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wireworld

Eclipse 52 (OCC) interconnect and speaker cables

as reviewed by Max Dudious

 

 

 

 

There are periodic incursions into the world of interconnects and speaker cables that feature new, improved materials, such as Palladium; or new, ground-breaking technologies, such as fiber-optics, that are not well met by the market. Then there are new strategies for managing the tried and true formulae for cables that arrive after many iterations of physical chemistry research, combined with electro-mechanical theory, with a dash of trial and error. These are typically met with a certain diffidence. Like, "I'll believe it when I hear it." While I have been sometimes seduced by the new, I've been somewhat disappointed that the public has not. New cables often languish on the dealer's shelves. It reminds me of horses and horticulture, as in, "You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think." And so it is with conservative audio culture. It is slow to change.

Of course we are also living through an inflationary spiral where prices go up every six months, which might explain why acceptance of newly developed technologies is slower than usual. Such spirals make it difficult to ascribe value to various items. I have received my portion of Season's Greetings catalogues recently, and prices just keep going up, as the dollar goes down on the international market. That may be the principle cause for sagging hi-end audio sales.

In spite of the soft audio market, along with my encyclopedia of catalogs, I also received from Wireworld a review set of OCC (Ohno continuous casting) all-copper cables that are a revision on what we thought we knew about cable materials and geometry. After living with a set of cables I thought were doing a good job for some months, the new Wire World approach to audiophile interconnect cables is an ear-opener. Boy oh boy, do they sound good.

Wireworld chief designer and C.E.O., David Salz, has used many of the generally accepted "best approaches" to cables {Teflon insulated, OCC copper conductors, with patented silver-clad Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC), Teflon-insulated RCA plugs}, and he has deployed them in new geometries. In their press release they say the new "interconnect cables employ four thin, flat copper conductors stacked in a parallel array that is then precisely wound into a helix shape. This keeps the coupling between all the conductors extremely precise over the cable's length, effectively neutralizing the electromagnetic losses." A double helix? Well, actually it's a quadruple helix they call their Delineated Neutralizing Array (or DNA Helix for short), with two signal-carrying copper ribbons, and two return copper ribbons, terminated by the Salz patented new variation on the ubiquitous RCA plug. The Wireworld loudspeaker cables of the Eclipse 5˛ series are new in the sense they have their stranded copper conductors configured "diagonally." (Hmmm, we have heard this song before, haven't we? Eh, Watson. This DNA DoubleHelix?)

In some ways this geometry reminds me of the Goertz Alpha-Core twisted ribbon interconnect, for which I have great respect. That twisted ribbon interconnect came in two configurations; two copper ribbons encased in Teflon-like insulation and pressed together (back to back, and belly to belly), or with one silver ribbon (signal) and one copper (return) ribbon in the same configuration. In many respects they sounded very similar, so similar they could be mistaken for each other at low levels. But at high levels the all-copper Goertz "maxi-purl" interconnect (no relation to Cousin Minnie Pearl) sounded softer at the moment of attack, a little rounded off in the highs but good enough to still be (after ten or more years) generally considered an entry-level bargain among hi-end interconnects. The copper/silver, on the other hand, sounded noticeably cleaner, more detailed, more spacious and often drew comparison with the Nordost, which physically resembled the Alpha-Core TQ2. And Silversmith (among others) has developed sets of ribbon interconnects and speaker cables in both silver and palladium. (What's that you're saying, Holmes? DNA Helix?)

The all-copper Wireworld Eclipse sounds more like the silver/copper in the Goertz configuration—very detailed and spacious, but without the "hard" quality that working with some hard-sounding amps gave it. (GIGO! I'd say.) The Eclipse also doesn't seem to pass hum, and seems impervious to various electrical noises that the Goertz was a bit susceptible to. (You're a man of medicine, Watson. What's the DNA Helix?) The Eclipse is so good at protecting the signal path from extraneous noise, I am using it now as the cables from my Souther linear tone arm which has very accessible RCA output jacks. This is rare performance with phono signal from my Grado, Statement Master, moving-iron cartridge, which has a very low output of 0.5 MV. That's half of one thousandth of a volt.

(Oh, Holmes. You ought to know that, even though we've been dead for a century. The double helix is the shape of the DNA molecule, that's "deoxyribonucleic acid," where the genes that determines human heredity are posted. Fellows named Crick and Watson found it out in the 1950s. It's taken research fifty years to map out the human genome to determine which genes might carry which hereditary diseases. You can look it up in any encyclopedia, or Google it. Did you know that, Homes?)

So the Eclipse gets very high grades as a phono interconnect on the counts of EMI and RFI rejection, due to its four conductor helix; and sonically it seems to do as well or better than the best I've had in that spot—velvety black silences, minimal surface noise, excellent balance on frequency response, abundant dynamic range, and all the other characteristics you might expect in an excellent low-level cable. David Salz likes to speak of his design goal as follows: "I believe the most unique thing about my design approach is that the cables are designed to sound as close as possible to a direct connection, and they actually sound much closer to no cable than other brands."

I reasoned that if the Eclipse 5˛ does all that well as a low-level phono interconnect, it ought to do at least as well as a line-stage interconnect. In practice, it does, and then some. Another highly regarded interconnect cable with which I have had excellent results is the Harmonic Technology "Truth-Link" series. It is a very fine cable, well engineered and well built. I was using it because it brought a good overall balance to the sound, and it had good fit and finish. The Wireworld Eclipse surprisingly sounds a notch clearer than the Truth-Link cable I thought was doing a very first-class job. Specifically, on some jazz recordings, when the drummer was using brushes on the snare drum, the Truth-Link moved the drummer further back in the sound field, almost to the extent that I couldn't hear the subtlety of the drummer's skill; but the Eclipse brought the drummer back closer to the other instruments, enough such that I could hear the tasty chops the brushes were adding to the performance.

Generalizing to the many parts of a symphony orchestra, it seems the definition of many instruments would be clearer, and their positions in the soundfield more accurate. I was surprised to hear the all ‘round excellence of this cable. On all sorts of music, it was very well controlled, presenting the music with all the qualities that make for excellent sound, which is a more convincing facsimile of real performers in the room. This was often apparent to my listening panel; my wife, my daughters, my sons-in-law, who have been steeped in record engineering lore.

The Eclipse loudspeaker cables are another whole thing. They use twelve bundles of OCC stranded copper filaments configured diagonally, alternating six signal with six return bundles, each clad within high-density polyethylene insulation, and clad overall with what seems to be a copper colored PVC jacket. Everything I found to be the defining characteristics of the Eclipse all OCC copper interconnects (more silent silences, greater definition, greater clarity, freedom from extraneous noise), I found in the speaker cables. Though I've seen the differences made on the sound by simple co-axial cables, four-conductor rope-laid cables, fancier braided geometrical alignments, different metals, different insulations, stranded, solid-core, and ribbon conductors; it is amazing that a good designer can, by mixing and matching all these factors according to modern electrical theory, can arrive at just the right blend.

I've seen this in the Goertz interconnects and cables, where identical dimensions of the copper and silver ribbons were used in the earliest models; and in Silversmith interconnects and cables, where identical dimensions of the silver and palladium alloy ribbons were used. If the engineering tasks are well executed, the cables ought to look and sound alike though made of different alloys, and vastly superior to standard lamp cord type cables; while more subtle improvements in performance ought to be realized by improvements in the conductive quality of the various metals, say copper, to silver-clad copper, to silver— all of the same gauge and configuration. And that's about what happens. With higher conductance metals the cables get more detailed and spacious sounding, but not so as to change their sonic thumbprint.

The Eclipse interconnect's being all-copper ribbon, configured in Wireworld's DNA Helixg design, using foamed Teflong insulation, and terminated with their patented RCA plug, seems a real improvement over the competing and very highly respected Alpha-Core all-copper ribbon design; while the Eclipse speaker cables' being OCC copper strands, configured in Wireworld's Diagonal DNAg design, using high-density polyethylene insulation, is a sonic improvement on many well-respected "bundled array" designs. I can only imagine what improvement the silver-clad copper, or the all-silver versions of the Eclipse series might bring. David Salz tells me they bring essentially the same frequency band flatness curve, with the same sonic thumbprint, but with greater openness and clarity, which results in greater ability to capture sonic details down in the mix, to present a more convincing soundstage, which amount to an all-‘round better presentation.

Allow me to go a little farther into my perceptions of the sonic improvements offered by Wireworld's Eclipse 5˛ OCC copper interconnects and speaker cables, to give a more detailed impression, all the while filling in with my own tentative definitions of some terms that are widely kicked around in audio jargon.

"Clean." By "clean" I mean, the measured time it take for the rise and decay of an instantaneous spike signal as seen on an oscilloscope. The shorter the rise time, the more accurate a portrayal of individual notes of music in the "attack" mode, or when the note is first struck, say, on a piano or cymbal, or plucked on a guitar or a harpsichord. The faster the electronic decay, the more accurate a portrayal of the sonic decay. Extending the decay is often called "ringing." The amp/cable/speaker chain may be adding only minimally to the reproduction of the event measured in milliseconds, but the result is degrading the clarity.

"Fast." By "fast" I mean the illusion of speed created when a set of cables (or an amplifier) is "clean." It seems to release the energy of one note in such a way that we hear "all" of the second note in the attack-sustain-decay sequence, and then it begins the third note in the same fashion. The failure to discriminate the separate notes I call "smearing." Though the notes take the same amount of time, as measured by a performance time clock, it seems the amplifier/cable/speaker is faster when it is not smearing one note into the next. I guess what people mean when they say "fast" is, able to make a quick recovery after each note.

"Clearer." By "clearer" I mean the illusion of hearing the notes of the various instruments (and being able to discriminate the various instruments), more distinctly. Actually, the individual note is probably offered pretty well, but the artifacts (sometimes viewed as small, fuzzy attachments to the representation of the note as a sine wave on an oscilloscope), or spuriae, degrade the purity of the note with a phenomenon related to the exaggerated "fuzz tone" circuits on electric guitars. So, "clearer" is another version of "cleaner," as is "faster." All three of these terms I take to mean free of distortion products, such as ringing, smearing, or fuzzing up. They differ only slightly in kind, and their similar overall effect is a lack of "clarity."

Ironically, some folks prefer some cables to be less clear, clean, or fast. They prefer to have a soft filter on the music. I'd guess that's because they first heard their favorite tunes on systems that were lower resolution than what is now available. That soft sound, like your father's early home entertainment console, was flattering. It made music pretty, as the "Doris Day filter" made movie images of Doris look younger. Or, the soft sound might have been what they heard in the student seats of their earliest symphonic concerts. And once these sounds became familiar they became the default system in their nervous system. Pretty, or "musical" as distinguished from "analytical," often means ringing, smearing, fuzzing of the music.

The way I hear things, even in the advanced state of my physical decrepitude, "analytical" becomes a good term meaning the listener can analyze tone clusters and pick out a major from a minor chord. He can hear, in some composer's music on a well engineered recording, how a note can begin with a harsh blast from a trumpet and resolve into the same note on a mournful oboe; the precise moment the timbre of one instrument takes over from the other, the exact instant the emotion shifts, is captured. It takes a superior sound system, and a superior listener, to reproduce those moments musicaux.

(Watson, I wonder, old chap, if that Watson researcher fellow is a relative of yours. Holmes, I'd like to say I can answer that. Could be. My cousin Binky settled in the states after the Great War. Could be one of his lads, or grandchildren. I doubt it. Holmes, we're fictional characters, you know. Watson, that is one of your most brilliant deductions, so far.)

The Eclipse 5˛, all-OCC copper, interconnect and loudspeaker cables, owing to their re-iterative design, and implementing recent developments in metallurgy and physical chemistry, bring an up-to-the minute refinement to audiophile music reproduction. They are well-balanced through the frequency range, free of peaks and dips that might represent overly warm celli, or overly metallic sopranos. They are free of the artifacts of ringing, smearing, or fuzz-tone. They perform so well they can capture minute details and subtle shifts that make up musical innuendo. They are designed not to be overwhelmed when gargantuan musical effects must be handled, whether they come from a massive Bruckner symphony, or a cookin' Taj Mahal blues band. Delicacy or majesty, subtlety or power, a harpsichord sonata by a Mannheim-school composer, or a power slam by The Mannheim Steamroller, these cables will give it to you without electronic artifacts. They represent the latest and best I know of set of all-copper cables out there. Of course, listening to the hundreds of cables on the market and doing a typology would be a Sisyphusean task, because by the time it was complete, hundreds more would have debuted. Sort of like Holden Caulfield's trying to erase all the chalked "fuck you's" from the walls on his walk to and from school everyday. In The Catcher in the Rye there were always new ones.

For more technical information, and for minute-to-minute pricing, see the website at www.wireworldcable.com. Of course, to hear how these would work in your system, find a nearby dealer and arrange to take home some product on loan ...if you're seriously interested. If you're nutty enough to purchase these without hearing them, just rock around the Christmas tree to the phone, call David Salz, and tell him Max Dudious sent ya. You won't be sorry. Get one pair of cables for a spot through which all the music passes; say, into your amp, of from your CD player, or both. You'll soon hear what has me so excited. Ciao, Bambini.

Suggested retail prices:

Wireworld Eclipse 5-squared all-copper interconnects, $450/meter with RCA plugs.

Wireworld Eclipse 5-squared all-copper speaker cables, $1095/8 ft with spade connectors.

Max Dudious

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