I went "Ga-Ga" over the Nordost SPM's (4 meter bi-wire into Rogers LS 3/5a's with the AB-1 passive subs.) Power is by Atma-sphere M60-Mk 2.2 mono's. The SPM's just seem to have an incredible sense of timing and pace. Maybe there are other cables that have a better bass, mid-range, or treble presentation, but this cable seems to exhibit an overall balance and detailing that presents MUSIC and not just articulated sounds.
I sometimes sound like a curmudgeon on this topic, so please forgive me in advance. First, no cable -- speaker, interconnect, etc. -- should "blow you away". If it "blows you away", it's because it is NOT sounding natural. A truly accurate cable shouldn't have any identifiable sound of its own. Second, I think the price being charged for most high-end speaker cables is obscene. It's WIRE for Pete's sake, not gold-plated latinum! Having made these two points -- and possibly raising the ire of some -- I will respond to your question and say that the best speaker wire I have owned or heard is Kimber Kable 4TC and 8TC. It's the best to my ears because, from what I can tell, it makes virtually no impact on the reproduced sound -- which is exactly what it should do. Ray Kimber for years was one of the few really sane people making high-quality speaker cable and IC's -- and I was sorry to see him jump on the high-priced bandwagon. When it comes to wire, expensive does not often translate into better. I've auditioned a fair variety of high-end speaker cables, and I keep coming back to ole' reliable: Kimber 4TC and 8TC.
Coincident Total Reference
As a former user of Kimber 8TC on my ProAc Response 3s (now replaced by Gallo Ultimates) Ican honestly say that I've found MapleshadeCleaview (Double Golden Helix) cables to be superior in every way. I was using bi-wired Kimbers and Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade recommended going with single links and a pair of his jumpers (thin copper foil). At $280for an 8-foot pair, I think it's an outstanding bargain too.
I agree with sdcampbell that the best cable should be the cable that seems to be the most neutral. To me that would be the cable that doesn't lose what I'm looking for or add what another cable does. My personal favorite is the Synergistic Research Res Ref. I run it, currently in double runs to my main speakers. I was running one set to each speaker, and recently went to double runs due to a deal I couldn't pass up. To be truthful, the difference is very slight when going to double runs. That is how good the single set is. I have listened to them with Watts, Dunlavys, Coincidents, and B&Ws and with a myriad of electronics. When friends are looking for cables, I offer to let them listen to mine in their system. Each speaker/system has performed as expected. None have had a similar emphasis in any sonic way. This would lead me to believe the cabling has no sonic signature, and just carries what it is given.--Be it good or bad.
I agree with Mr. Campbell, a cable should not "blow you away." Speakers can do this, however. Even if you are using lamp cord there should not be a huge difference among cables. The SPM's in my system sounded less focused than a good silver cable. Some of the silver cables I have tried are: Silver Audio, Silver Smith, Pure Note, and Kimber 4AG. These cables all sounded different, some were brighter and others more musical. The jury is still out on my choice.
I was blown away upgrading from DH Labs Silversonic T14 to Analysis PLus Oval 9. A completely different sound. Wider, deeper, more focused, and much fuller.
I disagree with Mr. Campbell. (though I still think he's a great guy). I was actually blown away when I replaced my nordost red dawn/harmonic tech/analysis+ cabling with all nordost quattro-fil i/c's and spm speaker cable. My friend who was there too was blown away too. My system's resolution increased tremendously. (it should have given the cost increment!) Much more of a difference than I would have thought possible. I find these cables simply increased the resolution of the system. I did try several other cables, and to me, they were the best. This initial test was done using ARC vt100m2, ARC Ref 1, and Vandersteen 5's.
I also used these with audio physic virgo's, magnepan 1.6QR's, and now audio physic avanti-centuries. They just have this grain free, very open, high resolution quality to them. Some other silver cables had the same high resolution, but at the expense of this graininess or harshness.
Some speakers which emphasize low level detail a little less, like the vandersteens (and the magnepans), do not benefit as much. Others such as the Audio Physic avanti-centuries, see enourmous benefits. I'm not knocking vandersteens or magnepans - they excell over the AP's in other areas. (bass and orchestral soundstage)
One thing I found interesting is that my magnepan 1.6's and some borrowed wolcott p220's produced some of the best sound I have ever heard using these cheap brown and black kimber biwire cables I obtained on a trade. Magnepans have this slight (very), very low level background noise to them that seems to make big-dolla speaker cables less effective.
I found out Home Depot is clearing out their 'audiophile quality' cables and interconnects. I bought two 25 ft. rolls of Carol 16 ga. silver plated OFC wire for $10.00 each. WOW! Best bang for the buck, gentlemen...
Take a look inside your amplifier. See what type of wire the designer has used to connect the output stage to the binding posts. Regardless of whom the manufacturer is, I'd be surprised if it's anything more than Belden or something along those lines. Take a look at the wires inside your speakers, connecting the binding posts to the crossover, and on to the drivers.
Now imagine a two-lane road going to a four-lane bridge, and then back to a two-lane road on the other side. Doesn't make much sense, does it?
Anything over $300 retail for speaker cables is excessive.
Guess I'm very "excessive" based on the previous post :)
MIT Oracle V2/Spectral Ultra Wide-Band.
Phenomenal speaker cables.
Destroyed Synergistic Designer's Reference, which are very highly rated.
Yes, they are VERY expensive, but awesome in the right system.
Read the rather lengthy thread for the Sakura Systems OTL cable half way down the cables page. This 'modest' wire as a revelation.
When considering wire products -- be it speaker, interconnect, or whatever -- bear in mind that wire has the highest profit margin in high-end audio. This provides a HUGE dollar incentive to manufacturers and retailers to make unsubstantiated claims about the product.
Someone who has spent $5large on some garden-hose sized speaker wire, or the latest megabuck "flavor-of-the-month" interconnect, isn't going to take kindly to any suggestion that they may -- just possibly - wasted their money. There was a long thread shortly before this forum got re-vamped talking about "audio susceptibility", and it might be informative to go back and read some of the comments (including the ones I made).
Some of you may, by now, have discovered or subscribed to a new online audiophile journal written by Richard Hardesty, one of the sagest guys for years in the retail audio trade. Richard is now an editor for Widescreen Review magazine, and is publishing his own Internet journal named "The Audio Perfectionist". Here's what Richard Hardesty has to say about cables in Issue #3 of "The Audio Perfectionist":
"High-end cables are the biggest scam in audio, and some of the most expensive ones perform very poorly. But that doesn't mean that cheap ones will do or that cables aren't very important. Cables can dramatically change the sound of an audio system...Good cables are extremely important and the marketplace is a minefield of scam and hype. Anybody with a crimping tool can call himself a cable engineer these days...Don't buy an expensive cable product without carefully listening to it in your own system. Most of the mega-dollar cables are really bad and should be avoided."
sdcampbell: i have found myself in agreement with you more times than not. i can't, however, embrace a "reviewer" like richard hardesty. he says, without foudation, *most of the mega-dollar cables are really bad and should be avoided.* that sentence may stand as an exemplar for the logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc. it is most disturbing to see that inane generalization following a statement that makes perfect sense: *don't buy an expensive cable product without carefully listening to it in your own system*
yes, wire is the most hyped and over-priced "component" in the world of highend. yes, some inexpensive wire sounds as good, and better, in some systems as the highest-of-the-high-priced stuff. but not all high-priced stuff is crap. and kimber doesn't work well in all systems. i've tried many speaker cables in my setup (jrdg modified model 8 > avalon eidolons), from inexpensive to insane. for me, tara' "the one" sounds best. it retails for about $4k per 7 ft. pair. i paid less than half that for a like-new demo pair. i think that a bargain. -kelly
Has anybody had experience with the Kharma Grand Reference stuff?
I would suggest to try the NBS Statement 2.
One speaker cable is not going to be "magic" for all systems. Read Dick Olsher's Tip #22 "In persuit of the perfect conductor" at: http://www.blackdahlia.com/tipindex/tip_25/tip_25.html
While there always seems to be an inappropriate amount of controversy connected with speaker cable, interconnects, etc., there's still no substitute for trial and more trial. Just like a good woman, a good speaker cable is hard to find. And because it's so system dependent, once you find it don't change your amp or speakers, or you may need to change your speaker cables too.
To keep cost low and evaluate the difference in cable try building your own... it takes time and patience but done right (hard to screw up, but easy to fix if you do) you'll end up with a really nice pair of speaker cables and you'll learn along the way.
The recipe on this link set me up with nice sound for little money... http://members.nbci.com/_XMCM/rjmaudio/spk.html
You can also check out...
caveat here is that the text is translated from Italian so sometimes the picture the writer paints may not make much sense, but he does go into more detail than the first site.
Three words..... First Impression Music
N'st's Valhalla has performed exceptionally well with a number of different systems I have listened to, including mine (no, don't have it: way beyond my means). As to blowing me away... maybe I'm becoming a cynic in my old age -- but no cigar.
Otherwise, I'd subsrcibe to Vek's idea of DIY (ref, great discussion on OTA et alia a while back) -- or, "there is a cable for every set of ears and every system".
the nordost 'valhalla' cables are superb. have had them in my system,biamped to my aloia 13.01 amps with piega p10 speakers for over a month now and they are,by far, the best i have had in my system.(that includes cardas,audio tekne)they are extremely fast,beautiful mids and highs and tight,taught bass.are they worth the cost? if you can afford them they are.
I use two pair of Audioquest Dragons to biwire my system and I am pretty happy with the sound.
i compared the valhalla to the transparent opus...no contest. the valhalla had sounded better than all others i had tried; more open, faster, and more resolving. the opus went to another level in openness and mid-range clarity. i wouldn't use the words "killed" or "blew away" since the valhalla sounds great in it's own right. but the difference between the opus and valhalla was bigger than the difference between sacd and cd. there is a special "liveness" from the opus not previously heard by me.
1 potential contender to the opus for "king of the hill" speaker cable would be the siltech "emperor" and kharma grand reference which are both made by siltech. i have not heard either.
I would have to go with Argento VDM reference 2x3m. No other brand has that much inter transient silence (pure black), complet control of the extremes, and ease to the sound. Simply no other cable from the big boys are even close.