Howard Milstein appraises the Stager Silver Solids interconnects
Some people (myself included) can feel dismayed by both sides of the speaker cable/interconnect argument. There are publications that belligerently insist that speaker cables make no difference. And on the other side, you can find some high-end audio reviewers’ elaborate’ and gushy descriptions of the differences in the “sound” of cables. Indeed, both sides may be defending entrenched positions; both of which can be truthfully acknowledged.
Being of the opinion that if I can ‘hear’ what to me is a more subjectively “natural” sound from my system, I will seek a particular product out; assuming of course that it will not cost me 2 arms and a leg! Having said that, my personal experience has shown that small, incremental sound quality differences increase between cables as you progress up the spending ladder! Conversely, I stubbornly believe that if cables are rigorously engineered with proven design principles and high-quality materials, in many instances, one can achieve the same level of performance at a fraction of the cost of the mega-expensive cables.
A CASE IN POINT! I happened to be cruising the internet a month ago when I stumbled upon an analogue interconnect cable that has been rarely examined or mentioned in the audiophile press. After reading a small article from one of a ‘few” equipment reviewers I particularly admire, I contacted a gentleman by the name of Marc Stager about his Stager Silver Solids analogue interconnect cables. As you’ll see further on, it was one of the most decisively significant and appreciable moves I have recently made!
Reading more about Marc’s musical background and learned engineering expertise was an enthralling treat for me to explore. His parents, (as my mother) were both musicians and MOST importantly, he grew up attending live concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Met. When designing his interconnects, there’s no doubt that his ability to remember the sound of music in a ‘live’ concert hall setting was something that I could relate to quite staunchly
His background further states that he later provided “live concert systems for outdoor classical concerts in Central Park and Lincoln Center for thirteen years as well as building a wide dispersion, very accurate sounding tri-amped speaker system for those concerts.”
As we take an overview of the Stager interconnects assessed here, we come to find that they are made from thin, single strand soft tempered silver of 99.9% purity, chosen (in preference to still higher grades of metal purity) for its sound character, which are covered in Teflon (arguably, the best dielectric available) tubes without shielding to keep capacitance at a minimum. The cables are terminated with gold plated Canare F-10 plugs. Theoretically, this should contribute an absolute minimum of coloration and distortion. Marc’s goal was to provide audio enthusiasts the opportunity to obtain a superb pair of interconnects without that exorbitant price tag.
Cable choice is complicated by some degree of system dependence. Cables often have a “sonic signature” which may complement or fight against a given system. The fact that this interconnect cable revealed such differences was a decided benefit for me in a few system combinations, but quite possibly may show no benefit in another system. One component in isolation may not exhibit any noticeable difference over another component. However, when they are used in some combinations with other components, the differences may be quite inadvertently obvious.
Ultimately, after a brief online chat, Marc sent me a pair of Stager Silver Solids for an evaluation. They duly arrived from New York and the following morning I proceeded to exchange quite an expensive and excellent sounding pair of connectors for the Stagers. The cable was initially used with a Chord Qtest DAC as well as from my Marantz SA-10 into the Wyred4Sound mINT integrated amplifier.
INITIAL BREAK IN and SOUND The “break in” period for cables and interconnects is as sensitive and extremely subjective as any component in your system. The concept that components break in is widely held in audiophile circles. However, it is not without debate. From casual observation, a majority feel it is an actual physical change which occurs in the component/cable, resulting in an audible change. Fewer feel that it is largely a psychological effect, attributable to one’s getting used to the sound of the equipment, and that nothing significant changes except in the perception of the listener. In the case of the Silver Solids, they decidedly proved to be an exception to any of the above observations as their distinctive qualities were perceived as soon as the music started playing. Indeed, some compelling things were noticed quite early on.
First and foremost- within approximately 1 hour of concentrated and intense listening, the Stager Silver Solids made an impression on me that was, in no uncertain terms, “tonally correct”. They showed themselves to offer a well-defined and perceptibly more concise presentation than my Audio Arts interconnect cable; no small feat! Individual singing voices became decidedly more ‘resolved’ and cleaner within the sound stage from emanating points in space. Female voices, particularly, were rendered with a very small but more satisfying margin of smoothness as well being a tad less bright…(yes, a tad can make all the difference in the world) from the digital files, CD’s and vinyl recordings that were being auditioned.
Image solidity, instrumental timbres, vocal intonation as well as a lack of a “hint” of fundamental harmonic ‘smearing’ with an ‘immediate’ shorter decay time became the Silver Solids claim to fame. This in itself was enough to make me go back and forth between interconnects at least 3 times in a 2-hour period!
Undoubtedly, the Silver Solids showed an acute sense of ‘exactness’ when mated from my Marantz CD/DAC reference to a few of the amplifiers used in this evaluation – enough so that after another day, my auditory sensitivities persuaded me to let these interconnects remain in the system as they were persistent in bringing forth to my ears a fundamental sonic and musical neutrality.
Actually, the first moment I witnessed the Stager’s inherent qualities came forth when I played a remastered WAV download of “Janet Baker sings Handel”; (Raymond Leppard conducting). As she begins the opening notes of the aria “Ombra mai fu” from “Serses” her rich and vibrantly superb mezzo starts to gain strength and beautiful precision as it radiated cohesively from center stage in a tenacious way while showing that minutely less smeared “decay” time projecting toward my ears at the listening chair.
As the legendary Janet Bakers’ vocal timbre always rings true and ebullient, I appropriately let the album tracks play through with a knowingly secure feeling that this interconnect was doing something tonally “right”! As stated above with interconnects and cables, when you hear something that makes you take notice of a simple, yet seemingly first rate change in audio reproduction, however small it may be, the impression that hits you demands that you keep exploring the components capabilities as to confirm your thoughts and impressions.
This I did quite adamantly; proceeding on with a vast array of Mozart Symphonies, including my own WAV audio clips as well as as this excellent live performance by Zubin Mehta and the Israeli Philharmonic of Beethoven’s Symphony # 8.
Continuing on, the Silver Solids relentlessly exhibited a fundamental integrity and ‘’explicit” sound with all the music sources employed – disclosing an exceedingly convincing and decisive tactile quality. These interconnects, quite simply, never interfered or changed any of the other sonic virtues that my particular system was portraying; except to bring out an elaborately clean, evenly balanced natural tonality to the music, with an clear cut amount of ‘quick’ reverberation time and no excessive liveliness that is to often a culprit in a high-end system. Again—this was most discernible with female singing voices.
After a few more weeks of auditioning the “the Stager Silver Solids” while connected to the mINT amplifier, I decided to try them out with the all in one 165 watt AVM inspiration C2.2 integrated amplifier. (review coming soon!) using the DAC of my Marantz SA-10s player. The results turned out to be quite surprising and most musically informative, indeed.
The music remained open, refined, and as gloriously pure as with the previous amp, as the Stager Silver Solids interconnects did not intrude on the AVM; the latter revealing a hint of “audible” lightness (not in any way a lack of bass) and an expansive, wide and decent soundstage. The inexorable imaging, vocal clarity and that perfect amount of ‘lightning fast’ dissipation persisted. This aforementioned trait was found to be the ‘signature’ quality of the Stager Silver Solids.
Eventually, I installed the combination of the Marantz CDP and the soon to be reviewed, Peachtree Audio 300 watt integrated amplifier. Switching between the Audio Arts IC-3 e interconnects and the Silver Solids, I also re-employed the Analysis Plus Black mesh oval 9’s speaker cable to the Spendor BC1-thereby being able to pull out the most error-free and utmost final conclusions.
As it turned out, the Stager Silver Solids excelled once again at bringing forth well confirmed fast, split second musical note ‘dissipation’ and pure tonality. These interconnects, quite amazingly, continually belied their relatively inexpensive cost. As such, the Silver Solids will exploit the use of the finest and most extravagant audio systems available at virtually any price and here, the sky is the limit! I am personally hoping that Marc may design some Speaker Cables; a prospect that might be quite exhilarating!
As may be obvious, I will be purchasing Stager Silver Solids as they have now become a reference analogue interconnect for me; particularly in view of the amount of different equipment reviews to be further undertaken. I believe all audiophiles and music lovers among you make it a mandatory obligation to try out these cables in your own systems. I will vouch for the fact that you will not be disappointed!
Stager Silver Solids: Mail Order only. Money back on 30day return if not satisfied. $125 for 0.75m RCA/phono/ Website: http://stagersound.com/silver/
0.5 meter / 20 inches $ 100.00
0.75 meter / 30 inches $ 125.00
1.0 meter / 40 inches $ 150.00
1.5 meter / 59 inches $ 205.00
2.0 meter / 79 inches $ 245.00
Marc Stager : Stager Sound Systems
New York City
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