Product: Silver Solid Interconnects
Manufacturer: Stager - USA
Retail price: $119 USD/Euro 1 Meter Stereo Pair (other lengths available)
Reviewer: Nels Ferré
Reviewed: February 2002
The rise of the Internet over the last 5 years or so has given audiophiles and music lovers alike many more choices to make than ever before. Think about this for a minute. If you want a rare LP, chances are it's fairly easily obtained through one of the many on line auctions. Want a new amp? Got a year or so to check out all of the possibilities? It's as easy as a few keystrokes. The same applies for any component, and possibly even more so for interconnect cables. The possibilities are mind numbing.
Just as the Internet makes it easy for consumers to purchase goods, it also makes it easy for a manufacturer to bring new products to the marketplace. Since the wide scale proliferation of the Internet, countless new products have become quite popular due to on line marketing. The Lehmann Black Cube phono preamp, reviewed by our Editor, Lucio, comes immediately to mind, but there are countless others.
The Solver Solid interconnect by Stager Sound Systems of New York City is one of these products. Sold online, these cables are a twisted pair of unshielded 99.995% pure silver, insulated with Teflon and terminated with Canare F-10 RCA connectors. They can also be terminated with XLR connectors, for those using balanced connections for a small additional charge. I did, as a reviewer, appreciate that the connectors were of the "non locking" variety, which seem to go against the current vogue. I find locking connectors to be rather irritating in cable swaps: "Which way is unlock, and damn, it's hard to get a grip to unlock them."
Sonically, these cables are good performers, but not exactly my cup of tea. Not that they do anything "wrong" mind you, it's just that different cables sound, well, different. Bass on these cables is tight, but normally a bit on the "dry" side, lacking in dynamics. Some listeners may not care about dynamics as much as I do. The midrange was ok, but I longed for a bit more "life". By this, I mean that these cables seemed to "gloss over" the midrange, again making them more "dry" than I am used to. In fact, the made my Audio Research tube preamp sound more like solid state. I had no complaints with the upper frequencies.
I tried this pair of cables in the suspected fashion, between CD player and preamp, and between the amp and preamp. And all was fine, mostly. In the middle of the review, I upgraded power cords on my power amp and CD player. Unfortunately, the new cords were a bit too short, which necessitated moving the power amp. Upon powering up the system, I had a hum that I could not trace. Finally, I phoned our own Scott Faller, who suggested that possibly the cable between the pre and power amps was coming into contact with a power cord. Bingo! Remember, these cables are not shielded. Other than this one instance, I didn't have a problem with the cables.
I also tried one of these cables between my CD player and D/A converter. Eureka! Although they are not specified for this use, I really enjoyed them in this application. While dynamics are a complaint in their intended use, they really excelled in this application. Why? I don't know, but it works. Detail was improved, as well. In this one application, I have no complaints whatsoever.
Well, no. As I said earlier, they are a twisted pair of cables, terminated with RCA jacks. At over $100 per pair, I find them to be overpriced. Look at the picture again. These cables can be assembled by virtually anyone for a small fraction of the cost, with a minimal amount of time invested.
I've written other cable reviews, and I have recommended other cables. Why can't I give a recommendation here? It's simple really: the other cables sounded better, exhibited a bit more in the research and development department, and the manufacturers created something that I can't... at least without quite a bit of work, and, I suspect, a bit of frustration. That's not the case at all with these cables. I can easily build them. You can easily build them. I suspect a child could easily build them with a bit of supervision. In my opinion, they are overpriced even for those who aren't comfortable with a soldering iron.
If they were priced approximately 25-30 % less, maybe I'd feel differently, but as it stands, I recommend a pass.
Thank you for a fair and unbiased review of your audio system. Yes. Your system, not my cables.
Any cable has to be judged in an envelope of associated components where it is it functions as link between those components, either giving an honest, unvarnished account of the signal passing through it, or coloring it in some fashion, sometimes in a pleasant fashion, making the system as a whole more pleasing to the ear.
Stager Silver Solids have been designed to do the former. The signal coming out is the same as the signal going in. There is no more accurate cable path for audio information than a simple, perfectly symmetrical, unshielded two wire configuration, and there is no better conductor for electrons than pure silver. You witnessed its excellent signal transfer ability as a digital interconnect, but as an audio interconnect you found the bass lacking in dynamics, a bit "dry", the midrange deficient in the life department. If these properties exist in the system to begin with, they will be passed without color or compromise through Stager Silver Solids.
I was curious as to what happened.
Your list your preamp as an Audio Research SP-9. You said the Silver Solids "made my Audio Research tube preamp sound more like solid state". Mr. Ferré, your SP-9 is NOT a tube preamp, it is a tube-transistor hybrid, with a line stage and output stage, which ARE solid, state. Nor is it a particularly good sounding preamp. J. Gordon Holt reviewed it in Stereophile, November 1987, calling it "mediocre". Here's a bit of that review: "[After a day or so warm up] I was saddened to report that the sound was not good, In fact, it was hard, rough, thin and both spatially and dynamically compressed" ... After four days of continuous warm up, (96 hours), I was prepared to modify my initial response to the extent of adding "somewhat" ahead of the adjectives I used previously. I still found the preamp to be one of the least ingratiating I had heard in years". In the follow up, John Atkinson concurred, calling it "brighter and drier than the SP-10". "The added hardness to the sound made music less enjoyable".
Your McIntosh MC-162 is solid state, but unlike more expensive models, it lacks the Autoformers, which make McIntosh amplifiers sound tolerable. The 100 watt/channel (at 8 ohms) McIntosh MC-162 is loaded with sound degrading protective circuitry. From McIntosh's own specs: "Power Guard Circuitry protects it from clipping, while Sentry Monitor circuits protect it under extreme operating conditions". Any substantial dynamics would be compressed by this amplifier. Any interconnect cable can easily pass a hundred volts, and will certainly have no effect whatsoever on the dynamic range of the signal which might be 2 or 3 volts at the max. Speaker cables are another matter.
As to the part about Stager Silver Solids being overpriced: they are $119 for the meter pair, shipped free, and also available in 3/4 and half-meter pairs at substantial savings. More information at the Stager Silver Solids website: http://stagersound.com/silver/
Being a simple design, two pure solid silver wires in Teflon tubing, it would be less expensive for someone to make it from scratch. However, there's a little more to the manufacturing process. Every wire is drawn and polished, treated for long-term protection from tarnish, carefully twisted and checked for kinks, and correctly silver-soldered and protected at the ends with two layers of color coded heat shrink. It takes about 45 minutes to make each cable, and if you were to take into account the cost of advertising, distribution, and packaging (I just put mine in a baggie - there's no need for expensive disposable wrapping to give it an air of legitimacy), it would sell in the open market for more than double what I charge. Examine competitive silver interconnects and see if mine isn't one of the very cheapest available.
In closing, let me repeat what I said at the outset: Stager Silver Solids will reveal without mercy the excellence or the mediocrity of the components it bridges. If you don't like what you hear, there is an unconditional 30 day refund policy. Don't put it right next to an AC cable - yes, it will pick up hum if you do. You have the option of either getting an inferior shielded type interconnect or moving it two inches away.
And, Mr. Ferré, please upgrade your components. If you're going to be in the business of being a professional audio equipment reviewer, you should get components which will spare you the embarrassment of a review like the one you just gave your stereo system.
© Copyright 2002 Nels Ferré - http://www.tnt-audio.com
HTML: David Lundin