Lead photo courtesy of Straightwire.com.
Photo from the Voice courtesy of http://www.cactuscreekdaily.com/news/cowhide-rugs-on-the-voice
“It’s a good thing my son has the Maps app on his iPhone,” Ken exclaimed. “It found a more direct route!”
Several hours later, Ken concluded that it -- and the rest of my system -- sounded very good, but the overall presentation was a touch bright for his tastes and that the room could use some damping to deaden reflections.
“Why don’t you get a thicker carpet?” He suggested, as well as some other sound management, noting that the cowhide rug in front of my speakers was a tad skimpy.
Granted, Ken’s home system is ensconced in a smaller, carpeted room with corner and wall sound absorption treatments, while mine is much larger and though it has great acoustics with a large opening to the left side and a fireplace to the right, it also has vinyl flooring, sheetrock walls, a leather couch, loveseat and chair which makes it a much livelier-sounding space.
An acquaintance who works in Quality Assurance at Foster Electric Company (manufacturers and sales of loudspeakers, audio and electronical equipment) suggested building acoustic panels and placing them on several walls --- adding that they’d only cost roughly $30 to build.
I was considering upgrading my speaker cables, which though decent were a shade bright-sounding for the space. However, I did not want to break my budget, so I reached out to Steven Hill, CEO of Straight Wire, Inc. (who make a variety of great A/V cables at reasonable prices). Hill had sold me a pair of Soundstage SC cables when we lived at our previous home, however, the acoustics had changed with our relocation.
Now with the myriad of choices out there, I found it comforting that, excellent products aside, Straight Wire can fast track the cable selection process with their free online system and room evaluation (to see this directly, click here)
Hill, who had visited my house in April while in town for Audio Expo North America (AXPONA), recommended their Pro Special cables in external bi-wire configuration.
“The Pro speaker cable is a symmetrical coax that we’ve had for over 15 years,” He said via email. “You are using dual runs – an excellent match to your components,” Hill continued. “The lengths are not long – no issues for loop capacitance and inductance.”
A Few Technical Details
- Using OFHC copper with an effective 12 awg per polarity – low resistance
- Sintered Foam PTFE ( Teflon family) and a durable black Polyurethane jacket – small footprint.
- Approx capacitance near 64-65 pF/ft.
- Approx Inductance .05-.06 uH/ft. – low inductance
- List price is $10/ft. plus $80 termination per pair.
The cables arrived black and shiny. They came with heat shrinking cable braces to hold together the paired cables going to my speakers which I applied about a week later, spacing them out evenly and securing them in place with my wife’s blow dryer.
I played some music over them for a few hours to break them in, and when my wife (who already preferred the look of them over others I’ve had) sat down with me to watch an HD televised program over my system, she immediately noticed the difference. There was less sibilance and it sounded warmer.
I called Hill, who told me,“Give them another 12 hours to burn in and you’ll notice an even bigger difference!”
He was absolutely right. The brightness had diminished. What was left was excellent high frequency detail, an enhanced warmth and fullness in the midrange, balance, separation and accuracy in the timbre of vocals and instruments -- as well as a tighter, more muscular bass. The presentation was a touch more revealing, with precise delineation and control. Bottom line, recordings sounded better and more “in the room” than I’d previously experienced.
The Straight Wire Pro Special speaker cables were in place when I wrote my formal review on the LampizatOr DSD Komputer music server which, as amazing as it sounded in my system before, its presentation blossomed with the introduction of the Pro Special cables (you can read my impressions at this link here).
The Straight Wire Pro Special speaker cables has enhanced the overall performance of my two channel stereo and has greatly diminished the need or desire for additional sound treatments in my room (there’s a rumor afoot that Santa may be delivering a second cowhide rug for Christmas). Maybe I’ll put up a couple acoustic panels, but maybe I won’t. There’s no sense of urgency. Listening fatigue? It doesn’t exist.
Quite honestly, sitting here in front of my system listening to Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola and Jean Luc Ponty play “Indigo” on The Rite of Strings album while winding down my review, I am enthralled. Ponty’s resonant, ethereal violin solos, the strings and sound of Di Meola’s acoustic guitar; the timbre of Clarke’s rumbling, upright acoustic bass sound so real, so up close and intimate. The detail, the tone, the balance is just right and transfixing. I find myself listening to the song several times just for the sheer joy.
Flat out, these are the best speaker cables I’ve had in my system (and I’ve had a few)! For the money, I simply cannot think of a better fit in my system.
· LampizatOr DSD Komputer music server. My review says it all. This is arguably the best sounding music server I've heard.
· Straight Wire USB Link USB cable. This is a great bang for the buck -- transparent, vivid imaging and at roughly $40 a meter length cable, it's a no-brainer!
· LampizatOr Lite 7 DAC. Yet another superb product by LampizatOr You can read my thoughts on it here
· Straight Wire Solo interconnects. These are highly articulating Level 4 cables that have been discontinued (only RCA, not XLR capable)
· A boutique, handmade passive preamplifier with a TDK potentiometer and silver wiring sheathed in cotton braiding (it is more transparent and significantly more expensive than the Schiit SYS passive preamp it replaces)
· Straight Wire Solo interconnects with CAMAC connectors at the Mark Levinson amp’s input and RCA connectors to the passive preamp
· One pair of AudioQuest Hard Y Adapter (1 Male to 2 Female RCA splitting the SYS output to the amp and the subwoofer)
· Hsu Research ULS-15 Mk 2 subwoofer. This sub is simply fabulous! You can read my review on it here
· Mark Levinson ML-9 amplifier. Coincidentally, this was re-capped, modded and recently brought back up to spec by my electrician, making it a veritable powerhouse with vintage Mark Levinson engineering (my acquaintance from Foster Electronics (who supply OEM components to Harman International Industries, which owns Mark Levinson) pointed out that this is a very good amp).
· Straight Wire Pro Special speaker cable in external bi-wire mode
· Von Schweikert VR-5 Hovland Special Edition speakers. An old favorite of founder Albert Von Schweikert, these vintage speakers are the hot-rodded version of the VR-5 (which uses crossovers in conjunction with sealed chambers for lower frequencies and a ported section for higher frequencies -- a combination that Von Schweikert calls the “Triple Chamber Hybrid”) and the addition of costly Hovland capacitors to create their very transparent and natural, uncolored sound.