Cable shoot-out: FIM against Valhalla

Before I begin with my next summary I would like to explain a few things.
First of all I apologize that my review is lacking a certain sophistication, but I am sure that you must have realized by now, that English is not my mother tongue.
Then I am fully aware, that I have a certain responsibility towards the cable manufacturers also, since these are all hard working people, trying to create an excellent product for their audiophile customers and I can imagine that my reviews could influence certain buying decisions.
All the cables I have received for auditioning are excellent products and even if I find that a cable does not sound optimal in my system when compared to the Valhalla, does not mean that in a different system it will sound a lot better. And please, let us not forget the price of the Valhalla!! This cables 7 times more expensive than most of the cables I review, so doesn’t it deserve to sound a little bit better? But does it mean it is still the superior cable, if you balance the price against the quality of the performance? I am not so sure anymore. It all depends what you are looking for. I personally can live with 10% less performance and save 5 times the money.
My intention was to find the best cables for my system and not the most expensive. I was very curious the see how good the Valhalla would sound in my system and then ventured out to compare certain other brands against the Valhalla. I have never intended to do an absolute cable review, comparing all the cables I have at home against each other and I state also, that I am in no way a professional reviewer or have a top notch system.
This said, I will post another short follow up:
Today I tried the famous FIM cables. I received the bi-wire version and it is a very well build cable also, very thick and pretty stiff. You need to bend the pig-tails a bit in order to make it fit your components, but I find that people have greatly exaggerated that this cable will lift components from the shelf , or break loose from the binding posts. My two Bel Canto Amps are not the heaviest amps in the world, but it took me only 5 minutes per channel to stick the cables to amp and speakers. And I am talking bi-wire here. I cannot see why anybody would have problems with the single wire version, if you bend the pig-tails slightly before installing the spade lugs to the components.
My first impression again was that it does not reach the qualities of the Valhalla in my system. It is a very musical cable, with a detailed sound stage, but the sound is a bit darker, although the bass is less pronounced than compared the Valhalla. It seems that the Valhalla is a pretty lean and very fast cable, the sound of a piano is awesome with the Valhalla, you really can hear the keys “bottom out”, whereas the FIM is heavier sound wise and slower, but maybe a bit more musical than the Valhalla. And I am sure it some systems this could be an advantage for the FIM.
In my system with the Bel Cantos and my Martin Logan Prodigy speakers though, it looks, like a leaner, brighter and faster cable will cater better to my musical taste. Price wise the FIM and Valhalla are pretty close together, the FIM biwire in 8ft. is $4400 whereas it is possible to get 8ft of bi-wired Valhalla for $5000.
So again, I personally tend more towards the Valhalla again, but to me it looks like the FIM has a potential to reach the Valhalla in a different system. That’s why it is so important to audition cables before buying.
After the recent audition, my personal decision would still be the following: (provided I cannot get an excellent deal on used Valhalla): Ensemble speaker cables with Pure Note Epsilon interconnects.
I have a few more cables coming in: Empirical Audio and Virtual Dynamics and I was able to lay my hands on a pair of Siltech Compass Lake interconnects, which are the most expensive interconnects in the world and I am very curious how they will compete against the Valhalla.
I will keep you updated.
Try some cables by Jena Labs. You may be pleasantly surprised!
I would love to try a lot more differentcables, but most of the companies, although the offer a money back warranty, want to be pre-paid first.
Its not that I am scared that I will not get my money back eventually, if I decide not to buy a certain cable, but you can imagine that I have invested almost $12000 in cable money. So I need to send some cables back first, in order to finance another set of trials.
But once this is done, and I have narrowed my choice, I hope, I will have a chance to listen to Jena labs cable.
also, since I read only positive about them.
BTW, is someone out there who would trust me enough and send me these or other cables to audition against the Valhalla?
If yes, please do not hesitate to contact me, I am sure we can work something out, which will protect you and me, but this is a great chance for me to see how different some cables perform.
Nice job Tekunda, My experience with the FIM speaker cable and PC is that it takes hours if not a day or two for it to sound right after it has been installed. Heavy and dark is the way the FIM sounds new. Nothing heavy and dark after break in. Keep playing with the FIM and see if you have the same experience. If you are able you must try the Sakura OTL Cable Kit. I have played with many different wires in the same price range that you are in. IMO the OTA Cable Kit belongs at or near the top in cable performance. Give this skinny, cheap looking stuff a try. It ended my search for cable. Good reviewing and the best of luck.
I stopped playing around with this rather expensive cable, as I am afraid not to receive my money back.
I had to pre-pay the cables and got the promise over the phone, that I would receive a full refund, in case I should decide to send the cables back. But the cables need still to look like new after my review.
When I finally got the box, there was a letter stating, that I will only receive my money back, if the spade lugs will have no marks or dents.
After reading this statement, I should not even have touched these cables anymore. Everybody, who has seen this cable knows, how thick and stiff it is, especially the bi-wired version. In order to make the spades stay at the binding posts, you have to excert a certain amount of pressure on the binding post nuts. If you do not tighten the nuts enough, the cable will slip out immediately, especially at the speakers, where you have 4 pig-tails coming from the main cables.
Now the spades are made of very soft, high polished copper. Of course you will see some marks!! There is no other way around it. If the cable is not tightly squeezed into the binding posts, you will not have enough contact and the sound suffers, as well as the cable will slip out.
As soon as I realized, that I gave the owner ammunition for refusing a refund, I put the cables back into the box.
I mean, this seems to be a bit unreal. If FIM knows exactly that you will leave marks on the spades, even when being extremely careful and they tell you on the other hand, that this will prevent a refund, then they cannot go ahead and send these cables out for audition. I hope, I am not stuck with almost $5000 here.
No way I will hook this cable to my cable cooker and give it a fair chance. I might leave more marks! If the owner prevents his product from being auditioned, because of such unreasonable demands, which cannot be met even with the best intentions, then he is to blame, if he is loosing out on a potential customer, or a better review.
I can imagine that this cable has a great potential, but under the given circumstances, I will send it back immediately, without further audition.
Your concern seems very warranted, Tekunda. I had only a very brief experience with an FIM cable. I had similar concerns. Your post actually reminds me how frustrating this hobby can be sometimes. And I still don't understand why more manufacturers don't break their wire in before sending it out. The cynical part of me says it's because then they can tell people the wire will get much better. I'm not putting down break-in of wire. I believe it's a very real phenomena. Unfortunately, the state of the high-end audio business is such that those of us who are pursuers of musical nirvana have to deal with things afficionados in other areas wouldn't have to. C'est la vie.
So, how valid is your comparison?
Well, after having put several cables on my new Audiodharma cable cooker, I am now in the position to tell that the cable cooker works and that at least the cables I have, did improve after 24 hours.
I stated that I feel the FIM to have a certain potential to improve quite a lot, but I doubt that even with a dramatic change it will reach the Valhalla. I am pretty positive about this from comparing how much a cable has indeed improved after being put on the cooker. It is not like we are talking a 200% upgrade here. We are more talking in the 20% to 30% range here.
But even if I assume for a second, that the FIM would have reached the Valhalla eventually, it is more expensive ($4800 versus $3500 for the Valhalla) and please do not forget the resale value. I am sure, I can sell a used Valhalla cable in a day or two, but a FIM cable in this price range will take a long time to sell. Actually I am looking for a cheaper option than a Valhalla, the FIM would contradict my intentions and I only auditioned it, because a few people claimed it would beat the Valhalla. No way, José!
That's great, the Valhalla worked well for you, in your system. The Valhalla was beat by the FIM in mine. However your statement above, "... No way I will hook it up to my cable cooker and give it a fair chance. I might leave more marks.", leaves me to wonder ...

Cables are system dependent, so It's okay. Your reveiw will work for those of similar equipment.

Brianw, why does it leave you wonder? I was told by Winston Ma, that I will not get a refund if I leave marks and we are talking a $5000 cable here. I already left tiny marks when trying to hook it up to the amps and speakers, but imagine more marks, by putting it on the cable cooker. Do you want to be out $5000 by a cable you might not like? Read my dilemma at:
in full detail. The name of the post:
FIM cable scared the sh..t out of me
I have mentioned this in other threads but the Argento VDM is the best. Please try it and you will not look back. This may seem a little thick but just listen and you will see (sorry B&W haha).
Tekunda, would you mind, giving me the serial number of the cable set? FIM hasn't highly polished copper spades ever, and hasn't used soft copper for spades in well over a year.

And, did you recieve a installation booklet with your cables?
Tekunda- I have to side with Brulee and Brianw. The sound you attribute to the FIM is certainly not that of a pair properly burned-in and installed. If I read correctly, you wish to state that an unoptimized set of FIM cables are unlikely, in your estimation, to achieve the sonic level of a set of fully optimized Valhalla in your system. Interesting.

Though many will appreciate your attempt at providing a useful comparison between these cables, it is obvious by your own admission that this simply isn't the case. I understand your apprehension concerning retrieving a refund for a set of cables that you wished to review and return. At the same time, I fully understand the desire for the manufacturer/dealer to expect or demand an auditioned item be returned in "like new condition". Without belaboring the point, tight contacts are absolutely necessary to maximize any cable's performance, and my experience has shown that even fully burned-in FIM cables require at least a day after they are manipulated into position to sound their best.

I do not wish to appear overly critical of your attempt, but an incomplete review is likely to be more confusing than no review. Your thread preamble is thoughtful and hopefully heeded by those who will give credence to your conclusions. I'm simply stating the comparison as you have stated is incomplete, and therefore, provides at best limited service for potential readers. Certainly, your frustration concerning the return policy and even your concern over resale value are valid points. However, without a completely evenhanded review process, your conclusions seem to be mostly conjecture.

Good luck in your search.
Goodness, I could be mistaken about the copper. The spades are plated with a gold like high polish plating, are to me quite soft, but of course could be made of silver or some sort of an alloy. Its kind of tough to look underneath the plating.
I received the cable directly from Winston Ma.
And in order to make my point, it really doesn't mattter, which alloy or metal the manufacturer has used to make the spades from.
Are you affiliated with FIM, btw, since you are asking about the serial numbers?
I do not see my review as incomplete.
I stated in another post clearly that I had stopped breaking-in the FIM, due to concerns I might damage the spades enough to not to get my money back.
When this review was written, it was supposed to be a first impression on the FIM and I had planned to continue breaking-in the FIM, even with the help of a cable cooker.
But I then realized that I better stop this, because of the potential damage to the spades, which could prevent Mr. Ma to refund my money.
So you are right. In this respect, my review is incomplete. But when this review was written, I had no idea, I would have to stop breaking-in the FIM.
So to be fair, yes the FIM where not broken-in, that's why I stated they might have a potential to reach the Valhalla.
But based on my first audition, I do not believe the FIM will be better than the Valhalla. I have seen a lot of improvement after cables have been broken in on my cable cooker, but the improvemnet for the FIM would have to be really very huge in order to gain over the Valhalla.
And money wise i would definetely not gain a thing, as the FIM in bi-wire turn out to be more expensive than the Valhalla.
I was offered 8ft of brand new Valhalla for $3900 versus $4400 for 8ft. of FIM.
I'm curious if they are of newer or later origin than my 8' Bi-wire. So, about the serial number ...
try synergistic squared ref.with martin logan speakers ,good match.better than valhalla for my taste.
I would love to try their squared designer reference with active shielding, but its even more expensive than the Valhalla, isn't it?
So we are getting here into the price range of Siltech's new G5 stuff.
Tek, having reached stratospheric price levels, why not try some inexpensive alternatives while you're at it -- 47 lab OTA, bearlabs & similar come to mind.

The OTA comes in a kit so, Anyone out there who can lend one?

syn.squared ref.interconnect is 3200$ for a meter,new reference speaker cable 6000$ for 2 meter.
Tekunda, nice job on your review. I too have been trying a number of cables including FIM vs Valhalla. I completely agree with your assesment. The Valhalla tend to be much more open and airy with the best detail I've experienced. I have hoped to write my findings here but as of yet have not put together the time to do so.
My final feelings are that for my system (and a number of systems I've heard the Valhalla on) the Valhalla are superior in every way. I've been using them for over two months now and still enjoy every time I put on a disk. I have gone back to the FIM a couple of times, let it burn in a couple days and still, the Valhalla for me is the best. Thanks for taking the time to write this, and now to defend your opinion. J.D.
You have no idea, what it means to me to read these words of support for what I am doing here.
So many people have almost taken it personal that I prefer one cable above another, or do not believe that there is an audible difference of sound quality in cables.
I never claimed to be a professional reviewer, and I could be the most naive guy in the world when it comes to "high-end" sound. But this could be my big advantage also. I had no bias whatsoever against any cable manufacturer or cable brand, positive or negative, when I started my quest.
I wanted to find a nice pair of cables for my system and for me, a good way was to listen to one of the top lines,(in this case the Valhalla) and then put other cables to the test, some of whose manufacturer claimed to beat the Valhalla for a lot less money. This was my objective, to find out if such a cable exists. What would be better than a cable, which is cheaper than the Valhalla, but offers almost the same perfromance.
So I started my cable quest and came very soon to realize, that all the cables had certain distinctive charcteristics, but all had their problems to reach the performance level of the Valhalla in certain areas. But does this mean these are bad cables altoghether? Of course not. Most of the time we are looking at a huge price difference, so why not give a slight advantage to the more expensive cable?
I am also very glad that you share my impression of the FIM cable. That tells me, a guy who has never compared cables before in his whole life, that I can trust my ears and the ears of my wife, who is a musician, playing the piano and gives me valuable input.
Since I can get the bi-wired FIM for almost the same price as the Valhalla, it was obvious, that I would prefer the Valhalla in my system under thes circunstances.
But again, the FIM is an excellent cable with great potential in the right system.
So come fellow audiophiles, before you buy, compare cables, like I do. If more people would do this, it would be easier for the customers to find a way to get these cables for home audition.
Because, as the manufacturers would see that more people ask for an audition, they would have to comply one way or the other with such a reasonable demand and not turn you away, like some companies have done in my case.
tekunda: what impresses me most about your cable shootout is your trusting your very own ears. i did a less extensive comparison of cable in my system several months ago. it included fim silver and gold but not valhalla (i have no source at present for discounted nordost). i ended up with tara, the one. the characteristics that augured in its favor are very much the same as you and jd note for valhalla. i'm hoping to try out some tara, the zero ic soon but i'm waiting for a 7 meter pair.

keep up the good work. and keep us posted.

Cornfedboy, please do not forget to post your findings on Taras higher end cables. I would be very very interested to hear your opinion on this particular brand.

Although I haven't tried many high end cables, I enjoy the natural sound the Tara cables seem to offer.

Thanks in advance!