Cable manufacturers are springing up all over the place
on the Internet. As I have mentioned before, it is probably because everyone
has their own ideas as to how to make the best cable, and they are
lightweight so they are easy to ship.
Slinkylinks is one of the newcomers. They are based in New Zealand, and
marketed in the USA by The Audio Insider.
It is obvious that physics has a big role in design
and development of DVD players, receivers, amplifiers, and speakers. But,
you might not think that it is such a big deal with - what - just a wire?
Well, it is very important.
Electrical conductors have DC resistance,
capacitance, and inductance, as well as other things like skin effect (a
tendency for high frequencies to travel near the surface of the conductor).
All of these factors get in the way of letting the
electrical signal make it to the end of the conductor looking (and sounding)
just like it did when it entered the conductor.
Because the effects of these factors on conductance
are not absolutely clear, there are lots of cable designs based on various
designers' thoughts as to how they should be controlled.
Slinkylinks takes a very simple approach: (1) Use
silver as the conductor. Silver is a better (about 7% better) conductor than
copper, and although they both oxidize, copper oxide is non-conductive while
silver oxide is a very good conductor (e.g., silver oxide batteries); (2)
Keep the conductors very thin. This minimizes the skin effect. In the case
of the Slinkys, the conductors are only 0.25mm thick (250µ), which is about
the size of a human hair. For the RCA unbalanced interconnects, two conductors are
assigned to the + and two are assigned to the -. For the XLR interconnects, two are for
one hot lead, two for the other, and a fifth silver conductor lies between
the smaller tubes and the outside sleeve, assigned to the -. With Slinkylinks
speaker cables, there are eight conductors, four each for the + and -; (3) Use air as the dielectric. Teflon is good, but
air is better. So, how do you keep the conductor from touching something
when it is suspended in air? You don't. You accept the 4% conductor surface
area touching the surrounding insulation. You have to suspend each conductor
in its own plastic tubing though; (4) Don't use metal shielding, because
such shielding has capacitance that can smear the sound. Of course, this
means you have to be careful where you lay the cables, so that they don't
pick up any stray hum fields.
Slinkylinks Balanced XLR
Slinkylinks Unbalanced RCA
Slinkylinks Speaker Cables
By using silver, since the silver oxide is
conductive, the dielectric is still the air, whereas with copper conductors
suspended in air, the non-conductive copper oxide becomes the dielectric. Dielectrics tend
to store energy and re-release it back into the conductor a fraction of a
second later, smearing the sound. So, the lower the dielectric constant, the
better. Air has a dielectric constant of 1 (defined as 1, with all other
dielectrics compared to air).
So, it sounds simple doesn't it? Well, it is simple.
Sometimes the simple things are the last to show up. Fortunately, it also
keeps things relatively inexpensive to manufacture. No extrusions. No
complicated windings. Just thin
silver wire in plastic tubing. In this case, Slinkylinks have spiraled the
conductors inside the tubing so there is a little slack when you bend the
cables to install them.
The Slinkylinks are packaged in a small can for safe
I tested two pairs of 1.5 Meter XLR balanced
Slinkylinks. One pair connected a Classé CDP-10 Balanced Output CD Player to
a Balanced Audio Technology VK-5i Balanced Preamplifier, and the second pair
connected the preamp to a Balanced Audio VK-75SE Balanced Power Amplifier.
Speakers were Magnepan MG1.6/QR. Speaker cables were River Cables FLEXYGY or
Analysis Plus Oval 9.
I have seen a couple of reviews of this product
elsewhere, and they said the cables sounded bright at first. I did not hear
that. I was struck with an immediate sense of great detail. However, I used
balanced interconnects rather than RCA unbalanced, and my reference
components for this test are all triode tube in Class A. Tubes tend to have
a smoother sound than solid state, so that may account for the difference.
However, the other reviews stated that the brightness calmed down with time.
In any case, I loved the sound of the Slinkylinks.
As I get older, and my hearing deteriorates, I appreciate all the detail
that I can get, and the Slinkys gave me plenty.
For example, harpsichords make their sounds by a
piece of leather that plucks the string (as compared to a piano that uses
felt hammer pads). This plucking produces a hugely detailed transient that
is difficult to reproduce. Any weakness along the way, and the transient
goes flat. The Slinkys were definitely not a weak link in this process, and
I heard everything that was there in the recording. In fact, it was a very
big improvement over some generic XLR interconnects that I had in the system
at the time.
The increase in detail made for a better soundstage
as well, producing depth that is not there with lesser cables. Even if it is
a single instrument, in my case classical piano sonatas, the soundstage
depth improvement is still noticeable, because a piano has depth itself
(e.g., a 12 foot concert grand piano). (I did not notice so much difference
with a single human voice though.)
Orchestral pieces were rich and deep too. I listen
to a lot of ensemble recordings, such as those that have four stringed
instruments, or several strings and an oboe. All of my recordings sounded
excellent with the Slinkylinks.
Jazz also was more exciting with the Slinkys. I am a
drummer and very sensitive to the overtones of cymbals. They sure had me
tapping my feet to the beat.
We only tested the XLR interconnects here. The
Slinkylinks are so good, we plan to extend our tests to the speaker cables
Proper use of physics, and innovative minds, have
come up with a real winner in the Slinkylinks cable designs. They sound great and are
relatively inexpensive for something that works so well and contains
precious metals. Audio Insider has a money back guarantee, so these are well
worth trying out in your own system.
- John E. Johnson, Jr. -