Whether it’s cries of “snake oil” or balking at prices, of all the components in an audiophile’s system none seems to raise more hackles than cables. But like it or not, cables can—and do—make a difference. Naturally, quality of materials and construction are the entry-level essentials for achieving desirable sonic results.
Shunyata Research is not your typical cable manufacturer. Though the company invests most of its budget in top-tier parts and materials, its main focus is keeping prices as low as possible for the end user. In keeping with this philosophy, the Venom Series is Shunyata’s most affordable line yet to meet high-performance standards, and under review here are the Venom speaker cable and interconnects. The “Research” part of the Shunyata name isn’t just a catch-phrase; it’s a nod to the on-going R&D and real-world science the manufacturer brings to the table, from the eight patents held and the other nine pending, to white papers on its measurements and problem-solving prowess.
Since it began sixteen years ago, the Poulsbo, Washington, company has quietly (or perhaps not so quietly) specialized in the design and construction of cables, interconnects, power conditioners, and other accessories. Shunyata Research is led by founder and CEO Caelin Gabriel—an audiophile who has a military background working for top-secret, NSA-type projects. It also happens that Gabriel is an expert low-level-signal scientist specializing in distortion reduction. So it follows that in addition to some pro-audio market interests—legendary record producer Rick Rubin is reportedly a fan—Shunyata also now leverages its signal-distortion-reduction technologies for applications in the medical field—electrophysiology imaging used in cardiology clinics and for heart surgery. Every product Shunyata makes is geared towards maintaining signal integrity, be it for audio or cardio, and eliminating distortion or keeping it from getting in the way.
Designed to punch well above their price points, the Venom cables and interconnects use a proprietary hollow-core conductor that Shunyata calls VTX. According to Shunyata, VTX is a type of wire geometry that approximates a virtual tube, containing small, microfine wires that form a hollow core wherein the signal travels over the wires’ surfaces in a more linear path to eliminate skin effects and random eddy currents. This hollow-core VTX design is fabricated from highest-purity copper and, according to Shunyata, only two factories in the world (both in Japan) are licensed to make that conductor’s OCC copper. Rather than relying on off-the-shelf connectors, Shunyata also has them custom-made.
As for external characteristics, the Venom cables are highly flexible and pliable (I could wrap them around my slim wrists)—not only in their length but also in their termination options, thanks to Shunyata’s STIS (Speaker Terminal Interconnect System), which allows you to swap out termination types simply by unscrewing the one on the cable and screwing on a different one. Their form factor is on the slim side, but it makes the wires that much easier to connect in the tighter quarters of certain power components.