FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 41
Wireworld's Newest: Onto Something
Nearly a decade ago I was testing many different interconnects, and after I heard everything I could get my hands on (in my system, in my room, through my gear and ears), from do-it-yourself cables to the most expensive Nordost stuff, I came to the conclusion that price was one indicator of value that would usually put the consumer in a position to coax the "best possible" sound from his system – but there were lots of less pricey cables that could get him pretty close. It became, for me, a striving for the "best possible" sound (so I could tell how close less-pricey designs could come), and for those under the sub-category of "best-for-the-buck." Recently I spoke to Wireworld's President and design engineer, David Salz, about this, and a few weeks later he sent me two pair of his new "Platinum Eclipse" (actually Ohno Continuous Cast, 99.99997% silver) top-of-the-line, "double-helix," ribbon interconnects. A few weeks after that, he sent me two pair of his new "Equinox 6", O.C.C. high-purity-copper (99.99997%), double-helix, ribbon interconnects for me to compare to the silver version. What follows is a report mostly about these two iterations of this new design.
I think everyone having experience with a variety of cables would agree; all cables are lossy. It's impossible to be loss-free because each foot of cable measurably acts as a small capacitor, inductor, and resistor; and the longer the run the higher those values. But, these silver cables were the least lossy I'd yet come upon. How did I know that? Without instruments? You might ask. Well, with my most recent favorite cables (I won't tell you which because 1) they are great, 2) I don't want to minimize their achievement, and 3) your room, gear, ears, and brain are different than mine. Trust me!), I had to run my volume pot in the 12 o'clock position (more or less, to compensate for variations in mastering levels) to get the level I like; but without changing anything else, with the new Wireworld (WW) silver cables I got the same loudness at about the 10 o'clock position. That's about 6dB (and probably more) of immediately discernable difference. That's something to think about.
Firstly, if you're playing with low wattage tube amplifiers, these WW cables will seem to double the effective power available to the speakers. That's a money-saver. Actually, that's the intuitive response to low-loss, an artifact. The signal gets to the amp at a higher level so it takes less gain (on the pot) to get to the amp's full power. Theoretically, the sound is cleaner, so you don't have to overcome signal-path noise to pick up details down in the mix. Thirdly, in addition to being free of masking or smearing, these cables are about as flat (or free from peaks and dips in frequency response) as I know of just now. If you've been thinking of a 1/3 octave equalizer, you don't have to beat yourself up about cheaping out on that any more. That's an anxiety-saver. And if you have to deal with the WF (wife factor), you'll be happy to know the WW cables are especially clean in the two octaves (2k through 8kHz) where irritating sibilance usually rears its ugly head. I was nearly blown away to find that irritating "splashy" sibilance which had been substantially reduced in my system as a whole to preserve natural balance, could be reduced to nearly zero through Wireworld's (silver) Platinum Eclipse interconnects. That's a potential marriage-saver.
[Women hear differently than men, and their high-frequency loss doesn't begin until after menopause (say, age 45-50), but with men high-frequency loss begins at about age 20?!?!, depending on how much loud rock 'n' roll you've been listening to. So for about 25-30 years most guys are at odds with their spouses about listening to music. (Who said? "Marriage is the inevitable union of two beautiful souls, one of whom likes to listen to music softly. "Not Robert Harley: more likely Ogden Nash.) More likely, women are more sensitive to the distortion products we call splashy-sibilance. I think that may be a fourth potential saver, the fees you guys might not have to pay a marriage counselor by using non-splashy interconnect cables.]
If you've been reading my stuff over the years, you'll know by now I prefer re-iterative type trial and error tweaking over time; for example, John Curl's small step redesign or inclusion of improvements on a proven piece (as in Parasound's Halo JC-2 preamp, generally acknowledged as a triumph of design); as compared to the "newest most revolutionary design that is going to rewrite the book on preamp performance." These Platinum Eclipse cables (Actually WW uses Platinum as a concept, "more precious than gold," not as material in fabrication.), are not made of brittle, hard-to-machine, and less-conductive platinum: rather, they are made of six nines, O.C.C. solid silver.
As a material selection, pure silver seems a no-brainer. It is soft, like pure copper, and it is 6% more efficient than copper when measured by Ohm meters. Furthermore, silver oxide (which is present in all manufactured silver due to heat) acts as a resistor, while copper oxide acts as a diode. It just so happens that dioding within the cable itself is audible as "veiling" or "masking" of the sound, analogous to the famous "Doris Day filter" the movies used on Doris to keep her slightly out-of-focus, hence seeming forever young. All else (except metal shielded RCA plugs versus carbon fiber plugs and larger conductors) being identical in both WW's copper Equinox and silver Eclipse cables (double-helix geometric design, very high metal purity & similar gauge, and the capacitive effect of low-Q insulation ), Silver leaves the veils and masks behind. And, I forgot the silicone rubber tensioning device in the RCA plugs themselves that acts to align the parts and maximize the contact of the signal plug and the return collar. These WW patented plugs touch all the metal they can to further avoid arcing of the current that produces another (smaller) source of dioding. Designer David Salz tries to think of everything, and he may succeed.
Obviously, comparing expensive silver cables to relatively inexpensive copper, isn't fair. So, I'll compare the new copper Equinox to the older copper Eclipse. As they stand, both cables use the O.C.C., six nines purity copper, with which to fabricate the ribbons. The Equinox RCA jacks (more specifically, the R.F.I. shields over the bare wire and the solder joints), and the Eclipse RCA jack shields are made of different metals. The Eclipse shields are made of gold-nickel-plated brass; the Equinox made of anodized aluminum, to keep sonic colorations due to micro-fields and eddies down to a minimum.. The older Eclipse have Teflon insulation on the ribbons; the Equinox have a new, proprietary, "cocktail" of two or three types of blended dielectrics on the ribbons, to create a composite dielectric that nearly eliminates the noise modulation that distorts the signal in other cables. The result is a sensationally good sounding copper Equinox that's as low-loss as copper gets, with minimum coloration, smearing, or masking from metallurgical or di-electrical causes. The $200 copper Equinox sound has most of the virtues of its $2,995 silver (one meter) counterpart: clarity and cleanliness, startling dynamic range, the ability to capture details "down in the mix" like bass texture, extra-ordinary sound-staging and three-dimensionality, minimum masking and veiling, soprano friendliness, freedom from splashy sibilance and tinny-ness, etc.
The new Equinox 6 supersedes the old Equinox 5 largely due to its new insulation materials, and in some smaller measure due to its improved (anodized aluminum) RCA plug shields. Risking attack from all sides, if there were a gun to my head, I'd say the new Equinox 6 is 50% better than the old Eclipse 5˛. It's not subtle. I'm not sure how to quantify it. I could have just as easily said 25% better, or 100% better. Either way, I would have had to have a methodology up my sleeve to justify preferring the one over (or under) the other. I'll retract all that. Instead, I'll say the new Equinox 6 copper transcends the old Eclipse copper in the same way that the new silver (the Platinum Eclipse) transcends the new copper Equinox. It has the same design virtues but audible to a more noticeable extent. But, the new Equinox 6 is 66%less expensive (at $200) than the old Eclipse 5; while the new silver (A.K.A. Platinum Eclipse) cables are 1500% more expensive than the new copper Equinox 6. You do the math. Let's say in both cases the improvement is 2 or 3 noticeable-differences. One costs $200, and the other costs $2800 more. Is it worth it to you? If you have to have the finest personal effects, best watch, best car, best clothes, rest assured the silver (A.K.A. Platinum Eclipse) is among the finest of audio cables; and if you have deep pockets, go for it!
If, like most folks these days, you're feeling the pinch, then you might do this in steps. First, get yourself two pairs of the Equinox 6 interconnects and put one pair between your CD player and your preamp. If, as I expect you will be, you are thrilled with the improvement, put the other pair between your preamp and your amplifier. Now you will hear the shortest length possible of WW's "house sound." This blew me away because, as I've said, I had some pretty fine sounding cables and the WW Equinox 6 just outperformed them in almost every way. If you are impressed, and flush with cash, then get yourself two pair of the (silver) Platinum Eclipse interconnects and put one pair between your preamp and amp. That ought to give you another notch of audible improvement. And, soon after, put the other pair of the (silver) Platinum Eclipses cables on your CD player. If you are like me, this sound will knock your socks off. Plus, you will have two pair of excellent copper cables you can now use to connect things like your FM tuner, your I-Pod dock, or your vinyl disc LP player.
So how does this all add up? First, there were the O.C.C. (Ohno continuous cast) 99.99997% copper, double-helix, interconnect cables. These Eclipse 5˛ were pretty damn fine in their own right. They were recently superseded by the Equinox 6 interconnect cables that had two major improvements; the new, Composite Dielectric on the ribbon conductors and the aluminum RFI shield on the (patented) RCA plugs. A small thing (at $200/pr.), but WW's own. Together, the performance of this new configuration leap-frogged over the other copper cables in the WW line, approaching the (silver) Eclipse Platinum line. The Eclipse Platinum employs redesigned ribbons that use more silver for greater dynamic range; the Composite Dielectric Technology to improve clarity and cleanliness, and flatten frequency response; and new, exclusive, carbon-fiber RFI shields that (as nearly as possible) have eliminated all eddies and micro fields that metal shields created by virtue of just being metal. The result is, WW's (silver) Eclipse Platinum interconnect cables have benefitted from the increased knowledge in metallurgy (O.C.C. silver's conductivity), physical chemistry (the Composite Dielectric Technology, and electrical micro-field theory (the use of carbon fiber) in RCA-plug shields design, to come up with one of the best interconnects in the industry that I know of.
If it sounds like I'm hedging here, remember that it is impossible to keep up with the entire field of top-of-the-line cables as each manufacturer is periodically re-designing his; and, no-one has the time to do serious listening tests on the entire army of new cables every year. So, I can't unequivocally state that the Wireworld's Platinum Eclipse inter-connects are the best in the whole damn world. But, I can say, from my experience with top-flight cables, in the same price class, at shows and in my system, they must be at least among the best. Whether or not you will love them, immediately upon hearing as I did, depends on many subtleties: your room, your gear; if you like your music "warm" and romantic, or "cold" and analytical. Etc. etc. I will say this: While I have shared many intimate moments with the (copper) Equinox 6 interconnects and they do take me thrillingly to the emotional center of whatever music is on the program, I find myself more likely to experience the rapture more engorgingly and see through to the seminal moments of the music with the (silver) Platinum Eclipse. I just love them.
Some of the other interconnects that I have had in my system have been; SilverSmith's Palladium ribbons, Goertz copper mini-purl ribbons, Goertz silver Alpha Core AG2 ribbons, Canare Cable #505 and #405, Homegrown 8 filament and 3 filament braided solid core silver, Grado Signature 4 to 2 stranded copper; Cardas, Sil-Tech, and Monster's top of the line; Harmonic Technology's best, Twisted Pair's, Nordost's, EMM Labs's top of the line, and some others I can't remember. Most of the time I listened through a front end that had a VPI rebuilt HW-19 turntable plus its new platter, bearing, and circumferential ring; a Clear-Audio Souther (linear tracking) tone-arm, with a Grado Master Statement Cartridge and an "improved" Lehmann Black Cube phono-stage. The CD player is a once highly-rated Marantz 8260 universal player that features HDAM circuitry in its audio amp. The preamp is a Parasound Halo JC-2, that is very well reviewed and much respected, especially well-mated to a pair of Parasound 400W JC-1 monoblock amps; though I sometime switched off to a pair of Fisher 50A (rebuilt 55 year old) Williamson amps; or to a much-Pooged and surprisingly great sounding (35 year old) Quad 405. And the winner is... I can't say, really can't make up my mind. The Quad lacks punch, but is has a wonderful delicacy for chamber jazz or classics. The Parasound JC-1s are very punchy and sail through the most complex and demanding musical passages. The Fisher 50A's are the ultimate in suave reproduction, and mate well with some difficult speakers.
I use a pair of much rebuilt Dyna Consequence loudspeaker for the range of 100 Hz -20k Hz: but for the bass I use a pair of Klipsch 18" Patrician corner horns on 18" Hartley woofers. In the bi-amped mode, I drive the woofers with a much-tweaked Adcom 545 amplifier, with 200 W/channel into an 8 ohm load. A Shadow electronic crossover, with new Intel 1361 op-amps and Fairchild "Stealth" diodes, does the job with no more effect on the sound than swapping out a good pair of cables for an excellent pair. This system stands up to all but the "insanely" expensive types that are only put together for shows. If new, it would have to cost a small fortune, but as I built it and tuned it over a span of 25 years, it didn't hurt too much.
So, in summary, this is how it is: Wireworld has recently brought to market two outstanding interconnect cables. The copper model Equinox is very fine and is the bargain of the Audio marketplace at $200/pair. If you haven't been obsessing like the maniac I am said to be, by grabbing and auditioning every possible cable in your own system, you can get close by trying out interconnects provided by a reputable retailer. Or you can figure how many opinions of mine you share. And that might be a pretty good predictor of the likelihood of whether or not you'd enjoy the cables in question. If you and I are often on the same page regarding gear, and/or music, and our opinions don't differ too widely, then buy one or two 1 meter pairs of the Equinox. If you haven't swapped out any cables in the last four or five years, you'll be in for a delightful surprise. Analogous to computer technology, the performance of audio cables jumps every so often.
If you consider your time listening to music as a meditation exercise, something highly personal, a private part of your day that gets you closer to the ethereal, and something you won't compromise, then scrape together Three Big Ones and go for the Platinum Eclipse. I'd go for one pair to begin, and listen to your favorite CDs with it in a strategic place, say, on the output of your CD player, or (maybe better yet) on the output of your preamp. That ought to open your ears. If it does—then you'll have some difficult decisions to make. Take your time. Don't blow off your marriage. You might be able to get a pair-a-year over the next few years. You know the drill. The Eclipse is a serious interconnect cable, David Salz's best effort so far. Don't take it lightly. On the other hand, if you've got a pretty high performance car, you'd consider it foolhardy (maybe dangerous) to equip it with second line tires. You know what I mean.