Authorized DH Labs Dealer
"THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS"
"Are you telling me dat you think cables make a difference? Are you talkin' to me son? Are YOU SURE YOU ARE talkin' to ME?......I think we better step outside."
Cable talk is fighten' talk with some audiophiles. Hang around audiophile circles long enough and you'll find many schools of thought:
....and on and on and on. God and the Devil will settle their differences over mankind long before audiophiles over the cable issue. So why all the fuss?
"A IS FOR AUDIOPHILE, B IS FOR BANK ACCOUNT, C IS FOR CABLES, D IS FOR...."
Money talks, that's why! I think one moocho hewjo reason is that today's audio cables are getting soooooo expensive. Forget the term cables, they are now components. An integral portion of the audio chain forming synergistic relationships between the other components they touch.
The way people describe cables you'd swear they think there are millions of little people in each wire gently transporting their precious audio signal down the garden path, careful not to spill a drop along the way! Some people even seem to equate cables with some sort of mysterious spiritual experience they're having with their stereo system. That somehow their cables are speaking with the gods. Heck, must be, some cables even come in their own plush cases to transport their mystic forms - heightening the mystery, I guess.
"SORRY, HOW MUCH WAS THAT AGAIN!?! I THINK THERE MUST HAVE BEEN SOMETHING IN MY EARS."
Check out some prices, $500 for interconnects is considered a bargain in some circles! I've seen bargains before, somehow they didn't look like that. $1000 for speaker cables! How about $15,000? No wonder it gets people all pissed off. I had one dealer go ape-shit then berserk on me after I implied that some manufacturers may simply mark their cables with unbelievably high prices as a marketing gimmick. "Gosh, darn, $8,000 wire, must be good, huh? Why else would they charge that much for it." Of course, according to that dealer, I simply didn't understand the issue completely. Of course, he did. After all, this wasn't simply copper wire, it was.......uh, copper but, uh, special copper or something, I guess.
Cable marketing is great too....Better Bass, Improved Midrange, Increased Clarity! Compared to what? The cable you got with your stuff? Other company's cable? The cable from the home renovation store? What is it better than? Maybe no cables at all? But then you wouldn't have any sound, so any cable would be better.
The way I see it is that if all marketing is true (and it is, right) and everyone has better bass, midrange, etc. than the next guy then there should be that one cable that is simply at the end of the improvement chain that is better than anything else. Except no one can tell us which one that is.
"BUT THEN AGAIN"
This isn't to say all cable prices are bogus though. One of my friends is a bona-fide electrical engineer who works in the production of electronics. He took it on himself to analyze a number of typical high end audio cables. Potential for improvements in sound aside, he explained and showed how some cables are of a very high quality, and in particular, extremely complex in their design and difficult to make. In some cases their high price would reflect the high degree of labor involved in their manufacture. Still, there were others that caused him to simply shake his head.
"BUT WHAT ABOUT ME! WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS!"
And there stands the lowly audiophile, wondering if that $1,400 speaker wire is offering him good value for the dollar and if he'll be able to sell it for half that amount in a year. I have one friend who shops the used market for cables and offers 20% of their retail value. Routinely, he wins!
"SO, WHAT'S IT GONNA BE BOY, YES OR NO? UH, UH......"
I've auditioned many cables over the years and can hear differences among them. Not always but sometimes. Sometimes the best cables aren't the most expensive either. And although I have never heard cables make a bad system sound good, I have heard cables take an inherently good system that one step higher to make it - magical!
It's been my experience that cables must be tried in their intended systems after the rest of the components have been decided on (or at least in conjunction with the decision). I've found cables never drastically alter the basic sound of a system, instead they can help refine it. If a speaker goes down to 40 hz, it goes down to 40 hz. Cables don't make something do what it can't do. And finally, cables make different differences in different systems. They're system dependent. Just because something worked in my system is no indication it will work well in yours, but something else might.
"BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE PRICES?"
Myself, I could never come to grips with dropping huge coin on wire. For those that do, it's fine, I could care less. If I had infinite funds, chances are I would to. I have heard the differences various cables make regardless of price and it falls into my 'nice to have' category. For me there are just too many variables involved, not the least of which is my wallet. Prove it to me before I show you my wallet is my shopping motto. Even Canadians can be from Missouri.
Still, no matter how much you're willing to spend, the most fun part of high-end audio is shopping for that perfect product in your price range. It's like hunting!
"THERE'S A NEW KID IN TOWN"
So I'm off scouring the net and I come across a guy offering literature on some Silver Sumpin-er-uthers. "Sure, send it on down, it's your stamp," I E-mailed back. Minutes later, forgotten about. A month later a package shows up in the mail containing some literature on DH Labs Silver Sonic T-14 speaker cables, stapled together with some reviews. "Hmmmm, the reviews are pretty good," I thought as I read through. I skipped the price list without reading. After all, these were speaker wires, 'er components, I knew they'd have to cost at least $500+ a pair for them to be 'any good at all' (nose held high in the air, attempting to adopt the snooty appearance I've seen so many times at high-end stores, with my wallet still firmly planted in skid row territory). At that high of a price I could find anything. I didn't even look at the price list that week, until a second before it hit the garbage.....
Their speaker cables were $85 dollars an eight foot pair, terminated with spades! Some companies charge that much TO terminate their cables. A bi-wire pair ran $155 big 'uns. I had designer Darren Hovsepian on the line quicker than O.J.'s lawyers signing book deals.
A couple weeks later my Silver Sonic T-14 bi-wire speaker cables, uh, components, arrived. In the meantime I did some more reading of DH Labs' literature. In a nutshell the T-14 is a 14 gauge stranded cable made from fine strands of high-purity copper that is thickly coated with silver, and uses a Teflon dielectric. The cable is finished in a deep blue colored outer jacket with snazzy silver lettering. The overall diameter of the cable is quite small, probably 3/8 of an inch. I had my eight foot pair finished with banana plugs on the speaker end and spades on the other.
"BUT DO THEY LOOK COOL?"
More importantly to some, do they look high-end? On the Audiophile Impresso-Rama scale these would rank unfortunately low. Although the cables are finished very well, audiophiles tend to get wood over big honkin' garden hose sized cables. Preferably finished with glitzy colors or some sort of externally visible exotic material so their friends can go, "oooooooooooo." Audiophiles tend to need something cool to see so they can visualize how good the cables must sound. I'm waiting for the day when someone manufacturer covers their cables with tubular Shag Rug. I'm sure they'll give a soft, plush sound.
"SO, DO THEY MAKE PERFECT SOUND FOREVER - LIKE THE CD?"
On a cost no object basis, there are probably better cables than these. Keep in mind though that I've never found cables to make monumental differences. Maintain that thought as you're reading through.
For example, Cardas wire was doing some wondrous things in the way of midrange clarity, vocals, and soundstaging. MIT's were smooth and clean with excellent depth and palpability. Other cables had particular traits I fancied as well. But the Silver Sonics were holding their own and doing some things better than the other cables in my system. Again, this is all in the subtle differences territory.
I found that the Silver Sonics were neutral throughout the frequency band and did not accentuate any particular area. At first this was a bit of a problem. For example, some cables tend to throw the midrange more prominent, highlighting vocals and seemingly improving midrange clarity. Others sound like they're rolling off the top end making instruments like cymbals less bright and etched. Other cables can tend to bloat up the bass making the bass appear deeper. The best word I can think of to describe the T-14 is - even. It's once you realize that, you can begin to realize just how good they are.
"SO, WHAT ABOUT THE BASS?"
Tight and well defined. At first I thought that I had lost some extension, however, after careful listening I found some previous cables were giving an unnatural bloat to the bottom end. They weren't any deeper, just fatter and less controlled. With the T-14 the bass became tighter, with improved definition. Music with powerful deep bass still keeps my neighbors up at night. Fast, controlled, and well-defined are the words that spring to mind for bass performance.
I associate the midrange mostly with vocals. And since I favor music with strong vocalists, that tends to be a lot of my listening. Like the rest of range, they tend to present midrange information in a neutral, transparent, and detailed way. The T-14 doesn't throw the voice further forward and add a degree of texture as I've heard some cables do. And I'm not talking about huge differences here, subtle textures and a little less fullness that's what. Which is most accurate to the recording? Probably nobody really knows.
"AND THE HIGHS?"
This is where I noticed great things in comparison to numerous other cables, regardless of price. The highs are extended, yet still smooth and clean, with no sign of rolloff. With the wrong cabling my B&W's tweeter can sound like a hacksaw blade through my ears. Ruthlessly revealing up top is an understatement. No problem with the DH Labs. If the recording sounded bright, the recording usually was bright. On well recorded material the top end is full, natural, clean and smooth (sorta sounds like a soap commercial, doesn't it, or maybe Pamela Anderson's breasts, minus the natural part). But what if you throw these on your system and they sound bright? Remember, this is what it did for my system - you should try 'em.
"AND THE REST? ALL THAT SOUNDSTAGING, DETAIL, AND THE OTHER AUDIO JARGON."
Although not microscopic in the detail department (which usually means a hyped up top end to throw detail at you) they present 99% of the detail that I've heard through any cables. Then again, maybe I haven't heard the highest plateau of resolution attainable through my gear. But as I sit and listen now, I don't feel I'm missing anything.
Soundstaging comes through naturally with as good depth and image specificity as I've heard using most cables. However, please note that I have heard some cables do better on my system in the depth and image specificity thing, most notably the better MIT wire (the 750 plus is what I had happening). Then again, check the price on those puppies, we're not even playing in the same ballpark. With the money I'm saving, even I could impress Cindy Crawford on a first date!
"ALL SUMMED UP....AND NO PLACE TO GO!"
To my ears, in my system, the DH Labs Silver Sonic T-14 speaker cables are a sonic knockout. I don't know how to calculate the true value of a cable in dollar terms, but I do know that these cables are offering tremendous value for the dollar in comparison to other audiophile cables on the market. $85 ($155 for a bi-wire pair) doesn't go far in the audio market place. Perhaps Darren should have put his cables in a garden-hose jacket, sold them in plush little suitcases, and charged over $500 to make people stand up and notice. Then again, I may not have tried them if he did.
If you can't come to grips with spending less than $200 on speaker wire and REALLY want to spend more then maybe take a suggestion I got from Darren Hovsepian when talking to him on the phone. He suggested, as some of his customers have already done, ordering a tri-wire pair (or a bi-wire pair for non-biwire speakers) and 'shotgunning' two of the conductors for the bass region for power hungry speakers (there, that may help the Audiophile Impresso-Ramo meter too). This is just in case you need to plunges the depths of bass-hell! Myself, I don't feel the need since I'm getting excellent bass performance and I don't mind keeping my own money.
DH Labs may lose sales to customers who hold their noses high to gear that is just too low a price to be taken seriously. It's as unfortunate for these customers as it is for DH Labs. These are the kind of cables I would like to use to do some blind tests with some super high priced cables, using some higher priced ears. The results may be intriguing. All summed up, cable performance and price don't necessarily correlate on a good day. Forgetting the price for a second, the performance I'm getting from DH Labs Silver Sonic T-14 is great......but of course the price makes me even happier.
|DH Labs/Silver Sonic Cables
DH Labs, Inc.
For more information about DH Labs cable, you can contact Terry Rossen at TRI. TRI is
the Manufacturer's Representative for DH Labs and Clayton Audio:
DH Labs and TRI respond:
I would like to thank Doug Schneider for sharing his experience with our Silver Sonic audio cables. Anyone who would like more information is welcome to contact Technical Resources or DH Labs for literature and review reprints.
DH Labs is committed to providing cables of the highest quality and value. Our cables use the finest materials available, and we do not waste money on expensive full page ads. For those who have thier hearts set on spending more, or squeezing the last bit of performance from their speakers, please ask about double runs (aka "shotgun" sets) of cable. This configuration will outperform many of the cost-no-object cables on the market.
TECHNICAL RESOURCES, INC.
Darren and I enjoyed your review and thank you for sharing in our principles about what is really a sonic value. At my office, I keep a database of our customers' comments. Most of the comments say, "Thanks for your help!". Many audio-folk have compared our T-14 and BL-1 to the other "higher-priced spread". On occassion, we are edged out by cables costing 10-20 times more. But more often than not we beat them!
Our Bl-1 interconnects are also a sonic value...they are superb...they might deserve a mention up on SoundStage! (Please!)
Your article was very complete. Probably the most complete I had the pleasure of reading. It speaks the truth. Thank you.