Crystal Cable, Nordost, and TARA Labs Cables

On the Upgrade Trail?

TARA Labs RSC Air 1 Speaker Cables and RSC Air 1 Series 2 Interconnects

The TARA Labs RSC cabling arrived on my doorstep in the wake of a transcendent listening experience with TARA’s brutally expensive Omega cables—an event that has proved to be both a blessing and a curse. [2] With expectations running well into the red, how would the RSC Air 1 measure up? In fact, I can hear a great deal of Omega in the voicing of the RSC, particularly in the effortless way that it plays louder, hits dynamics a little harder, and digs a little deeper. Of this trio it’s also the mellowest wire, imparting a resonant, darker character. This is an appealing trait if you enjoy cello and bass viols like I do. Complementing its lower-midrange tonal performance, the RSC Air 1 is also a specialist in larger-scale dynamics and seems to glory in the midbass octaves. Of all the cables I’ve listened to recently, with the exception of the preternatural Omega, the RSC exhibits a dynamism that verges on the propulsive. It has a way of extracting the micro-dynamic “touch” (even in the lower octaves) heard on pianist Warren Bernhardt’s So Real [DMP]. And its open character seems to find “air” in the tightest spaces between notes and images.

But unlike the more forward Crystal and the Nordost, the TARA establishes a different relationship with the orchestra/ soloist and the venue. Its soundstage is the most expansive (depth and width). Instrumental images seem more settled onto the stage, like a genuine performance where you can sense the dampening qualities of the hall as it reflects and diffuses reverberant sound. The trait was also consistent during Dianne Reeves’ “One For My Baby” from the Good Night, and Good Luck soundtrack [Warner], where the ambience retrieval of acoustic piano and bass becomes thicker, the macro- and micro-elements of the performance more fully revealed.

The TARA is dynamically lively on vocals of all stripes. But there is still a dry quality to Emmylou Harris’ vocal during “If This Is Goodbye.” It never grows strident, but there is a bit of fine white grit powdering the treble—a characteristic that all the cables of this survey shared to varying degrees.

It’s an American pastime, crowning winners and vanquishing losers whenever competitors take the field. But in all good conscience, I would have no problem living with any of these wires for the long term. Although they have differences, they are all uniformly excellent upgrades. There are no losers in this bunch, but there is, happily, one winner— you.

[1] A budget staple of my reference system for years.

[2] The blessing is that I heard them; the curse is that I can’t afford them!

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