Can a loudspeaker cable really make a difference? While the sceptics may shake their heads, it makes sense that optimising signal transfer will enhance sonic performance. The Inakustik Reference LS-2404 proves the point quite succinctly …
German brand Inakustik might be a relative newcomer to South Africa, but it produces an extensive range of audio and AV cables, interlinks and accessories, all topped by its Reference Series. The Reference LS-2404 Air is a high-end loudspeaker cable available in various terminations.
The key features of the LS-2404 include low capacitance and inductance, and an innovative air helix structure that effectively spaces the individual conductors in a consistent helix pattern. The result is a free-air configuration that uses the air as a dielectric to ensure extremely low capacitance.
Inakustik uses specially designed spacer clips at preset intervals to achieve and maintain the helix structure. Ingeniously, the clip construction also allows exceptional flexibility, despite the considerable 2,5 cm girth of the cable, making it easy to install.
AT FACE VALUE
The LS-2404 Air is a thick but lightweight cable that conceals its complex, air dielectric-based construction under a pliable polyethylene jacket finished in an unusual but attractive metallic brown.
It’s available in various terminations, configurations and lengths, but the 3,0 metre length example tested here was biwire-capable, with a single pair of friction banana connectors on the amplifier side, and a dual pair on the speaker side.
The connectors are rhodium plated and look and feel the top-class part. Other termination options include spades, lugs, adjustable bananas, and more.
UNDER THE COVERS
The LS-2404 Air employs eight high-purity, oxygen-free copper conductors, each consisting of 24 0,25 mm copper wires braided around a polyethylene core. Each individual copper wire features a thin insulating coating to prevent eddy currents.
The braiding of the copper wiring, which arranges the wires in an opposed stranding pattern, addresses the powerful magnetic fields created by the currents flowing through the cables during use.
The dual-layer, multicore arrangement of the cable’s eight conductors means they overlap to further neutralise the magnetic fields created by the individual conductors. This results in low inductance.
Finally, the thin and flexible polyethylene sheath was chosen ahead of other materials, as each additional material affects the cable’s electrical characteristics, according to Inakustik.
By using a polyethylene sheath, the LS-2404 Air uses only copper and PE in its entire construction: a PE core for the eight conductors, and the PE jacket that protects the assembled cable.
For this review, we used the LS-2404 Air in conjunction with Inakustik’s cable supports, which consist of an anodised aluminium alloy support base with twin elastomer bands to hold the cable in place.
The support rests on a gel pad that provides mechanical and capacitave decoupling. The cable can either be supported on top of the elastomer bands, or securely between them, and the bands are height-adjustable in three steps.
The support system is designed to prevent the loudspeaker cable from being exposed to mechanical interference, such as vibrations, from the floor, while isolating it from the floor also reduces capacitance.
Click here for more technical details on the Inakustik Reference cables.
SOUNDS LIKE …
The first impression of these German-made cables was of an ease of flow and a natural rhythm that made listening to even favourite recordings an enjoyable journey of rediscovery. The music gained a new accessibility and appeal that rekindled old friendships and forged new ones.
A key element of the cable’s performance was its ability to foster transparency, allowing the music to shrug off any electronic artefacts or influences, and to be delivered with a natural and almost organic purity.
That transparency also benefited the cable’s penchant for a generously rendered soundstage that allowed the musical image to be presented with vibrancy and vigour. The sonic image wasn’t only finely focussed, but dimensionally precise, ensuring an engaging listening experience.
I particularly enjoyed the way the cable allowed the impetus and intent of the music to be communicated with an easy assurance that never sounded forced or exaggerated, but allowed the essence and vitality of the performance to be highlighted.
Bass notes were reproduced with depth and power, but never to the point of overwhelming the listener, while seamlessly progressing into a smooth and full midrange.
The trebles were clean and revealing, and while there was a slight tendency towards brightness that exposed any edge or brittleness in the original recording, the highs never became uncompromising, focusing on exploring fine detail instead.
The atmospheric ‘When Love Is Not Enough’ from the Ben Harper/Charlie Musselwhite collaboration No Mercy In This Land was rendered with a clarity and sense of purpose that allowed the ambience of the recording, the timbre of the piano, the twang of the lead guitar and the emotive texture of the vocals to be portrayed with spine-tingling realism.
The clarity of the sound picture placed each instrument precisely across a sprawling stage, while the image itself was expansive, spreading the music wide and deep, and inviting the listener to become closely involved in the music.
The cable’s talent for almost surround sound-like, cinematic dimensionality was commendably demonstrated by the admittedly gimmicky but strangely fascinating title track off the Friends Of Mr Cairo set, a collaboration between Yes frontman Jon Anderson and keyboardist extraordinaire Vangelis.
The cables ensured that the Anderson’s falsetto vocals, often multi-tracked, were precisely juxtaposed against the complex melange of special effects and Vangelis’ regal electronic accompaniment.
Arguably one of the most enjoyable and articulate modern readings of Mozart’s No. 25 and 26 Piano Concertos is that by Francesco Piemontesi, in conjunction with conductor Andrew Manze and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Piemontesi’s piano sounds liquid and authoritative in equal measures, while the orchestra perfectly complements the solo instrument’s vivacity and virtuosity. The recording is accurate and inviting, capturing the music without frills or artifice.
The Inakusitik cable was perfectly capable of revealing and presenting both the intricacies and the impetus of the music, while also allowing the accuracy and the scale of the recording to shine through.
Here, the leading edges of the piano’s upper registers tended to reflect the cable’s slightly critical treatment of high frequencies, but never to the overall detriment of the music.
A quick note on the Inakustik cable base supports: while their influence on the sound in my system and listening room was limited, there’s no doubt that they are worth considering, especially in environments such as wooden-floored rooms, where vibration is an issue.
During the review, comparing the sound with and without the supports didn’t yield substantial differences, although I felt that the midrange was more lucid, and there were subtle benefits in terms of soundstage size.
From a purely aesthetic perspective, they certainly benefited the presentation of the cable – and frankly, this isn’t a loudspeaker cable you want to tuck away: it should be proudly displayed!
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Inakustik LS-2404 Air is by no means a cheap loudspeaker cable, but in the rarefied environment of high-end cabling, you’d expect its combination of innovative construction, quality materials and meticulous construction to command an even higher asking price.
More than any other attribute, I liked the cable’s ability to express the flow and pace of the music, which not only allowed it to capture more of the essence of the music, but also opened the door to a greater appreciation of the performance as a whole.
While audio components often focus on dissecting the sound in search of elusive detail and resolution, the Inakustik LS-2404 Air places the emphasis on the total musical experience – and succeeds admirably.
Cable type: Bi-wire loudspeaker cable
Construction: Air Helix, multi-conductor
Conductors: Eight high-purity OFC
Conductor construction: 24-strand cross-braided around PE core
Sheath: Woven polyethylene
Connectors: Bananas, rhodium-plated
Cable length: 3,0 metres
Cable diameter: 25 mm
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Ben Harper/Charlie Musselwhite – No Mercy In This Land (Anti- 44/16 FLAC)
Jon and Vangelis – The Friends Of Mr Cairo (Polydor/Universal 44/16 WAV)
WA Mozart – Piano Concerto Nos. 25 & 26 – Francesco Piemontesi/Andrew Manze/Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Linn Records 192/24 FLAC)