Post by MartinT on Jun 18, 2014 17:04:30 GMT
Part I - Balanced Interconnects
The SLIC Innovations Eclipse C balanced XLR cable is a substantial offering, thick and quite resistant to tight bending and very nicely presented and finished in a black braid. The XLR plugs on my sets are Black Rhodium, although various plug options are offered. No significant details of materials used are available but there exists a patent (no. EP 1 509 932) from which construction details may be gleaned. Reasons given in the patent for the cable’s performance include improvements in skin effect conductivity and magnetic field interaction between nearby conductors, although much of it is lost in the usual impenetrable patent-speak.
Two 1m pairs were kindly loaned to me by MCRU but have now been purchased as a permanent fixture in my system. My two runs are used in SACD Player > Preamp and Preamp > Power Amp runs, giving a fully balanced system path for optical disc playback.
For comparison are my previous Yannis 223.5 ConnectLitz silver XLR cables, themselves high performers which have seen off Kimber Select KS-1121, Tellurium Q Black XLR, Canare Star-Quad XLR and Mark Grant silver plated XLR cables in the past.
There was a small improvement in sound from new over the course of a few days, but not nearly as much as I am accustomed to with, for instance, silver cables. I believe that MCRU burns them in on a cable burner before sending them out.
k d lang – Drag: more space around Lang’s voice. I could hear the studio for the first time. Big dynamics and her soaring voice really tested midrange clarity. Reduced sibilance and the ride cymbal really sounded like metal being struck. I played at a higher volume than I’m used to (a common theme with these cables).
Jeff Beck – You Had it Coming: a real sense of menace to some of the track openings, especially Loose Cannon.
Jeff Beck – Emotion and Commotion: fantastic impact but less harshness when the songs got very busy. Joss Stone’s voice incredibly lifelike in I Put a Spell On You.
Christina Pluhar & All’Improvviso – L’Arpeggiata: wonderful delineation of fine detail. Lovely delicacy to the dulcimer and startling attack on the Spanish guitar.
Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms [SACD]: the drum in So Far Away had metronomic timing and started and stopped very quickly. Some nice left/right swirling that I had never noticed before.
Prince & The New Power Generation – Diamonds and Pearls: the massive wall of sound in Thunder retained the various strands of the music and hung together wonderfully as a performance. This has always been a good test for any harshness in my system.
Damian Rice – O: the drum strikes in Delicate had proper shape in the big acoustic, putting me right there. The cymbal decay went on and on into a whisper-quiet shimmer.
Philip Glass – Violin Concerto, Eschenbach, Houston SO: lovely violin sound, highly vivid and with truly thrilling orchestral climaxes.
Albeniz – Suite Española, Frühbeck de Burgos, New Philharmonia: brass crescendi that took me aback with their attack in Castilla.
I listened to many more pieces but you probably get the general idea by now.
To summarise what I am hearing in my system, the SLIC XLR cables bring the following benefits:
- 1.There is more very fine detail, especially noticeable when it was previously buried in the mix. It isn’t just more detail appearing, there is space around the notes improving overall definition. Further listening reveals things creeping into my awareness that I hadn’t noticed before.
- Quiet sections of music reveal more cues about the soundstage and recording venue. Reverb around the room, the noise the air volume makes, people shuffling, sub-bass shudders.
- The volume seems quieter even when I’m pulling some serious decibels (I was hitting 95dB at my listening position during the Jeff Beck, for instance). There is a sense of the presentation sounding less busy, and appearing lower in volume, because the strands of the music are better separated; overall definition is up and glare is well down. I’m setting the gain 2-4dB higher than I’m used to.
I have not mentioned bass or treble simply because I can hear no enhancement or deficiencies throughout the frequency range. These findings are for my system with my ears. Since cables can only subtract from the signal, the above comments should be seen as saying that the SLIC XLR subtracts the least of any cable I have ever used.
Balanced cables, due to their superior connection and common mode noise rejection, tend not to exhibit the dramatic differences that single-ended cables do. It has therefore been a surprise to hear such an upgrade in presentation over the Yannis. Cable choice is just the final tuning and should not be seen as a tone control or a fix for poorly performing components. However, the greater the system resolution, the more subtle changes become audible and that is what happened in my system. So this is one solid rung up the performance ladder for me.
Only you can decide whether this cable represents good value for money, and only after you have auditioned it. In the context of my system, the two pairs represent 1/50th of its total cost and I consider that to be a very satisfying value proposition for the performance yielded.
See the MCRU site for prices according to length and plugs selected.
My system as in my signature.