Here we go again and it seems like it was just yesterday that we had the nerve to try it the first time. There is probably nothing in audio that is more controversial than cables (interconnects in this instance) though a fair number of things come close. If you believe there is no difference in sound quality between various cables, then I think you should consider yourself quite fortunate. I feel that I should inform you that while you are lucky, you are also wrong. It is sad but true that there is a great deal of misleading promotional fluff going on with much of the advertising for the various companies and products. I have no axe to grind but do have a few personal biases that must be suppressed at times. Most are positive biases and I will mention them in the review. What is there to think about with a company that seems to introduce a "half dozen or a dozen new designs" and "new names" every other year. It is tough to believe that they are continuously finding new solutions for which the problem has not yet been identified. Tis hard to believe that a different metal or metal combination might improve on the best electrical conductors we now have - silver and copper. No, gold is not superior, not even their equal, it simply resists oxidation, which can be of great importance at contact areas.
There has been a fair amount of experimenting with the covering surrounding the wires, the so-called dielectric. Would it surprise you to learn that air is the best dielectric? That is probably the same as saying space and somewhere there will be a physical covering or limit to that air. Teflon is often regarded as the best or almost the best covering. If the resultant sound quality is judged to be a bit "hard" then a different dielectric such as polypropylene might be used, as it definitely tends to "soften" the resultant sound and is distinctly cheaper. A couple of respected manufacturers have mentioned that even the color of the dielectric covering affects the sound! That weird idea has a basis in the fact that the coloring dyes seep through or leech out over a period of time and contact the wires. Something on the surface of a conducting wire or cable is an area of agreement as affecting sound quality.
Other considerations or variables include how many wires or individual strands make up each leg or side of the conductor, either the positive or return side. The number of strands will vary from just one to literally hundreds though more commonly it seems as though the number used is much closer to one than hundreds. With a relatively small number of individual wires they are often of different sizes or gauges. All sorts of reasons or claims to how or why different gauges are chosen certainly do exist. Some are downright fascinating and others are a bit of fluff. Though different forces are at work here, it is okay to use an analogy with different wires on musical instruments. Here also the thicker wires seem better matched to low frequencies and the narrower gauged (higher gauge number) wires seem better suited to higher frequencies. Then the wires are put together in different patterns, braidings or geometry. Then before crimping or soldering to the connectors on both ends a shield of a metallic foil or braided fine wires is wrapped around everything to prevent pickup of outside electrical interferences (R.F. and EMF) in most but definitely not all designs. The Kimber Company eliminates the metal shielding in many of their top models with the use of their unique branding geometry. Then the outer covering is added.
There seems to be a finite or definite number of things to play with in the design of cables. Why should we expect to hear of any significant improvement in sound quality of new model cables in the near future? Might it be true that almost everything has been tried? At the moment it seems as if most cable companies are trying to find ways to cut costs and bring out new models at lower prices without sacrificing much in the way of sound quality.
For many months editor Steven R. Rochlin has been preaching, "only cable reviews comparing three or more will be accepted". (Steve says: this was to thwart off receiving cable reviews as comparing cables in a single system could be seen as an excursive in testing one's sanity.) Lately he has also declared a virtual moratorium on any cable reviews. However, some commitments were made months ago and so this review gets to see the light of day and perhaps a couple of loudspeaker cables reviews may follow if I am up to it. Some cable companies backed out at the last minute and did not send their products. Seemingly they had no desire to be reviewed in head to head listening comparisons by someone simply reporting what was heard. This last minute situation (literally in at least one case) altered the review process and then it got altered again with the after last minute Harmonic Technology arrival. As the review progressed the group narrowed to a feisty five.
Heading the group is my long-time favorite the Kimber Kable Select Silver 1030 and was basically used as the benchmark or reference at an out of range price point. Then we have DH Labs Silver Sonic series Revelation, Final Labs' just released model Speed 0202 -- their first new model in thirty-three years! Next is Silver Stealth's Silver and Silver/Gold Stealth models, perhaps unique as most often sold in kit form! Last up is Ecosse's Reference Cable's model The Baton which was actually reviewed briefly many months ago, but with nothing on hand for comparison at that time.
The aforementioned cables are manufactured in the United States (Kimber, Harmonic Technology and DH Labs), Japan (Final Labs), Australia (Silver Stealth) and Scotland (Ecosse). The original shootout guidelines requested inquiring manufacturers to send two pairs (one meter and two to three meters long) with retail price of $200-$400 for the one meter pair. I prefer to review interconnects by interchanging between CD player (or phono) and preamp at the same time as interchanging between the preamplifier and power amplifiers. The Kimber is far above the requested price range, the Ecosse is below it and so is one kit model of the Silver Stealth. The DH Labs hit directly into the correct range but the Final Labs newly introduced model is priced $100 more than the preceding model and our requested price range through no fault of distributor Venus Hi Fi. The last arriving new Harmonic Technology model also exceeded the original price limit though by a lesser amount.
Starting with DH Labs, a company that has kept a low profile for ten years, we see an excellently engineered product. Everything from their promotional literature to these excellently and attractively finished interconnect cables is done in a very professional manner. The cables are covered with a very attractive mainly blue colored, woven jacket. The cables are thin, probably the thinnest I've had in quite awhile. Unfortunately they are stiff and do not seem to like making sharp right angle bends.
Their trade mark "High Copper Alloy" connectors, though similar in appearance to WBT brand locking connectors, are unique and are claimed to have far higher conductivity because of the much higher percentage of copper. The cables dielectric material is also claimed to be unique and its dielectric constant of insulation is measurably superior to Teflon and they called it "Air Matrix". Each side of the interconnects consists of six pure silver conductors each the same gauge and individually insulated. The Silver Sonic Revelation comes packaged in a neat wooden box with a sliding top cover. It appears as though the engineers behind this project got what they wanted. Mention should be made that their locking connectors, as with WBT's, are counter intuitive in use and worked perfectly during repeated use.
Final Labs is a small Japanese company that specializes in high-end audio products and accessory items such as their fairly well known isolation bearings. These new Speed 0202 model interconnects replace the older The Audio Cable interconnects. That is/was perhaps the oldest audio specialty cable in existence (33 years). As you may know, longevity of products is one of my few personal biases; design it right, build it right, perhaps tweak it a bit and then leave it alone will impress me almost every time. This new design is new in almost every respect except it does use the same oxygen free ultra-pure copper in the wires. I guess Japanese companies were many years ahead in their use of high quality basic materials used in cable construction. The overall appearance is professional looking and subtle in the extreme. It is black all over even right up to the black ends of the increasingly popular Eichmann Bullet Plug connectors (RCA types as with all cables reviewed).
Overall diameter is similar to the Kimber and Ecosse cables and definitely thicker than the DH Labs. The covering is a relatively rough weave and presents what I call a nubby appearance. The Eichmann Bullet Plugs are simply or seemingly simple in design and are seen with increasing frequency. In my experience they seem to work extremely well with seeming ease while making a very tight and secure contract. Externally the absence of a metallic "collar" is a striking feature. When the left side cable is plugged in there is only black visible from end to end. With the right side, there is a dull red narrow band at the extreme end for channel identification. Do not confuse Eichmann Plugs with the Eichmann Ratio, which is a rather unique cable design that uses different amounts of wiring in the positive and return sides. The degree of flexibility of these cables is "typical or average" in my experience.
The Silver Stealth and the Silver/Gold Stealth cables wind up being different critters in many respects compared to all the other cables reviewed. Most prominent difference is the company's emphasis on their kitsets; they charge an added one hundred thirty dollars for assembled pairs of one or two meter lengths. I looked over the instruction sheets provided with the kitsets. The instruction sheets are impressively excellent, detailed and clear. Supposedly they have undergone continuing upgrades as recommended by their customers. I would actually recommend giving the bargain priced kits a try if you have even a little experience soldering. My impression, and it is not based on any definite facts, is that there is a good chance of the end result being better than buying the assembled units. My reasoning is simply a combination of a relatively new company promoting kitsets and possibly not having skilled assemblers with much experience. Kendrick Pavey apologized for the rather home made appearance of the two pairs of the Silver/Gold Stealth model. The similar appearing single pair of the even lower priced Silver Stealth received has a more neatly finished appearance. It also has a smaller outer covering of a lighter, almost white color.
The covering is a very loose fit of flexible Teflon, therefore to at least some extent air is a part of the dielectric. The flexible loose fitting material over the wires, retains no, or an almost flat shape. Not esthetically appealing to some people as a result, that aspect is being changed in the next production run. This will be simply accomplished by the inclusion of an underlying helical support (think of it being like a spring or tightly wound telephone handset cable). That should result in a neater more nearly filled and rounded appearance to the body of the cable. These cables also feature the increasingly popular Eichmann Bullet plugs though the outer appearance does not seem identical to the ones on the Final Lab model 0202. Two options are available for the plugs; for forty dollars per stereo set, the so-called Silver Bullet model plugs are available and/or for fifty dollars per set, cryogenic treatment for all is offered. Though the cables seem to be very flexible, instructions warn to not bend them too sharply. That warning may change with the forthcoming helical insert that may be protective.
These seemingly very well made Ecosse Baton model cables appear and feel as if they are heavy duty or professional models. All the other cables are marked for directionality for signal flow but this first production run sample, as is traditional, simply has the imprinting reading direction running, as does the recommended signal flow direction. The rather slick covering is a fairly light gray color with a bit of a silvery sheen. Diameter of the cables is similar to the Final Lab model and just a bit thicker than Kimber's. Connectors are impressive appearing locking types reminiscent of WBT's models. Overall it appears as if the consumer is a getting a lot of cable for the money; that is what can happen with what a major cable company can do with its buying power, use of resources and mass production experience. Flexibility of these cables is pretty typical of interconnects in general.
Another parameter associated with this review was included requesting all manufacturers to burn-in their cables before sending them, preferably for at least forty-eight hours. Brian of Venus Hi-Fi, importer of the Final Lab Speed 0202 interconnects said, "these new cables have not been broken in, but not to worry! Believe it or not, these cables only require two to three hours of continuous use to be broken in." Jim Wang of Harmonic Technology, catching me at the last second, said " I can not burn them in and get them to you by Friday afternoon". I told him to go ahead and just send the cables. So in both of these cases, I burned them in separately before any listening. I did the same for all the others for at least twenty-four hours and usually longer before listening.
Though there was a bit of equipment interchanging going on the greatest percentage of time Herron's tubed (but not particularly "Tube sounding") pre-amplifier was feeding a pair of Herron amplifiers that in turn were connected to a pair of Genesis V loudspeakers which are very revealing. Most of the time the new and very impressive Cary model CD 306/200 was the sound source and usually used in its 192kHz/24-bit up sampling mode. As an aside, without up sampling, the HDCD mode, such as with Reference Recordings HDCD discs, did not take a back seat to the other combination. The Heart player and the Toshiba model 9200DVD-A/CD player were also used. No LPs were used in the comparison reviews. A large number and rather wide variety of recordings were used often but in the final days fewer recordings were used.
Other Cable Companies M.I.A.?
I had wondered why I had not heard from some other top cable companies, such as Harmonic Technology, Purist Audio (though their emphasis is mainly on higher priced models) Wireworld or Discovery (known to be working on bringing out a model in this price range based on their fine more expensive series), in many months. Then shortly "after the last minute" out of the blue I received a call from Jim Wang of Harmonic Technology. "We have a new moderately priced loudspeaker cable and wondered if you would like to review it", he said. I replied that I am now working on a comparitive review of interconnect cables". " That is fine, we have a new upgrade of the Pro Silway Mk II that you reviewed so favorably in a previous cable shoot out about three years ago. Our brand new Mk III is based on the Mk II with numerous modifications and tweaks including new connectors made out of our well-known single crystal copper and about twenty percent more single crystal silver and approximately ten percent more single crystal copper individual conductors." Then I told him that I was using the Kimber Select all silver 1030 as a benchmark for comparison. "That is a fine cable but our new Pro Silway Mk III will stand comparison with anything on the market - I will have two pairs in your hands in less than forty-eight hours." Then he did, plus a pair of Harmonic Technologies" new loudspeaker cables.
Esthetics is very personal and to my taste the new model Pro Silway Mk III is strikingly attractive. As part of their new shielding design there is a pure silver plating on top of copper braiding and a black weave outer covering that allows extremely small specks of silver to shine through resulting in an overall sparkling black that is downright classy in appearance. The RCA type connectors are almost entirely black featuring not only their patented single crystal high purity copper and locking design but also the new octagonal shaped barrel makes for noticeably easier handling and tightening. Nice finishing touches, Jim. Cable diameter is one of the two thickest in this group and flexibility is about average. In theory the unique long crystal wires, copper and silver, in these cables may possibly be a bit brittle because of the typical microscopic makeup of these metals. It probably would only be of significance if they were stepped on. If memory serves correctly, I believe Hitachi brought out this unique and basic technology perhaps twenty years ago. Martin Colloms, a noted British audio reviewer, gave the Hitachi cables the ravest review I can remember. It glowed with future predictions but nothing much ever came from it as far as I know until the past very few years.
The Kimber Select all silver model 1030 is not being reviewed in this article. It is well beyond the stated price range of this review. It is used here as my benchmark, against which the other interconnects are being compared in addition to against each other. It is the finest sounding interconnect cable that I have ever heard in my own system. A couple of far more expensive sets have come close in the past but lately there have been no manufacturers willing to put their best or most expensive (not necessarily the same model) up against the top Kimber in a head to head comparison. When it was designed and brought out, it was Kimber's top model and has remained so year after year and it still is and probably will be for quite some time. That is the way people in the audio business like to see companies operate. I can tell you that other reviewers for this magazine and other print magazines and quite a few manufacturers feel the same way about the top Kimber model cables, but you would never know it from "stand alone" reviews of other products.
Other cable manufacturers have taken aim at them and all of you readers should applaud the willingness of the cable manufacturers in this review to basically go head to head against this much more expensive benchmark! Who knows, maybe before long there will be a few that actually equal it overall and at a lower price. Would it actually surprise you if in the near future there is a very definite point beyond which there is no improving the sound of interconnect cables? Remember that making them sound different is not the same as better. More bass is certainly not the same as better bass or even the same as more extended bass and same goes for the treble end of the spectrum. Nearly all cables measure so well and extended in frequency response when put on test machines that it seems as though those sorts of measurements are meaningless. It is true that "adding more metal" in the form of a few more strands of wire or making some of the strands thicker (a lower gauge) in many designs definitely will affect the sound. That has been proven to me by more than one manufacturer.
The resultant sound, with their cable design or geometry makes a richer or fuller quality with a noticeable increase in mid and upper bass output. As might be expected the vice-versa is also true. In other words, a cable designer can definitely alter the tonal balance of any of his designs. This often comes at a cost however. That fuller bass sound may be a bit flabby or lacking in punch or solidarity and have a slight but definite covering effect to higher frequencies which can easily result in an apparent lack of detail overall. Little tweaks can result in seemingly endless possibilities. Those interested in details of the sound qualities of the Kimber Select #1030 cable and its all copper and hybrid siblings should refer to The Audiophile Voice print magazine volume No. 8 issue 5 or go to to Kimber Kable Company's web site to view.
The time has arrived to begin the actual comparisons between the models in this review and also to see how they stack up against my long-term benchmark the Kimber Select Silver 1030. Kimber has publicly stated that they are willing to be compared with any other. Hopefully readers can accept it as a reference to compare others against that are less than half the Kimber 1030's price. Comparison against an absolute or the sound of live music in a reasonably good concert hall is not to deal in reality though certain aspects can be compared. The overall experience is not to be compared - reproduced music is a pale illusion or imitation of the live experience.
During the writing and comparison periods of this review I spent two long weekends in Daytona Beach listening to the London Symphony Orchestra. They were at their relaxed best there. It is their official summer home and they now come every other year. I deliberately sat in three different locations to again experience the differences such as overall detail, perspective, ambiance, imaging and so on. Some observations were that the detail often liked by audiophiles on recordings seems to originate from the areas in rows one through perhaps eight. Farther back and there is much more of a blending and the sensation of individual instruments disappears rapidly when one of the world's best symphony orchestras is playing. The L.S.O. is easily one of the top five in the world. The tuning of the drums from one night to another (conductor's preference?) was particularly noticeable and interesting as there were different guest conductors on those performances.
I have reached some definite conclusions during innumerable listening sessions the past three months with three of the models (Silver Stealth sent two different models). In addition, three models are a toss-up. Literally, as I am writing these words, I am continuing to burn-in one brand that arrived later than the others to make sure it is being treated fairly. Some cables simply seem to take longer to be completely burned-in than others. Some, over the years, have seemed to take half way to forever to reach that condition. Consider that usually cables may seem to burn-in or get better sounding simply because the listener gets used to them. That means the cables have become your standard or reference and you are no longer audibly or mentally comparing them to your "old or previous" cables. Some of us have postulated that the "reference sound" for most casual listeners is the car radio. That would explain much in our quirky audio world! By swapping cables more often than I care to remember during the review eliminates the "getting used to one sound". In fact I deliberately try to not notice which cables I start a new day's listening sessions using. There are also three models that I group extremely closely together. Those three share a general impression and partly differ in degree and in a few subtle ways.
Remember what that famous audio critic, Einstein, meant when he said that everything is relative. That could be translated to mean that all of the cables herein reviewed could be too bright sounding or have fat, loose sounding bass in your system. That demands to know - where is your starting point or reference - is it the same as mine, with the sound of unamplified musical instruments performing in a suitable location?
We will start with the cables, at least one of them, that traveled the furthest distance, the Silver Stealth model from Australia. At its kitset price it is practically the same price as the "ready to go" Ecosse interconnect cables in one-meter length pairs. These are the most dissimilar cables being considered; I mean in almost every respect! I am almost willing to give you a personal guarantee, that if one of them complements your system well and you like it, you will hate the other one. As mentioned previously, it seems as though assembling these cables should be one of the easiest kit projects in the audio field. No, I did not put a pair together. I learned long ago, hey, like maybe even before you saw the light of day, that if I put a kit together and did not like the sound, the manufacturer would or could say that my poor soldering or whatever was the cause. No thank you, I get enough blame the way things are, without adding that one.
The Silver Stealth model used in my system sounded very smooth, sweet and mellow in the extreme. Dynamics and some detail were pretty much lacking over the entire audible range and a live sparkle to the music was conspicuous by its absence. I would have a problem trying to figure out where to use it, even in a two or three way multiple cable set up. It would never aggravate you by adding a bright or harsh sounding edginess to the music however. Before any listening comparisons were done, for a variety of personal reasons, my guess was that it would sound brighter than the sibling Silver/Gold Stealth model. That should tell you why I rarely bother to gamble on anything.
Traveling half way around the world, the Ecosse model Baton cables from Scotland turn up next. Actually reviewed a couple of months ago at a time when there was nothing anywhere near their price range on hand for comparison. Things are not a great deal better now as most of the other reviewed interconnect cables are about three times as expensive. To look them over rather carefully gives the impression they are equally as well engineered and constructed as the others. As implicitly mentioned above they are night and day different than the Silver Stealth model with its lightweight construction and rather flimsy appearance. Right down to and including its locking RCA type connectors they appear to be an example of almost heavy duty or commercial type of interconnects. The word that kept popping into my mind during this more recent comparison review was "brash". That certainly infers a slightly less refined overall quality that translates as being a "hi-fish" quality. In this case, with its very full almost overly so, bass response and brash (emphasized upper midrange/lower treble) I can imagine there being some systems that might be a complementary match
Some years ago there were a number of loudspeakers from the United Kingdom, which still includes Scotland, that were designed to give a distant sound perspective. Some touted the appellation of a "BBC" dip, an effort to give dimensionality to a sound system playing large-scale classical music in a small room. Most of those systems also rolled off much of the bass end of the spectrum. I no longer have or have access to such loudspeakers but I could go out on a thin long limb and state that I would not be surprised if the Ecosse Baton model interconnects would pair up in such as system in a complementary manner. While not the ultimate in bass tightness and detail they could make a good choice for feeding many subwoofers and the bottom third or half of three-way or two-way systems and bi-wiring setups (if you are a believer in such things) and at a bargain price. Most cables in this price range, regardless of their sound quality, are designs that tend to scrimp on the amount of wire, the plain old quantity of metal. Certainly not true with this well built Baton model.
Next model up and the third one in the group of three independent models is the just released Harmonic Technology Pro Silway Mk III. Its origin is about half way between the above two models in a place called California, rumored to still be in the United States but more than a couple thousand miles from where I live. The phrase "three independent models" is to separate these uniquely different sounding interconnect cables from the others. In ten seconds or less the uniqueness of each of these first three allowed me to identify any of them with the recordings used during the three-month review period. It was nearly three years ago that the Pro Silway Mk II was included in our original cable shoot out. I clearly remember discussing that over-performing model with a well-known audio engineer/designer who said something unique that I had not mentioned in the review. I agreed with him as I had noticed the same thing, but not reported it; they sounded as if they extended only so far into the very high frequency range and seemingly came to a wall preventing the very highest overtones to be heard or sensed. Frankly it was an unusual experience for me with interconnects. The end result was a bit of sweetness or smoothness as those ultimate frequencies often contain distortion products such as edginess or harshness. That fine value priced MK II model is still available.
This new model Pro Silway Mk III is not just a lightly tweaked version of the earlier model. The hybrid design now features twenty percent more silver (probably the fundamental basis of the new sound) and only ten percent more copper in the wiring or individual strands. The appearance is strikingly different than the original as mentioned in the introductory pages while retaining their locking RCA type connectors and making the collars octagonal instead of the usual round shape. That is a true convenience when working in tight spaces in the back of control panels or AV receivers. Because this pair came in later than all of the others and only had my burn- in efforts, I was continuing burn-in and had stopped an additional seventy-two hours of burn-in, earlier today. Then I listened again and did a comparison with one of the "remaining three". No fundamental change from all the preceding sessions was noted.
To describe the relatively unique sound offered by HT's Pro Silway Mk III is best and most easily done in reverse. After this model, three closely grouped interconnect cables remain as well as the benchmark Kimber model. Doing it backwards, assume for the moment, the Pro Silway Mk III is our benchmark cable - then all remaining cables have similar though not identical degrees of a more distant or relaxed perspective. How is that for a simple, accurate and easily understood evaluation? The typical way would be to call the Mk III forward sounding, and/or a bit brash, bright and lacking in soundscape depth. With more output in the upper harmonics of the bass range, the bass is unusually powerful and tightly dynamic with great impact. It would be interesting to use this model interconnect with a woofer or subwoofer that tends to be a bit boomy or overblown. It is difficult to overemphasize the almost percussive impact of the bass range this cable offers. It is obvious that the manufacturer was after a sound different than the older Mk II model.
The remaining three interconnect cables (DH Labs - The Revelation, Final Labs - Speed 0202 and Stealth Cables - Silver/Gold Stealth) are being considered together for one primary reason. Time after time over the first two months, each was top rated at least a couple of times in my mind. Even at this late date while finishing (at long last!) the review I have great difficulty in distinguishing any one from the other two! Seemingly the primary difference and concomitant slight related secondary differences revolve around the upper mid-range and much, but mainly the lower half, of the high frequency range. Since the exact areas seem to be a bit different, even though possibly over lapping to a certain extent, the audible results will vary depending on the amount of energy in that frequency range in any given recording. It may vary significantly from recording to recording. For the most part, the differences were usually extremely subtle with most popular or jazz recordings.
With large-scale well-recorded classical recordings it often seemed as though differences were slightly more apparent. Repeated comparisons of isolated passages over and over again usually revealed differences to be so subtle as to be non-repeatable. Extended listening sessions, an entire evening for example, resulted in varying observations when no comparisons were being done. As an aside to our readers, have there been times when your trusty old system simply sounds better than it did just a day or two previously? You could put some of the changes into words.
Well, in the past three months similar things happened with the interconnect cables in this review and they were very frustrating to me. Though in some notation keeping ways it was more of a headache keeping tracking of six (cables being reviewed) plus one more (benchmark), the situation was just as frustrating when I rather easily narrowed the field to the final three interconnect cables to be scrutinized over and over and over again! Please realize that particularly with the final trio of cables such things such as little percussion instruments disappearing, the last shimmer on a struck cymbal being inaudible or very exaggerated or a drum whack not being palpable - these things never occurred! These are competently designed, new but mature products that must have been tweaked to finalization by extensive listening sessions - there can be no other explanation. The first two months saw a large variety of new recordings used for this review and in fact a couple of them were used in published music reviews using all the cables at one time or another. Ultimately, it was determined that unfamiliar recordings were not the ideal way to proceed when the going got tough and slight or subtle differences were being sought. In the last month, familiar recordings were used for the most part and for the past ten days the same three or four recordings were used exclusively and more times than I ever care to repeat.
Even during the past couple of weeks the cables under review (the final three) were often being compared with the benchmark Kimber Select 1030. I had a total of eleven pages of brief comparative notes. Ultimately the facts became apparent that all those notes did not seem to help reaching a conclusion. The notes were similar in the extreme. Either that infamous little light came on or a synapse deep in a fissure of my brain connected and I realized, "if the notes comparing a, b and c to a reference standard are so similar as to being identical in some instances, then cables a, b and c had to be the same or very nearly so. That turned out unexpectedly to be true and repeated time after time with direct intercomparisons over and over again. There have been only a few times over many years that two different brands of any component have sounded almost identical to me and now there are three of them that do! There are probably some readers who might have trouble believing that, but all who know me realize I simply tell it like I hear it. That has resulted in the reluctance of some manufacturers to send items to us to review, preferring to play it safe with magazines or reviewers that have never met a product they did not like.
I need to mention that as good as these final three interconnect cables are, they are simply not in the same league as the far more expensive Kimber Kable 1030 is - nor should they be with the large price differential. The tonal balance of each of the three would be described the same as the Kimber 1030. Even so, there is no mistaking the difference with most recordings even though they must be described in similar terms overall. At its premium price, the Kimber offers a richer, full sound quality with an overall feeling of a relaxed perspective while revealing very subtle details within an extremely wide and impressive dynamic range including the entire bass spectrum.
Which one to purchase or how to choose? They are all audible equivalents with a few extremely subtle differences that would seldom be detectable. Appearance is a reasonable reason as is the type of connector for making a choice. Appearance would favor either the Silver Sonics The Revelation by DH Labs or the Speed 0202 by Final Labs. Both Final Labs and the Silver/Gold Stealth models use Eichmann connectors while DH Labs use their own unique locking connector. One of the different features of an Eichmann connector is its extremely small, almost hidden metal ground. I would imagine soldering that carefully might be the only slightly tricky part in putting the Stealth kitset together. Price would be the only other choice factor. By a few dollars, the Silver/Gold Stealth kitset with the silver bullet plugs, cryo treatment and shipping as reviewed, beats out the DH Labs' The Revelation model for a one-meter pair. The DH Labs model is substantially less expensive than the assembled Stealth model for a one-meter pair and with a two-meter length the Final Labs Speed 0202 model is just slightly more expensive than the Revelation, while the two-meter assembled Silver/Gold Stealth is the most expensive of the three.
Good Listening Whichever Your Choice
Records Listened To During This Review
Velvet - Gerald Veasley band Heads Up HUSA 9072
Thanks to Karl and Enjoy the Music.com for agreeing to include us in this mammoth task review! We are delighted to see that our Silver/Gold Stealth Interconnects lead the price/performance barrier against some tough competition. It is our firm belief that their textural palpability is class leading and highlights musical engagement over other brands.
We have spent many hundreds of hours finessing the Silver Stealth kitset instructions. We are confident that anyone with basic DIY skills will be able to competently make a set of interconnects successfully with a few hours of their time and basic tools. We also offer back up assistance and excellent trouble shooting guidelines. The assembly process is fun and customers tell us it is extremely satisfying to build their own. It is also important to realize that variability in assembly of our kitsets is essentially eliminated. This is because our geometry and alignment of the conductors separated by Dupont™ Teflon strip makes their spacing invariant. This is often a problem with other wire twisting methods, which results in changes in characteristic impedance and hence creates unwanted reflections.
Our assembly is done by hand and experienced operators take every care in this process. This also includes burn-in on a dedicated rig to give excellent results from the get-go and a one-year warranty on the assembly. We will look into automation in the future and if interest is high we will pass on any economies of scale.
Soldering to the Eichmann Bullet earths is a cinch if the plug is held in a readily available alligator clamp stand, especially if the lead and the Bullet earth are tinned with a small amount of solder first. All these tips and more are included in the instructions.
Karls' samples were early prototypes, and since then, as he mentioned, there have been several improvements in appearance, performance and robustness. First the helical insert provides improved resistance to sharp bending and fills the cable out for improved appearance. Secondly we are developing labels with a clear heatshrink to show off the excellent Bullet plugs, identify the model and serial number, and mark directionality. We are also investigating ways to differentiate the Silver/Gold Stealth series from the Silver Stealths. These improvements should be ready for sale by the time this review goes to print. Lastly we have resourced our cryogenics to a local manufacturer who has developed a superior process (originally developed by NASA) and this offers a higher performance treatment (more cycling and colder) than the review samples had - we call this Deep Cryogenics.
We are somewhat perplexed by the Silver Stealth Interconnect results you achieved, as this is also a fine performing cable. We believe it is a value based entry point into our range that compliments a wide range of systems. Our tests in a variety of systems show it is very dynamic, so I am not sure what interaction occurred in your system - please return these and we will investigate them further. Readers can refer to our website for testimonials from delighted customers who are enjoying their music more with the Silver Stealth cable range if they wish. They have been called the 'Best Bang for your Hi-Fi Buck' by one customer.
It is also worth mentioning that we believe that our Digital Silver Stealth and Silver/Gold Stealth are considerably better than coaxial alternatives and we encourage readers to try these as well. Of course, like the analogue leads, kitsets and fully made cables are available at affordable prices.
In summary, we are extremely pleased with the results overall and know customers will be likewise. Thanks again for the chance to be involved in this comprehensive shootout.
Thanks and Regards,
Company Information and Specifications
The Revelation 1.0 meter pair $350
United States of America Agent:
The Baton 1.0 meter pair $150
Speed 0202 1.0 meter pair $499
Pro-Silway MK III 1 meter pair $479
Silver Stealth Cables
Free shipping worldwide and insurance is included.
Kitset: 2 meter pair (Silver) SSIC $255
Kimber Kable Company
Kimber Select Model 1030: 1 meter Pair $1,300