One of my first initiations into the world of high-end audio came over ten
years ago when I was unexpectedly confronted with a choice of interconnects.
As I was about to purchase a Rotel CD player, the dealer told me I would
have to spend at least $78 for a pair of Audioquest Ruby interconnects in
order to hear what the player had to offer.
I was incensed! $595 for the CD player, plus $78 for the interconnects, plus
tax? No way!!! Why in the world wouldn't the Radio Shack look-alike
interconnects that came free with the player suffice?
As I was screaming bloody murder, the dealer continued to urge me to try the
wires. After they hosed me down, toweled me off, and presented me with a box
of chocolates, I reluctantly consented. Just to prove how crazy the whole
thing was, I also took home a $110 pair of AudioQuest Quartz interconnects,
positive that they would sound no different. I'll show them, was the gist of
my internal dialogue.
But just in case I was about to make a fool of myself, I felt a need to
cover my bases. Before returning home, I headed to another high-end dealer
and borrowed a $55 pair of MIT interconnects. I was certain that, even if
Rotel's stock interconnects weren't quite as good as the others, MIT's $55
interconnects would do the trick.
The comparison was a no-brainer. Rotel's stock interconnects stank compared
to the Ruby. The less expensive MIT conveyed less information than the Ruby,
but was light years ahead of Rotel's freebies. The worst news, however, was
that there was no way getting around the fact that the $110 Quartz sounded
the best of the lot. To paraphrase our dear departed Gertrude, there was so
much more there, there. I bowed my head, shuffled my feet, shelled out $110
plus tax, and went home to enjoy.
As I handed over my money, I was given a pamphlet from AudioQuest that
explained why their technology was superior to any else's. But when I then
read literature from other companies, they debunked AudioQuest's technology
and praised their own. Many claims ran directly counter to others. In short
order, I learned the cardinal rule of audiophile shopping: No matter what a
manufacturer has to say, it's how it sounds with the equipment you mate it
with that matters.
Skip ahead well over a decade to the present. For the past several years, my
speaker cable and interconnects have mostly consisted of Nordost products. I
initially listened to CDs via balanced Quattro Fil digital interconnects,
single-ended Quattro Fil interconnects, and SPM speaker cable. Then I had
the good fortune to upgrade to Nordost Valhalla interconnects, digital
interconnects, and speaker cable. My rave review of these top-of-the-line Nordost products appeared in the July, 2002 edition of Secrets.
Since writing that review, a slew of major system upgrades has greatly
increased my understanding of and appreciation for Nordost products. The
only components and accessories remaining in my system from July, 2002 are
the PS Audio Power Plant (significantly upgraded with MultiWave II), a
Michael Green Ultra Rack, and assorted Shakti Stones. My power cables have
been upgraded to Elrod EPS and EPS Signature, and the power source itself
has been improved thanks to a dedicated 30-amp line and PS Audio Ultimate
Equally important, I moved from Chez Serinus' 14.5' wide x 17' deep x 8.5'
high listening space (complete with spongy floor) to Casa Bellecci-Serinus'
audiophile dream of a listening area. The room is 25.5' deep and 9'2” high,
opens to 37' on either side of the speakers, and boasts a much more solid
floor. As a result, the system sounds far more neutral, revealing,
three-dimensional, and musically involving. Equally important, the bass is
far more under control. This leaves me in a much better position to evaluate
how a change of cabling can affect sound.
Well over a year ago, my colleague John Marks urged me to take a listen to
WireWorld's top-of-the-line cabling. Thanks to John's intervention, David
Salz of WireWorld suggested I review a complete complement of Gold Eclipse 5
interconnects and speaker cable.
David and I finally met at CES 2004, where we discussed at length what
cabling I needed for my system. I made it a point to discuss my tight
equipment and music reviewing schedule, and to request cables that had been
broken-in beforehand. A few months later, a large box filled with Gold
Eclipse 5 single-ended interconnects and bi-wired speaker cable, Gold
Starlight 5 balanced digital audio cables, and Silver Electra 5 power cords,
arrived for review.
They Even Have a
Cable Comparator Disc to go With the Cables
Even before the cabling arrived, David sent me WireWorld's Cable Comparator
Disc. This disc features a live jazz vocal performance by Jackie Ryan, and
procedes to play it first through a “direct connection,” then through six
progressively more expensive models of WireWorld cabling. For comparison, it
also plays the performance through cables from other manufacturers. One of
these comparisons involves Nordost Valhalla, my reference cable. Perfect!
The final track plays the music through WireWorld Atlantis 5 in reverse
I must confess that the Cable Comparator Disc got temporarily misplaced when
I moved from Chez Serinus to Casa Bellecci-Serinus. When I finally dug out
the CD ROM and took a listen, I had already completed my initial sonic
evaluations of the cabling.
I soon discovered that Gold Eclipse 5 is not included on the disc. When I
asked David Salz about this, he provided the following explanation:
“It is unfortunate that the Gold Eclipse 5 was not finished in time for it
to be included on the Cable Comparator Disc, because it would have produced
a track that matched the direct track almost perfectly. The Super Eclipse 5
sounds closer to the Gold Eclipse 5 than other cables, but falls a bit short
of the standards set by the Gold Eclipse 5 in the sonic parameters that most
other cables do very poorly on. It is slightly less dynamic, has slightly
more masking and coloration, and has slightly less spatial resolution than
the Gold Eclipse 5.”
Be that as it may, my personal reactions to the disc's comparison between
Super Eclipse 5 and Nordost Valhalla will be discussed later in this review.
They are augmented by comments from nine members of the Bay Area Audiophile
Society, who generously offered to devote time to carefully listening and
sharing their reactions at the start of a BAAS Stillpoints demo recently
held at Casa Bellecci-Serinus. I believe our collective reactions further
validate my impressions of WireWorld's Gold Eclipse 5.
Some WireWorld History
David Salz began experimenting with cabling almost 25 years ago. As he
explained to me,
“I was dissatisfied with the various colorations and masking effects I heard
when I compared the leading brands of interconnects between my old Audio
Research components. So I decided to experiment with a ‘direct connection.'”
Eliminating interconnects, David joined his two classic Audio Research units
and eventually his other components together. This involved putting units
back to back and connecting output to input, sometimes by removing input and
output jacks and connecting the internal wiring of different components,
other times by making a little extension jack of similar metal to the jacks
on the units. What David heard as a consequence sounded so much closer to
what he heard in live performance and during actual recording that he
resolved to develop cables that would enable components to deliver a similar
level of “truth.”
A quarter of a century later, WireWorld has become one of the most
universally recognized and respected names in the cable industry. The
company's core design philosophy remains the same as at its inception: to
develop cabling that conveys sound as close as possible to a “direct
connection.” To achieve this goal, David has combined commonly accepted
engineering principles with original research. The current product lines,
which are certainly not “Let's put this all together and see how it sounds”
designs, move progressively closer to David's ideal of the “Direct
Connection” as price increases.
For those wondering why there is no Gold Eclipse 5 digital interconnect in
the line, WireWorld has chosen to name its best digital cables Gold
Starlight 5. The design technology is actually the same as that of the
analog cables, except for being tuned to match the 75 Ohm (unbalanced) and 110
Ohm (XLR balanced) impedance
standards required for digital audio connections. For technical information,
please see the WireWorld website.
Preparation and Essential Caveats
I initially went whole hog and replaced all my Nordost Valhalla
interconnects and speaker cable with WireWorld Gold Eclipse 5 and Gold
Starlight 5. All connections were carefully cleaned with 99% isopropyl
alcohol before installation. I made sure that no cables were touching each
other, that a good 2” remained between cabling and power cables, and that no
cables touched the floor. The entire system, including the amp, ran for 24
hours before I took a first listen, and remained on for days afterwards to
allow further settling in. (I used the solid-state Soaring Audio amp for
this purpose, preserving my Jadis' tubes and saving money on electricity in
the process). Ultimate fine-tuning was accomplished via the Ayre break-in
and demagnetizing disc.
As I was in the midst of writing this review, I contacted David to clarify
some of the historical and technical information cited above. (I of course
did not share my findings with him; that would constitute a breach of
reviewer integrity). I cite below an e-mail received from David and my
“Dear Jason. I'm pleased to know that you included my comments. The cables
were burned-in on our Cable Cooker for at least 24 hours, which helps them
along, but they still improve significantly over the first few months of
use. I agree with you regarding the adequacy of the break-in the cables
received before your evaluation. However, I am a bit concerned that you
cleaned the Pro Gold off of the plugs, because they sound better and perform
more consistently with it on. I'm sending you a package of Pro Gold wipes
“Dear David. I have Pro Gold here. Whether I used it after cleaning the
connections, I do not recall. Had you told me to use Pro Gold, sent me
wipes, or included a note to use Pro Gold or another contact cleaner, I
certainly would have done so.
“When we discussed the review, I made absolutely clear that as someone who
is constantly reviewing equipment and music, I am not in a position to burn-in cables over extended lengths of time. Replacing my reference cables with
others not broken in while reviewing music, preamps, DACs, or what have you
would throw off my ability to clearly discern what is going on. It would
compromise the integrity of my reviews.
“I am certainly not in a position to burn in speaker cables. The months you
say are necessary for optimal sound would put significant wear on the 18
tubes in my Jadis Defy 7, some of which are NOS, and it would cost a bundle.
Furthermore, the sound system is in my living room, and I do not live alone.
Nor do I wish to live alone as a result of my audio endeavors.
“For all these reasons, I indicated that break-in on your end was essential
for reviewing the cables.
“I shall include discussion of all this in the review.”
The lack of extended cable break-in raises some valid questions. Does what I
heard represent an adequate assessment of WireWorld interconnects, or does
it instead report how they sound after minimal break-in? If I didn't use Pro
Gold, how skewed is my listening experience? Does WireWorld make their
recommendation of Pro Gold available to new owners? If so, why did they not
share it with me?
The only other essential qualifier to mention about this review is that the
impedance match or mismatch between cables and equipment determines how the
cables sound in any given system. In my case, I took care to use two
different amps when assessing the sound of Gold Eclipse 5 and Gold Starlight
5. But just in case there was a mismatch with the Theta Gen. VIII, the
heavily modified Sony transport, or the Khorus X Mk II, readers should be
all means borrow a fully broken-in set of WireWorld cabling from a dealer,
apply Caig Pro Gold, and evaluate the results before accepting my
conclusions as the final word on WireWorld.
Finally, please note that the prices of WireWorld Gold Eclipse 5 and Nordost
Valhalla are comparable. Gold Starlight 5 digital interconnects, however,
cost considerably less than Nordost Valhalla digital interconnects.
Before beginning my evaluations, I decided to take notes in stream of
consciousness fashion. I trust that quotes from my notes will provide
insight into my listening process and conclusions.
I first listened with the Soaring Audio SLC-300 amp in place. [See review in
archives]. I chose Chesky's Entre Amigos with Rosa Passos and Ron Carter.
What I missed what the “extra felicity” experienced with the Jadis Defy 7
and Nordost Valhalla. “This simply does not touch me in the same way.”
Then I listened to Reference Recordings' Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances. I
recently played this disc at the most impressive Stillpoints support systems
demo conducted for the Bay Area Audiophile Society. Several attendees
immediately resolved to buy the disc because it is such a good test for a
system, and so beautiful to boot.
I heard plenty of body, “maybe some more information in the mid-bass than I
have heard before. But where is the grace in the strings? Is the WireWorld
cabling enabling me to better hear the Soaring Audio amp's limits? I'm
noting a recognizable sonic signature with everything I'm auditioning. Why
isn't the sound taking off for me?”
Listening to the opening track of Abyssinia Infinite's gorgeous and rousing
Zion Roots featuring the remarkable vocal soloist “Gigi” Shibabaw plus
chorus, saxophone, and drumming, I admired the midrange, but lamented the
absence of sparkle on highs. “Are those diamonds or is it zirconium?” I
queried. “Isn't the sound overly opaque and thick? There's a certain
subtlety, a certain sense of overtones and undertones that's missing.”
But then I listened to the second track, complete with deep drums. The deep
bass seemed very solid and the midrange very rich. It reminded me of
complaints from others (not myself) that Nordost Valhalla sounds a bit thin
and lacks bass. But then I began to wonder, “is the bass more in control here, or just more one-dimensional?”
Finally, I listened to the exquisite Karina Gauvin sing a few of
Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne. Oh how I love this music. It's so
beautiful. But the sound I'm hearing has the same strengths and weaknesses
as with everything else I've auditioned.
I clearly needed to return my reference Jadis Defy 7 to its front and center
position to figure out what was going on. After cleaning connections and
installing, I waited an hour for warm-up, played break-in and demagnetizing
tones, and made sure all cables were optimally positioned.
Once again, the liquid, transparent presentation of the Jadis won me over.
Returning to the Songs of the Auvergne, whose second track includes big
thwacks on a drum, I noted that the bass was excellent. The drums again
seemed firmer and more of a piece than I was accustomed to hearing. The
tonal balance also seemed very neutral, with the bass clearer and more
defined than ever. But the highs did not seem to sing as I would have wished
them to. There was a lack of air and mystery, a lack of the magic that I
usually experience when listening to this performance.
Sensing things were sounding a bit flat, I decided to leave break-in tones
running at very low volume all night.
Karina Gauvin certainly sounded better the next morning. The Jadis' prized
warm, smooth midrange was present in spades, and the bass was very solid.
But the sound remained drier than I was accustomed to hearing. Even with
volume turned up, the studio seemed somewhat dry and overly damped. That is
certainly not the case. I also began to question once again whether I was
hearing all the overtones and undertones of voice and instruments, or mainly
the leading tone.
Back to Rosa Passos and Ron Carter, strums on the two guitars seemed dry,
and the maracas or whatever they were shaking didn't resound that sharply. I
felt the same about the brushes on the drums. Ron Carter's bass, on the
other hand, was very clean and clear, with pitches very well defined.
After some additional listening, I replaced the Gold Stardust 5 digital
interconnect with Nordost Valhalla, gave them a day to settle in, and noted
the differences. I wanted to see to what extent the digital interconnect
might be responsible for what I was hearing.
Now I heard more of the expected, natural edge on Passos' voice, and more
life to the sound. But the music still seemed less involving that I was
accustomed to. When I played the Songs of the Auvergne, I wanted the violins
to have more of a leading edge, the piccolo to ring out more.
I found myself writing, “It's like the whole chamber orchestra isn't there.
Are the instruments present in all their complexity? I feel I'm lacking
colors. This is a bit like listening to solid-state amplifiers. I hear the
leading edge and the attack of the tone, but the decay is truncated. That's
the beauty of tubes. They may not provide all the slam, but the overtones
and undertones, the decay of sound in the hall can be appreciated in
When I switched to Rosa Passos and Ron Carter, I realized that her voice was
not located out front, with the instruments behind her. The midrange and
bass of the accompaniment were predominating over the higher sounds of her
When I next replaced the Gold Eclipse 5 interconnect with Nordost Valhalla,
the breathiness I'm accustomed to hearing around Passos' voice returned.
Space between instruments seemed quieter, and the brushes on the drums had a
recognizably wetter and more natural sound. The magic of this recording was
Returning to the Songs of the Auvergne, I noted that the instruments seemed
more naturally positioned in a live acoustic space. The music was drawing me
in, inviting me to listen more.
My final step, of course, was to remove the Gold Eclipse 5 speaker cables.
With all Valhalla in place, I experienced a greater sense of boundlessness
on the Rachmaninoff. This was due in large part to the extra glow and space
I was hearing around the orchestra. I found myself not needing to play music
as loud as before to experience lift-off.
The Cable Comparator Disc
As mentioned above, twelve members of the Bay Area Audiophile Society
carefully took time to compare the “Direct Connection” track on WireWorld's
disc with the Super Eclipse 5 and Nordost Valhalla tracks. All our listening
was done through my reference system using Nordost Valhalla, which of course
affects the quality of the listening experience to begin with. Note that
since the disc was issued, Gold Eclipse 5 and Gold Starlight have eclipsed
Super Eclipse 5 as the top-of-WireWorld's cable line. One would thus expect
it to sound better than Super Eclipse 5, with less of its perceived faults.
My big question to WireWorld is why in the world did they choose this
particular recording? Jackie Ryan's voice sounds very plush in the lower
tones, with an extra midrange emphasis that may in part be due to the choice
of microphone and/or recording equipment. Maybe her voice really does have
all that low resonance, but I'd need to hear her live and unamplified to be
What's most curious is that when Ryan sings out strong and rises high in her
register, the voice not only gets thinner and a bit edgy, but the perceived
volume actually seems to decrease. My hit is that she either moves the mike
away from her mouth when she sings louder (as do many vocalists in live
situations to avoid overloading or blasting the people closest to the
speakers), or the recording involves compression. This is NOT something I
otherwise experience with well-recorded jazz performances played back on my
A recording with such limitations hardly seems the best choice for a Cable
Comparator Disc designed to, among other things, underscore a cable's
ability to convey macro- and micro-dynamics. I know a lot of us listen to
and enjoy jazz, but a demonstration-quality recording is essential.
I also believe that you cannot full assess a system's strengths and
weaknesses by listening solely to a small jazz combo. You can tell far more
about the strengths and limitations of cables and components by playing a
well-recorded orchestral disc that moves between soft and triple forte, as
well as between a single solo instruments and full ensemble. The value of
WireWorld's Cable Comparator Disc is noticeably diminished by their choice
Nonetheless, one must make do with what one is given. I thought the
WireWorld Super Eclipse 5 gave more midrange emphasis to the voice than the
Nordost Valhalla, and rendered the overall vocal presentation a little thin.
The wire brushes on the drums weren't as sharp, the edge around the voice
was a little fuzzy, and the high portion of the vocal range didn't seem as
strong. The Nordost's high level of detail, as well as the brilliance and
delicacy of its highs set it apart.
Here is other feedback I received. Reading it gives you a wonderful sense of
what different people listen for, and what they perceive as a result. In all
cases, people are comparing both cables to the sound of the “Direct
1. The WireWorld seemed veiled, The Nordost seemed a little bright, a little
weaker in the bass, and a bit etched.
2. The WireWorld was very veiled and unnatural, far more two-dimensional
than the Nordost. The Nordost was better at conveying three-dimensional
space, although a little harsh and a bit pressed in upper frequencies.
3. Both wires lacked midbass, but the Nordost had more.
4. WireWorld had a great degree of veiling and dynamic compression. It
diminished color, and was not as interesting to listen to as the Nordost.
5. The WireWorld made me relax on the brushes, the Nordost was more vivid.
6. The “direct connection” seemed very nice and live. The WireWorld
diminished musical impact and lacked low volume harmonics. The Valhalla also
committed these sins, but to a lesser degree.
7. The self-described contrarian in the group found the “direct connection”
very compressed, the bass boomy, and the cymbals smeared. The Nordost came
closest to reproducing these deficiencies, and was a bit more refined on
highs. I later commented to him that I thought he was reacting more to the
limitations of the source material than anything else.
8. The “direct connection” had the best soundstage. The overtones on the
piano were closest to what I hear at Yoshi's during jazz performances. The
Nordost had a little less bass but was very natural on the vocals.
Note from Editor: I did not bench test these
cables, as the review was completed before I acquired the test equipment. At
some point in the future, I will obtain some more WireWorld cables, bench
test them, and add the data to our
Until David Salz lowered the boom on me, as it were, by telling me that
cabling I had expected to be fully broken-in had actually received precious
little break-in time, I dreaded writing this review. If the differences
reported above when comparing the Cable Comparator Disc's tracks seem
marked, the actual experience of comparing the supposedly superior Gold
Eclipse 5 to Valhalla in my reference system revealed much greater
differences. That's not fun to write about.
How much of the differences I heard are due to how the Cable Comparator Disc
is recorded, how much to possible impedance mismatches, how much to
insufficient break-in, and how much to actual differences between the sounds
of the cabling when fully broken-in, I cannot tell with certainty. There are
simply too many variables at play here.
What cannot be questioned by anyone either comparing cabling or listening to
the Cable Comparator Disc is that cables absolutely make a difference. The
same differences you can hear between interconnects and speaker cable on the
disc you will also hear between power cables. Anyone who listens to the disc
and denies there are differences between the sound of different cables may
be suffering from serious hearing loss. Of course, the best situation would
be double-blind actual tests of the cables in a controlled situation, but
that was not feasible. And, we don't know exactly how the comparator disc
was made. Lastly, we did not have bench tests for these cables, which is
What is also certain is that, to the extent my perceptions reflect the
reality of fully broken-in Gold Eclipse 5 and Gold Starlight 5, the cable's
excellent midrange and strong bass response make it a natural for
solid-state amplification and/or digital equipment that tends to reproduce
highs in an overly etched, brittle, harsh, or classically “digital” manner.
In such cases, I would greatly prefer it to the even more neutral,
transparent, and truthful Nordost Valhalla.
WireWorld Gold Eclipse 5 has received many glowing endorsements. The only
way to know for sure if it is right for you is to take home a fully
broken-in sample, apply that Caig Pro Gold, allow it to settle in, and
listen for yourself. If your local dealer cannot supply WireWorld , an
invaluable organization such as The Cable Company allows you to sample an
assortment of cabling for a small percentage of the actual purchase price.
The money you shell out is credited toward your final purchase.
- Jason Serinus -
Digital Front End:
Sony 707ES transport modified by Alexander Peychev of APL Hi-Fi
Theta Gen VIII DAC/Preamp
Perpetual Technologies P-1A with Modwright modified Monolithic Power Supply
and Revelation Audio umbilical power cable (not currently in use)
Jadis Defy 7 Mk III or IV modified with a Siltech silver harness
Talon Khorus X speakers MK. II (with latest modifications and Bybee filters)
Nordost Valhalla single-ended interconnects and balanced digital
Nordost Valhalla bi-wired speaker cable
Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II balanced interconnects for analog
Harmonic Tech Magic One interconnects for DVD-V
Powercables: Nordost Valhalla; Elrod EPS Signature 2 and 3 plus EPS 1, 2,
and 3; with Harmonic Tech and AudioPrism SuperNatural S2 on other
PS Audio P600 Power Plant power synthesizer with MultiWave II
PS Audio Ultimate Outlet; PS Audio Power Ports
Michael Green Deluxe Ultrarack, Basic Racks and room treatment,
Ganymede supports in main digital chain, Michael Green Audiopoints, and
Black Diamond Racing Cones elsewhere
Shakti stones for Amp and Theta
Bedini Dual Beam Ultraclarifier
Audioprism Stoplight and Marigo as yet unreleased Signature Mat for CDs
Sheffield/XLO degmagnetiser and break-in disc and Ayre demagnetizing disc