I am often amazed at the affect of a passive component, such as a cable, upon the sound of a stereo system. This explains, in part the high percentage of cables, relative to electronics and speakers, which has constituted my body of audio reviews.
The genesis of this review was a conversation with an audiophile, experienced in modifying CD players and preamps, as well as the design of power cords and analog interconnects. I have personally heard many of his cables as well as a highly regarded preamp, whose parts he replaced. His latest projects have been the design of interconnect cables, using OCC (continuous cast) silver. He has constructed cables containing only OCC silver as well as cables containing OCC silver for the hot conductor and one OCC silver and one copper conductor for the ground. He has reported to me that he could not discern the difference between his silver designs from his copper designs. Further, he reported that the silver cables while highly resolving were full sounding. There was no imbalance in frequency response and he did not cite any distortion effects.
The metals contained in the cables which I reviewed included, copper, gold, silver plated copper and an alloy of copper and silver. I have auditioned several silver cable products, but found that they exhibited the stereotypical characteristics of leanness, and brightness. However, I was intrigued at the prospect that a cable could provide greater resolution and still maintain body, while minimizing distortion, and especially, not emphasizing treble frequencies.
I elicited from him the names of two companies that sell OCC silver cables, and received the name of another company, located in Manhattan, which offers a silver cable, which was also worth pursuing. I will be reviewing two silver cables, at different price points.
The subject of this review, is the Neotech NEI-1002 OCC silver cable, priced at $850, per meter pair.
Neotech is one of two companies in Taiwan, which sells OCC silver wire. According to the spec sheet provided by the manufacturer, the purity is 99.99998 %. I did a Google search whose subject was purity of silver and found a citation which indicated that the purity mentioned above is rare and very expensive. Thus, it is not surprising that a meter pair is priced at $850.
Normally, I prefer to review both links in my stereo system, namely from source to preamp (1 meter) and from preamp to amp (6 meters) When I inquired as to the possibility of obtaining a 6 meter pair, I was informed by the US distributor, Mike Billing, of Capativa Tech INC, that standard lengths are no longer than 3 meters. Six meters is a custom length, requiring from 2 to 4 weeks to produce and at a retail price of $2850.
In view of the above mentioned facts, I decided not to request such a length. As the reader will learn, the one meter pair had a significant affect on the sound of my stereo system, in comparison to other cables I have auditioned.
Neotech’s products include, interconnects, digital cables, HDMI cables and power cords. Unfortunately, there is not much information about the cable on the website. I obtained technical information from the distributor, who forwarded my questions to the design engineers in Taiwan.
1) Conductors are 22 gauge OCC solid core silver.
2) Geometry is a simple twist.
3) Insulation is polyethylene which surrounds each twisted conductor.
4) Another insulating material is a Teflon tube surrounding both conductors, which have already been fitted with polyethylene.
5) A triple shield, consisting of Teflon tape, aluminum mylar and an OCC silver plated OFC copper braid,
connected at one end. The arrow on the cable points to the shield.
6) Silver solder is used.
7) Connectors are rhodium plate over copper.
8) The outer covering is a PVC layer surrounded by a polyethylene terpthalate jacket.
The design goal is to create a cable which maintains the integrity of the signal and therefore minimizes distortion.
I have been informed by owners and designers of silver cable, that silver requires hundreds of hours of break-in [The pain is significant! - Ed]. I followed my typical procedure, described below, because it presents over 300 hours of signal time. To quicken the process, I attach the cable to a cable cooker, Hagerman’s Fry Baby, for 5 days. Then, I present a musical signal for 9 days.
My first selection tests for sibilance and bass response, It features, voice, acoustic bass and piano. Since the acoustic bass does not plumb the depths of the bass, I added a CD of Bach organ music.
The first selection was Holly Cole, DON’T SMOKE IN BED, track 1, Alert Z2 81020. The sound of the acoustic bass was full, but less so than what I have heard when I used copper or gold cables . However, the bass was firmer. Sibilance was audible. This in not surprising when a voice is close-miked, There were no distortion effects, such as hiss, sizzle or sharpness. All words beginning with the letter “s”, were a bit more emphasized, but it was a soft “s”, rather than a sharp “s”. The increased resolution was evident when I heard the fingers touch the keys of the piano. In addition, there was greater extension at both ends of the frequency range. The increase in the articulation of the piano contributed to a greater sense of realism.
The harpsichord is my favorite instrument. Thus my second selection was SCARLATTI IN IBERIA, featuring Sophie Yates, harpsichord, from a Chandos release CHAN 0635, track 1. While the harpsichord sounded more percussive, without sounding thin, the wood body was somewhat less present. In addition, the harpsichord sounded a bit more distant. Although the attack and release was audible, it was somewhat rounded, perhaps, consistent with the effect of distance, and even as the wood body was less emphasized, the timbre of the instrument was still realistic. One should consider that the perspective , or listener position , affects the sound of an instrument. The higher the frequency the shorter the wavelength. As you move further back in a concert hall, filled with other listeners, there will be some attenuation in the highs and a softening or rounding effect.
It is possible that a cable can create for reproduced music what a change in location will do in the concert hall.
At this point, I wanted to test bass frequencies extending lower than the those of an acoustic bass.
Next, I selected a CD containing Bach organ music. I chose E Power Biggs interpretation of Bach’s “Tocatta and Fugue in d minor, BWV 565”, the first track of the disc BACH — THE FOUR GREAT TOCATTAS AND FUGUES, CBS MK 42643. The bass was deep as my speakers are capable of producing. In addition to the frequency response, I was surprised ad the way in which the organ was portrayed. I marveled at the transition from soft to loud passages as well as its speed of execution. It was as if the cable had a grip on the organ and was controlling it. I have never heard this CD portrayed in such a manner prior to having the Neotech cable in my system.
Another favorite and staple in most of my reviews is Steely Dan AJA, MCAD 37124. I called on it again. I selected track 3, “Deacon Blues”. I noticed several changes in the sound, that I had not previously observed. There was greater impact of the kick drum and for the first time I could hear the entire word “chance”, part of the phrase “laughing chance”, song by Donald Fagen. In all other auditions of this CD, the last “c” was completely obscured. The snare drum was more present, as well. Overall, there was an enhanced realism which rendered the sound more like instruments than a recording of instruments. Finally, the tenor sax, while extended in its upper register retained a natural timbre.
I continued with TWO WORLDS, an eclectic assortment of classical, jazz, ethnic and spiritual music. The artists include Renee Fleming, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Gil Shaham, and Julian Lloyd Webber. This is a Decca CD 012 157 960. I selected track 8, Bartok’s “Stick Dance”, from his “Roumanian Folk Dance Suite”. For the first time, I could hear the sound of the rosin character on the strings on Gil Shaham’s violin. The treble was not piercing and etched making it easier to observe the wood body of the instrument. One does not have to listen closely to hear the emotion communicated by the playing. The nylon strings on the acoustic guitar, while not as thick as with other cables was clearer, as if a layer of veiling is removed. The effect was a greater presence of the instrument. The attack of the piano keys revealed a very life-like instrument. There was a presence to all of the instruments which created a “sound” more like instruments than a recording of instruments.
Yes, I said this before. Perhaps some CDs are not so poorly recorded as they seem to be, but are revealing problems from another component in a stereo system, and there may be a possibility of creating an illusion of reality, in spite of the fact that the medium is recorded music.
I’ve had an on-going argument with a fellow audiophile regarding Chesky recordings. I’ve considered some not well recorded. However, I chose to use one for this review, because of the presence of a cymbal crash, during the first few minutes of Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italien”. The recording in question is Chesky CD 12, featuring Alfred Wallenstein, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the compositions of Tchaikovsky. In particular, track 1, “Capriccio Italien”.
Prior to the brief cymbal solo, the composition opens with some fairly loud trumpets. The sound of the trumpets can challenge some stereo systems. The trumpets were loud, a bit forward, but did not exhibit unpleasant treble harmonics. After the third cymbal crash, the sound of which was reasonably natural, given the dubious recording quality, I heard decay, for the first time. I have yet to experience the decay, with any of the cables that I have had in my stereo system. Depth was in evidence and at times the trumpets evidenced a gentleness and fullness. Even the string section was “well-tempered”. Overall the sound of the orchestra transcended the alleged recording quality. Perhaps, as I have previously stated in this review the bad sound that accompanied this recording on many occasions was not the fault of the recording.
I next searched for a poorly sounding recording, at least as I remembered it the last time I listened to it. It was an aggressive and forward sounding jazz band. At my last audition, it was an unpleasant experience listening to the CD, Buddy Rich, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, Pacific Jazz 7243 8 54331 23, track 1 — the title check. The trumpets were still forward and aggressive at 80 + DB, but I didn’t feel like running from the room, and the sound was less edgy than I have heard with other cables. The tenor sax solo displayed an accurate timbre, and Buddy Rich’s drum solos were clear, clean and realistic. In spite of an improvement in the sound compared to what I heard using other cables, one would still consider this disc a potential problem for many stereo systems.
The variety of “sound” from different recordings spurred a curiosity to continue listening to many more. If I did that, the review would become a tome. Instead, I decided to end with another orchestral staple, namely “Gaite Parisienne”, by Offenbach, as conducted by Arthur Fiedler, JVC XRCD 0224, track 1.
The music opened with an orchestra, unrestrained, playing loud. Its sound was full bodied. All ensembles were audible, but the extension in the bass allowed for a greater presence from the bass drum and tympani. The orchestra sounded incisive and propulsive. As in the case of Bach’s organ music, the cable seemed to exert control and focus. The wood block and triangle displayed a spatial relationship, similar to what I have heard from other cables, while the triangle was somewhat clearer, such that I could count the number of strikes of the wand upon the triangular section.
Overall, there was a level of realism, not apparent when other interconnect cables were in my system.
Obviously, I enjoyed reviewing the Neotech silver cable, as I was able to uncover musical details from familiar recordings for the first time, as well as revel in the enhanced musical realism of a recorded orchestra.. These unexpected results motivated me to listen to other recordings, not included in the review, in the hope of realizing a more enjoyable musical experience.
What this cable demonstrated to me is that what I considered as poorly recorded discs may, in many cases be a consequence of issues in other components of a stereo system. I learned that it is possible to attain resolution without losing some level of richness or solidity of instruments, and without a peak in the treble. The resolution manifested itself as greater microdynamics and speed, the presence of instrumental decay, and the presence of subtle, low (sound pressure) level musical detail. Further, with an increase in extension at both ends of the frequency range, instruments such as drums, acoustic and electric basses were more prominent and/or had greater impact. In some instances, instruments sounded less timbrally inaccurate.
The Neotech cable exhibited a balanced frequency response and low distortion. Therefore, none of the negative characteristics associated with silver wire were not a factor. Of course, the cable will not render a stereo system lush or provide any euphonic coloration(s), as it is very close to being an invisible component.
Thus, I could not distinguish this silver cable from a copper cable. One should expect that a recording which is “sonically deprived”, will be exposed with all its “warts”, but its faults will not be exaggerated.
The cable is suitable for stereo systems which have a balanced frequency response and low levels of distortion, or others for which the owners’ taste has been satisfied, as the cable should not alter its basic personality. It is also suitable for serious listeners who wish to increase resolution and possibility improve timbre.
I think the cable represents a remarkable achievement, and I intend to listen to as many recordings as I can while it is in my possession.
Speakers: Quad 57s and magnepan 1.6s
Amplifier: VTL Deluxe 120 woodblocks
Preamp(s): Bent TVC Passive and Blair Chapman
CD Source: Vincent CD S6
Interconnects: Emotiva, Mpjo Audio and Soundstring
Speaker Cable: Ear to Ear
Power Cords: PS Audio Lab I, MAC Burley and Emotiva
Room Treatment: Room Tunes and egg crate mattresses
Passive Line Conditioners: PS Audio Noise Harvesters, Alan Maher line filters and Quantum line filters
Power Strips: PS Audio Juice Bar and Balanced Power Technology
Anti Resonant Devices: Sound Fusion Sound Boosters placed over one and one half inch maple boards
The Neotech NEI — 1002 OCC Silver Interconnect Cable
Manufactured by Neotech
Price: $850 meter
Source: US distributor loan