In a way, the most obvious part of the Virtuoso loudspeaker cable is probably going to be the pivotal aspect of how Fono Acustica’s top cable is received. The cable’s terminations, in particular the ornately tooled silver-plated copper barrels that form the cable’s connector bodies, are either going to be praised or dismissed for bringing a touch of baroque style to the otherwise minimalist world of audio. While these distinctive connectors polarise opinion, Virtuoso is so much more than the sum of its plugs.
In fact, everything in the Virtuoso cable is made to the same uncompromising level as the connector bodies, and that’s reflected in the price. Materials sourced in the design come from the best possible sources, and the level of hand-built detail that goes into the construction and design practically redefines ‘meticulous’. It’s essentially a solid-core design, using special and proprietary silver/gold alloy conductors sourced from a Canadian supplier. The conductors are hand-wrapped in carbon filaments before being inserted into loose, silicon insulation tubes wrapped in a cotton mix jacket containing conductive filaments that act as shielding. It’s all about controlling and dissipating energy, but far from the unwieldy, python-like, inflexible designs often seen at the super high-end, that energy dissipation occurs thanks to the Virtuoso’s soft, flexible, and relatively lightweight construction.
Then, of course, there are those speaker terminals. The Virtuoso connectors are based on Oyaide hardware, but the plug bodies are larger in diameter and made from silver-plated copper, which is mechanically tuned. The spades are machined from solid blocks of that Canadian-sourced silver-gold alloy, and include a hinge to optimise the cable dressing without undermining the integrity of the mechanical contact.
In fact, the construction of these cables, though excellent, is immaterial. It’s the end result that counts. Virtuoso are cables born out of passion, and you can hear that in the end result. These are truly bespoke products for people who share the designer’s passion, both for music and for detail: the sort of people who insist on just the right weight and shade of Bemberg lining on the inside facings of a waistcoat even though it will never be seen by anyone except the tailor and the wearer.
The Virtuoso loudspeaker cables exhibit a degree of integrity and balance that is very thin on the audio ground, except at the highest level. This isn’t immediately identifiable, because we are so used to a less ordered sound, but on spending time – even a very short time – with the Virtuoso cables, you begin to hear just how disordered most systems sounds are, and just how much more there is to offer when everything sounds more aligned. This begins by instantly hearing greater musical texture and presence from the instruments within a recording, backed up by a powerful sense of solidity. This all gives a sense of musical expression, which gives the music both colour and shape. You hear the inner detail, the structure, and the subtle dynamic cues that separate real musical skill from Auto-Tuned ‘talent’, but you can do this with many systems. What Virtuoso brings is a sense of folding all these diverse audio aspects into a sonic gestalt, making a result that gets just that bit closer to the intent of the artist, the engineer, and even the composer.
To most, that reads like pretentious twaddle, but anyone who has spent quality time with Fono Acustica’s Virtuoso is likely nodding along in agreement. They will know that – even in a market as contended as the super high-end cable world – there are cables that seem as if they focus the listener’s attention upon a specific aspect of the musical whole, and some that zone in on the musical whole at the expense of some of the more subtle details, but precious few that are level-headed enough to deliver the complete picture and the individual aspects of that whole. That’s a heady wine!
The listening test is quick to resolve, but this needs some nuancing. Virtuoso’s more holistic approach to musical replay is easy to hear and just as easy to understand, but some might miss this in thinking it a less ‘immediate’ cable than its rivals. There are other cables at this level that deliver a seemingly more punchy, upbeat, or forward presentation, and that can be more immediately seductive. Virtuoso doesn’t go for that immediacy, instead making a more refined and deft sound with staying power. I think if you are receptive to a level-headed presentation at the outset, Virtuoso will charm you almost immediately. If not, give it a little more listening; if you find yourself happily drawn into the music rather than its technicalities, Virtuoso is probably your kind of cable.
Ultimately even in the most well-balanced component, there are aspects of the performance that benefit slightly less well than others. In other words, in a straight fight between Fono Acustica Virtuoso and something like Nordost’s latest Odin, the overall order of the former trades blows with the greater detail of the latter. In truth, both share about 99% of the journey, and it’s that last seemingly trifling scintilla of performance we are talking about. But, as Michelangelo once said, “trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle”. Although what a pizza-addicted masked tortoise with anger-management issues has to do with an English sherry-laced layered dessert (or the pursuit of audiophile excellence) is unclear.
On looks alone, Fono Acustica’s Virtuoso would be worthy of audio’s top table, but the cable has the sonics to match the visuals, too. Many aficionados of high-performance cable have stuck with the same brands for years, while others change cables on a regular basis. Both now have a new name to call on, and while the price of admission is extremely high, Virtuoso also comes highly recommended for those in pursuit of the best of the best.
Conductor type: silver/gold alloy, solid core
Number of conductors per cable: Four
Cable diameter: 18mm
Connector diameter: 21mm
Minimum insertion distance: 40mm
All Virtuoso speaker cables available as single wire configuration only
Terminals: Spade terminals as standard – 4mm available to order
Length: 1.0m, 1.5m, 2.0m, 2.5m lengths as standard – other lengths to order
Price: from €27,500
Manufactured by: Fono Acustica