Best budget choice: Tara Labs TL-2/14 speaker cable.

p>By WL Low


Let’s get the nitty gritty out of the way first, this is the entry level Tara Labs speaker cable, priced at RM$1,019.00/8ft pair.


If that’s not a steal, since you are buying the Tara Labs brand, then there’s indeed more substance to the name – all Tara Labs products are declared made in the US of A on their website. And with the marketing muscle of local dealer A&L Audio Station behind the brand, the Tara Labs products may prove more difficult to lay hands on.


The cable came sealed in regular printed cardboard box (nothing fancy here), no unnecessary packaging frills either. The cable looks sturdily terminated with gold (not too shiny) plated banana plugs on both ends, if the cable size is a little weedy looking (who says good-sounding cables must be thick, and come with shiny plugs?). There are the usual directional markings for signal flow on this 14 AWG copper cable. So far, everything seems mundane and not terribly exciting.


Check out this “live” CD and Blu-ray set, featuring amazing performances by many, many artistes in collaboration with the Hit Man himself, David Foster. The Blu-ray has brilliant picture and stereo quality in PCM audio playback mode.


That is until I plugged the Tara Labs into my system, replacing my resident, and many times more costly Siltech 25th Anniversary 330L reference cable. I had previous left the TL-2/14 on my home made kable kooker for 2 whole weeks 24/7 to burn in. My first album was the very entertaining Hit Man Returns, David Foster & Friends, featuring the likes of Seal, Donna Summer (possibly her last public appearance prior to her untimely death), Chaka Khan, Earth Wing & Fire and many more artistes I’d care to remember. I am very familiar with this live recording and the Blu-ray AV disc too. I was stunned by how organic yet kick-ass dynamic this cable sounded!


Here we have a very quietly dark sounding cable, with smooth, non-jarring highs, honeyed mids and propulsive (with very low extension too) kinda bass. It”s as if my PMC Fact 8 speakers were operating with a sub-woofer (in 2.1 set up) – it was that kinda bass kick. It was as if the Earth Wind and Fire medley performance was rocking my gulis (balls for non-Malaysians) all over, just sitting on the thron e(sweet spot). I would say the tonal quality was rather well balanced leaning to the warm side, making my system less critical of recording fault and, making it easier for me to consume my music (a la instant noodle style).


The other area that took me by surprise, which I never believed could be attained with such a cheap/budget cables is sound staging. The stage is deep, layered, tall and wide (beyond both sides of speakers and outside of the physical wall). However, the pudding just got sweeter when I realised that there’s even a halo of “air” around each vocalist and instrument neatly projected within the sound stage!


By now, you must be waiting for some sins committed by this Tara Labs cable, right? Well, I won’t disappoint you. Coming from an entry-level product, there must be some kind of performance compromise. First thing, while still relating to the sound staging and the imaging properties, while organically projected, it may not be solidly outlined enough for some tastes and system synergy. However, one area where I am sure the performance is compromised is the level of absolute transparency. In the high-end audio game, transparency is a highly-prized commodity. While the TL-2/14 isn’t the most transparent of speaker cables around, I was actually too busy enjoying my music to spot it, until the time came to remove it, and had my reference Siltechs re-installed  to the system. Only then, the one sin of omission became startlingly clear.


Otherwise, I am all praises for this Tara Labs TL-2/14 speaker cable. It’s highly musical and appealing on an emotional level, does all the basic hifi performance parameters right, plus it is a sound staging and bass “king” – all for beer budget money. It had been a blast of a time spent with it.


If one is in the market for any speaker cable, regardless of budget, do give this Tara Labs a try first, especially if one is after music first, and “hifi-nes” of sound next. It’s that good!


Tara Labs is sold by A&L Audio Station, contact Yap(Wah Chai) at 03-79582884.

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