Except for the Wireworld Equinox 7 speaker cables, the Cardas wires were the chunkiest I’ve ever used in my system, and I can’t help to think that the visual image I have of these cables might have affected my aural observations (if true, then blind-listening tests may indeed have a purpose). So is my mind equating big and fat cables with big, fat, round, bassy sound? I may never know, but I heard good detail along with a slight fullness to the upright and electric basses. This warmth invited me when listening to Ella and Louis to focus a bit more than normal on Ray Brown’s bass playing, which is really not a terrible thing, although the record’s presentation now became that of three headliners rather than two. However, Phil Lesh’s electric bass on “Box of Rain” was at the boundary of being a little too full, and with it suffering a wee loss of control and definition, although not unlike an experience I had listening to them live in New York’s Madison Square Garden back in the early eighties.
Mind you, this was a relatively small magnitude effect which could easily have been the result of a system mismatch with my Snells and could be welcome in other setups. Hum rejection was quite good although somewhat less so than the Wireworld cable, which was almost inaudible.
MIT StyleLine SL 8 Interconnect and SL 9 Speaker Cables
I always equated MIT (Music Interface Technologies) audio cables with crazy-unreachable prices even if you do get a set of magic boxes along with the wire. Try $17,000 for the Oracle MA-X Rev. 2 Proline Balanced (1 meter) or $53,500 for eight feet of Oracle MA-X Super HD Bi-Wire speaker cable, and you see what I mean.
But that’s only the very top end of a quite large range in cable pricing. Towards the other end is the new StyleLine series, which starts at $200 per meter pair for the SL 3 interconnects and $500 for an eight-foot pair of SL 5 speaker interfaces (MIT speak for cables). I reviewed the slightly more expensive SL 8 ($499) interconnect and SL 9 ($799) interface. This line also encompasses HDMI, digital coaxial, TosLink, and USB cables, as well as power cords.
I’m not going to go too deeply into this as I hardly understand it myself, except that superficially the numbers (3, 5, 8, 9, and so on) stand for the number of “poles of articulation,” of which (you guessed it) the more the better. The company’s high is 159 poles, so you see I’m really slumming. According to MIT a pole is an optimized range of frequencies at which a cable most efficiently stores and transports energy and therefore is the region where it has best articulation. These poles are relatively narrow, so the more you can get in and distribute evenly across the audible range, the higher the articulation achieved.
Whatever is going on in MIT cables, the results sounded pretty positive to these ears. The SL 8 did have the poorest rejection of 60Hz hum and noise, but when it was used as intended I heard a very neutral top-to-bottom balance. Bass was certainly present, but it didn’t overwhelm everything else. On the other hand, I was able to bask in the detail-fest that makes the sport of high-end audio so much fun: mouth sounds, the signatures of the microphones, the “sound” of the recording studio, the bite on brass that makes me fear for what Pop’s chops must have been going through on Armstrong’s solo breaks on “Isn’t it a Lovely Day.” How about the sound of the action on Glenn Gould’s piano? Clear as day. Magic boxes? Poles of articulation? Just like my late-model computer-controlled car, it’s beyond me how it works, but I do like what it does.