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Positive Feedback ISSUE 6
april/may 2003


pure note

Epsilon interconnects and speaker cables

as reviewed by Danny Kaey and Dave Clark


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Reimer McCullough.

Cary Audio CAD808/Rocket 88 amplifier and SLP88 preamplifier.

Cary Audio 308T CD player.

Analysis Plus interconnect and speaker cables.


one.jpg (6551 bytes)I was minding my own business on a sunny Sunday afternoon when I received the dreaded phone call from Dave Clark, asking me to come over and pick up some cables for review. I say "dreaded" because I don’t like to write about cables—mind you, I didn’t say I don’t like to listen to them. Let’s just say that reviewing cable is not as much fun as reviewing a turntable or CD player. Cable simply doesn’t have the "meat and bone" factor of a system component; at its core, it’s simply a connection between components.

Who is the contestant this time? Pure Note, out of Las Vegas. While Pure Note is a very new company, incorporated in January of 2000, Thomas Swenson, the owner and chief designer, has about thirty years of audio and telecommunication experience under his belt. He has two lines: the Epsilon Reference and the more affordable Sigma. Sales are handled through the internet, with the exception of a few dealers in Nevada.

The trademark name for this product line is SupraPure, which refers to its silver-based conductor. The brochure states the following: "The lower band features group layered SupraPure silver conductors in Teflon high purity dielectrics for powerful bass and accurate midrange characteristics. Optimized high frequency bypass SupraPure silver conductors extend the upper band for flawless transient detail." I couldn’t have said it better myself! To top it off, the cable is enclosed in an alloy jacket, and the review samples came with nice WBT connectors. These cables are beautifully made, and certainly look appealing, if you are into the industrial look offered by the braided alloy. They are fairly heavy, and not the most flexible, but who said cables need to be flexible? They cost $1100 for a ten-foot pair for the speaker cables and $500 for the interconnects. I often wonder about what determines cable pricing. Some cost thousands more than these and look like they should cost less, while others sell for less and look like they should cost more. One of the reasons why I don’t like writing about cables is that they offer no perceived value in terms of touch and feel. When I spend $1100 for something, I want it to be visually stimulating.

I installed the Pure Notes throughout my system, from the Cary 308T preamp via the Cary SLP2002 CD player to the Cary Rocket 88 and into my Reimer McCullough speakers. As my trusty Analysis Plus Oval 9s made way for the much more expensive Pure Notes, I wondered which would have the upper hand. Burn-in had already been accomplished, so my evaluation could proceed without further ado. The first thing I noticed was a much brighter and more forward presentation, with higher and crisper highs and a more present midrange. I was taken aback as I played track after track, trying to pinpoint my preference. Shirley Bassey, singing on the famous Yello track, "The Rhythm Divine," brought a zing into the mix that was not apparent with the Oval 9s. Bassey’s voice sounded thin and edgy, and this, coupled with the additional oompf in the bass, made for a so-so listening experience.

On the other hand, playing recordings that were on the warm side of neutral gave a very listenable experience. Take, for example, the Rat Pack’s recording at The Summit, captured in the mid-fifties. This CD has a subdued presence when played through the Oval 9s, but the Pure Notes lifted the entire experience to a more enjoyable level. Dino, Frank, and Sammy’s voices had that much more breath, and the noise floor was lifted a notch. This was definitely a point for the Pure Notes. Playing through my plethora of CDs, I was able to plot a definite sound curve for the Pure Notes. They are certainly more analytical than the warm and sweet sounding Opal 9s. Are they harsh? That depends on the material. On some recordings, ones that are already bright or edgy, the effect can be somewhat overwhelming. On recordings that have a tad too much warmth, the Pure Notes act like an antidote, bringing the mids and highs more into the limelight. In general, I preferred the Pure Notes to the Oval 9s, but at the same time, I also noticed that I tended to pick music that made the Pure Notes sound better.

One thing is for sure—anyone who claims cables are just cables should seriously listen to the Pure Notes. The differences can be quite startling! The Epsilon Reference cables are almost like a treble and midrange switch. Sometimes this is a plus, other times it can be too much of a good thing. The problem is, with an EQ you usually revert back to the normal curve, whereas with cables you are stuck, unless you like to switch cables depending on your musical choices. I would prefer to just have one set of cables that does what it is supposed to do, if only I could find ones that combine the best of both worlds. Danny Kaey





Reimer Speaker Systems Tetons (with the Hi-Vi Isodynamic Planar tweeters and series crossovers).

Clayton Audio M100 monoblock amplifiers. E.A.R. 834P phono stage. Blue Circle BC3000 preamplifier w/Tunsgram tubes and BCG3.1 power supply.

Cary 306/200 CD player or Sony 777ES SACD/CD player. Transrotor 25/25/60 Leonardo turntable with a Clearaudio Virtuoso wood MM cartridge. Sony RCD-W1 and Magnum Dynalab MD-90 tuner. Sennheiser HD540 headphones and Audio Alchemy headphone amplifier.

JPS Superconductor+, Audio Magic Clairvoyant, or Silver Sonic Revelation interconnects, and JPS NC or Audio Magic Clairvoyant speaker cables. Sahuaro Slipstream XP (digital), Elrod EPS2 (preamp), Blue Circle BC63 (phonostage), and JPS Kaptovator AC cables (amps and Stealths).

Two Audio Magic Stealth Power Purifiers (one for analog, except BC3000 preamp, and a Digital unit for the digital sources), Blue Circle BC86 Noise Hound (amplifier circuit) and Audio Prism QuietLines (throughout the house). Dedicated 20 (amps) and 15 (everything else) AC circuits. Tons of Shakti Stones and On-Lines and Original Cable Jackets (frig's AC and on DSL phone line). Various Marigo VTS Dots used extensively throughout the system and room (window behind listening seat). Echo Buster acoustical treatments and Shakti Hallographs. BDR cones and board, Blue Circle Cones, DH Jumbo cones, Vibrapods, Mondo racks and stands, and Townshend Audio 2D (speakers) and 3D Seismic Sinks (CD player and preamp). Walker Audio Ultimate High Definition Links. Various hard woods placed here and there along with numerous Peter Belt treatments.


two.jpg (6646 bytes)The Pure Note Epsilon cables have a slick, high-tech look. While not exactly expensive, at $500 per meter pair for the interconnects and $1100 for a 6-foot pair of speaker cables, they are not inexpensive, either. Back to that high-tech look. Featuring a very rugged outer jacket that would look right at home on a Formula One racing car, these are not cables to be taken lightly. As noted on the Pure Note website, "the alloy cable jacket is manufactured from nickel and titanium materials to maintain linear support and damping of the internal Teflon air space carrier. The alloy jacket also provides very low noise electromagnetic and electrostatic shielding, durability, and aesthetics. The passive shield does not conduct or alter the audio signal and employs discrete ground circuits (interconnects). The fine cross-pattern weaving allows excellent flexibility in tight equipment racks."

The Epsilons also feature pure silver conductors. The website states, "this custom manufactured SupraPure™ silver wire is uniform cast reducing the number of crystals to a minimum in the drawing process. Special winding techniques (group layering) and very low dissipation Teflon PFA-HP dielectrics result in increased clarity of the entire musical spectrum. These techniques improve signal propagation (attack and decay) for precise instrumental outlines. Our SupraPure™ wire is very detailed without any brightness or edge commonly found in conventional silver wire."

I really appreciated the secure grip of the locking RCAs and that of the bananas on the speaker cables. But what does all this mean in terms of music? Just because they are built well and sport high-tech features, cables can be a bit disappointing, or at the very least not what one expected. Being silver, will they sound like the dreaded silver cables we all fear? Well, they sounded drastically different than my reference Audio Magic Clairvoyant speaker cables, in which silver is also used, but in the form of a very wide ribbon that has no jacket or shielding (at least in the conventional sense of the word—though they do use ERS paper at their terminations to address noise and such). They also sounded very different than the DH Revelations, which also feature ultra-pure silver conductors and shielded jackets. How so, you ask?

Well let me put it this way. The Epsilons produced music with a very clean and crisp personality that is noticeably leaner than being rich, full and warm—which music possessed in abundance with the other two cables mentioned above—at least in my system. The Revelations were also substantially darker than the Epsilons and less revealing than either, with the Clairvoyants being the smoothest and most musical of the bunch. Music through the Epsilons was presented with an ultra-transparent purity that was quite startling. This quality was evident across all music I played, though recordings that were dark and overly bloated were "corrected" for and as such sounded considerably more "right", whereas other recordings that were either tonally correct or on the lean side, suffered by their use and sounded not so "right".

As such, being lean and mean, these may not be the cables for any system that already is leaning in that direction nor one that is fairly well-balanced to begin with. I would definitely place the Epsilons as having that characteristic silver-like sound, of which neither of my reference cables tend to possess. They are though not hard, brittle, or edgy in the least. These are very clean and quite cables, no doubt a direct product of that high-tech shielding. But whether this silvery characteristic is an issue of break-in or system compatibility (that is this is what they tend to sound like in my system), I would negate the former and suggest the later as I ran the Epsilons in for a few hundred hours prior to any serious listening. I would not classify any of my components as being bright (nor my system as a whole for that matter), but rather tonally neutral or heck, a shade to the darker and less open side than anything else!

On the other hand, they exhibited all the other sonic attributes we tend to swoon after—dynamic and fast bass, a big dimensional soundstage, midrange neutrality, etc.—all on par with the other cables, though only when one takes in account their price point. That is while they never bettered the substantially more expensive Clairvoyants and equaled the Revelations, for the money, they are worth every penny Pure Note is charging!

Would I recommend the Epsilons? Yes with a few caveats. One your system should lean to the darker side of neutrality with a bit too much warmth and sweetness—obviously way more so than mine does. Two, they will not sound their best with poorly recorded music that is lean and bright to begin with—better be listening to very well receded music that is a bit dark already. In many ways these remind me tonally of the DH Air Matrix, though the Epsilons are substantially "cleaner" with less etch and hardness. On the other hand the Air Matrixes are a less then half the price. With a fit and finish that exceeds their price, I wish the music, as presented by the Epsilons was of their equal. Unfortunately in my system, they revealed too much of that "silver" characteristic sonically and ultimately musically, meaning that I could never really appreciate what was playing at the time . With a 30 day trial period, I would give them a listen as they may just work for you. Dave Clark

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Pure Note
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