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as reviewed by Marshall Nack
The World's Best Interconnects?
Long before the Stealth Audio Indra interconnects arrived in my mailbox, there was high-volume buzz in the airwaves about a new super wire. The buzz was about the usual things that audiophiles get off on, but its volume was greater. There was also the lure of limited availability and carriage-crowd pricing, so the Indras came loaded with a heavy burden of proof and expectation. I quickly ascertained that they are indeed different, and not at all what I expected.
The Indras look unassuming. Solid, lightweight, flexible, and user-friendly, they look like many other interconnects, but their appearance offers no clue to the sonic delights that await. Serguei Timechev, the design guru at Stealth Audio, will only reveal part of the mystery. What he is willing to reveal is that, through sheer serendipity, he managed to obtain a spool of "amorphous" metal wire. The special process used to form this metal results in a complete lack of grain or crystal structure. This goes beyond the single-crystal structure that other cable manufacturers extol. The same wire is quite different when produced in the conventional way. Electrochemical analysis reveals its composition to be mostly platinum, molybdenum, and gold.
After assessing a prototype pair of interconnects made from this wire, Serguie decided to buy up the remaining stock. Since the wire was developed in the aerospace industry at frightful expense, Serguei believes it will never be produced again. The Indra interconnects have nine conductors. Each is only 0.001 inches in diameter, which is ten times smaller than the gold wire used in the Stealth PGS-3Ds. It is almost invisible, and nearly impossible to work with. The cables feature Stealth's proprietary "distributed Litz" configuration, a patent-pending, non-resonant, multi-layer geometry. They are also cryogenically treated, which reduces the VERY long break-in time of the untreated wire. There is enough amorphous wire in existence to make about 400 pairs of one-meter interconnects.
Let's take care of the audiophile report card right away, so we can get to the Indras' special qualities, which transcend the usual parameters. The cables' frequency spectrum is superbly proportioned, without humps or suckouts. Their tonal center is slightly higher in the midrange than Stealth's excellent GS-50-50s or the Harmonix HS-101GPs, and is closer to that of the Kharma Grand Reference cables. Similarly, the Indras are closer in body and fullness to the Kharma GR cables than they are to the weightier GS-50-50s.
Dynamics, both micro and macro, are simply what's called for by the music, which swells or diminishes as you would expect, no more nor less. Ditto for information retrieval. All the details are there, should you care to focus on them, but nothing is forced upon you. The arrival of frequencies is outstandingly coherent. There is absolutely nothing lagging or forward in the initial transients, and this, combined with the Indras' coherency, gives them a very desirable crispness. Images are stable and focused, without the hard edges that are often used to add artificial definition, and the soundstage is as dimensional as any I've heard to date.
The bass response goes deep, and stays tight enough to border on dryness. There's great treble, too, and it's tight like the bass. Actually, the entire frequency spectrum exhibits exemplary control. What I mean is that the Indras resolutely refuse to add fat or warmth, or to allow grain, edge, or any other artifacts to pollute the signal. You'll be aware of the Indras' presence mostly by the quality of the treble, which is fluid, dynamically agile, and extremely open, setting a new benchmark in that domain.
The caveat is that your system must be ready for the Indras. While they bring unlimited treble extension, they won't add weight on the bottom or flesh on top. Those qualities must already be in place. The Indras are voiced solidly in the neutral/accurate camp, with no schmaltz added. If all this weren't enough to put the Indras in the finals, there's more. On first hearing, even without break-in, it was obvious that their timbre was uncommonly accurate. The degree to which the Indras captured the essence of each instrument's "soul" was remarkable. Oboes sounded like oboes, and could never be confused with clarinets. A Steinway grand sounded like a very large, resonating wooden object, but enough clues were apparent to let me know that it wasn't a Bosendorfer. I thought the Stealth GS-50-50 interconnects had captured the prize for timbral accuracy, but they were handily outdone by the Indras.
The Indras also distinguished themselves by concentrating the sound at its source (that is, the instrument playing the note), then allowing it to radiate outwards in a halo of rapidly decreasing volume. In other words, what you hear is very precisely and cleanly located, and is just where you'd expect it to be. All you hear is the note and its overtones, period. Other cables produce stray sounds that make no sense—they aren't the note or its overtones, and they are not related to the music. We have to mentally dodge around these spurious sounds that must somehow be generated by the wire.
The Indras' real surprise lies in their uncanny ability to mimic the source. A cello is quite different in size than a flute or a soprano voice, but you don't hear these size differences with other cables. Since most cables present everything at about the same size, we've become accustomed to describing a wire's imaging with a single adjective, like pointed, fleshy, pinpoint, or life-size. The Indras defy such easy categorization. Sometimes a source will sound thick and sometimes thin. You hear this especially with higher register voices as they change inflection and emphasis, particularly when they complete a long phrase. On the new and long-awaited three-disc set of Handel's Theodora by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants (Erato 0927431812), soprano Sophie Daneman's voice is a large source at the start of each phrase, then it narrows and focuses as she applies her vibrato, and spreads again as she ends on a declining, less controlled note. This is a dimension beyond either image size or quality, one that affords a glimpse of the originating device (vocal apparatus, in this case). Here's another example: The sound of a piano begins with a focused transient as the hammer strikes the metal wire, then the note sounds and swells. The last component, the sustain, resonates the entire box, and the sound is broader still. The Indras are the first cables with a complex, variable personality that changes with the source.
The Stealth Audio Indras are truly neutral interconnects that, unlike others in the neutral camp, do no harm to the musical gestalt. They excel in the areas of dynamic freedom, treble extension, and focused sound energy. In their unique ability to avoid the impurities imposed by the medium (electron flow) on a signal-carrying wire, and in their chameleon-like adaptation to the source, the Indras help us transcend the awareness that we're listening to an audio system. There's no hype, but plenty of liquidity. Returning to a pair of my reference cables, I'm saddened to note the coarseness and noise riding on the signal, the treble deterioration in crescendos, the general lack of finesse and polish, and the inescapable credibility gap. If you want to impress people with hi-fi sonics, the Stealth Audio Indra interconnects may not be for you. What they do best is just what we're used to hearing every day—they come closer to recreating the real thing than any cable I've yet encountered. Marshall Nack