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Viero Equilibrio Level 3 Speaker Cables

12-20-2014 | By Mark Pearson | Issue 76

Viero Equilibrio Speaker Cables

So the call came out from PF: Who wants to review a pair of expensive speaker cables made in Italy? I raised my hand, er, I mean I responded to the email and said "I do." The most expensive speaker cables I have ever personally owned was a 10' bi-wire pair of MIT cables that retailed for around $4500. Here was a chance to hear a pair of expensive speaker cables in my system in a price range I normally don't shop in so I was happy to volunteer. The speaker cables are made by an Italian company named VIERO after the owner, Devis Viero. Also, shortly around the time I received the cables for review; Devis Viero shifted from marketing his cables through normal distribution channels and switched to a factory direct model. The good news for consumers who want to purchase VIERO cables is the price has dropped by roughly 50% as a result of buying direct from the factory.

The pair of cables that I received for review are 5 meters long and are terminated with spade lugs. 5 meters is frankly way more length than I need for my system which made it hard to deal with cable management. The Level 3 cables are approximately the size of a fire hose and holding one 5 meter speaker cable in your hands gives you an appreciation for their weight. These cables are heavy. The cables appear to be well made with good terminations for the spade lugs. The spade lugs are made from Tellurium and are plated with 24K gold plating. I'm not going to waste bandwidth and regurgitate all of the marketing literature on Viero's website. Viero's web address is listed at the bottom of the review and you can cruise over there and read everything Devis has to say about how his cables are constructed and his philosophy for building cables. I will tell you that according to Devis, the cables are made with UP-OCC and OCC silver braided solid core and are triple shielded. I used these cables with two different sets of speakers, two different preamps, and lots of different music including classical, jazz, and rock. This included analog LPs, 15 ips 2 track tapes, and DSD digital.

Viero Equilibrio Speaker Cables

I realize that we still have some skeptics who don't believe in the phenomenon of cable break-in. We also have people to the far right of that position that believe that not only do cables have to break-in to sound their best, they also change their sound characteristics if they are moved after they have been hooked up to your system. The Level 3 cables are reported to need a minimum of 100 hours of break-in before they open up and let you hear their true potential in your system. These cables were shipped to me somewhat shy of the 100 hours of the recommended break-in, but they were close.

After unpacking the speaker cables, I took them into my listening room and hooked them up to my ARC Ref 75 amp and the Wilson Benesch ARC speakers that were loaned to me by a friend while I was waiting for my NOLA KO speakers to arrive. I will also say that the Wilson Benesch speakers were in my system since last March so I had lots of time listening to these speakers in my system before the Viero cables arrived. At first, I was afraid that the Viero speaker cables were so heavy they might tip the Wilson Benesch speakers over. My concern was unfounded as the Wilson Benesch speakers are quite sturdy on their integrated stands and I had them anchored and leveled to sand-filled wooden platforms in order to raise the tweeters to ear height.

I did not play music for 24 hours after I hooked up the speaker cables to my system because I do believe that cables physically settle after they have been moved-specially when they are this massive. The next day I went into my room and turned on the system and hit ‘play' on my music server to allow the system to warm up for two hours before I sat down to listen. When I went into my room to listen, I was not impressed. Shocked might be the more appropriate word. My preconceived notion based on past experience with silver cables was to expect a tipped up high-end which to some people gives more detail while to others it's just bright sounding. If you can imagine having an integrated amp in your system with tone controls and someone turned the bass knob up and the treble knob down, that is how the Viero cables sounded to me. This was the polar opposite of what my expectation bias was expecting. The Viero cables also slightly raised the noise floor of my system at first which I found annoying as I have been on an endeavor to reduce noise in my system for the last several years.

Viero Equilibrio Speaker Cables

I listened for around 4 hours that night and the sound never got any better. To say I was bummed would be an understatement. The next day I thought to myself that I have to send these cables back because I can't take them seriously at any price and they are dragging the sound of my system down. I knew that I had to give them another chance so I repeated my normal ritual the next day of turning the system on and letting the music server play for two hours before I headed in for serious listening time.

Had I not known better, I would have sworn that someone had replaced the Viero speaker cables with much better speaker cables. In my experience, speaker cables do change their characteristics after break-in, but usually it's not night and day changes-it's far more subtle to me. The ‘tone controls' I referred to earlier were now gone from the system and what replaced it was a far more neutral sounding pair of speaker cables. Maybe all of that mass needed more time to settle. All I can tell you is that I do believe cables change their sound after they have been moved/disturbed in addition to the changes you hear after break-in. The Viero speaker cables convinced me of that.

So what do the Viero Level 3 cables sound like? How about nothing as they have no real sound of their own? These are speaker cables that you listen through and not listen to. I find these cables to be linear across the audio band with no part of the band sticking out in relation to another part. The Viero cables are like removing something from your system instead of adding something to it in terms of removing barriers from your system that were standing in the way of realism. Besides connecting your amp to the speakers, the Viero Level 3 speaker cables connect you to your music in a way you may have not experienced before.

The better your system becomes, the music just seems to make more sense in that you start to understand what is really going on in the recordings and the music just has a more natural flow to it. It sounds less mechanical, contrived, and more like live music being played by living, breathing musicians. The interplay between musicians and their intent suddenly comes into focus without having to over-analyze what you are hearing or even think about it.

I previously alluded to how neutral sounding the Viero Level 3 speaker cables sound and how they sound linear across the audio band. If anything stood out to me about these speaker cables, it would be the amount of definition I hear in the midrange where vocals lie and the cable's definition in the bass frequencies. If you listen to many jazz recordings-specially live jazz recordings, there are lots of grunts, groans, humming, and yammering going on in the background that may or may not be resolved by your system. The Viero cables bring all of that information out and let you hear deeper into the soundstage and understand the interplay between musicians just a little bit more.

With regards to standup acoustic bass on jazz recordings, be prepared to be bedazzled. The amount of bass definition information that passes through these speaker cables is unprecedented in my system. You can hear how the bass strings are bent to shape notes, you can hear the fingers and strings as they hit the fret board. When the bass player (let's say Ray Brown for instance) pulls a bass string back and lets it slap against the fret board, you should hear a dynamic ‘pop' through your system.

Towards the end of October, 2014, my NOLA KOs arrived and I was fortunate to be able to listen to the KOs with the Viero speaker cables until last Thursday, November 30, 2014. By the time you read this review, the Viero speaker cables will have arrived at Myles Astor's place for a follow-up review. Since Myles owns the Magico S5 speakers which have more bottom end extension than my NOLA KOs, Myles will be able to provide more insight regarding their performance in the bottom octave as well as his opinions on how the cables sound across the spectrum.

On the Bill Evans Trio Sunday at the Village Vanguard LP which consisted of Bill Evans on piano, Scot LaFaro on bass, and Paul Motian on drums, the Viero cables just got out of the way of the music. On side 1, the first cut is "Gloria's Step." This is a live recording and it sounds live in a positive way. Some live recordings are poorly recorded and you can never suspend belief that you are listening to a recording. Not so with this recording. The piano, bass, and drums are super tight on "Gloria's Step". They are playing on top of each other and with each other at the same time if that makes sense to you. The more resolution your system has, the more the music pouring from it makes sense. I keep coming back to that statement for a reason. On "Gloria's Step," not only is Bill Evans piano playing great, Scot LaFaro's bass playing is off the charts great. The bass playing is very fast and articulate. Paul Motian's drum playing is equally excellent and this recording captures lots of air coming off the cymbals.

On the excellent recording of Tijuana Moods by Charlie Mingus, the cut "Dizzy Moods" is quite something. When you realize this LP was recorded in 1957, it's quite more of something. The bass, drums, cymbals, and horns sound so alive it's almost scary. This is a seriously dynamic recording. The way the trumpet cuts through the air has to be heard to be appreciated and believed.

On the second cut from Tijuana Moods, "Ysabel's Table Dance," the castanets are simply in the room with you. This is another very live sounding dynamic recording. There is lots of high frequency extension/information going on with the all of the percussion in this song. There is a reason that Mingus said Tijuana Moods is the best sounding recording he ever made.

The 45 RPM version of Lightnin' Hopkins Goin' Away is a great sounding LP which never sounded better when using the Viero cables. On the second cut, "Don't Embarrass Me, Baby," you can hear the brushes snapping off the snare drum in a way that you don't even think about trying to dissect what you are hearing; you just know what you are hearing. This cut also has a beautiful sounding acoustic lead guitar and you can hear why Clapton and Harrison were influenced by Hopkins. This LP just ‘pops' from the speakers which is a testament to the recording, the dynamics encoded, the quality of your system, and of course the Viero cables for getting out of the way and letting all of this music come through.

As we all know, a system is only as good as its weakest link. This year has seen some dramatic changes in the gear that makes up my links. I purchased the ARC Ref 5SE, the ARC Ref 75, and now the NOLA KOs. As I mentioned earlier, I was using the Wilson Benesch ARC speakers before the KOs arrived. With the Viero Level 3 cables broken in, the sound quality of my system took a big step forward. When I inserted the NOLA KOs into my system, my system took another step forward.

To say I have become spoiled would be an understatement. To say that I was not looking forward to removing the Viero speaker cables from my system and sending them to Myles would also be an understatement. I was afraid of what my system would sound like with the speaker cables I had on hand (Synergistic Research Alpha Quad with active shielding) and I was right to be afraid. My system has lost more than a touch of the magic it had now that the Viero speaker cables are gone.

I have to tell you that my exposure to the world of high-priced speaker cables in my listening room is pretty thin. I can't tell you how the Equilibrio Level 3 speaker cables will compare with other speaker cables in the price category these cables occupy. I can tell you that my system never sounded better and that sound is not something I wanted to give up. I highly recommend listening to these cables before you purchase any other cable approaching or exceeding their price. I'm smitten. Mark Pearson

Equilibro Level 3 Speaker Cables 3.5 Meters
Retail: $8128

Viero Cables di Devis Viero
Italy - VAT: 02550040022
[email protected]
Phone: (+39) 331 320 342