Review: Ridge Street Audio Alethius Copper Speaker cable
RIDGE ST. AUDIO Alethias! Cu REVIEW
The usual caveats apply, IMS, IMHO, no connection with anyone in the audio business except as a satisfied customer.
Having gotten my gear to where I thought I wanted it I spent most of last year trying to find a speaker cable to complete my system. It was a lot harder than I expected.
My system has consisted of a World Power Power Wing, Exemplar 2900 or APL 3910, Modwright SWL 9.0 SE and CJ MV60SE. Power cords were VH Audio AirSines and VHA Flavor 2s, with the latter later replaced with a Prana Wire Kensho and Black Sand Violet Z1. Interconnects were primarily VHA Cu Spectrums. Between the electronics and the P.C.s are Ridge St. Z-der BlocKs.
Speakers are the Aural Acoustics Model B: three way time and phase coherent with 1st order crossovers. Electronics and spkrs. are all on various Symposium Platforms. The room is treated with M. Greene Room Tunes.
I had been using a Shunyata Gemini and over the course of the year – thanks to the kindness of various manufacturers, dealers, and, especially, Paul at the Cable Co. – I tried well over a dozen cables. The cables were solid core and stranded designs and included copper, silver, silver/copper and silver/gold wires. List prices ranged from about $1400 to several thousand dollars (8 ft. single wire) and brands included Nordost (2), Synergistic (2), Ridge St. Audio (2), Kimber, Nirvana, Purist (2), Pranawire, Straightwire, Stereovox, Tara Labs and Audience The cost of cables is pretty depressing: the more so as I found almost all of them unbalanced, with some unlistenable.
I find silver to lack accurate tonality/harmonic completeness. Even when it’s not bright, there is usually an increased sibilance or, at the least, a dryness to the upper- mids and treble which I find distracting. Unfortunately, this is exacerbated IMO by the almost universal use of silver or rhodium as the standard connectors on even silver hybrid cables. The only two silver containing cables I found that had a realistic tonality were the Nordost Valhalla (which has gold plated copper connectors) and the new Synergistic Research Tesla. And the latter, which had silver connectors, needed help from Xtreme Cable’s “Quicksilver Gold” contact enhancer to achieve that. The Quicksilver Gold, which I did not have earlier in the year, would undoubtedly have helped some of the other silver cables I listened to with the tonality problem, as would gold plated connectors, but I doubt that even both improvements would have been enough to make most of them competitive. The Valhalla and Tesla were the only two cables, in addition to the Alethias! Cu, that I liked overall (aside from a forthcoming cable that I was a beta tester for that I am unable at this point to mention).
The other generalizations I gleaned from this process are that solid core wires seem to delineate individual images better than stranded, i.e., they convey more three dimensional images. Conversely, stranded wires seem to have a more coherent, better blended soundstage. Problem areas with the solid core wires were a forwardness, even aggressiveness (regardless of wire/connector material), and a discontinuity in the soundstage. By the latter I mean that the images often didn’t seem to occupy the same space as one another. Problems with the stranded designs were a lack of image specificity and a too prominent bass out of balance with the rest of the frequency spectrum.
The Alethias! is Robert Schult’s newest cable line, at the top of Ridge St. Audio's offerings. The Alethias! is available in Cu and Ag versions both of 9 gauge, solid core design. The cables are made up of individual + / - cable runs captured at either end by permanent wooden saddles and several (depending on the length) adjustable wooden spacers in between. Given the heavy gauge they are somewhat stiff, but easily bendable. They have an attractive black/green covering and have integral spades milled into the conductors. They are cryogenically treated, and conditioned on an AudioDharma Cable Cooker prior to shipping so as to need minimal settling in time.
My initial impression of the Alethias! Cu was of a very extended (both top and bottom), very tonally balanced cable, of incredible 3D image delineation. To accomplish the latter, the cables obviously must have exceptional resolution, particularly of low level ambient information, and this they do. As to the former, the bass is not only extended but articulate while the treble is not only extended but sweet and airy.
The cables have the solid core wire virtues of being both fast and effortlessly dynamic (macro and micro). The soundstage is relatively deep and tall, and very wide.
One of the greatest virtues of the Alethias! Cu, to me, is that, unlike some other solid core designs (Audience Au24, Tara Labs Air2), the images - despite being so well individually delineated - are integrated together in a completely coherent soundstage. No other cable I’ve heard manages to present such a realistic combination of imaging and soundstaging.
I found only one drawback to the Alethias! Cu, although it was a major one and almost, before a solution was found, caused me to give up on the cable.
While I initially found the Alethias! Cu to be highly engaging, even energizing, this quality, with extended listening sessions, became fatiguing. I came to recognize the quality as a “tightness” in the tone, an overemphasis on leading edge transients, that also produces the forwardness that I had disliked in the Audience and the Tara Labs solid core wires as well. I was reluctantly preparing to return the Alethias! when I received Brian Kyle’s (Xtreme Audio) Quicksilver Gold contact paste upon the recommendation of two audiophile friends (thanks Paul and Tree). With Robert’s permission, I applied the paste as per instructions and sat down to listen with these same friends (who had heard the Alethias! Cu and several other cables, in my system previously). The difference stunned all of us. The “tightness”, the forwardness was completely gone. Not only that but there was an increase in resolution, harmonic richness and decay. All of the other, positive, qualities of the Alethias! Cu remained unaltered. I should note here that those who listen primarily to hard rock or similar genres, or who prefer to be “energized” by their music, might prefer the Alethias! w/o the Gold paste.
The mating of the Alethias! Cu with the Quicksilver Gold Contact Paste produced a cable that in my estimation is roughly on the level of Nordost Valhalla. I did try the Quicksilver Gold Paste on the Valhalla and, while it added a little bit of harmonic richness, it didn’t improve the cable nearly as much as the Paste improved the Alethias! - of course, Valhalla is several times as expensive as the Alethias!. Robert Schult also tried the Quicksilver Gold Paste and the Alethias! is now treated with it prior to shipping (unless otherwise requested). Robert also sells the paste if more is ever needed. The treatment will basically last forever if the cables are not removed and, in Robert’s and my opinion/experience, it requires several disconnections and reconnections to require a re-treatment (a jar lists for $159 and will treat a whole system at least a couple of times – I use it on everything in my system). Perhaps needless to say, I have kept the Alethias! Cu and have been extremely satisfied with it through several more component upgrades.
The MSRP – the price if Robert used a dealer network - for an eight foot pair of single wire Alethius! is $2785. As he only sells direct the discount/promotional pricing will be 35-40% off the MSRP. Currently the introductory pricing for the Alethius! line is 50% off the MSRP until it’s formal introduction.
There might be a few things I didn't cover. If you find that to be the case, I'll answer any questions as best I can or maybe Robert would help.
Although I had neither the time nor patience to note the correlation between my observations above with specific musical examples, some of the recordings used in the evaluations of these various cables includes:
Bruckner – Sym. 4 – Bohm, VPO
Moussorgsky – Pictures – Karajan, BPO
Beethoven – St. Qt. Op. 132 – Tokyo Qt.
Schubert – St. Qnt. – Lindsay Qt.
Schubert – Piano Trios – La Gaia Scienza
Mozart – Le Nozze di Figaro – Solti, LPO
Bach – Anna Magdalena Notebook – Tragicomedia
Bach – Goldberg Variations – Bruno Canino
Smetana – The Moldau – Duo Crommelynck
Concord SACD Jazz Sampler #2
Ridge St. Audio Evaluation Sampler Vol.s 1&2
Various Charles Lloyd ECM discs
Eliane Elias – Brazilian Classics
Howe/Taylor – Masterpiece Guitars
Ry Cooder – Buena Vista Social Club
Byrds – Notorious Byrd Brothers
Greg Brown – Further In
Fairport Convention – What We Did On Our Holidays
Blue Murder – No One Stands Alone