And, now, a quick audiophile word association game. What comes to mind when you read the following?
Belt drive turntables
Marantz Model 9
High End Cables
If you're like me, all of those items produced definite responses, most likely shaped by plenty of articles and opinions like the one you're about to read. We're all susceptible to the audio "truths" articulated over time. More than once, when reading or hearing about some product, I've thought about Napoleon's line that history is a set of lies that people have agreed upon. Still, spirited partisan kerfuffles about this boutique stylus or that monster mono block is half the fun of belonging to the audiophile community, so no worries.
But cables…oh brother, cables really seem to bring out the angry in some people.
Of course, there are those who holler that cables are a rip off and all sound the same, but hardly anyone pays attention to those sputtering Yosemite Sams anymore. No, the real debate is the old tussle about audio cables being a window or a mosaic. Simply: should cables transmit or create sound? Many of us can attest that tinkering too much with cables is a great way to totally destroy what once was a great sounding system. So, how do we avoid the audio cable version of a disastrous blind date? There are plenty of theories. Some argue that speaker cables, interconnects and the like should match like a Saville Row suit made for English royalty. Others say that you should create a cable goulash blended to perfection. Unfortunately, the fact that good cables are relatively expensive means that most of us settle for inserting any new cable into our existing system, and then hoping for the best.
But what if we could experience the whole product line? Could we, and even more importantly, should we? Which is why, when Alex Sventitsky of WyWires and I were talking about a possible review of the Platinum series interconnects, I just kept asking for more. A calculated gamble, as, like I said, these things are expensive and time consuming to make. Besides, it's not as if I'm one of the audio columnist chieftans referred to by one name, like some Brazilian-soccer player god. Thanks to my shameless opportunism and Alex's good nature, however, I soon had a full loom of WyWire Platinum series cables: interconnects, speaker cables, power cable, USB cable and a Red series headphone cable (although this last one will be covered in a later column).
Funny thing about all this audio gluttony, though, it started out sounding a little lean, which is just what the WyWires manufacturer warned me about when I told him that all five cables had arrived safely. In truth, I've experienced this phenomenon in my previous review of their Silver series speaker cable, so I was ready to withhold judgement. And so began the steady break in period to reach the recommended 200 hours needed to bring out the best in the cables. This kind of overstates things (the Platinum series WyWires cables are relatively fast, analytical, and balanced in their sound right out of the box) but a little time did make noticeable improvements.
Right away, I realized that my avarice would come at price of extra effort. Besides the aforementioned break in process, there's also the fact that it takes a great deal of care to figure out what each cable is doing to the sound, and an even longer time to determine whether or not you like that change. Given my previous experience with WyWires products, I wasn't too worried that it would all suck (times five!). But even though I had the full WyWires set, it still meant scrambling to replace each cable with my reference cables (listed in my equipment profile) in as many variations as I could to see which combination I liked best. Seeing as how I ultimately decided that I liked the full Platinum set that I started out with, I felt kind of foolish, but at least now I knew it for certain. Not that you have to do anything so compulsive if you were to buy the whole Platinum megillah; in fact, you'll get exactly the same end result (and avoid a sore back) if you just set everything up and be patient.
Most of my time with the WyWires loom found them connected to the marvelous Ayon Spirit amplifier and partnering CD 07s compact disc player. For the most part, I used the wonderfully precise Eclipse loudspeakers. You'd think the last paring would be a disaster, as the Eclipse speakers hit you only from the waist up (no bottom end) and I feared that the Platinum speaker cables wouldn't pad the shoulders well enough for the Eclipses to have some body. The WyWires Platinum series is not meant for providing the illusion of something that's not there, consequently, there was no Banner-to-Hulk transformation. What did happen, however, was more rewarding. The Platinum cable proved just the thing for the Eclipse speakers to completely disappear in the listening room. The conjurer's trick of sound emanating from space and not a box is the Eclipses's encore sleight-of-ear performance, and the WyWires cable highlighted that ability better than any of my references. Thus, the fingerpicking of the guitar that introduces Nico's cover of "These Days" is distinct in texture and attack, and perceptibly richer than the plucking of the violins that comes in next. The incredible imaging of the Eclipses makes the entire tune more tangible, despite being a studio recording. Admittedly, there were some jagged edge tunes that could've used the massaging tendencies of some of my other speaker cables, but that would also mar the appeal of the Eclipse speakers. Replacing the Eclipses with my Nola Contenders, I felt that the floorstanders may have lost some of the warmth of my reference cables, but that everything had "firmed up" nicely. The Nola's have a sweet midrange capability and plenty of tuneful bass for my small room, and the Platinum cables effectively conveyed those attributes.
All music is substantively recognizable, yet starkly different in details, from system to system. A high hat is a high hat, but the intensity and duration of the clashing cymbals is why high end cables matter. The Platinum series sound is fast and revealing throughout the tonal spectrum. The idea that you're getting all the notes from top to bottom takes some getting used to if your current cables drink mint juleps while lazily paddling in lake midrange, but once you've experienced sound without the additives, it's hard to listen to something else.
Employing WyWires Platinum throughout the system, therefore, may seem like too much of a…well, just too much. At least, that's kind of what I expected. Over time, though, and as I changed out each reference to culminate with the full Platinum experience, I couldn't escape the belief that only with the full suite of WyWires was I hearing a correct expression of the system's portrayal of music. The Ayon gear produces a warm, full bodied sound in its own right, but I always felt that the Platinum cable suite was conveying, not creating, that superb sound. The stupendous sound of the Hawaiian-tinged pedal steel licks that accentuate the Red and Betty Foley duet "As Far As I'm Concerned" simply explodes with power when all Platinum cables are in place. The back-in-the-alley delay of Betty Foley is equally pronounced, to less desirable effect, but the articulation and body of every part of the recording is right there where it oughta be. Again, audio truth is an oxymoron, and the perfect system is what best appeals to you. But when the full WyWires cable suite was engaged, there was a consistency of sound that struck me as being, for lack of a better word, honest. Was I being fooled by a synergistic match that played to the strength of all parts? Possibly, but all I know is, the system's character was more defined when all WyWires cables were used than when they weren't. That's true enough for me.
When cables can tell you so much about your audio equipment (and yes, yes, the quality of the recording as presented by the system), then how can cables be seen as a mere accessory? Do you really need a complete WyWires system to hear its house sound? Of course not. The speaker cables will show much of what WyWires has on offer, as will the interconnects, and power cord. There are many fine reviews in Positive Feedback that parse out the qualities of every cable in the WyWires line, but each one of these views is prismatic. The organic, dynamic, and effortlessness of my system when all Platinum cables were employed created a uniquely enjoyable listening experience. Hearing the Platinum series in its entirety raises the value of the cable effect to that of an essential component. For those who appreciate the WyWires Platinum sound, as I do, a full set of cables throughout is definitely something that should be considered. Impressed the hell out of me.
WyWires Platinum Series
Platinum USB A/B: Priced from $899
Platinum Analog Interconnect Cables: Priced from $1799
Platinum Speaker Cables: Priced from $2759
Platinum Power Cord: Priced from $899