Cables

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Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 26, 2022
hfnedchoiceOnce in the vanguard of the late '70s hi-fi cable revolution, In-akustik now has a vast catalogue. We test the top Reference/Micro Air interconnect.

Only one issue ago we reviewed an interconnect cable whose core thesis focused on achieving a low capacitance and dielectric loss by utilising an 'air' insulation. That was Kimber's new flagship 'Naked' interconnect – a cool £12,700 per terminated metre [HFN Mar '22]. Somewhat more affordable, but also leveraging the 'air dielectric' theme, is the NF-204 Micro Air interconnect from Germany's most prolific cable manufacturer, In-akustik, based in Ballrechten-Dottingen.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 11, 2022
hfnedchoiceKimber Kable has championed high quality dielectrics and open-weave cable geometries since the late '70s, but now it's gone 'naked'.

Cable aficionados will already know that the best insulation is no insulation at all, with air (in lieu of a vacuum) providing the best and most cost-effective dielectric. Did I say 'cost effective'? Kimber's new flagship 'Naked' interconnect costs a cool £12,700 per terminated metre – either with heavyweight gold-plated WBT RCAs or XLRs finished in a choice of Wenge or Purple Heart woods. For longer runs, 1.5m sets cost £15,150 or £17,600 for 2m. This is very 'high-end'.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 07, 2021
hfnedchoiceThis 'Art Series' is the first silver CrystalConnect offering curated by high-end specialists Crystal Cable. We hear the midrange interconnect.

Spin-off or temporary re-branding, CrystalConnect is part of the same Crystal Cable company, led by Gabi Rynveld, that audiophiles have been familiar with for over 17 years. Synonymous with silver conductors, the brand's latest 'Art Series' employs a development of its monocrystal (or long-crystal) conductors dubbed 'Infinite Crystal Silver' (iCS). Strands of this high conductivity metal are deployed across a range that includes analogue RCA/XLR interconnects, power and speaker cables plus USB, S/PDIF and AES digital interconnects.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 16, 2021
hfnedchoiceA novel technical exercise looking for a solution or an innovation that's in the vanguard of an entirely new breed of hi-fi accessory? We test the sophisticated Hypsos DC supply

Of all the true 'hi-fi accessories' power filters, conditioners and regenerators are arguably the most popular. (I do not count cables in this category because they are 'necessories' and your system will not function without them.) Cleaning-up your AC mains power has long proven its benefits, but what of the low voltage DC supplies – the so-called 'wall-warts' – that come packaged with so many of today's small form-factor DACs, headphone amps, phono stages and even turntables?

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 02, 2021
hfnedchoiceOne of nine speaker cables in one of five separate ranges, this 'Micro Air' design from In-akustik's Reference series represents a sweet spot.

Once Germany's best-kept cable secret, the In-akustik brand – part of the family-run Braun Group – is nothing if not comprehensive in its offering. Every type of power, analogue, digital and AV cable is included, across multiple ranges, alongside custom-install accessories that extend to ambient LED lighting solutions.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 07, 2021
hfnedchoiceHero of Swiss independence, and a dab hand with the crossbow, William Tell is now the inspiration for a speaker cable. Review & Lab: Paul Miller

One of the founding fathers of the audiophile cable scene, California-based AudioQuest has been developing its conductor technology for no less than four decades. The William Tell Zero featured here is part of the 'Folk Hero' series – prices range from £2340 (2m pair), £2910 (3m) to £3480 for a 4m pair, with £570 per extra metre. This ranks as affordable when compared to the flagship 'Mythical Creatures' series that tops out at £20k for a 2m set of the Dragon Zero...

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 12, 2020
hfnedchoiceTucked away in the ranges of most large cable brands is a selection of USB interconnects, including Chord who topped our USB shootout in 2013.

We last ran a comprehensive USB cable group test over six years ago [HFN Jul '13 and '14] with Chord's entry-level SilverPlus coming top-of-the-heap and remaining in residence ever since as our cable of choice. The intervening period has seen the SilverPlus morph into the current entry-level C-series while the costlier Signature 'Tuned Aray' USB cable became the template for Chord's more recent, intermediate Epic USB model. And, at £400 for a terminated 1m set (£160 per additional metre), the new Epic USB is no costlier than its Signature forefather in 2014.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 21, 2020
hfnedchoiceRecognising that mainstream gear is being equipped with both RCA and XLR sockets, Atlas has developed a 'balanced' version of its Equator cable.

Judging by the increased number of XLR sockets seen on hi-fi separates in recent years, 'balanced' is rapidly becoming the new black. Balanced signal transmission has its benefits over long runs in suppressing common-mode interference and maintaining the topology between a balanced pre and power amp, for example, although many would debate that the extra circuit complexity outweighs the benefits.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 13, 2019
hfnedchoiceA prime example of why audiophiles should never dismiss the unassuming, TCI is the epitome of a no-nonsense cable company.

As the sovereign serpent in TCI's (True Colours Industries) longstanding range of loudspeaker cables, King Cobra is not new but it has 'evolved' since we last tested the Stereo version [HFN Jan '13]. Seen here is the 'Bi-Wire' version of King Cobra, ostensibly comprising a pair of the same conductor cores used in the Stereo iteration but with the two signal and two return paths combined at the source (amplifier) end. So this version of TCI's flagship cable supports bi-wiring but not bi-amping.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Jun 19, 2019
hfncommendedShort of having a dedicated generator in your garage, you are not going to get cleaner mains than from PS Audio's new Power Plant, which is bigger and better than ever

In a game of audiophile word association, 'mains regenerator' will elicit the response 'PS Audio' just as surely as 'electrostatic headphones' does 'Stax'. PS Audio can't claim to have introduced mains regeneration to high-quality sound reproduction – that distinction belongs to Linn Products and the Valhalla board for the LP12, introduced in 1982. But nobody generalised on that specific, realising that a regenerated mains waveform might bring improvements to audio components other than a turntable's synchronous AC motor, until PS Audio introduced its original Power Plant, to a somewhat bemused hi-fi industry, in 1998.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 16, 2019
hfnedchoiceOne of Chord Cable's longest-running products, the Signature, receives just its second upgrade in materials and performance in fifteen years.

There's a lot to be said for the philosophical approach to hi-fi manufacturing: 'if it isn't broken, don't fix it'. Chord Cables is certainly of this persuasion – its ranges are broadly distinguished by geometry, while performance is very gradually 'tickled up' by the transition to steadily superior conductors and dielectrics. For example, the original Signature speaker cable held court for a decade before the Reference version was released [HFN Aug '14].

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 12, 2019
Designed, manufactured, assembled and tested in Massachusetts USA, Accusound brings no-nonsense pro-cable thinking to the high-end scene.

With one foot firmly planted in the pro audio sector, US brand Accusound is also reaching out to the audiophile community with a limited range of interconnect and speaker cables. All its cables are assembled in America, the company boasting a cohort of industry pros vouching for its various instrument, microphone, tube microphone and patch cables.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfnedchoice.pngThe very finest ingredients, including solid silver, are stirred into this flagship cable before serving in a custom leather jacket. A 'gilty' pleasure?

Silver may play second fiddle to gold at the jewellers, but when it comes to thermal and electrical conductivity this metal is king. Its use in high-end audio cables is legion, not least for the clear correlation between the conductor's cross-sectional area, cable length and damage to your bank account! A 1m stereo set of Asimi, terminated in spades, Z-plugs or cold-welded expanding 4mm connectors costs £6600, or £17,800 for 3m. And the 7m set required for our testing and auditioning? I didn't ask...

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngTop of the trio in Transparent's Premium series, and now in fifth generation guise, the (upgradable) Ultra combines a cable and filter network.

There's a very clear philosophy at work in all Transparent's cables: that 'wires' are unavoidable, so their bandwidth should be constrained to an appropriate range, banishing the egress of RF noise, and their lumped parameters – inductance, capacitance and resistance – be 'managed' to maintain a consistent and predictable performance regardless of the cable length. This, in a nutshell, is the rationale behind the in-line filter network that's part-and-parcel of every Transparent cable.

Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 01, 2018
hfnedchoice.pngCryogenic treatment, a patented demagnetisation process and silver/gold ‘dosing’ lie at the heart of Furutech’s latest flagship speaker cables

It’s all about the copper in Furutech’s cables. Even the geometry of this flagship NanoFlux design is fairly conventional, as is the multistrand conductor style and ‘audio grade’ PE (polyethylene) dielectric that binds it. The carbon-fibre sleeving of those bright, rhodium-plated plugs/spades and ferrite clamp certainly adds to the exquisite finish of these supremely well built cables, but it’s what you can’t see that really makes the difference – Furutech’s proprietary ‘Alpha Nano-Au-Ag OCC Pure Transmission Conductors’.

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