Head-Fi is a cool place. It provides a chance to read about products I am not likely to see personally and I have the opportunity to talk to creative product innovators. Most of these MoT (Members of the Trade) are a long way from me and I would likely never had seen their work were it not for Head-Fi. One of these creative innovators' is Frank the Kabelmeister of Toxic Cables from Kent, UK.
I ran across Frank's Silver Poison headphone cables as I was looking to upgrade the stock cables on my Sennheiser HD650's. I read up on a number of vendors via the forums including Toxic Cables. I had questions for Frank and posted them via a PM one night around 10PM CST in the US. Frank replied 10 minutes later....4:00AM London time. This got my attention. I have since decided that Frank does not sleep. His work day is becoming legendary. He provided the answers I was seeking and I made the Toxic Cable Silver Poison's my choice.
I loved the SP's and have written a review of them here:
Frank PM'd me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would try out his latest creation, the Silver Widow. I said I would be happy to.
First a point of disclosure:
Frank is being kind enough to comp me a set of Silver Widows for my review efforts. I will call it as I see it (err, hear it), but transparency is important.
Let's get the specs out of the way.
The Silver Poison cable is a stranded OCC Silver cable that has up to 1% gold and is Cryo treated, the SP was the first OCC silver cable to come on the market with added gold. The SP starts at £140 for a 6ft cable, this will be going up to £150-155 in the new year.
Silver Widow is on the top, Silver Poison is on the bottom. The splitter is part of the Silver Widow Cable package.
The Silver Widow is a stranded OCC Silver Type 2 Litz cable, the Silver Widow has a considerably higher percentage of gold in it then the Silver Poison, although Frank will be keeping the exact contents to himself so that it is not replicated by others. The SW is the first Silver Litz cable to come to the market. The SW starts at £195 pre order, this will be going up to £225-235 in 2013.
The aim with the Silver Widow was to make the bass that is usually wanting in silver cables, better then copper cables, while retaining everything silver cables are loved for, but also making sure the cable was not bright, another issue with most silver cables.
The Silver Widow is a 25.5AWG cable, while the Silver Poison is 26, the larger gauge was chosen, simply because Frank found the 25.5 prototype sounded better.
What is a litz cable, to put it simply, its a stranded cables where all the individual wires are separately insulated, you could even call it a 320 wire cable :)
My review system is:
MacBook Pro with 256 bit rate through 1411 bit rate AIFF lossless files either ripped by me via iTunes or purchased via the iTunes store. Amarra 2.4.5 software, USB out via an Audioquest cinnamon cable to a Cambridge DacMagic Plus into my Decware CSP2+. Tubes are a USAF-596 Rectifier and 2359Glenn adapter converting the quad pin 596 to octal, 2 stock 6N1P's driving the Left and Right channels and a 6922 Genalex Golden Lion driver, Silver Widow cable and my trusty Sennheiser HD650's.
Questions I had as I started the review process: Can I notice a difference between the SW and the SP's I am currently using, is it subtle or significant? Does it improve on the PRaT? (Pace Rhythm and Timing. The Toe tapping get the body moving and grooving feel) What about soundstage, attack, clarity, detail, sense of space and placement and finally Bass impact. Would I notice a difference?
First up on the hit parade was Steely Dan Two Against Nature's Gaslighting Abbie. This song has a tight bass line supporting the song. It was much tighter and stronger than with the SP's. Considering the SP's blew away the stock cables this was remarkable. I knew I was in for a fun ride. Another favorite of mine is a clean SNAP of a snare drum. There it was clean and tight. Guitar's were clear to where you could discern each string being plucked or stroked.
Next was the Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits and The Joker. This is an old high school favorite of mine and it was almost spooky as the 3 dimensionality seemed to make Steve singing right in front of me. I have heard this song countless times and never was it clear like this.
Another extraordinary vocal effort is Allison Krauss' (singing almost anything!) When I Went Down to the River to Pray from the Soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou. T-Bone Burnett used 1930's recording techniques when he produced the soundtrack and with only a few microphones you can pinpoint where each vocalist is. When they each draw a breath you can sense who starts a fraction before the others and where they are standing throughout the group. What is remarkable is the clarity. Silver cables have strength here but the Widows outshine the Poison's allowing terrific high end clarity and no hint of sibilance.
Shifting genre's I went to Sully Erna of Godsmack and his 2010 solo album Avalon. His song, 7 Years, is a duet with Lisa Guyer, a noted New England based Vocalist. It is haunting and driving and I love it. Very spatial as instruments and sounds enter and exit from all around. You need gear that can manage complexity and stay clean. The Widows were well up to the task as the song soared around me. Marvelous!
Well...Time to head bang! Sum 41 and the Hell Song....Review, nope...Just head banging! The song rocks and so did the system!
Next, Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense Special Edition. I heard them live back in my college days and I have always loved Life During Wartime. Great bass line, bongos and other drums all around and a great sense of PRaT!
You want to bring out or expose clarity, find a great acoustic guitar player...How about The Australian guitar giant, Tommy Emmanuel! His Endless Road album is an all time favorite. I have seen him live play Bella Soave. You can barely believe one man is playing it alone. This is the closest to hearing him again live. The touch on the strings was fantastic.
Probably one of the most interesting recordings was the Best of Bill Evans Remastered. This 2004 compilation of the Jazz great's work has recordings that are from as early as the 60's. Simple mic set ups reveal instrument placement in a very specific way. You can point to where each musician was and feel like you are in the middle of the band. With a recording this clear any weak link the gear chain will be noticeable. The Widows handled the recording with aplomb.
I also spent time with Dido, Chris Cornell, The Brian Setzer Orchestra and Al Di Meola.....I could have listened to every song on every album...(I probably will!)
I listed the prices at the beginning of the review. The Silver Poison cables have built a reputation as a terrific bargain for custom silver cables. That value still holds. The new Silver Widows are in my opinion worth twice the price. The added clarity, bass impact and space are the best I have heard. Frank has chosen to price them at 50% more than the Silver Poison's...A killer deal.
Gorgeous looking, Gorgeous sounding, twice the performance of their amazing older siblings and only 50% more in their price.
Silver Widows are Highly Recommended. Job well done, again, Frank!
Edited by longbowbbs - 12/14/12 at 6:50pm