We normally associate the Cote d'Azur with sun-soaked wine, sweet-smelling herbs and glorious blue skies. So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that high-end audio is also alive and well in the region. However, Ocellia, a manufacturer based in the South of France, emphatically demonstrates with typically French charm that pleasure and savoir vivre are not solely the province of the taste buds and the eyes.
[written by Reinhold Martin]
Although something of a well-kept secret outside France, Ocellia has earned a place in the high end thanks to its unusual ideas on amplifiers, loudspeakers and cables. I had my first taste of what this specialist French manufacturer is capable of during a visit to its German distributor, where I heard the company's Calliope loudspeakers. These speakers not only look different, they also sound extremely good. Helmut Rohrwild will be reporting on the Ocellia speakers soon, but as a taster for his review, I have been trying out the new silver version of Ocellia's interconnect cables.
What immediately strikes you about these cables is that they are very light and flexible, and unlike ninety percent of the competition, they are not black; they are a creamy white. Could this have anything to do with the fact that black provides too harsh a contrast to the clear, bright light of the South of France? In fact, it is because the Ocellia developers did not want to use a black dye containing electrically-conductive carbon. The reason? MDI distortion. More of that in a moment. The cable jacket, which protects the interior of the cable from moisture and physical damage, is made of a soft, lightweight plastic containing mineral fibres, which have absolutely no electrically-conductive characteristics. When we slice deeper into the cable, we find a 'natural' dielectric based on cotton under the mineral-based jacket. At Ocellia, they reject the usual plastic materials such as PVC and polyethylene, and even Teflon - because of MDI distortion. Deeper into the cable, we find a silver conductor running through its core. Silver, because silver is a better conductor than copper, maintains its conductivity better over time, possesses superior resistance to vibration and because it can be polished to a smoother finish. The extremely smooth surface finish, the natural dielectric and the mineral jacket are all characteristics selected for the purpose of minimizing MDI, which the company claims can lead to loss of sound quality and even loss of musicality.
Is 'MDI distortion' just a marketing gimmick on the part of Ocellia? Not at all. It stands for 'micro discharge interface', a term that came into being during a French government-funded research project into signal distortion caused by the high-level ultrasound that accompanies the transmission of electrical signals and which also manifests itself as intermodulation distortion in audio signals. MDI also leads to the generation of positive Langevin ions, which negatively influence sound propagation. This might partially explain why negative ion generators like the Acoustic Revive have a positive subjective effect on sound quality. But that's as may be. Ocellia claims that its choice of materials for the Silver Signature cable reduces MDI distortion and therefore has a beneficial effect on sound quality. The company continues to carry out research into anti-MDI measures and is keen to see its findings applied to amplification as well. The RCA (phono) plugs fitted to the Ocellia cable have been optimized for MDI, by the way, although the wooden discs fitted to the cable have nothing to do with this - they show the signal flow direction and may be rotated and repositioned along the cable to stop them getting in the way when space is tight.
What does the Ocellia 'sound' like? My system, which comprises an Ayre C5xe multiplayer, Ayre KX-R preamplifier, and Ayre MX-R mono power amplifiers driving Revel Gem2 speakers supported by a Revel Sub30 subwoofer, is equipped with Klang und Kunst cables throughout. First, I replaced the KuK NF 3-S cable between player and preamp and then the KuK cable between preamp and power amps. The sonic signature of the Ocellia cable was noticeable at all times. Whilst it retained the unstressed and relaxed sound of the Klang und Kunst cable it replaced, the French cable managed to remove a further layer of graininess as well as whatever 'pollution' still permeated the sound. Incredible. On the other hand, the KuK has the edge when it comes to holographic solidity - and tonal authenticity. In a direct comparison, the Ocellia allows some smearing of the fine tonal nuances that are an easily recognizable part of the sound of woodwind and solo violin.
Returning for a moment to the unstressed and relaxed sound, which is where Kunst und Klang cables score strongly over other cables on the market, the Ocellia is by no means inferior to the KuK cable. If you examine the construction of both cables, what they have in common - apart from the silver conductor - is the use of natural rather than synthetic materials in the outer jacket and dielectric. Perhaps this affinity with nature is what makes cables like those from Kang und Kunst and Ocellia more 'musical'. With or without the theory of MDI.
I will report back if the distributor allows me the opportunity to cable my system from end to end with Ocellia. This would enable me to exclude the possibility of interaction between the German and French cables, which may not have done the Ocellia any favours during testing.
An astonishing cable. It is rare that one gets to experience sound reproduction of the highest order, relaxed and free of stress, at a price commensurate with the performance offered. If you did not know before, you know now that the South of France is home not just to good wine and herbs for your cordon bleu cooking; it is also home to a truly 'musical' cable.
[Translation by Stephen McLuckie]
Author: Reinhold Martin
Ocellia Signature Silver [interconnect]
PRICE-/PERFORMANCE: VERY GOOD
Ocellia Signature Silver interconnect
Length: 1.00 metre
Price: 790 €