Lately I have taken an interest in small artisan audiophile product manufacturers. The internet has allowed highly skilled entrepreneurs without large established infrastructures to sell their wares directly to consumers, many with trial periods and money back guarantees. You can find tube amplifiers, speakers, and all sorts of components available from small operations, and even one man shops. This overview is part one of a two part survey of four audio cable companies.
As many audiophiles are probably aware of, most high end audio signal cables employ hyper pure copper conductors. Copper is believed by many to be the most "neutral" sounding metal for cables. But many audiophiles and cable designers disagree. Silver, as a conductor, has a strong following in the perfectionist audio community. Silver aficionados believe it offers more detail, more delicate highs, fuller bass, and a deeper soundstage. Detractors of silver say it can sound harsh, or "bright". I, for one, do not believe this to be the case. Silver being labeled as "hot" sounding is a case of a rumor gone wild. Silver has one major technical advantage; when copper oxidizes, the conductivity diminishes. That's not so with silver oxide.
I happen to be a silver cable proponent from a sonic perspective. I specifically prefer it between source and preamp. After much experimentation, I believe silver is silkier, smoother, and more realistic sounding. Of course, this is my specific, subjective preference. I came to arrive at this preference through much experimentation, listening tests, and many cable auditions.
RS Cables was founded in the early 2000's by Richard Sachek, an audiophile frustrated by the astronomical prices of silver cables available from other companies. You can read my colleague Todd Whitesel's great review of the RS silver based cables here: Link. At $99 for a half meter pair, Todd thought they were a superb value. Since Todd beat me the punch on the silver wires, Richard was gracious enough to send me two pairs of his Duet ($299 per half meter pair) interconnects, and one pair of his Pure Palladium ($799 per half meter pair) interconnects. The Duet features a triple nine (.999) pure palladium signal conductor and triple nine silver ground plane conductors. The Pure Palladium is 100% triple nine palladium. RS says the wires are "dead soft" annealed for optimum sonic performance. I asked Sachek to elaborate on this process and offered the following.
“Annealing is when the wire is super heated for a time and then allowed to cool slowly which increases the softness or ductility of the wire. We believe that this process is key to eliminating the "bright" or overly forward sonic characteristic that some audiophiles associate or stereotype with silver cables. The annealing process (actually "dead soft"annealing) is performed at the mill where our raw wire is drawn out. We then apply the Teflon insulation in-house.”
I knew little about Palladium before communicating with Sachek. Palladium is a rare, silvery white metal that was discovered in 1803. Palladium, along with platinum rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium form a group of elements referred to as the platinum group metals. Platinum group metals share similar chemical properties, but palladium has the lowest melting point and is less dense. Palladium is used in a number of industries including medical, dental, energy, chemical, electronics, transportation, and many more. Because of its rare occurrence, it is a very expensive raw material.
The cables also feature tri braid geometry, and virgin Teflon and air dielectrics. The cables are finished with the well reviewed Eichmann Silver Bullet connector as standard. They are light and are easy to work with. I started out by using a half meter length of the Duet between my CD player and preamplifier.
Ok, so how do they sound? In a word, fantastic. Buttery smooth, detailed, clean, and wide open. The midrange was beautifully fleshed out and organic. The higher frequencies were gorgeously rendered as well, with a natural vividness that was very addicting. At the other extreme, bass was taught, tuneful and weighty. No complaints there. After using a half meter length between source and pre, I installed a meter pair between preamp and power amp. What I got was more of what I describe above. Highs were a touch more detailed, and the mids were a hint more fleshed out with an all RS installation. I also tried the half meter Pure Palladium IC between source and power amp. Although they were very, very close in overall sonic signature, the Pure Palladium was a touch, and I mean a touch, more refined.
I had the opportunity to try the Duets and Pure Palladium on a superb solid state integrated amplifier as well. The same characteristics were there. I enjoyed a very natural sounding presentation with no deficiency that I could detect. I believe these cables will sound excellent in the majority of systems out there. This was my first exposure to palladium conductors, and I am very impressed. Certainly, due to the rarity of the metal, they command a premium over the RS Silver Interconnect, but the risk free trial would enable any prospective buyer to compare. Very highly recommended.