This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above
The Auditorium 23 LS Green Speaker Cable
In the L´Audiophile days, Keith's standard for cable was the one made by Isoda-San in Japan. It was a multi-metal cable whose design was finalized after many hours of listening experiments. "Mr. Isoda was very passionate about harmonizing his cable designs to work well with the L´Audiophile equipment context," says Keith, 'It's the same story now. When Shindo electronics came into our shop, the Isoda cables did not harmonize as well with them as did the Shindo interconnect & pure silver loudspeaker cable, which were of course voiced by Ken to be a perfect match."

Keith told me about how Jean Hiraga once said that speaker cables work just like equalizers. Keith also believes this to be true. "A friend of mine who does electrical and electronics installations in new buildings provided me lots of samples of different cables with different diameters, dielectrics, conductor materials and so on. I started to play with it by mixing, drilling, twisting and all those things that everybody does to achieve their desired results. The cable I came up with was meant only to meet our specific needs with the equipment we were using at the time. I did not care about how it would work in different installations. I did not try to apply any theories to voice them; I simply listened and optimized them by ear to work well with the equipment I was using. They became so popular that I have been selling them now for nearly 15 years."

Keith went on to tell me that he was not personally familiar with the equipment I used in my system, or with the review equipment I've been writing about in previous articles. "The equipment chains you are using are nearly unknown to me and I must say that I'm a lucky man to have had my cables work as well as you wrote in those reviews. I like to hear that. The secret behind their success seems to be the fortuitous combination of materials and their diameters. But sorry, I won't tell what those are, that's my little secret." Keith went on to tell me that after 15 years, he decided to finally add the Auditorium 23 name to his cables & and tranny to create a brand that would let people know it was the result of his hard-won research labors into the historic designs he loves so much. Keith told me that even though the cables and step-up transformer now have an official Auditorium 23 brand name, he still thinks of them as his "little helpers" in achieving musical realism with the gear he fancies.

The Auditorium 23 cables are hand-made rather than "off the roll" like most other cables and designed specifically to be the interface between vacuum tube electronics and high-efficiency loudspeakers. Each speaker cable consists of four conductors: two twisted conductors for each leg, one wire being smaller than the other, each twisted pair wrapped in soft green cotton sheathing. While Keith will not divulge the secret recipe, based on what I heard while listening I would hazard to guess that one conductor in each leg is copper, the other either silver or silver-plated copper. Each of the cables is terminated with thin & light beryllium-copper banana connectors designed to interfere as little as possible with the signal. They are about as close as you can reasonably get to the very best possible connector possible - none at all.

While listening to Emily Remler's fantastic jazz guitar playing on Firefly [Concord Jazz CCD-4162] through my Duos preceded by a complete Tom Evans Audio Design electronics chain (Series 7 Vibe preamplifier with Pulse power supply and Linear A amplifier) being fed tunes by my Audio Logic DAC, I was continually impressed with Emily's expressive mastery of jazz improvisation and the continual flow of ideas she so easily generates as she plays against the chord progressions of the songs. How well the green cables portrayed the tonal color, subtle timing, nuance and dynamics necessary to unravel it all and make it a musical reality. It was also easy to pick out each individual contribution from Hank Jones (piano), Bob Maize (bass) and Jake Hanna (drums) in an expansive recorded acoustic that billowed around each instrument. The 23s in this equipment context gave me a very musical, slightly romantic, very vivid yet organic and real sound and emotive feel to the music, with a good sense of the pace and rhythm for the piece.

For example, with Jake's drumming you can hear a musically convincing shimmer of air coming off the cymbals as the sticks tap out their rhythmic lines with a wood-against-metal reality. You can hear the smack of a stick against the taut skin of the drumhead and the resulting shimmer of air above and below the vibrating head - impressive. Hank's piano playing is enough to make one weep, with tone so beautiful and emotive that it is positively gripping while he weaves a spell of notes around Emily's improvising. Bob's bass playing -- his walking bass lines -- are done to perfection, with the Aud 23 Greens revealing the pitch of the individual notes instead of the one-note bass drone that you so often hear with HiFi. The Auditorium 23 LS speaker cables transformed my system from great-sounding HiFi to great music in a way that really caught me by surprise - it was a transformative change I had not expected and have rarely encountered. On a musician's note, if you haven't yet heard Emily's jazz playing you really owe it to yourself to get one of her albums. You'd better hurry, too. It's uncertain how long they'll be readily available. Young Emily died alone in her Sydney hotel room of a heroin overdose-induced heart attack in 1990, sadly joining 56 other great jazz musicians who died -- or were murdered -- at a young age and at the peak of their musical powers.

When swapping out the Auditorium 23 cables for my usual Nirvana S-L speaker cables, it became apparent that the Nirvanas were more extended in the treble and bass but a little less detailed overall - or as pal Terry would say "a little like looking through frosted glass". With the Nirvanas, there was also less sense of recorded space and the shimmer of the cymbals sounded a little edgy and less like musical reality. In my Duo/Tom Evans/Audio Logic system, the Nirvanas are a little leaner but more dynamic than the Auditorium 23s. With the Nirvanas, the first percussive attack has a more incisive crack to it while the Auditorium 23 cables did a much better job of making music sound more like musical reality. The Auditorium 23s are more rounded and a little darker, more organic and musically engaging in this context. There's another aspect too: The Nirvanas get slightly dissonant compared to the natural tone and harmonic rightness of the Auditorium 23s. The German cables had a real synergy going and were the clear winner by allowing me to enjoy the music to a significantly greater extent. When I'm listening with them, I forget about the sound (which is very good) and focus on the beauty of the music, the technique of the musicians and experiencing the full emotive rush of the music that arises as I listen. With the Nirvanas, I am always slightly on edge, never quite getting as close to the music and always conscious that I'm listening to a recording. It's a bit of a distraction.

I also had good success mating the 23s between my Omega Super 3 single-driver loudspeakers on matching Skylan Stands and the seductive Almarro A205A EL84 single-ended pentode amplifier. In the review of the Super 3s I said, "The Auditorium cables are somewhat expensive in the context of today's $749 Omega/Skylan combo but they did sound very good indeed. They allowed the Super 3s to develop a warmer and more natural tonality than the Nirvanas while maintaining a sense of speed & transparency, excellent detail recovery and a huge billowing soundstage." Michael Lavorgna too found success using the Auditorium 23 cables between his Fi 45 stereo amplifier and Cain & Cain Abbys with Bailey sub, saying "Another home run! I just got the LS Auditorium 23 speaker cables and they are a great match with the Cain & Cain Abbys (and Fi 45 amp). Opened things up and let some breath in. Amazing. Compared to the Nirvana SLs, we're talking surround-sound with sparkle. Delightful!"

As Keith pointed out with transformers, speaker cables too need to be matched to a specific equipment context. Just as there is no one best tranny for every application, there is no one best cable for all applications. While visiting pal Terry Cain, we plugged the 23s into his sitting-room system of single- driver I-Ben loudspeakers and Wavac MD 811 integrated amplifier alternated with a Fi 2A3 X integrated amplifier. The green cables fell flat on their face. Compared to the Cardas SE cable that Terry normally uses, the 23 was rolled-off on top and not as extended in the bass. The Cardas threw images that were denser, more of flesh and blood and a little more defined around the edges. The 23 moved the images on the soundstage further back and added a slight silvery sound to brass that was not evident with the SE and shouldn't have been there. While I didn't really cotton to the sound I was hearing from either cable set in this context, the Auditorium 23 clearly was not the better match of the two. It was somewhat remarkable how the two cables made the music sound so completely different. I actually had to ask Terry if we were still listening to the same piece of music. We were. The 23s were a little too lean and bright in the upper midrange here, giving the music a lightweight and anemic feel that put too much distance between the listener and the musical performance. So the message is, you can't expect any one cable to work miracles in each and every context - just like transformers. Likewise, the Nirvana cables have long been favorites of mine. They work swell with my Fi 2A3 amplifiers and Duos. But when you insert Tom Evans' new Linear A amplifier into the equation, the Auditorium 23s rule by a substantial margin to make a real synergistic combination. So there you have it. Most of the time I found the Auditorium 23 cables to be delightful but it is possible to find a context wherein they won't work as well - just like any other piece of audio equipment in the world.

Wrapping Up
The Auditorium 23 products of Keith Aschenbrenner are all about delivering a high level of musical satisfaction to your listening experience and they do that in spades. I highly recommend both of these products and have found them to be a delight during the time I spent with them. The Auditorium step-up tranny for the Denon 103 absolutely transformed the phono stages I tried it with in every musically meaningful way. The Auditorium 23 LS speaker cables are an equally endearing product that always allowed me to get lost in the music and forget about the HiFi aspects. I suspect they will do the same for the majority of listeners as well.

In closing, Keith told me "I guess my explanations have been long and I gave you nearly nothing of interest for your article but for us, there is no hype behind what we do." Actually, I found almost everything that Keith and I chatted about to be immensely interesting. I found his discussion of his experiences and his research into audio history both enlightening and fascinating. It is a glimpse into the history and spirit of what makes the search for high fidelity so fascinating and rewarding to music lovers and HiFi hobbyists today.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about Keith's experiences, his research into musical realism and his ongoing contributions to the analogue/SET/high-sensitivity-speaker approach to musical reality that we enjoy today. The Auditorium 23 Denon 103 step-up transformer & LS speaker cables embody the signature sound of Keith's research into the musical reality listening experience. As such, they are labors of love designed to appeal to like-minded music lovers and HiFi buffs. I enjoy not only adventures in equipment and music but also learning about people like Keith - people of passion at play in the fields of equipment, music & imagination that is audio and who make HiFi such a great hobby by their efforts. While Keith is quite humble about his contributions to the global audio scene, he is truly one of the audio fathers responsible for reintroducing SETs & high-efficiency speakers to modern times. He thus helped
kick off this movement in Europe. We do not have many such tribal elders so I encourage you to be mindful and remember and recognize their priceless gifts. Many thanks to Keith for sharing his life & adventures with us, and for all his perseverance & contributions to this hobby that has brought so many of us so much enjoyment.
Keith Aschenbrenner comments:
Several months ago I'd sent a cable sample to Jonathan Halpern, hoping for some positive feedback when he used it in his Shindo system. I really gave no second thought about what this small gesture might grow into. Jonathan told me that Jeff and other writers were playing with my cables and transformers and would describe their experiences in an article. I have already seen 3 or 4 positive mentions and thought to myself, "that's really nice, many thanks and far too much credit". And now this...

I have to give many thanks to Jeff Day for this long and kind story about Auditorium 23 and our products, and to all his other colleagues at 6moons who took the pains to try them by spending their time. And I have to thank Jonathan for acting as the liaison in all of this.

About myself I would like to add that I still consider myself more of a pupil in elementary school than an audio father. To find the real audio fathers, we have to look back at the remaining pensioners of WE, Siemens etc. as long as we have the opportunity. We would need to speak with those Japanese masters who began in audio's "Golden Age" and are still working today. Then we'd be in contact with personalities -- real audio fathers -- who hopefully would be willing to share their knowledge with us. This could be a chance to continue in the manner Auditorium 23 merely attempts to.

Again many thanks to all of you.

Keith Aschenbrenner

Manufacturer's website
US distributor's website