Oh no, not another damn cable review. Last month's Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd. loudspeaker cable review was due to being so mightily impressed with their performance. So this month i find myself reviewing the BetterCables.com Silver Serpent interconnect. What piqued my interest was the fact that this is the first commercial cable, to the best on my knowledge, to offer as an option the Eichmann Technologies International Bullet Plug. Longtime readers may remember my RCA Plug Shootout back in August of 2001. In that review were all the main manufactures who sent in review samples including Canare, Cardas, Clearaudio, WBT and Eichmann Technologies International. While there were many mondo expensive connectors and some el cheapos, the Eichmann Bullet Plug came out a winner. What struck me was their highly unusual design.
As seen above, this is far removed from the usual rolled parts found in 99.9999 percent of male RCA jacks that have been on the marketplace for decades. i'll avoid going into further details as the picture above and the RCA Plug Shootout review sums it all up succinctly. besides, this is a complete cable review and an end connector alone does not a complete cable make (and a preposition is not what to end a sentence with).
It is no secret that many companies are avoiding from using distributors and marketing their product in stores. The added expenses and subsequent markup also add to the retail pricing. Enter the Internet and some of its advantages. BetterCables.com, like other companies, has chosen to direct market their products from their website since 1999. Businesses such as this reply heavily on word of mouth and reviews while the streamlined operation can provide high "bang for the buck" products.
The Silver Serpent cable as reviewed here is 99.999 percent pure Silver coated copper center conductor surrounded by a 95 percent bare copper braid shield to reduce nasty EMI/RFI. The cable itself is then protected by good ol' industry standard Techflex (the plastic braid material as found on many cables). To quote myself from the Bullet Plug review as it pertains to connecting to your hardware "The only caveat is that... you will need to use a heat source (like a blow dryer) to subtly soften the polymer red (or black) colored collar. The reasoning is as I have mentioned before. Not all female RCA jacks are the same diameter." And now comes the listening...
Hear Ye Hear Ye
After the usual few hundred hours of music on my secondary system, the BetterCables.com Silver Serpent was substituted for my current fave Kimber Kable Select KS 1030. The KS 1030 is 100% silver braided cable of reference quality... and at nearly ten times the price ($1,200 for one meter length). So how would the Silver Serpent stack up to my ultra-high-end Kimber? After all, one is silver coated copper with shielding at a value price while the other is all silver with premium WBT connector, yet no formal shielding. Quite well actually!
Yes there were some looses in ultimate resolution and harmonic richness, yet not to such as high an extent as to cause me to yank the Silver Serpent off my system as had been done with other cables in the past. There was a good overall tonal/harmonic balance that slightly leaned on the side of accuracy over the Kimber's slight flavor towards richness. What struck me is that from top to bottom there was nothing that really stood out or was irritating. In fact the main attraction was in the midrange clarity and finesse!
As we all know, acoustic music is made up of approximately 70% midrange. If the midrange is not right, then usually the remainder of the frequency spectrum does not matter (in my humble opinion). The music flowed nicely and brought about many hours of musical enjoyment. Both male and female vocalists had a good balance of coherency. Bass was tight and clean, if a bit subdued. The same could be said about the uppermost frequencies as well. When it came to imaging, there was a slight, and i do mean slight, reduction as compared to my fave Kimber KS 1030. The difference may have been greater if i lived in NYC or other RFI/EMI polluted environments. My home is located so far away from any big city that for good radio reception i need to use the radio Shack/Tandy YAGI outdoor antenna.
Better (Cables) Than The Sum Of The Parts
While these cables do look very well made, they do appear to have some look of home brew. Very good quality home brew mind you, but not as polished and fit n' finished as the ten-times priced Kimber KS 1030. Still, for this low a price what do you expect? A Ferrari at Ford prices? Due to using good quality construction techniques i have no reservation about any mechanical problems. A 30-day "total satisfaction guarantee" is also standard so you get thirty days to audition them without any big risk. In the end i would highly recommend auditioning this cable if you desire a well-balanced cable yet without going into the "law of diminishing returns". With its ability for midrange precision and overall good performance, i could understand choosing the BetterCables.com Silver Serpent over cables that are twice the price via retail stores. Use the money you saved on more music :-) . Of course in the end what really matters is that you...
End Connectors: Eichmann Technologies International Bullet Plug. Tellurium copper contacts with 24 karat gold plating
Price: $79.95 for 0.5 meter, $89.95 for 1 meter, $109.95 for 2 meter (add $20 per pair for Eichmann Bullet Plug option)
Eichmann Technologies International