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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 20
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silversmith

Palladium cables

as reviewed by Robert H. Levi

 

 

 

 

ROBERT H. LEVI'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
Avalon Eidolon and REL Stadium III subwoofer.

ELECTRONICS
E.A.R. 324 phono preamplifier, E.A.R. 890 amplifier, Pass X1 preamplifier, and an E.A.R. 834L Tube Line Stage.

SOURCES
VPI Scout/JMW 9 tonearm, VPI SDS Controller, ZYX R100H phono cartridge. ModWright Sony 999 SACD/CD Player with Signature Truth, Mod/Bybee Filters and Revelation Cryo Silver Umbilical. Pioneer DVL 919 LD/DVD Player, and a Marantz DV8400 DVD/SACD/CD player. Magnum Dynalab MD-108 Reference Tuner, Marantz 17 tuner, and Scott 300B FM Stereo Tuner, AQ 7500 FM Antenna, Stax 7t Electrostatic headphones, Grado Reference 1 headphones, and a Grado headphone amplifier.

CABLES
>Harmonic Technology CyberLight interconnects, Soundstring interconnects and speaker cables, or Kimber Select balanced, Kimber TAK phono AG, Kimber Hero balanced and single ended interconnects, Eichmann Express 6 Series 2 interconnects, and Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II balanced interconnects. Kimber D-60 Digital Interconnects. Kimber Select 3038 Silver speaker cables, Harmonic Technology Magic Reference Silver speaker cables.

ACCESSORIES
Monster Reference 350 Mark II v2 Power Conditioner and World Power Power Wing, Kimber Palladian power cables, Tara RSC and Decade power cables, Tiff power cables, Tice power cables, Tice Clock, and Audio Prism Quiet Line IIs. Cable Cooker 2.5, Winds Stylus Pressure Gage, Bedini Ultra Clarifier, VPI Record Cleaning Machine 16.5, Soundstring Pro Power Cables, and Kimber Pro 10 Gold Power Cables.

 

The Silversmith Palladium interconnects and loudspeaker cables are the nuance champs of the world! They yield total openness without aberrations of any kind, at any frequency. They are gorgeous to behold and flexible as butter. They are made to order, with limited availability. At $4000 per meter (about $1400 per foot), they are the most expensive cables I've ever heard. I've also never heard better definition. Though not perfect, they offer truly groundbreaking performance.

They are so expensive because palladium costs hundreds of dollars an ounce. Also, they are made of a palladium alloy, and the additional elements are even more expensive than the palladium! There has been a price-point ceiling in my previous cable recommendations. My favorite under-$1000 cables are Kimber Select (and KCTG) and Soundstring Pro, which offer excellent definition and truthfulness for the money. My favorite under-$3000 cable is Harmonic Technology's CyberLight, which at $1400 per meter-and-a-half are nearly unbeatable in most systems. They are also cutting-edge cool, as they are fiber optic cables that do not contain any metal. In the over-$3000 world of the best of the best, the Nordost Valhallas ($3300 per meter) are now joined by the Silversmith Palladium cables.

Jeffrey Smith of Silversmith developed the Palladium cables in an attempt to find a formulation that would beat his own $1400-per-meter silver cables, which are very good. I'd place them right up there with other cables selling for more than $2000, but there is nothing like the sound of the Palladiums. Terminated in the most advanced RCA plugs around and covered in an iridescent gold and silver material, they certainly look the part. If you are a fanatic audiophile with very deep pockets, these should be on your short list.

Let's start with the interconnects, which sound open, open, open, and fast, fast, fast. Add to that an honesty and a musical verisimilitude that go beyond adjectives like "sweetness" or "liquidity." Music sounds like real music, minus some dynamic power. More about this later. The best part is that the Palladium interconnects exhibit none of the brightness, dryness, or richness that mar some other designs in this price range. The Palladium cables make your system sound better by improving the electrical relationships between the various pieces of equipment. With electrical "memory" and slowness reduced by the unique composition of the Palladium cables, music is simply more musical. The effect occurs at all frequencies—the bass is as finely defined as the mids, which are as stunning as the highs, and the highs are truly amazing. Everything is so airy that the instruments breathe. Depth is incredible, imaging spot on. In my SET system, the lifelike reproduction and delicacy was startling. In my push-pull tube primary system, the Avalons produced purer, more detailed music than ever before, combined with the least grain I've yet heard from a metal cable.

I have been unable to identify any reportable colorations. Sometimes colorations are more apparent when you leave the music on and exit the room, but when I did this it sounded like there was an orchestra playing around the corner! This was really eerie, I assure you. With cables at this price point, there should be no edginess, thickness, or anything to mar the music. The Palladium cables have no such sins. All of this neutrality is combined with definition equal to or better than that of any cables yet offered.

Do the Palladium cables have any flaws? The bass and lower midrange lack slam compared to my reference cables. This is not a coloration so much as a performance characteristic. I've heard other cables that have the slam, but lack the Palladiums' fine texture and nuance. It may be possible to compensate for their lighter dynamics by turning up your subwoofer or changing power cords. Every one of the four systems in which I tried these cables had remarkable musical detail but reduced dynamics. The JM Labs Mezzo Utopias, which are prone to warmish, thick bass, sounded tight with the Palladium cables. There was less slam, but the sweet detailing was so beguiling that I can't say I really missed it. At this price point, though, I would like to have it all!

Other quibbles? The Eichmann Bullet Plugs are the set-and-forget kind. If you plug and unplug them frequently, they will crack and break. I broke one in testing. The speaker cables are terminated in palladium ribbon with a cutout like a spade lug. I shredded them in no time. This is not a good way to terminate speaker cables unless you install them then never touch them. The balanced interconnects are terminated in gorgeous plugs that you could stand on without doing damage. For this kind of money, the other cables should be terminated equally well.

The single-ended and balanced interconnects sound identical. If you own only one pair, use it with your most utilized component. As you add links, the sound just gets purer and purer and the dynamics improve.

Next up are the Palladium speaker cables. The speaker cables are even more neutral, if that's possible, and bring a bit more punch. They don't seem to sweeten the sound like the interconnects, though they heighten the purity of the musical gestalt. If you just use the Palladium speaker cables, they transmit the flaws of your other cables. The interconnects made the sound more analog-like and more detailed in every reference system in which I tried them. The interconnects combine well with other top brands, and are fantastic when used exclusively. I would not hesitate to use the interconnects without the speaker cables, but would not use the speaker cables on their own without auditioning.

When used throughout a system, the Palladium cables offer a musical sophistication and a level of inner definition and voice that makes music sound like a performance rather than a recording. Other cables are more dynamic, some have similarly low levels of grain, but these are the most alive-sounding cables available. You just don't live with the Palladiums—you savor them. Are they the best in the world? At this price, they should be perfect enough for you to take the plunge. I missed their finely textured definition and musical realism when I took them out of my system. I have never heard nuance and clarity quite like this. If you have a way to adjust for dynamic oomph, or have speakers or electronics that are on the fulsome side, these might be perfection.

Price versus performance is not a judgment I can make for you without knowing your system goals. You should try the Palladium cables before you buy. That said, I tried them in several reference systems, with all kinds of amplification, and they yielded groundbreaking definition and nuance in all instances. Colorations were nonexistent. Musicality was marvelous. The only flaw was a lack of dynamic slam, for which you may be able to compensate. The Palladium interconnects sounded wonderful with other speaker cables, but the Palladium speaker cables did best with the Palladium interconnects. They are very, very expensive and very, very excellent. They are not perfect, but they are perfectly seductive. Ferraris and Lamborghinis aren't perfect either, but no one would argue that they aren't as good as you can get. The Silversmith Palladium interconnects and speaker cables are that good, too. Robert H. Levi

Discs used in this review:

  • Orff, Carmina Burana (Telarc SACD 60575)

  • SuperBass2 (Telarc SACD 63483)

  • Gene Harris, The Best of the Concord Years (Concord CD 2-4930-2)

  • Suppe Overtures (Mercury SACD 470-638-2)

  • Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No. 2, Van Cliburn (RCA/BMG SACD 82876-61392-2RE1)

  • Getz/Gilberto (Verve SACD 314-589-595-2)

  • Isomike Test 2005A (Kimber Kable SACD)

  • Jacintha, Autumn Leaves (Groove Note SACD 1006-3)

  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia SACD 64935)

  • Cannonball Adderly, Somethin' Else (Classic Records DAD 1022)

Palladium speaker cables (6' pair) and Palladium interconnects (3' pair)
Retail: $9800 and $4000, respectively.

Silversmith
web address: www.silversmithaudio.com

 

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