Soli-Core Loudspeaker Cable
Hi-Fi Answers Review
Cable Design's 'Soli-core' cables aren't as cheap as first hoped - but their performance justifies the cost - John Bamford
In our March issue we announced the arrival of a new company called Cable Design (now Origin Live) who are marketing speaker cables under the name 'Soli-core'. The person behind Cable Design is Mark Baker, engineer by training and hi-fi enthusiast by nature, who has been experimenting with solid core cables and decided that it was about time he set up his own company to market his designs.
The design of Soli-core has been evolving over the last couple of months, but it seems now that the construction and pricing have been finalised and you should soon start to see Soli-core cable in the shops. As I've been experimenting with Soli-core cables (in various forms) in my system at home for the past six weeks or more, the time seems right to report on my findings which are indeed extremely favourable.
Some of the more adventurous among you have already bought Soli-core cable having seen it advertised.... According to letters, both Cable Design and we have received you've all been delighted with the sound. Well, the good news for those who've already bought it is that you've got a bargain - because the prices have just increased substantially. This is because the construction of the cable(s) is now to be done by an outside contractor to make the cables look much more professional (no more the hand made look!) and to have them properly sheathed and terminated. The bad news is that had you waited a while you'd have got an even better sounding cable.
Soli-core comes in two guises, 'Ordinary' and 'S' and both types are available as speaker cables (bare-ended-add your own banana plugs if you wish)..... Soli core 'O' is constructed from a solid 1.8mm² core of copper together with three fine strands of 0.45mm² copper wire twisted around it. Insulation is plain old PVC. Meanwhile the 'S' cable uses two 1.8mm² conductors together with five of the 0.45mm strands, with a higher grade PVC insulation and an aluminium foil screen between the conductors. Both Standard and 'S' versions are marked for correct directionality.
When Mark Baker of Cable Design first visited the HFA offices he brought with him some of his 'O' cable which was a little 'rough and ready' in appearance having clearly been wound) loosely) by hand. But the cable sounded first class in my system ..... Between Musical Fidelity preamp and bridged NAD 2200 power amps. Speakers were my resident Yamaha NS100Ms on 'super heavy' foundation stands. Previous speaker cable had been bog-standard 1mm² twin and earthed house wiring cable, while the interconnect lead I had constructed myself using 0.5mm² solid-core wire from RS Components.
What impressed me most about the Soli-core was the superb clarity and precision of the sound. Using it as a speaker cable only, I was delighted enough with the improvements in bass 'tautness' and extended treble, especially as my system had lost none of its 'listenability' afforded by using thin sold-core cables............ Good news, I thought, ..- and indeed this is the cable that many of you have bought via mail order.
But, meanwhile the designer had been experimenting at his home and he discovered that the cable was further improved if the conductors were twisted together more tightly. Having tried this myself I can only agree with Mark' baker's finding: the improvement is mostly in the area of the treble smoothness and clarity, an area of reproduction which is often most troublesome in enthusiast's systems - if your letters are anything to go by. The problem with this 'discovery' is that to twist the conductors tightly and evenly is strictly a factory operation, so Cable Design are now having the cables made by an outside contractor. Prices, therefore, have soared, but at the same time the cables can be professionally 'finished' and reliably terminated.
Cable Design have meanwhile developed their 'S' cable (S for super, I presume) which sounds even better in my system and this is the cable I will be using from now on - until something better come along, that is! I would be hesitant about recommending I to all listeners however, as I suspect the improvement I hear over the 'O' cable is not something that would be discernible in smaller systems.
When forced to describe the sound of my system I usually refer to is as a 'studio monitoring system with finesse'. Regular readers will know that I mostly, listen to rock music and I guess my system tends to reflect my musical preferences. I'm not a volume freak, but the system offers tremendous headroom, impressive dynamic capabilities, excellent resolution of detail and (at times) breathtaking low bass performance. The system moves a lot of air, but unlike typical studio monitoring systems it is a pleasure to listen to!
Soli-core is extremely powerful in the bas region and presents more detail than I've heard from my system, but I can't imagine the extra expense and hassle involved in using this cable being worthwhile in smaller systems.
Hassle? Oh yes, there's plenty of hassle in using Soli-core because the cable is so unmanageable. It's very thick - overall diameter is about 1.5cm - and extremely difficult to bend. As a speaker cable it's sufferable........ It takes time and patience to wire up one's system with the stuff and you need a good 9 inches of space behind your ..... power amp(s) because there's no way you can bend this cable around tight corners. ...if you can accommodate the cable you'll be rewarded with first class performance from your system.