Australia’s ETI Audio, manufactures cables, speakers, resonance control and termination products. The RibbonTek Speaker Cables, priced at $700/2.5 meter pair are available terminated in both gold plated spade and bayonet styles. Nicely sheathed and well terminated, hand-written labeling gives them a handmade mojo and the spades are wide and thin, making them easy for stacking, should the need arise. They come in a well-constructed black box that implies quality and thoughtfulness on the part of the maker. The packaging reminds me of how my reference cables, Synergistic Research Alpha Quad Active speaker cables arrived. A nice thick black box is useful for all things audio.
It must be said that I try my best to review products seriously. I try to not learn anything about a company and it’s product until my impressions of the product are formed. I also try not to give a critical listen to a product before it’s properly burned in and ready for review. The only thing I had heard was that these cables might very well be ‘giant killers.’ Of course, comments like that just make me suspicious and send me off wondering if it’s PR spin or street talk.
Confession time… I listened to these as soon as they were in one of my systems. I slipped them into a smaller, all solid state system and turned on some music, curious about that claim I had heard. ‘Damn! these babies are detailed!’ I thought. A moment later, I realized the speakers were connected to a pair of old AR M1 bookshelf speakers, which led to another expletive as the AR M1’s are known for having rather hot tweeters. I’ve tamed them somewhat by placing a metal ring with a layer of rice paper held over the tweeters by magnets, but then decided to re-connected them to my Spica TC-60 loudspeakers. I put on some music and left the room - gotta do this right.
ETI’s description of their RibbonTek speaker cables with Gold Plated Spades® (their notations) from the box s as follows: Superior metallurgy. Oxygen Free High Conductivity Copper (OFHC) with 24k gold-flashing. Optimised thickness, mass and surface area. Streamlined geometry for steady, unimpeded electron flow and minimal EMF interference.
Okay, ETI’s production people missed a type-o [optimized] on one of their labels. I come from and advertising background and made a few in my day. No points off… it happens.
After some brief listening sessions and burning in with my XLO CD system burn in track over the next month, I sat down for some serious listening. Ironically, my first impression turned out to be true - these cables are detailed.
First up, CD playing. I listened to tracks from ’Jungle Boldie’ (2010) by by Ornstein, Overwater and Kegel, a hybrid SACD-DSD offering from Turtle Rec. Thru my Marantz CD 63 player, ’Dancing the Waves’ played with deep round bass, wonderfully woody textures to the reeds and nice depth to the soundstage. The tight percussive sounds and wood block clicks and clacks tell you quickly that these are very responsive cables, capable of presenting great pacing and dynamic contrasts. They give the listener a full range of dynamics with snappy transient response and do justice to the micro dynamics within the recording. There was no evident smearing or compression to my ears during the louder passages. It honestly felt like the volume had been turned up on the preamp.
Depending on the speakers I’m using on my solid state system, I can run very short 30 inch lengths of vintage Straightwire Maestro to each bridged to mono amp sitting isolated below each Spica TC-60. The same track thru the Maestro’s showed a slightly hooded bass, a bit of congestion at higher volume and less dynamic drive. The RibbonTek’s had a crisp, but never strident, edge that I felt missing. The Maestro’s just felt sluggish and lacking of rhythmic timing, stumbling a bit to keep up with the music. From that point on, my comparisons were made with my Synergistic’s.
Initially, with my Opera Consonance M100SE integrated tube amp, the RibbonTek’s laid further back with slightly less crispness to the transients (these are tubes, after all), but after a day of burn in, they delivered music that was open, dynamic and notably foot-tapping. A quick spin of Dave Holland’s ‘Prism’ on vinyl, Side D yielded a full woody articulated bass from Holland and wide and dynamic drums from Harland. I admit to greatly disliking Kevin Eubanks’ playing on this disk - I find his guitar tone off-putting and his playing lacking emotion. I respond to a more bluesy approach with less shredding. His approach reminds me of Di Meola’s early clinical playing style. The times when he wasn’t playing yield very nice interplays by the band’s other members, making this record worth a listen. The RibbonTek’s do a great justice to this well-recorded disk.
After a listen to Chesky’s ‘Light Classics, Volume 2’s first two tracks on the RibbonTek’s, I switched in my Synergistic Research Alpha Quad Active’s but kept the jumpers in so they didn’t get a bi-wired advantage. The same tracks showed the SR’s quite capable, with adequate pacing, ample dynamics and slightly better depth to the soundstage (thanks to their active design) when compared to the RibbonTek’s. I did note the SR’s to be a bit brittle during some of the louder passages, with noticeably less sparkle to the chimes and other micro dynamic goodies that abound in this great recording. On the other hand, the RibbonTek’s showed more dynamic range and presented the lighter musical flourishes with nice body and added presence. They didn’t reach as deep into the soundstage but they are smoother, more authoritative cables and presented superior instrument textures. A listen to Puccini’s ’Tosca - Prelude to Act lll’ and Mussorgsky’s ‘Prelude to Act l,’ with their wonderful honey colored strings, sweet ‘thereness’ to the plucked notes and wonderfully sonorous ‘blats’ from horns bare witness to the superiority of the RibbonTek’s.
Christian McBride’s wonderful ’Out Here’ (2013) on the Mack Avenue label trio effort was next up. The opening track ‘Ham Hocks and Cabbage’ sets the tone for this great disk. Thru the RibbonTek’s, there is a very nice bloom without bloat to the bass with very subtle micro dynamics evident throughout the recording, almost as though the instruments themselves are whispering to one another sans players. I love the skins and cymbals on this disk. Dynamics abound here. The RibbonTek’s handled this disk with aplomb.
Tord Gustavsen’s ‘The Well’ CD (2012) on ECM shows how a creative lineup can accompany keys. The multitude of delicate and inventive secondary sounds coming from the band - warm clicks from the snare’s rim, the drummers inventive play of cymbals, sax spittle from the player barely blowing and a light and airy bass accompaniment were well presented by the RibbonTek’s. These cables present detail without being in any way fatiguing.
When playing the CD ’Weightless’ by the Becca Stevens Band (Sunnyside Records 2011), the RibbonTek’s rendered the instruments and vocals very realistically, sounding quite live. The range of dynamics was impressive and the playing quite percussive, fitting well with such well-recorded drums. Next, a moment of nostalgia brought on by a visiting relatives’ copy of Mobile Fidelity’s Toto ‘lV’ on vinyl yielded some surprises. ‘Rosanna’ played well with nice pacing and transients and we both were were shocked to hear random voices clearly evident in the left channel that we had never heard before. The RibbonTek’s certainly reveal detail.
Next up was the reissue of ‘Blade Runner’ the original soundtrack by Vangelis (Audio Fidelity 2013) that I bought home from New York Audio Show ’14. Ridley Scott’s 1982 vision is widely considered one of the best sci-fi films ever made and its soundtrack is as memorable and timeless as the film. This pressings translucent red vinyl always brings a smile to my face, as does its’ sound. The depth and waves of bass that ebb and flow and low end drive that seems to keep expanding give this recording a solid foundation. Again, well-presented by the RibbonTek’s.
On Chick Corea’s ‘The Vigil’ (Concord 2013), the vinyl had great pacing with no evident lag. All instruments were nicely focused and the RibbonTek’s presented the upper mids and highs very well. It’s clear that jazz is in good hands with the vitality of Corea’s accompanists heard here.
ETI’s RibbonTek speaker cables offer a great value - they may indeed be giant killers. The RibbonTek cable’s simple appointments, solid construction and a level of performance far surpasses their $700 price point. They are dynamic both in macro and micro ranges and possess a rhythmic integrity, effortlessness and a lack of compression I’ve only experienced in far more expensive offerings.
24 Harries Road
Price: $700.00 per 6 ft/pr
Tel: +61 (0)7 3324 1709
Fax: +61 (0)7 3394 3258
Greg’s Associated Equipment
Turntables: The Well Tempered Turntable (black platter upgrade, Marigo Well Damped Clamp, LP Labs Carbon Fiber Arm (hardwired with Discovery cable), XTC Counterweight, Marigo Dots - Pro-Ject Perspective -Neat Shield MO-19 Idler clone with 9” and 12” self-made Well Tempered tonearm clones
Digital Sources: HRT Music Streamer, HRT Music Streamer ll and Video iPod (gen 5.5) 80gb modified iMod with custom dock using V-Cap OIMP Teflon caps, Oppo BRP-83, Marantz CD-63 player
Cartridges: Benz Micro Glider M with Soundsmith Ruby cantilever, Benz Silver, Sumiko Blue Point, Ortofon 2M Red
Interconnects: Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope and Looking Glass Active Phase 1, 2 interconnects, Kimber KCAG, Kimber USB, Monster Interlink 400 & 1000, CustomCans ultra low capacitance phono cables
Speaker Cables: Synergistic Research Alpha Quad Active cables, StraightWire Maestro
Power cord:AudioPath PC-1 power cables and PS-1 with PC-1 cable, Mad Scientist Audio power cables (on loan for review)
Preamp: Conrad Johnson PV-5, db systems db 1-B
Phono Stage: PhonoMax phono stage with Top Hats and Star base, db-8 phono stage
Comparison amps: Two db systems db-6am amps (bridged to mono), Opera Consonance M100SE integrated tube amp, PS Audio 200CX
Loudspeakers: Eminent Technology LFT-8b’s with Sound Anchor stands, Spica TC-60’s with Hercules stands, Velodyne Servo F Series 12” subwoofer, AR M1 monitors
Headphones: Sennheiser HD-650 with Cardas cables; EarMax with Star base and Little Dot Mk l
Software: Decibel, Amarra HiFi, Sound Studio
Accessories: MSB Pad 1 Analog To Digital Converter, glass Toslink fiber optic cable, VPI HW-16.5 record cleaner, Target TT-1 Wall Shelfs, Marigo Tuning Dots, DeFeet feet, ZeroStat, Synergistic Research Tesla wall receptacle, Power Port wall receptacle, Hunt record brush, In The Groove record roller, LAST 4 & 5 stylus cleaner, home made roller blocks