|Posted by Amine Slimani on October 12, 2010 at 11:04 AM|
I was contacted by Stuart (who had read some of my reviews) a few months ago in order to ask me if I were interested to write a review for his cables.After a few e-mail exchanges I came to understand that Stuart had a longstanding experience in the hi-fi world and in experimenting with different cables.
It took me a little more than expected to finish this particular review,not because there was a lack of interest, but rather because I received them as I was relocating to another city. At the same time, it was a good thing that Ikept them for so long as I had the chance to audition them in a few different configurations and over an extended period of time, which avoids the “wow effect” of a new component, where you might miss potential drawbacks in the first few days of auditioning.
System used for the review:
Main Chain used for this review:
Foobar v1.0 >> Kernel Streaming >> Jkeny’s modified hiface >>Oyaide DB-510 >> Audio-gd DAC19 DSP >> RCA or ACSS Interconnect>> Audio-GD C2 >> Sennheiser HD-650 (w/ Silver cable) /Beyerdynamic T1 (w/ ALO recabled)
Power related accessories:
Hi-Fi Cables & Cie PowertransPlus Power Cords (x2)
Hi-Fi Cables & Cie SimplePower
Bada LB-5600 Power Filter Plant
Essential Audio Tools Noise Eater Parallel Filter
Aktyna A.R.I.S decoupling feet
E&T Spider Rack
SuperSonic Component Stabilizer
Transports: Emu 0404 usb, Musiland Monitor 01 usd, Teralink X, TeralinkX2, Audio-GD Digital Interface
DACs: Emu 0404 usb, Zero DAC, Audio-gd DAC 100, Audio-gd FUN
Headphone amps: Audio-gd ST-3, Little Dot MKIII, Audio-gd FUN
Some of the reference tracks used for this review:
Natalie Dessay - Italian Opera Arias - Emi Classics - 16/44
Rachmaninoff Dances - HD Tracks - 24/96
Mahler - Symphony n 5 - Decca - 16/44
Puccini - La Boheme– Decca - 16/44
Mozart Violin Concertos - Marianne Thorsen - 2L - 24/96
Sol Gabetta - Schostakowitsch Cellokonzert Nr. 2/Cello - 16/44
Vivaldi - Concerto for 2 violins - Carmignola/Mullova - 16/44
Keith Jarrett - Paris / London - Testament - 24/96
Glenn Gould - The Goldberg Variations 1981 - 16/44
Hans Zimmer - Gladiator Soundtrack - 16/44
The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five - 16/44
Jazz at the Pawnshop - HD Tracks - 24/88
Diana Krall - From this Moment on - 24/88
The World's Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings - Chesky - 24/96
Norah Jones - Come Away With Me - 16/44
Patricia Barber - Companion - 16/44
Soundrama - "The Pulse" Test CD - 16/44
Head-fi/Chesky Sampler - Open Your Ears - 24/96
Description of the cable:
The Deep Sounds Cables use very simple concept and no-nonsense materialsand construction.
I have had many discussions with Stuart regarding audio equipment ingeneral and cables more specifically, and it seems that we have reached the same conclusion regarding what is important when looking for an interconnect: the dielectric (Teflon, air, PE…) has a big effect on the overall sound of a cable. The best dielectric is the air, followed by Teflon.
Regarding the particular material being used, Stuart has a preference for Silver Plated Copper which he finds to combine the qualities of both silver and copper.
Personally, I don’t care about what particular material is being used as I think that it really depends on the skills of the cable designer.
Prior tolistening to Stuart’s cables, I had listened to 3 high performing cables that left me with very good impressions:
- Silver Plated Copper: Hifi Cables & Cie Maat (500€for 0.5m)
- Pure copper: Actinote Aria (800€ for 1m)
- Pure Silver: Artisan Ultimate Silver Dream (200£ for0.5m)
While I could have lived with either of the cables cited above, my favorite one was the Ultimate Silver Dream … because it was the cheapest.
Experimenting with different interconnects taught me that there is no single way to achieve a transparent cable that induce very little loss to the signal: cables using multiple metals with heavy shielding can work as well as cables using single core conductors with no shielding and air dielectric.
Stuart sent me 2 iterations of his cable: A first one was a shielded SPC (Silver Plated Copper) cable I believe, and the second one was an unshielded SPC using Teflon/Air as dielectric. Both cables performed extremely well but I focused my attention (and review) on the second and probably the final iteration using SPC in loose Teflon tubing (i.e mainly air dielectric).
Stuart also told me that besides trying different shielding and conductor geometries, he also experimented with different RCA plugs. His final choice happened to be cheaper but more neutral than the Eichmann Bullets he was using previously. (He asked me to keep the brand of the RCA plugs confidential until he has time to finalize an accord with their makers).
Personally, since I have zero DIY skills, I have never experimented with different RCA plugs on the same cable. Whether it has an audible effect or not on the transmission of the audio signal, I can’t say. However, choosing a “good” RCA plug probably won’t hurt the signal.
Overall, Stuart’s choices on making the cable seem to be more about simplicity and cost effectiveness rather than creating yet another super expensive cable. That was one of the reasons I accepted reviewing his cables.
Note on burn-in and my testing method:
If my memory is correct, Stuart told me that the ICs he sent me had already been burned-in. So I cannot say if and how much burn-in they require.
If you look at other cables reviews and even manufacturers websites, you will see the notion of cable burn-in which will probably offend many people.
Some people might view it as yet another marketing scheme to push people to get accustomed to a product that is bad sounding at the first listen.
While I used to think the same, I have come to change my mind a little bit on the subject. Though I have noticed “burn-in” to various degrees with cables, Ithink it is different from the burn-in we are used to with other equipment such as headphones or speakers. I have noticed that most cables require a certain period before they “settle-in” in a new system. This makes quick A/B comparisons very difficult to make and pretty much worthless in my personal experience.
So, if I leave a cable unused for a longperiod of time, it usually sounds bad and if I start to quickly switch between cables, they start to all sound the same and … bad.
Of course, when comparing something like an entry level cable (KimberPBJ) with a top level cable (Ultimate Silver Dream, Deep Sounds SPS), the difference is perceptible but not to the extent of what you can hear in longterm listening.
When comparing cables or audio components in general, it is very important to make long term listening sessions. Contrary to what many expect from upgrading equipment, getting a higher grade component or cable provide with "less" rather than "more". You get less distortion, less noise, less high frequency hash, less listening fatigue and most importantly, you have to make less effort to reconstruct the recorded event.
When listening very hard, you can pretty much pick most details in any half decent hifi rig. However, the experience with a high-end rig is totally different: you can just sit and relax and let the representation unfold beforeyou with the least possible faults that constantly remind you that you arelistening to a recording and not live music.
In that regard, doing quick A/B tests does nothing at helping you distinguish what you might prefer on the long term listening.
So the review that follows is based on my subjective listening experience with the Deep Sounds Cables Silver Plated Surfers (official name) over a period of a few months. If you think that quick A/B tests are the only way to conduct a “proper” test, then you should discard everything I say below. If, on the other hand, you share a similar view, which that our hobby is aboutlong term listening, you might find what follows as a perspective on how these cables sounded in my system and to my ears. Your mileage may vary.
Before reading this review, I encourage you to read my Artisan UltimateSilver Dream review as I make many references to that cable (i.e it is my reference cable).
Timber & Tonal balance:
The Deep Sounds Cables SPS have a very even and linear tonal balance throughout the frequency spectrum.
In comparison, the Ultimate Silver dream is slightly more sparkly in the highs and (slightly) warmer in the lower mids and upper bass.
But keep in mind that the differences between the two wires are very subtle and that extent of the difference is also dependant on the different equipment that are being connected. Weirdly enough, I heard a smaller difference in tonality on my reference amp, the C2, in comparison with the ST-3which has a lower resolution.
However, what is more important than a neutral macro balance(Bass/Mids/highs) is the way a cable or a component handles the timber ofinstruments.
Here, both cables are superb at preserving the natural timber ofunamplified instruments and voices and let you hear the true tonal color ofevery instrument/voice. Both are world class in that regard.
When using entry and mid level interconnects, you might often struggleto hear and recognize different instruments. Some cables are so coloured thatyou have to make some efforts to distinguish close sounding instruments when alot of things are happening in a large scale orchestra.
With the Deep Sounds SPS, you not only easily recognize differentinstruments but you start recognizing different brands of instruments.
In Concerto for Two violins, one of my favourite tracks to test thetimber of a component/cable, the two lead soloists (Carmignola and Mullova) use2 different high quality violins (a Stradivarius and a Guadagnini) and you caneasily hear the differences between the two. On many entry level cables, youdon’t even get a natural sounding violin. With the Deep Sounds SPS, as well asthe Ultimate Silver Dreams, you get to the point where you hear enoughsubtleties on the violin that you start hearing what specific violin is beingused.
Of course, it goes without saying that every element in the listening chain hasto be top notch to hear the superiority of the Deep Sounds SPS over run of themill RCA cables: You need to have an ultra low jitter transport, a veryresolving and natural sounding DAC, a very transparent headphone amp and exceptionalheadphones. When you remove even one element from the chain, you start hearingat best case scenario the two violins sounding similar and worst case the twoviolins sounding unnatural.
So while a cable can reveal hidden subtleties, it won’t create anything new.Best case scenario, it doesn’t hurt the signal and in most cases there is aloss in the signal being transmitted.
I could go on by using the usual words describing the bass quantity,bass quality, midrange... this cable is really beyond such a description.
Also, while I said previously that the Artisan Ultimate Silver Dream and theDeep Sounds SPS had different sonic signatures, keep in mind that therecordings will have far more impact on the sound signature of the system thanthe Deep Sounds SPS or the Ultimate Silver Dreams (that is assuming that therest of the chain has also low coloration).
Regarding the quality of the recordings, while you do not appreciate allthe timber subtleties that the Deep Sounds SPS is capable of until you play arecording that contain such subtleties (it is an obvious statement that getforgotten sometimes when evaluating equipment), it doesn’t mean that low graderecordings cannot be played over it. In fact, the poorer recordings I have playbetter on the Deep Sounds SPS than on low grade (fuzzy and falsely warm)interconnects. This is similar to what I have noticed with higher quality DACsfor example.
I have often read comments where people confuse “neutral” with bright,overly analytical and boring. The Deep Sound SPS is definitely not that type of“neutral”.
In my opinion, the term neutral means that the component doesn’t add orsubtract anything to the signal it is tasked to transmit. And that is exactlywhat this cable is about, absolute neutrality.
Soundstage & Imaging:
This is the area in which I had the most trouble identifying theproperties of the Deep Sounds Cables. The word that kept popping in mind tryingto describe this particular cable (soundstage wise) was “monitor like”.
Contrary to the Artisan Silver Dream which manages (in comparison) tosound consistently more open, the soundstage of the Deep Sounds SPS are moredependant on the recording itself. Once again, while there are a fewdifferences between the two, there are more alike than dissimilar.
Another thing that surprised me when listening to the Deep Sounds SPSwas that the imaging seemed at first too thin with my ALO recabled Beyer T1s.It was until I listened to a few high quality and high resolution recordings(such as Rachmaninoff Dances or Jazz at the Pawnshop) that understood totallywhat was happening. My system was not capturing the position of the instrumentrelative to the width, depth and height but it was also capturing the size ofthe instruments in that soundfield to an extent I have never experienced beforein my system. The Ultimate Silver Dreams are less precise and focused in thatregard and slightly inflate the size of the instruments.
When I sent for a few days (out of curiosity) the Ultimate Silver Dreamsto Stuart to get his opinion on them, he described them as hazy in his system.
In my system, I found that the imaging is not as focused as his SPSinterconnects, but I wouldn’t go as far as describing them as hazy (which has anegative connotation).
While the Deep Sounds SPS are the best imaging cables I have tried sofar, I would say that the Ultimate Silver Dreams are not too far behind. They“punch” in the same category I would say. On the other hand, other entry levelcables I had on hand such as the Kimber PBJs or the Sharkwire sound noticeablyinferior.
So, and to sum up, what to expect from the Deep Sound Cables in thesoundstaging department? Well, if your source has holographic qualities, itwill be passed on untouched to the amp, if the source has pinpoint imaging, itwill passed to the amp… etc. The Deep Sounds Cables won’t add or subtractanything in here.
I have also to admit that when I am not listening critically or if I amlistening to average recordings, I subjectively prefer the way the ArtisanUltimate Silver Dreams throw a big and airy soundstage (regardless of what isactually on the recording itself).
Some people might wonder how it is possible that a passive device suchas an interconnect cable might affect the dynamics.
I personally believe that the way a cable handle fast transients has abig effect on how perceive the dynamics. I could be right or wrong but this ishow I view things.
The Deep Sounds SPS is a very dynamic cable, which is pretty muchunsurprising for most good cables. It is indeed a quality that is shares withcables such as the Artisan Silver Dreams and the Hifi Cables & Cie Maat.
What is more interesting is that its dynamics seems to be spread evenlythroughout the frequency spectrum (which is a quality also share by the SilverPlated Copper Maat).
So what to expect in the dynamics department? The Deep Sounds Cableswill preserve the very fine tonal inflexions (micro-dynamics) but will surpriseyou by its thunderous power (macro-dynamics) when it is called upon.
Transparency & Definition:
If I had to choose one word, besides neutrality, to describe the DeepSounds SPS, it would be transparency.
Before writing this review, I tried the Deep Sounds in different configurationsand it seemed to me there was only one constant: the lack of sonic signature ofthe cable.
In comparison, the Artisan Silver Dream makes itself more apparent whenmoving it from one system to another. When using the Silver Dream, you getalways the impression that the soundstage is very open and that the highs arevery airy. No such thing with the Deep Sounds SPS.
The Deep Sounds are the more transparent to the recording (andassociated equipment) of the two and hence, should be used with equipment thatare relatively neutral (and musical) themselves.
As an example, while both the Deep Sounds SPS and the Ultimate SilverDream sounded pretty similar on the relatively neutral C2 amp, the ArtisanSilver Dream sounded far more open than the Deep Sounds SPS on the ST-3headphone amp.
If I didn’t know better, I would say that the Artisan Cable were moreopen (and more neutral), but having measured the ST-3 (which exhibits a bigroll off in the higher frequencies), and knowing the intent of the ST-3designer (which was to give it a tube like flavor), the Deep Sounds SPS were infact the most transparent of the two and passed the signal with the least editorializing.
In terms of raw resolution both cables play on equal grounds, whichmeans that they both are best I have heard from any cable I have tried so far.The more expensive Actinote Aria or the Golden Cross Cardas are no match interms of resolution.
If I were to make an analogy on the resolution department, I would saythat with lesser cables, you get the impression of watching a painting drawnwith a fat crayon, whereas with the Deep Sounds Cable, you get the impression ofwatching a high resolution picture printed on high quality paper. Whenlistening through the Deep Sounds, you have to make to very little effort todraw a believable scene in your head.
To sum up, I would describe the Deep Sounds Cable as highly transparentby giving you a picture of the event with a high contrast ratio.
In fact, if the associated equipment are good enough, you are notwatching the event from a transparent window, but you are at the event.
Note on musical examples:
When writing this review, I avoided (in purpose) making musical examplesbecause of the high transparency of the cables. If I were to describe how theDeep Sounds sounded on my reference tracks, I could have just copy pasted myimpressions on the review of the dac19dsp/C2 combo I used for most of thetesting.
The Deep Sounds SPS proved to be a very competent cable. It is perhapsthe best Interconnect cable (regardless of price) I have tried.
At the time, I am writing this conclusion, I have no idea what the finalpricing will be. But given how well it performed against my highly regarded andreference Artisan Ultimate Silver Dream, which is considered as a giant killeritself, I would say that the Deep Sounds SPS is probably going to be a highvalue cable itself.
If I were asked to recommend one cable for someone building theirsystem, I would say the following:
- Pick the Artisan Ultimate Silver Dream cable if youwant to be listening to a relatively neutral cable that reminds you that youare listening to a very expensive and (slightly) sparkly cable;
- Pick the Deep Sounds Cables if you want to belistening to no cable at all.
Side Note (that might interest Audio-gd owners):
I didn’t buy the Deep Sounds SPS review sample Stuart sent me but instead, I had him make me a custom ACSS Deep Sounds cable. There were mainly 2reasons for that:
- I already have a reference RCA cable (the UltimateSilver Dream) which might not be as good as the Deep Sounds SPS on someparameters but I am very familiar with it, so no reason to get a second highperformance RCA interconnect;
- My dac / headphone amps have 2 means of connection:the classical voltage RCA mode and the current ACSS mode. The ACSS connectionis more transparent than RCA (as it avoids a few conversion and buffer steps).
So my reference system now uses a custom ACSS/CAST cable made by Stuart.While the improvement brought over an entry level cable (Sharkwire in thiscase) is expectedly less audible on the ACSS mode, it was a definite andnoticeable upgrade nonetheless. The difference on long term listening wasobvious enough that it made the Sharkwire unlistenable: the loss of resolution,smearing of transients and frequency extension limitation at the extremes wereobvious. The only area where the ACSS Sharkwire beat the ACSS Deep Sounds SPSwas the size of the soundstage. On everything else the ACSS Deep Sounds wasbetter.
Categories: Cables & Tweaks