Stager Silver Solids Interconnects REVIEW 
Home Theater Accessories AV Cables
Written by Andre Marc   
Tuesday, 08 November 2011

Very few categories in high end, perfectionist audio are as controversial as cables. There are endless debates about silver or copper,shielded or not, soldered or crimped, cryo’d or not, and probably dozens more age old arguments. Only one aspect of the whole topic of cables is not up for debate, and that is you need them to connect your components and speakers, like it or not. One design choice that I myself have never thought too much about it is stranded wire vs. solid core wire.

As a matter of fact, I purchased all the cables in my system based on listening evaluations rather than design features.  I chose interconnect cables with silver conductors because I thought they sounded better. Same goes for my speaker cables, which have a network attached box to reduce bandwidth, and with it, supposedly noise. This type of design is generally not approved by purists, but my ears told me something else.

I switched over to silver after doing extensive comparisons in a multi part silver cable over view (part 1 and part 2 ). I found silver to work nicely with lower level signals, in applications like the link from a CD player or DAC to a preamplifier or integrated amp. I felt silver better preserved the delicacy of these signals. I felt it made less of a difference between the preamp and power amp, and on speaker cables, which carry higher level signals. But the source is where it all begins, right?

Silver cables can be awfully expensive. A 1-meter pair of interconnects from various manufacturers can easily run into the thousands. But there are also many smaller companies making affordable, great sounding cables.  Finding them often requires a little bit of digging, but there are rewards aplenty. With all of this in mind, I received two pairs of Stager Silver Solid interconnects, one terminated with RCA, and one terminated with XLR, from Marc Stager.  Stager runs a highly respected sound reinforcement company in New York City. He has been making his solid core silver interconnects for quite a few years now, and has developed a loyal following.  His cables start at $100 per half-meter pair for RCA, and $130 per half-meter pair for XLR.

Design and Materials:


Stager Silver Solids are a refreshingly simple and gimmick free design. They utilize a symmetrical pair of solid core, .999 pure silver wires. Lead free solder is used on all contacts. The connector of choice is the Canare F-10 RCA or a Neutrik XLR. The insulator is Translucent Teflon. Lastly, Caig DeOxit Gold coating is applied to silver for lasting anti-tarnish protection, and to the connectors for perfect electrical contact. I found the workmanship and construction to be first class all the way.

Both the Canare and Neutrik connectors are very well built, and rugged, yet cost a fraction of more exotic, extremely costly connectors like WBT. The Canare and Neutriks terminations made for very secure connections, and it would take some serious abuse to put a dent in them. Color-coded shrink wrap is also applied for channel identification.



Listening:

I realized after a few minutes of listening to music with the Stager cables installed that this was going to be an interesting review. First, they sounded great cold (out of the box), with no extended “burn in” which many audiophiles believe is necessary to let the electrical properties of a cable settle. No matter what you believe, I was pretty astonished, based on their modest appearance, how much musical information and tonal beauty was coming through. In the distant past, I have fallen prey to initially judging cables on appearance. Those with fancy, colorful jackets, logos, and intimidating, mythological names often would predispose prospective buyers into thinking they were getting a superior product. I have been over that for a long time now.

Once I established that I was dealing with a cable that was not to be taken lightly, I sat down for extended listening sessions. The recent Radiohead album, King of Limbs, is a very intricate work, with interlocking rhythms and live instruments mixed with electronica.  I was knocked out at the size of the soundstage and how all the interlocking parts were clearly discernible. I also enjoyed tremendously Shelby Lynne’s brand new self-recorded effort, Revelation Road. Her vocals are the centerpiece, as always, and the self-composed material is strong. It is a very nicely recorded album too. The arrangements are sparse, with a sprinkling of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards. The Stagers were spot on in rendering the tonality of Lynne’s voice. Having seen her live, up close, and un-amplified, I can vouch for it.

I can say the same for another recording I have been using as reference for the past few months or so, Lisa Hannigan’s Passenger.  I thought the Stagers actually produced rounder, and more voluptuous bass and sweeter treble than I had been used to hearing. This continued with every album I chose, and no matter the source. For instance, the 96 Khz, 24 bit download of Wilco’s newest album, The Whole Love, sounded crazy good, despite being a bit over compressed, with some of the most realistic sound I have heard in my room.

Interestingly, the Stagers made my tube amp sound more like a tube amp than ever before. I had a similar thought when I reviewed the Audience aDeptResponse power conditioner. I mean this in the best possible way. Midrange textures were to die for, and there was a beautiful harmonic richness. On top of this is all the musical detail you could wish for. Decay times were long, transient attacks were quick off mark, it was easy to hear the various musical layers in good recordings.

I used the pair of Stager Silver Solids terminated with XLR between the Bryston BDA-1 DAC and the McIntosh MA6600 solid state integrated amp. I heard the same results as with single ended cables.  On the new Miles Davis Quintet four disc box set, Live in Europe, 1967, Davis’s sublime band was spread across the stage, with surprising presence for such a relatively primitive recording.  Backgrounds were dead quiet, even through headphones. According to Marc Stager, the XLR terminated cables also make for a great digital interconnect. He was right, they performed beautifully in the function between a CD transport I currently have in for review and the AES/EBU input of the BDA-1.

Conclusion:

We often assume that audio gear priced for the “budget” crowd is somehow colored, or veers away from neutrality, although maybe pleasantly so. It is rare that an inexpensive amplifier, speaker, or cable can actually seem like it is recovering more musical information than far more expensive ones. But I have to say that is what I heard with my own ears with the Stager Silver Solid interconnects.

I have come to believe that interconnect, speaker, digital, and power cords are essentially components in and of them selves. When choosing a cable for a specific application, I don’t see why you would use any less care than when choosing speakers or electronics. Marc Stager is so sure you like these cables, if you can out your prejudices aside about how insanely reasonable the prices are, that he offers a 30-day money back guarantee. I can't recommend them highly enough. So much so, I am buying several pairs for my self.

 

Interview with Marc Stager, of Stager Sound:

Avrev.com: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to get into the audio cable business?

Marc Stager: I inherited my love of music from two talented and music loving parents. My mom was a fine concert pianist and dad was an excellent amateur violinist and we would go to hear classical music in places like Carnegie Hall and the Met in NYC.

I caught the high-end bug at a hi-fi show in when I was still a kid. Then I built and modded Dyna, and later, Hafler kits. I helped my dad put together a fine Fisher based component system. I remember the AR turntable had a permanent pole motor, which could play with perfect accuracy in either direction. It had a small secondary motor on a short belt to start it turning clockwise. I used to remove that belt and look for secret codes recorded backwards on Beatles records. Drove the old man nuts! (Don't ask about the time I lost the belt.)


I provided live concert systems for outdoor classical concerts in Central Park and outdoors at Lincoln Center for thirteen years and designed and built a wide dispersion, very accurate sounding tri-amped speaker system for those concerts. They still are in active use for special events and shows in and around NYC and currently reside at the acoustically superb Park West Presbyterian church in Manhattan where they are used for concert amplification.


The cable business started when I was trying some ideas for the most transparent, most musically accurate interconnect that could be made. I remember reading a formula for silver cabling by Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg. I made a pair of interconnects based on that formula and they turned out to be superior to any other cable I had ever used - including pricey Kimber and Monster cables. Some friends came by to listen and asked me to make them some, then suggested I could make them and sell them on the Internet. This was back in 1995 and I have been doing that since, The design is still fundamentally the same. Also, I haven't found any connector to improve on the fit and finish - or the sound (or lack thereof), of Canare F-10 RCA's.

Avrev.com: Can you tell us about about the differences between copper and silver as conductors as well as the differences between solid core and stranded wire?

Marc Stager: I can only tell you from experimenting and listening that a pair of single, thin silver (best conductor available) wires inside Teflon (the best dielectric available), tubes without shielding to keep capacitance at a minimum, have proven to be an unbeatable combination to deliver the electrons from one component to the next with an absolute minimum of coloration and distortion - At ANY price. And the best part is they don't need to be ridiculously expensive.

Avrev.com: Your cables are affordable for all audiophiles. Is there anyway to justify interconnects costing twenty costing 40 or 50 times what yours do from other companies?

Marc Stager: Absolutely. If you are in that exalted "1%" with money to burn, and you would like to put them in a display case and show them off as visual art, my cables would not be your first choice. But if you're in the other 99% like myself, and uncompromising audio performance is your primary objective, Stager Silver Solids would be an excellent choice.

Thanks and best regards,

Marc Stager

Stager Sound Systems,
New York City
http://stagersound.com/silver
tel:  212-595-4065
cel: 212-675-6000



Specifications



Stager Silver Solid interconnects

RCA starting at $100 for a .5M pair
XLR
starting at $130 for a .5M pair

Design: Unshielded symmetrical pair - Ultra low 11 pF/ft. capacitance. Outstanding performance as an analog or digital link.
Wire:  .999 pure fine silver solid core wire  24 ga. (.020" diameter) .      
Insulator:  Translucent Teflon. Teflon is the very best insulator available at any price.        
Connectors:   Canare F-10 RCA connectors. Machined solid brass center, Teflon insulator, 24K gold plated contacts, spring strain relief. Beautiful fit and finish. Stager Silver Solids are also available in a three wire balanced configuration with gold tipped Neutrik XLR connectors.        
Construction: Lead free silver solder at all contacts. Color coded Polyolefin heat shrink at ends.  Caig DeOxit Gold coating applied to silver for lasting anti-tarnish protection, and to connectors for perfect electrical contact.        


Review System 1


CD Player: Naim CD5 XS, Bel Canto CDT3
Server: Squeezebox Touch with CIA  VDC-SB power supply
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Preamp: Audio Research SP16, Rogue Perseus Magnum
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables: DH Labs Revelation (IC), Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC),  Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Element Cable Element Cord, (AC)  Shunyata Venom (AC) Pangea AC-9 (AC) Audience powerChord e.(AC)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands,  Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox 3, Marantz NA7004
DAC: CIA VDA-2 with VAC-1 Power Supply
Computer: Dell netbook running Windows XP
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Preamp: Pro-Ject Pre Box SE
Amplifier: Revox A722
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio, Pangea Audio (AC), RS Cables, Element Cable







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