I must start off with the simple fact that the shootout was done in my system with my music in my room and these are only my opinions. I don't think any of these cables were "bad", I just preferred some to others.
Having said that........ I had been using a pair of Nordost Blue Heavens that were on loan from a friend. He needed them back so off to the Hi Fi store I went. The Hi Fi store in my case happened to be the Cable Company and I took advantage of thier lending library for comparisons.
I was sent four pairs of Bi-wired cables all three meters long. The models were Nordost SPM, MIT Magnum 2's, Synergistic Research Resolution Ref. X2, and Purist Audio's Venustas. All of the cables had been burnt-in prior to my recieving them. I let them play for at least an additional day in my system to settle in further.
This may sound silly but I do put some value into how a product looks i.e. Is it cheap looking, seem well made, etc. All of the cables seemed very well made to me with the exception of the MIT's. The design comprises a large cable that connects to the amp and then goes into a plastic interface box with smaller "pigtails" coming out the other side for bi-wiring. It would be nice for a $3,000 +++ cable to have something a bit more elegant than plastic used for the boxes in my opinion. The cables also had multiple connections both at the interface box and on the ends of the cables (for changing from spades to bannana's). Who knows if these connections made any difference in the sound but one uninterrupted run of cable seems like a better bet to me.
I started with the Nordost SPM's figuring they would sound similar to my Blue Heaven's. I guess I would say they did, and they didn't. The SPM's had much more detail, were more quiet and had greater top and bottom extension. They did have the same presentation though; very fast and forward sounding, and after hearing some of the other cables I came to feel they were actually thin and almost agressive. At first I thought they were more detailed but upon further listening I think the top is tipped a little maybe from around 2KHz up. I had been using this brand of cable for years and I liked them. What I discovered was, not only were the SPM's far superior to Blue Heaven's but I liked the SPM's the least of any cables I tried.
The Synergistic's were a bit like the Nordost in thier presentation. They were very lively and fast but had better bottom end extension. They sounded more balanced in my system as well. They had a large soundstage that tended to start in front of the speakers with a front of hall type perspective. The midrange was a bit in front of the rest of the music which made vocals sound a little thin and dry. They looked well made: four large strands wrapped in a white mesh jacket. They included an AC wall wart that connected to the cables via mini-plug, and had a small blue light that lit up when plugged into the wall. After all was said and done I didn't think these cables were as musical as the MIT's or the Purist.
The MIT's sounded really good overall. They hooked the panels and cones of my speakers up well, and were very musical. Both these and the Purist had the most bass extension, clarity and impact. It almost sounds like I have a subwoofer in my system compared to my old cables.
The Purist did everything the MIT's did and did it a little better. The top is extended and VERY detailed but not at all agressive. The bottom, as I said, has the deepest, taughtest bass I have ever heard from my speakers. They are very fast allowing the panels and cones to integrate well. The soundstage seems to go back forever and extends from the sides having an almost surround sound quality. My wife (who could care less about cables, but has really good ears)said the sound seems to be "3-D in all directions" (figure that one out). The best is the midrange, everything just sounds "right". AS for construction: I cannot tell what must be inside these things but they are VERY thick and weigh at least three times as much as the next heaviest cable. They look well made and very robust.
I saved the best for last here and ended up buying the Purist Venustas. I want to stress that all these cables worked well in my system. I simply preferred some to others.
Music I listened to:
Mississippi John Hurt "Today" (Vanguard LP)
Sonny Rollins "Saxaphone Colossus" (Analogue prod. 45rpm)
Billie Holiday "Songs for distingue lovers" (Classic RI)
Armstrong and Ellington "Together for the first time"
Bob Marley "Exodus"
Hot Rize "So long of a journey"
Olu Dara "Neighborhoods"
Geoff Muldaur "Private astronomy, The music of Bix Beiderbecke"
Gillian Welch "Soul Journey"
I started out thinking that speaker cables didn't make "that much" of a difference.......... boy was I wrong. Associated gear Click to view my Virtual System