One of the hardest reviews for me to write would be those concerning cabling. Why you ask. Because cables are generally system dependent my friends. There are some cables that, like loudspeakers, work in a very small percentage of systems. On the other hand, there are some loudspeakers that, like cables, seems to work great in many systems. The only way to know the difference is to talk to various friends and, naturally, have various systems in one's home. The latter one should be a must for every audio reviewer while the former can be found on many Internet discussion boards. With three complete high-end audio systems in my current home (and four or more to be placed within my new home beginning August 1st) it is fairly easy to play switcheroo with a product to see how well it synergizes within various setups. As would be considered your best bet, an in-home audition of an audio product within your system is a must. This makes no difference if three professional reviewers wax lyrically about a product within magazines or three friends on a discussion board highly recommend a product. And with that said...
Nirvana Audio: Natural Science
Mr. Creamer seeks out not to simply manufacture a cable that has the lowest loss and all those other great measurement criteria, but also cables that enables us to reproduce music to the highest degree. He also does not have an all new and improved, all-singing all-dancing cable every year. In fact his S-L series has been his only loudspeaker cable for many years. Enter the new Nirvana S-X Ltd. cables.
To fully describe the technical aspect of these cables would take well over 1,500 words. As a humble reviewer, i also admit that while there is an understanding of most concepts to make these cables, i am no scientists or electrical specialist. Suffice to say the specifications near the end of this page will give insight to what the difference is between those that simply repackage a product and what a true manufacture such as Nirvana Audio produces.
It is no secret that the Avantgarde Acoustic Duo hornspeakers within my ultra-fi room are akin to having a microscope at deducting how a product changes the sound within the system. It is also worth noting that the Nirvana S-L cables have been highly acclaimed by many reviewers who use this same "microscope" within their system for many years. In fact Nirvana Audio cables are so popular that a special Avantgarde Jumper cable ($450) is offered to eliminate the need to separately bi- or tri-wire these hornspeakers. We can all debate endlessly about the advantages of employing separate cables (bi- or tri-wiring) versus using super-fi jumper cables, though in the end it is the music lover's ear that makes the final decision.
The new S-X Ltd. cables (2.5m is $2,780 and add $50 for bi-wire option) replaced the longstanding Nirvana Audio's S-L loudspeaker cable in my system. There are times i prefer a bi-wire run of Kimber Kable's Select KS 3035 due to a slightly more harmonically rich sound. Based on technologies from Kimber Kable's cost-no-object Model 88 - Black Pearl, the KS 3035 features both pure copper and silver conductors in a 2:1 symmetric relationship. Meanwhile Nirvana Audio is 100% copper through and through. Amplification was the recently updated (and review coming next month) of the Wavelength Audio Cardinal X-1 monoblock 300B-based amplifier. For pre-amplifier duties was the staggering fine conrad-johnson Premiere 17LS while upstream equipment included my VOYD turntable with custom silver-wired tonearm and Clearaudio Insider Reference (wood body) cartridge. For digital replay, a fully "Frankensteined" transport and DAC were put to good use as i have been avoiding the digital dilemma as the new format wars settle down a bit. Besides, when vinyl replay sounds this great, and my custom digital front end is no slouch either, why change an extremely excellent setup due to upgrade-itus? After all, the well-seasoned audiophile knows that newer is not necessarily better.
Nirvana The Necromancer
While enjoying the Mobile Fidelity Anadise 200 vinyl record of Billie Holiday Body and Soul [MFSL 1-247] with the Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd. loudspeaker cable it was as though there was some sorcery happening within my home. From subtle nuances and vocal inflections to what could be considered "the soul" of the performance was highly evident. It is not one of those audiophile things, but much more that that. It is one of those moments when the music is playing with your eyes closed and you are very much fooled into the feeling of actually experiencing a live performance. Imagine an extreme intimacy where your soul is deeply touched. So what accounted for this?
The Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd. is the single-most transparent loudspeaker cables my ears have ever heard in my many years of reviewing. Besides the usual Analog Production Miles Davis box set, the new "Back To Mono" Young Man With A Horn by Classic Records [BLP-5013, see review by clicking here] to be as excellent as golden eared Dave Glackin reported. While only having six songs, this new 10" mono release sounds amazing plus the performance is top notch! Of course how could one have a "Miles Night" without enjoying Kind Of Blue [Classic Records Quiex SV CS-8163-Q]. Not sure what they are putting in the water at California-based Classic Records, though hopefully it never stops. With the Nirvana S-X Ltd cable the sense of realism is staggering. This ageless recording, originally released in 1959, is still a top seller in the jazz category to this date! Yes, that means over forty years later and Kind Of Blue is still a big seller. With these recordings i will describe the differences between the two Nirvana cables and the Kimber Select. We at Enjoy the Music.com™ are not afraid of comparisons within a review. In fact it is highly desired!
The Kimber Select KS 3035 is very transparent and harmonically rich. In fact this cable has been one of the very few longstanding cables in my stable. It appears to work well with many different loudspeakers and provides the most harmonically loaded sound of all three cables compared here. When the WE300B is in my Wavelength Audio Cardinal X-1 the harmonics can be overly done at times. By substituting the Sophia/TJ mesh plate 300B the harmonic balance is more neutral yet still full. Also of note is that the frequency extremes are more neutral with the Sophia/TJ so, naturally, these are my mainstay (as are my Mullard military grade brown base CV1377 rectifier tubes for those with tube fetishes). Kimber's KS 3035 is fast and clean, though there is room for subtle improvements (read on).
Nirvana's longstanding S-L provides a more neutral sound and to my ears, in my system and room, is slightly faster that the Kimber. Harmonics, while very neutral, could use just a touch more encouragement. If the previously mentioned WE300B was in the Cardinal X-1 monoblocks, then the Nirvana S-L wins hands down over the Kimber to help reduce the WE's rosy-colored portrayal within my system. And now we get to the new S-X Ltd.
Remarkable! It is without a doubt the fastest and cleanest cable my ears ever used within this system. Add to that a touch more harmonics, and folks let me tell you, we have a winner! While imaging and soundscaping are top-notch with all the loudspeaker cables mentioned in this review, there might be a touch more focus with the S-X. Also of note is that overall tonality of all cables is wonderfully defined bass and extended highs. Back to the subject of imaging...
Did some swapping back and forth and it is a tough call. These cables were also tried with my Duevel Bella Luna (review here) in my downstairs system and Reference 3A MM De Capo (review here) in my computer room. The Reference 3A had some time in my main rig and the S-X Ltd. synergized extremely well in this application. In fact those of you with the Royal Reference 3A loudspeakers are highly recommended to audition the Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd as you may be for a very pleasant surprise!
Nirvana In A Nutshell
After further listening sessions using some vastly different "non-audiophile" music such as Prodigy, Rage Against The Machine, 311, Metallica... and my DJ vinyl it appears the S-X Ltd loudspeaker cable has a touch better defined lower frequency response than the Kimber or Nirvana S-L. For those seeking the truth in bass and subwoofer fun, try Prodigy Fat Of The Land. A $250,000+ "statement system" during a 1999 US-based audiophile show a few years back coughed, wheezed and puked during this recording. So much for higher the price the better the sound... or seemingly price-based Class ratings. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...
Internal Dampening: Guides also act as micro-vibration damper. Individual wires are configured in an angular displacement to optimize the self cancellation of noise.
Insulation: Aerospace grade amphorous PTFE® and air insulation. Jacket material is a polyurethane compound with suspended micro-particles to reduce static build up.
Standard configuration or internally bi-wireable versions available.
Price: 2.5m $2,780 ( bi-wire add $50)