DH Labs Air Matrix.
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I’ve test driven a very lengthy list of contenders and pretenders over the years in your price strata , I have them in my B and C systems although I have an all NORDOST FREY cables array in my A system.
(1) without prejudice to any other comments herein, what brand or model cable works best in YOUR system is entirely system dependent... full stop. There is no “best” one size fits all. Random suggestions floated herein are just pushing their heavily biased anecdotal personal faves with no assurance that they will work in your system.
(2) Price alone is no measure of the audio performance success in your bespoke system. But do shop for used instead of new if possible .
(3) I could list many I’ve auditioned but that blind laundry list won’t help you get down the Yellow Brick Road to audio OZ because of the points above. There is no substitute for actually auditioning some ... it’s a journey and never a fast fix destination in this wacky hobby.
listing your system components MIGHT help in soliciting a few credible options to start with, if provided from those who actually have your components .
Of course there's no "absolute" best. I'm not even asking for "best," just recommendations. There are way too many choices, yet certain ones will float to the top time and time again across many systems. And if "odd man out" cables get multiple votes, they will be considered as well. Audtioning is de rigueur, so is narrowing the field. Give people some credit: we don't always need to "taught a lesson."
I've been using AudioNote UK's silver series interconnects and am quite happy with them. They run in your price range.
If you can find Siltech cables used, another I really like (I use their silver/gold annealed speaker cables).
NVA (Nene valley audio) out of UK make some very nice very low capacitance wires that are quite good and very reasonably priced.
I've been steadily moving up the Audioquest line of interconnects. The starkest difference (to my ears) was going from Water to Earth. I found a good place to stop with the Earth cables. I'm more than satisfied with their performance for the $$. You can usually find them used for a reasonable price. Hope this helps.
I’ve tried many lower end (hero, diamondback, etc) and never heard much improvement until I moved to Nordost. I’ve used Heimdall 1s and Heimdalls 2s and Frey 1s. For my money, I’ve stayed with used Frey 1s for all my ICs. Pretty much equal to Heimdall 2s but available used pretty reasonably. I’ve also been impressed with Acoustic Zen ICs but I found them stiff and hard to route. Lately I switched my speaker cables to Morrow SP5s and really like the sound and the flexibility. If I were starting over I’d test the Morrow ICs (well priced new I think) against Frey 1s (used).
@pmboyd I love trying different cables and have owned several of your contenders.IME HarmTech and Analysis Plus lean toward the dark and rich.Siltech is lean with a sweet treble.Cerious are clean and clear like water.Black Cat Coppertone is bright but not in a bad way.Sort of lights up the soundstage.None of these have any glare.If you need to take the edge off of any digital glare you're experiencing,Analysis Plus copper would be my first choice.Hope that helps.
jtcf ... Thanks for your input. Notwithstanding the issue of system synergy, I find such comments helpful in sorting the possibilities. Regarding Analysis Plus copper... did you mean the Copper Oval In or the Solo Crystal (or both)? In your experience, how do AP and Harminic Tech differ in being dark and rick, viz. air, detail, soundstage, tonal accuracy, etc.? Rich is what I'm looking for, without draping a false harmonic blanket over everything, and, of course, as glare free as digitally possible...
air, detail, soundstage, tonal accuracy, etc.? Rich is what I'm looking for, without draping a false harmonic blanket over everything, and, of course, as glare free as digitally possible...
After having several interconnects in my system over the years from the likes DHLabs, Zu, Cardas, Voodoo, Stereovox (now Black Cat), I've always come back to my Acoustic Zen Silver Reference. While some other interconnects showcase more upper-octave detail or more syrupy-rich tonality, the Silver Refs manage to combine just the right amount of tonal color without sacrificing treble detail or air. Combine that with excellent 3D soundstaging and the result is a very engaging and natural musical presentation with no particular area calling attention to itself -- at least to my ears and in my system. If this is what you're looking for there's a pair available here now in your price range (no affiliation) that you could probably sell at little or no loss if they don't work for you as there's a pretty fluid market for AZ cables. Hope this helps, and best of luck in your search.
CEC TL-51 belt drive redbook transport to a Synergistic Research Resolution Reference Active digital cable feeding a MHDT Orchid tube dac using NOS Western Electric 396a triodes and a HifiTuning Supreme Cu fuse, Exposure 2010S integrated amp with a HifiTuning Supreme Cu fuse to Analysis Plus Ovel 9 speaker cables feeding Merlin Audio MMI bookshelf speakers with Master RC Network and Cardas jumpers. From an audiophile power outlet with a single High Fidelity Cables MC-0.5 power conditioner installed, a Virtual Dynamics David power cable (soon to be replaced with a Shunyata NR V-10) feeding a PS Audio Juicebar with Audience p.c.s to everythin else. Audioning interconnects between dac and amp.
PS. The Exposure integrated has a passive preamp section, yet is a satisfyingly dynamic amplifie. Great prat and naturalness. Not a detail monster, however (I find too much detail distracting and annoying). The MHDT Orchid dac, utilizing the legendary Philips 1541 chip, is R2R and also very natural sounding. .
Last week I tried a pair of Wire World Eclipse 8 ics between my Tubadour dac and pre and am very impressed.It seems to be eliminating noise that I wasn't aware was there.Details that were vague are now very clear.The old saying about a clear pane of glass pretty well describes it.Everything is better from top to bottom without favoring any particular frequency.
I'm now in the process of trying a second set of ics and several of their power cords,but won't hijack your thread:-)
@pmboyd OP297 posts
Another approach, fwiw:
DAC: replace the warmer WE396A with the GE5670 5-star "Triple Mica" in the Orchid DAC and realize added clarity and depth.
ICs: for another $50 up the line demo the AP Crystal Solo interconnects. Give them ~100hrs to settle in
This is my final setup on both, no more tube rolling or cable changes after landing on this. Clean, clear, musical, larger sound stage with more depth. Now hearing things I never heard before with other interconnects and DAC configurations.
Sounds like you may have found some good synergy with the Wywires, but if you're still up for another comparison here's a pair of AZ Silver Ref IIs you could probably sell for little/no loss if they don't work out. I'm not a fan of the AZ Matrix Ref IIs, and either the Silver Ref I or II are far better interconnects IME (I own all 3). FWIW...
Now trying a 2nd pair in-line of Analysis Plus Crystal Solo interconnects end-to-end. Was intermixing previously with other/softer brand cables. Now comparing to 20+ other interconnects over the years. While there is little to no glare, I cannot say they are not grainy when the recordings are bad. Grunge guitars or nasty tones come out the same with layering and depth. They are unlike Belden or other reportedly "neutral" cables or "clear" from Cardas. Not the same. I don't necessarily believe in "neutral" sounding cables any more after trying these. All cables and all components react differently depending on what equipment you are pairing them up to. As others stated, it truly is a "crapshoot". Just gotta try it. With these Solos, you hear exactly what goes in and it comes out on the other side (maybe almost too much some times) for Copper cables (which I prefer), these solos can be found used with super quick resale after listing. IMO they leave nothing on the table for better or worse. If you don't like a large and deep sound stage, or like a more veiled over and softer sound, these are probably not it. If you want to hear something new and different with good recordings, def worth a demo at least. Not sure I'm quite onboard with the 300hr break-in period. We'll see.