Review: DH Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix RCA

Category: Cables

Originally posted on The Sound Apprentice blog:

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DH Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix RCA Interconnect Review

If you follow The Sound Apprentice on Instagram, you’ve likely seen that I’ve been making some cabling changes in my hi-fi system in an effort to get my entry-level audiophile setup performing to the best of its abilities one step at a time. My goal: Eliminate the signal-degrading low-grade brass and nickel base metals many audio companies use in their cable RCA connectors, banana plugs, spades and power plug prongs and sockets.

That meant assembling some DIY speaker and power cables using heavy-gauge, pure oxygen-free copper and silver-coated copper conductors and terminations. It also meant changing out my RCA interconnects. But I didn’t take the DIY path for those because I found an amazing deal on AudiogoN for two one-meter pairs of DH Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix RCA interconnects ($225 vs. $590 retail).

Some of you may scoff at the thought of spending $225 for two pairs of used interconnects, some of you may think I didn’t spend enough by choosing an offering from DH Labs, but the quality of these cables is top-notch, and here’s why.

Pioneering Performance

DH Labs was founded in 1992 by chief designer & engineer Darren Hovsepian with the mission to create cables delivering the highest level of sound and video quality possible. To DH Labs, this means creating harmonically balanced cables that outperform rival audiophile-grade cables costing several times more when it comes to dynamic range and soundstage superiority. Mission accomplished. Today DH Labs not only provides its cables and connectors to audiophiles around the world, it also serves as an OEM supplier and designer for 12 wire and cable companies, and DH Labs cables are used exclusively in several top recording & mastering studios.

So what makes their cables and connectors so good? For starters, unlike many companies that rely on good looks and esoteric marketing-speak to peddle their wares, DH Labs’ electric and audio engineers focus on researching, developing and sourcing materials manufactured under stringent specifications within the USA that optimize electrical efficiency, noise canceling abilities and acoustic transparency.

For example, over 20 years ago, DH Labs was one for the first cable manufacturers to coat their copper conductors in silver—the best conductor of electricity—to improve signal performance. Their continuous pursuit of better performance has yielded a product line utilizing several trademarked combinations of silver and oxygen-free copper conductors, advanced dielectrics, and vibration damping materials. The Air Matrix interconnect cable is the culmination of their efforts.

The Wire

The Air Matrix interconnect cable uses a silver-coated copper center wire. The oxygen-free copper wire is DH Labs’ trademarked Continuous Crystal Copper. The Continuous Casting process produces exceptionally long copper crystals that form a ultra-high-purity wire with an oxygen content of only 7 parts per million. DH Labs says the lack of grain boundaries in the wire allows for the clearest, most natural sound, and the polished silver coating enhances conductivity and low-level musical details preservation.

The Dielectric

The Air Matrix interconnect cable utilizes DH Labs' trademarked Air Matrix dielectric material, a proprietary honeycomb-like material consisting of approximately 60% air and 40% PTFE. This combination creates a dielectric constant nearing that of a perfect vacuum, which significantly lowers the cable’s capacitance and inductance while increasing propagation velocity. Combined with the material’s physical softness that dampens vibrations, these features yield a high-bandwidth cable free from sonic coloration.

The Connector

As I mentioned, the majority of RCA connectors on the market and used by today's top cable manufacturers contain bases of low-conductivity brass alloys (the conductivity of brass is ~26% vs. ~100% for copper and ~106% for silver). It never made sense to me why cable companies selling costly heavy-gauge, silver, copper, silver-coated copper or gold wire would terminate it with plated brass, nickel or steel connectors.

Apparently the engineers at DH Labs were baffled by this choice as well since they set out to develop their own premium RCA—the “Ultimate RCA Connector.”

Instead of ignoring the connector’s potential loss of conductivity, DH Labs worked with metallurgists to develop and refine an exclusive trademarked "High Copper Alloy,” a high-conductivity 99.5% pure copper material that’s strong enough to hold up in the form of an RCA connector.

The Cable

When you put all of these elements together you get the DH Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix RCA interconnect cable—a downright awesome cable. The build quality and materials are clearly superb. The hunter green jacket is attractive. The locking connector collars are sturdy and grip like a vise. The shielding guarantees zero noise. And damn, these things sound good…actually it’s the system that sounds good.

A testament to that is the fact that The Spirited Uncle M often uses these interconnects throughout his different high-end hi-fi setups. “The Air Matrix interconnects give you a solid, tight, clean bass foundation with a nice, open, full-bodied midrange and a smooth treble/tweeter section. It’s a very revealing interconnect that will allow you to hear exactly what your system is capable of,” he says.

In my post “Do Cables Really Sound Different?,” my ears concluded that cables do have their own sonic signatures that can subtly enhance or change the tone of your system when mated with certain components. I firmly believe that the Air Matrix interconnects can be used in any system with excellent results. I’ve heard them paired with a variety of high-end components all the way down to my simple setup. They let you hear your components and the media being played for what it is, free from any coloration. They’re pure, detailed, revealing and airy. The DH Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix interconnect cable simply gets out of the way of the music; it’s everything an audiophile could ask for.