Shortlist of Speaker Cables/ICs: advice/opinions

Good Day,

I am in the market for speaker cables and interconnects. The system includes an Electrocompaniet amp, Shanling CDP and Gallo Ref III speakers. I am looking for 6-8ft single wire SC and 1m RCA IC, budget of $700-$900 new or used.

The characterisitics I am after are: something detailed and accurate, but not clinical/not too lean. I also prefer something warm as opposed to something bright dry as long as it isn't too rolled off. However accuracy is the key.

I have come up with the following shortlist and would like any suggestions, opinions and experiences. As you can see, I plan to get SC and IC from the same brand (this has always worked well for me):

Kimber: MonocleXL SC and KS-1011 IC
Analysis Plus: Solo Oval 8 SC and Solo Crystal IC
Harmonic Tech: Pro 9 Plus SC and Pro-Silway III IC
Acoustic Zen: Satori II SC and Matrix Ref II IC

Please try not to suggest other brands as many are simply not available to me. I have also tried Cardas and Audience, neither of which impressed me (well, the Cardas Golden Cross did but is way out of my budget).

Thanks and Regards,
Goertz Alpha Core products - sound craftsmenship, common sense electrical design and you'll have $left over.

I must ask once again, please try NOT suggest other brands. They are not available to me and thus I will not be able to audition them. I do not want to buy blind.

Okay, two things, First, if you only have these available, listen for yourself and decide which you like better (after all, it's your system). And two, virtually all cables are available as an internet buy (it's clear that you have internet service) with a reasonable return policy so you don't have to buy blind. Actually I can think of a third, contact the Cable Company about your choices (they're very helpful).

With the make-up of your system, I would really suggest taking the other people's suggestions. If you did not like the AU24, I doubt you will like any of those on your list.

Why not get something that offers a trial period? Many companies do, and if you buy used from Audiogon, you can always resell a cable if you don't like it. Verastarr &
Z-Squared (often available on auction here) both offer trial periods, and have exactly the sonic characteristics you describe. In my two systems, both of these cables far outperformed all of those on your list, with the exception of the Kimber--I've not heard them. In my experience, those on your list are a bit distant and bland, and would not give you the performance you seek, given the associated components.
Good luck,

In all seriousness, unless you borrow the cables from your dealer (or whoever) and audition in your own system, you are trying them blind.

My suggestion would be contact the cable company & let them know what you're after. They have a program that allows you to audition in home for much less than it would take to buy & sell multiple sets of cables to get what you want.
I must mentione that I live in South Africa. Availability is very limited. It is also not possible to audition all the cables even those with 30 day trials as it would cost $100 or more just to send them here and back. The ones on my list are the ones I can get and will audition before buying.
That definitely makes a difference! Thanks for the clarification, Xenithon. In that case, I would suggest that you try a silver IC with a copper speaker cable. The Analysis Plus should be within your budget.
All the best,
Again, in all seriousness, even though all cables exhibit certain qualities that are supposed to translate into how they should sound in your system, it really does take an in home audition to get a true feel how they'll work for you, for in addition to sonic characteristics there's the question of synergy.

You have already made the best suggestion, that being get the cables available & audition them & regardless of what anybody try’s to tell you, always trust your ears when it comes to your system.

I would also suggest you take notes while doing your auditioning.
Hi There,

Will do Driver. What I am doing on these forums is getting opinions on what would be worth trying and which combos to try. It is not easy to set up home auditions here so I need to know what I will be demoing (I can't go back for 5 different combos unfortunately, dealers won't do that here).

Boa2: I was actually thinking more about copper throughout. That is why I thought of the Solo Crystal and not Silver Oval, and the Matrix Ref instead of Silver Ref. The reason is that I had silver before (HGA, Kimber KCAG) and did not really like them in my system. Sounded a bit edgy and bright.

Right now it seems that my two main choices would be the AP combo or AZ combo. The Kimber's seem out of range (price and availability). Has anyone tried and perhaps compared the AP and AZ cables listed?

I found the silver to be bright in my system as well. That is, until I listened to them for several days, after which I could not go back to the copper. Every time I put a copper cable back in, the music sounded veiled and smoothed over. I found that the Analysis Plus Solo Crystal was more veiled and blurry than the AU24. I liked the Harmonic Technology better than either. I have had good luck with the AP silver, however, especially after I treated the room. Then, it never sounded too bright or edgy.
Best of luck,
Look into Virtual Dynamics cables, personally I have been as happy with their performance as anythig else I have tried, including some on your list-Cardas, Audience, Acoustic Zen. (That said, I found all three of those that I mentioned to be fine cables.)
I will address the Acoustic Zen cables on your list as they were favorites of mine for awhile.

Early last year, I was very happy using an all Acoustic Zen configuration consisting of MC2, Silver Ref II, Matrix Ref II and biwired Hologram II. The system was very smooth, powerful and had good extension at both ends all while retaining a decent amount of organic nature. However, at some point I felt my system lacked a bit of romance and sometimes sounded dry.

At this point I decided to buy a single run of Audience AU24 speaker cables to compare against my Hologram II, and after comparing them for five months decided that the AU24 were definitely what my system needed. While cymbals no longer had the shimmer the Hologram II brought to my set up, the overall sound closer to analog.

I know you weren't impressed with the Audience, but I have to ask if these were the interconnects or the speaker cables? Earlier this year, I tried switching all my AZ interconnects to Audience and felt the AU24 killed all the dynamics and shrunk the entire presentation. The AU24 speaker cables on the other hand retained the same expansive soundstage as the Hologram II while making everything sound less digital and more real. I didn't like the AU24 interconnects at all, but I love their speaker cables.

Last spring, I bought a set of Ridge Street Audio Poiema speaker cables and was very impressed with them. After comparing them to my AU24 for a couple months, I felt the Poiema reminded me a lot of the Hologram II. I think they're an excellent cable and a great bargain.

The results you've posted of the Cardas and Audience lead me to believe the Acoustic Zen may be a better choice for you. But be aware that the Matrix Ref II and Silver Ref II are very different sounding interconnects. They both have the same expansive, smooth Acoustic Zen family sound, but the Matrix Ref II are fuller and rounder, while the Silver Ref II are more neutral and have a better delineated treble.

I've used Cardas Golden Cross interconnects and Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cables in the past and in my system both lacked the top extension you may be hoping for.

Ultimately, it'll come down to you having to take the plunge and buying a few to compare. Allow them enough time to break-in, and try to resist the quick back and forth A/B'ing which may give you an idea of the cable's differences, but won't give you the overall impression and broader picture a long audition of a few weeks or months will.

Good luck.
Hi Again Guys,

Thanks for all the great info. I think for the moment the two combos on my shortlist which I will be testing soon are:

Analysis Plus Solo Crystal IC and Solo Crystal Oval 8 SC
Acoustic Zen Matrix Ref II IC and Satori II SC

I will see how each fare in the system. However, any experiences and advice about these two combos is appreciated. If anyone has compared them I would love to hear your thoughts and findings.


Definitely, let us know what you think. I'd like to hear what differences you perceive. I know it goes against the uniformed configuration you're trying to design, but try mxing AP with AZ for fun.

Have fun!
Xenithon - You did mention Cardas Golden Cross, and that's what I'll be moving into my system soon. They shouldn't cost that much more than some of the other cables you mentioned, should they? I have a Unison Research S8 tube amp, with a Shunyata Diamondback PC, Consonance Reference 2.2 CD player (tube stage) with a Shunyata Black Mamba V2 PC, Wireworld Polaris speaker cable, and a set of Spendor S3/5's. Now some might say this is a warm system already, but I find that too many recordings are too sibilant, especially on the singers' "s" sounds. The equalizing on the higher frequency range isn't always right either, and too often the singer sounds like they have a tooth missing (even though I'm aware of the limitations of the CD medium). Since recordings vary so much, what I want to do is to take one of the brighter recordings that I have, and find a match of components that will make it sound more listenable. If some other recordings turn out a little dull, then so be it. The quality of our equipment should force something good out anyway. Rather that than an irritant top end. I'd keep one eyeball on the GC's.
I'd like to throw in a last minute recommendation for the Kimber combo. I own a pair of 1011s, and I think it's the best RCA IC in it's price range. It's also very diverse. It beats my $250 Van Den Hul Integration on both Turn Table, just barely, and CD, by a fairly wide margin. (I still use the Van Den Hul for analogue, because I like most everyone have financial constraints. :) It just brings out the delicate sounds of each instrument more clearly. From the slow decay of the cymbal or snare drum, to the singer's breath on the mic before starting to sing. I agree with you on KCAG's or even Silver Streaks. They are definitely bright and very system dependent. There are only a few Component\Speaker combos I would recommend them for.

I've heard the entry level Kimber balanced 1111, (I know apples and oranges) against the Ayre sig series and Cardas neutral reference, and for about 1/2 the price it absolutely tromped them on accuracy, and energy it brought to Coltrane's horn. The treble was so much cleaner and more extended. It just made the instrument sound so alive. Even the store owner was surprised at the difference since he demoes his high-end equipment on the Ayre series.

I own a pair of 8TC's, and am still kicking myself for not paying the few hundred more for a pair Monocle's. To me, that's as much as I'd be willing to spend on speaker cables barring winning the lottery. I think there's a reason the 8TC's won Hi-Fi's speaker cable shoot-out in their price range. And the Hero won Absolute Sound's $250 or less IC shoot-out. Just a testament to the value in Ray Kimbers' products.

I know that combo is at the top-end of your price range, but it comes highly-recommened. Outside of that, I agree with the Acoustic Zen combo recommend.
Good luck with your choice.
Friz: I am very interested in the Kimber combo but the pricing is a major factor. I do not think I would be able to get the MonocleXL and KS-1011, but I will be able to get the MonocleX and 1011. Do you think it is worth it going for the MonocleX? I have heard the difference between in and the XL is quite significant.

Personally, I don't think the price difference between the Monocle X and XL is justified. I've heard them on a 5K pair of ProAcs with an all Ayre front-end. (An amazing combo BTW) You get a little more bass and fuller sound with the XL, but little if any difference in the upper frequencies to my ears. They both have the same geometry, the same core, with the XL having 50% more conductors. You could say the XL stands for an Xtra-Large X. If it was my $800 or so, I'd buy the X and never think twice about it.

To me, after the Monocle X people would be better off taking the leap to the Select series, (well out of both of our price ranges I know) rather than the XL, Bi-Focal or Tri-Focal. You will then clearly hear a difference and definitely get more your money's worth IMO. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for incremental improvements.

Good luck with your decision.
I strongly urge you to consider Empress cables as well:
They are sold online only and come with 60-days trial period so you will have nothing to lose. Let's see:
1M pair Empress RCA interconnects: $350
6ft-pair Empress speaker cables: $360
Total: $710
I guess I have to say it again: I live in South Africa and thus those I have not mentioned are not available. Do not forget that all these 30-60 day trial periods are normally ONLY valid in the US. And even if they are valid internationally, I am still liable for shipping to me and back which is easily $100 or so.

PS. Thanks for the input. It is really appreciated but simply not applicable to me.
i'd give a 3rd recommendation to the empress products. i live in UK and the 60 day period applies internationally. you need to be realistic about the cost of shipping; is a small price to pay in the overall scheme of things.