Stager Sound Systems Silver Solids Interconnect


Silver Solids Interconnect
Price: US$100
Manufactured by Stager Sound Systems
159 West 85th Street, New York, N.Y. 10024
Phone: (212) 595-4065
Email:ssound@erols.com

Things are starting to get a little crowded in the silver cable world of late. Besides offerings from some of the mainstays of the high-end cable game such as Kimber, Siltech, and Alpha-Core, little-known companies such as D.H. Labs, D Lin Audio, and Stager Sound Systems have started to challenge the high-end cable establishment with their own, reasonably-priced silver cables. Since I've been branded "The Cable Guy" around chéz Audiophilia, I've decided to embark on a survey of silver cables from some of these lesser-known manufacturers, starting this month with Stager Sound Systems' $100 Silver Solids interconnect.

Technobabble

Silver Solids Interconnect

The Silver Solids interconnect is the creation of Stager Sound Systems' Marc Stager. Mr. Stager has crafted an exceptionally beautiful cable from some of the finest components available. The Silver Solids features an unshielded, symmetrical, twisted pair of 99.9995%, 20 gauge, solid silver conductors insulated with translucent Teflon. The cable is terminated with Canare F-9 RCA connectors which feature a machined solid brass center, 24K gold-plated contact surfaces, Teflon insulation and spring strain relief. All of the cable's internal connections are made with lead-free silver solder and the cable's ends are color-coded with a Polyolefin heat shrink. Marc Stager's fanatical attention to detail culminates in the treatment of all silver and gold surfaces with Caig ProGold anti-tarnish protection which should ensure good electrical contact. The cable's fit'n'finish are exceptional (save for minor differences in the lengths of the springs used for strain relief on the review pair) and are unmatched at this price point in my experience.

Listening

First impressions of an audio component can often be very misleading. An extended audition is usually required in order to reveal a component's sonic shortcomings and to completely assess their long term effects on listening enjoyment. This is why I prefer to audition a component for months before putting fingers to keyboard, and why I always pass on review samples that manufacturers offer for "about a week". This discussion is relevant to this review because when I first began listening to Stager Sound Systems' Silver Solids, I thought that I had stumbled upon a major audio find, and in some ways I suppose I had. I mean here was a $100 cable composed of some of the finest parts available, and which completely ameliorated any sense of midrange glare or grain that I hear with many other cables. Couple this with a sound which was smooth and initially inviting throughout the frequency band, and my audio senses were telling me that a new budget reference interconnect was born. Or was it?

As much as I wanted to fall in love with this inexpensive, beautifully made cable, it just wasn't in the stars. While the smooth presentation of the Silver Solids was the antithesis of the stereotypical bright silver cable, long term listening left me unsatisfied with the Stager cable's lack of incisiveness and definition. Listening to the Stager cable was like looking through a camera lens that's been coated with Vaseline - everything was still visible, but the image was somewhat soft and ill-defined.

After many hours of listening and comparing the Silver Solids to other interconnects with which I am intimately familiar, I believe that I can attribute much of what I found unappealing in this cable to a softening of leading edge transients and a lack of dynamic contrast. The Stager cable's inability to faithfully render the leading edge of transients was readily heard on several of my standard reference discs including Strunz and Farah's Americas (Mesa R2 79041) and Cassandra Wilson's New Moon Daughter (Blue Note Records 7243 8 32861 2 6). The plucked acoustic guitars of Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah, and the finger snaps and hand claps on New Moon Daughter, lacked the snap and "speed" heard through the other cables used for comparison, resulting in an uncharacteristically bland and lifeless presentation of these discs. The Silver Solids' rounding of transients continued to manifest itself throughout the review period as a lack of forward momentum and energy, often leaving me uninvolved in the musical experience.

My listening biases usually lead me to components which, in addition to having good transient abilities, faithfully render dynamic contrasts. Unfortunately, in my reference system, the Silver Solids didn't satisfy the latter criteria much better than the former. The exceptional Telarc recording of Rimsky-Korsakoff's Scheherezade (Telarc CD-80208) wonderfully captures the many dynamic contrasts integral to this marvelous score. Through the Silver Solids however, dynamic swings were somewhat compressed and those in the direction of fff lacked power and impact.

Comparing the Silver Solids to the similarly priced Transparent Audio MusicLink revealed the Stager cable to be slightly rolled off at the top end of the spectrum and rather slow and lacking extension and definition at the bottom. On Balada (For Heideh) from Strunz and Farah's Americas, the lower reaches of Guillermo Guzmán's bass were a bit muddy and ill-defined and the tambourine lost some of its characteristic air and sparkle. The Stager cable's lack of low-end definition and control continued to be problematic on Calling Elvis from Dire Straits' On Every Street (Vertigo 510160-2), where, this time, the deep, synthesized bass line was the victim, each note "booming" rather than blooming. Ditto for the double basses at about 4:36 into Emmanuel Chabrier's España (Mercury Living Presence 434 303-2) which weren't as deep or as well resolved as they were with the MusicLink.

The one area in which the Silver Solids did excel was in the midrange. The Stager cable presented one of the smoothest, most natural midranges I've heard, which proved to be a real asset on well-recorded vocals. In last issue's review of the Transparent Audio MusicWave Plus, I noted that cable's slight hardening of upper midrange textures on some recordings. Listening to the same musical selections with the Silver Solids in the reproduction chain, all traces of midrange hardness vanished with nothing but the natural beauty of the human voice left behind. The Stager cable didn't always present the full weight of the lower midrange to the same degree that it did throughout the mid and upper regions of this frequency band, but this rarely proved to be a musical liability.

The soundstage rendered by the Silver Solids had good width, but depth was somewhat lacking as a result of some front to back compression and a slightly forward placement. Although the Silver Solids recreated a fairly open, spacious soundstage during relatively simple orchestral passages, the soundstage "thickened" and the definition of instrumental outlines suffered during densely scored sections.

Conclusions

Although the midrange is a musically-vital portion of the frequency spectrum, a component which gets it right at the expense of the frequency extremes will prove unsatisfactory over the long term. In the case of Stager Sound Systems' Silver Solids interconnect, my enthusiasm over its smooth, grain-free midrange was tempered by its less-than-stellar performance at the frequency extremes, its softening of leading-edge transients, and its lack of dynamic contrast. In short, music as rendered by the Silver Solids lacked the life and energy that one normally associates with the live experience, resulting in a presentation that was a bit too bland and uninvolving for my taste.

If it sounds as if I've been unduly harsh on the Silver Solids, it is only because I feel there are competing, comparably priced designs, Transparent Audio's MusicLink for example, which better it in several significant performance areas. Of course it is possible that my reference system is particularly non-synergistic with respect to the Silver Solids, although all auditioning was done using tubed components as recommended by the manufacturer.

As they say, "your mileage may vary" and, given Stager Sound Systems' 30 day, unconditional money-back guarantee, you have nothing to lose by auditioning the Silver Solids in your system and deciding for yourself whether or not they are right for you. Given the Silver Solids' budget price and absolutely wonderful quality of construction, it is a pity that they didn't work for me.

-- Andrew Chasin

Associated Components

The Stager Sound Systems Silver Solids interconnect was used to connect the analogue outputs of the Theta DS Pro Progeny or the Assemblage DAC-2 D/A converters to one of the line level inputs of either the Conrad Johnson Premier II or Sonic Frontiers Line 1 preamplifier. Transport was the Theta Data Basic II. The amplifier used was the now-discontinued Aragon 2004 Mk.II which drove either the ProAc Studio 150 or ProAc Response One SC loudspeakers. Cables used were the MIT MusicChord interconnect, Transparent MusicLink and MusicLink Plus interconnect, Transparent MusicWave Plus loudspeaker cables and XLO Type 4 digital interconnect. All components sat atop Target Audio equipment racks and were fed power from my 12'x 16'x 8' dedicated listening room's 15A dedicated circuits. The listening room was treated with a full complement of Echo Busters room treatment products including Echo Busters and Double Busters panels and Bass Busters bass traps.