Journey to Nirvana


"We spent nearly two and a half years upgrading a customer’s system with all PranaWire cabling, Linebacker In-line Passive Power filters and other improvements including multiple sets of fo.Q HEM-25 footers, Oyaide in wall wiring, Acrolink Mexcel digital and clock cables, SMc electronics and proper calibration of the speakers and sub. This was an extraordinary opportunity to reach for the stars. The result is a system that brings us face to face with ineffable beauty and grace."

Journey to Nirvana

Perhaps the best place to start would be to look at what is commonly meant by the term Nirvana and how it relates to audio. In Buddhist texts Nirvana translates as "No Self". In a state of realization, the small mind, the discursive mind, that which we identify as "I" no longer exists. All phenomena that arise are not subject to interpretation or distortion through the lens of "self" but rather exist independently, manifesting their own true nature, illuminating the universe. For me, the holy grail of audio is a system that only makes its presence known by its absence, where we know without question or hesitation that each sound is manifesting its own true and unique nature with nothing added and nothing missing. In this condition realization follows upon realization. We have, I believe created such a system.

In the beginning, the customer’s goals were somewhat modest. He correctly intuited that the equipment he had should have been delivering better sound. My first listen was of a system with a shrill top-end, foreshortened and truncated sound stage and misaligned bass. I knew we could easily improve on what he had. At the time I had no idea of how far we were going to take it.

System Before PranaWire / Lotus Group Upgrades

Aurender X10 music server
Wilson Sasha2 speakers
Wilson subwoofer and crossover
Mola-Mola amps (3) and preamp
dCS Dac and Upsampler
Sablon Audio cables
Mapleshade footers and stands

This system is in a small living room that opens to a small kitchen space behind the listener. The speakers are on either side of the fireplace and have little room to be moved to the outside and nearly none at all front to back. The rear of the speakers is within inches of the back wall. The owner listens almost exclusively to classical music at fairly low volumes. 

​The physical layout dictated that a large scale sound stage was not to be, but we sought to achieve every other attribute of a truly great system including:
  • Maximum density and richness of detail
  • Absolute freedom from fatigue: presence of massively detailed information should not be synonymous with irritation, glare and whiteness of sound
  • Three dimensionality: each instrument and musician should appear as a living breathing sculpture within a realistic sound stage
  • Dynamic contrasts that are free from compression or hyperbole and communicate the actual event
  • Effortlessness
  • Freedom from noise
  • Ability to lose oneself in the music, absolute suspension of disbelief, all sense of listening to equipment removed

In one of our earliest tests, I replaced the speaker cable to his subwoofer with a short length of Cosmos speaker cable we had on hand. The improvement was enough to convince the customer to go further down this path. He has said many times since, that whenever I would make a recommendation and predict the improvement we would hear, he found my recommendation and description to be spot on. 

PranaWire Arhat Speaker Cable

One of the issues we faced was having to run the speaker cable under the floor as it would have been unseemly to rout it in front of the fireplace. Instead it was sent  through the garage ceiling and suspended underneath to reach the left speaker.​ This necessitated the construction of a 21' pair of speaker cables. At first we built a pair of Nataraja speaker cables. These were eventually replaced by the Arhat level cable for the left channel seen here. PranaWire speaker cables have a separate run for hot and return so a pair of our speaker cables consists of four individual cables.

Right Channel Coiled In Paint Closet

Throughout this extended upgrade the next step would always present itself. Early on we had replaced speaker cables, power cables and interconnects and had included a Linebacker SE. When the customer brought up the idea of upgrading the speaker cable to the Arhat, it was clear to me that cabling was not the needed next step. Knowing that we were not hearing the full potential of the cable upgrades, I urged him to consider replacing his preamplifier with Steve McCormack's inimitable tour de force, the VRE-1C. This was exactly what was needed. When installed, the system was liberated from its previous constraints. We were now in truly musical territory.

​More to follow.

Joe Cohen