Interconnects & Speaker Cables Improve your HiFi

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There is often lots of hype written by manufacturers, but when it comes to HiFi one thing is very true, cables do make a difference, both the interconnects linking the components together but also the speaker cable. Chord Co, Cable Talk, Cambridge Audio, Linn, Naim, Sonic Link, Nordost, QED, Van Den Hul plus others I have tried over the years. However there are reviews on Ebay where the correspondent seem to make misleading statements, be wary especially when they are selling products themselves?  So here is my offering judge it as you will.

Ebay is a good place to experiment as you can buy some great bargains and if you do not like the effect it has in your own system you can simply sell them on. Generally the better your system the better the cables it deserves. The old rule of thumb was to spend 10% of your component value on the cable to link it in, FORGET THAT NOW. In my system some of the cables are approx 30% of the component value and were definitely worth the money, making the sound so much bigger, better, clearer, more exciting, more emotional, I could go on and on, lets just say I am very impressed.

INTERCONNECTS

You must at the very least ditch the thin freebie that comes with your unit, buy some new ones now! A really good cable lets all of the information pass but most cables will add an effect by impeding some of the frequencies and therefor will 'colour' the sound.

Is there an ideal interconnect for all systems? NO. Each product will have a different effect, but of course how you perceive it depends on your personal taste, the components and the listening enviroment. To give you an example I thought I wanted more Bass from my Linn system so I added  Chord Company Chorus Interconnects, what a fantastic result compared to the Chord Chameleon Cables they replaced, the Bass was so much deeper and powerful, but the balance of sound meant that the mid range became less prominent and singers voices disappeared into the background, which spoilt my enjoyment. the treble however had a lovely vibrant but not too bright sound. To regain the balance but also to gain a huge improvement in detail and emotion albeit with less bass weight, I have stepped up to Anthems which are very well balanced with my system and sound fantastic with all types of music, folk, jazz, rock, heavy metal and Christmas Carols (my wife insists).

Always use your best Interconnects at the source end, an amplifier will amplify a good signal if it gets it, but it is just as good at amplifying a poor quality signal if thats what it receives.

What would I recommend? As the bare minimum Cambridge Audio Pacific Interconnects (Older versions are Yellow, newer version is Silver/Grey), these have always sold for around £30 at Richer Sounds and crop up frequently on ebay. For the money they are brilliant cables and if your components are around £100/150 each then you cannot go wrong with these. Next step up look out for Chord Chameleon or Cable Talk Reference, you should find them for around £40 to £80 on ebay, both are admirable performers and I still own one of each. Physically the Chameleon's are more flexible and the Reference are quite thick and less supple (just in case there is little room at the back of your system), however the Reference would not be out of place in a £2000+ system. The Chord Chorus, again great cables at around £100 on ebay with that Huge Bass and sweet treble, but you need to put them in a system which is currently mid range prominent, unless you like Metal, Thrash or Drum n Bass. My favorites have to be the Chord Anthems they are just so very good with deep solid base, sweet treble, detail in abundance, wide and precise soundstage and plenty of emotion, these are worth putting in any system where the components are half decent. You could get the upgrade you desire without forking out far more on a component change. Can you go better than these? yes you can, but I have not been there yet and I question if I actually need to as there is a point of diminishing return and I think where I have got to with my system is as good as it needs to be.

Interconnects I did not like. I was not too keen on Nordost Solar Wind, admittedly a cheaper cable within their range, but they were very dry in sound to my ears, plenty of detail but somehow uninvolving with poor base extension and a tizzy top end in my system. What also put me off of the range was the flimsy ribbon construction which at the back of the average HiFi system was very difficult to feed through the spaghetti without kinking them. Linn Black Analogue, again for the price they are better than freebies but not a patch on the others listed above. Van Den Hul mcd 102, the very first 'good' cable I bought and at the time I thought they were fabulous. I don't know if the cable ages or if the other offerings have just come on in recent years, but on a head to head the VDH were very disappointing, quite dull and lack luster and without the musical detail that others could convey. My old Sonic Link Silver Pink, (no longer a current brand now Black Rhodium), at the time were highly reviewed but again I don't know if the silver ages or whether things have moved on but these were one of the first sets of leads to be sold on via ebay along with Cable Talk Monitor 2 Interconnects which also seemed dull and muddied amongst the other leads above.

SPEAKER CABLE

We all know bell wire is a no no, but some of the so called better and more expensive cables are not much better. Linn LK20 dull and heavy in sound and looks, Van Den Hull Clearwater should have been named muddy water, both are older thick rope weave designs in a dumb bell configuration. Unless you have a very bright system and the speaker cable will be the only change then these products might find a home. If you have the time to go and listen check out Chord Company, Ecosse and QED cables. QED cables have to be first choice if you are on a low budget but the other two brands produce some fantastic cable, I have used Ecosse cables to replace the internal wires in my speakers and what a huge improvement that £50 investment made. Currently I am running Chord Company 'Odyssey 2' bi wired speaker cables from two power amps and these cables just sing, plenty of detail, loads of space, deep base, clean clear mid range and a vibrant and lively top end. For a middle of the road option they are my recommendation but just be aware that in a bright system they may not be the best choice. The cheaper Chord Rumour cables are also good but a tad brighter and slightly less bass weight. Kimber (Russ Andrews) cables always get good reviews but I have never owned any so I could not comment, they are usually fairly expensive and have ardent fans so keep an eye out for a bargain in the auctions, if you do not like them then they will sell easily on ebay.

OTHER TIPS

BE WARY OF REVIEWERS WHO ARE ALSO SELLERS. As I have said in this review there are some very well known and respected manufacturers whose cable products sometimes do not come up to the mark, so if you are buying an unbranded 'High End Audiophile' product, or a cable that promises the earth where is the proof? Statements like 'BUY THE THICKEST SPEAKER CABLE' are VERY MISLEADING. There are some excellent 'thickish' offerings out there, Ecosse ES 2.3 for one (3mm2), but there are also products that perform brilliantly such as QED and Kimber at approx 2.5mm2 cross section and the Ecosse es 2.15. Check out the major munufacturers web sites and all of them state that the wire used is only part of the story, how it is treated and bunched/twisted/guage used and what is wrapped around it (insulation layer(s)) also have an effect.We can all be blinded by science and terminology but when it comes to HiFi cables we are buying them judged on their performance and how they assist in reproducing sound, NOT JUST THE THICKEST.

REMEMBER POWER DOWN your system when taking out or putting in any connectors/plugs, some systems have built in short out protection, but just don't take the risk. Power amps especially take a while to discharge all of their energy so when unplugging speakers allow a little more time and make sure the two wires do not come together.

ISOLATE YOUR COMPONENTS and speakers from external vibrations by using good solid stands, ideally ones with spikes to keep surface contact to a minimum, if you have to use a standard item of furniture or a shelf invest in isolation spikes/cones, or at the very least use some small nuts (the ones used on bolts not Walnuts etc) and bed them into Blue Tack, three or four per speaker and component. The blue tack stops the unit slipping and with speakers especially you will notice a huge improvement especially in Bass solidity.

SURGE PROTECTION is a must for your electronics, just in case there is a mains spike. For a few quid trailing leads or specialist plugs will prevent damage to your components and in some cases built in filters claim to improve the sound of your system by filtering out the mains borne RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) from other appliances such as fridges and freezers.

CLEAN CONTACTS REGULARLY, with most connectors/plugs simply by taking them out and putting them back in a few times is more than sufficient. If you have silver coated plugs then ProfiGold or similar cleaner systems should be used to maintain that clean signal path.

Bullet Plugs. If you have the choice of Eichmann Bullets RCA/Phono plug fittings on you interconnects then these little beauties are worth looking in to. I will not give a full review here, other than to say I think they are worth the extra expense.

I hope that you have found some interesting and useful information within my Review and Guide. I have been interested in HiFi actively for thirty years and over those years I have wasted ridiculous amounts of my hard earned cash on howling mistakes just because it looked good or a magazine reviewed something highly. Always trust your own ears and make your own choice, others may not share your choice but it will be right for you.

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