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Serving Up the Straight Wire Expressivo AG and Serenade 3 - A Quick Comparison of Two Audiophile Interconnects

10-01-2019 | By Juan C. Ayllon | Issue 105

Audio cables act as passive filters, affecting the performance of a high fidelity speaker system for better or worse, depending on interactions with the room, first, the electronics, second, and personal tastes of the listener, third. As with a wine and food match at a chic bistro, the resulting interactions can be mediocre to stellar, depending on the pairings.

The Expressivo AG RCA interconnects

Location, Location...

In a setup like mine—a 20' x 16' room with a brick fireplace, acoustic absorption panels, bass traps, thick curtains, an acoustic diffuser, and a large area rug on vinyl plank flooring—highly revealing speakers like my diamond-tweetered Usher Mini Dancer Twos or the Usher TD-10s with diamond tweeters and midrange (you can read my review HERE) render digital playback best with two different interconnects in tandem: Straight Wire's silver plated copper Virtuoso R2 connecting my tube-based Lampizator Lite 7 DAC and PrimaLuna Prologue 3 preamplifier, and StraightWire Expressivo AG between the preamp and my solid state Odyssey Khartago amplifier. The Virtuosos produce a very detailed, but bass rich presentation, and Expressivos sound warmer through the high bass and lower treble region. Introducing the latter into the mix attenuates the diamond's highs and achieves a superb tonal balance.

The Serenade 3 interconnects

A Fortuitous Opportunity

Several months ago Straight Wire's president, Steven Hill, sent me a pair of Serenade 3 interconnects to compare with the Expressivos. 

The Expressivo AGs cost $600 per metered pair (XLR or RCA) with an extra $150 per half meter after that; two meters of their Silver Air Space Helix version run $900 for a two meter length pair. The Serenade 3 cost $500 a metered pair with $150 per additional half meter; two meters of their dual insulated advanced copper helix version run $720 per pair.

Seeing that they're similarly priced, it might prove instructive. Why not?

Technical Considerations

A look at some of the cables' characteristics proves interesting in both their similarities and subtle differences. 

The Serenade 3 has:

  • 8 x 21 AWG compressed CDA copper
  • PTFE foam inner insulation
  • Foam PP outer insulation
  • Copper mylar tape and drain wire tube shielding
  • White fabric braid and clear jacket

The Expressivo AG has:

  • 4 x 21 AWG compressed CDA 102 silver plated copper
  • Foam PP inner and foam spiral rod and air outer insulation
  • Copper mylar tape and 90 percent 36 AWG copper braid
  • Black fabric and Techflex durable PET braid

RCA: Both cables use four conductors to positive (effective 15 AWG) for low resistance.

XLR: Serenade has four conductors to positive, four conductors inverted and drain wire to ground; Expressivo AG has two conductors to positive, two conductors inverted and shield to ground.  (Source: Steven Hill, StraightWire Inc.)

Hearing the Differences

I swap in the Serenade AGs for the Expressivos and experience newfound aural pleasures. While both have excellent detail, the Serenades present an enhanced macro picture, with a better sense of space; they're warmer, lusher, and slightly less forward in the highs compared to the Expressivos that, in contrast, provide better micro information, enhanced treble and textures.   

Similarly, I sense that the Expressivos have lower resistance and allow more information to flow through unabated, as they seem to have a slightly higher level of gain and focus than the Serenades. Hill agrees, adding, "In RCA mode—you are correct; with the XLR mode—it's the same resistance."

Summed up, the Serenades are more organic, analog and natural sounding, while the Expressivos are more clearly defined throughout.

For example, when I reintroduce the Expressivos, I welcome enhanced grain and articulation of Michael Franks' sophisticated, softly sung lyrics and supporting instruments in "Never Say Die," but when I substitute the Serenade 3s, I noticed a more natural, rounded rendering. Swapping back and forth and playing various selections like Diana Krall's sultry vocals on "When I Look in Your Eyes" in DSD64, or Peter Gabriel's complex harmonics and range in a live FLAC recording of "Shock the Monkey," I am perplexed, as I am not sure which I prefer.

Concluding Remarks

Ultimately, I favor the enhanced micro detail, and as a result, retain the Expressivo AGs between the preamp and amp. However, the Serenade 3s are far from dismissed; they now connect my VPI Prime Scout turntable to its VPI Voyager phono stage (which, in turn, connects to the preamp with a pair of Straight Wire Virtuosos—go figure!).   

Your experiences may vary, depending on your room, your equipment, and tastes. Either way, the Straight Wire Expressivo AGs and Serenade 3s are excellent interconnects for the money, and may provide you with renewed, guiltless listening pleasures as you indulge your aural palate. Bon Appetit!

Expressivo AG interconnects

Retail: $600 a meter/pair

Serenade 3 interconnects

Retail:$500 a meter/pair

StraightWire, Inc.