2017 Editors' Choice: Interconnects and Speaker Cables Part 2

Equipment report
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Interconnects,
Loudspeaker stands
2017 Editors' Choice: Interconnects and Speaker Cables Part 2

MIT StyleLine SL 8 Interconnect and SL 9 Speaker Cables
$499/1m pr. interconnect; $799/8' pr. speaker:
RD always equated MIT (Music Interface Technologies) audio cables with crazy-unreachable prices, but now there’s the new entry-level StyleLine Series. The SL 8/SL 9 pairing offered a very neutral top-to-bottom balance, allowing RD to indulge in the detail-fest that makes the sport of the high end so much fun. Mouth sounds, the sonic signatures of the microphones, the “sound” of the recording studio—all came through clear as day.

Clarus Cables Aqua
$500/1m pr. RCA interconnect; $1520/8' pr. speaker:
Clarus Aqua not only satisfies audio expectations but does so at a reasonable price. It combines innovative conductor technology, ease of handling, and little in the way of sonic sacrifices. With its dead-quiet backgrounds Aqua establishes a sweet, even, honey-soaked midrange, delivered from an ever so slightly forward perspective. Further, its deep low-end brilliantly communicates the rich wood resonances of cello and acoustic bass. A cable that opens new frontiers at accessible price levels.


Siltech Explorer 90 I Interconnect and L Speaker Cable
$500/1m pr. interconnect; $1000/2m pr. speaker
Bringing Siltech quality and cache to an easily affordable price point makes Explorer an excellent upgrade cable for a mid-priced system. Its healthy midrange, fine articulation, and low-level reproduction make it a good deal. Dynamics and bass extension are also convincing. It could be a trifle sweeter in the treble, but few wires challenge it in this tier.

Moon Audio Silver Dragon V2
$625/1m pr.
The V2 version of Silver Dragon, Moon Audio’s top audiophile interconnect, uses an eight-wire braided geometry of solid-core 99.999% pure silver with a Teflon insulation. Connectors are top-notch—WBT Nextgen or Furutechs. Sonically, Silver Dragon is a model of smooth, rich midrange response—faithful to the real thing in its neutrality, color saturation, and fluidity. There’s a satisfying mellowness to its character—one that doesn’t exactly soften transients (there’s plenty of snap and speed to go around) but does add a measure of overall warmth to the presentation.


Synergistic Research Tesla LE REL-spec Reference Subwoofer Cable
$660–$1320/3m
Pricey but potent, these inspired subwoofers cables are specifically optimized for REL subwoofers and include the REL-specified Neutrik connectors. They improved the inherent musicality and pitch precision of the Britannia B3 in every instance. The lower noise floor yields more detail, an enhanced sense of space, and expanded ambience retrieval. Three models are available: Element Copper, Element Tungsten, and Element CTS.


Cardas Clear Light Interconnect and Clear Sky Speaker Cables
$692/1m pr. interconnect; $900/3m pr. speaker
Designed and superbly made in the U.S.A., these fat Blue Man Group-blue cables are the first rungs of Cardas’ top-of-their-line Clear Series. RD found them suitably impressive both sonically and physically. Aural impressions included good detail along with a touch of added warmth, which could be welcome in many setups.


Crystal Cable Next (Headphone)
$750
For those with state-of-the-art personal listening gear, the ultra-thin and light Crystal Cable Next makes a perfect complement. The shimmering strand oozes quality and, as the name implies, crystal-clear sound. The Next allows volumes of timbral, rhythmic, and spatial information to flow through it. Decays seem to go on forever and bass notes are as taut as a stretched rubber band. Crystal Cable’s Next will show you just how much you’ve been missing from your favorite set of headphones.


Crystal Cable Micro Interconnect/CrystalSpeak Micro Speaker Cable
$850/1m pr. interconnect ($700/add’l meter); $2500/2m pr. speaker ($900/add’l meter-pair)
Clean, composed, and transparent, the jewel-like Crystal Micro cables offer an open soundstage where images snap into focus and music is conveyed with a turbine-like smoothness. Even some softness in the bass and a bit of forwardness in the treble don’t diminish one of the most transparent cables NG has heard. Unique splitter rings allows easy change-out of terminations or bi-wire upgrades.


Harmonic Technology Magic Link Three
$900/1m pr. (RCA); $950/1m pr. (XLR)
With improved clarity and articulation over Harmonic Tech’s more affordable Pro Silway line, the Magic Link Two interconnect consistently yields smooth, extended highs, a delightfully full and natural midrange, and solid bass. You may find other pricier interconnects that excel in one specific area or another, but when it comes to overall system synergy, this is one cable you’ll be “wearing” like a favorite pair of shoes.


Analysis Plus Silver Oval-In
$962/1m pr.
Silver Oval’s balance is as neutral as they come, with a breathtaking level of micro-dynamic nuance. The other factor going in this interconnect’s favor is its very low noise-floor—a quality that boosts and broadens dynamic range in every octave. Analysis Plus keeps providing further evidence that the sonic gap between reference cable and its more affordable rivals is closing fast.


Cardas Clear Reflection
$1150/1m pr. interconnect (RCA and XLR); $2800/2.5m pr. speaker
A blend of the company’s previous Golden Reference design and its current Clear technology Cardas Clear Reflection held its own when stacked up against more expensive cables and, accordingly, gets high marks for delivering good performance at a reasonable price. Reviewer KM was charmed by Clear Reflection’s fluid, organized, detailed, and musically satisfying qualities.


Audience Au24 SE Phono Cable
$1290/1m
The Audience phono cable, in a crowded field of contenders, soars above many of them with its alacrity and transparency. Extremely flexible and lightweight, the phono cable is simplicity itself to use. Coupled with its jackrabbit speed is a naturalness of timbre that makes for refined and seductive listening. It also seems to filter out external noise effectively.


Harmonic Technology Pro-7 Reference Armour Speaker and Armour Link III
$1300/1m pr. RCA interconnect ($400/0.5m add’l pr.); $3500/8' pr. speaker
Harmonic Technology’s latest top-line cable offerings are highly communicative and musically insightful. Across the board Armour imparts a wide spectrum of tonal color, micro-shading, and dynamic contrast. There is not an element in its sonic resume that suggests hype or overreach. In more general terms its tonal character is essentially neutral with the barest hint of a lighter complexion, a characteristic that often occurs in the company of quick transient behavior. What impressed NG’s most of all was the HT Armour’s ability to elicit dynamic gradients from recordings. A statement product that ranks with some of the most elite cables available.


Acoustic Zen Absolute Copper
$1488/1m
The Copper Series interconnect strengths are abundant: superb low bass, a wonderfully immersive character to the soundstage, and excellent depth and dimensionality. On an instrument like cello it finds the balance between the mellow and melancholy, the resonance and throatiness that make it such a difficult instrument to convincingly reproduce. Robustly constructed with zero-crystal ribbon-copper conductors and hollow core foam Teflon tubing insulation. Few serious audio rigs would not strongly benefit from Copper’s expressive musical performance and real-world affordability.


Nordost Frey 2
Interconnect $1459/1m; speaker $2924/2m
Occupying the sweetspot of Nordost’s mid-priced Norse 2 line, the radically updated Frey 2 combines the high performance macro- and micro-dynamics that Nordost is famous for with richer mids and a brawnier, meatier bottom end that gives orchestral music more discernable ambience and weight. Of course, transient speed is on hand, but the Frey 2’s are also a bit more controlled in the midbass and able to land a tighter, dynamic punch than most of the competition. In a word, the Frey 2s deliver flat out more fidelity to the live event.


Analysis Plus Big Silver Oval
$1671/8' pr.
The Big Silver Oval is speaker cable that brims with resolution and dynamic life. Constructed of pure silver over a stabilizing strand of OFC woven into AP’s patented hollow-oval geometry, this is a cable you don’t listen to, but rather listen through. Recorded music simply flows in an earthy and tonally authentic manner. Harmonics align; images and soundstage conform with no serious sonic missteps. And it’s real-world affordable.


Furutech Reference III and Evolution
$1671/1.2m pr. Reference III XLR Interconnect; $1464/1.2m RCA interconnect; $1672/2m Reference III Speaker; $1533 Reference III power; $971/1.2m pr. Evolution XLR interconnect, $850 RCA interconnect; $782/2m Evolution speaker
Furutech uses cryogenically treated, ultra-high-purity, OCC (Ohno Continuous Casting) single-crystal copper conductors in both its mid-priced Evolution and premium-priced Reference III audio cables. The top models offer better connectors, superior dielectric materials, and passive EMI-absorption filters made from GC-303 (an EMI-absorbent material developed by 3M Company). Furutech’s cables have great transparency and purity, plus an uncanny ability to block out noise.


AudioQuest Wind
$1995/1m
This outstanding interconnect, part of the Elements Series that replaces Niagara, features AudioQuest’s top technologies, including Perfect-Surface Silver conductors, FEP Air-Tube insulation, an upgraded Noise-Dissipation System, the 72V Dielectric Bias System, and new plugs designed by AudioQuest. It all adds up to an extremely transparent and revealing interconnect that can give the mega-priced competition a run for the money.

Shunyata Anaconda
$2250/1m pr. interconnect; $3995/2m pr. Speaker
Don’t be fooled by the less-than-stratospheric price of these interconnects and loudspeaker cables from Shunyata; they compete with, and in many ways exceed, the performance of the world’s best cables regardless of price. They have a startling vividness and immediacy without being forward or analytical, tremendous soundstage dimensionality, great timbral liquidity, and the ability to convey very fine recorded details. A reference-quality interconnect and cable at a real-world price.


Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4
$2495/1m pr. interconnect; $4995/8' pr. speaker
Synergistic’s latest wire series represents the culmination of the brand’s efforts to bring the wealth of innovative conductor, isolation, and resonance technologies from its flagship lineup (including the Galileo LE) into a top-notch “passive” design. Atmosphere continues in the Synergistic tradition of expanding the boundaries of the soundstage, increasing dimensionality, enlivening microdynamics, and resolving detail. Available in four levels, the Atmospheres are also vastly more flexible than the pricier Element Series for easier positioning.


Furutech Flux Cable Series
$2840/ Lineflux interconnect, 1.2m; $2250/1.2m Silver Arrows phono; $3000, Powerflux AC
The Futurech Flux cables land on the speedy side of sound delivery. They are extremely transparent and detailed and probably best coupled with tubed electronics. A slight coolness pervades the cables, apart from the phono cable, which ranks among the best ever produced. The Flux cables transmit a wealth of detail but are never harsh. The quality of workmanship, as with all Furutech products, is stunning. The connectors are a pleasure to handle and use.


Morrow Elite Grand Reference
Speaker, $3995/2m; interconnect, $2995/1m
Understated but deceptively transparent, the Elite Grand Reference is a great, unpretentious communicator. Balanced, smooth, spacious, dimensional, and honest, it is one of the more forgiving and relaxing wires NG has come across. It projects a calm and civility that let you sink into the sound and luxuriate.


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