2015 Recommended Components Fall Edition Cables

Interconnects

Audience Au24 SE: $1190/1m pair
Audience's latest interconnect uses an RCA plug of tellurium-copper alloy with a single, small contact point, meant to reduce the formation of eddy currents. Compared to Audience's Au24 e, the SE version offered superior detail, clarity, timing precision, and image focus, said BD. Au24 e owners can upgrade to SE status for $220. (Vol.36 No.12, Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

Audience Au24e: $990/1m pair, unbalanced; $1595/1m pair, balanced ★
The updated version of Audience's Au24 uses the same conductors, materials, and construction as the original, but requires a much more labor-intensive process to attach the terminations to the cable. With a tonal balance that fell midway between the cool-sounding Nordost Valhalla and the warmer Nirvana SL, the Audience Au24e had a powerful and immediate sound, with huge, fast, clean dynamics and transients. Compared to the original Au24, the "e" version had greater transparency and resolution, said BD. Costs to upgrade an original Au24 to "e" status are $195 unbalanced, $225 balanced. (Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

Audience Au24: $795/1m pair, unbalanced, $455/additional meter; $1350/1m pair, balanced, $845/additional meter ★
The Au24s had a neutral, relaxed sound, said BD, "with good extension at the frequency extremes and a wide, deep soundstage." However, they did not reach the density of tonal colors and the extreme inner detail of the expensive Nordost Valhalla. Nor could they match the Nirvana S-X Ltds.' incredibly natural soundstage reproduction. Nevertheless, "The Au24s were no slouch, just a bit off the standard set by the very best I've heard." (Vol.25 No.8 WWW)

Audio Art Classic IC-3: $130/1m pair (RCAs), $150/1m pair (XLRs)
The IC-3—available with Audio Art's own gold-plated brass RCA plugs or, for $10 more, DH Labs' Ultimate XLR plugs—uses conductors of silver-coated, oxygen-free copper, a foam polyethylene dielectric, aluminum-Mylar shielding, and a PVC jacket. Compared to AudioQuest's Big Sur, the IC-3 lacked some midrange body and warmth but produced a pleasantly forward, detailed sound with an unusually wide soundstage, said SM. Sold direct with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. (Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

AudioQuest Earth (balanced): $750/0.5m pair
KR, who hates wrestling with stiff cables even more than Rick Grimes hates wrestling with stiffs, has welcomed into his home a set of AudioQuest's Earth balanced interconnects, terminated with XLR plugs and featuring AQ's 72V Dielectric Bias System (DBS). Cable conductors are solid, perfect-surface copper, while the plugs are high-purity red copper with hanging-silver plating. KR's only disappointment: AQ's omission of a latching feature from the "otherwise impressively designed" XLRs. (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

AudioQuest Big Sur: $109/1m
AudioQuest Golden Gate: $69/1m
AudioQuest Evergreen: $35/1m
AudioQuest Tower: $25/1m
AudioQuest's Bridges & Falls interconnects (of which these are the four least expensive models) put left and right channels in a single cable, thereby minimizing manufacturing costs while maximizing termination possibilities. Available terminations include RCA-to-RCA, mini-to-RCA, mini-to-mini, DIN-to-DIN, RCA-to-DIN, iPod-to-mini, or iPod-to-RCA, making these interconnects ideal for desktop and portable applications. The Tower and Evergreen use AQ's solid Long-Grain Copper (LGC) conductors. Golden Gate uses higher purity Perfect-Surface Copper (PSC) conductors. Big Sur uses even-higher-purity Perfect-Surface+ Copper (PSC+) conductors, and upgrades the other models' gold-plated RCA plugs to gold-plated plugs of pure purple copper. All four models are insulated with foamed polyethylene, and are attractive, well made, and very flexible. Moving up the line, SM heard improvements in image focus, tone color, drama, and overall clarity and extension. "If you're in the market for truly affordable, truly high-quality interconnects, I can think of no better place to start than AudioQuest," he concluded. SM used it between his laptop and PSB Alpha PS1 desktop speakers. Compared with the stock PS1 cable, the AQ produced a larger, more present overall sound, with deeper silences, longer decays, cleaner highs, more realistic bass, and richer tone color. "Suddenly, I had real high-fidelity sound coming from my laptop," SM enthused. (Vol.36 Nos.7, 8, Evergreen; Vol.36 No.10 WWW)

BIS Expression: $480 (Canadian)/1m pair
From Quebec-based BIS Audio comes their middle-of-the-line interconnect, the Expression: a cable of moderate thickness and flexibility, covered in a sheath of braided polymer and terminated with Eichmann BulletPlugs (RCA). AD found that the BIS Expression allowed his system to perform "with good drive and momentum," and while the Canadian interconnect lacked the subtler musical and sonic strengths of his more-expensive Audio Notes and Shindos, the BIS performed "somewhat better .ˇ.ˇ. than its relatively humble price predicted." (Vol.38 No.6 WWW)

Cardas Audio Clear Rev.1: $2020/1m pair, balanced; $1840/1m pair, unbalanced
Rev.1 applies to both Cardas's Clear balanced and single-ended interconnects; JM tested the balanced version, which incorporates Cardas's heavy, gold-plated CG XLR plugs. With the Rev.1 in his system, JM gained significant measures of detail and transparency. (Vol.36 No.12 WWW)

Kimber Hero: $329/1m pair with WBT-0114 ★
The "strong, silent type" when it comes to cables, says the inestimable JM. "And reasonably priced, into the bargain." (NR, but see "The Fifth Element" in Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

Kimber PBJ: $117/1m pair, as reviewed
Originally released in the late 1980s, PBJ is a minimalist design comprising three high-quality, multistrand wires in individual Teflon jackets, braided together and terminated with Kimber's Ultraplate connectors. With the PBJs in his system, SM heard greater clarity, detail, depth, and presence. Compared to AudioQuest's Sidewinder, the PBJ lacked body and warmth but was more muscular, insistent, and precise, said SM. (Vol.35 No.6 WWW)

Kimber Kable Tonik: $84/1m pair
Kimber's most affordable interconnect uses three stranded copper wires neatly braided in a noise-canceling pattern. Though they lacked the resolution of much more expensive interconnects, the Toniks "offered clarity without brightness, and reasonably good amounts of color, texture, and touch. For $80, that was A-okay with me," said AD. Price includes Kimber's Ultratike connectors. (Vol.34 No.11 WWW)

Kubala-Sosna Anticipation: $400/m pair; $150/additional meter ★
Like the K-S speaker cables (see "Loudspeaker Cables"), the K-S interconnects are based on a low characteristic impedance and solid construction. The results are uncolored sound and extremely low noise pickup. (Vol.29 No.7 WWW)

Kubala-Sosna Elation Interconnect: $6000/pair first meter, $1200/each additional meter
Expensive but superbly transparent interconnect that JA found worked synergistically with YG's Sonja 1.3 speakers. (NR)

MIT CVT Terminator 2: $899/1m pair ★
Cut from the same sonic cloth as the CVT Terminator 2 speaker cable, this interconnect had a detailed, uncolored midrange, and offered superb dynamic articulation. Compared to MIT's older, more expensive MI-350 CVTwin, the CVT Terminator 2 had greater bass extension, clarity, and high-level dynamic slam. (Vol.31 No.10 WWW)

Pure Silver Connection (PSC) PST 8: $1500/1m pair ★
Balanced interconnects featuring solid, silver-plated 6N copper and round conductors. LG reported that they reduced system hum problems and were "highly recommended!" Price is for both balanced and unbalanced interconnects. (NR)

Signal Cable Analog Two: $49/2' pair ★
Less flexible and a bit thicker than Signal Cable's Analog One, the Analog Two has a coaxial construction: Its 22AWG center conductor of bare copper is surrounded first by Teflon insulation, then by a shield of bare, braided copper wire, and finally by an outer jacket of Teflon. Compared to the Analog One, the Analog Two seemed slightly faster, more insistent, and more assertive and forceful, said SM, who preferred the Analog One's more laid-back sound. $6/pair each additional foot. Terminated with Neutrik Profi plug: add $40/pair. (Vol.34 No.8 WWW)

Signal Cable Analog One: $36/2' pair ★
The thin, flexible Analog One has 18AWG oxygen-free copper conductors and tight-fitting gold-plated RCA plugs. Compared to the RadioShack 42-487 interconnect, the Analog One offered a more organized and forceful portrayal of the music, with rounder bass, cleaner highs, and faster transients, said SM. $4/pair each additional foot. (Vol.34 No.8 WWW)

Stealth Sakra interconnect: $11,000/1m, $7000 each additional meter; balanced version fitted with XLRs: $14,000/1m pair, $10,000 each additional meter ★
Lightweight, very flexible, and finished in an outer jacket of near-opalescent white, the Sakra interconnect is built into a hermetically sealed, helium-filled tube and terminated with proprietary solid-silver connectors. The overall sound was open and clean, with lightning-fast attacks, generous sustains, and long decays. Compared to the TARA Labs Zero, the Sakra had a bit more midrange body and texture but lacked some air and speed, felt Mikey. (Vol.34 No.6)

TARA Labs Zero Evolution: $18,000/1m
The Zero Evolution is an all-new, physically flexible, easier to manage air-dielectric interconnect than the original Zero with non-insulated square solid-core conductors. Because neither end of The Zero Evolution's shield is attached to ground, TARA employs the Floating Ground Station, a heavy, black box containing Ceralex, a combination of ceramic materials and metallic compounds that absorbs RFI and EMI. Switching from the original Zero to the new Evolution Zero, MF's system benefited yet further from an enormous addition of lushness, texture, and warmth, along with major extensions of air, detail, and transparency. Due to The Evolution Zero's ultrawide bandwidth, some outside transient noise can leak into the system when nearby appliances are activated. But—"I've heard nothing like it," he declares, adding "a genuine breakthrough, though hideously expensive. The TARA Labs Evolution Zero had a fast, clean, open overall sound, with airy highs and tight bass. The Evolution upgrade adds the rich, textured midrange of the Stealth Sakra, while continuing to produce faster attacks, longer sustains, and deeper decays, said MF." (Vol.29 No.12, Zero; Vol.34 No.6 WWW, Zero Gold; Vol.36 No.11, Zero Evolution)

TARA Labs Zero GX DIN-to-RCA tonearm cable: $3800/1.0m ★
Though it was "somewhat bereft of physicality," the Zero GX's accentuated sibilants and precise attack made it "a good choice for detail devotees," said MF. (Vol.32 No.7)

Tellurium Q Black: $500/1m pair
A new company based in Somerset, UK, Tellurium Q is a cable specialist offering three lines of products, with Black squarely in the middle. JM responded well to a pair of Black balanced interconnects, which he found "on the slightly warm or musical side of neutral," and praised for sounding "quieter and far less closed-in at the top" than his comparatively plebian Canare interconnects. Extra points for emphasizing engineering over fancy packaging. According to JM, this entry-level-premium cable line is "well worth exploring." (Vol.38 No.4 WWW)

Teresonic Clarison Gold: $3495/1m pair
The Clarison Gold is handmade using gold-plated crimp sleeves and gold-plated RCA plugs. Its solid-gold conductors are enclosed in a spiral-wound, galvanized ferromagnetic material. Though it lacked the detail resolution of the much more expensive TARA Labs Zero, the Clarison Gold was dead quiet and produced sweet highs, a lush midrange, and clean bass, said MF. (Vol.36 No.8)

Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 7: $3000/1m pair
Though it wasn't as transparent as the TARA Labs Zero, when used with the Constellation Centaur Mono monoblock amplifiers, the Eclipse 7 "produced a much better overall picture in terms of tonality, texture, and transients," said Mikey. (Vol.36 No.11)

Loudspeaker Cables

Audience Au24e: $1795.50/2m pair ★
Original Au24 can be upgraded to "e" status for $300. $400 each additional meter. See "Interconnects." JA found the Au24e to sound too warm with the Vivid B1s. (Vol.33 No.6, Vol. 34 No.10 WWW)

Audience Au24: $1925/3m pair, single wire, $450/additional meter; $3450/3m pair, biwire, $845 additional meter ★
"It was as a speaker cable that the Au24 really shone." BD actually preferred the Au24 to his reference Valhalla in terms of tonal balance, imaging, resolution of inner detail, and soundstaging. (Vol.25 No.8 WWW)

Audio Art Classic SC-5: $255/10ft pair (spades), $265/10ft pair (bananas)
The SC-5 has silver-coated OFC conductors (14AWG), a foam polyethylene dielectric, a PVC jacket, and an internal packet of vibration-absorbing fibers. It can be terminated with gold-plated brass banana plugs or, for $10 less, DH Labs' gold-plated copper spade lugs. Compared to AudioQuest's Rocket 33, the SC-5 lacked body, weight, and warmth, but produced a detailed, dramatic overall sound, with clean transients and impressive dynamics, said SM. Sold direct with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. (Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

AudioQuest Oak: $3040/8' pair
AudioQuest's Oak speaker cable, available terminated for full-range, biwiring, double biwiring, or bi-amping, features double-counterspiral conductor geometry and AQ's 72V Dielectric Bias System (DBS). KR, who actually admits to not obsessing over cables—"confesses" would be more like it!—has now switched from older AudioQuest cables terminated with spade lugs to a set of Oaks terminated with AQ's SureGrip silver-plated beryllium-copper banana plugs, which "fit so tightly into the amp and speaker terminals that I can just barely insert or remove them by hand." (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)

AudioQuest Rocket 33: $329/10ft pair ★
AudioQuest's 14AWG, solid-core Rocket 33 speaker cable offered an exciting leap in performance over SM's RadioShack Flat Megacable speaker wire, infusing music with more low-level resolution, transient speed, clarity, and physicality. (Vol.34 No.9, Vol.37 No.2 WWW)

Cardas Clear rev.1: $4085/2m pair, terminated in spades ★
JM was most impressed by the Cardas Clear's low-frequency clarity and resolution, finding the Clear to give two or three more bass notes on a pipe organ, with a lower noise floor and "spooky" resolution compared with his reference MIT MH-770 CVTerminator cables. "The best-sounding cables I have heard," he concluded. JA agrees that these are fine-sounding cables. (Vol.33 No.10 WWW)

Kimber 8TC: $505/10ft pair w/o connectors ★
(NR, but see "The Fifth Element" in Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

Kimber 8VS: $271/10ft pair, as reviewed ★
Kimber's 8VS is made up of eight gray and eight black conductors in individual polyethylene jackets, braided together and terminated in a choice of high-quality spade lugs or banana plugs. Compared to AudioQuest's Rocket 33, the 8VS lacked body and warmth but offered greater clarity and control, said SM. Compared to Kimber's 4PR, the 8VS offered similar tonal qualities but presented music with even greater urgency, drama, and purpose, said SM. Price is $231/10ft pair without connectors, $271/10ft pair with bananas. (Vol.35 Nos.6 & 7 WWW)

Kimber 4PR: $137/10ft pair, as reviewed
Practically unchanged since its introduction in 1979, the 4PR is Kimber's most affordable speaker cable. It employs the same braided geometry found in the company's more expensive 8VS, but instead of the 8VS's eight gray and eight black conductors, the 4PR has four pairs each of black and brown conductors in an apparently looser braid. Compared to RadioShack's inexpensive 16-gauge zip cord, the 4PR offered greater nuance, detail, clarity, and bass control, said SM. Price is $90/10ft pair without connectors. (Vol.35 No.7 WWW)

Kubala-Sosna Elation Speaker Cable: $6000/pair first meter, ˇ$1200/each additional meter
A JA favorite. See "Interconnects." (NR)

Kubala-Sosna Fascination: $950/m pair; $300/additional meter ★
Kubala-Sosna claims that their OptimiZ technology "results in a lower characteristic impedance and a higher ratio of capacitance to inductance than any other cable." Each cable consists of a hefty pair of conductors twisted around each other, sheathed with a knitted cover, and solidly terminated in thick spade lugs. The current versions have sleek, tight jackets that make them easy to snake and arrange. With the K-S cables in his system, KR noted a decrease in overall residual hiss and softer but more precise highs. "I can't say that the change is substantial, but it is definable." Further auditioning with his multi-channel system completely wired with K-S cables led him to describe these cables as among the quietest and most transparent cables he has encountered: "Overall, they seem to get out of the way of everything else and let the system do its thing." (Vol.28 No.3, Vol.29 No.7 WWW)

MIT CVT Terminator 2: $1999/8ft pair ★
Compared with earlier MIT cable designs, the CVT Terminator 2 has additional "pole networks" for wider bandwidth, and adds the CVT Coupler input module to minimize energy reflection. It offered "clear, crisp, clean highs" and outstanding dynamic articulation, but had "a touch of warmth" in the low end, said BJR. Biwire version costs $1299/8ft pair. (Vol.31 No.10)

Naim NACA5: $25/ft $$$ ★
Inexpensive spaced-twin cable that ST found to work well with the Spendor S100 loudspeaker. Unchanged in Naim's product line since 1986, the NACA5 is made of two chunky runs of stranded heavy-gauge wire twisted into a very tight bundle and molded into a thick sheath of Teflon. "Stiffer than Swedish roadkill," said AD. Compared to RadioShack's inexpensive SW-1650 speaker wire, however, the unwieldy NACA5 was better at communicating pitch relationships and had "a more realistic sense of flow." Worth investigating as a good-value cable, thinks JA. (Vol.32 No.8 WWW)

Nirvana Audio S-X Ltd.: $2780/2.5m pair ★
"A dynamite speaker cable," the S-X Ltd. was tonally neutral and produced well-defined images, powerful and fast transients, and incredible transparency. The only nit BD could pick was a slight compression of front-to-back soundstaging depth. "A big jump in performance from the company's SL." Add $50/pair for biwire configuration. (Vol.28 No.10 WWW)

Stealth Dream V10: $12,400/2m pair, $6000 each additional meter ★
The hermetically sealed, helium-filled Dream V10 is a thick yet flexible cable made of three flat solid-silver wires and a conductive carbon-fiber core. Compared to the TARA Labs Omega Onyx, the Stealth cable had a richer, warmer sound, with a softer attack for a slower overall musical flow. Partnered with the Stealth Sakra interconnects, the Dream V10 cable produced a more textured midrange but lacked the TARA's upper-octave air, said MF. Bi-wiring adds $1300 regardless of cables' length. (Vol.34 No.6)

TARA Labs Omega Evolution: $32,000/8'
The new physically flexible TARA Labs Omega Evolution, incorporating almost twice as many rectangular, solid-core "8 Nines" oxygen-free copper elements (280 versus the Gold's 156), adds the speed, transparency, dimensionality and, especially, textural suppleness that the previous Gold cable lacked, thus losing the Gold's "somewhat laid-back overall sound," with no sonic penalty paid for the major improvements, said Mikey. (Vol.36 No.11)

TARA Labs Omega Gold: $24,000/8ft
Compared to the Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 7, the TARA Labs Omega Gold has a somewhat laid-back overall sounded that lacked ultimate transparency, three-dimensionality, and transient speed, said Mikey. (Vol.36 No.11)

Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 7: $24,400/3m pair
Compared to the new TARA Labs Omega Evolution, the Platinum Eclipse 7 is equally transparent, resolving, and dimensional, but less texturally supple and extended on top, with a less richly drawn midrange, said MF. (Vol.36 No.11)

Deletions
RadioShack Catalog #278-1273 14-gauge flat cable and Catalog #278-1267 16-Gauge Clear 2-Conductor Speaker Wire.

Digital Data Interconnects

AudioQuest Forest iPod–USB cable: $39/1.5m
If you use your iPod or iPhone plugged into your system with the ubiquitous white USB cable, pick up this inexpensive replacement. Bits may be bits, but you'll be gob-smacked by the improvement in sound quality sez JA. (NR)

Canare DigiFlex Gold model RCAPOO3F: approx. $19.37/3ft $$$ ★
Before you try any of the expensive coaxial links, CG advises trying this inexpensive, true 75 ohm cable with Canare crimp RCA connectors. He rates it as his first choice in a digital cable at any price, even preferring it to the Kimber AGDL. JA uses the 110-ohm version in various lengths for CD mastering. (Vol.16 No.7)

DH Labs Silver Sonic D-110 AES/EBU: $99/1m
(NR, but see EL's review of the Bel Canto DAC3.5VB in Vol.34 No.6 WWW)

Kimber Orchid: $757.50/1m ★
Expensive, but the best AES/EBU link JA has used. J-10 loved the Orchid's midrange liquidity and detail, but preferred Illumination's S/PDIF cable overall. SD (almost) doesn't equivocate: "Probably the best out there for now....A stunner!" RH and RD are also fans. New lower price usefully brings this cable in reach of more music lovers. (Vol.19 No.5)

Kubala-Sosna Expression: $775/m, $210/additional meter ★
A KR favorite. See "Loudspeaker Cables." (Vol.29 No.7 WWW)

Transparent Audio Performance USB: $100/1m
The Performance USB uses heavy-gauge conductors, robust connectors, and high-quality dielectrics and shielding, and can be used in runs of up to 30'. In addition to being significantly more durable than Art's reference Belkin cable, the Performance USB was quieter and produced blacker silences. Price increases by $30 for each additional meter. (Vol.33 No.1 WWW)



COMMENTS
corrective_unconscious's picture

Is meant to summon 1960s LP album covers - the record company banners on them. Of course the "stereophile" logo is of a different style, but still a nice touch if I'm correct.

Venere 2's picture

Too funny to see the 1499$ KEF LS50 still in Class A with the Magico Q5 at 65 000$

That is one of a good handful of aberrations. Stereophile gets a lot of things right. But when they don't, they really don't!

z24069's picture

Under Disc Players, Transports, etc...there are some fine choices in all the categories and they all definitely belong on the list IMHO.

HOWEVER, you've completely left Esoteric products off the list; this begs the question as to how at least one of the myriad SOTA products (1box as well as multi-box) from Esoteric including the K-01x, K-03x, P-02/D-02, P-1/D-1s/etc...cannot be found on this list.

Their products did receive nominations from TAS and Stereophile for best-of categories for many years and have been bettered in terms of sound quality in more recent product releases; it leaves one wondering how they could be conspicuous by their complete absence from this year's and last year's lists???

John Atkinson's picture
z24069 wrote:
it leaves one wondering how they could be conspicuous by their complete absence from this year's and last year's lists???

This is because we haven't reviewed any Esoteric products for a couple of years. (I favorably reviewed the D-07 D/A processor in 2011 - see www.stereophile.com/content/esoteric-d-07-da-processor.) The company has gone through major changes in its management and distribution and we are waiting for things to settle down before investing our resources in a review.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

z24069's picture

John,

Thank you for the reply...there has been high praise on various forums for K01, K01X, K03X, P1/D1, P2/D2 and C02/C02X products from them. It is true with the buy of Esoteric away from Teac and Onkyo/Integra now providing support and sales things have changed and a number of us had to dig a bit to get contacts at the new company for everything from sales to support. It may be time to review them again however as the level of playback achieved by the P1/D1, P2/D2 and K01X is nothing short of stunning, certainly in line with many products that did make the list over the last couple of years. If you are interested in those contacts or talking directly with some Esoteric owners of multi-generations including the current ones, please let me know and I'll get you in touch.... There are other brands and products missing as well (check out Legacy "V" and "Aeris" for example) and the industry has grown,...perhaps the 500 number as a cut-off should be revisited and raised!

z24069's picture

BTW...if there is a way to reach you via email, I'd be happy to pass on the contacts that some of us have found work for getting in touch with the Sales and Support side of the new Esoteric and to talk about some great music that is currently spinning....Have a great weekend!

yuvalg9's picture

Hello,

1. In the CD players category, I think you should have mentioned the Naim CD5si and the Cyrus CD i. Both are great value for money.

2. In the Turntables category, I think you should have mentioned at least one of the Pro-Ject models. Pro-Ject is, as you may know, the largest TT Manufacturer in the world.

3. GoldenEar's Triton 5 under the "K" category? Maybe I misunderstood what the "K" category is?

Regards,

Yuval

blingbass's picture

Hello,
I am in the quest of a good noise-cancelling pair of headphones and I came across this bose quietcomfort 25 review.
They are far cheaper than the PSB M4U 2 but I don't know how they compare... Have you tried them ?

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