Recommended Components 2021 Edition Loudspeaker Cables

Loudspeaker Cables

Audio Art Cable SC-5 Classic: $240/10ft pair (gold spades; add $10/pr for silver spades), $250/10ft pair (gold 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 Rocket 33: $445.95/10ft 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 Kable 4PR: $157/3m pair (10'), 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)

Kimber Kable 8TC: $590/3m pair (10’) w/o connectors ★
(NR, but see "The Fifth Element" in Vol.33 No.6 WWW)

Kimber Kable 8VS: $335/3m pair (10’), 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)

Kubala-Sosna Elation Speaker Cable: $7000/pair first meter, $1500/each additional meter ★
A JA favorite. See "Interconnects." (NR)

Kubala-Sosna Fascination: $1000/m pair; $350/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)

Luna Mauve: $1800/2.5m pair
See Power-Related Accessories.

Naim NACA5: $26/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)

Nordost SuperFlatline: $329.99/2m pair
A couple of decades ago, Nordost's SuperFlatline speaker cable was popular—in 1996, writing in Listener, AD hailed it as "great stuff." Nordost quietly discontinued the model in 2009, but relaunched it in 2018. The original SuperFlatline comprised 16 flat copper conductors per channel, each the equivalent in mass to a 23AWG wire, laminated within a clear fluoropolymer, and terminated with a choice of spades or low-mass bananas—the new version is identical in every way but the fluoropolymer, now FEP instead of Teflon. In 2018 as in 1996, AD found that the Nordost SuperFlatline does indeed become "[sonically] clearer and more open over time," after which it "[gets] the essentials right without leaving the sound dull or the music lifeless." Extra points for their flatness, which makes it possible to hide them under a rug. (Vol.42 No.1 WWW)

Nordost Valhalla 2 Speaker Cable: $10,599.99/1.25m
See Interconnects.

Stealth Dream V16: $14,700/2m pair, $6,600 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 Air Evolution SP speaker cable, 8' with bananas & spades: $4800; each add'tl foot is $380
See "Interconnects."

TARA Labs Omega Evolution SP loudspeaker cable: $35,000/8' pair, each additional foot $3400 ★
The physically flexible TARA Labs Omega Evolution, incorporating almost twice as many rectangular, solid-core elements of "8 nines" (99.999999%) oxygen-free copper (280 vs 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" while paying no sonic penalty for the major improvements, said Mikey. Even more recent is TARA's Omega Evolution SP speaker cable, a higher-inductance and identically priced variant intended as a better match for amplifiers with very low damping factors and/or speakers that present distinctly reactive loads. In his system, in comparison with the less expensive TARA Omega Golds, MF found the Omega Evolution SPs to offer "more precise note attacks" and "greater textural nuance," among other attributes. (Vol.36 No.11, Vol.38 No.12)

Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 8 Speaker Cable: $26,800/3m 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)

COMMENTS
grymiephone's picture

The Linton Heritage is not an audiophile speaker, and I will stop there, it's hard to find music it plays well

Glotz's picture

And it sounded fantastic with 'entry'-level Hegel components.

Everyone is different, and especially when one levels generalist comments.

grymiephone's picture

I had a response with more details but it was deleted.

Glotz's picture

Sorry man. I think the site had some issues a week back as well. Anything that was edited sometimes got deleted.

grymiephone's picture

Oh, well. for what's it's worth:
I tested the Linton with 5 other speakers. When I ordered it, the sales person said: be warned, it's NOT an audiophile speaker. And it didn't compare well. I wanted to love them but my 23 year old Celestions had more image and punch than the Lintons. I am sure they can sound good in a different system

MatthewT's picture

I agree with the "not an audiophile speaker" remark. I wish we could know what Art Dudley thought of them. I love them, FWIW.

Glotz's picture

I appreciate both of your insights here.

It helps me come closer to the truth. Or that's not right- The perceptions of each person lend us insights into how each person feels in their system.

I know a lot of times it's hard to speak to one's system for fear of others being critical.

Nonetheless, it does tell me what possible variances there are. I thought the double Linton's were impressive, if expensive. The dealer had them in a pseudo-d'appolito configuration, with the top speakers upside down and on top of the bottom pair.

liguorid42's picture

I agree everyone's opinion of what he or she likes is valid, and an opinion that you shouldn't like something because it's not an audiophile product is invalid. That being said, if you're a wine connoisseur you wouldn't necessarily make a buying decision on a pricey Cabernet based on the opinion of someone whose beverage of choice is Mountain Dew. And "not an audiophile speaker" can just mean your favorite reviewer has not made the sign of the cross before it, and is pretty useless without some description of what you perceive its sonic flaws to be.

Glotz's picture

I think all stereo products can have a home, but you are right it's all about context.

I was impressed with the Denton's midrange, but perhaps that's not fair given I was listening to the collective output of 2 pairs of speakers working in tandem.

mememe2's picture

PLease put this in the "useless phrases" section of your mag. Can we have good pace but lack timing -no. can we have good rhythm but lack pace - no. Can we have good timing but lack rhythm - no. This description seems to be aimed at audio prats (in the original meaning of the word).

Charles E Flynn's picture

"captures the emotion"

liguorid42's picture

Back when founding father Gordon Holt started Stereophile he tried to develop a lexicon to describe how things actually sounded--things like "liquid", "transparent", "grainy", "warm"--as opposed to how things emotionally affected him personally. Theoretically you could go to a hi fi emporium, listen to KLH Nines driven by Audio Research electronics and hear for yourself what he meant. Though he did open the door with his "goosebump test". These days terms such as you describe have made subjective audio reviewing so subjective as not to be very useful to anyone else.

Charles E Flynn's picture

Thanks for your reply.

I have always wondered how one could determine that a playback chain captured the emotion of the performers when the only evidence we have about their emotions is what is provided by the playback chain.

The reproduced sound may convey or provoke emotion, but whether what it conveys is what the performer felt is something we can never determine on the basis of only the reproduced sound.

liguorid42's picture

..in the Firesign Theater album said, "That's metapheesically absurd, mun, how can I know what you hear?"

Heck, you can't know if what you're feeling is the same as what the performer is feeling even at a live performance. Not even close would be my guess. What I'm feeling when I play the piano in private is very different from when I get conned into playing for someone. What the composer felt when setting the notes to the page, different still. I doubt a loudspeaker, let alone a piece of loudspeaker cable, has anything to do with any of this.

George Tn's picture

the Schiit Sol made it on to the list in such a high spot for its price. I've been rooting for that product and it's finally being seen for how great it is.

PTG's picture

Yup.. So happy to see Sol finally get some recognition. SOL had a very rough launch but they owned up to it and made it right ! I would love to get one but am worried about how much tinkering is needed to make it right.. Still thinking about it.... It LOOKS amazing !!!

georgehifi's picture

Same for the Aegir, a A20w Class-A stereo in Class-A Stereophile. I can only think of one similar that could/would do that, and that's the mighty 20w Mark Levison ML2 monoblocks.
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/d6/6a/cc/d66acc2c1d4fa7ea17f5a9bb9345e912.jpg

Cheers George

Glotz's picture

Yes, these components are great to see classified, but it's one person's ranking for a component. The classes also cut a large swath in performance of any one category- and within each class.

That being said, I do think the Sol is pretty-well-reviewed for the money and if my rig broke suddenly... I'd get this one to tie me over.

PTG's picture

Did I miss it or was Bluesound family of products (Node2i, Vault2i ??) totally dropped off the RC2021 list ? If yes, I wonder why...

Jim Austin's picture

On previous lists, when several Bluesound products were listed together, we put them under "Complete Audio Systems." We dropped most of them simply because they haven't been auditioned in years--indeed, no Stereophile reviewer ever tried a gen-2 version of any of the products except the Node2i, which I bought a few months back and use daily. Dropping products that haven't been auditioned in a long time is longstanding RecComp policy.

With only the Node2i on the list, it no longer makes sense to list it under Complete Audio Systems; it should be moved to Digital Processors. But I overlooked that fact when preparing the 2021 edition.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

C_Hoefer's picture

I just navigated to this page intending to point out the error in location of the Bluesound Node 2i - glad to see you already caught it! It belongs in digital players.
--CH

prerich45's picture

I'd like to see some of the other offerings tested by Stereophile. The Gustard dacs have measured well by another site. I've actually purchased one to see how it fairs to my ears - as I've already seen its numbers. SMSL,Gustard, and Topping are making some possible world beaters, it would be interesting to see this publication put them on the bench.

Fstein's picture

Lirpasound announces $79 amplifier, states previous price of $159,000 a joke no reasonable person would believe

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