Boenicke Audio S3 speaker cable released a while ago wasn’t a one off. Shortly past its review at these pages, several more similar products emerged, which resulted in this publication’s subject – Boenicke Audio IC3 CG interconnect set. Enjoy!
When Boenicke Audio’s founder Sven Boenicke approached me to see whether I’d be any interested in reviewing his S3 speaker cable, at first I thought what most individuals would in my place. Back then the odds of this particular product’s success in the extremely competitive cable land seemed to be either non-existent, or slim at best. Multiple questions demanded answers. Was such a costly leash released under the loudspeaker brand able to stand its ground versus goods executed by well-known specialist establishments? What pushed the man to compete in this realm in the first place? And to add salt to injury, what was the reason for staggering upper four figures on the S3’s price tag? Was its undeniable shock value Sven’s primary fuel? If not this, then what was it? The task he set himself upon clearly was anything but easy. Still, knowing him he had to have an ace up his sleeve, otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered. As it quickly turned out, the poker-faced Swiss in fact had far more than one.In spite of fondness towards Sven Boenicke’s work I’m familiar with, the S3 model I viewed as nothing more than just a costly place holder case in the man’s portfolio. I initially thought that this product came to be just so he could expand his territory in the direction complimentary with his core business. From the marketing perspective this move made sense, but wasn’t the only reason behind Boenicke Audio’s very own cable loom. Soon I learnt that Sven financed and outsourced necessary development to the Lithuanian LessLoss audio house and this fact alone changed a lot. Put shortly, all his cables are based on this operation’s own C-MARC technology, whereas the S3 happened to be its upscaled version. But most importantly, the Swiss recognized potency in just the right stuff and knew just the right man – that would be the LessLoss CEO Louis Motek – to approach and net a very interesting result.The Boenicke Audio S3 under my roof rapidly morphed into a performance monster beyond reach of any other alike specimen I previously auditioned, hence it landed this site’s rare ‘Victor’ award. The red badge also expressed my admiration towards Sven’s own cleverness and forward thinking as much as Louis Motek’s utmost potent noise-killing technology and his knowledge of how to improve upon it. The former gent didn’t stop on the S3 though, shortly past its review’s release I was told that several more items under the Boenicke flag were already finished; two power cords, three speaker cables and four interconnects. My investigation was clearly far from over, whereas this story unfolds its next chapter. It involves Boenicke Audio IC3 CG model.
The Boenicke Audio IC3 CG loaner was delivered to me in a regular cardboard box. Although such packaging is nothing unusual in case of a press sample shipped directly from another journo, I imagine that brand new IC3 CG units should occupy nothing less than nicely engraved wooden chests, generously filled with quality fabric. Well, at least that’s what today’s ask of €8’876 would imply and it’s fair to raise the question about its undeniable heft.As I learnt during the S3 assignment, exclusivity can be a very costly thing in the audio biz. Boenicke Audio’s founder financed the C-MARC technology’s next-level tier and also its execution solely for his own operation’s purposes, which in effect turned this potent silencing plot into commercially forbidden for anyone else including LessLoss. No rocket science has to apply to figure out that this service had to be found at the opposite end of affordable. In case of the IC3 CG boutique components, Swiss assembly hours, expenses associated with running a fully legal several-people strong company plus regular distribution markups, all factor in as well. I’m far from labeling any of Boenicke Audio’s top tier cables as bargains, they’re anything but. At the end of the day everything comes down to performance and the highly subjective and personal matter of one’s willingness to spend this much money on such luxury. I will say however that the reality for hobbyist one-man DIY shops and fully fledged audio establishments isn’t the same, whereas the reminder of this status quo customers see on the final tab. Who else but them?Boenicke Audio’s S3 speaker leash and today’s IC3 CG model share the very same next-gen C-MARC base of 3.5mm2 total conductive area in form of 99,99% pure cryogenized single copper ‘sleeve’ spun around tightly packed mercerized cotton core. Each individual lacquer-insulated 0.125mm thick copper hair spirally wound clockwise, mates with its oppositely polarized and turned counterpart across the same number of coils per unit distance. Two opposite magnetic fields induced at the same exact location are balanced, hence they cancel each other out, which results in interference immunity and silence efficient enough to get by without any shielding. Such braiding geometry also known as humbucker is the very key of the C-MARC principle. Boenicke Audio IC3 CG incorporates 24 bundles of 12 conductive strands each, 288 hair-thin Litz wires in total. Two halves of the individual Litz strands spiral respectively left and right. This again applies in 50:50 ratio to the resulting bundles to form the second-scale fractal effect.One glimpse at the Boenicke Audio IC3 CG is all it takes to notice that this isn’t an ordinary interconnect affair. Nearly all such products consist of one separate run per channel, but today’s ups the ante via one extra leash meant to exclusively address signal ground connection outside of the remaining cables, which informs us about this line not present in them at all, of course on purpose. Upon recognizing signal ground as the source of various problems, Sven simply moved it as far as he could from key veins. The grounding cable itself is also dressed in mercerized cotton, but far thinner and slinkier versus the other two and, instead of regular terminations, finished with clever round copper contacts. The application of these slightly springy ends seems tricky at first, but in reality there’s no mystery; they’re meant to be gently pushed onto used RCAs’ outer bits are then locked in place via normally pressed regular RCA plugs. This solution in practice proved to be quite hassle-free and it worked as intended with all devices but one.Each Sven Boenicke’s loudspeaker is available in three different tiers. The upper a given model is, the more numerous costly upgrades by Steinmusic, Bybee, Harmonix, Duelund and Sven’s own resonator twists it hides inside. I already had a good taste of these additions’ input, my freshly acquired W11 SE+ model doesn’t sound quite alike its SE version already reviewed here, but that’s a story for another time. The key thing to note is that Boenicke’s cables don’t follow the well-known ‘SE/SE+’ routine and it remains to be seen whether they will, but they’re subject to something else instead. Interconnect sets start from the entry-level IC1 model, then there’s the costlier IC2 version and above it sits the regular IC3 specimen also available as today’s substantially pricier IC3 CG model, whose ‘CG’ moniker is the key twist.The ‘CG’ bit stands for ‘Competitor’s Gear’, which implies on-board tuning devices in Sven’s cables similar to the ones found in his speakers. The goal here is to benefit from said components’ input in hardware by other manufacturers. For example, the S3 CG speaker cable (not yet available) wouldn’t introduce any advantages over the regular S3 version in case of i.e. my W11 SE+ floorstanders already equipped with ‘CG’ parts. However, my DAC and amps free from these additions make room for today’s interconnect set with no overlapping involved. To take an educated guess, Sven’s not yet available own electronics will most likely sport CG items, which will render this report’s IC3 CG as an overkill. But to see how this plays out, the man has to release this tier first.Each IC3 CG’s cable run sports one nicely finished wooden enclosure with the manufacturer logo on one side and a handy connection arrow on the other. The product is directional just as all C-MARCs are. Internals housed in wooden chambers include some of Sven’s usual suspects; Bybee’s quantum filters plus parallel and series resonators. The IC3 CG arrived finished with KLEI’s top shelf Absolute Harmony hollow-point RCAs, which I thoroughly enjoyed past years spent with WBT’s far less convenient locking equivalents.Even though Boenicke Audio’s IC3 CG and S3 models incorporate the same light albeit fairly stiff core cable, Sven took into account the former’s application at a different junction by making each its end thinner and substantially more supple versus the middle section. Although light enough to leave any torque leading to RCA damages at the door, wooden boxes fixed tightly to cables aren’t exactly petite, thus extra care versus most other interconnects won’t hurt. Still, the Swiss loaner was put together nicely enough to introduce the impression of a costly audio object capable of taking quite the beating.The grounding cable itself might not be required in some setups, but it surely was in mine as audible buzz was omnipresent with this leash disengaged. Its round ends will be perfectly compliant with vast majority of RCA sockets. Altgough LessLoss Echo’s End DAC with its analog outputs recessed inside of small chambers said ‘nay’ at first, one of the IC3 CG’s grounding pins bent and shaped to fit inside was a quick and easy fix. My Pacific’s RCA outputs made by WBT incorporate a lot of plastic and only partial conductive area, which is why today’s grounding end had to be gently turned to properly anchor to it. Once set up and locked in via KLEI’s RCA plug, the slightly rotated round copper head didn’t budge.
In order to review the Boenicke Audio IC3 CG, fidata HFAS-S10U handled storage and transport duties, then LampizatOr Pacific DAC (KR Audio T-100/Living Voice 300B + KR Audio 5U4G Ltd. Ed.) took over to pass the signal to either Kinki Studio EX-M1 or Trilogy 925, and then to Boenicke’s W11 SE+ with the S3 speaker cable in-between. All key components were connected via LessLoss C-MARC cables to the GigaWatt PC-3 SE EVO+ power conditioner, which was then married to the main in-wall outlet via LC-3 EVO cable by the same manufacturer. The Amber-modded Excellence set by Audiomica Laboratory was today’s main skirmish partner. At some point the headphone rig in form of Bakoon AMP-13R and Susvara cans was used as well.This review’s comparison was a breeze versus any other recently conducted at these pages. Two different interconnect sets required minimal hassle to perform necessary shifts between them, which significantly shortened listening downtime. The Boenicke S3 experience also was a solid starting point, its key C-MARC ingredient’s audible input naturally led to my very much alike expectations towards the IC3 CG loaner quite similar on this count. Its potency versus the loudspeaker kin was the only question mark introduced early on, but everything else that followed was pleasantly familiar.Even though I shouldn’t be picky, I’ll admit that my favourite cable jobs involve power and USB representatives. These two product types tend to do a lot under my roof and their behaviour is quite predictabe, which significantly reduces time needed for me to get a proper aural fix. The sooner the understanding of occurring sonic shifts arrives, the quicker I can get down to writing, publishing and then moving onto the next assignment. It’s impossible to like everything equally, reviewers are human beings not robots after all, privy biases are no crime. Still, once in a while a product capable of changing one’s mindset towards its kind shows up, which is exactly what the Boenicke Audio S3 speaker cable did in my case. It showed me how potent and meaningful such items can be, which in effect led to changes in my personal take on them. Past this valuable lesson I simply knew substantially more about speaker components than before it, however interconnects were pretty much a blank slate.Several differently tiered interconnect sets auditioned in my main setup over last three years is not a lot. Neither came any close to today’s on cost, not even Siltech’s anniversary Crown Princess model reviewed here. I haven’t remembered it well enough to comfortably include it in this report, which left my daily driver – Audiomica Laboratory’s Amber-modded Erys Excellence – as the convenient benchmark, also on constant duty ever since its appearance in late 2016. That’s a long time to get oneself familiar with any product. Truth told, for a reason I never got round to any shifts at its junction. Not even once I’ve heard an upgrade significant or fitting enough in my platform to pursue it, the above-mentioned Siltech’s item included. It was good, but not good enough to alter my view on this breed.Personal boundaries shift upwards accordingly to knowledge and experience gains, which is why my privy expectations towards any expensive cable aren’t what they used to be, at least not after everything learnt up to this point. I believe that subconsciously I looked forward to an interconnect set capable of changing my mind about such products the way the S3 recently did with speaker cables. I wanted to be surprised, caught off guard, blown away and introduced to something previously not known. I wanted to know what the word ‘better’ could possibly mean. Long story’s short, today’s provided the lesson I hoped to receive, however I’d lie by saying that I hadn’t seen it coming.The below part of this report I could narrow down to the fact that, to my ears at least, the IC3 CG behaved very much along the lines of its S3 sibling on voicing and audible potency. Considering their identical core, this was hardly any surprise. Exceptionally efficient silencing treatment was on the menu yet again. It included pleasantly familiar hauntingly dark pristine backdrop and virtual outlines suspended in there in utmost visible fashion; not chiseled and rough but pleasantly round yet firm, internally moist, texturally generous and very much alive. The sensation of omnipresent calmness was a part of this package as well, which translated to relaxed musical intake. It was as free from any signs of tension or struggle as it was liberated from any tonal makeovers. Upon repertoire’s demand, fierce short powerful blows were served as easily as everything else was. Naturally mild rumble transitioning into immediate quick jabs always had my full attention. Such shifts at times happened unexpectedly and literally out of nowhere.Calm by nature, soothing and even somewhat sweet, background blackness isn’t expected to support sheer agility and power. Thus far my ears associated said backdrop with richness, mellowness, posh, grand yet humane detail delivery and the lot, but not necessarily with contributions to wide dynamic contrasts. The IC3 CG’s core flavour included teased out composure, coherence and textural charm, which is where my focus naturally was. But the product broke the rule by doing all the usual stunts and being exceptionally speedy and slamming upon demand on top of that. It didn’t put these traits on the pedestal, but like a world class magician it instantaneously summoned them out of virtual nothingness behind musicians, which at times landed very much surprising results. I wasn’t aware that interconnects could do that, but now I am.Audiomica’s interconnect set didn’t reach as low, had its upper bass boosted, was more icy and shorter upstairs. Its midrange was texturally more pale and clearly grainier, backdrop not as pristine. All listed evidence was more than enough to form the opinion that what went down wasn’t a proper match but a slaughter. Boenicke IC3 CG made a quick work of its opponent in fashion as blunt as it was brutal. Given both specimens’ price difference multiplier of eight and then some, such a result wasn’t any surprise. But most importantly, the Swiss had a major upper hand on sheer potency as well, everything it did was fleshier; more present, sensible and alive. One swap to either model was all it took to get the memo. Audiomica’s Excellence loom are all situational products, designed to work in a very specific non-mainstream company. But today’s clear superiority extended to aural technicalities not really related to flavouring; openness, clarity, soundstage depth, smoothness, virtual sound sources’ sizing and presence, overall spatial expansiveness and so on so forth. I saw no field where the local interconnect set could compete.It didn’t take long to know what kind of an animal the IC3 CG was. It sang accordingly to what was on my playlist, yet always remained relaxed about it and pleasantly moist. It’s safe to say that, due to inherently civilized silent approach, some tracks it rendered better than they normally were; more vivid, saturated and with extra points on clarity, but not chunkier, warmer or more lit up. When the evaluation stage moved to component triangulations, the Swiss proved to be as universal as its loudspeaker sibling was. It acted as if it had zero interest in components it connected. The two similarly big yet differently voiced integrated decks did their respective work as they usually do, but with the IC3 CG their performance significantly went up. The 925 sounded more open and speedier than normally yet still leaned towards its embedded charm, whereas the EX-M1 gained extra textural viscosity but quickness and power remained its key attractors as they ever were. When I thought that the Bakoon AMP-13R plus Susvara combo couldn’t get any better, the IC3 CG’s contribution netted performance even more insightful, expressive and spatially bigger, yet with no strings attached. Resolution thrives on silence after all.Not only Boenicke IC3 CG wasn’t fussy about nearby hardware, but also it elevated each single machine’s performance at no sonic cost. Simply put, to my ears this interconnect set emerged as no less universal and audibly present than the same manufacturer’s top tier S3 loudspeaker model. Having said that, today’s won’t counter one colouration with another, it’s simply not tailored to combat anything specific. Instead it’ll assist any connected component in flourishing into a superior version of itself without any reworks done to its core voice. This in effect brings us to two mutually exclusive things this report’s IC3 CG perfectly combines; synergy and versatility.
Although Sven Boenicke’s recent outsourcing route might look like a convenient shortcut, far more important to me was his knowledge about how to arrive to the destination place in one piece; which exact path to take and which guide to hire. The S3 adventure already marked the Swiss audio house as capable of cables quality wise way up there with its loudspeakers, whereas today’s IC3 CG model reassured me in this opinion.
Boenicke Audio IC3 CG isn’t difficult to use but surely unusual if not a bit quirky. According to Sven, a separate grounding run and one wooden critter per channel are what gets the job done this time around. Without having today’s non-CG version nearby, I shouldn’t tackle this subject. However, CG additives inside my W11 SE+ did well enough (versus W11 SE) to pen its own story and the IC3 CG houses several of them as well. That’s why if the man says they are necessary, well, they are. At least I won’t argue.
Just as its S3 sibling a while ago, the alike voiced Boenicke Audio IC3 CG scored as equally high notes on sonic potency, but at a different junction. It extracted the very best of all nearby hardware in truly tasteful fashion and without asking for anything in return. All drawbacks or alterations it kept at the door. Grand effectiveness in elevating connected products’ performance regardless of their flavour or type, is in fact today’s key strength. Although my limited exposure to such cables is the only reason behind absence of the red award below, I will say that Boenicke Audio IC3 CG emerged as the best one yet and by far. Also, my compliments to the Swiss chef Sven for exploiting the C-MARC technology this impressively for the second time in a row. ‘Till next time!
- Amplifier: Trilogy 925, Kinki Studio EX-M1, Bakoon AMP-13R
- DAC: LampizatOr Pacific (KR Audio T-100 / Living Voice 300B + KR Audio 5U4G Ltd. Ed.)
- Speakers: Boenicke Audio W11 SE+
- Transport: fidata HFAS-S10U
- Headphones: HifiMan Susvara
- Speaker cables: Boenicke Audio S3, LessLoss C-MARC
- Interconnects: Audiomica Laboratory Erys Excellence
- Power components: Gigawatt PC-3 SE EVO+, Gigawatt PF-2 + Gigawatt LC-2 MK2 + Forza AudioWorks Noir Concept/Audiomica Laboratory Ness Excellence/LessLoss C-MARC
- Rack: Franc Audio Accesories Wood Block Rack
- Music: NativeDSD
Retail prices of reviewed components in EU (incl. 22% VAT):
- Boenicke Audio IC3 CG 1.0m: €8’876
- Each 0.5m extra: €535
Manufacturer: Boenicke Audio