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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 1
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stealth

M7 interconnects, speaker cables,
and AC cords

as reviewed by Francisco Duran, Dave Clark, and Mark Katz

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M7 interconnects

 

 

 

FRANCISCO DURAN'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ProAc Response 2 with Osiris 24" stands.

ELECTRONICS
Monarchy SM-70 amplifiers (mono). Reference Line Preeminence lA passive line stage.

SOURCE
Musical Concepts’ Pioneer DV414 DVD Epoch VII Signature player. Taddeo Digital Antidote Two.

CABLES
Superconductor+ interconnects and a double run of JPS Ultraconductor speaker cables.

ACCESSORIES
Panamax power conditioning. BDR cones and Vibrapods.

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)Stealth seems to have all the bases covered, with a large range of wire. I tried their speaker cables, interconnects, and power cords. Having abandoned DACs for one-piece CD players, I had no need for their digital cable. The Stealth cables are nicely made, with sturdy outer sheathing. They use either silver, silver-plated copper, or pure copper, depending upon the application.

I started with the speaker cables. Taking out my trusty JPS wire, I ran the rather short set (4 ft.) of Triple Ribbon (TR) pure silver wire to the treble of the ProAcs and ran the Magnificent Seven pair to the mid/bass binding posts. With this combination the music was very well-balanced and controlled. The treble had no etch or brightness, grain, or roll-off. The TR speaker cable is one of the least bright speaker cables I have had in my system. It was definitely smoother and cleaner, and had less grain than my JPS Ultraconductors, though of course there is a good-sized price difference between the two. With the Stealth cables, the lower regions sounded quick, clean, and extended. Music doesn’t lose pace with these cables. The open and spacious soundstage was highlighted by detailed images. There was an atmosphere in the music that invited me into the musical performance, although I did want a little more air and sparkle. Then I switched the speaker cables around, with the M7s going to the treble and the TRs to the bass. Suddenly there was more top end sparkle and air, which sounded better to me. The horn section on my Flying Neutrino CD sounded as sweet as my solid state system could muster. Inner detailing was very good, but not in your face. Other cable combinations that I’ve tried failed to dig so deeply into recordings.

I mixed Stealth and JPS speaker cables with very good results. On its own, my double run of JPS Ultraconductor has an open and spacious sound, though it sounds a little opaque compared to the Stealth TR and M7. It doesn’t let go of the notes as easily as the Stealth cables, nor does it have as true a timbre. Also, the Stealths were more dynamic, with vocals more controlled and natural. (Remember that the Ultraconductors are a fraction of the cost of the Stealth.) Using my JPS on the mid/bass and either the TR or M7 on the treble proved to be a very musical combination. This might be just the combo for the person who wants top notch performance but has limited funds.

Like the Stealth speaker cables, the Stealth interconnects have a detailed, clean, and open sound. I compared these cables with the Ensemble Dynaflux, which have a very grain-free sound. The music sounded spacious and textured, with very good pace and no slowing of timing, but the longer I listened, the more I noticed that the Dynaflux sounded hotter in the mids to upper mids and a little closed-in at the top. They also imparted a slight warmth to the sound. The Stealth interconnects were more open on the top end, especially when reproducing piano. The sax on the Flying Neutrinos CD, The Hotel Child (I love this disc) had more texture and sounded more neutral in timbre. The drum solo on the intro to track one sounded bigger and more open, with more weight to the tom toms. The Stealths definitely sounded more neutral and dynamic.

I have to admit to not being a power cord guy. I can’t see paying the prices for some of the power cords that are out there, given the level of improvement. I know that it is difficult and time-consuming to make a power cord by hand, so I understand how the manufacturers feel justified charging these prices, but I also feel that many of us obsess over this small stretch of wire. I’ll bet you guessed that I roll my own power cords. I do, and I also have two very affordable power cords from Monarchy Audio that sound great. My homegrown cords fall short in two areas compared to the store-bought cords. Mine are a little less clean in the top end, and exhibit slightly less spaciousness. However, they cost a little over $50 to make, even with the nice outer sheaths that I buy from heatshrink.com to make them pretty. And, my cords have Wattgate connectors on each end. Compared to, let’s say, a $300 power cord, do I hear $250 worth of a difference? No!

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M7 AC cord

So how are the Stealth power cords? There is definitely a hierarchy. The M7 Signature had the smoothest top end, and was able to handle sibilance in a civilized manner. The dynamics of this cord were also very good. On the minus side, it is very thick and stiff. The standard M7 cord, a notch below, had a little more sheen, but dynamics were still very good. It was closer to my home brew cords in the top end, but with a slightly more expansive soundstage. One more step down is the HAC, the one with the beautiful silver outer sheath. Stealth states that the HAC is "for power hungry multi-channel receivers and power amplifiers. This cord can handle up to 3000 Watts!" Yes, I heard differences in these cords, but instead of the differences slapping me in the face, as with the interconnects and speaker cables, I had to concentrate to hear them. The fact that I won’t (can’t!) pay high prices for power cords, and refuse to wrestle with stiff, thick cords made the thinner ones my favorite.

One positive quality of the Stealth wire was that I kept forgetting about it. To me this says a heck of a lot about a product, especially wire. I kept thinking that whoever named this wire Stealth hit the nail on the head. Francisco Duran

 

 

 

DAVE CLARK'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Reimer Speaker Systems Tetons.

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

SOURCES
EAD T1000 transport and EVS Millenium II DAC with Audient Technologies’ Tactic and Audit, and Taddeo Digital Antidote Two. Linn Axiss turntable with K9 cartridge and Basik Plus arm.

CABLES
JPS Superconductor+ interconnects, digital, and NC speaker cables. Sahuaro Slipstream, Blue Circle BC63, Clayton Audio, and JPS Kaptovator AC cables.

ACCESSORIES
PS Audio P300 Power Plant.
Dedicated 20 and 15 amp ac circuits. Shakti Stones and On-Lines. EchoBuster room treatments. BDR cones and board, DH cones, Vibrapods, Mondo racks and stands, Townshend Audio 2D and 3D Seismic Sinks, various hard woods, etc.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)When you listen to a cable, you are not hearing the cable, but the cable interacting with the other components that make up the system. Using a certain cable between two components may result in bringing out more of this or that aspect of performance, which may or may not be a good thing. Does this mean that cables are tone controls? Most certainly, though not of the gross variety. Cables allow us to fine-tune our systems to a greater degree than any other component, which means that cable choice is very much a personal thing. Want more of "this" than "that?" Choose cable A. Want a little more "that" but less "this?" Choose cable B. The effects of a cable in my system can be at odds with its effects in your system: what sounds bright here may sound dark there, or vice versa. Nonetheless, even in this world of uncertainty, one thing has always tended to be true: silver cables sound brighter than copper.

This brings me to the Stealth M7 cables, which pose the conundrum "How can a pure silver cable sound so unlike what we expect a silver cable to sound?" Of all the silver cables I have heard, the Stealth M7 is definitely not one of them. Stealth (Interlink House) is a newcomer to the crowded field of cables. Most Stealth cables are made by hand (no prefabricated bulk cable), using custom silver wire (typically 99.997% pure) and Teflon or porous Teflon (Teflon with air bubbles) dielectric. Stealth prefers silver over copper because in their opinion it sounds more natural, although they do offer a few cables with combinations of copper and silver, and their top-of-the line PGS uses gold conductors. The wire used for their interconnects is extremely thin, because they feel that thin wire sounds more coherent. This they attribute to its greatly reduced skin effect, as compared that found in thicker wire. The higher one climbs in the Stealth cable line, the thinner the wire. With the PGS line, it is no thicker than a human hair.

Interestingly, Stealth does not think that a perfect cable exists. They think that cables can only allow components to perform together properly, and choosing the correct cabling for a given system is a matter of experimentation. In their opinion, the more sophisticated and carefully chosen the components, the more difficult it is to choose the best cables. It is possible to "fine tune" a system with the help of the right cables to make it sound its best, but this is also largely dependent on the room acoustics and the tastes of each listener.

I approached the M7s carefully, after hearing them in a system completely different from mine: Lowther PM2A speakers and all-E.A.R. tube electronics tethered with Ensemble’s best cabling. Music through this system had an up-front presence that, for me at least, needed a touch more warmth. Hearing the system with the M7 was an eye-opener. What had been bright and lively was now too dark and warm. Details and subtleties were lost in the dark, and the startling pace and rhythm that Lowthers are known for was missing in action. As we, cable by cable, removed the Stealth and replaced it with the Ensemble, we were able to find a happy medium. The Ensemble pushed the system too far in one direction, and the M7 had pushed it even further in the opposite direction. What ended up sounding best was M7 interconnects with Ensemble AC and speaker cables.

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Triple Ribbon (TR) speaker cables

In that system, the M7 speaker cable supplied was not long enough, so the Premier Copper cable was used instead (260 individually-insulted OFC strands, resulting in 7AWG per cable or 4 AWG per speaker). This was the greatest contributor to the warmth and darkness. When it was replaced with the Ensemble speaker cable, with everything else—including the digital cable—still M7, the pace, presence, and detail returned, with just the right amount of warmth and sweetness. This sounded rather fine, in fact the best I have heard this from this system. As we continued to remove the M7 and replace it with the corresponding Ensemble, differences were more subtle than revelatory. The Ensemble offered a drier but more open sound, with the M7 warmer and richer, while at the same time slightly more closed-in.

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Varidig digital interconnect

In my system, it went the other way. As it now stands, my system leans to the dark and rich, so would the M7 go too far? Yes and no. Following a similar route of substituting cabling, except for using the M7 speaker cable and not the PC, the results were not as extreme. This was pretty much what I was expecting. The M7 offered a slightly darker and warmer sound, while the JPS was more "present, " though none of the changes were dramatic. It was kind of like sitting further back in the hall—the music was the same, it just had less detail and presence. The soundstage also changed, with less precise imaging and focus.

I concluded that the Stealth M7 interconnects, speaker cables, and digital cables offer a very quiet sonic tapestry that stresses warmth and richness over speed and clarity. Used together, this results in a less precise soundfield in which images are not razor sharp. All offer a robust and powerful bottom end that lacks in ultimate impact and dynamics. Of the three, the digital cable may be the most balanced of all, offering little to criticize. The AC cables are a bargain, in that they offer speed and clarity within a balanced sonic tapestry. They are not quite equal to the JPS Kaptovators, which are considerably smoother and more refined, but they’re $1600 versus $300! I did find the M7s a joy to use, and I ‘m sure there are many systems that would benefit from their use. Dave Clark

 

 

 

MARK KATZ'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
JM Labs Mezzo Utopias and Tannoy 12" Monitor Gold speakers in Lockwood studio cabinets (second system).

ELECTRONICS
Kora Cosmos monoblock amplifiers and Eclipse preamplifier. Custom 300B monobloc SE amplifiers and Loesch-Wiesner line stage preamplifier (second system).

SOURCES
CEC TL-1 transport and Kora Hermes (latest version modified by Audio Magic). McIntosh MR-78 tuner. Cal Audio Icon Powerboss HDCD CD player, Luxman T117 tuner, Nakamichi 680 ZX cassette.

CABLES
Marigo Reference 3 digital interconnect. Tiff, Yamamura, and Marigo Gen II power cords. Kimber 8TC shotgun speaker cables and Goertz Triode interconnects.

ACCESSORIES
API Power Wedge 116 Mk II for sources. Amps are plugged into a dedicated 20 amp line.

 

three.jpg (8484 bytes) When Dave Clark asked, "Do you want to try some cables?" I figured he meant a couple of interconnects. Instead I got a variety of power cords, speaker cables, and interconnects made by Stealth Audio Cables. "Stealth," apparently, is an acronym for Sound Technology Enabling Audibly Lucid Transcomponent Harmony, per the company website.

Considering the number of possible combinations, I figured that I’d start with my current system and gradually introduce the Stealth cables, listening for changes. I’ll describe the setup. A CEC TL-1 transport connects with Marigo Ref 3A digital cable to an Audio Magic-modified Kora Hermes DAC (new version), which is hooked up to the Kora Eclipse preamp with Goertz Triode silver interconnects. The preamp drives the Kora Cosmos 100 watt triode monoblock amps, again with Goertz Triode interconnects. The amps drive JM Labs Mezzo Utopia speakers using shotgun-wired Kimber 8TC speaker cables. The amps are plugged into a dedicated line with Tiff power cords, while the rest of the electronics are hooked up to a Power Wedge 116 II via an old Marigo cord for the CEC, one of Dave Clark’s homebrew power cords for the Hermes, and the stock cord for the Eclipse. For listening, I used two CDs, Bela Bartok’s Second Violin Concerto on the Valois label, and the Coffee Cantata from the Dorian CD of Bach’s secular cantatas.

The 8-foot Kimber 8TC shotguns went out and the 6-foot pair of Stealth PC speaker cables went in. I heard a slightly clearer, more detailed presentation at the expense of some warmth. On the Coffee Cantata, the soprano’s voice was delicate and subtle, but the baritone was slightly thinner. It seemed as if the tonal balance was slightly shifted toward the treble.

Next up were the HAC "high power" cords, attached to the Cosmos amps, replacing the Tiff cords. I heard greater subtlety in both pieces. The Coffee Cantata sounded slightly more natural, with a quieter background, less hashy highs, and better texture to the soprano and flute on the Bach and the violin on the Bartok. There was no loss of warmth, or any other negatives I could discern. I didn’t notice any improvement in "energy."

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HAC AC cord

I then substituted the Stealth M-7 Signature power cords for Dave Clark’s homebrew cord on the Hermes and the stock cord on the Eclipse’s outboard power supply. Here the changes were more pronounced. I heard an increased sense of energy and openness. Everything sounded livelier, with an excellent balance between orchestra and harpsichord. The voices projected well, down to the guttural "Acht" of the baritone. I liked these power cords!

I followed this by taking out my Marigo Ref 3A digital interconnect and putting in the Stealth Varidig. It has nice WBT connectors and is much more flexible than the Marigo. Though the Kora DAC tends to sound its best with the AES connection, the Marigo does a very respectable job. The Varidig sounded similar, except with slightly increased sibilance. The Marigo remains the favorite.

Next up were the M-7 and M-7 Signature interconnects. These displaced the Goertz Triodes, with the longer M-7 between the Eclipse preamp and Cosmos amps and the M-7 Signature between the Hermes DAC and the Eclipse. The Goertz cables have always imparted a very clear and open sound. With the M-7s, the music sounded more robust and powerful while preserving excellent clarity and detail. In my system, these cables were first rate.

My amps are easily placed with 8-foot speaker cables, placeable with 6-foot cables, and with much maneuvering, barely placeable with the 4-foot Trip R Silv L, though the Tiff power cords had to go back in to allow it. This wasn’t a big change, perhaps a small step down. Out went the Stealth PC and in went the Trip R Silv Ls. After all this, was there any payoff? You bet! The presentation was clearer and more detailed, rich and smooth, with no harshness, a nice improvement. While I can debate the merits of the Kimber vs. the PC, the Trip R Silv Ls were clear winners.

The Stealth power cords and audio cables were in some cases comparable to what I had, and in others clear winners. The big surprise for me was the M-7 Signature power cords. The M-7 and M-7 Signature interconnects also made pleasant improvements, and theTrip R Silv speaker cables got very sweet sound, although I couldn’t tell if this was due to their super-short length or their sheer quality.

Looking at the pricing of the Stealth products, I’d say that their less expensive stuff seems to offer good value for the money, and their more expensive stuff is very good at any price. Recommended. Mark Katz

 

 

 

Stealth Cables
Retail
TR speaker cables $1300 (8 feet pair)
M-7 interconnects $700 (1 meter pair)
Varidig digital cable $300 (1 meter, standard single S/PDIF - RCA or BNC terminated)
HAC AC power cord $200 (2 meters)
M-7 AC power cord $300 (2 meters)

Interlink House, Inc.
TEL: 240. 631. 8002 or 800. 579. 4046
web address: www.interlinkhouse.com
e-mail: sales@stealthcables.com

 

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