Audio Art Cable SC-5SE Speaker Cable
I recently conducted a speaker cable shootout...on a very small scale...in my home. My system fyi:
MCD500 cd/sacd player
Rega P3/RB300/Exact MkII
Von Schweikert VR5 Anniversaries
MIT CVT term.1 XLRs
A good friend who happens to be an acoustic engineer and musician joined me to lend his golden ears. The cables on hand were my VSA biwires @ $2500; MIT Shotgun MAs @ $4500; the Audio Art SC-5SE (2 prs. in biwire mode) and the Paul Speltz AntiCables.
This will not be a exhaustive review. It will rather be a Cliff Notes version simply because I don't want to descend into the typical audiospeak...bloom, air, liquidity..etc. So in a nutshell:
We only used one track on an SACD: track 5 "Should Have Known Better" from Nickel Creek's THIS SIDE. This particular track is well recorded with a huge soundstage, tight low end and somewhat "hot" vocals.
First on the list were the AntiCables. These things probably sound better than they have a right to but I just couldn't get over the aesthetic, or more appropriately perhaps the AntiAesthetic. I found them difficult to work with and extremely unattractive. Having said that however, they sound better than they have a right to. I played them for a total of approximately 8 hours prior to the shootout so in my book they were broken in. We found them to be just ok...sort of in-your-face and fatiguing. Sorry AntiCable lovers but that was our take.
Next up were the Audio Art SC5-SEs. I had two pairs hooked up in a biwire config, paralleled on the amp end. These babies were by far the most pleasing to look at of any of the participating cables. They have a really nice shiny nylon braided sleeve with violet-colored heat shrink and those beautiful Furutech FP-202(G) locking banana connectors. I dealt with Rob Fritz in getting these cables on a trial basis and I found him to be one of the bright stars in this hobby. He is knowledgeable and passionate about this hobby and extremely customer focused. The SC5s sounded good. Rob describes them as having good low end extension and a bit of warmth. That's pretty much how I would describe them. Lots of detail yet non-fatiguing. All in all, a lot of cable for the money. They drubbed the AntiCables as would be expected.
Next came the VSA biwires. We decided to save the MITs for last since they were the only cable using a network box. The VSAs are a biwire cable employing single crystal Cu in some sort of patented stranding technology...yada yada yada, right? Well that was then...this is now: WOW guys. I have been listening to these things for nearly a year now and didn't realize exactly what I possessed: huge soundstage, phenomenal detail but without a hit of fatigue and a very extended lower register. They bettered the Audio Art SC5-SEs...not by the greatest of margins...but better. And well they should be at about 2.5X the price.
Lastly, the MIT Shotgun MAs. The MA is the latest MIT technology employing a ton of their "articulation poles" and this particular model is the lowest priced pair that is hand-assembled in their CA factory. I must say they look IMPRESSIVE...with those big ole black boxes and hose sized cables. MIT has very little to say in their ads about the copper they use. Turns out it's single cystal Cu in some sort of exotic stranding configuration. The MAs would have to be described as very testosterone-like in their appearance. Great fit and finish and manly...they just have to sound great, right? Well they did actually sound very good. Crystalline highs and deep lows..an expansive sound stage. In fact, the soundstage was somewhat bothersome to us. It seemed that MIT was playing with something...the phasing perhaps...that pushed instruments out to the extreme edges of both channels. It didn't seem to be a problem on most recordings, in fact it was a pretty cool effect on some, but on a few recordings we found it to be distracting. The sound of the MIT cables could be impressive in an audition setting but not sure how it would hold up long term. There are thousands of very happy MIT customers out there and I am not suggesting that they are wrong somehow...the MAs just are not exactly my cup of tea.
We switched back to the VSAs just to confirm our impressions and they were confirmed in spades. I don't know if Albert Von Schweikert and company came up with these cables via exhaustive research or if it was a result of serendipity. Either way, something wonderful is going on and I'm not about to question it.
To summarize, the MITs are a quite expensive cable at $4500. The VSAs are not exactly cheap at $2500. But comparing the two (and this whole thing could very well be system dependent) the VSAs afford a much bigger bang for the buck. At approximately $900 the Audio Art SC5-SEs (this was actually 2-8 ft. prs.) with those exotic connectors and sexy looks are likely as good or better than anything in their price range. Lastly, the AntiCables are a steal at their price point (about $100) but more for a midfi type system, not the high end.
Thanks for indulging me and my long post.