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Positive Feedback ISSUE
Anti-Cable speaker cables
as reviewed by Fown-Ming Tien
Every time I mention to my wife that a piece of equipment represents an amazing value, she rolls her eyes and asks me how much this "amazing" value will cost us. Then she will usually ask how many pairs of shoes it represents, knowing full well that it will cost more than ten pairs of $100 shoes. Lately, almost every piece of gear that has offered better transparency and musicality than my own has also been expensive. This comes as no surprise. Better gear often uses higher-quality, most costly parts, and the cost of each small improvement increases exponentially as the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Enter Paul Speltz' new Anti-Cable speaker cables, which completely reverse the expectation that achieving high-quality sound requires a substantial investment. The Anti-Cables cost a paltry $70, including shipping, for a 7-foot pair.
Like many cable manufacturers, Paul believes that the best cable is no cable at all. Everything placed between the source and the speakers serves to degrade and color the sound. Paul's goal was to eliminate the three most common things that give speaker cables their sonic signature. The first is the complex conductive and magnetic interaction that occurs between stranded wires. The second is the magnetic field that is created when the two leads of the cable interact. Finally, the biggest source of coloration is the dielectric. Cables require long break-in times because of their thick insulation, which absorbs and re-releases energy. While this effect diminishes over time, it never completely goes away.
The Anti-Cables address all of these issues. Their solid-core wire eliminates the interaction created by stranded wire. Since the positive and negative leads are kept separate, with their own runs, the magnetic fields generated by the flow of signal through the cable are minimized. Finally, Paul minimizes the problems caused by the dielectric in other cables by using air as the dielectric. Next to a pure vacuum, air is the best dielectric. An extremely thin coating is applied to the solid-core wire to allow the positive and negative speaker leads to happily coexist without shorting if they touch. While all this sounded fine and dandy in theory, I wondered how the Anti-Cables would perform in my system. This is where the rubber meets the road. Would they crash and burn, ending up as a skid mark on the tarmac?
Given their price, I had very low expectations for the Anti-Cables, and was convinced they would be thrown into the box in my closet where I store all of my old Radio Shack Gold cables. After all, they would be replacing a pair of Onix Statement speaker cables that represent nearly twenty pairs of shoes for my wife! Since the time that the Von Schweikert VR-4 Jrs arrived here for review, I have been upgrading components one at a time. First I replaced my Aragon Palladium II monoblock amps with a Jeff Rowland Design Group Model 10 stereo amp, then replaced my Aragon Aurum preamp with a pair of EVS Ultimate Attenuators. Next, my Argent Audio Jaden Signature interconnects gave way to the CryoTweaks Silver Reference MkIIs. Finally, my trusty Perpetual Technologies digital combo with Modwright Level 2 mods gave way to a variety of DACs that I had in for review. With every component change, it was as if a layer of haze had been wiped off the window. I could hear deeper into every recording. I believed that the window was as squeaky clean as it could get until I removed the Onix Statement speaker cables and inserted the Anti-Cables. What I heard did not completely surprise me, since the Eichmann eXpress6 speaker cables I had previously reviewed offered greater transparency and clarity than the Onix cables. What surprised me was that the Anti-Cables offered a level of clarity, resolution, transparency, and airiness similar to that of the Eichmanns, at an insanely affordable price. I intentionally use the word "similar," since my system had been entirely overhauled since the Eichmann review, so without direct comparison, it was impossible to draw conclusions with certainty.
What I am confident in saying is that the window separating me from the music had been thrown open wider than ever before! True to Paul's claims, this sounded the closest to using no cables that I had ever experienced. Performances took on a new level of realism. The highs were extended, with none of the closed-in feeling that some heavily shielded speaker cables give. Treble focus was very clear, with no sloppiness or smear to cymbal shimmer and high-hat strikes. The midrange had the same fullness it had had before, only with less haze. What positively caught me off guard was the bass performance of the Anti-Cables. I had believed that thicker cables were better for transmitting lower frequencies, but apparently not. These solid-core 12-gauge runs of pure copper wire had no trouble relaying well-articulated, deep thunderous bass when the source material called for it.
First up was Lorna Hunt's All in One Day, a 24/96 DAD recording from Classic Records that has some great bass on the first track, "Long Hard Road." The bass was tighter, cleaner, and more articulate than ever. Hunt's voice had more immediacy, and the cymbals sounded more like they do in a live performance. The entire performance had a more realistic feel that brought me a step closer to the music.
Next up was Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1 featuring soloist Sarah Chang with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. All of the emotion of Chang's performance was conveyed in its full glory. The timbre of the violin was natural and realistic, demonstrating the neutrality of the speaker cables. The dynamic contrasts in the first movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 directed by Michael Tilson Thomas were simply breathtaking, with no audible congestion or compression at the peaks.
Finally I pulled out Carl Saunder's Live in San Francisco disc to check soundstage depth, width, and placement as well as tonal accuracy. Would the instruments be located in the right place, and sound tonally correct? Once again, the Anti-Cables showed that they were both accurate and neutral. The instruments were all placed exactly where I expected them to be (see the photo at http://www.audiohigh.com/photos/carlsaunders3.jpg), and all sounded tonally correct. The piano notes rolling off of Christian Jacob's fingers had no hard iciness. The metallic sounds of Santo Savino's drums and percussion were not overly emphasized, nor did they sound brittle. Carl Saunder's trumpet sounded just right, with no nasal colorations. The sexy tones of Jerry Pinter's saxophone were ever so natural. Andy Martin's trombone sounded, well, horny—like a trombone should sound. And finally, each note of Kevin Axt's bass had the proper articulation and weight. I guess I could say that these cables are supremely balanced, but that would not be completely accurate because I do not feel they are adding or subtracting anything from the sound. They simply get out of the way and allow the sound of the front-end components to shine through, unaltered and unfiltered.
If your speakers require bi-wiring, no problem—just buy two sets. Since the copper spades lugs are so thin, two spades should fit easily on each binding post. Banana plugs on one end will add $20 to the price. Double that if you need them on both ends. If you prefer no terminations, Paul will prepare the Anti-Cables with bare copper wire at the ends for the same price as the cables with spades. He will also make the cables with any other terminations. Just send him the connectors of your choice and he will install them. If you need custom or unequal lengths, Paul will be more than happy to accommodate you.
I could ramble on, providing more examples of how great these cables sound, but why waste my time or yours? At their ludicrously affordable price, the risk of trying them is low. They are a genuine steal! They would be a gargantuan value at twice the price. I recommend that you try them, even if you are not in the market for speaker cables. It's not often that I encounter a diamond in the rough that glitters so brightly. I have to sign off now—I've got to go buy my wife a few pairs of shoes with all the money I just saved on these great speaker cables. What are you waiting for? Fown Ming-Tien