Silver Bullet 4.0 interconnects and Symphony 48 speaker cables
as reviewed by Larry Cox, Francisco Duran, Victor Chavira, and Roger McNichols, Jr.
Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, D Lin Audio's Silver Bullet 4.0 interconnects are the best cables I've had in my system. Why? That they are $200 a meter pair for pure silver interconnect is one thing. Another is performance. Not only did the Silver Bullets knock my Kimber Heroes off the mountain, they pretty much dusted two other highly-regarded interconnects I had in house for comparison. The construction of the Silver Bullet interconnects is impressive. It has custom locking RCA connectors that are thickly plated with silver over gold. The "split polarity/thin conductor method is a unique four-conductor design (per channel) that employs double runs of unusually small gauge pure silver wire." The braiding geometry is said to cancel RF interference, which eliminates the need for coaxial shielding. I had virtually no interference problems while using these wires.
D Lin also sent us their Silver Symphony No. 48 speaker cable. It is made of "very thin silver conductors, spiral woven... into a highly functional geometry, and closely packed arrangement." The cable ends are terminated with Cardas rhodium spade lugs modified with high-quality silver plating. Altogether a very nice-looking cable with its silver-woven jacket and silver spade lugs.
When I received these cables, I was told they were already broken in. To me that was good news, because I've broken in more than my share of speaker wire and interconnects. I started off listening to one pair of the Silver Bullets between my DAC and preamp, figuring that if I changed only one thing in my audio chain I could easily detect the sonics of that piece more easily. Sure enough, when I switched from the Kimber Heros to the Silver Bullets, it was like somebody turned the mute button off. Whoa! Things immediately snapped into place. The soundstage went from pretty good to great. The depth of stage greatly increased. Movement in the back of the soundstage became more clearly discernible. I got a nice, clean, clear view of what was happening on stage, and the space between and behind instruments and vocals becomes very clear.
While I had the Silver Bullets, I borrowed a pair of Kimber Silver Streaks to satisfy my curiosity as to their superiority over the Heroes, and to put them up against the D Lins. The Silver Streaks were a notch better in performance than their lower-priced brethren. There was a greater ease to the presentation of the music, and a slight increase in details and transparency. Along with this transparency, however, came a slight glare and brightness. On dynamic peaks and fast transient passages (for instance, when a guitar is struck real hard), the Silver Streaks exhibited a slight "crunching" of the sound. Switching over to the D Lins totally eliminated all thisthe glare, the brightness, and the crunching on dynamic peaks, was replaced by a clear, undistorted, unrestrained, harmonic correctness. Now, I'm not saying that the Silver Bullets are the best cables in the world, but to beat them you would have to spend big bucks.
With the Silver Symphony 48 speaker cables, it was the same thinga window of clarity was opened up in my system. Since my Proacs performance is enhanced in the bi-wire mode, and since I only had one 8' foot pair of the Symphony 48s, I doubled up my Acrotec 1010 cables and connected them to the mid-woofer terminal, and ran the Symphony 48s to the treble input of the speakers. It's a good thing my Classe CA200 amp has very large speaker terminals! Even though I was mixing wires from different companies with this configuration, the performance of the D Lin cables was readily apparent. In the upper-mid and treble ranges, vocals were more textured and natural sounding, and more fleshed-out in the soundstage. There was more air and space around the performers, and the top end sounded smoother. Images had a sharper outline in space, with less rounding or shaving off of transients. On Pat Metheny's We Live Here CD, his acoustic guitars had more body. The rest of the group, especially the piano, was solidly placed on stage, and the music seemed to float out with ease. Like the Silver Bullet interconnects, these Silver Symphony speaker cables sailed through dynamic peaks. I'd like to say that the bass performance was also improved, but I was using my regular Acrotec cable on the woofers. So, using the jumpers supplied by Proac, I ran the speakers with the single pair of Symphony 48s. While the ProAcs performance closes up somewhat in single-wire mode, the D Lins qualities still came through. Even the double run of Acrotec could not match the openness, clarity, and dynamics that the single run of the D Lin cable provided.
it's hard to say how a certain cable will perform in any given system, I'm sure there's a
certain degree of predictability of performance based on the design principles, build
quality, and materials used in a particular cable. The D Lin cables performed very well in
my system, and their priceabout which I'm a real cynic when it comes to wireis
very reasonable. I want them.
Some audiophiles are not persuaded by the hoopla over exotic speaker cables and interconnects, and consider their prices outrageous for what amounts to lengths of wire with various connectors. I invite those fellow enthusiasts to try a set of cables from D Lin. The difference will be revelatory.
To save time, I inserted the D Lin interconnects and speaker cables into my system all at once. I immediately noticed a clear difference in sound, as if a layer of film had been lifted from the music. As good as my Blue Heavens are, they were clearly bested by the D Lin products.
One disc that has been in my CD player often lately is Surfacing by Sarah McLachlan. This is actually my wifes disc. We recently had the opportunity to see Sarah McLachlan perform at the Lilith Fair. It was only then that I began to appreciate her beautiful voice and compositional skills. With the dusky sound of that voice still in my memory, I played the disc again, and found the D Lins to be right on the mark. Particularly impressive was the way the D Lins outlined the shaped of each voice during harmonies rather than blurring them. The music also sounded less stressed, which is not easy to do in my already relaxed-sounding system.
Switching back to my Blue Heavens sent warning lights off in my head. The sound became veiled. Some of the purity of tone in McLachlans voice was gone, and did not return until I reinstalled the D Lins. If I hadnt known better, I would have attributed this to my amp. Clearly, my little Anthem was capable of more than I was aware of. I could hardly justify going into audio debt again for a set of wires that costs more than the amp itself. You, however, may find yourself looking for loose change (a lot of if!) under the couch cushions if you try out the D Lins. Victor Chavira
The D Lin Audio cables are all silver. The Silver Bullet 4.0 interconnects are relatively inexpensive at $200 a meter, and are also available with a special locking connector manufactured by Kimber Kable for $275. The Kimber connector is said to create a "cold weld" that improves their performance. At the other end of the price spectrum, the Silver Symphony 48 speaker cables retail for $1800 per eight-foot pair.
Dave Clark was interested in these products, I was not. I have almost always found silver wire, like metal dome tweeters, to be bright and harsh. Though there have been exceptions, I don't care for either. However, Max Kreijfeldt, the designer and proprietor D Lin Audio, believes he has created design parameters which capitalize on silver's conductive qualities while avoiding its sonic liabilities. I ended up being the first reviewer to get these cables, which means that I needed to break them in. (I hate breaking in stuff. How much bad sound do you have to tolerate before you know a product is either broken in or is always going to sound bad?)
The physical installation of the D Lin cables was a welcome relief from my ritual wrestling match with AudioQuest. To commence the testing of the D Lin products, I pulled out as much AudioQuest wire from my system as possible, and inserted the D Lin. The only remaining chunk of AudioQuest was the tonearm-to-preamp connection. With my ears tensed for an onslaught of bright, fatiguing sound, I flipped the switch, but my listening seat didn't start vibrating, no smoke appeared, and I was alive! My speakers delivered delicate, finely-resolved, beautiful music. The difference was like putting on a new eyeglass prescription. Nevertheless, I waited about a week before I sat down for critical listening.
Yes, I am a bit stunned at the price of $1800 for a pair of speaker cables, just as I am stunned by the price of a top-of-the-line Mercedes. Both are wonderful, though just a bit out of my price range. I love listening to music, but I need to eat. I want these cables, but cant afford em. Maybe in the not-too-distant future. Right now I can only slobber on the sidelines, so get your towels, here we go.
The Silver Symphonys performance was immediately striking, and more of an improvement in my room than the step up from my Classe CA100 power amp to the Sonogy Concept 60, though the Sonogy delivered a distinct and readily enjoyable improvement. In fairness, my friends Doug and Kathy (the ones searching for their first high-end system) weren't impressed. They thought the system sounded good, but not exceptional. For me, the shift from the AQ Midnight to the Silver Symphony wasn't as tonally dramatic as a shift from, say, electrostatics to Cerwin-Vega speakers, but it was a shift from good resolution to nearly life-like resolution. Not only was the sound more detailed, but the soundstaging improved pretty dramatically. Little things came to the fore to render listening a different experience. Joe Williams' LP Every Night is a regular tool in my listening kit. I got to see what an excellent choice this album is after using the D Lin wires. When Joe makes his little joke in "Same Old Story," for the first time I heard a woman laugh who gets the joke well before the rest of the crowd. After an ever-so-brief pause, the rest of the audience joins in the laughter, and you can hear the laughter undulate as different parts of the audience get the joke. After removing only the Silver Symphony and reinserting my reference cables, the point lady and the undulation were no longer part of the listening experience.
Is hearing an individual audience member laugh important to Joe's singing? It really is not, but this sort of detail is characteristic of the cablethe ebb and flow of music is much more clearly presented. With all D Lin in the system, virtually everything was presented without harshness, grain, or excessive sibilance. Bass seemed a bit less "deep," but better articulated. In fact, I don't think that the AQ bass goes any deeper, but is "bigger" and less well-controlled, providing "more" rather than better bass information.
The midrange of the Silver Symphony 48s was also pretty magical. Female vocals are treated more gently and effectively than they are by my reference cables. Listening to The Story's Angels in the House with the Midnights introduced a "sandpapery" quality to the vocals. This album is very well recorded, the vocal talents are wonderful exhibitions of emotional content, and the lyrics are not irritating, as they are so often in pop music. This album belongs in more listener's libraries. So, when the Midnight's scratched up the vocals, it was very annoying. With the Silver Symphonys, the vocals gained a crystalline-but-warm quality that delivered the last nuance of vocal articulation.
Male vocals were also well treated. Resonances emanated from the throat and chest with most of the warmth and vibration that real voices have. As I was listening to Joe Williams, an image of a roller coaster kept popping up, a roller coaster that took me down his throat as well as through his chest. I really enjoyed my ride on the Silver Symphony. The harshness and brittleness that I have attributed to silver was not present. Removing the Silver Symphony from the system returned me to a still-pleasant sound, but which simply wasn't as resolved or well balanced, with images scurrying like rats from the corners of the soundstage into a densely packed center-fill. I can and will live with the AudioQuest Midnights, but after my term with the Silver Symphony 48s, I don't want to.
At nearly half the price of my AudioQuest Emerald interconnects, the D Lin Silver Bullet 4.0s reversed the cost paradigm of the Silver Symphony versus Midnight comparison. Immediately obvious was that the Silver Bullets were more extended. The bottom end was tighter, deeper, and seemed a dB or two louder. Contrary to my expectation, the silver cable was not tipped up, nor was the top end harsh or bright. The Silver Bullets were a bit "faster" sounding as well. Whereas the Silver Symphony 48s trumped my reference, the Silver Bullets presented a mix of improvements and shortcomings.
The Silver Bullets impressed by retrieving more information without delivering it like a hot poker in the ear. My speakers are quite neutral, with all this implies, both good and bad. At times they lack the warmth I find really attractive, so when detail is stridently presented, there isn't an extra layer of sweetness or warmth that obscures the stridency. The Silver Bullets presented detail as found, rather than like an overzealous dog pushing a ball into your lap at a formal dinner.
By themselves, the Silver Bullets were a bit less warm sounding than the Emeralds, but not harsh. With the Emeralds in place, Joe William's throat was a bit warmer, although less well-defined. His voice is a bit "wetter." Vocals from Israel Kamakawiwoole weren't harsh, sibilant, or "ringy" (hey, a new word!), but they lacked the warmth and human touch that this over-four-hundred-pound man sings with. This quality is a difficult one to describe. You may hear it, or you may not, but listen for it if you audition these wires.
The bass of the Silver Bullets was good enough that I spent time checking out CDs and LPs that I knew had plenty of bottom end. Tracks on CDs like Oh! Yeah! by Yello, and Pork Soda by Primus were a treat with the Silver Bullets. Fuller and deeper bass, like on the first track of Fiona Apple's first CD, was at least as full sounding as with the Emeralds, but faster and with greater snap. The Silver Bullets presented the bottom end as full, with a clear attack and decay.
Spatially, images were presented a bit behind the speaker plane, but slightly forward of the AudioQuest presentation. However, images spread out more, with more space between instruments, and a bit less triangularly shaped soundstage. The Midnight speaker cables try to squeeze everything into that triangle shape, and the Silver Bullets were able to resist only so much. Detail was presented in a pleasant manner that drew me in. There was plenty of information through the Emeralds, but the Silver Bullets presented it a bit more immediately and vividly, although neither cable is as truly vivid as some older Kimber and Straightwire can be.
Does a D Lin'd system sound like music? Well, no. Ive never heard music out of a stereo yet. I have heard sound that is way closer to reality than anything at Circuit City, and way easier to live with. I think that the D Lin iteration of my system is the most musical and lifelike I've had. As I mentioned, my friends Doug and Kathy were not impressed with the D Lin cables. To them, they didn't add enough to the reproduction. The bass wasn't substantially altered, the imaging wasn't more razor sharp, and so on. But for me, what the D Lin cables did was really wonderful. I'm really taken by them, and surprised that they made as big a difference as they did. I want em. Try D Lin at the peril of your audio budget. Larry Cox
If you wanted to hear a symphony two hundred years ago, you had to make a deliberate effort. Wearing tight-fitting, uncomfortable clothing, you climbed into a horse-drawn carriage, and set off at five miles an hour to your citys Symphony Hall. Hopefully, you lived close, the roads werent too muddy, and when you returned late at night, candles would be lit to help you find your way inside your front door.
These thoughts went through my mind recently, as I took my parents to the Music Center at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The L.A. Philharmonic had graciously given up their hall to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, on his farewell tour as Music Director. Sir Simon took us, first, to the Baroque era, with Rameaus Suite Les Boreades, then to the Classical era with Haydns Symphony No. 86 in D, and ending with Beethovens revolutionary Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica"). Ahh, what a night. What beautiful, delicate, inspired music! I cleared all my audiophile notions from my mind, and just listened and enjoyed. And, when it was over, we didnt have take a horse-drawn carriage home! The timing of this event was perfect, because I was auditioning several new componentsthe Twisted Pair cables and interconnects (see review in Issue No. 3), plus D Lin Audios Silver Symphony loudspeaker cables and Silver Bullet 4.0 interconnects. The D Lin silver cables had a lot to live up to, because my night at the Music Center was fresh in my mind.
I inserted the D Lin speaker cables between my Rowland Concentra integrated amp and my Sonus Faber Electa Amators and played (what else?) some baroque musicHaydns Symphonies 82, 38, and 104 (L.A. Chamber Orchestra, Dorian Recordings 90168)and some classical musicBeethovens Symphony No. 3 (BPO, Von Karajans 1963 recording) on both vinyl and CD. These cables reproduced music in such an "effortless" way that I found listening to them close to the live musical experience I had just had. They are fast, delicate, and accurate across a wide dynamic range. D Lin Audio has done a lot of things right here.
By comparison, the Twisted Pair speaker cables dropped quickly out of contention. The TPs could not convey as wide, deep, or accurate a soundstage, and much of the graceful, musical quality of the D Lin cables was absent. Against my reference MIT 750 speaker cables, the D Lins had slightly more air and detail in the treble, and a similar midrange, but they could not match the MITs ability to provide deep bass slam. I think I may be too partial to bass reproduction (too much time spent listening to explosions and earthquakes in my home theater), so I dont fault the D Lins bass response. They provided such high quality detail and musicality from high to low that the quantity of bass just wasnt missed. I highly recommend these beautiful looking and sounding cables.
If D Lin can
design such stunning loudspeaker cables, how do you think their interconnects sound? Yes,
stunning too. I compared the D Lin Silver Bullets to the Twisted Pair interconnects, and
to my Transparent Audio Musiclink Plus interconnects. Across the board, with jazz, rock,
acoustical, and classical music, the Silver Bullets proved to be stellar performers. I
noted the same effortlessness and graceful musical qualities of the Silver Symphony
loudspeaker cables. Much of the harshness or glare of my CDs seemed to evaporate. This
time, both the Twisted Pair and Transparent Audio interconnects fell below the level of
excellence of the D Lins. Dynamics, pace, soundstaging, and detail were all there in the
right amounts. You know when you find and hear a product that has "rightness" or
true "palpability." You relax, sit back, close your eyes, listen and enjoy. With
these two D Lin products, I listened, enjoyed, and had a "symphonic" experience
in my listening room.