Disclaimer: the IEM-R2 was a demo unit sent on loan. I was able to listen to the cable for a couple of weeks, and sent it back after.
After I started to develop a special liking for audiophile equipment, I shifted my focus continuously from coarse- to fine-graining. At the beginning, I was obsessed with testing and comparing TOTL IEMs until I found a set of complementary in-ears that have not yet let any wish open. Later, I studied pairings with sources, during the time of which I developed a liking for subtle changes in details by playing with equalizers on high-end DAPs. The finest level of hardware tuning was also the one I turned out to be most interested in. Being a physicist myself, cables are the components that are simple enough to be analysed with scientific knowledge (of course, there is a whole lot of science in IEMs and DAPs as well, but the systems are way too complex to be analysed purely based on physical laws). After long hours at local Hi-Fi stores, I dived deeper and deeper into the exciting world of strings and braidings, and in the meantime I have intensely listened to more than 200 cables available on today’s audio market. However, local audio stores have a strong focus on prominent players (e.g. Plussound, Effect Audio and Whiplash to name a few) such that some exquisite manufactories from the niche in between are not often given the chance to present their products unless in very special and small local workshops. This results in speculation – there are certain names that pop up now and then on internet pages but due to the partially strict pricing of TOTL items many (including myself) hesitate to order their products simply based on luck (regarding personal likings and preferences) or reviews.
One of the prominent niche cable makers is SilverFi: a small cable company based in Antalya, Turkey. While some companies have a certain specialty that distinguishes themselves from their competitors, SilverFi is special on many levels. Let us begin with the company’s philosophy. Any part of their cables is produced in-house: they are one of the very few cable manufactories that produce their own wires. In contrast, it is normal for the bigger players on the market to order their materials from (a globally very limited amount of) high-tech companies. Therefore, cables from different companies sound similar if the materials used are the same – up to factors like tuning and shielding. However, SilverFi is completely out of the ordinary. Their cables are exclusively made of silver but are nothing like any other silver cable on the market. The product range starts at an affordable entry level of about 300 USD and ranges up to 2500 USD for the current flagship. That is a price for which some people buy a whole new IEM, DAP and cable combination. The direct question arising is how a cable can be that expensive, and, even more importantly, does the product justify its pricing. In the following I would like to elaborate on these questions by discussing the SilverFi R2 upgrade cable. It is a pure silver cable with a mid-range price tag reading 1295 USD.
Build and Appearance
SilverFi cables are veritable eye-catchers. If I had to associate one descriptive noun about the appearance of the R2, it would be “jewellery”. Like a prancing peacock this cable presents itself as a flat 10-braid configuration, which amounts to an almost unusual wide shape. From my point of view, too wide. Another point to mention is the cotton coating of the single strings. It is very easy to get stained such that total home usage is almost predestined.
Let me elaborate on that bold claim a bit more. The braiding is accomplished by bundling two groups of three strings and one group of four strings together and applying the usual three-bundle-braiding, familiar to anyone from child times. The braiding quality itself is flawless. The tightness and distances of single knots is perfectly regular. Combining the tight braiding with the flat braiding style, however, causes the cable to be fairly inflexible. Even perpendicular to the flat braiding direction the cable has a certain grade of stiffness, what makes it hard to use and inconvenient to transport. After the Y-splitting, both sides carry five braids in a 2-2-1 formation. Unfortunately also the end-parts are braided flat and by no means fit behind one’s ear. However, apart from the difficulties of wearing the cable, the cotton sleeving makes wearing nonetheless comfortable.
One further important detail (one of the biggest issues for me as an Empire Ears user) is the 2-pin jack. It is angled by 90 degrees, such that any IEM with a recessed socket (such as the Zeus) cannot be used without an adapter. Since my review is based on a demo unit, this may be of a nuance than a real issue and can probably be changed upon order. Still, not having been able to find a suitable adapter, I had to fall back on my old FitEar 335 SR for this review. On the other end of the cable, the 3.5 mm jack itself is massive and matches the overall high quality of the R2.
I tested the R2 with the following setup: FitEar 335 SR, connected to the Cowon Plenue S.
Before analysing the R2 in detail I would like to lose a few words about my hearing. I was born with strong tinnitus, such that my sound reception is very sensitive. That comes as a curse and privilege at the same time: sharp analyticity hurts my ears extremely while I can spot hissing and analyse treble stages possibly better than the average listener without hearing disorders. For this reason my review may be slightly biased towards an analysis of high mids and treble range, since this makes the biggest difference for myself.
The R2 is a cable like no other. To be able to imagine its sound we should forget for a moment that it is a pure silver cable and imagine it to consist of an unknown material. The cable itself has an extreme mid-centricity with a stage that excites: indeed, the stage is among the widest and most balanced ones I have heard so far. The sound is extremely detailed and resolved, which gives a superb clean image and interpolates the stage even more.
Certain cables with 8 or more braids tend to be slightly fuzzy, since generally a higher braiding configuration makes the material loose its characteristic sound. This is because the signal is split into more strings, such that the impedance and conductivity, as the most important physical property of the materials, are not as audible as a two or four wire configuration. To illustrate this a bit further we can imagine the case of a racing car with a brake parachute. If we associate the signal to a car and the impedance to the parachute, it is clear that many slow going cars are less affected by their breaking parachute than one at maximum speed. This analogy may not be the most accurate scientifically but gives a better idea of what is happening in a formation with 8 or more strings. The interesting point I would like to make is that the R2 does not suffer from this weakness. Its clarity, resolution and separation surpasses any cable I have heard before.
The treble is overall smooth and shows a wide and highly resolving stage. The R2 presents a round extension from what the mid stage has to offer. This is peculiar, since normally pure silver cables tend to be cold and analytic. The R2, however, sounds more like a gold plated silver cable in a sense that the sound image is very round. Nevertheless, this roundness is audible on all stages in contrast to gold plated cables, which smoothen exclusively higher frequencies. Before I connected the R2 for the first time I was a bit worried about sub mids and bass. Based on my experience with a large portion of silver cables, there is often a deficit in presence of this range. Depending on your IEM that may be okay – for example my FitEar 335 benefit from a controlled reduction of low frequencies, whereas the tonality of my Zeus XR could easily tolerate a stronger bass. Surprisingly, this is of no concern with the R2. The bass is very present, well-controlled and punchy. With the suitable IEM it gives a strongly physical sound. Guitar picks tickle the eardrums, and drums and bases have high impact. Besides, the bass is responsive and allows also for metal and other fast kinds of music to present a clean image. I should also mention here that there is a very slight lagging in sound. It is subtle, but I have heard certain copper based cables that had a cleaner presentation of sub mids and bass with fast music. Nonetheless, this is a minor issue in the total presentation of the sound.
Now you may wonder how exactly the cable can have the wide mid-centricity of silver, the treble of gold plated silver and a base that resembles copper elements? In the following I would like to straggle a bit from the usual content of audio reviews and elaborate scientifically about certain factors that cause this very special tonality.
First of all, the coating plays a big role in the temperature of the sound. The cotton makes the signature unusually warm and gives the cable a dynamic and colourful tonality. Therefore, the cable is extremely universal in a sense that both cold and warm IEMs pair splendidly.
Second, the metal itself is a crucial player for the R2. From my standpoint, I tend to reason signatures of cables as much scientifically as possible. Most cable makers use high purity wires that are produced by a surprisingly low amount of high-tech companies worldwide. The wires are pulled in cryostats, at ultra-low temperatures where the movement of molecules in the surroundings is greatly restricted. This leads to a lower amount of impurities in the metal, such that conducting properties are close to flawless. That is the reason why cables from most of the companies sound similar up to tuning if the processed materials are the same. The emphasis is on the word ‘most’. SilverFi is an exotic on the market since they do not use standard wires but rather pull all of them themselves. As you can imagine, this can by no means be done in a clean room at super-low temperatures, which cause heavy amounts of impurities in the strings. Therefore, the R2 has a strong mid-centricity, as usual for silver, but does not actually resemble the sound of common silver cables. Impurities contribute a lot to the warm signature of the cable and prove, that technically high-end does not necessarily synchronize to best sound.
To cut a long story short, the R2 presents an exotic sound that surpasses almost every cable I have tried in my humble journey as an audiophile. It is frighteningly detailed, resolving, and presents a natural and impressively wide sound stage. The sound itself should not be imagined as silver-like. It is more a colourful and warm sound that scores in all areas, from bass to high treble. Superb!
As you could imagine based on the impressions given in the section above, comparing the R2 to other cables is fairly difficult. The result is more or less the same for any TOTL cable: overall, the R2 inspires a lot, while in certain ranges of the sound spectrum other cables may have the lead.
Plussound X8 gold plated silver:
The X8 GPS is my personal every-day cable. Therefore, comparison with this cable may be most accurate in this section. The stage of the R2 is slightly wider than the stage of the X8 (although the X8 already impresses with its insane stage!). More importantly, the stage sounds naturally wide on the R2, while for the X8 the wideness appears to be artificial. On the treble stage, the X8 scores. It is wider and more detailed as it carries the characteristics of OCC silver with gold-capped high frequencies. However, depending on your IEM, this may cause the overall sound to be slightly too bright. In that case I would definitely recommend the R2. In the mid-range, the R2 outperforms the X8. It has the most balanced and widest mid-range I have heard so far, such that even TOTL cables like the X8 GPS cannot compete. As for the bass, both cables are comparable. The gold gives good control and presence of the bass while the R2 just naturally sounds similar. The X8 GPS may be slightly more responsive with the use of fast music and has a less lagging sound.
Plussound X8 gold plated copper:
The X8 GPC gives the inverted result: While the R2 presents a wider and more detailed mid and treble stage, the lower mids and bass of the X8 GPC are cleaner, punchier and better controlled. The X8 GPC is among the fastest and most responsive cables I have heard, so it is naturally difficult for a silver cable to compete in lower stages. However, the resolution is better for the R2. For bright IEMs like the Zeus R, I personally use the GPC since the pairing with the R2 overall strengthens the mid-centricity of the Zeus. For darker IEMs like the FitEar 335 or the 64 audio A18, the R2 shows better synergy.
YY Pro Pluto:
This comparison is particularly interesting given the special character of the Pluto. For those who have not heard about this cable, it is an OCC silver based 8-braid mixed alloy, that contains gold and palladium. As a result, the treble is smoother than pure silver, the mids have clean silver character and the bass carries a slightly laid back, punchy and exciting copper-like signature.
In comparison, the R2 has a considerably wider stage. This is a phenomenon I observed many times with alloys: when two or more metal are mixed, the cable tends to have more intimate stages compared to cables made of one single material. Furthermore, the R2 is much rounder and natural compared to the analyticity and overall crispness of the Pluto. In terms of clarity, both cables are compatible. However, the R2 has the better resolution and gives, therefore, a deeper sense of 3-dimensionality. For the bass stage, the Pluto has a better bass control which is especially clean and physically pinching. On this stage, the sound resembles partially the lower stages of the X8 GPC, just with less effect and depth.
If you are looking for a very harmonic and organic sound, the R2 may be your choice. On the other hand, if you look for an exciting cable that spices up your listening experience, the Pluto will do the complementary job.
Finally, I would like to briefly highlight once more the outstanding resolution of the R2. This special characteristic leads to a very holographic sound that never fails to amaze. Even most other TOTL cables in the same price category cannot compete with the R2 in this area.
Last but not least, keep in mind that differences are mostly small here since the comparison copes with some of the best cables on the market. All cables mentioned above are marvellous. If a sentence mentioned “cable A is better than cable B in C” it means that B is really good, but A is even slightly better. Furthermore, I picked three cables that I personally cherish a lot. There are a load of other cables on the market that I tried but did not convince me as much as the listed ones.
The R2 is one of the best cables I have heard so far, showing a technical capability that surpasses the biggest portion of today’s market. The price tag of 1295 USD is in the upper range but fully reasonable with regard to the quality and tonality the R2 holds. Nowadays, these dimensions of pricing are rather common, and sadly TOTL cables rather rarely justify their tag. Within the realm of cables, the R2 however, will not let any wishes open. The only concern is that given the anatomy of the R2, people with strong bound to outdoor activities and public transportation may want to consider the purchase twice.
To sum up the pros and cons discussed throughout this review, I would like to start with the negative points (since there are few to none).
Negative: - Build: impractical size and choice of colour/materials for the coating.
Pro: + Build: looks and quality of handicraft is flawless
+ enormous soundstage
+ extreme resolution, clarity and detail.
+ flawless harmony on all stages
Value for money: 10/10
I have had the privilege of hearing ICs from Silverfi and felt I had a new collection of music. The clarity and natural presentation was unlike anything I had experienced with a component or tube upgrade. There is a difference in cable sound and this maker has done their homework.