Review by Rick Becker
Reviewers love to discover great new products. And being a scrimper and saver, I love to discover inexpensive products that bring great sound to the common audiophile-if there is such a person. I thought I had latched on to another such winner with the Stereovox digital cable, only to learn that my comrade in keyboard, Todd Warnke, had already written a review. My findings were virtually identical to his, but I thought it would be a contribution to take it two steps further. Here's what else.
While Todd was able to compare (read his review here) the Stereovox to some excellent digital cables (read "expensive"), it is my good fortune to possess an Illuminations D60 digital cable designed by the same Chris Sommovigo back in the mid-1990s, which has become something of a standard among the legendary reviewers. I run my cable from a 1990 vintage Sony CDP-X77ES CD player to a 1996 Muse Model Two DAC, sans bezel filter. And no, I am not about to throw either of these fine pieces away if you were thinking of asking for a donation -- for two reasons. First, the Muse has a re-clocking device that helps minimize jitter. And second, the addition of ERS paper to both, and Stillpoints and Symposium Rollerblock Jrs under the DAC and player has brought this combo to a surprisingly high standard. Not state of the art, perhaps, but high enough to quell any desire to spend major money on a digital front end.
So, how did the Stereovox compare with the Illuminati D60? Basically, it made it obsolete. It was a qualitative improvement across the board without any particular quality jumping out and hogging my attention from the music. A little more focused, a little quieter noise floor, a little better sound staging, a little less grain (not that there was a lot to begin with), and a little tighter bass. If anything stood out beyond these qualitative improvements, it would have to be the improved control of sibilance-most notably in singing and in the timbre of cymbals. (Did I echo Todd, here?) But cumulatively, these effects, especially in light of the relatively modest price, make this a very worthwhile addition to my system.
In terms of value, at $100, I would have to rate it very high -- surpassed only by the ERS paper at $20/sheet, the None Felt turntable mat at about $35, the HAL-0 Tube Dampers, and the installation of a dedicated line (about $100 if you can do most of the work yourself). And when you consider that it comes with RCA-to-BCN adapters, it should work in a lot of systems -- both audio and video.
Of course, all this presumes you have a separate transport and DAC, or perhaps the need to run digital out from your DVD player to your surround sound receiver or processor. But what if you only have a CD player? This question led me into the realm of mid-fi, which is the second contribution I can make to Todd's initial review. Here's the story:
Upon installing a pair of Paradigm Atom loudspeakers in the open kitchen pantry at my sister's house, it became immediately apparent why so many people have previously raved about them. When she went away for a week on a business trip, I took the opportunity to liberate the Atoms
and her 1990 vintage Denon DCD-860 CD player.
Could someone with a mid-fi rig actually aspire to high-end sound without trashing their entire system and starting from scratch? And would the Stereovox digital cable be a key player in such a venture?
Is It Worth The $$$?
The answers are "yes" and "yes". The Denon CD player, with a little help from some Symposium Rollerblock Jrs and some ERS paper made some pretty serious music through the diminutive Paradigm Atom loudspeakers. Sure, it wasn't as good as my reference combination, but I certainly enjoyed the music. Next, with the digital output and the Stereovox cable running to the Muse DAC, the sound took another major step forward. It approached the level of my original reference system using the old Illuminati D60, (at least in the midrange where the Atoms shine). I left this combo in the rig for a week without finding compelling reason to switch back to the Sony ES player as transport or my Kharma loudspeakers. Am I nuts?! No, I was enjoying listening to the music, not analyzing the sound. These findings strongly suggest to me that a person with a modest CD player (that has an RCA digital output) could realize very significant improvement to their system by adding the Stereovox cable and a reasonably good used DAC. And, of course, the Stillpoints, Rollerblocks and ERS paper would also be very helpful. At the bottom line, this cable is good enough and cheap enough to revitalize interest in the use of separate DACs.
Of course, finally, my sister wanted her gear back, and I was forced to return to my Sony transport and my Kharma loudspeakers. With the Stereovox digital cable, however, I was at a higher, more refined level than ever before. It fit seamlessly into my already well balanced room and system, and it took very little time for me to take off my reviewer's cap and get back to enjoying the music. We are lucky that Chris Sommovigo has created a cable that audiophiles at all levels can appreciate, and most of us can afford.
No questions, please. Just go buy it.
Now, tip of the hat to the boys in my band:
Linn LP-12 Valhalla turntable with Sumiko MMT arm, Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood cartridge and None Felt turntable mat; on Stillpoints (point down) on Symposium Acoustics Svelte Shelf on a wall mounted solid oak shelf
Sony CDP-X77ES player as transport on Symposium Acoustics Rollerblock Jrs; Illuminati D-60 cable; Muse Model Two dac with ERS shielding, on Stillpoints, with Balanced Power Technologies power cord
Sony ST-S550ES tuner with ERS shielding, and Fanfare FM-2G antenna
Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 Signature Mk III preamplifier with HAL-O Tube Dampers on Symposium Acoustics Rollerblock Series 2 with TC balls; power supply with ERS shielding on Stillpoints on Symposium Acoustics Mini-Isis Platform on architectural slate
Plinius SA-100 Mk III power amplifier on Symposium Acoustics Isis Platform on spiked wood platform, with Balanced Power Technologies power cord
Manley Labs Mahi Monoblocks on Stillpoints on architectural slate, with Balanced Power Technologies power cords
JPS Labs Superconductor+ loudspeaker cable
Kharma Ceramique 2.2 loudspeakers
JPS Labs Power AC In-Wall cable on a 30 amp dedicated line
Room: About 42' by 18' with the loudspeakers on the long wall. A vaulted ceiling is lowest behind the speakers and high above the listening position. The side walls are 9' to the left and 15' to the right of their respective loudspeakers. The volume is about 6,000 cu. ft. Lots of plants and minimally reflective surfaces.
Type: Ultra-high precision 75 ohm cable for video and also S/PDIF digital. 4GHz bandwidth BNC cable with BNC to RCA interseries adapters
Price: $100 for up to 1.0m, add $35 per additional 0.5 meter.