Cable Reviews

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Paul Bolin  |  Jan 02, 2003  |  0 comments
If the devil is in the details, then Beelzebub has taken up residence in the collections of cables we use to connect our components. Reviewing the stuff is tough enough, but things are even more difficult for the average audiophile: Inevitably, the wire that sounds fabulous in the store or in your friend's system doesn't work worth a hoot in your own system, and you're left where you began. Equally inevitably, the wire that does work best carries a price more often seen in Tiffany's or Harry Winston. It's enough to drive a hi-fi nut to drink. So relax, pour yourself a nice glass of wine, and sit right back to hear the tale of Robert Lee and his amazing wires...
Brian Damkroger  |  Mar 03, 2009  |  First Published: Oct 03, 2001  |  0 comments
Everyone loves a bargain. Everyone loves finding an undiscovered gem. But for audiophiles on a budget, finding good, reasonably priced cables isn't a luxury but a necessity. In a $1000 or $2500 system, there simply isn't money for $500 interconnects or $1000 speaker cables. Even a $5000 system—which most of my well-educated, music-loving, affluent friends view as pretty extravagant, by the way—can't accommodate premium cables like the Nirvana, Synergistic Research, or Nordost models that we reviewers rave about as "critical to getting the most out of your system."
Michael Fremer  |  May 12, 2023  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2017  |  2 comments
As I began writing this column, the terrible news arrived that Armando "AJ" Conti, founder of Basis Audio, had died of a heart attack at 59. A talented designer of turntables and tonearms, AJ was one of the warmest and more thoughtful people in the High End. Whenever I entered the Basis room at a Consumer Electronics Show, I had to be prepared to spend the next hour or more talking with AJ—not only about audio, but about coffee, motorcycling, metallurgy, or any other of his many passions . . .
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 23, 2022  |  3 comments
The AXIOM tonearm from acoustical systems (footnote 1)—the company prefers lowercase—has been on my To-Review list since I spotted it at Munich High End more than a few years ago, but for one reason or another, that never happened. Until now.
Brian Damkroger  |  Mar 28, 2004  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2002  |  0 comments
We've all got our pet peeves, and one of mine is stiff, unwieldy audio cables that simply refuse to bend to my will—or to bend at all. Instructions like "carefully bend to final configuration, ensuring that no bend is sharper than a 36" radius" make my blood boil. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Audience's willowy Au24 cable and wonderfully flexible powerChord positively warmed my heart when I encountered them at the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Brian Damkroger  |  Dec 20, 2013  |  1 comments
A reader once noted that I tend to stick with the same reference gear longer than most reviewers. In addition to Audience's Au24e interconnect, I've been using Nordost's Valhalla, Nirvana's S-X, and Stereovox's SEI-600II for many years. They're ancient in audiophile terms, and, other than the Audience cables, have long since been discontinued or replaced. However, they are still excellent, and conveniently define a continuum of qualities that I use to assess cables. At one end, the Nordost Valhalla is sharply focused and excels at reproducing transients. At the other end, the Nirvana S-X strips away electronic grunge, and beautifully conveys the continuity of the space and musical flow. The Au24e and Stereovox are near the middle and share many—but not all—of the others' strengths.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 28, 2010  |  0 comments
Call me shallow, but what first attracted me to Audience's Au24 cables when I reviewed them in August 2002 was their looks. In contrast to superstiff cables as thick as garden hoses, the Au24s were slender and elegant. They were wonderfully flexible, too, and even their custom-made RCA plugs were slim and easy to handle. Instead of having to fiddle with a system of locking collet and barrel, merely slipping them on resulted in a tight, solid connection. Compared to the Au24s, a sizable number of audiophile cables seemed excessive, even a little foolish.
Art Dudley  |  Aug 22, 2004  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2004  |  0 comments
A man dies and goes to hell, and Satan meets him at the gate: "Just this once, I'm going to let a newcomer choose his own torment," he says as he leads the deceased from room to room, opening doors on all manner of abuse—burning, flaying, Lou Reed's The Raven, you name it.
Brian Damkroger  |  Jun 22, 2003  |  0 comments
Being a metallurgical engineer, I've always been intrigued by audio cables—their construction, the materials they're made of, how they're produced, and, of course, how all of that relates to their sound. Over the years, I've auditioned a wide range of cables, from Nordost's round conductors in a flat cable, to Alpha-Core's flat cables in a round conductor, to MIT's complex termination systems. I've even got a closet full of cables—some quite good—from companies that no longer exist.
Brian Damkroger  |  May 01, 2005  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2005  |  0 comments
It's not unusual for a high-end audio company to originate in another segment of the high-tech electronics world, but it is a bit unusual when the spin-off is a cable company. That's the case with Empirical Audio, whose founder, Steve Nugent, spent 25 years as a digital hardware designer for Unisys and Intel. The key is that, in addition to standard design work, he chased "the more esoteric sides of design, namely grounding, shielding, ESD (electrostatic discharge), EMI (electromagnetic interference), transmission-line effects, and power delivery." Voilà—cable design.
Herb Reichert  |  Aug 11, 2022  |  29 comments
I was born an obsessive reader and a compulsive tinkerer. During the '60s, I subscribed to Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Hot Rod, Car Craft, Motor Trend, Road & Track, and (of course) Stereo Review and High Fidelity. Every one of those magazines presented articles discussing the importance of upgrading stock wiring to better-quality "premium" wires, citing improved electrical performance and greater reliability.
Herb Reichert  |  Jun 02, 2022  |  20 comments
I have this friend, a smart, good-looking young physicist from Argentina. Naturally, I call him "Gaucho." He lives in a glistening-white steel-and-glass apartment overlooking lower Manhattan. I visit him regularly, usually with a group of audio friends, mainly to compare recordings, drink wine, and talk hi-fi.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 29, 2024  |  15 comments
Decades ago, when I was peddling million-dollar sound systems, an astute potential customer asked me: "If I buy your very expensive system, what will I get that I'm not getting with my less expensive system?" Smiling my best fatherly smile, I whispered to his ear, "Goosebumps, tears, and laughter."

With a slightly worried look, he asked, "How much did you say those silver cables cost?"

Thirty years later
Changing audio cables always changes the sound of my system, sometimes a lot but usually just a little. Typically, the sonic effects of cable changes are modest shifts in focus, tone, or transparency. But sometimes during blue moons I've seen a new set of cables turn a blah, dull, fuzzy system into a macrodynamic, microdetailed one. Or turn a cool, mechanical-sounding system into something fierce and mammalian.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 25, 2003  |  0 comments
The dCS Verdi/Purcell/Elgar system's ultra-high resolution and superb focus, and its ability to drive an amplifier directly, provided a good opportunity to compare my current reference cables, Harmonic Technology's Magic Woofer ($2000/8' set) and Pro-Silway II interconnects ($399/m pair, $240/add'l. meter) with Analysis Plus's far less expensive Solo Crystal Oval 8 speaker cable ($969/8' set) and Solo Crystal Oval 8 interconnect ($399/m, longer lengths available).
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 21, 2005  |  0 comments
When no one's watching, it's easy to express your opinion. When tens of thousands of people are reading over your shoulder, it becomes more difficult. In fact, it can be downright creepy—especially when what you're thinking sounds like one of those grand, all-encompassing (over)statements you yourself tend to distrust. You don't want to be wrong; on the other hand, if you're too much of a wuss to express what you reallythink just because someone might take it as grandiose, then it's time to give up.

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