Review: Kubala-Sosna Emotion Interconnects Interconnect

Category: Cables

The Kubala-Sosna Emotion interconnects are one of those rare audio products that strikes a perfect balance between lifelike clarity and relaxing friendliness. Previous cables I have owned and used in the last several years were Cardas Golden Reference and Golden Cross, Nordost Valhallas, and Jena Symphonies. I have also briefly auditioned Kharma Enigmas. (In the more distant past, I owned Cardas Cross, and Audioquest Indigos & Lapis’s.) All of these cables had good and bad characteristics, but none did everthing well. I now conclude that the Kubalas, with no exaggeration, do everything well, and exceed all of these cables in all areas, often by a wide margin, such that they actually transformed my system’s sound, improving it tremendously. The tonality is natural, absorbing, and inviting. The Kubalas have reduced those irritating factors I had always learned to live with to vanishingly low levels. I cannot foresee any reason to ever upgrade from the Emotions.

My main system consists of an Accuphase DP75V CD player feeding an Edge NL12 power amp directly. My speakers are Kharma 3.2fe’s using Cardas Golden Reference speaker cable, along with a Shunyata Hydra power conditioner. Power cables are a TG Audio SLVR (on the cdp) and 688s everywhere else.

I am very sensitive to aggressive bass. The Kubala’s bass is strikingly beautifully listenable and absorbing, not assaultive at all, but still well defined, even in nearfield listening. The bass is articulate but not attenuated at all. It can turn one into a bass-lover even if you are somewhat bass-phobic like I am. I have had bass problems in my room before; those problems are gone. It is as if I put in bass traps everywhere. Previously, the Valhallas worked well but I realized they accomplished this by being lean and simply removing the bass. The Kubalas brought the bass back, but with a level of quality that I did not think my 2-way Kharmas were capable of. It is as if the Kharmas grew a phantom woofer of the highest caliber. Neither The Cardas’s or the Kharma Enigma’s bass was nearly as well defined or enjoyable.

The midrange and highs are clear and realistic but not veiled at all. While the Valhallas projected too strongly (& pushed me against the wall like the old Memorex Cassette ad with the fellow sitting in his chair with a hurricane was coming at him from his speakers), and the Cardas’s were abrasive on voices and strings through the Kharmas metal tweeters, the Kubala Emotions were ideally balanced. There was no sibilance or edginess. The Kharma’s metal tweeters now sound like the best ribbons, reminding me of my old (dearly departed) Apogee Stages. If you have ever been irritated by edgy voices or piano notes by metal tweeters, the Kubalas have the opposite effect, but to reiterate, not at the expense of blurring or coloration to my ears. I feel this is a miraculous balancing act. They really walk the line.

I listened to Saint-Saens organ symphony and Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance and was amazed by the warm, precise, inviting bass along with the rest of the frequency spectrum. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto # 1 (on a favorite Naxos recording) contained sonorous piano notes without any cold-as-ice piercing affects or electric sting. The soundstage was open and deep. Instruments were well separated but still part of a coherent fabric. With the Kubalas and the Kharmas, the individual instruments did not sound like they were coming from an array of isolated small speakers, but rather part of an inter-related group.

On some popular music with some seriously annoying artifacts, the Kubalas do the best job of remedying these I have found. Sgt. Pepper (The Beatles) was not pushy or harsh, especially with the percussion on “When I'm 64” which can be in-your-face. Similarly, the bell in Maxwell’s Silver Hammer on Abbey Road was detailed and pleasant without being harsh and “ringing” as it usually is. Carly Simon’s voice is not ragged as it can be on revealing speakers. Diana Ross (Supremes music) can be extremely sibilant, even on forgiving speakers like the Aerial 10ts I used to own. The sibilance is almost completely tamed. Back to the Beatles, many of the voices on the White Album (such as in Dear Prudence) lost the raspiness I was all-too-familiar with.

Headphone Experiments:
I also tried the Kubalas on my 2 headphone systems (Stax 007t/Omegas, Headroom Max/Grado RS1), where I previously had experimented with Cardas Golden Reference, Golden Cross & Jena Symphonies. The headphone systems were so much more relaxed it wasn’t funny. It was the perfect cable for both systems. It especially transformed the Stax’s performance, removing any trace of “buzziness” on voices and strings. The Grados had a much more realistic soundstage, much less up-front and pushy. Headphone listening can be an anxiety-prone experience, especially with high-end equipment. Relaxation is key. As soon as I used the Kubalas, I just exhaled with a sense of peace. Even though they may cost more than the rest of the headphone system, they are, in my opinion, worth it.

I realize I have not auditioned a great many cables, and none at this price level except for the Valhallas, and I apologize for that, and I just wanted to give the reader some context for this review. I am simply motivated to write this review because I was so impressed and unexpectedly pleased with the Kubala Emotion interconnects. Although expensive, I want to note that they blend perfectly with my Cardas Golden Reference speaker cable, so the only cost was for the interconnects. For me, they constitute a thoroughly worthwhile investment in my system, and I believe I have a cable for life. Thanks for reading. (rgs --July 17, 2004.)

Associated gear
Accuphase DP75V CD player.
Power Amp: Edge NL12.
No Preamp.
Speakers: Kharma 3.2FE’s.
Speaker Cable: Cardas Golden Reference.
Shunyata Hydra power conditioner. Power cables TG Audio SLVR (on the cdp) and 688s everywhere else.

Similar products
Cardas Golden Reference & Golden Cross.
Nordost Valhalla.
Jena Symphony.
They did sound great in a number of demo rooms, optimizing a number of fine systems at the recent NYC Stereophile Home Entertainment Show.
Interestingly, Kharma loudspeakers, the choice for your own home system, sounded beautiful in one of the Show systems where Kubala-Sosna provided the wiring.
Did not yet have a chance to hear the less costly part of the product line, which shares certain design elements.
Very nicely written, and congradulation on your system.

It's good to see that, the Kubala cables are finally getting some regonition.
Quick follow-up notes. My demo pair was RCA-ended, the pair I bought for further listening was XLR-terminated.
I bought them from GTT audio in Long Valley, NJ, an excellent dealer. -rgs92-
Rgs, how long did it take for the break-in? I've been listening to the speaker cables this past weekend and have heard definite plusses with a few minuses (none of which would bother the music-lover side of me), and am breaking in the interconnect with my tuner. Before I reach any conclusions, I'd like to know if the 24-hour break-in point others seem to be mentioning is true.

FWIW, so far the speaker cables seem to exhibit many of the qualities you're speaking of in the interconnect.
The highs mellowed out after about a week of normal (3-4 hours a day) listening. I'm sorry but I do not have the speaker cable. I want to reiterate that I am most impressed with the bass; it is not the deepest bass, but it is extremely unassaultive. I was even able to move the speakers back against the wall about 8 inches with no bloating or boominess. I really recommend that anyone with boominess issues try the Kubalas.
After about a week of listening to the speaker cables, I’m pretty much in agreement with your assessment--very fine review, sir! My system is a four piece system with an active crossover at 220 Hz, biamped (Lamm ML-1s on the top and Sonogy Black Knights on the bass) with bass down flat to about 20 Hz in room, and excels at soundstaging and layering of depth. I have for several years used a tri-wired speaker cable made for me by a member of our audio society (K-Works is the name he does business under) which is a copper litz wire, using separate legs for the positive and negative runs, some ferrites to block RFI (but not overdone), and a gel-like insulation for the wires to minimize the effects of vibrations. This cable is perhaps a little lean tonally, but pretty much neutral, revealing, very quiet and very good dynamically, with excellent bass extension; it has beaten out a lot of other, costly cables in my system, and is relatively inexpensive.

When I put in the Kubala Sosnas, I used the Emotion for the satellites and Expression for the bass. As they broke in, I liked the dynamics and soundstaging very much, and the richness of the cable’s tonal balance, but I felt that they were a little fat in the bass and rolled in the highs. The break-in cured the latter concern; when Joe Kubala (who lives nearby) and John Ruttan (who was kind enough to lend me the cables) came over last night to listen, they quickly switched another set of Emotions in for the bass in place of the Expression, and that did the trick. If you do biamp with these cables, I would strongly advise using the same level cable for each—while the overall sonic signature is the same, the better lines are better at the frequency extremes and more refined, and the difference is noticeable. The one thing about these cables that I’m not sure you mention enough is how good they are at unraveling complex orchestral pieces without any hint of congestion, and how extraordinary they are at reproducing the most subtle of dynamic and tonal changes. Little things that bring out the, yeah, I’ll say it, emotion of a performance. Another strength of the cables is retrieval of ambient detail evenly over the whole frequency spectrum—too many cables get the high frequency ambience right but not the mids or the lows, but this one gets it all superbly, and very naturally. I’m very impressed with this cable. And while I think you’re right that it does make some badly-recorded discs sound better, I don’t think I would call it a sonic band-aid or a tone control by any means—I gave it my worst recordings and they sounded like what they are.

I’m now listening more seriously to the interconnects, and there it’s a closer call. I principally use NBS Omega, which I have preferred in my system over Siltech Compass Lake, Nordost Valhalla and others, together with the K-Works Phantom interconnect, a close match to the NBS at 1/5 the price, a real bargain. In this comparison each cable has its strengths and weaknesses, though the weaknesses are minor and quite frankly at this point it’s a toss-up as to which I like better. I’m going to do more listening this weekend with more of the Emotion interconnects (Joe and John left me with a 30 foot run for my pre-amp to crossover, and we’re getting one more meter pair to be able to do an all Kubala-Sosna run from source to speakers) to see how they compare. I will note that the NBS Omegas work very well with the Kubala Sosna speaker cables, a good match.

The front-end components used here are a Jadis JP-200MC preamp, a Lamm LP2 phono stage, Forsell/dCS/Audio Logic digital (redbook), Jerry-Ozment and Kern-modded Sony SCD 777ES SACD player, Basis Ovation with Debut platter, bearing and vacuum upgrade/Graham 2.2/Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum analog rig.
I would deeply consider the Kubala-Emotion Power Cables, threw out your system, again another step towards a synergy, that is very magical.
Follow-up on the interconnects--they're every bit as good as Rgs 92 describes, and possess all of the strengths of the speaker cables. When you first hear them you might think they are rolled at the top (some might prefer a cable more balanced towards the bright side), but with the first cymbal crash or triangle strike you quickly find out that's not the case at all, the highs are all there, just not emphasized as with many other cables. Their clear strength, tonally, is in the midrange, which they get right. Violins were not at all wiry sounding, and had a sense of the sheen you hear live that I rarely get on recordings. Reproduction of ambience and low-level detail is startlingly realistic. There are absolutely no congestion or distortion artifacts with this cable that I can hear--dynamics are natural and stunning, both on a micro and macro level, and do not overemphasize one part of the frequency spectrum over another. Small-scale transient attacks, such as guitar strums or banjo picking, seemed more natural and real with the Kubala-Sosnas. In only one application did I slightly prefer the NBS to the Kubala-Sosna, that was with my analog rig--in that case the slight leanness of the NBS in the midrange seemed to mate better with the Koetsu's lush midrange. Otherwise, it was a very close contest between these cables, and now that the Kubala-Sosnas are no longer in my system, while I still find the NBS to be a superb performer, with excellent openness, high and low frequency extension and resolving power, I miss that midrange "rightness" and many of the other things that the Kubala-Sosna's did for my emotional involvement in the music. Maybe it's one of those left brain/right brain conflicts that we all go through. In any event, these cables are well worth auditioning in your own system, and they may well find their way back into mine.
Thank you all for the thoughtful commentaries and comparisons. It is heart-warming to read the Emotion (could not resist that one :o) in your remarks regarding your experiences with our products!

We are thrilled that you feel our cables are helping you get closer to the performance because that is what this hobby of ours is all about - The Music!

Thank you again for your time and efforts, and, your willingness to share your thoughts!

Yours in Music ...