Earlier this year I reviewed Dynaudio’s XEO 5 wireless speaker system, which wasn’t truly wireless. While it was true that speaker cables were relieved of their duties, plenty of work was still found for AC cords, line-level interconnects, and coaxial and USB cables, which makes me doubt whether such “wireless” designs will ever be seen as a threat by the wire-makers of the world. Wire and electronics go together almost inseparably; yes, it’s possible to make one that operates without the other, but it is relatively difficult to do. Wires, or more specifically the conductors inside wire, do a splendidly efficient job at two things that make electronics go: transmitting power and isolating small-scale signals. But conductors, any conductors—because none can completely remove itself from the process of transmitting an electrical signal—can’t help but impart a signature of their own, as subtle as that may be. Thus, paradoxically, the best cable firms are also working hard to make the wires between components “disappear.” Three of these firms are here under the spotlight in this survey of their latest mid-line interconnects and speaker cables.
Rightly or not, I took as gospel that it was the goal of cable designers is to eliminate any character imparted to the audio signal by the device itself. I also assumed that the more there was of the device, the easier it would be to discern this character.
So I asked for three meters of interconnect—which wouldn’t be out place in order to more conveniently place a preamplifier near the listener—and another three meters or thereabouts of speaker cable. Although none of the interconnects tested was marketed as such, I also tried each connected to a moving-magnet input of my Parasound Z phono USB preamp, leaving the other end disconnected, as a check for shielding against hum and noise.
To preserve my sanity (and yours) and because most people I suspect would buy wire by the label, I chose not to report on the results of mixed-brand listening, although I did give it a try. My conclusion? Differences among the interconnect cables out-weighed those among speaker cables. Finally, and again in the interest of my own sanity, I limited the music material to three recordings: 96/24 hi-res renditions of Ella and Louis [Verve] and the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty [Warner Bros.], and Glenn Gould’s 1981 performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations on State of Wonder [Sony], ripped to my computer and upsampled to 96kHz.