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Positive Feedback ISSUE13
Interconnects, speaker, and AC cables
as reviewed by John Zurek
Those of you old enough to have seen Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, or Janis Joplin perform live will probably remember Abbie Hoffman’s counterculture manifesto, Steal This Book. Topics included: Free Food, Free Clothing and Furniture, Free Transportation, Free Education, Free Medical Care, and Free Money. And the book? Abbie literally wanted you to shoplift it off the shelves of bookstores. In a roundabout way, Richard Sachek of RS Cables is inviting audiophiles to do the same. His products are so phenomenally good, and so inexpensive, that you might as well be stealing them. I want to spend this review conveying my experience with these products rather than providing technical descriptions, so if you are interested, go to www.rscables.com.
Before listening to the RS Solid Silver interconnects ($99 for a 1-meter pair), I cooked them for three days. I was spinning the Band of Gypsies CD (Jimi Hendrix) when I decided to switch to the RS interconnects, and hooked up a one-meter length from my preamp to my CD player. A boatload of lower midrange/upper bass congestion was instantly gone. I never knew it was there—I just thought this was a crappy CD. I kept listening to CDs, and—you guessed it—more less-than-great sounding recordings got cleaned up. Some of the ever-so-slight bass bloat my Thiels can produce went away.
Then I played some large-scale orchestral goodies. The last time I listened to Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic perform Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, I promised myself that I would listen to it again on the night it should be performed—March 21. The loss of congestion and addition of detail made the experience ethereal, and the next day we moved from cold temperatures to 60 degrees. Coincidence? Nah, I’m messin’ with ya! Soundstage width and depth were about the same. I heard none of the tizziness associated with bad silver wire. Bass slam and extension were happenin’. This is one neutral interconnect. Problems? I didn’t like the locking connectors. For some reason, they were counter-intuitive to the way my brain (occasionally) works.
I was having so much fun that I decided to try the Duet Palladium interconnects ($359 for a 1-meter pair). These are affordable for palladium—in case you’ve never heard of this metal, it is more expensive than platinum. I placed the Duets between my Cary preamp and CD player, and fell in love. What the Solid Silvers did, the Duets did even better. These are the stars of the RS stable. Air, lots of air. Liquidity. Detail without harshness. I could hear a bass guitar and identify it as a Fender. And cymbals, Holy Moly! I could easily tell the difference between Zildjians (bright, cutting), Paistes (bright, with complex mid/high overtones), and hand-hammered Turkish cymbals (dark, with lots of low overtones and good stick definition). Excellent bass extension. Ahhhh. I realized that I was able to listen to several CDs in a row, of the type that usually send me screaming from my listening room after a few cuts. For me, this was the biggie.
The Duets did it all, with class. These gems easily compete with cables costing four to five times as much. My only regret was that I only had one pair for evaluation. I wanted to wire my entire system with these palladium wonders. Without a doubt, these are among the best interconnects I’ve ever heard. I could find no obvious sonic faults or colorations. Whenever I took the Duets out of the chain, I wanted them back. Immediately.
Do be careful with these little purple gems. The wire is stiff, and may break. This shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t have to change them around like a silly reviewer. What didn’t I like? Again, the connectors—the same as the ones on the Solid Silvers. I’d like to see RS offer the option of upgrading the connectors on all their interconnects, perhaps to bullet plugs. A few more sheckles for the upgrade would be acceptable.
The Solid Silver Speaker Cable ($309 per 8-foot pair) had a hard act to follow. I love my reference Acoustic Zen Satoris, and consider them to be among the best. How did the Solid Silvers stack up? Remarkably well, especially considering the price. They had nice air and solid imaging, if a little less bass impact than the Satoris. They had nicely delineated leading edges, and were quick and very neutral. Which would I choose? I’d keep my Satoris in my current system. The Solid Silvers could be better performers in a tube amplifier system that needed a very slightly leaner sound. It’s a matter of taste and system matching. Once again, the Solid Silvers are an absolute steal!
The Kevlar Star power cable ($179 for 6 feet) also had a hard act to follow—after spending a few months with the PS Audio Statement, I was spoiled. The Statement is the best power cord I’ve ever heard, but the Kevlar gave me 90% of the performance of the Statement at 40% of the cost. ‘Nuff said.
One caveat with these wires. When using an all-RS system, I did have a problem. Things got harsh—the combination of all-silver/palladium did not like the metal dome tweeters on my Thiel 3.6s. As soon as I switched one of the interconnects in the chain back to copper, all was good again. I’m sure this is a function of my speakers, and I’ve come across it before when using all-silver wiring. Unless your speakers tend toward the bright side, you shouldn’t have a problem. Try them in your system before you buy. RS Cables offers a 15-day in-home trial period, so no worries.
Mr. or Ms. Audiophile, you no longer have any excuse for not owning top shelf audio cables. The RS interconnects and speaker cables are among the most Swiss-like I’ve ever heard. Interested in tone-control wire? This ain’t it, but don’t we really want cables that tell the truth, without having to take out a second mortgage? If you want big name fluff, this ain’t it either, but if you want all-out performance that plays well with big boy components, this is it.
With RS, you get great results from the Kevlar Starcord, excellent performance from the Solid Silver interconnects and speaker cable, and no-holds-barred, stellar sound from the Duet interconnects. Make no mistake—these wires kick some serious face. If I were you, I’d buy them before Richard comes to his senses and charges five to ten times the price. Steal these cables. I’m planning to do just that. John Zurek