctly, and their tone is better defined and differentiated.

It was an amazing experience to listen to the recordings taken in large compartments like churches or cathedrals – if sound engineer did his job well than ambiance had to become a key element of such recordings. With Liveline I seemed to „see” each corner, each stained-glass window – so every place or obstacle where sound bounced, reflected differently than from the regular wall. And I was overwhelmed with the size of the interior, intensity of the music and I just felt very small comparing to the greatness of spectacular musical experience performed in such special places.

I couldn't find any reason to try to classify/describe „treble” „midrange” or „bass” as separate ranges because what we get from ASI cables is very coherent from the top to the bottom. When I read what I'd wrote so far I realized that readers might get an impression that I appreciated treble and midrange and not so much bass range. That is not true – bass was also wonderful although it might not always rocked my world. But if it did than sound would probably not be co coherent, not so realistic. Liveline will not „fix” poor bass in your system. They always show what is there in the recording – if it contains well extended, well defined bass – you will get just that, but if the recording includes some poor bass playing – that's what you get. ASI cables don't have any problem with rhythm or timing – both are great. They are nothing like some cables available on the market that offer „fabulous bass” no matter what recording you use, which also means monotonous bass, same all the time like there was only one drum or on string in double-bass.

It is quite a special review for me because it's the first one about cables. Its form is also special because I didn't use descriptions of impressions on particular recordings as they would all look the same no matter what music I listened to. Well maybe I simply don't have enough experience to make it a first class review – my bad.

Just a short summary for those who can't stand reading such a long-winded text. Liveline cables should give you what their name promises – they should put some live into your recordings. They invite your favorite musicians right to your room for live-like performances and these guys reach out to you. I had a chance to try them in couple of different systems so my theory says that their direct input to music presentation is only the „liveliness” which makes sound much more realistic, palpable. All the rest that I heard was about allowing those different systems to show what they could really do. Some systems I listened to offered fantastic midrange but had some problems with treble and bass. ASI made midrange sound even better but the problems with the rest of the frequency range did not disappear. If the tonal balance was bit to warm or bit too cold – cables didn't change that. Of course it is possible that cables you have at the moment don't fit to your system at all and than ASI cables might be even a revelation for you. What I can tell you for sure is that these are not cables you should use if you want to correct the sound of your system in some particular way. It is more of a purifying/exposing element that could show you how your stereo really sounds like. If you already have a system you are happy with you still might want to try Liveline cable as they might make you even happier.

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