2017 Editors’ Selection Awards: Cables and Interconnects beneath $1000

Transparent Audio The Link interconnect, The Wave speaker cable, PowerWave 8 AC conditioner
$ 100/1m pr., interconnect $ 220/8′ pr., speaker $ 125, Overall performance Energy Hyperlink $ 1195 PowerWave eight
The $ 100 The Link interconnect brings more than a taste of high-end interconnects to an entry-level value. Similarly, the $ 220 The Wave speaker cable is a bargain, offering superior tonality, wider dynamics, and a a lot more open soundstage. The PowerWave 8 conditioner is also an extremely price-efficient upgrade, rendering wider dynamic expression, smoother timbres, and higher musical involvement.

Wireworld Nano Eclipse
$ 175/1.5m
Nano Eclipse is about midway up Wireworld’s complete line of headphone cables, but it does not skimp in supplies or sonics. Eclipse is composed of OCC high-purity copper conductors in a DNA helix configuration surrounded by Wireworld’s Composilex 2 insulation. The result is so efficient that switching from a stock headphone cable to the Nano tends to make a distinction commensurate with significantly upgrading the headphones themselves. AT claims it’s not possible to overstate how much the Wireworld opens up, cleans up, and tightens up the sound. A no-brainer for any reasonably high-quality personal audio setup.

Audience Ohno
$ 199/1m (+$ 82/m) interconnect $ 209/1m (+$ 20/m) speaker
Audience’s new worth line of Ohno cables runs counter to the thought that fantastic wire usually demands heavy jacketing and complex conductor geometries. Sonically these featherweights were fast and extended with well-focused imaging and dimensionality. Most significantly they were not additive, nor did they crimp dynamics. They were also easy to position for desktop use, providing an unerring sense of musicality without having busting the budget.

Moon Audio Silver Dragon V1 IEM Cable
$ 195/48″
The Silver Dragon V1 IEM headphone cable is a drop-in replacement for use with in-ear monitors where light weight and flexibility are critical. The Silver Dragon IEM is a coaxial design utilizing a 99.99998% UP-OCC stranded silver 26AWG center-conductor for the positive leg. The center-conductor uses the identical Kevlar reinforcing as other Dragon cables. Accessible with numerous source connection alternatives as properly as terminations to match several brands.

Wireworld Equinox 7
$ 200/1m pr. unbalanced interconnect $ 225/1m pr. balanced $ 870/3m pr. speaker
Falling correct smack in the middle of Wireworld’s extensive new Series 7 line, the Equinox seems to be great value. The interconnect presented a pleasingly rounded and warm presentation not unlike that of Cardas Clear Light, even though the Equinox 7 speaker cable was quite related to the Cardas Clear Sky in sonics. Superb hum and noise rejection.

Kimber Kable Hero
$ 219/1m pr.
Yielding only a tiny bit in sheer handle, ultimate top-finish transparency, and inner detailing to PS’ reference Kimber Select KS-1021, Hero’s bass lives up to its name, prodigious in amplitude and definition (rather much better even than its pricier brother). This interconnect is either dead neutral or tilts a notch to the yang, with dynamics at after strong yet finely resolved in an basically grain-free presentation.

Nordost Purple Flare
$ 259/1m pr. interconnect ($ 26 per addl. half-meter pr.) $ 439/1m pr. speaker ($ 52 per addl. half-meter pr.)
Featuring Nordost’s classic flatline configuration the Purple Flare is a rung beneath the present incarnation of Blue Heaven, however it is a tiny trip to heaven on its personal. It genuinely shines in the midband with a driving, slightly forward energy that imparts dynamic liveliness to all genres of music.

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Wireworld Nano Eclipse and Crystal Cable Subsequent Headphone Cables

Headphones are diverging into two camps: these intended for millennials and those with audiophiles in thoughts. At a single point, it appeared that some models at the upper finish could satisfy each constituencies. However, even though very good sound is critical to both groups, it has turn out to be increasingly clear that millennials and audiophiles use their ’phones in distinct approaches, and consequently demand distinctly diverse feature sets.

For millennials, it’s all about portability and smartphone compatibility. That translates to headphones with ear pads that can fold flat, the ability to patch by way of telephone calls, and a cable that includes a microphone for such calls. Millennial-oriented cans might also support Bluetooth, in which case there will also be a constructed-in volume control, DAC, and amp in the signal path. It goes with no saying that serious audiophile headphones eschew each a single of these functions. Each and every of them either adds expense without improving sound, or is actively detrimental sonically.

Now, one more purely sonically oriented feature has located its way to the latest audiophile headphones: a detachable cable. As when detachable energy cords replaced captive cords in audio elements, detachable headphone cables enable the use of aftermarket alternatives. You won’t discover this function on cans meant for millennials, who prize simplicity. But for audiophiles, selecting and making use of aftermarket cables are old hat. Moreover, audiophiles know that aftermarket cables and power cords make a considerable difference in the sound of their audio systems. Why shouldn’t the same hold accurate for headphones?

At this year’s CES, I noted several audiophile cable organizations jumping into this fertile territory, so I arranged to borrow two samples at diverse price points. At the higher end is the Crystal Cable Subsequent, a shimmering, thin strand that oozes quality. In keeping with the cable’s minimalist profile, the terminators are compact and effortless to deal with. (I located, nonetheless, that the terminators didn’t operate with all of my headphones, so be certain to test that before auditioning.) Crystal put a lot of effort into creating a headphone cable that is thin, light and flexible, yet powerful sufficient to stand up to the tugging and twisting inherent in headphone use. An aramid fiber core provides the cable its strength with out compromising flexibility. The transparent outer sleeve is hypo-allergenic and soft to the touch. Inside, the Crystal Cable Next is no much less uncompromising. The conductors are a high-purity proprietary silver/gold alloy. Shielding is silver-plated mono-crystal copper, reminiscent of Crystal’s high-end interconnects.

If that sounds to you like it’s going to add up to one thing pricey, you’re correct. All that R&ampD and component quality pushes the cost of this cable to $ 750. I gulped when I first heard the price soon after all, that’s more than many a great set of cans. But then I realized that it’s not uncommon in the higher finish for prime-tier cables to expense more—sometimes far more—than midrange components. A tiny calculating further informed me that a set of the very best ’phones plus an suitable transportable player (e.g., the Astell&ampKern AK380) or a severe headphone amp would easily set a buyer back more than $ 5k. In that context, a cable at this price tag point—assuming it tends to make a important sonic difference—is not out of line.

Nonetheless, I also wanted to evaluate a a lot more modestly-priced supplying. Luckily, a single of my stops at CES was the Wireworld room. There, David Salz treated me a demo of his whole range of headphone cables, the Nano series, which runs the gamut from $ 45 to $ 450. For me, the sweet spot in the line was appropriate in the middle: the $ 175 Nano Eclipse. At this price, the cable is an cost-effective adjunct to even modest headphone/amp/player rigs.

Physically, the Eclipse is slim by high-end interconnect requirements, but beefier than the Crystal Cable Next. The cable evinces Wireworld’s traditionally higher develop-top quality, correct down to its brawny terminators. Internally, the Eclipse is composed of OCC high-purity copper conductors in a DNA helix configuration surrounded by Wireworld’s Composilex 2 insulation. Upper-range Nano models substitute silver conductors for copper, but in the course of my CES audition I concluded that that change came with some tradeoffs. Eventually, the Eclipse won me more than with its sound and value.

To take the measure of these cables, I employed them as an integral part of my evaluation of Astell&ampKern’s new flagship AK380 transportable player (see evaluation elsewhere in this problem). My targets were twofold. Initial, I wanted to determine how a lot aftermarket cables differed from the stock wire supplied with headphones. Secondly, I was curious as to regardless of whether there was a sizable sonic difference in between two headphone cables in distinctly various price tag ranges. The headphones I employed for this endeavor have been the NAD VISO HP50 ($ 299). Don’t be fooled by their modest price these are excellent cans. They also take place to be the greatest I have with a detachable cable. (I do own more bespoke headphones, but they are not new sufficient to have a detachable cable.) 

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Munich Higher End 2016: Cables and Power Goods

The 2016 Munich Higher Finish Show has arguably turn out to be the most important high-performance audio show in the world. It continues to develop, boasting much more than 500 exhibitors, 316 of which hail from other countries. Whereas firms utilized to time their new product launches for introduction at the Customer Electronics Show, an escalating quantity are premiering their new creations in Munich or presenting their European debuts at the show.

Even though the Munich Show is excellent for seeing a lot of terrific new gear, the sound is normally not quite very good. With the MOC’s external shell created largely of glass in a 28,361-square-meter space, it’s akin to trying to get wonderful sound in a room at an airport terminal. That mentioned, several firms had been in a position to overcome this impediment and produce excellent, if not fantastic, sound.

Not surprisingly, two of best sounds I heard in Munich have been systems demo’d at off-site areas. At regional dealer MySound, the Wilson Audio Alexx loudspeakers, Pass Labs electronics, and MIT cables and articulation consoles sounded terrific. At the Hifi Deluxe Show at the Munich Marriott, I also enjoyed a a lot more cost-effective technique featuring a Brinkmann Bardo turntable/’arm with Pi cartridge, with the Zesto Audio Leto, Bia, and Andros 1.2 electronics (on an Audiophilar rack), driving Joseph Audio Profile speakers utilizing Cardas Clear Beyond speaker cables and Clear interconnects and power cables.

The cable and energy products category might not be the sexiest, but numerous producers demonstrated how even modestly priced cables can assist draw out greater overall performance from one’s program. It’s no surprise that the very best-sounding systems in Munich also sported higher-good quality cables, energy merchandise, and accessories.

Five Most Significant Cable and Energy Goods

Music Interface Technologies (MIT) Articulation Manage Consoles
’s new 169, 206, and 268 Articulation Control Consoles sport three controls more than three sections of the bandwidth that permit the listener to optimize the efficiency in challenging rooms and across various gear. These items will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows due to their considerable prices, but based on what I heard in Munich, they do bring one particular closer to the sound of a reside overall performance. Mated to MIT’s Oracle SHD cables, they helped make some of the greatest sounds in Munich, each at the MOC in a method with Magico’s S5 Mk II loudspeakers, Constellation electronics, and a Dr. Feickert turntable/’arm with a Lyra Etna cartridge, as effectively as at regional dealer MySound where, as referenced earlier, the new Wilson Alexx speakers have been driven by Pass Labs XA 160.eight monoblocks and XS preamplifier. MIT’s Kent Loughlin said this new technology “pushes the power forward,” significantly like what you really feel in the course of a reside efficiency. There was an aliveness and naturalness in each of these systems, and I could really feel the air pressure on my chest, like I do at a live concert. Robert Harley will be placing the 268 Articulation Manage Console by means of its paces in an upcoming assessment.

Shunyata Investigation Hydra “Denali” Series Power Conditioners
’s new Hydra Denali series (called the Eiger series in Europe) of energy conditioners utilizes new filters created for the manufacturer’s power merchandise for the healthcare imaging field. This technology appears to be really a breakthrough because it substantially reduces noise and increases resolution. I was amazed at the distinction in clarity on heart scan pictures using Shunyata’s “medical” filters, and assume it will offer you comparable benefits to audio enthusiasts. The flagship 6000T gives two high-existing outlets and 4 source/preamp outlets with the new “medical” filters and a 30-amp electromagnetic breaker. The 6000S ($ 3995) is related, but is a shelf unit with a 20-amp breaker. Both should be shipping inside the next month. Whilst the Denali units were on passive show, Shunyata cabling and energy products contributed to the outstanding sound (on Day three) of the MartinLogan Neolith loudspeakers driven by Constellation electronics and its Continuum Obsidian turntable with Viper ’arm. Resolution was superb.

Nordost Reference Internal Tonearm Wire
One particular may feel that the internal wire of a tonearm wouldn’t make a major sonic difference as long as the ’arm was wired with high-good quality cable, but you’d be incorrect! In a unique demo utilizing a VPI Avenger ’table with two VPI 3D tonearms and cartridges that had been identical save for the internal tonearm wire, I was capable to hear the difference 1st-hand. With the Nordost Reference internal wire in the tonearm, the sound was drastically more transparent and detailed, and had better bass definition than in the stock ’arm with its Discovery cable. Of course, when the tonearm cables themselves were upgraded from Nordost Heimdall 2 to Valhalla two, the sound became much far more holographic and 3-dimensional, with noticeable gains in resolution and transparency. Who stated cables do not make a difference? Although these cables debuted at CES, Nordost was among the several makers introducing new digital cables to the European industry, introducing its Blue Heaven and Heimdall 2 Ethernet cables, and TYR two digital interconnects (both SPDIF and AES/EBU), as effectively as Blue Heaven headphone cables featuring Nordost’s micro mono-filament technology and at least nine different termination possibilities! If you have a high-performance headphone, Nordost seems to have a cable resolution that will match your demands.

Crystal Cable Next
According to Crystal Cable’s Gabi Rijnveld, higher-high quality cables might make an even bigger distinction in personal audio than they do in stereo systems. Crystal Cable’s Subsequent earphone cables ($ 899) use a mixture of proprietary silver-gold conductors and mono-crystal copper. They are quite versatile and lightweight, and are designed to survive rough use with no snapping or breaking. Right here are high-efficiency earphone cables that sound fantastic and make you really feel like you’re hardly wearing them. I half anticipated them to float in air! Crystal Cable Next is accessible exclusively through Astell&ampKern.

AudioQuest Niagara 7000 and 1000 Power/Noise Dissipation Systems
Designer Garth Powell demonstrated these new power items in active systems for their European debuts. The Niagara 7000 ($ 9000) is the flagship in the AudioQuest line with “dielectric-biased AC isolation transformers” to lessen non-linear distortions. It also offers transient energy correction, as effectively as a patented ground-noise-dissipation method. Inserting the Niagara 7000 ($ 9000) into the demo program resulted in clearer highs, more dynamic influence, broader and deeper soundstaging, and much less muddy bass. With six outlets in its sleek chassis, the Niagara 1000 ($ 1200) supplied considerably of that efficiency improve (reported to be 80 to 85 %) at a considerably decrease price tag. Even though it lacks the isolation transformers and transient energy correction technologies of its bigger brother, it does use AudioQuest’s noise dissipation technology. With its one particular high-current outlet and 5 outlets for sources and/or preamps, the Niagara 1000 is a excellent way to go for smaller sized systems.

Auspicious Debuts

Purist Audio 30th Anniversary USB and AC Power Cables
To help commemorate its 30 years of crafting audio cables (I nevertheless own a set of the “Texas Water Cables”), Purist Audio has added a new USB ($ 1500) and AC energy cable ($ 15,000) to its line. Purist isolates the data signal from the energy in its USB cable to aid open up the cable musically, and employs a tuned ferrite to block interference. It is made for optimal functionality up to 5 meters. Purist’s 30th Anniversary Power Cord is stated to drastically enhance upon the performance of the company’s 25th Anniversary Energy Cord and is comprised of a custom wire bundle of single crystal silver conductors, with Contego material for improved dampening and shielding, as well as enhanced AC energy conditioning circuitry. This 8-gauge power cord is terminated with Furutech’s Nano Crystal2 Formula (NCF) connectors. These 30th Anniversary Purist Audio cables helped make a extremely all-natural but detailed sound in the demo technique.

Cardas Clear Network (CAT 7) Cable
In addition to displaying its humongous Specific Edition connectors for nuclear power plants, Cardas also debuted its new Clear Network (CAT 7) ($ 400) Ethernet cable utilizing eight 24 AWG Cardas strong-core conductors, arranged in shielded pairs, with each pair possessing its personal drain wire. It also employs premium Telegartner RJ45 connectors. As highlighted earlier, Cardas Clear Beyond speaker cables and Clear interconnects paired with Zesto electronics, and Joseph Audio Profile speakers created a extremely natural sound with very very good transparency and focus at the Hifi Deluxe Show.

Skogrand Beethoven Series Cables
expanded its flagship Beethoven line with all new digital cables (USB two., 75-ohm, and AES/EBU), as nicely as a new AC energy cord, to complement its Beethoven speaker cables and interconnects. The Beethoven’s feature “ultra pure” solid-core copper with a one hundred-percent air dielectric (so the cables “float in air”) and utilize 3 layers of shielding. In a system with Lampizator electronics, a Kronos Sparta turntable, and Emme “Galileo” speakers, the sound was really detailed with lightning-quick transients without having any smearing across a broad and deep soundstage. The technique had fantastic dynamic punch although the bass was a bit boomy since of the space.

Swisscables GmbH
These incredibly lightweight cables had been on passive display. They use an sophisticated air-dielectric style to eradicate micro discharge interface distortion (MDI), thereby assisting to make a much more all-natural sound field in the listening area. No synthetic polymers are used as dielectrics, and the cables use strong-core conductors developed from a copper alloy by way of a specialized procedure named continuous casting to steer clear of tensions, discontinuities, and micro-gaps in the molecular crystal lattice. They are distributed in the U.S. by Audioarts.

Very best Sound (Cost No Object)
At maybe the very best dealer showroom I’ve ever visited, MySound, the Wilson Alexx was paired with Pass Labs electronics, a Sound Devices 744T recorder into a Meitner DAC, and MIT cables and interconnects, like MIT’s new ACC 268 articulation consoles. On a great recording by Peter McGrath of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, the piano sounded quite all-natural and realistic, with concussive effect, wonderful concentrate, and stunning timbre. This demonstration in an optimized room showed how great this speaker can be.

Very best Sound (For the Money)
HiFiMan’s new SuperMini hi-res portable player ($ 399) is a bargain and is so small it fits in your pocket. It weighs only 2.4 ounces and maintains its battery charge for roughly twenty-two hours.

Most Significant Item Introduction
MIT’s Articulation Consoles bring a single closer to the sound of a reside efficiency.

Most Considerable Trend
Analog front-ends—there seemed to be far more turntables in Munich than I’ve noticed there just before (or at any other show), and much more exhibitors had been using reel-to-reel tape sources, too.

Most Coveted Product
FM Acoustics 123 phono preamp (€13k) filters out the pops and ticks on your beaten-up records in genuine time without having any dulling of the sound where the scratches had been. Remarkable!

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