REVIEW: Virtual Dynamics NITE Digital Cable
Here are my impressions after extensive listening to the Nite digital and comparing it to many popular top rated cables including some cost-no-object cables like the Kharma Grand Reference and Siltech G5. Be warned though, it is rather long and some may have read it at aonther forum, but I know a lot of people here enjoy Virtual Dynamics cables so I thought it would be useful to some to have it here to read also.
NITE Cable Review
This review is for the Nite 1 meter digital cable, which represents the top of the line from the Canadian firm Virtual Dynamics. The cable construction is beyond reproach, albeit large due to the solid core 9.5 awg conductors and proprietary damping the company utilizes. Size wise, I believe the circumference to be approximately 2.5 inches while weighing in at around 3 to 4 pounds. The cable then eloquently tapers down to end in the highly regarded WBT-0108 locking RCA connectors. Don’t let the size of the cable fool you into thinking it’s a difficult cable to handle though. Due to the stiffness the cable retains it’s shape nicely once formed to the run you desire and this is actually helpful when running the other cables in your rack, as you now know exactly how to route those wires. In addition, though large and stiff, the cable is yet surprisingly malleable, being much easier to form than say the much smaller and lighter JPS Superconductor cables I owned a few years ago.
So much for physical descriptions let’s move on to how this puppy performs in comparison to other highly regarded cables in or above this price range. Actually, The Nite cable arrived in a very timely manner for me. I had just gone through a digital cable search for the “B” set up in the basement w/ some very highly regarded digital cables. At that time I had in my possession the Harmonic Tech Magic One digital, Marigo Apparition, Acoustic MC2, Omega Mikro D-4 w/ active shield, Omega Mikro’s earlier version w/ the DC current active shield that closely resembles their power cords in appearance, as well as an Omega Mikro Twin Tube Ebony digital that I use as a main stay on the main rig. Also lying around were the brand new Synergistic Research “X” series Digital Corridor Reference w/ active shield as well as the Electra Glide Silver reference. So I had been listening to some VERY good digital cables. Then on top of that I received a Siltech G5 Golden Ridge digital in about 60 days prior to the Nite getting here – the G5 was the 1.5 meter version that Siltech recommends – as well as the Kharma Grand Reference (only a one meter…thank GOD as it is ENOURMOUS and had to be hung from the ceiling to weighed so much at even one meter) that had been here maybe 25 or 30 days before the arrival of the Nite. The entire 60 days before the Nite arrived I had been doing serious listening to the Siltech and comparing it against the HT Magic, w/ Bybee filters on both ends of the Magic one against the G5. I slightly preferred the G5 in this comparison, but w/ the Bybee’s on the G5 also it was no contest. However, to my surprise, I actually liked the Kharma Grand Reference better than the G5 regardless of what the G5 had to soup it up a little!
So I had essentially been listening to the Siltech G5 1.5 meter digital cable for about a month when I traded it in for the Kharma Grand Reference and had been happily listening to that great cable for the last 30 days upon arrival of the Nite. As good as the Kharma Grand Reference was in my “B” system compared to ANY cable – Omega Mikro Ebony included – none of the cables I had previously heard before the Nite could hold a candle in the main system to the OM Ebony, it’s just WAY too musical, neutral, snappy, clean, transparent, and foot-tappin’ happy sounding up on the Big Rig. Due to this I sent even the Kharma packing and had decided I was buying another Omega Mikro Ebony – the Silver LCX version this time no less – to complete my digital connections on both systems….that’s when Rick at Virtual Dynamics made his challenge to me and stood behind his beliefs by sending me the cables to compare to all mine.
If it had not been from just having lived w/ the Kharma Grand Reference for a while I may have been taken back at the enormity of the Nite digital when first I laid eyes on it. However, the Kharma is about 4 inches in circumference so anything after it pales in comparison. Right out of the box this digital cable surprised me. I usually place all cables on my cooker for a week and then play them in some non-critical spot or in the bedroom for another 100 hours before seriously listening to them. However, Rick had already cooked them on a much better cable cooker and besides, I was WAY to curious about the thing to be that patient this go around. I figured that if it sucked, I would then go through my burn in routine and then give it another chance afterwards as I have heard some very good cables go from just OK sounding to incredible sounding after 300 – 400 hours of burn in time (Harmonic Tech Magic One as well as their Platinum are the most amazing in this transformation).
So first up is one of my “B” system favorite CDs, Keb’ Mo’s Big Wide Grin. Lots of background vocals going on here and the micro detail on some tracks can be challenging to all cables and players. The Nite leaped out of the box and took control of this CD pronto. Immediately I was amazed by the clarity of Keb’ Mo’s voice! It seemed huge and strong and so natural. I had just seen Keb’ Mo’ live w/ Dar Williams a few months prior at an outdoor event at the Columbus Rhythm & Zoo concert series and have been listening to his recordings on both systems for a few years now so I have a pretty good grasp on what the “live” as well as recorded artist sounds like to my ears anyway. With the Nite he was dead on IMHO. The really great thing though was that this CD can verge on being bright and for as clean and transparent as his vocals were there was absolutely no unnatural sibilance nor any ear wincing brightness from the music itself. I was pretty pleased by the first few tracks and knew I would NOT need to go through my burn in process at all. As a matter of fact, I was smiling as I thought how much BETTER things would get As the Nite actually DID fully burn in on my system! Check this out…from the get-go the Nite sounded better than my Siltech G5 Golden Ridge! No doubt about this at all. It had all the micro detail of the G5 w/ much more natural vocal presentation as well as a smoother, more refined musical presentation to it. I liked the G5 better than any of the mere mortal cables like the Magic One and MC2, (not necessarily the OM D-4 though, apples & oranges here though and more on that if anyone is curious) but it always had something about it that bugged me. Sometimes the darn thing would sound hot when it fleshed out all that glorious detail. The bass of the G5 was incredibly clean, articulate and deep, but just not as punchy in the midbass area as I liked and not quite as tight down low as I had hoped for. Well, the Nite had no problems there. It was every bit as deep and powerful as the G5 bass but also seemed a bit more defined and nimble too. Holy Shi*! I’m really digging this!
The moment of clarity w/ the Nite came very soon into the session. Track #4 on Big Wide Grin, while not the best track on the recording, has a peculiarity that makes cable auditioning rather revealing. The song starts out well enough w/ a good strong bass line and Kevin’s great acoustic guitar but there is something odd about the drum kit here. The kick drum, snare and even the high hats all sound really great being very clean and snappy. However, the cymbal strikes have always bugged my on this one track as I thought they sounded receded compared not only to thee rest of the drum kit here but also to the general recording of the rest of the album. Almost as if the set up crew had accidentally miked the cymbals too far away or something. I’ve tried a lot of cables on this track and it generally will give you a good idea of how well the set up is fleshing out the detail. I was nearly half through the song when I popped my eyes open in amazement! “Damn, is that track four?” I must be loosing my mind I thought as the cymbals were now nearly in line w/ the rest of the drum kit as far as the loudness and decay. It took me by surprise enough that I actually got up and LOOKED at the track number on the transport! Yep, that’s track 4 all right? So just in case I had not heard the recording recently enough and got it mixed up somehow I pulled the Nite for the OM digital w/ DC active shield and started over. YIKES, there it is again, those damn cymbals are just not up to snuff like I thought. Back on goes the Nite and sure as heck, now, though not as good as the rest of the recordings on the disc, the cymbals were much clearer and well enough exposed that it no longer irritated me to hear them during the song. This through me enough to run upstairs and commence to go through the hassle of pulling my Omega Micro Ebony from the main rig and drag it downstairs to see what it’s going to do w/ this situation. This NOT a task one takes likely when doing it by yourself believe me so it was a real stunner for me at this point to see where the cards would fall.
Even w/ the $1400 basic Ebony Twin Tube Digital cable, the detail of the drum kit was not as distinct as I had heard just moments b/4 w/ the Nite cable in place. Not that the Ebony was not better sounding at this point, as I feel it was more refined overall and more “texture” to the bass line as well as the PRaT being more to my liking by a very small margin, but then again, the Nite only had about 30 minutes on it at this point so I was still very impressed and so back it went to the “B” set up for a few hours of burn in before the next disc was to be spun w/ the cable.
Later that night I pulled at a favorite test CD of mine for this system Jimmy Buffett’s “Fruitcakes.” Yes, it’s not an “audiophile” disc, but I’ve heard it so many times in so many different configurations that I know every line and nuance it has to offer and it really does have a lot of stuff going on that makes it enjoyable as well as demanding when testing out new gear or cables. Of particular interest from this disc is track 7, “quietly making noise” as there is so much delicate information going from the shakers to the subtle way the bass line is introduced and then it builds up very well into a full blown boogie. The horn section here though is something I’ve come to pay special attention to w/ cables. It took me a few years of occasionally listening to this track to stumble one day upon how if everything is just right you can clearly distinguish the trombones from the trumpets even though they are tightly placed in the stage. However, when REALLY good cables that SYNERGIZE really well w/ a particular system are in play you can then even hear the trumpets as they swing across the microphones set up for the horns. This creates a really cool three-dimensional image and something that taught me just how important cable matching is to a system, as I never caught this until one day inserting some Nordost Quattro Fil from my Bel Canto DAC1.1. The Nordost really didn’t do anything for me upstairs in the main system as I much preferred the Omega Mikro and Pure Note Epsilon there over the QF, but HOLY MOLY when the QF were placed downstairs things snapped into place w/ astonishing results and forever spoiled me in some of my favorite albums would have to sound from that point forward. The OM Ebony digital allows this to occur as do the AQ Diamond X2 IC when I place Bybee filters on both pair. However, if the digital cable is not up to snuff this particular bit of magic is easily lost. The Nite cable passed this test w/ flying colors, not only allowing the horns to be distinct and tracking them across the microphones, but Jimmy Buffets vocals are enormous and full and really sounding like he’s down there in the dungeon w/ me. Smooth and rich too w/ no sibilance and the background singers are easily separated and properly placed in the stage being just a few feet behind JB. In this comparison the clarity was far beyond the Siltech G5 and the Kharma Grand Reference while the vocals were more enjoyable w/ the Nite than either of those two also. The Kharma has a slight edge in creating a mind blowing 3-D effect and the bass line is ever so slightly fuller and more forward than the Nite, but I still think that the Nite to be overall more musically to my liking, but then again I’m the type of guy that would choose Omega Mikro cables and Audio Magic Stealth PLCs over a Hydra or Synergistic Research, NBS sound, really digging on the faster sound as well as the razor sharp attack and crisp leading edge transients.
I spent quite a bit more time w/ the Nite down there going over everything from Patricia Barber & Sara K., to Steely Dan, Tracy Chapman, The Pretenders and even some No Doubt & Mellencamp. When it was time to take it up to the main rig I was pretty darn happy w/ what I heard down there and getting really curious w/ how my Omega Mikro Ebony was going to take over the task when I pulled it from the main rig. IMHO & IN MY STSTEM w/ MY PREFERENCES I found the Virtual Dynamics Nite Digital cable to be more to my liking than the Siltech G5 Golden Ridge (even w/ Bybee filters on both ends), the Kharma Grand Reference, Harmonic Tech Magic One, and especially the Acoustic Zen MC2 (this one didn’t go anywhere w/ Bybee’s on the ends like the others did). All of this is just w/ the Nite running from transport to DAC w/o ever having placed the Bybee filters on both ends, which has the potential to take it up even another notch or two. If anyone were considering upgrading his or her digital front end I would first think long and hard about trying a new digital cable first if you have not done so in the last couple years. The differences that these better digital cables make are stunning and the Nite is a contender for ANY cable out there, no matter if you o have $2000 to drop on a Kharma or Valhalla.
System starts w/ dedicated line into FIL outlet. Audio Magic Stealth PLC feed by Audio Magic Stealth power cord. Shunyata Cobra power cord from Stealth to PS Audio Ultimate Outlet HC. From the UO I feed my Bel Canto DAC 1.1 w/ an Omega Mikro Planar III DC active power cord and Monarchy DIP w/ another Audio Magic Illusion power cord. Another Omega Mikro PC feed the X-PSU power supply for my X-Cans headphone amp. AQ Diamond x2 and silver ribbon Ics from DAC to Carver amp and into X-Cans. Elco Audio silver ribbons to bottom posts of speakers and Pure Silver Sound to top posts w/ HDL’s there too. Everything gets DH Cones and squares and there are two Polycrystal shelves used to help in isolation.