The Homegrown Audio X32 Speaker Cable
A few weeks back, our esteemed publisher, Clement Perry, sent me an e-mail: “Dave – Haven’t heard from you in months. What's new and exciting - and worth writing about?” Hmmm. My system hasn’t changed much in several years (a good thing…right?). What am I going to review that’s still a current product? Then I remembered the speaker cables that have been doing a spectacular job in my system for a long time: Homegrown Audio’s X32.
You may not be familiar with Homegrown Audio, or their fine line of cables. Perhaps you should be. Homegrown was started in 1997 with just one cable design and lots of PFE (the generic name for Teflon®) insulated silver cable. Rather than spend lots of money on advertising, owner Holly Frye and her staff opted to invest in wire manufacturing equipment. Today, Homegrown offers a complete line of interconnects, speaker cables and connectors. And if you’re a DIY’er, you can build their designs (or your own) and save some money.
Homegrown Audio’s success may be due in large part to excellent customer service. Holly and her staff love talking about audio, and will spend the time and effort necessary to ensure repeat customers. Holly told me, “If our product is not right for your system, I want it back!” There’s a 30-day money back guarantee on standard products (45 days for international customers), and even a trade-in policy that offers 50 to 75% of your original price, depending on how long you’ve owned the cable. They’ll even re-terminate your cables at a reasonable price, whether they’re Homegrown’s or not.
Holly is justly proud that a substantial percentage of Homegrown Audio’s products are delivered to audiophiles in Asia. Nice to see a company that manufactures here and sells abroad, instead of the opposite!
The X32 speaker cables ($1500/6 feet) are at the top of the Homegrown line along with the relatively new DNA Interconnects. The X32’s are comprised of 32 high-purity (99.99%) 22 AWG solid silver strands. Each strand is individually encased in FEP insulation, and then the wires are woven in-house into a Litz configuration, which obviates the need for a shield. (Shielding is considered by many to be a sonic compromise.) There’s also a proprietary center core matrix that acoustically damps the cable. The whole thing is nicely finished with LOK SureGrip™ silver spades or banana plugs. Gold or rhodium-over-silver spades are also offered.
The first thing many audiophiles think when they encounter silver cables is “bright-sounding.” To quote Homegrown Audio’s website: “No. No! NO!” There are well-known examples of silver cables that are bright-sounding, but this can be attributed to design flaws – not metallurgy. You haven’t been an audiophile very long if you haven’t encountered “bright” copper cables too! But for those who will simply not consider a silver cable, Homegrown also offers the X16, which is a mix of silver and copper.
My X32’s are bi-wired ($3000/6 feet), and have been in my system continuously for seven years. And no, they are not bright-sounding. If you’re familiar with, or have seen a frequency-response graph for MBL speakers, you know that their Radialstrahler tweeters are not shrinking violets! If anything is bright ahead of the MBL’s, you’re going to hear it. And what I hear through the X32 cables is detail, not brightness. The X32’s give me more fine detail in the music than any speaker cable I have heard, without beating me over the head with it.
Before I bought the X32’s, I was using Cardas Golden Reference speaker cables – certainly no slouches. But the X32’s actually made the Cardas sound somewhat muddy by comparison. This was the deciding factor in my decision to purchase the Homegrown cables. In my telephone conversation with Holly Frye, she said something that really resonated with me: “Some people equate smear with warmth.” And I understand that some might consider the Cardas cables warm-sounding instead of muddy. But the X32’s superiority in delivering fine detail was ear-opening for me.
George Szell, music director of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1946 until his death in 1970, was known to favor a bright sound in his Columbia recordings conducting the orchestra. Pick out any of the Sony Classical SACD’s of Szell/Cleveland – e.g. Richard Strauss: “Don Juan”/”Death & Transfiguration,” or Schubert’s Symphony #9 – and give them a listen in your reference system along with Homegrown Audio’s X32 speaker cables. You’ll hear the gorgeous string sound with all the layers of detail, and the engineer’s treble EQ turned up a bit – but not the annoying brightness that sends you screaming from the room.
Another contender prior to my X32 purchase was the Synergistic Tesla Apex – a speaker cable that I thought might be a good addition since I already used (and still do) the Tesla Apex interconnects. But I was wrong: the Synergistics moved the soundstage forward to a rather alarming degree, and destroyed some of the image depth in the process. Using the recordings mentioned above, I’d say the Synergistics gave me a “Row D” perspective, while the X32’s give a mid-hall “Row M” seat.
I won’t tell you that Homegrown Audio cables will give your system an extra half-octave of bass – but I will say that the bass, along with the rest of the musical spectrum, is exceedingly clean. Don’t misunderstand – I am not referring to an emphasis of the leading edge of musical notes (at the expense of the body of those notes) that gives a first impression of massive detail. No, the X32’s are very even-handed in their presentation of transients and fundamentals.
Because Homegrown Audio sells direct, and because they rely on word-of-mouth advertising to spread the word, their prices are more than fair. You will note that the cables I’ve compared them to are up to twice as expensive as the X32’s. That, in my opinion, makes them a high-end bargain: one that you can try in your system with no fear of losing your money if you don’t like them. I did so, and seven years later, I have no desire to change them out for anything else.
I do, however, have a bit of an itch to try out those DNA interconnects!
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