Cable shoot-out: Part IV

I can assure you that I am in no way intimidated by this phone call I have received recently. I have a clear conscience, since I intended no harm or started my cable quest out of selfish reasons, just to have fun and play with some cables and drink beer with friends as a guy suggested in an email.
I had valid reason to do this and I do not try to justify myself here, I just want to make this point clear again:
I am planning to buy good cables for my system and I did what every customer will do who plans to buy no matter what product:
He will compare products. Since I cannot do this is in a high-end store ( there is none for hundreds of miles) the only chance for me was to home audition cables. I had to pre-pay most of the cables, or my credit card was secured, and when I decided to put my findings (which is just a personal opinion, nothing more) up on this board, I did it in order to share my personal findings and impressions with my fellow audiophiles.
It was never intended as a buying guide, I would never claim something like that, since I do not have enough professional background. On the other hand I see no reason, why I should not write how certain cables behaved in my *PERSONAL* system and if people, who are also out to buy cables, start to contact the manufacturers of the cables I reviewed, I guess this is o.k., since they are just doing what I did, comparing products to make their own decisions, as long as I am not held responsible for any buying decision.
So where do I stand with my cable review?

I listened again to three more cables: The Sahuaro Jet Stream, the Virtual Dynamics Signature and the Empirical Audio. I have to say that I was impressed by all of these cables. Each cable performed outstanding in my system.
The most expensive one is the Sahuaro, as this is the second from the top, but the Sahuaro has cheaper lines cables of course. The cheapest is the Empirical Audio and in between we have the Virtual Dynamics. Now the Sahauro is a very beautiful, sophisticated looking interconnect, very appealing not only to the ear but to the eye also, all hand-made. I was told that the manufacturer really tunes this cable by hand like an instrument, applying certain modules along the cable run in order to really tune the cable like you would tune a guitar string and that it takes him about 2 1/2 days to build this cable. In my opinion this cable really has a soul of its own and the price ($1800 ft a pair of the jet Stream interconnects) is more than justified.
I have to admit that I really like this cable a lot. It has such a rich, detailed sound, it is very musical with a unreal bass resolution. The Virtual Dynamics and Empirical Audio are also hand build and I am sure there is also some sort of tuning process involved to build these cables, but they do not look so sophisticated as the Sahuaro. Both have a very rich sound also, the soundstage is huge with both cables and the price very attractive.
For those on a budget, it would be very wise to look into these two cables, or the cheaper lines of Sahuaro. For those who can spend a bit more, please take a look at the Sahuaro Jet Stream. Sahuaro also offers a life long upgrade policy which is very attractive.
When I started my cable quest, I ventured out to find a cheaper cable than the Nordost Valhalla, with the same or almost the same performance and I think by now that is not too difficult to do. The Pure Note Audio has this potential, the three cables just mentioned also, the FIM will not fall into this category as it is almost as expensive as the Valhalla, the Siltech is from another world, performance and price wise, so the choice is really getting smaller, as most other cables I have not reviewed yet are almost as expensive as the Valhalla. At least their top lines. Look at the prices of NBS, Purist Audio, Transparent or Synergistic Research and you know what I am talking about)
There are 3 more cables though I would like to try: The Synergistic Research with its active shielding, the Jena Labs and the Omega Micro cables.
I will soon write a final review of my experiences, but I need to let my thoughts settle for a week or two, in order to clear my thoughts, but I have some advice for everybody looking to find good cables with almost the same performance level of the Valhalla, but with a lesser price tag:

Look into the Pure Note cables, the Empirical Audio, the Sahuaro and the Virtual Dynamics. Strictly for speaker cables listen to the Swiss made Ensemble. I was not impressed by their interconnects, but their speaker cables are awesome if you ask me. Also for those who bi-wire like me: Try to get a pair of Acoustic Zen Holograms for the treble and one pair of Satori for the bass. This makes a very nice bi-wired cable, for a bargain price.
But here comes my most important advice: Study a lot, read what other people have written about certain cables, limit your choice after you have upgraded your knowledge to about three brands, you feel, you might be interested in and then *DO* a home auditioning. Because this is the most important step if you ask me: listen to the cables in your system. Everybody has a different system and different ideas what the best sound should be like: For me clarity and body, maybe even to a degree being a bit analytical is what I believe I like to hear. I am sure, other people prefer more bass or mid range. So, how will you ever find out how a certain cable will sound in your system, if you have not tried it at the very system you plan to apply it to, that is to say your own? Most of the cable companies have a refund policy. If you want to get a bit more sophisticated, you can get the Valhalla from the Cable Company and compare it against the other cables you have chosen, so you will have a better idea who the cables you have chosen for auditioning perform against a top cable.
I was charged $500 rental fee for the Valhalla, which I can apply towards a future purchase, so the money is not wasted. I plan on getting a set of Argent room lenses, since my listening room is far too bright.
So this will be my last post, until I will have ordered my thoughts for my final review.
But my heart goes out for small hand made cables, which have a hard time competing against bigger companies. In a mass production world it is nice that there are still people out there taking the time to tune their cables like instruments.
Tekunda, I don't know who would be complaining to you about your postings here, or why; I am amazed and impressed at your thoroughness and willingness to try so many different brands of cables in a relatively short time period. I find cable auditioning one of the hardest things to do fairly and reasonably. For that reason, I stuck w/a brand of cable that I actually did hear a huge difference with, Transparent, for many years. Since visiting this forum and website for the past year, I have learned about many many other brands of cable, some new and some old, that seemed worth exploring. And thanks to the thoughts, comments, and ads on this site, I have been able to do just that! For me, Ensemble cables (including interconnects) and power products have impressed me the most, in my system, with my preferences, compared to all the Transparent I had been using. But without access to the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of people like you, and all the many others who visit here, I would never have heard of the stuff! So thanks for being so diligent and curious about cables, and thanks for letting us hear your thoughts. I would never have the patience to do what you're doing--or the confidence that I was actually hearing differences after the first few changes of cable.
Tekunda. You did this one with style. And cable comparing is very tedious. You are to be commended for your sincere efforts. I, for one, will look forward to your final thoughts on this. Interesting comment on the satori and holograms. I use satori single wire with mapleshade ribbon jumpers. Time for a beer, regards, bluenose
I look forward to your final charts. I know how exhaustive cable evaluations can be, it is a constant pursuit for me. My favorite is the Pure Note Epsilon but I will try the Sahuaro's. I also tried Jena Labs and Virtual by was not impressed. Did you compare the Siltech Gen. 5's or Transaparent Opus? I am trying to obtain a pair of the Opus speaker cables. Since this is the "top of the mountain" ($30K) it will be a good benchmark.
Mars297,I was able to listen to the Siltech G5 Compass Lake interconnects and posted my feelings about this cable already in an earlier post.
I was not able to audition the Opus speaker cables yet.
Looking forward to hear your review on these.
BTW, which Virtual Dynamics where you auditioning? The Reference line, or their top Signature line?
And which Jena Labs cable please? I wanted to look into these cables, so give me a short idea already. Maybe it is not worth the trouble.
I would offer the following for your consideration. You are putting the cart before the horse. It sounds like the room is the weak link and that should be your focus at this point. Cables should be the final touch on a system after optimizing all of the other variables. It would be much better to get your room tuned up before taking the time to compare these expensive cables. You will never know what they really sound like until you get your room under control. Thanks for taking the time to share your findings with us.
Save time and money.Try The Coincident cables.Both IC and Speaker cable.Great sound and even better value.
Natalie, as long as we are talking of "under achiever" cables, last year I was looking into a new cable and there was two "under achiever” cable companies that became known to me, Coincident and LAT International. I ended up buying a Coincident. I used the cable on my Fanfare tuner and it performed well, but you can’t tell a lot about a cable on a tuner. I tried it on my CD player, a Meridian 508.24, and with my setup I preferred the cable I was using, I can’t remember if that was the JPS I was using at that time or the XLO Reference 2 I later went to. The Coincident was not bad, it was just a bit to laid back.

All the cables mentioned above are balanced, as the manufactures of the equipment I was using recommended their balanced I/O’s for best performance, this was being fed to a Mark Levinson 383.

I am in the process of making huge changes in my system and the components I am going to do not allow for balanced cables, so I have to purchase some new ones. A few weeks ago I ordered LAT’s best IC, the IC-200 Mk II. I had a temporary setup while waiting to rebuild my system, an old heath amp and a Mac C42 preamp. I sold the 383 (a darn nice piece). Anyway, with this setup, I had the balanced XLO Ref. 2 going into the Mac C42 from the 508.24 and the LAT interconnect going into the C42 from the 508.24 at the same time. So with a push of a button on the remote I could go from the XLO to the LAT. (One side note, the C42 allows you to set the gain, they call it Input Trim, to adjust the volume level of each input to the same level.)

Long story short, the LAT outperformed the XLO, and did so in the RCA output, while Meridian claims best performance to be from the balanced output. Now, as the disclaimer above, these results were in my system. LAT has some interesting information on their Web site about cables.

I have just purchased a JPS SC2 interconnect that I will be able to compare also against the LAT. The LAT IC-200 Mk II is $189!!!
Herman - While I think your reasoning regarding Tekunda's room makes sense, it can also be said that having better cables results in making any other changes (i.e. room treatment) more reliable. Better room = easier to make determinations about cables. Better cables = easier to make determinations about room "treatments". This is the audio life - and dilemma. And it seems to me we're always "leap-frogging". Fortunately, I believe over time we learn some things about what to listen for, etc. (which helps the process).
chicken, egg ?

egg, chicken ?
1 month ago I ordered Virtual Dynamics Reference Speaker cables in a Shotgun configuration.

my first observations is that the lows were tight and the highs were ...well... rough but the mids were exceptionaly focused and smooth.

Overtime, this cable has smoothed out considerable like most cables do and the paris of Virtual Dynamics Reference Speaker cables has replaced my transparent Ultra XLs.

I have also ordered a pair of Virtual Dynamics Reference Power One Powercords but have not had the chance to set them up.

VD (got to love that abriv) is a new player and think they are a viable option for cables at all levels of equipment.

These cables Drive my Wilson Watt/Puppy 6es via Halcro DM58 Monos.

Nope, Chicken with the egg. Gen. 1