Soundstring Cable Technologies Platinum Series Gen II Cables


 

Checking All the Boxes!

The role of cables in the audio chain has surely evolved over the years. I still remember when for less than a buck a foot you could wire your entire system without giving your cables much thought. Nowadays there is so much science fiction in cable design that it is possible to spend more on cabling a system than it costs to buy the components. Remember the good ol’ days when you could buy a component and the AC cord and interconnect cables that came with the component were good enough? And they were free!
 

It sometimes it seems as though sanity goes on vacation when it comes to cable design. And yes, I count myself among the insane. Lord knows that I have done more than my share of cable reviews. But just like everything else in high-end audio, I have simply learned to compartmentalize what I’m reviewing so that I’m only evaluating it from the perspective of its marketplace… At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
 

But thankfully there are still companies who design and build audio cables with sensitivity to affordability without making compromises in design, parts quality, or sonics. One such company is South Norwalk, Connecticut based Soundstring Cable Technologies.
 

We Met In SanFransico

I first saw the Soundstring cables being used by mega speaker builder Wisdom Audio (are they still around?) at the H.E. 2003 Show in San Francisco. Wisdom Audio had a well-earned reputation for building state-of-the-art, gorgeously built, very large and very expensive loudspeakers. The Soundstring cables sat in attractive wood cases with bright red fabric linings. I immediately wrote them off as lovely cables that would never find their way to my house simply because they were being used by Wisdom Audio. Imagine my surprise to learn that these cables were priced in the $100s of dollars and not $1,000s.
 

But the best part about this company was not even that their lovely cables were also affordable.No, the best part was the makers of the cables themselves, particularly Len Miller, the company’s President & CEO. When you ask a manufacturer of cable products to send you review samples, they usually will try to send as few cables as possible and only in whatever standard lengths they have available. The reason for this is understandable as they don’t want to waste a lot of material on something that they can no longer sell as new. So when I talked to Len about getting review samples of their new Generation II Platinum Series cables, he asked me to send him a list of the quantities and lengths of cables that I would need saying that he would try and accommodate me as much as he could. Needless to say, I was floored when a little more than a week later two large boxes appeared at my house from Soundstring. Not only did they send me every last cable that I requested, they also sent over some cables that I didn’t request but that they thought I might enjoy checking out. If only all manufacturers were this accommodating.
 

But, as nice as it is dealing with products I can actually afford and with people who are a joy to talk to is, if the products under review don’t deliver sonically, then you have to move on. So let’s get into the Gen II’s and see what we really have.
 

Built Like A Snake

According to the information that Len provided to me, the Gen II’s use a platinum silver tightly woven Nylon “static guard” outer covering (which is where they get their name). They’re made using very finely stranded 6-9's (99.9999%) pure Oxygen-Free High Conductivity (OFHC) bare electrolytic copper conductors. These copper strands range in size from 40 gauge to 44 gauge. The Gen II “high out-put” power cords and both their standard and Bi-wire speaker cables use 672 individual strands of #40 gauge copper per conductor. On the Gen II’s smaller low out-put digital power cords, there are 168 strands of #40 gauge copper in each conductor and for the interconnect cables there are 168 strands of #44 gauge copper per conductor. Having that many individual fine strands of wire in each conductor for each cable type provides for excellent cable flexibility. It also means larger surface areas for the signal and frequencies to travel over and larger cable diameter (circular mil area)for the voltage to flow through. The result is a faster, more accurate, open and transparent cable performance, not to mention a cable that is very soft, flexible and easy to work with. This I love.
 

The insulation materials used on the Gen II’s are UL approved 100% lead-free PVC with low durometers for increased flexibility and greater adhesion to the individual conductors during the extrusion process. This eliminates the trapping of oxygen and other gases between the inner wall of the individual PVC jackets covering the conductors and the outer surface of the conductors themselves. Thus, the potential for long-term oxidation of the conductors is virtually eliminated. The use of these compounds compared to more exotic and costly materials also helps to keep the cost of the cables down in keeping with Soundstring’s policy of selling high performing and affordable cables.
 

Finally, all conductors are wound around each other in a precisely determined geometry that minimizes surface contact while creating a round geometry to wind an unsintered PTFE Teflon tape coating around them in a precise 1/2” overlay that keeps the cabled conductors in place and prevents adhesion to the inner wall of the outer jacket as it is extruded over the conductors to form the finished cable.

Just as I learned when I reviewed the first generation of Soundstring cables nearly ten years ago, these are thoughtfully designed cables built by people with decades of experience who know that you don’t have to use dielectrics handmade by Himalayan monks out of cryogenically frozen yak hair or that you don’t have to attach miniature nuclear power cells to the connectors in order to help move the audio signal through the wires at warp speed. Just solid design principles and top notch materials will do, thank you very much.
 

Come On Dave, Get On With It

Okay, okay, I know I’m more than 1200 words into this review and still haven’t said anything about how the cables sound. Well, as I mentioned earlier they sent me a whole lot of product so there is a lot to discuss. Because they sent me an entire suite of cables I was able to wire my entire system with Soundstring cables.
 

The reference system used for this review consisted of the George Warren turntable with Incognito-modified Moth2 arm and Transfiguration Phoenix cartridge, going into a Pass Labs XP15 phonostage. It sits on an Adona Corporation Zero GXT equipment rack. The digital sources were the Oppo DV-980H disc player (as transport) and Apple TV music streamer feeding the Vitus Audio RD-100 DAC/Linestage. Amplification came from the Pass Labs XVR-1 electronic crossover, Bel Canto M300 and Ref1000M mono amps feeding the high and low frequency drivers of my Magnepan MG20s, respectively. Cabling was the Entreq Apollo and Konstantin series cables. My listening room is approximately 26’ wide, 20’ deep and with 8’ high ceilings. My floors are concrete covered with Berber carpeting. Even though Len told me the all cables were pre-cooked on a AudioDharma Cable Cooker, I put the cables into my secondary system (Opera Audio Consonance A120 integrated amp and Black Moon Audio Fidelity One speakers) for a week and ran a 24-hour music station from my TV through them in order to make sure that they were properly burned in. Now I was ready to start listening.
 

Rather than try and give you a break down on how each individual cable worked within my system, I’ll begin by telling you which cables were used in the system and then describe the system’s overall sound. Believe me, if I tried to go into detail about each cable, the length of this article would be more than anybody could stand to read from a computer screen. But if you’d like to know more about my experience with each of these cables just send me an email and I’ll be happy to give you my impressions on everything I heard.
 

Let’s start with the power cords. I used a regular High Output power cord on my Oppo Digital DV980, which I used as a transport. I used High Output “SE”(Special Edition) cords on each pair of my Bel Canto mono amps, another on my Pass Labs XVR-1 and another on my Vitus Audio RD-100 DAC/Linestage. I used another regular High Output cord on my Pass XP15 phonostage. With the interconnects, I used Gen II balanced (XLR) cables from the RD-100 DAC/Linestage to the XVR-1 Electronic Crossover and then two more sets of XLR cables from the XVR-1 to both pair of Bel Canto amps. I used a Gen II Single-Ended (RCA) cable from the XP-15 phonostage to the RD-100. Finally, and though it is not a part of their current product offering, Len did send me aprototype of his GEN II HDMI 1.4 digital cable and a Digital 75 Ohm Coaxial Cable with RCA’s that theyrecently test produced just to get my opinion on them.Yes folks, that’s a lot of cables.
 

When I first started playing music what immediately made an impression on me was just how quiet the operation of my system was. I mean it was snowfall quiet. I attributed this to the use of high quality connectors on all the cables. I’ve used far more expensive cables with some exotic connectors that never quite instilled any confidence that I had solid contact throughout the equipment chain. But the Gen II cables, particularly the single-end interconnects and the power cords all fit nice and snug on both ends. This may be a small thing but it means a lot to me. The first piece of music I played was “Terra Nova” by guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkle from his CD The Remedy: Live at the Village Vangard [WOMMUSIC]. I was taken by the life-sized scale of the solos that were perfectly performed by pianist Aaron Goldberg and Rosenwinkle. And I have to say right now that no one channels George Benson like Rosenwinkle does on this tune. It is worth seeking out. With the Gen II cables in the system, the level of detail and imaging was simply amazing.
 

Next, I listened to Gretchen Parlato: Live in NYC [Obliqsound]. This is fast becoming a favorite disc of mine because of its excellent dynamic range. It demands cables that can get the most from my system. The first track, “Butterfly” starts with Parlato doing her trademark gentle scat with a gentle handclap to establish a rhythm as her excellent band enters the song. Her voice is so three-dimensional that it seemed to hover in my listening room like the head of “The Great and Powerful Oz!” The Gen II’s did such a great job of lowering the noise floor that you could get much deeper into the music. This is especially good on this type of recording because it also allows you to not just experience the performance, but also allows you the feeling of being at the venue. Isn’t that what you really want from your system? Track seven, a cover of the SWV hit, “Weak,” is another great example of this. Parlato’s vocal is of course great but so is the performance of one of my favorite young pianists Taylor Eigsti. This track best demonstrated how well the Gen II cables could resolve low volume detail. I did most of my listening late at night.
 

At this point I can’t overstate the impact of those prototype digital cables. The 75 Ohm Coaxial digital cable was probably one of the most significant cables that was sent to me. It was simply spectacular. It looks like it was made to be sold with my Vitus DAC. It has an attractive champagne colored sleeve and uses very high quality RCA connectors. Sonically you couldn’t ask for more;spacious highs, a well-defined midrange and deep,well-articulated bass. This cable helpedrender the Rosenwinkle and Parlato recordings brilliantly.
 

The HDMI cable was used to connect my Oppo Universal Disc player and it was an obvious upgrade over the Monster Cable Gold Advanced HDMI cable I’d been using. I watched one of my favorite concert films, the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, and was blown away by how much richer the black back drop was and the sound coming from my Sony Bravia HDTV was much improved.
 

I’m not sure of where these cables will be priced or whenthey’ll be available, but I’ll want them for sure.I’m choking back tears at the thought of sending these prototypes back. 


Finally, I decided to dig up some vinyl. One of my favorites is a limited edition 180g pressing of Pat Coil’s Steps [Sheffield Lab]. The first track, “Sierra Highways,” is everything you could ask for in a piece of music used to evaluate a system and particularly cables. The same can be said for track eight, “Show Your Children Love,” a gospel infused song that also features vocalist Phil Perry. This album is loaded with excellent music with percussive instruments, horns, and rhythmic bass. I’ve heard it on so many high-end systems that I’d know if the cables caused the system to somehow be lacking. But thankfully that wasn’t the case here. The Gen II cables allowed the system to render the music flawlessly. Now please bear in mind that the word “flawless” is one of those “matter-of-perspective” words. I tend to think that music should sound a bit bright or brassy when played loud, especially if it’s a live recording. And when it is played at low volumes it shouldn’t sacrifice detail. So some people may feel the sound to be a bit aggressive while others will praise them for their ability to simply relay the truth in your recordings. I tend to go with the latter.
 

The Gen II’s are certainly not cables without fault (pretty damn close though). If I had to identify what I believed to be a fault in the Gen II cables it would only be that compared to cables like the Entreq Apollo cables, the bass gets just a bit muddy when I push the volume levels up. But again, this is only a matter of perspective. In fact, one of my audiophile buddies thinks this characteristic makes the Gen II “SE” speaker cables perfect for his Watt-Puppy 7’s, which he feels are a bit lean in the bass. He’s been trying to talk me into giving him mine for about two months. It ain’t happening bro.
 

Conclusion

Not to knock any other cables I’ve used or are still using to this day, but for everyday audiophiles, those of us who are not wealthy enough to wire our systems with cables that could stabilize the national debt, there is a law of diminishing returns. But like the wealthy we still want to invest in high quality products that will allow us to get the most from our home systems without feeling like we’ve had to make sacrifices in sound quality or quality of design and build. For us, the Soundstring cable products are a blessing. They are highly recommended and without a doubt, a “Most Wanted Component.”

 

 

 

 

 

Current Retail Pricing on Popular Standard Catalog Lengths:

GEN II 30 AMP HIGH OUT-PUT POWER CORDS

Catalog Number                                  Length                          Retail Price Ea.

SS-GEN II-PC30-FMF-3-US                      3 Feet                               $ 600.00

SS-GEN II-PC30-FMF-6-US                      6 Feet                               $ 640.00

SS-GEN II-PC30-FMF-8-US                      8 Feet                               $ 680.00

SS-GEN II-PC30-FMF-10-US                   10 Feet                              $ 720.00

 

GEN II 10 AMP LOW OUT-PUT DIGITAL POWER CORDS

Catalog Number                                  Length                          Retail Price Ea.

SS-GEN II-PCLOD10-FMF-3-US                3 Feet                               $ 510.00

SS-GEN II-PCLOD10-FMF-4-US                4 Feet                               $ 520.00

SS-GEN II-PCLOD10-FMF-6-US                6 Feet                               $ 540.00

SS-GEN II-PCLOD10-FMF-8-US                8 Feet                               $ 580.00

 

GEN II NON-SHIELDED AND SINGLE ENDED INTERCONNECT CABLES

Catalog Number                                  Length                          Retail Price Pr.

SS-GEN II-ICNS-  3-RCA                         3 Feet                               $ 510.00

SS-GEN II-ICNS-  6-RCA                         4 Feet                               $ 570.00

SS-GEN II-ICNS-10-RCA                       10 Feet                               $ 690.00

 

GEN II SHIELDED AND SINGLE ENDED INTERCONNECT CABLES

Catalog Number                                  Length                          Retail Price Pr.

SS-GEN II-IC95-  3-RCA                          3 Feet                               $ 540.00

SS-GEN II-IC95-  6-RCA                          4 Feet                               $ 600.00

SS-GEN II-IC95-10-RCA                       10 Feet                               $ 740.00

 

GEN II SHIELDED AND BALANCED INTERCONNECT CABLES

Catalog Number                                  Length                          Retail Price Pr.

SS-GEN II-IC95-  3-XLR                          3 Feet                              $ 440.00

SS-GEN II-IC95-  6-XLR                          4 Feet                              $ 500.00

SS-GEN II-IC95-10-XLR                         10 Feet                              $ 640.00

 

GEN II STANDARD SPEAKER CABLES

Catalog Number                                 Length                           Retail Price Pr.

SS-GEN II-SC-  6                                 6 Feet                               $   660.00

SS-GEN II-SC-  8                                  8 Feet                               $   770.00                                       

SS-GEN II-SC-12                                12 Feet                               $  820.00

SS-GEN II-SC-15                                15 Feet                               $  860.00

 

GEN II BI-WIRE SPEAKER CABLES

Catalog Number                                 Length                           Retail Price Pr.

SS-GEN II-BWSC-  6                    6 Feet                             $    840.00

SS-GEN II-BWSC-  8                    8 Feet                             $    920.00

SS-GEN II-BWSC-12                             12 Feet                            $    990.00

SS-GEN II-BWSC-15                            15 Feet                            $ 1,040.00

 

GEN II “SE” (SPECIAL EDITION) 30 AMP HIGH OUT-PUT POWER CORDS

Catalog Number                                 Length                           Retail Price Ea.

SS-GEN II-SE-PC30-FMF-  3-US              3 Feet                              $ 1,135.00

SS-GEN II-SE-PC30-FMF-  6-US              6 Feet                              $ 1,345.00

SS-GEN II-SE-PC30-FMF-  8-US              8 Feet                              $ 1,490.00

SS-GEN II-SE-PC30-FMF-10-US             10 Feet                             $ 1,640.00

GEN II “SE” (SPECIAL EDITION) SPEAKER CABLES

Catalog Number                                 Length                           Retail Price Pr.

SS-GEN II-SE-SC-  6                             6 Feet                              $   810.00

SS-GEN II-SE-SC-  8                              8 Feet                              $   960.00

SS-GEN II-SE-SC-12                   12 Feet                             $ 1,240.00

SS-GEN II-SE-SC-15                   15 Feet                             $ 1,450.00

 

 

Soundstring Cable Technologies, LLC

149 Woodward Ave.

South Norwalk, CT  06854

U.S.A.

Phone:(203) 853-9300

Fax:(203) 853-9304

E-mail: sales@soundstringcable.com

http://www.soundstringcable.com

 

 

 

Comments:

  • Brian Giannini
    13 May 2014 10:05
    Mr. Thomas,

    In your recent Soundstring Cable review, you offer to send additional information to those who have an interest. If you have something pre-written, would you be willing to send it to me? I am in the market for an XLR interconnect and a set of speaker cables.

    Thanks,

    Brian Giannini
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