Review: Cable shootout Nordost, Purist, Synergistic, MIT Speaker cable

Category: Cables

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
I agree that Venustas are quite detailed yet not edgy or bright. The TG Audio cables are quite good also. Venustas is pretty much in the sweet spot on the price/performance curve IMO, maybe a bit beyond it.
May own Dominus one day, but need to upgrade the CDP and speakers first.
Well done Cmo! Happiness is finding the "right" wire. My personal IC/SC shootouts over the past two years has left the Purist Venustas standing for much the same reasons as you describe. No mean feat since our systems differ.
I can't wait for all the naysayers to come out and tell you there is no difference between cables! I have changed to all Purist cables over the last couple years. I have yet to hear anything that sounds as good at any price, for either more or less cash!

The Purist cables just sounds right to me.
Great review!
I too have gone through my fair share of cables. Finally settled with the Purist Audio- Venustas for both speaker cable and interconnects. Very satisfied! Never have tried the power cords.
Very nice review, thank you. My system is very similar to yours. I just went through an interesting experiment, having been somewhat of a cable "naysayer." (I guess the electrical engineer in me still comes out once in a while) I recently went to mono blocks, and decided to have my 10' Audioquest Calderas reterminated as a 5' double bi wire run. During the interim, I got a double run of 14 gauge OFC radio shack speaker cable.

I was actually anxious to hear them, as I wanted to prove to myself that a 5 foot run of cable can not make a difference. Well, needless to say, it does. I noticed a lack of bass as well as a lack of detail and muddyness in the soundstage. Even my wife noticed how dead the system sounded.

I now am intrigued: It may be time to check out the lending library as well.
The Cable Co. lending library is pretty cool if you are sure you want some new (or used) cables. They do charge shipping (which would be a lot less than tax at this price) and a deposit that is good toward a cable purchase. If it weren't for them I probably would have gone for another Nordost product that my local dealer had. The Nordosts were nice and my local guys are great and I support them regularly but choice is a good thing. BTW has anyone tried the Venustas phono cable???
This is a really well-written and thoughtfully presented review. I appreciate the intent of the very first paragraph, as well as many other personal touches that qualified your statements with personal preferences. I find reviews like yours to be very valuble for that very have given us a good sense of just where you are coming from, and it is not at all arrogant or myopic as so many attempts at reviews tend to come off. Thanks for taking the time to share your results!

I also spent about three hours this weekend with a good friend and three different amps, three different CD players and several different IC's and Speaker Cables. I can concur with great certainty that it was my experience on this occasion, as well as on many other occasions I've made similar comparisons, that speaker cables can make a profound difference in how a system sounds. IC's also, but in my experience speaker cables have always presented greater degrees of change between types. Also, specific results are VERY system/room dependent, as you have clearly pointed out. Great job on the review! Wish I could afford to try out the likes of the cables you are testing here, but I'm a few rungs down on the WAF ladder of tweak-investment - but enjoyed the review nonetheless.

Excellent post and thanks for sharing. Your descriptions are quite revealing, and will have me also checking out ICs and speaker wires for the second system I am putting together for use in my home office.
I completely agree that there is a real difference in the "sound" of various makes and models of cables. And what sounds terrific in one system might not do well in another. It really comes down to matching what sounds best with each system.
Glad to hear of your discovery. Happy listening...
Great review and thanks for posting your results. I went through a similar process and was using the Nordost Spm for quite sometime. The whole search took about 6 months and I took copious notes comparing the cables. I think our findings are very similar. I'm currently using mostly Purist Venustas including powercords and couldn't be happier. My gf, who couldn't care less about this stuff, commented on how great they sounded even straigth out of the box. While I was going through the cable search, the Omega Mikro active cables were the most exciting, but I ultimiately settled on the Venustas because they seem to do "everything" right. I'm very happy with them and may try the Dominus or Rls one day, but I doubt if I will ever need to change them.
Great review, very similar to the conclusions I drew about Purist cables 13 years ago and bought the Purist Maximus. Now I need longer cables, have upgraded my front end and have just auditioned a group of cables without a Purist - mistake! I should have asked for Venustas and will probably do that now. I have a pair of Dominus Rev B between the preamp and amp and would obviously like Dominus again, but, hey, for 10 feet, that's a lot of CDs, dinners and a whole new CD player!!!
Thanks again.
I recently upgraded from Museaus speaker cables to Venustus. I ordered the new cables while I had a bi-wire speaker. Before the order was done I sold the first speaker and bought a speaker which was not set up to be bi-wired. I called the gentleman from whom I bought the cables and he contacted Purist. The cables were already under consruction with four wires running through the jacket, but not yet terminated. He instructed them to just use single spades. So now I have a set of Venustus with a double run or their wire, and I am thrilled with the sound. My system has never sounded better than it did last night!

CMO you are right about these cables. Now what about that Dominus...
The Cable Company recently customized a set of interconnects for me and I was impressed that they contacted McIntosh Labs before proceeding to first make sure that things would work.