Recommended Components Fall 2021 Edition Interconnects

Interconnects

Analysis Plus Apex Silver: $996 (1m pair)
The Analysis Plus Silver Apex uses as its conductor an oxygen-free copper "stabilizing strand" covered with pure silver, in an arrangement the manufacturer describes, somewhat elliptically (haw) as "a hollow oval cable inside a hollow oval cable inside a hollow oval cable," said to be double shielded and thus quiet. And MF found it to be so: In his words, the Silver Apex is "highly recommended!" (Vol.42 No.5)

Audio Art Cable IC-3 Classic: $120/1m pair (RCAs), $140/1m 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 Big Sur: $129.95/1m ★
AudioQuest Golden Gate: $79.95/1m
AudioQuest Evergreen: $49.95/1m
AudioQuest Tower: $29.95/1m
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)

AudioQuest Earth (balanced): $999.95/0.5m 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)

BIS RCA Expression: $540 (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 … 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)

Fono Acustica Virtuoso: $20,384/1.5m pair
The conductors are an alloy of silver and gold (shades of Burl Ives!), the styling is Spanish Cowboy Baroque, and the price is enough to buy a brand-new Volkswagen Golf and a couple of Brooks Brothers suits. What does that add up to? According to MF, when substituted for his reference TARA Zero Evolution interconnect, the Fono Acustica made for "more graceful, almost cautious, romantic, but somehow still precise and well-detailed attacks, and long, long sustains." On switching back to the TARA, did Mikey miss the Fono Acustica? "Yes—but you can't have everything!" (Vol.39 No.3)

Kimber Kable Hero: $366/1m 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 Kable PBJ: $132/1m 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: $94/1m 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: $500/m pair; $180/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: $7000/pair first meter, $1500/each additional meter
Expensive but superbly transparent interconnect that JA found worked synergistically with YG's Sonja 1.3 speakers. (NR)

Luna Red: $2400/1m pair
See Power-Related Accessories.

Nordost Valhalla 2 Interconnect: $8374.99/1m pair
Characterized by the inclusion of Nordost's Dual-Mono-Filament spacing between conductor and dielectric, as well as of Nordost's new Holo:Plug connectors, the analog interconnects, speaker cables, phono cables, and power cords in the company's Valhalla 2 Reference series impressed BD, whose system had been wired with Nordost's original Valhalla-series cables. With the new cables in place, BD heard gains in a number of areas—especially improved transparency and resolution, greater clarity in the reproduction of spatial information, and greater timbral warmth and richness—compared with his ca-2001 Valhallas. BD added that, of all the cable products in the new Valhalla 2 Reference series, "it was the 1m interconnect with RCAs ($7599.99) that had the greatest effect on the sound of my system." (Vol.39 No.7 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)

Stealth Sakra V16 interconnect: $12,000/1m, $7,600 each additional meter
Balanced version: $16,000/1m pair, $9,500 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 Air Evolution interconnect: $1995 1m; each add'tl meter is $200
TARA Labs Air Evolution w/Evo Ground Station: $2695 each add'tl meter is $250
A slightly less expensive alternative to TARA's Zero Evolution balanced interconnect, the Air Evolution also uses rectangular-core copper conductors for both its positive and negative legs. Its shield is floated with respect to the signal conductors, but is terminated at the source end with mini-banana plugs that can be connected to TARA's optional Evo Ground Station, designed to shunt shield noise to ground. Although MF observed that the Air Evolutions weren't "quite as resolved on top" as the costlier Zero Evolution, he thought the two models were "close." (Vol.40 No.1 WWW)

TARA Labs Zero Evolution w/HFX Ground Station: $20,995/1m, each add'tl meter is $2300
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: $3800/1m, each additional meter $600
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 II XLR: $450/1m 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." Black updated to Black II, at a lower price. (Vol.38 No.4 WWW)

Wireworld Platinum Eclipse 8 Interconnect: $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)

COMMENTS
MatthewT's picture

Not much for me here, being a vintage gear fan first. Please bring back the entry-level column, there is a lot of gear at that price-point worth getting reviewed.

Anton's picture

Budgetwise, I think I would be most like a "Double A" audiophile.

Same with me and wine.

I do admit to seeing some of the top end prices for either wine or Hi Fi and thinking that there are people who have checkbooks that are 'better' than their palates/ears.

Like JA1 described in the past...there are already parts of my own hobby that are beyond my budgetary event horizon.

_

If we did have audiophile classes, from minor leagues to major league, I wonder what the price points for each step would be.

MatthewT's picture

Lets me play every now and then in the Majors. Nothing depreciates faster than audio gear. I have to admit being somewhat happy at seeing a dartZeel break while listening to it, while my beloved Sansui keeps making music.

Anton's picture

I like showing gear in the reviews to my wife and asking her to guess the price.

When I saw the OMA turntable in the latest issue, I guessed 15,000 dollars. When she saw it, she guessed 12,000 dollars, and we've been playing this game for 25 years!

Next, I asked her if I were able to purchase it for 90% off retail, would she let me. She said, "Only I promised to flip it immediately."

Then, she threw me a bone and said, "You could buy it and keep it for the 12,000 dollars that I guessed."

I'd need a 97.5% discount to have a chance at it. And even that would be wildly extravagant. I'm happy with life, this is just for scale.

tonykaz's picture

Above the PS Audio level is the world of Status & Ego. !

Which has me wondering if Stereophile is a Status & Ego type publication ? Is this a Robb Report mag that belongs on the coffee tables of private Jet Airports ? ( I've never seen it there )

Does an Anodized Red $200,000 Amplifier belong on the Front Cover of a magazine like ours ? None of us will ever have any chance to experience Velvet Rope Gear so why are we bothering with it? It being better is probably one person's opinion ( and that person probably doesn't have to buy it or own it ).

Reviews of these $100,000 +++++ pieces are man-speaking to us how our gear is deficient and unworthy, we are reading Hubris & gas lighting.

There is a World of $1,000 bottles of Wine, $25,000 Rolex Watches, Super pricy First Class Seats on UAL Flights and Political Leaders that are wealthy from insider trading. We shouldn't be reading about those things here.

Ours is like the world of our modest Canadian, revealing a new form of music discovery and writing one of Stereophile's most insightful pieces of literature about it. ( nice writing Mr. Robert S.)( is that the door bell? )

Tony in Venice Florida

rschryer's picture

Thanks, Tony

tonykaz's picture

Annnnndddd :

Thank You to the Editor that gave you the Word Budget and turned you loose.

Stereophile keeps raising the Bar !!!

Tony in Venice Florida

Anton's picture

Where on Maslow's Pryamid is a half million dollar record player?

I'm curious to see....misguided 'esteem?'

I prefer to use Swanson's Pyramid....

https://external-preview.redd.it/5cDe4MZ9E0ZfvcS10kmAUd2ynTkp6b3wfU-fYsxyNfg.png?width=960&crop=smart&auto=webp&s=be478d54ccedc0bd3a8ea8428e368fe10ed78c60

(Second from bottom left.)

tonykaz's picture

A most expensive record player would service the Ego needs of someone needing to establish themselves as the very Top of Analog Audio's Caste System.

The widely recognised Top Level Analog Format has been Tape.

I grew up in a Performing Arts household, my mother was an Operatic Performer and one of my older brothers was a Horn Player for our local Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

So, from my point of view, no Analog Audio System has ever come close to performing like a Live Audio Performance from a listening distance position.

Super pricy Audio Gear is about Status & Ego !!! ( I hear that Bob Carver still laughs at this stuff )

Tony in Venice Florida

tonykaz's picture

Yes, Brilliant Observation! ,

of which, of-course, I completely agree .

Proving the old maxim: when two people agree on something - only one is doing the thinking.

Now that I'm living in the Deep South, Swansons Pyramid is where I'm slowly migrating to. Hmm.

Y'all have a Grate Day

Tony in Venice Florida

ravello's picture

The introduction to recommended loudspeakers states that "Candidates for inclusion in this class [i.e. Class A, limited LF extension] must still reach down to at least 40Hz, below the lowest notes of the four-string double-bass and bass guitar." The Falcon LS3/5a, for example, most certainly does not reach down to 40 Hz, unless you define "reach" to include a -10 or -15 or even lower dB point, which cannot be construed as useful bass etension. This is probably true for several other speakers listed in this category. So what is happening? What is the thinking behind this inconcistency?

smileday's picture

Perhaps about -7 dB at 40Hz in this room. Fig. 6, https://www.stereophile.com/content/bbc-ls35a-loudspeaker-harbeth-measurements

It might be -3 dB at 40Hz in a broadcast van, the intended usage at the design stage.

tonykaz's picture

...performance level for all Great Transducers?

It was the very loudspeaker that brought me and my English partner into the Audio Business. ( back in the early 1980s ) -- ( my business partner and I begged Raymond Cooke for this design to import to USA - he said NO! )

Isn't it still a "Reference" for comparison ? , doesn't any new design have to match or exceed it's super high levels of performance?

This little device and a well matched sub builds an outstanding Desert Island System.

But, it's still outstanding without the Sub.

It may not be Full Range but it well earned a Lifetime Class A+ transducer system rating. ( four Decades + )

Tony in Venice Florida

Ortofan's picture

... like antique furniture, but the KEF LS50 Meta is a much more highly evolved successor.

tonykaz's picture

I'm sure that I agree with you.

I seem to have a deeeeeeeep seated feeling that the LS3/5a is the grandfather of High End music Gear.

Even during the 1980s, my little shop : Esoteric Audio in Farmington Frills, Mi. stocked most of the small mini-monitors including the LS3/5a, Linn Kann, ProAc Tablette, Spica TC50, Quad ESL63 and the whole range of other hopefuls. Performance wise, the ProAc Tablettes were the musical leaders, the Quads were the Sales leaders, the Spica was the Reviewer Favourite . We had them all on permanant comparison using a VPI player, Koetsu Rosewood, Electrocompaniet Electronics and MIT Music Hose cable interfaces. It was an exciting adventure for any and all customers to take part in the ongoing comparisons. People bought scads of 'all' of those small speakers types.

With great or outstanding supporting gear, the LS3/5a can Scale up to amazing levels of music reproduction.

Tony in Venice Florida

ravello's picture

@ smileday: With due respect, the link you posted is not to the current Falcon "Gold Badge" reviewed in 2021, which I was talking about, and which is about 12 dB down at 40 Hz (ref. 1 KHz) in JA's listening room on the evidence of Fig. 6 and Fig. 8 (red trace). This, as I was saying, cannot and should not be construed as useful bass extension at 40 Hz, so listing this speaker as "Class A, limited LF extension" is misleading (to say the least) in light of Stereophile's own stated criteria for inclusion in this category. Perhaps Editor Mr. Austin would like to take the stand on this. Furthermore, most of us don't listen to music in a broadcast van. Mind you, I am not saying that these are not truly great speakers. Indeed, I used to own the Harbeth P3ESR, which I found as nearly flawless as I suspect is possible in a loudspeaker, except for bass extension and volume (SPL) capability -- admittedly an inevitable design constraint given the size of the midbass driver, the size of the cabinet, and the benign impedance. This is why I eventually replaced them with a pair of the Harbeth C7 (40th Anniversary), which turned out to be game-over speakers in my small, 12 sqm study. Perfectly solid bass to 40 Hz and possibly below.

TowerOfPower's picture

It's surprising to not see a single Soundsmith cartridge on this list. Would like to know why.

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