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Set Up & Listening
I used the Symphony and Foxtrot cables in the main system, with one Symphony interconnect pair between my Bryston BDA-3 DAC and my Aric Audio tubed preamp. A second pair connected the preamp to first, the KT120 tubed Audio Research VS55, and then later the solid state Simaudio 760 power amps. As noted above, the cables are directional. The GN-3G plugs were among the most impressive I have encountered. They made the most secure connection I have have seen or felt. The Foxtrot speaker cable ran from the power amps to a pair of Bryston Mini T speakers.
After a few days of so called break in, I was treated to a presentation that was amazingly smooth, balanced, and nicely layered. I noticed a high level of detail retrieval, but at the same time, a sweet, enticing midrange, and perfectly controlled bass. I have had quite a few different brands of cables in my system over the past year and a half, and the Black Rhodium set was among the most impressive in the price to performance ratio. They reminded me of the excellent Wireworld cables I reviewed several months ago. The Wireworld loom, (including power cables) had the lowest noise floor of any cables I have used, but I estimate the Black Rhodium set came astonishingly close. I say estimate, because this review does not include power cables, and the Wireworld loom left my system some time ago.
I recently saw the great British band, Kula Shaker, live, and I cycled through their superb discography with the Black Rhodium cables and these 90’s classic recordings, especially K, and Peasants, Pigs, & Astronauts, were exhilarating, with the perfect amount of excitement, energy, and drive. Tracks like “Great Hosannah”, “Shower Your Love”, and “Knight On The Town” sounded fresh as the day I first heard them, some twenty years ago.
Since Kula Shaker calls on late 60’s acid rock, I dug deep into my favorites from this time period, starting with the 24/96 download of The Jeff Beck Group’s Truth. I highly recommend this remaster as it preserved the intensity and tonal balance of the original LP, but with modern clarity and punch. The system with the Black Rhodium cables was exceptionally good at framing this mix, which was a typical late 60s’ experimental stereo spread.
Streaming a bunch of SACD rips, like Pentangle’s self-titled debut, and Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief, showed the higher the resolution and the better the mastering, the Black Rhodium combo was up to the task. DSD to me sounds exceptionally analog-like, and that is what I heard. It had much of the feel of the original vinyl releases, but gladly, sans surface noise.
Interestingly, I had just purchased a 24-bit download of the Pentangle’s Finale, recordings made during their reunion tour in 2008, which turned out to be their final performances. I found the recording rather stunning, and it was tracked just like I how I prefer, with the feeling of being on stage with the performers. Jacqui McShee’s vocals, although slightly thicker than her 60’s prime, sounded glorious, as were the tones of the legendary guitar duo, the great John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. I would not have changed one iota of the tonal balance of the Black Rhodium presentation here.
I also wanted to hear the cables with brand new recordings, and the 24/96 download of British singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate was intoxicating. Produced by Danger Mouse, it struck a perfect balance between modern sounds and a vintage vibe. The epic title track, sounded huge, with an extended instrumental introduction, passionate backing vocals, and Kiwanuka’ guitar and voice front and center in the mix. The Black Rhodium combo presented the whole thing in a tight, coherent way, with nothing out of place.
The same holds true for Barry Gibb, an icon if there ever was one, who just released his second ever solo album, In The Now. The production is elegant, and the songs are among his strongest batch in decades. The Black Rhodium cables did not cover up the fact that time has not been kind to Gibb’s voice, a thing of wonder in his prime. But this lent a certain authenticity to the album, and showed Gibb had no problem appearing vulnerable, eschewing studio trickery on his vocal tracks. As much as his voice has diminished, there was plenty of feeling and depth to his performances.
Lead designer and founder of Black Rhodium cables, Graham Nalty, published an 11 Step Cable Buying Guide, in which he provides, some very good advice, regardless of what brand you favor. With a few of the things he suggests, I could not agree more. For instance, know your budget, educate yourself on the basics of cable design, understand the differences in conductors and insulation material, pay attention to connector quality, and my favorite, take advice and recommendations, but ultimately make the choice yourself. The last point is essential. Don’t be swayed by positive reviews and flashy marketing. Let your ears and your instincts guide you.
My ears and my instincts tell me Black Rhodium cables are high value, high fidelity cables, that are made in the U.K. They are made to last, and are terminated with excellent connectors. These are not the top of the line products from Black Rhodium, but they impress. Personally, my budget for cables is right in line with the cost of the Foxtrot and Symphony. If you are in the same boat, I would strongly suggest contacting Robert Meeks at engulfaudio to discuss options. It may save you a lot of money down the road, and open up your system to its true potential. I will repeat, let your ears and your system be your guide.
Black Rhodium Foxtrot Speaker Cable: $349 a pair
Black Rhodium Symphony Interconnects: $275 a pair
Contact: Robert Meeks, engulfaudio
Server: Bryston BDP-2
DAC: Bryston BDA-3
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Preamp: Aric Audio Unlimited
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Simaudio 760A
Speaker: Bryston Mini T
Cables:, Wireworld, iFi, Transparent
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Bryston BIT-15, Salamander rack
Music Server: Sonore microRendu
Preamp: Aric Audio Expression
DAC/Streamer: Simaudio 280D
Power Amplifier: Onkyo M5000R
Speaker: Magnepan MMG, Spendor S35R
Accessories: Cable Pro Noisetrapper, iFi iPower, Audience aR6