Speaker Cable Face Off 1 - Conclusions
With the exception to the Stealth Fine Ribbon cables, all of these cables performed admirably well within the context of electrical test performance. Based on the poor electrical test results of the Stealth Fine Ribbon cable, we discourage its usage for serious audiophile applications, unless the intent is to lower the high frequency response of the speaker system, using the wire as a "tone control". More consistent results would be obtained by the insertion of a lumped element at the speaker of the correct inductance, for the desired result, or using room treatment to tame an overly bright room or loudspeaker system. Note that simply spacing the conductors to insert a lumped element such as an inductor or ferrite will add inductance by geometry. The Stealth Premier 2 and Cobalt cables had the highest performance in this comparison. However, special care must be taken to ensure closely spacing of the (+) and (-) conductors of the Stealth Premier 2 to achieve comparable performance to the Cobalt Cables. Since this could prove quite challenging, we recommend considering the cheaper and consistently excellent performing Cobalt Cables. From a build quality and cosmetics stand point, the Cobalt cables were our top preference. On a budget, we recommend either the Monster Cable Navajo or Sound King 12AWG along with quality spades or banana terminations of your choice. The Original Monster Cable appeared to have oxidizing problems over time due to the employed insulation and may result in added contact resistance over time.
We feel choosing a speaker cable should be a function of electrical performance, build quality, durability, longevity and system compatibility. There are many aftermarket banana plug and spade type terminations that may compliment the un-terminated Monster series cables and Sound King Cables. I really liked the overall construction of the Monster Navajo Cable. It had nicely crafted insulation that was off white in color making it blend somewhat more easily when installed near a similarly colored wall or ceiling. The Cobalt Cables build quality was quite impressive. The jacket covering the conductors was esthetically pleasing and the banana plug terminations fit very snug against the binding posts of my amplifiers and loudspeakers. The spade terminations Stealth Audio Cables employed on the other hand were not wide enough to interface with the binding posts of any of my hardware. In addition, the stiffener at the end of the cables where it was terminated made it very difficult to interface with my amp as it was hitting my amps supporting shelf.
With that in mind, our top three choices in order of preference were:
Stay tuned for Speaker Cable Face Off II where we will be analytically comparing a larger variety of exotic speaker cables to determine if they measure up to their claims.
I would like to thank the following people for their peer review and useful feedback.
I would also like to thank:
- Cobalt Cables ( http://www.cobaltcable.com )
- Monster Cable ( http://www.monstercable.com )
- Stealth Audio Cables ( http://www.stealthaudiocables.com )
- Parts Express ( http://www.partsexpress.com ) seller of Sound King Cables
for providing samples of their products which made this face off comparison possible.