Once upon a time the life of an audiophile was very simple. Take speaker cables, for example. At a meeting of The Audiophile Society in the 1980s, in front of a group of some 60 people, the featured guest presenter, a very prominent equipment modifier, proudly declared: “As far as I’m concerned, the only requirement that a speaker cable has to meet is to reach from the amplifier to the speaker.” Believe me, he said that in all seriousness.
That was a time when audio cables did not enjoy much consideration. Cables were seldom the subject of any serious discussions and were instead very often derided and ridiculed. Today, the audio cable universe is vastly different. Cables are very highly respected and are viewed as essential components of any audio system of significance.
A person who has been instrumental in championing the importance of cables for many years is Matthew Bond. Yes, the same Matthew Bond who started TARA Labs in 1984 in Sydney, Australia. TARA Labs (The Absolute Reference Audio Labs) is a company totally committed to providing the best cables possible. Under his leadership TARA Labs went on to become one of the eminent and influential audio cable manufacturers in the world. By applying specialized research and development into the design of audio cables, Bond introduced cables that significantly raised the bar for what a cable could do. It was also Bond who introduced the concept that cables were deserving of the same status that system components like preamplifiers, power amplifiers, and loudspeakers had. Today, we fully accept that premise and universally recognize the place of prominence that the cable component holds in the hierarchy of the overall high end system.
Bond parted ways with TARA Labs some time ago. He disappeared from the audio scene for quite a while, encountering and battling a wide variety of life’s realities and travails that, unfortunately, also included some serious health issues. I am here to report that Bond is back in the cable industry in full force, having formed a new cable company Matthew Bond Audio.
He is starting things off with two currently available loudspeaker cable models, the GSC 18 and the GSC 36. They are priced, for a 6 foot length, $4800 and $8000, respectively. The GSC 36 loudspeaker cable, 10 feet long and priced at $12,000, is the subject of this review. More products are planned. In early 2022 Matthew Bond Audio will be introducing two analog interconnects: the price for a 1 meter length for the basic model is planned to be in the vicinity of $500, and a reference analog interconnect at around $1800.
Okay, but do we really need another cable company, in the already seemingly oversaturated high performance cable market? I say, yes, especially when Bond is involved, who was responsible for all the ensuing significant cable game changing consequences while at TARA Labs. I consider myself fortunate that I discovered the products of TARA Labs very early in their existence during one of my visits to CES in Las Vegas in the 1980s. That was a time when CES was a show of significant influence and figured prominently in the high end audio universe. The products of TARA Labs soon became the go-to cable components in my reference system when I was writing for Stereophile and later for The Audiophile Voice.
And, yes, we do need another cable company because I have just had an impressive first hand experience in evaluating the current Matthew Bond Audio product offering, notably the GSC 36 loudspeaker cable.
The GSC 36 Loudspeaker Cable
When I was making arrangements to receive the GSC 36 cables for review I had no idea what to expect. I have to confess that I was very surprised to see a ribbon cable configuration upon receiving the shipment. Why surprised? Because all the previous Bond cable designs at TARA Labs had nothing to do with a ribbon configuration approach. Instead, Matthew Bond’s innovative contributions involved solid core conductors, conductor materials, and the geometry of the conductor as in his Rectangular Solid Core conductor configuration. He was the first to claim that the most important factor for a dielectric material was not its dielectric constant or strength, but rather its dielectric absorption. In his research, he had ascertained that it was the dielectric materials that caused audible distortion in cables. The crowning achievement was his ZERO interconnect design. Here the main conductor was contained in a Teflon tube that had all of the air evacuated, thus creating a vacuum dielectric for the conductor.
Full of curiosity, I asked Matthew why a ribbon now?
He explained that this time around one of his design goals was to create a speaker cable with the lowest inductance possible. Whenever an electrical current flows in a conductor, a magnetic field is created. As the electric current changes its magnitude the intensity of the magnetic field changes as well. This changing of the magnetic field induces an opposing voltage that is proportional to the rate of change of the current in the conductor. Inductance is the physical propensity to create an opposing voltage due to the changing magnetic field. It is this opposing voltage that is the culprit since it is generated every time there is a variation in the current. And that is precisely the case of a musical signal which is always in a state of fluctuation.
In order to realize a reduction of inductance in a cable, the positive and negative conductors have to be positioned as close as possible to each other. His analysis had determined that it is the ribbon geometry that is best suited for realizing that goal. Bond went on to point out that the GSC 36 is not just another generic ribbon speaker cable. For this design, he has implemented his proprietary technique called the Tri-Path Conductor Technology, a configuration that he established after considerable experimentation and meticulous testing using the latest Hewlett Packard test equipment.
He continued: “This 3 way conductor arrangement balances the Inductance and the Capacitance in the cable. It is not desirable to have the conductors in a simple + – + – + – configuration because the Capacitance would be so high that it would cause oscillation in some amplifiers. Instead, with Tri-Path technology we have achieved a balance between the electrical characteristics and we have reduced the inductance as much as possible.”
The GSC 36 speaker cable is specified to have inductance of 0.024 micro-Henry per foot and capacitance of 0.2 nano-Farads per foot. The cable is manufactured with 36 18-gauge conductors for each run which in combination produces an effective conductor size of 4-gauge. The conductor material proper is a proprietary combination of copper and silver. The highest quality Teflon was chosen for the insulation resulting in a 2:1 dielectric constant that remains stable all the way from DC out to 100 megahertz.
I found the final construction of the GSC 36 cable to be very effective and convenient in use. Near each end of the flat cable the conductors are grasped with a clamp-like fixture that grips the conductors of the ribbon and holds them in place making it possible for the conductors at each end of the cable to be split out into two groups to form pigtails roughly 8 inches long. Each of these short umbilicals are ended with a substantial spade lug that is provided to make the connections to either the power amp or the speaker in a secure manner.
The GSC 36 cable was very easy to install and implement. It was smooth sailing all the way and I encountered no problems at any time.
Over the years my system has been consolidated into just five major components. The Laufer Teknik MP64 Memory Player and the Aurender N10 music server are the sources for all of the music used for my listening evaluations. An integrated amplifier, the Devialet Expert 250 Pro, recently upgraded from a Devialet D-Premier, performs the DAC, streamer, preamp, and power amplifier functions. For speakers, I rely on the Revel Salon 2s. The AudioQuest Niagara 5000 with the AudioQuest Thunder AC cord performs the AC line conditioning functions. Equipment supports are provided by Symposium Acoustics Ultra platforms and the Sistrum Platforms by Star Sound Technologies LLC.
Qobuz was very helpful in allowing me to discover musical selections that were instrumental in determining performance aspects of the product under scrutiny. I hold Qobuz in very high regard and I found it to be a complete blessing. The wealth of music that is now available boggles my mind. Additionally, in significantly numerous cases Qobuz serves up HiRez files. For a guy who was running around NYC record stores when CDs were first introduced many years ago, trying to score the very few CDs that were available at that time, and priced $30 and up, Qobuz is much more than an answer to my prayers.
My time with the Matthew Bond Audio GSC 36 speaker cable was not only a positively rewarding experience, it was an exceptionally enjoyable adventure as well. Unfortunately, to get to this beguiling sonic state of affairs came at a price. The dues were paid in the form of a very extended break-in period. It took a good 300 hours of constant exercising the GSC 36 cables before they could be declared to have finally settled in. But once these speaker cables did reach sonic maturity, it was nothing but fulfillment and pleasure.
From the beginning, I developed a feeling that the design priority of the GSC 36 loudspeaker cable was to maximize the bonding of the listener with the performers and the music. From what I have heard time and again, this intention has been met with the greatest of success. With the GSC 36 cables in place, the level of my musical enjoyment reached a new high. I found this cable to display an uncommon flair for allowing the music to unfold with an aura of grace seldom encountered.
Regardless of what I played, I came away impressed and delighted. Impressed because such essential subtleties as harmonics, sonorities, harmonizations, and intonations were portrayed with an inviting sense of delicacy and delineation. The solemn, serene tonality, as experienced by live music, where every buoyant sparkle and shimmer appears seemingly intact, was luxuriantly abundant. I was delighted because a wealth of sonically germane details emerged from the gracefully fashioned soundscape, where everything was portrayed in an ordered manner, a manner that appeared to be as close as possible to what our expectations of a naturally balanced presentation are.
Attacks, decays, and dynamics had an immediacy that convincingly communicated the dynamic will of an all out orchestral offering. Rhythmic intensity was dramatic and bombastic, with an appropriate measure of slam befitting the music. The clearly defined multitude of inner details worked to delineate nuances within the torrent of cascading scales. There was a focused immediacy, a right then-and-there sense, that allowed the performance to be experienced in a more immediate and involving manner. The power of assertiveness at the ensuing level of clarity and resolution was exceptionally remarkable, be they detailed massed strings or fierce brass solos.
Then there was the space, focus, and air. It was in the area of subtleties that the GSC 36 had an exceptional ability to transmit a multitude of minutia that, in combination, appeared to allow me to hear more of the music as well as to get closer to the artistic intentions of the performer. Yes, of course, I was very taken by all that sonic magnificence. But what struck me above all was the integrity, a top to bottom coherence, the presence of the whole, that had me captivated. There was an across the board sense of completeness, a sense of how everything appeared to fit together effectively, a sense of fulfillment that kept me engaged and impressed.
My time with Matthew Bond’s GSC 36 loudspeaker cables has been an exceptionally rewarding experience. To me, this was proof-personified that Bond is still a master cable artisan. I was especially impressed by the capability of the GSC 36 cable to handle the whole spectrum of essential musical complexities with an uncommonly minimal degradation of the signal. As a result, the original intent of the music was conveyed very decisively. The more I listened the more I became convinced: GSC 36 is a great loudspeaker cable.
Based on the thoroughly enjoyable and captivating encounter that I experienced, I have nothing but the highest recommendation for the GSC 36 loudspeaker cable.