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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Nordost Frey 2 Speaker Cable and Interconnects

Recently upgraded, Frey 2 cable is the sweet-spot wire of Nordost’s mid-priced Norse two collection. In truth it is truly only one player in a a lot bigger bloodline that, in its complexity, begins to resemble the competing factions in Game of Thrones—the addictive HBO series overflowing with intrigue, swords, and sex. And like that Tv show, the cables are christened with Scandinavian names that whisper of royalty and kinship. Nordost’s four collections lead off with Leif and Norse 2, and ascend to reference-caliber Valhalla 2, and culminate with supreme reference Odin/Odin 2. Frey two, even though not very a noble, is flanked in the House of Norse by Tyr at the prime end, and ultimately, a couple of ranks reduced by Heimdall two. I know—it’s complex.

I spoke with Nordost’s Jon Baker regarding modifications that have elevated Frey to its present “2” status. Carried over are the silver-plated 99.99999 OFC copper strong-core conductors, but 1st among the Frey two upgrades are increases in gauge size: the speaker cable from 24 AWG to 22 AWG, and the interconnects from 26 AWG to 24 AWG. The WBT RCA connectors have been replaced by MoonGlo, but Neutriks still prevail for XLR. Moreover, the Frey two interconnect has adopted Dual Micro Mono Filament technology compared with its predecessor’s Micro Mono Filament. Lastly, new mechanical tuning algorithms have re-optimized the line as properly. The Frey 2 power cable (successor to Brahma) uses a new proprietary connector, enhanced mechanical tuning, and enhanced spacing of the Micro Mono Filaments.

My encounter with Frey two reinforced some impressions that I’ve noted about Nordost recently—a gradual evolution of tonal qualities that has brought on me to rethink some earlier critiques. To my ear, Nordost often emphasized sharply focused detail and electrifying micro-dynamic power with a common forwardness and a drier push. It excelled at speed and lightness of foot at the expense of the darker color, energy, and complete-bodied weight in the mids and decrease octaves. These elements just seemed baked into the DNA-cake of Nordost’s conductors and geometry.

Nevertheless, Frey 2 (and to a lesser extent the fine, entry-level Purple Flare that I reviewed in Issue 236) has rebalanced the scales, taking the transient and micro-dynamic components of the past and integrating them with richer mids and a brawnier, meatier bottom end that gives orchestral music more discernable atmosphere and weight. In a word, there’s more fidelity to the reside occasion. A wonderful example was the “Venus” movement from Holst’s The Planets [LSO/Previn: EMI]. Predictably, the Nordost reproduced the finer specifics like the tambourine with distinction correct down to the last rattle. The solo violin, which is prominently featured, was still slightly forward, but a lot more sweetly so and a lot more warmly illuminated. Further along in The Planets, the deepest underpinnings of the orchestra—the low strings and winds—were rich and refined, conveying the weight and mass of our solar system’s biggest planet “Jupiter.” In this aspect, Frey two was startling in the way it delineated these complicated and strong passages that are the hallmarks of this movement.

In this lofty class of cables I expected the presentation to go beyond mere surface reproduction and reveal the air and ambience both in front of and behind the players. In the case of the nouveau-bluegrass band Nickel Creek’s This Side [Sugar Hill], this was largely accomplished. I simply heard just how “clean” these acoustic players’ articulation was—the guitar and mandolin strings sang out with transient speed and authority. But I also noted the wave launch of energy propelling off the soundboard and at least some 3-dimensional physical presence of the players and their instruments. As flat as Nordost cable may appear to the eye, to the ear Frey two retrieved the ambient info of my favorite recordings with three-D ease, such as the soaring acoustics from Laurel Massé’s a cappella folk singing from Feather and Bone [Premonition] and the “found sound” chirps and creaks that find their way onto the tracks in Tom Waits’ converted barn/studio in the course of Mule Variations [Asylum]. Another important beneficiary of the Frey 2’s balance was its far more finely faceted timbre, particularly in complex groupings of string instruments, such as these heard in a classical chamber ensemble its potential to sort out the voices of cello, bass violin, and fiddle during selections from Appalachian Journey [Sony] was equally impressive.

Particular aspects of Frey 2 functionality remain familiar. For instance, during the superb Reference Recording LP of Nojima Plays Liszt [RR-25], Frey 2 expertly captured the artist’s concussive dynamics throughout “The Mephisto Waltz.” And the cut “Joan of Arc” from Jennifer Warnes’ Popular Blue Raincoat [Impex] conveyed a lighter and much more illuminated signature that finely honed the edges of the boundaries of photos, and underscored the lowest-level details. On the other hand, although there was still a little added astringency on the massed strings in the course of “Song For Bernadette,” the vocal air riding high above Warnes’ vocal much more than produced up for this minor coloration.

In comparison to the pricier WyWires Platinum or a private reference like the Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4—cables that closely resemble each other in terms of mellower timing, rounder edges, and higher ambience—Nordost Frey 2 conveyed a slightly cooler, much more modern day take, and seemed a bit faster but dimensionally just a bit shallower. During Peter, Paul and Mary’s “500 Miles” [Warner Bros], Frey two presented acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies that have been very discrete even though the volume gradations of every single note sung have been not as finely expressed. By comparison, the WyWires and Synergistic presented up the very same track with darker resonant textures and finer low-level contrast. Whereas the Nordost was bit tighter and punchier in the bass, the other pairs contrasted with a more musically tuneful and acoustically looser low finish. It practically became a matter of comparing the very best of solid-state with tubes—different but equally valid presentations according to one’s preferences and listening biases. Frey two power cords deserve some special props and probably a separate evaluation, but space restrictions limit my remarks here. Suffice it to say, they imparted supernaturally quiet black backgrounds for supporting the low-level resolving energy that the Frey two cable displayed.

In my world—a small neck of the woods I contact Reality—a cable of the class that the Nordost Frey 2 represents is a damned critical expenditure. Even so, its expense is commensurate with high-end systems in the $ 15k–$ 25k range, the sweet-spot for sophisticated audiophiles. In that context Frey two is an exceptional performer from a established brand that through the decades has continued to evolve and enhance. Audition with confidence. You will not be disappointed.


Price: Speaker $ 2924/pr. 2m interconnect $ 1459/1m power cord, $ 1679/1m

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