Black Rhodium Foxtrot Speaker and Symphony Interconnect Cables 
Home Theater Accessories AV Cables
Written by Andre Marc   
Friday, 28 October 2016

There have never been more purveyors of audio cables marketed to the audiophile community than there are currently. New companies appear monthly, and at every audio show there are new smiling faces displaying their new cable products. You could argue that there many of these new entities that are offering nothing new, and just copying tried and true designs with attractive cosmetics.

You could also argue that so many choices is a great thing for consumers, and I would tend to agree. But there are also many ways to filter out the contenders from the pretenders. First, look for those who have stood the test of time, with satisfied customers, a good number of impartial reviews, and a varied product line.

One such company is the British firm Black Rhodium Cables.

Black Rhodium has been making high-end audio cables in the U.K. for over twenty years, and have an extensive dealer network in Europe and are distributed to numerous countries across several continents. They now have a dedicated North American distributor in Robert Meeks, principle of engulfaudio, based in Mobile, Alabama. Robert sent me a pair of the Foxtrot speaker cables, with bananas, which sell for $349 a pair, and two pairs of RCA terminated Symphony interconnects which retail for $275 a pair.  These cables are just above the Black Rhodium’s entry level offerings.

Black Rhodium cables have been designed from the onset by Graham Nalty, an engineer by trade, with a specific set of goals and scientific principles at hand. Nalty has a clear and distinct vision for cable design, and among his most important findings are the following:

  • The Best Quality Conductor Gives the Most Musical Sound
  • Cable Insulation Does More Than Just Insulate the Wire
  • If The Best Metals Are Far Too Expensive, Use Them to Plate The Surfaces
  • Improving Depth, Clarity and Timing by Deep Cryogenic Treatment
  • Low Microphony Design
  • Cable Directionality Important
  • Reducing the Effects Of Magnetic Distortion Via Conductor Spacing
  • Reducing Mechanical Vibration
  • Connector Quality is Essential


It is clear from reading many of Nalty’s writings that a good amount of brainpower, experimentation, and a very open minded approach were essential in formulating the Black Rhodium product line over the years. Nalty talks about getting inspiration from unlikely places, whether it be from customers, dealers, musicians, or via happy accidents. There is also a distinct humble attitude when Nalty describes his design techniques, noting that there is no magic involved, just taking the best possible ingredients and arranging them in the best way through trial and error.

Nalty has made sure to be open to changes in design as things progress. If it means improved performance. He has said: “over the years I have studied many aspects of cable behaviour. The more that I learn about cables and how they influence sound quality, the more that I find there is more to learn.  There are no hard and fast rules for designing a cable to win the most influential awards.  In the same way a chef will use good quality ingredients to their own recipe, the cable designed uses good quality materials and scientific processes in the right combination to deliver the optimum solution at a saleable price. There are just so many engineering design principles to consider and the best cables are designed by simply making the best choices.”

Let’s take a quick look at both the Foxtrot speaker cable and the Symphony interconnects, starting with the speaker cables. The Foxtrot, like all their other cables, are hand built at the Black Rhodium factory in Derby, England. The touted design features include ultra low ‘proximity effect’ magnetic field distortion due to added inter-conductor distance, good flexibility, mechanical vibration suppression materials, RFI noise reduction technology, Gold-plated Z plugs, and low Transient Phase Distortion, via proprietary design.
 
According to Black Rhodium, “‘Transient Phase Distortion’ is reduced by using thicker insulation than is usual in speaker cables, increasing the distance between conductors and thereby reducing the magnetic field seen in each conductor wire as a result of the magnetic field created by the current in the other conductor wire. A further increase in the distance between conductors is achieved by use of the attractive cable braid and this further reduces ‘Proximity Effect’ distortion.” 

My Foxtrot review samples came terminated with the above-noted gold plated banana Z plugs. Bananas are generally my speaker cable termination of preference.

The Symphony interconnect has the following design and construction features:

  • Silver plated copper conductors
  • Low loss PTFE inner insulation
  • Silver plated copper braided screen
  • Advanced quality control of the wire direction in the manufacturing process to ensure consistent superior stereo imaging and low background noise
  • Exclusive Black Rhodium post production process
  • Terminated with Graham Nalty Legacy Range GN-3G RCA Connectors


If you think the GN-3G connectors look very much like the acclaimed Eichmann plugs, you would be partly correct. The design of the GN-3 plugs were inspired by the Eichmann Bullet plugs, of which thousands have previously been sold on Black Rhodium cables, but are made by one of the largest connector manufacturers, after successful testing, with small changes specified by Graham Nalty that would enable additional technology to be applied to the connection between cable and plug.  I found the workmanship on the cable is top notch, and rivals cables I have used costing ten times as much in this regard.





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.

 

http://www.avrev.com/images/stories/equipaccessories/blackrhodium/symphonystereogn3g.jpg

 

Conclusion

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.


Specifications


Black Rhodium Foxtrot Speaker Cable: $349 a pair
Black Rhodium Symphony Interconnects: $275 a pair
Contact: Robert Meeks, engulfaudio
sales@engulfaudio.com
Phone: 251.421.0778
www.engulfaudio.com
www.blackrhodium.us

 

Review System 1


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

Review System 2


Music Server: Sonore microRendu
Preamp: Aric Audio Expression
DAC/Streamer: Simaudio 280D
Power Amplifier: Onkyo M5000R
Speaker: Magnepan MMG, Spendor S35R
Cables: Wireworld
Accessories: Cable Pro Noisetrapper, iFi iPower, Audience aR6






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