One of the few tonal concessions Purple Flare makes to reference-caliber wire is the lowest bass, where it is not quite as full in extension or bloom. Also there’s a bit of coolness in the middle treble that leads to a tiny hint of etch in the sibilance range, although overall this critical region is strikingly free from grain or grit. Transient speed is also very good but, as with the aforementioned sibilance region, there remains a bit of hardness on smartly struck percussion and high-intensity brass.
No doubt about it, Purple Flare has significant macro-dynamic punch. Orchestral crescendos, full-blown percussion breaks, brass section blasts, and so forth are impressive. However, after listening to a great deal of solo piano from Keith Jarrett to Evgeny Kissin, I noted that the Purple Flare reduces micro-information just enough to suggest a bit of damping of the player’s touch during lightening-quick arpeggios, such as those flying from the fingers of Kissin’s right hand. Similarly, low-octave chords that typically rev up the soundboard with wave-upon-wave of resonances come off just a bit lighter in color and power.
The best cables I’ve heard reveal ambient and reverberant cues that ultimately give shape to the soundstage. They define the venue’s scope, and if the recording is especially good, its wall boundaries. As good as the Purple Flare is, some of this bass bloom and ambient expansiveness was curtailed a bit during Vaughan Williams’ The Wasps Overture [Chandos]. The stage narrowed ever so slightly and there was the distinct sense that orchestral sections were cozying up to one another a little more closely. That said, perspective please! These minor flaws will seem almost silly when the Purple Flare is placed in context with the entry-level audio systems it likely will be paired with.
My recent experience with WyWires Blue (a little cool, pacey, and highly dimensional), Analysis Plus Silver Oval (superb balance and a sweet, smooth treble response), and now Nordost Purple Flare continues to reinforce my opinion that the world of superior entry-level and mid-priced cables is actually expanding rather than contracting. And for those naysayers who promulgate the view that wire is wire—blah, blah, blah—I can only recommend they listen to this exciting segment.
Far be it from me to preach to anyone on a budget, but let me offer two cents of advice. No one I know builds a system around cables. Rather, cables permit us to realize a system’s potential. They add polish and patina and need to be selected in proportion to the system they’ll be use with. How much to allot for wire? There’s no hard-and-fast rule. But Nordost’s Purple Flare certainly makes the decision less painful and expensive. I can’t say it enough—Purple Flare is like a little trip to (Blue) Heaven for those of us earthbound on a budget.
SPECS & PRICING
Price: Speaker: $518/2m, $596/3m; Interconnect: $260/1m, $365/2m
93 Bartzak Drive
Holliston, MA 01746