Shunyata Research Sigma Signal Cables


Equipment report
Loudspeaker cables,
Shunyata Research Sigma Signal Cables

Shunyata Research is mainly known for its high-performance power cords and power distribution products, and so, I suspect, its excellent signal cables have been somewhat overshadowed. The new Sigma line may change that. Shunyata has really hit the mark with its latest top-of-the line interconnects and speaker wire.

I will cover some of the technological, design, and construction features later, but let me cut to the chase upfront: Sigma cables deliver high levels of performance across all audiophile and musically meaningful criteria. Put another way, they exhibit low levels of apparent signal adulteration and concomitant high levels of apparent signal integrity. The Sigmas reduced noise so well in my system that I had to reevaluate what was possible in cables priced well below those in the upper end of the market.

While not inexpensive, at $4000 for a 1m pair for interconnect and $7500 for a 2m pair of speaker cables, I believe the Sigmas are fully cable of competing with much more expensive wires. I could not secure significantly more costly models to make direct comparisons. I was, however, able to compare the Sigmas to the similarly priced Kimber Kable Select KS 1136 interconnect ($3335/1m XLR) and Cardas Clear Beyond speaker cable ($8170/2m) and the Sigmas performed much better than both—and did so to an overwhelming extent. (I will flesh this out later.) Keep in mind, there are several other cables available at multiples of the Sigmas’ prices, but even if you are ready to pony up for über wires you might want to give the Sigmas a try. Their performance could pleasantly surprise you and save you a good deal of money at the same time. I don’t mean to imply the Sigmas are flat-out bargains for the average music lover, only that they are well worth your consideration if you are already in the market for cables in their price bracket and considerably higher.

The Sigmas allowed two different systems—a friend’s and mine—to perform as if the electronics had been upgraded rather than the cables. Everything sounded clearer, more coherent, and more dynamically alive. The noise floor dropped dramatically, so fine details and timbral qualities emerged much more readily. Instruments and voices had more body and depth. The overall soundscape expanded in all directions and became more continuously layered from front to back. To use a visual analogy, it was as if a light mist had been removed from a view of a forest glen. One could see into the scene more easily and discern more aspects of the trees (trunk textures, leaf colors, etc.) and the ground. So too, everything in the sonic presentation became more evident. Tonal colors, dynamic shadings, spatial cues, all sounded more real. Mind you, I had been using Shunyata Anaconda cables (reviewed by Robert Harley in Issue 220), the company’s former top offering, for a while and had found them to also outperform other offerings near their price level. Specifically, Anacondas had a “quickness” that made other cables in their price category sound as if they were slightly “sluggish,” while simultaneously allowing the system to have appropriate tonal richness and a healthy dose of bass impact. The Sigmas are in a whole other league than the Anacondas.

With the Sigmas in play, a small bit of jaggedness during hard transients seemed to be removed from my system. Transients no longer sounded lightly splashy and disorganized—unless they were recorded that way, of course. On some recordings, massed violins sounded both clearer and less strident in their upper range when played at forte levels. The Sigmas did not seem to impose any dynamic restriction or frequency extension limitations, at least no more than the rest of my system delivered in the first place. Accordingly, music with notable dynamic snap came through with wonderful clarity and excitement. Fine details emerged in spades. Solo singers’ subtle lip sounds and the quivers of their vibrato were more readily apparent. Small dynamic shadings and timing shifts that help music sound emotionally compelling were also very clearly transmitted. Those details flowed as part of an integrated musical whole, not as an exercise in “forced resolution” that might initially sound dazzling but become fatiguing over the long term. Music sounded more evocative and expressive as a result.

The sound quality of my system improved with either the Sigma interconnect or speaker wire mixed with other cables, but the sum total of the improvements achieved by using all Sigma cables from source to speaker yielded even better results than the sum of their constituent links would suggest. I recommend a complete set of Sigma cables to realize the full extent of their capabilities. Having said this, if I had to choose between only the interconnect or the speaker cable, I would opt for the speaker cable because of its unique HARP feature.