Review: VooDoo Cable LLc Silver Refference XLR 1M Interconnect
I came into contact with Bruce Richardson of voodoo Cable some two years ago or so, in regard to another area of audio cabling. Power cords to be exact. I had it on good advice Bruce made a quality item that far surpassed much of the competition at their various price points. My counsel added the power cords voodoo offers are more than a good value, and are quite musical. The advice was spot on. I now own three of Mr. Richardsons power cables. One Black Dragon that supplies my PS audio UPC 200, which in turn drives the two Gold Dragons supplying my BAT VK500 w/BAT pk. Which requires two power cables.
NOTE TO SELF: Consider purchasing amps that require only one power cord a the next upgrade.
This is not to say that VooDoo’s offerings in cabling are expensive. Quite the contrary. Just that one less cable is one place where more money can be put to use in acquiring another amp that was previously unaffordable due to the need for a second power cord.
Bruce’s power cables not only saved me a good deal of money, they equaled or surpassed many I tried in or above the price VooDoo had established for them. I am needless to say still happy with that purchase and the performance they exude. DConsequently when I am treated well, the product meets or exceeds the anticipated level, there is good to great support for anything after the sale, I an inclined to return to that company again. Finding myself in dire need of a pair of interconnects between my amp and preamp, I called upon VooDoo Cable to see what they had which might suit my needs. The proposed cables based on my system and preferences, were the Silver Refference interconnects. Two reasons apart from my previously mentioned items were that the cost of the Silver Refs would be quite affordable, and secondly there were a fresh pair available. VooDoo cable makes cables to order. By hand. In custom configurations according to the needs of the clientele.
A pair of Silver Refference interconnects in XLR configuration arrived a few days later by U.S. Postal service priority mail.
Before we get onto the area of my thoughts about the Silver Reference cables, suppose it only fair to provide a glimpse into me so you will have a more comprehensive basis for understandinghow I truly enjoy music. If the ‘get accquaijted section doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to skip ahead to the actual audition. I’ll try to not hold it against you.
Now that we know each other a bit better (well, someone does know someone anyhow), in so far as my past and present musical tastes are concerned, I should also tell you how I do preffer to listen to music. I do definitely lean towards the romantic, and lush side of the tonal bias. The best sound I have yet heard in over thirty years of listening to music was about two years ago during an ‘in store’ audition of some loudspeakers. I had the chance opportunity to hear a Paul marks designed system. Thor is the name it is marketed under. It consisted of his top preamp, and two 30 wpc monos, driving a pair of VR4 JR’s. I was stunned. That sound still haunts me. Single ended triode based. A truly marvelous sound. Ultimately I may be going down the SET road at some point. I did buy a pair of JR’s later on, realizing their capacity for reproducing a sound that realistic. As I am quite “hard of seeing” at this stage of the game and my hearing is my most used asset, other than some walnut sized grey matter I have lurking about between them, I am in fact now quite sensitive to the upper ranges of the musical bandwidth. Increased volume is also seldom needed. I run my gear at modest levels… much of the time. Now and again there is some desire for more decibels, naturally. Copious volume levels are thus, no longer the rule. You don’t have to paint as often either.
For purposes of this review, please refer to most anything done by Johnny Hartman, Arthur Prysock, Ella fitzgerald, Johnny Nocturne, Ronnie Earl, larry Carlton, Mary Stallings, Eva Cassidy, Roomful of blues, Michael John & The bottom Line Band, Ray Charles, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat band, Milt Jackson, and Stanley Turentine. Along with Johnny Lang, Shemikia Copeland, Marcia Ball, Otis Rush, John Mayall, robin Trower, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Lester Flatts & Earl Scruggs, Allison krauss & Union Station… as these are the norms for my auditions…. I do keep a bit more limited selection for true performance ratings and usually they are tracks burned to CD as a compilation. I have three such CD’s. I am quite familiar with for this express purpose… so there really is method to the madness. Trust me. If I’m spending my money I do need to know. What I hear and what you hear may well not be the same at any length so I can’t see the need to inundate you with what I heard. Just those attributes of the device, positive, and negative. I’m not selling, I’m telling.
I enjoy as my main preference, jazz, and jazz vocalists. Blues and it’s various iterations follow closely behind in second place. Bringing up the balance of the musical genre throng, are nearly everything else. Save some Urban stylings I just can’t seem to bring myself to enjoy completely. Trust me I have tried, and continue to peek in on this group or that to try keeping up. Circumstances at this point in my life allows me a freedom to entertain any genre with more objectivity than has been the norm for me. I once relegated myself to listening to just both types of real music. “Country” and of course, “Western”. A sad lament by some accounts. Those days are happily, long since past. The last couple of years or so the collection is growing and the larger bulge in it is no longer blues and R&B, it’s now straight ahead jazz. Some acid. Some Latin. Presently it’s big bands as the flavor being served regularly. That too shall pass being replaced by yet another notion of fancy with indeed some other glittering facet of the jazz genre. There are quite enough components and eras left to keep me busy for a very long time. As often as I can, I add to the collection. One curious note is the notion that as of late I am quite interested in the swing era of jazz and those big bands that made up the greater span of it. Everything is fair game today. New, old, swing, big bands, and acoustic threee and four piece combos. All of them have their points of attraction. I’ve heard it said that our taste buds change their preferences every seven years. Perhaps I have some taste buds in my ears as my musical tastes are most definitely broadening. Classical music seems although belated, the next aspiration.
I do tend to shy away from a top end that is spotlit or brilliant. One that is anywhere near the same neighborhood as being bright. I still enjoy an extended sweetly rendered violin. A vibraphone tinkling the upper bars. A saxophonist squealing out a hot rif. Symbols that remain defined and possess a natural shimmering quality. So top ends with refinement and a silky texture are indeed the ones I enjoy. All else in the bandwidth provides much in the way of excitement and pleasure for me. So that’s me. My slant on how music will sound best to me. As those are indeed my choices, they are not the governors of honest incites.
A fair appraisal is an objective one. Sonic elements that are aside from my personal notions are neither better, nor worse. They are simply different. Different is just that, different. An assessment of good or bad is determined by ones own two ears and musical taste.. The bottom line of a good or bad judgement comes from the prospective purchaser. Everyone has a slant on what they care to listen to, and how they wish to listen to it. Differences are the spice. Different is also not always better, but it is always different. I did play a horn for eight years by the way. Coronet mainly. Trunpet now and again. I am now into learning the keyboard. Thought about a pipe organ… but not long. Have you seen how much they want for a new pipe organ these days? …you could buy a car with that sort of money. I’ll attempt to acquit myself with this final line, being unable to see the charts I learn by ear. Were I able to see the written notes my progress would hasten due to previous experience playing music for a good while.
…but let’s get onto the revelation of just how does that new cable sound….
The Silver Refference cables are a silver and copper construct. I’ll leave the exact fashion of that construction method to those serious enough to investigate it for all the details are available at the VooDoo Cable web site. I will say that they come with a braided metallic outer skin that is very attractive and guards against interfferecne from RF and likewise radiated waves that can adversely affect sensitive equipment. Not to mention the protection it provides for the workings of the cable. A nice touch. The price for a one meter XLR interconnect of the Silver Refference is $450.00. Additional lengths are at extra cost. Shorter lengths are also available at less cost. They are also available in RCA terminated versions at still greater savings. They sit one level below the top interconnect offered by VooDoo, the ‘Ultralinear’ interconnect.
So the cables are in the rig and getting run in. Being as new cables some time was certainly necessary for them to perform. One note about VooDoo cables in general. Bruce does his own cryogenic treatments of his products. This special care and treatment of the wire decreases the run in time needed for optimum performance. I believe it also allows for a run in period that is not at all unpleasant, if you’re the sort that will listen from time to time along the run in trail. I am, and I do. I can’t help it. I have to peek in and see what a device is about as it is awoken to the new world and my system. I do wait some reasonable amount of time though before prying into the state of affairs with each new item. I waited nearly two hours before I sat down to see what this new interconnect was about.
Well, there was simply no mistaking the fact these were ‘brandy’ new items. The sound being generated was in cohesive at first take. Not surprising. A bunch of wires I’ve tested in the past when ‘spanking’ new did all sorts of things with the music. The Silver Refs were no different in that regard apart from the fact they had no edgy brightness or thinness. Tonally it was as smoothly rich as any I had previously heard. Silky smooth falls short of doing justice here as a descriptive device. So yes, they had a ways to go. Roughly, the Silver References took about a hundred hours before they were capable of really jamming. All along the way they were quite the easy cable to listen to. The cohesiveness improved dramatically and with some alackrity.
This being the first predominately ‘silver’ wire I’ve used in my system, I was apprehensive but assured it would not possess attributes which many say are inherent to silver constructs.. Bright, overly revealing, or cool. They have none of these characteristics. They are quite fast. Quick, actually is the better term. Resolving, rather than severely detailed. Finely toned. Very good tonally, in the mids, and quite easy to take in the top most level of musical interpretations. Voices come across naturally and are somewhat more pronounced, or forward in the soundstage. Yet remain pleasant and do not distract.
Soundstage development is wide and tall. Depth of sound stage seems less the focus though. Back of the stage elements aren’t as noticeable as with some other cables I’ve used. To quantify that statement I should add those cables offering detailed images and rear of the stage information in a well delineated appraisal were quite more expensive than the Silver References attractive fee, by several times over. The SS the Silver References portray is well proportioned and imaging is good on the whole and allows for a most satisfying event. Enjoying music with the Silver Reference cables comes quite readily.
Perky is apt. A tilt towards a bit higher overall ‘lift’ of the developed bandwidth is also an attribute. Not a dramatic lift by any definition… yet a slight lift nonetheless. Very good tonal quality on the whole. Air is another aspect of the Silver Reference. There is a more than fair amount lending itself to recreating ambience and presence. There is air sufficient to also become the separator between images. Open sound is quite the norm with the Silver Reference. Extremely nice with acoustic music… bluegrass, solo acoustical performances, and some light jazz. An involving presentation is had with big band jazz too. They gave a very good accounting of themselves on most any genre of music, the aforementioned, just more so.
Richly rendered, warm, or lush aren’t quite the picture the SR’s paint. Musical? Indeed. Balanced? Almost entirely with a slightly forward midrange the only note. Involving? Very much so. Smooth? Certainly. Good value? Of course. I didn’t notice a firm development of the mid bas area. Nor a large body of fullness in the lower mid to lower treble. A firmer foundation or enhancement in the mid bass and bass ranges, would be more supportive of better body in the mids and tend to improve the perception of warmth, above it.
All in all, the Silver Reference cables come across as fairly neutral. Smooth to the point of being a refreshing surprise and they refrain from any lack of detail as the resultant smoothness often suffers. The Silver Reference cables are articulate without being sterile or dry. A most competent cable. Clean and clear. Above all, a most musical. Slightly forward though without a distracting prominence. A good fit for a system that has a somewhat laid back or attenuated mid range or one that requires some additional pace to the bottom end.
Personal preffernces are the bottom line. Warmer, and lush to the point of being ‘wet’ are traits I most enjoy. Naturalness and dynamics with solidly placed images that maintain appropriate silhouettes mean the difference for me. Having more heft to images, weight and impact to notes, and a decidedly greater warmth and presence in the bottom to upper mids are my prefferences. Although a good offering and a steal at their assessed value, the Silver Reference interconnects are not the fit for my system and tastes as my main preamp to amp interconnect. I do see how they could find their way into another area as perhaps a source cable, with little difficulty. Given their price point and sonic characteristics I would think them a fine match for either tube or solid state gear, and if on some predetermined scale for spending, a wise purchase in the mid priced cable contributions. The VooDoo Silver Reference Cable gives a good account of itself and establishes outstanding value for the buyer.
Ultralinear XLR 1M signal cable
The next step up in the VooDoo cable lineup is the Ultralinear. With my feeling growing, that the Silver refs were not providing quite the characteristics I was aiming for as my main interconnect I told Bruce if at all possible I would very much like to audition the Ultralinear model. A pair were put together and sent my way. Once more brandy new. Never used.
All bright and shiny looking but with more heft than the Silver Refs. I had the Ultralinears for almost exactly the time necessary to break them in. No more. Certainly to brief an encounter to make any critical assessments of their performance characteristics. I can say that they take quite a time to run in, so do be patient. Definitely over a hundred hours is needed. Right at about a hundred hours I got a brief glimpse of their ability, though I feel they were still coming on. They were very open, and resolution was refined. The bottom end and mid bass areas were just about to solidify I think. I will say I was impressed with what I did hear before having to send them back for some ‘professional’ reviewer to audition, post haste or meet a deadline. Regardless, I surely regretted not keeping them the balance of the weekend to make sure of their musical traits and assess their integration into my gear as a current reference. So it goes. At least the reviewer shouldn’t have had to spend any inordinate amount of time running in the Ultralinears. Consequently, I’ll not in good conscience, add more than the above information to my findings for they could well be inaccurate.
I am very grateful to VooDoo cable for the magnanimous offer to try their signal cables. Not to mention the great opportunity to entertain both sets of interconnects for some time in my system. Just so you know this in no form or fashion is anything other than an objective recount of their performances in my rig, I paid the freight both ways and as per Bruce’ wishes provided him and you my honest feelings on the cables tested. In all of the brevity of the Ultralinear encounter it remained one of the three top choices in my search for my preamp to amp interconnect till the very end of my auditions. Such is life. Sometimes life just gets in the way. I do still feel that you do a disservce to yourself if you do not investigate the offerings from VooDoo cable LLC. In any case.
BAT VK5i w/Matsushita 6DJ8’s, & Tung sol 5881’s
BAT VK500 w/BAT pk.
Sony SCD xa 777 es CD Player
Shunyata Python VX
VooDoo Black Dragon
VooDoo Gold Dragon (2 for amp)
Synergistic Signature 10 X2 Active bi wires
Synergistic Alpha Quadd series X Active on JR bass driver only.
Velodyne CHT 10 inch active sub. Running off the preamp outputs.
PS Audio UPC 200
All devices draw power via dedicated 20A ckts.
Vibrapods & cones support sources,filter, and preamp.
Soundstrings signal cables, Cardass Neutral Ref, Cardas golden Refs, Nirvana SL & SX Ltd, Shunyata aries & Antares, HT Magic, Synergistic Research Resulution Refference active X2, etc.