Madrigal Flat Copper Core

1/19/2022

Author: Karsten Hein

Category: Gear & Review

Tag(s): Speaker Cables

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Madrigal Audio Laboratories was founded by Mr Sanford Berlin during the mid 1980s and took over Mark Levinson, the manufacturer of high-end audio products, in the same year. In the company's nearly 20 years of existence, Madrigal owned a number of famous audio brands, such as Audioaccess, Proceed, and Imaging, who developed and produced some outstanding Hi-Fi products, before Madrigal was ultimately absorbed by the Harman International Group in 2003 and saw its headquarters closed down later that year.

The loudspeaker cables shown here were manufactured by Madrigal Mark Levinson during the late 1980s, most likely in an attempt to answer the question of how speakers would sound if they could be integrated directly with the amplifier's circuit board, rather than being connected by means of sound-compromising speaker cables. This notion may seem perfectly understandable to an audio engineer, but it perhaps needs some explanation to be fully appreciated by those outside the industry.

Right from the first gramophones, audio reproduction had originated from a single source that transmitted its signal directly to some type of transducer. The first radio receivers were of mono design, and their loudspeakers were integrated with the electronics. It was only with the advent of stereo listening that loudspeakers needed to find their own place further away from the electronics driving them. People listening to broadband speakers connected to their home stereo setup during the early 60s may not have noticed the loss of signal integrity so much, however, as loudspeaker cabinets, crossovers, and driver technology became more sophisticated during the 1970s and 80s, the design imperfections of loudspeaker cables were gradually being exposed.

Manufacturers of audio equipment such as Madrigal Mark Levinson had an interest in demonstrating the benefits of their improving technology to their customers and noticed that some portion of their research was lost even before the music signals reached the loudspeakers, simply due to the fact that the wires connecting each step of the process were a compromise in themselves. The standard speaker cable during the 80s was, much like today, made up of two multi-stranded copper wires of a smaller diameter (i.e. higher gauge / AWG). While this would serve to establish the basic connection for current to flow, the question was, if this presented the best possible solution. Madrigal went back to the drawing board and developed a speaker cable that was designed based on its sonic merits alone, leaving all other aspects aside and true to the Bauhaus motto: "Form follows function".

By the 1980s, it was already known that solid-core wires offered greater musical homogeneity over all frequencies by limiting Eddy currents within the cable. It was also known that electrical current mostly ran along the outside of the wire. Madrigal’s aim therefore was to design speaker wire that was made of a single core and still offered the large surface of a thick and multi-strand wire. The result was a flat, ultra-pure, solid-core copper cable of 50mm in width per strand. In its original design, both one positive and one negative strand were stacked on top of each other, leading to an ultimate width of 100mm. Since this made the cable quite unmanageable in everyday usage, the Madrigal's original owner decided to separate the two strands.

I decided to install the speaker cables on our main system. This consisted of our Restek V1 preamplifier with an H&S Exceptional amplifier driving our Martin Logan SL3 electrostatic loudspeakers. Our Sansui SR-525 turntable with AT-VM95 ML cartridge and Rega Planet 2000 CD player served as music sources. All units were interconnected by means of solid-core silver cables with copper-mesh shielding. I had recently written a review of the H&S Exceptional amplifier and was eager to find out, if the change of cables would lead me to a different impression of the amplifier. And, while I normally set up our system in bi-wiring with our Belden 9497 speaker cables connected to a single point of contact on the side of the amp, I used bridges with the Madrigal cables, half expecting that I would not be able to hear any improvement.

I need not have worried. The Madrigal Mark Levinson solid-core copper cables turned out to be a game changer by any definition. OK, they were difficult to connect and to place behind our rack, and, yes, they looked pug-ugly with the wife-acceptance-factor (WAF) of a spaceship having parked in our garden, but these unique cables were able to drive our large Martin Logan speakers as if they were tiny headphones. José González’s album ‘Local Valley’ surrendered even the minutest details in the recording some of which I had yet been unfamiliar with, even from listening to the album with our AKG K712 headphones. The H&S Exceptional was a powerful amp that exerted lots of control in driving our Martin Logan speakers (also in terms of back-current decay), and these qualities worked very well in combination with the Madrigal cables.

I found that the Madrigal Mark Levinson flat cables facilitated a tonally rich and highly musical presentation on our system. Although laden with recording details, their imaging remained focused, leaving lots of natural space around each tonal event. Homogeneity, order, and intimate vocal charm were their strong points. They helped to promote natural dynamics and were fully rhythmical and engaging throughout. It seemed that the Madrigal cables were capable of cutting the music free from any unnecessary constraints. Both the amplifier and the speakers disappeared from the music. Could these be the perfect speaker cables? Well, thus far, I have heard nothing better. Not by a long shot.

Specifications

  • Design: solid-core
  • Material: ultra-pure copper
  • Termination(s): spade and banana
  • Length: 230 cm per channel
  • Width: 2x 50 mm per channel
  • Weight: 537g per channel
  • Country: USA
  • Year: 1988

If you should have any further or different information concerning these speaker cables with regard to their original name, precise manufacturing date, and origin, please contact me at karsten@eiaudio.de