I have an ES/SS system similar to yours. Shielded cables, IMO. You do not want any RFI mixed in with the signal. It will result in a glassy sound if you use unshielded cables.
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Generraly speaking unshielded cables sound "open" and by that I mean, the sound stage is not restricted in both width and depth. Shielded cablles generally "choke" the music and by that I mean they close off the sound stage and your music sounds less "open". In addition, shielding may introduce veils that may make your music sound recessed, ill-defined and muddy. In short, bothe transparency and soundstaging are affected in an adverse way. If you look at the market, almost all of the "Name brand" cables are shielded. Choose a cable of very small gauge, ie a gauge smaller than 22. I personally prefer 26 gauge. I have tried 30 gauge cable but it's hard to work with. Furthermore, make sure that the main lead consists of a SINGLE wire, be it 22 AWG or 24 or preferrafly 26 AWG. Stay away from multistranded design. You may also consider a power generator, I have not tried PS Audio's 600 but have heard good things about it. If you can not afford an AC power generator, then the best thing to do is to listen to music late at night or preferrably in early am, ie 1-2 am with all the lights off, and all the appliances off/disconnected! You have a relatively high end system, you might as well hear all of it's benefits!
On the contrary, shielding can actually pick up RFI and EMI eminating from nearby power cords, etc, and introduce it into the signal path resulting in unfavorable sound characteristics that I have previously mentioned. You may want to do a trial of both a shielded and an unshielded cable under the conditions that I previously mentioned. I have tube monoblocks with a dual mono designed tube preamp. I have tried shielded, partially shielded and unshielded ICs in my low powered tube system and IMHO, the unshielded variety was MUCH better sounding. The partially shielded variety was much better than my 100% shielded cable. I have a refined system and could easily hear the differences! Best thing to do is try for yourself. Good luck
I recently switched from Phoenix Gold interconnecs (shielded, twisted multistranded design & cooked for a week on a Mobie) to Tice Audio (solid core, unshielded, TPT treated). Simply no comparison...so much music, smoothness of sound and openness!
I still don't know whether a cartridge's signal to the phono preamp should be shielded...
I agree that shielding tends to add unwanted side effects to audio cables. Of course, this is more noticable with some more than others..depending on the cable itself.
Unless you have gobs of wires going here and there and running parallel to each other (always cross your cables as close to 90 degrees as possible where they HAVE to meet), have cable TV hooked up in your system (a HUGE source of RFI and other nasties), or live near radio towers and the like, MOST systems are not exposed to enough interference to warrant the necessity of shielding.
Shielding veils the last bits of detail, emotion, and clarity of the sound. I make my own cables and have eperimented by making identical cables with the exception of shielding and there is an obvious difference even from the starting block. -Jason
Shielded speaker cables are a bad idea IMO. Shielding only adds unneccesary capacitance. With the low output impedance of power amps, there is really not much concern of RFI being picked-up.
As for IC's, this is system and location dependent. The great majority of my customers have found that unsheilded IC's work great for them. As long as the IC's are not put directly in contact with power cords etc., there should not be a noise problem.
Audioengr you forgot some, but that is OK....My suggestion is to go unshielded and take them to the Fuddruckers off Broadway in the alley and put them in the bottom of a bucket of beer until you finish up the longnecks to treat them cryogenically and once a year soak the silver connectors in the river walk to take off the tarnish and eat some proper cheese cake at the same time.....If the tarnish really gets bad go to Millers Bar-B-Q and use some of their sauce.....With Levinson I would go with Luminous Synchestra Signature ICs and shy away from silver.....