Pure Note Epsilon Reference Speaker Cables
|Pure Note Epsilon Reference Speaker Cables|
A Cable For The Ages?
14 September 2003
Single Crystal 7N Silver Speaker Cables
Price: 2 meter - $1000, 2.5 meter $1100
Pure Note/Sonic Precision Audio Cables
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Pure Note Epsilon Reference Speaker Cables
The subject of this review is the Pure Note Epsilon Reference speaker cable. This is a cable that never failed to impress me. They can go toe-to-toe and shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's best and still walk away, rather briskly I might add.
Let's start with their construction, as it is probably the reason why they sound so darn good. I can confidently say that the materials used in these cables are among the finest in the world. The cable's heart lies in its conductor, which is called SupraPure TM silver wire. SupraPure wire is a single crystal 7N pure silver wire that I believe is similar to those used in Acoustic Zen's amazing Silver Reference interconnect. But whereas Acoustic Zen uses 6N 8 gauge single crystal copper in their top of the line speaker cables, Pure Note decided to use only the finest ingredients.
The wire itself is internally divided into two parts. The larger gauge section is devoted to bass and mid-bass, while the thinner strands lend themselves to crystal-clear highs. The total amount of cable per speaker is an astounding 8 gauge and helps to explain the cables' heavy weight. The cables connect to equipment through top of the line WBT spades and bananas.
When you first pick up a Pure Note cable you'll notice its amazing titanium alloy outer casing. This not only acts as a shield but also provides the cable with remarkable durability and sturdiness. You can easily stand on the cables, drag them through your room, or do just about anything else you can think of, without causing any visible or audible harm to the cables. They are easily the most indestructible cables I have ever come across. The downside to this is a very slight stiffness, which is only apparent when trying to connect the speaker cables to your equipment. For a reviewer, this can be a painstaking ordeal when you have to constantly switch out cables, but for a normal user this shouldn't be an issue.
Now for the Sound
The Pure Notes are fairly neutral cables that, at times, seem to add just a touch of harshness to the music. They possess great bass, clear highs, and a rich, well-developed midrange. For our discussion we'll start with the bottom and work our way up!
The bass and percussion instruments are startlingly realistic. Drums sound authentic, not like beats or notes, and the bass has more impact. Notes hit harder and stop sooner. It's truly amazing how much more involving music can be when bass is properly communicated. I can confidently say that these cables are as good as it gets in this respect.
The midrange is well depicted and accurately portrayed. Voices lack some of the depth of other cables, but imaging is spot on. In general, the mids are focused and clear. The Pure Notes also do a great job of separating voices from instruments and defining details in this often cluttered part of the musical spectrum.
It is in the treble area that this cable begins to walk away from its competitors. The reverberation of strings is extended and voices trail up and off endlessly. They appear to have limitless range and extension. The interesting part about these cables is how they rid highs of screechy qualities, but do not rob them of information or extension. The cables have a way of making even the most poorly recorded material listenable. This is one of their finest qualities, as it allows your system to reproduce almost your entire collection of software enjoyably. Somehow, these incredible cables filter out the top-end harshness but retain all of the good stuff!
Even though these cables gracefully refine the treble area of the music, their overall presentation exhibits a slight edginess that can be unsettling at times. This is a very subtle quality but it is present nonetheless.
This is the most important part of any review. The words above are useless at best if my ears are only accustomed to say, Radio Shack zip cord or Monster Cable XP. Well rest assured that this reviewer has carefully sampled the best of the competition and the Pure Notes never went down. The three challengers were: the similarly priced Audience Au24, a great but unknown underdog HMS Gran Finale MK II and finally the perennial king, Nordost Valhalla. Unfortunately the Audience failed to play competitively with the other players. It was a very competent cable and certainly worth its low price but lacked the bass control and energy of the other cables. It also failed to deliver the three-dimensional midrange, endless treble decay or detail of its stable mates. So in the end the Audience was a wonderful cable, but despite its great reviews, it fails to perform to the Valhalla's level in this reviewer's system.
I can confidently say that the Pure Note Epsilon was completely competitive with the Valhalla and the HMS. If I were to quantitatively rank them, I would rank the HMS and Valhalla tied for first with the Pure Note coming in a somewhat close second. All of these cables do so many things perfectly, you can only find fault in them through comparison to each other. The HMS ($2360/2 meters) is possibly the most incredible cable of the trio; it lends voices a three-dimensional, soft, velvety quality that adds a large dose of believability to one's system. In addition, their ability to separate voices, instruments and background information is nothing short of jaw dropping. The levels of clarity that arise from this quality are truly mesmerizing. In the end, these two qualities keep the HMS tied at the top of the heap. Their only downfalls are a slight but noticeable withholding of information, and a tendency to allow strings and voices to tail off a little too early. Nonetheless, the passion and warmth of this cable is undeniable and it beautifies any system in which it is placed.
Nordost's Valhalla ($6400/2 meters) truly deserves the praise that has been heaped upon it. Everywhere you look, people advertise their "Valhalla killers". But in the end, I am doubtful anyone will ever completely top this cable except for Nordost themselves. The Nordost cables are incredibly quick and it is this quickness that allows them to create such a relaxed soundstage. They never sound congested; instead they act as a portal, letting all the music flow through them unhampered. The Valhallas boast a very neutral tonal balance that is neither dry nor warm. They present the listener such a feeling of ease and effortlessness that it's hard not to find oneself swept into the music. In my system these are very musical cables. Of course they do all the other audiophile stuff well too. All details are apparent and clear. Imaging is spot on. Transparency is the best I've ever heard. Unfortunately, the chink in the Valhalla's rather thick armor lies in its lack of separation, which is nowhere near the level of the HMS. In addition, voices are somewhat flatter and less involving. But on the whole, the Valhalla is a magnificent achievement; how can it not be, when everything is so relaxed, perfect and enjoyable? This is certainly a cable for the ages.
The Pure Note cable sounds identical to the Valhalla, but it manages to let through a little more information. Unfortunately, the Pure Note also manages to lose a lot of the calm and relaxing qualities that made the Valhalla so endearing. I also found it ever so slightly less transparent. So, in the end, the Pure Note does everything just as well as the Valhalla but lack an intangible quality. Unfortunately, it's the one quality that makes the Nordost cables such a marvel.
How close are these cables? Well, in general I find differences between cables on my system anything but subtle, and I have heard many in my day. Oddly, these three proved to be an exception and not the norm. I am certain that I could not identify which cable was being played at a given time on random songs. At times I was sure it was the Pure Note only to find the Valhallas connected. The same went for the HMS at times. In the end, I found it difficult, if not impossible, to tell these cables apart.
The Pure Notes are reasonably priced cables in the grand scheme of things. With two meters costing only $1100, it is only 1/6th of the cost of its fiercest competitor, Nordost's Valhalla. Still many customers are willing to pay a lot for top quality cabling and, from experience, I know this is not an area you want to skimp on. Is the Valhalla worth the extra money? Yes! It is better and until something cheaper is just as uncompromising, it should be able to justify its astronomical price tag. The same goes for the HMS which is just as incredible and half the crazy price. If you have enough money and are looking to bring your system that much closer to nirvana, I can happily recommend either the HMS or the Valhalla. But in the end, for most consumers, the Pure Note Epsilon Reference speaker cables are good enough, and will allow the user to feel confident that unless they have systems costing more than a midsize luxury car, they probably won't be able to hear any difference!
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