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Wave High Fidelity Storm Reference BNC Cables

10-26-2020 | By Sam Rosen | Issue 111

Wave Storm Reference BNC Cables

Wave Storm Reference BNC Cables and the Chord Dave

I have heard many cables I have liked over the years, and have endorsed several of them throughout my time writing for Positive Feedback. However, I would never have called any of them essential. My recommendations were always wrapped within circumstances; if you have a system above a certain value, then it is worth adding this cable to bring out the most from your system.

The Storm Reference BNC cables from Wave High Fidelity are simply so good that any Chord M Scaler owner (or Blu MKII owner) should go out and purchase a pair. What they will do to the overall sound of your system is not subtle, and in my opinion adding them will allow your digital chain to take that final step from sounding digital to sounding truly analog. Their ability to transform the sound of my Chord Dave and M Scaler was so substantial that I am left wondering why Chord does not simply ship them with every new M Scaler sold. Let's dive in and talk about why.

Un-Packing Digital Sound vs. Analog Sound

For many years I have read reviews where reviewers talk about how one DAC sounded more analog versus another that sounded more digital. This analogy never made sense to me, what does digital sound like? How would my reader know what that means? How is that different from analog in the context of a DAC? In some ways I have been very lucky, since the DACs I naturally gravitated towards happened to all be described by others as more analog sounding.

However, after spending a few months with the Storm Reference BNC cables I finally understand the difference between a DAC that sounds digital and a DAC that sounds analog, I want to take some time to talk about the differences.

For me, the difference is all in the treble presentation. A DAC that has an analog sound has an incredibly smooth treble section that is extended and detailed. It drives you to turn the volume up, because as you do you are treated to more information, without any fatigue.

In contrast, a DAC that is more digital sounding, has a treble that is not quite as smooth. It's not that the treble itself is not smooth and extended, but that it feels like it is surrounded by high frequency noise. This high frequency noise is the thing that I was never really able to separate before I had the Wave BNC cables, as it was always present with every DAC that I had ever had up to that point. It is this high frequency noise that introduces fatigue, and drives you to turn down the volume.

While Chord DACs are all more analog sounding and very detailed, they do still have a bit of this high frequency noise. However, when the M Scaler is connected using its dual BNC cables this noise seems to increase a bit. I think the benefits of the M Scaler far outweigh the slight increase in this noise; but if I can avoid it, why compromise?

In comes the Wave Storm Reference BNC Cables

Two BNC cables for the M Scaler/Dave and an additional one for other equipment

Nick from Wave High Fidelity didn't want to compromise either, but unlike me, he had an idea for how to solve this problem. He hypothesized that the cause of the increased high frequency noise when using the Blu MKII or the M Scaler with a Chord Dave/Hugo 2 was caused by the transmission of RF noise from the M Scaler to the Dave. Rob Watts has even indicated that this was an issue with the Blu MKII, and that the M Scaler had improved this, however, it did not completely eliminate its transmission. Nick's theory was that if he could design a cable that properly eliminated the high frequency noise transmission between the two devices, then he could reduce or even remove this high frequency noise that appears in the treble of the Dave when used with the M Scaler.

The way he went about tackling this problem was to use ferrites, which you will recognize as the canister-like thing you see on some USB cables at the end of the cable. Their job is to reduce high frequency noise transmission. What Nick did was to compare and evaluate many cable and ferrite combinations before arriving at what he considered to be the optimum cable designs with 20 ferrites per meter and three different cable cores to create the WAVE family of Storm, Stream, and Stone digital cables. Each ferrite is tuned to a specific frequency and, according to Nick, they work together to substantially reduce the RF noise transmission between the M Scaler and Blu MKII. While I have no way to measure and confirm this; I will say that the result is immediately audible and honestly shocking.

Now some may ask: so can I go buy 20 ferrites and clip them onto my existing BNC cable? Not quite, clip on ferrites are simply not as effective and are likely to be tuned to the wrong frequency. You are welcome to experiment, but I do not believe it is possible to achieve similar results with clip on ferrites, and trust me, I tried.

While the ferrites are the key to why this cable works, the cable itself is incredibly well built, it uses a 5N solid silver conductor, a foil screen and rubber tubing to create an incredibly solid and heavy cable. I really do mean heavy, this cable likely weighs over two pounds. It is not the most flexible cable (due to the ferrites), but it is easy enough to manage. Just do not expect it to make any sharp corners.

As these cables have been specifically built to be used with the Chord DACs and the M Scaler/Blu MKII, they are sold in pairs. However, you can order single cables if you want to use them to connect other digital equipment. For example, for this review, Nick sent me a pair of his Storm Reference cables for use between my M Scaler and my Dave, as well as a single cable to connect my Aries G1 to my M Scaler. All three cables arrived in a beautiful wooden box, which at this price point is a nice addition, and can be used for storing other items when these cables are in use.

For this review the system I used was the following:

  • Music Source: Custom Built Roon Core
  • Streamer: AURALiC Aries G1
  • DAC: Chord M Scaler and Chord Dave
  • AMP: ampsandsound Nautilus
  • Headphones: Hifiman Susvara
  • Power Conditioning: PS Audio P12 regenerator
  • Cabling: Storm Reference BNC cables, Core Power Power cord (between the amp and conditioner), Wireworld Power cords, WyWires interconnects and headphone cable

Listening to the Wave BNC Storm Reference Cables

These are big cables, you can see how much larger they are then the Wireworld cable

I started my review by replacing my Wireworld Starlight Platinum BNC cables used to connect my Chord M Scaler to the Chord Dave. These Wireworld cables are excellent and were chosen after auditioning several cables from many different brands. They produce a ton of detail and space. I covered them in my Wireworld review, linked HERE.

After replacing the Wireworld cables with the Wave High Fidelity BNC cables, the first thing I noticed was that the sound of the system seemed to darken. Nick had warned me that I was likely to experience this, so I was not surprised, however, I never had a digital cable result in this much of a tonal shift.

Normally I associate darker sounding systems with a lack of detail, or a rolled off treble. At first I thought that was exactly what happened, but then I grabbed the remote and increased the volume, higher then I normally would by about 2dB according to the Dave's volume control. I found that I got back all of the detail and more. It was as if the sound stage expanded dramatically and voices become more natural. While listening to "Massedcution" by St. Vincent the guitar came across much more cleanly and more naturally. After listening for a few hours I put back my other BNC cables. I immediately had to turn down the volume, and all the changes noted above disappeared. In their place was a high frequency noise that I had never really heard before, however, now that I heard it, there was simply no going back.

To be clear, the Dave and M Scaler are an incredible combination on their own. What they do together even with the cheap included BNC cables is astonishing and reference worthy on their own. The addition of better BNC cables increases the combinations performance, however, the addition of the Wave BNC cables put the Dave and M Scaler on a new level. One that puts it in spitting distance with even more expensive DACs like the DCS Rossini.

During my time with the Wave BNC cables I was able to borrow a Rossini from a friend and spent a weekend with it in my system comparing it to the Dave and M Scaler combo with and without the Wave BNC cables. While I did not have the Rossini long enough to render judgement on it, I can tell you that the Dave/M Scaler/Wave BNC cable combination performed at a similar level to the Rossini in my system. Swapping the Wave BNC cables out for other BNC cables widened the gap between the M Scaler/Dave and the Rossini more noticeably.

This experience sold me on the value of these cables, and honestly makes me wonder why Chord does not simply license these cables and include them with every M Scaler sold. They are that good.

I warned you that there was no going back

The only thing I can fault the Wave BNC cables on is that they showed me what "digital" sounds like. As a result I now know what to look for, and the digital glare (that high frequency treble noise) is much easier for me to hear now. So much so that I have begun to hear it on equipment that I had thought was free of digital glare.

For example, a friend of mine has a Mytek Manhattan II, I have always been a fan of Mytek, and have always thought they had a more analog sound. After having the Wave BNC cables in my system for a month, my friend brought his Manhattan II over. He wanted to see if he could tell the difference. While the Manhattan II sounds exceptional, the digital glare was immediately apparent to me.

After we listened to some music for an hour we switched my M Scaler/Dave/Wave BNC combo back in, and my friend started to swear. I asked him "what wrong?" and he responded "I now know what you're talking about when you say digital glare, and I cannot un-hear it."

This had been a sad reality for me over the past few months. Many systems that I thought sounded incredible now have this digital glare. These cables showed me what that glare sounded like by removing it, and I can simply not un-hear it.

Using the Wave Storm Reference S/PDIF BNC Cables with other Equipment

As I said earlier in the review, Nick sent me an extra cable that I could use to connect my streamer (Aries G1) to my M Scaler so my entire digital signal chain could be connected with Wave Storm Reference cables. The WAVE S/PDIF cables are available to order with either RCA or BNC connectors.

When the Storm Reference cable was added between my Aries G1 and my M Scaler it continued to produce an incredibly detailed and analog sound. AURALiC really focused on reducing noise transmission with the Aries G1 so the effect of this cable was less pronounced. However, I then used this cable to connect my PS Audio Nu Wave Phono Converter to my M Scaler and see if I could hear more of an improvement.

This combo really showed what this cable was capable of. Now I know many are going to take issue with the fact that I am taking records, converting them to digital, and then sending them to my up scaler and DAC. However, in my system, where I use the Dave as a preamp I don't have a choice. Using the Storm Reference BNC cable to make this connection resulted in a dramatic improvement in rhythmic energy and gave the sound stage a more natural feel.

Nick told me that he has customers using this to connect various pieces of DCS gear and I see why. His cables are intelligently engineered, and whatever he is doing seems to truly work.

Concluding Thoughts

This review could be read as a fluff piece, but I promise you it is not. The Wave High Fidelity Storm Reference BNC cable is simply that good. It was designed to fix a very specific problem, and it does. The result is raising the performance bar on one of the best DAC/Up Scaler combos that money can buy today. It is truly a mystery to me why Chord has not simply OEM'd this cable to be sold with the M Scaler. If you own an M Scaler or a Chord Blu MK II, you should simply run, don't walk, to Wave High Fidelity's website (www.wavehighfidelity.com) and order these cables. They are worth every penny and will enhance your systems performance substantially in my experience.

The only down side is once you hear "digital grunge" for yourself, you will likely have a really hard time un-hearing it. For some, ignorance may really be bliss, for me I am happy I got to hear it, because without it, I was able to connect with my music on a deeper level. Thank you Nick for allowing me to review these, they are exceptional.

Storm Reference BNC

Retail: $1800 US (approx.)

Wave High Fidelity