Review: Solitone Model X Interconnect
I have been involved with this addictive hobby of ours for over 25 years now and this is the first time I have been motivated to write an equipment review. For some strange reason I was pulled towards trying these relatively new Solitone cables; strange because I am an engineer and have made my own cables for a long time now. After years of buying and selling both medium and expensive well reviewed commercial cables, I started creating my own based on other successful designs and my own research. My current homebrews are the result of many laborious hours of work, are a significant investment in materials and I have compared them to commercial cables at various times costing thousands and been very happy with the results. I relate this drawl to you because I cannot easily do a meaningful direct AB comparison on the Solitones, but know very well what other widely available cables can and cannot do. My reference and comparator is live music which I listen to frequently.
I ordered an ex-demo pair of Solitone X series interconnects and Attila, the US importer persuaded me to also try some X series speaker cables figuring I would fall in love and not want to return them. I was not convinced, but figured it wouldn’t hurt and the most it would cost me was return postage.
I received the cables a few days later after much good communication with Attila and plugged the interconnect’s in between my Sony ES, Placette pre and Halo amps. I was not expecting much especially after looking at the relatively high mass RCA connectors having been used to the improvements in clarity available with low mass connectors such as Eichmann’s etc. I pressed play and walked to the other end of the house and another room. My attention was immediately raised by something; even at the other end of the house, I wasn’t hearing background music, I was only hearing individual instruments very clearly and powerfully and to a much greater level than I would have expected. Hmmnn….returning to the listening room, in my system these cables immediately sounded quite different to other cables I was familiar with; the presentation was slightly soft and laid back and completely inoffensive, almost tube like. Having said the presentation was soft, the leading edge of notes and transients were very sharp and defined and detail was present in buckets; in fact, quite a bit more than my reference homebrews fitted with what I presumed were better connectors? Microphony and sibilance effects were subtly reduced with absolutely no brightness or dullness…a very well balanced cable. The greatest effect I noticed was the complete focus of musical energy into the specific area of the soundstage where the instrument or singer was playing with an extremely quiet background. I have heard many cables that image well, but these seem a little better than most seeming to only transmit information where it is needed with absolutely nothing sent elsewhere resulting in a smeared effect, and they are not even shielded cables! I know some may think this description may apply to many high end cables, but these just seem to give a little more when it comes to recreating accurate music…. I also know it may sound like a cliché, but these cables don’t sound like good hifi; they sound more like real music. That was an easy sale for me….keepers!
Out of interest, I asked Attila about the connectors and he said that some customers had returned the interconnects to have Eichmann’s and WBT’s etc, fitted instead and they have always had the originals put back on later as apparently they just didn’t sound right with the lower mass connectors?
Moving onto the speaker cables, these basically gave more of what the interconnect’s had started. The single wire Solitones replaced my large and bulky bi-wire homebrews and had a distinct edge….much to my amazement. In bi-wire form, I am sure the Solitones would blow away my homebrews.
Again, I was immediately suspicious of the connectors as they are an adaptor type that accept either spades or bananas and don’t instantly look like they would sound great? The spades are high mass and only come with ¼” lugs, but can be easily filed out slightly to accept 5/16” posts. The bananas use a separate expanded contact element to retain the plug which I am not normally a fan of for reasons of signal integrity and less joints being generally better than more. Sound wise, the two connectors perform quite differently; the spades have slightly greater lower bass extension and have a mid-range with slightly greater body and a little smoother highs. The bananas have a faster, tighter bass with slightly more upper bass detail that is missing with the spades. They are a little thinner in the mid-range and have clearer highs and are significantly more transparent than the spades. I enjoyed the slightly greater mid-range solidity of the spades and so tried a combination of both spade and banana which would have satisfied me if I hadn’t heard the transparency of the all-banana set-up.
I believe both connector types are very valid and choice could possibly be used to tune certain systems to achieve a favorable balance. I also asked Attila about these connectors and he told me he believed Solitone use a high temperature alloy to fuse the connectors on and so replacement may not be easy for the average tweaker? Please bear in mind the differences I am talking about are quite subtle and the average listener will be very happy with either choice and I will stick with the bananas for now…. unfortunately for my wallet, I just think I have developed a super critical ear over the years!
So, why did I write this little review?
I have never heard another set of cables before that sound more like real music than these Solitones do and yes, I have heard mega-buck cables at shows and demo’s etc. Their presentation, which apparently comes from a special alloy, not copper, is extremely revealing and practically free of listening fatigue over many hours. The dynamics and spatial positioning qualities are outstanding and they relay the intricacies and ambiance of an instruments character better than I have heard before outside of live music. I presume their construction and design reduces distortion to a very low level which retains the signals integrity rather than breaking it up and scattering it as many cables do. They are beautifully colorful and tuneful and the quietest cables I have ever heard which amazes me as they are unshielded. I just thought more people should be aware of these cables as I believe they are something quite special.
Thankfully, there are many high value products appearing in the marketplace nowadays and you don’t always have to spend a fortune to get great sound. It’s nice to know there are fantastic products like VH Audio Flavor 4 power cables and Herbie’s Audio isolation feet available that make a large contribution to musical enjoyment relatively economically. I have absolutely no connection to Solitone and am not even sure of the retail price of these cables as I bought an ex-demo set, but I would strongly suggest an audition if you are considering an upgrade in any area as I believe they may make more of an improvement than a component replacement.
Attila, the US importer: firstname.lastname@example.org