Frank Peraino gives the first FULL evaluation of the new Silversmith Audio Fidelium Speaker Cables
Clichés. got to love em. “Three strikes and you’re out?” or is it “Third time’s a charm?” In this case, it’s the latter. You see, it almost strains credulity to suggest for a reviewer’s first three assignments with his new magazine and Editor that he would be sent to “Review Purgatory” – sentenced to the cruel and unusual punishment of doing three cable reviews in a row!! I know what you’re thinking: “Frank, what the heck did you DO to your Editor?” (Frank will be getting some components next!! Editor)
In this case, it must have been something pretty special since it led me to one of the most unique cables I’ve reviewed in a long time and one that punches so far above its weight it challenges everything I once thought possible in cable design and price to performance ratio – but I am getting ahead of myself.
As you know if you’ve read either of my previous cable reviews, I am not an “all wire is the same” proponent because I have heard far too many cables sound different (not always better but “different”). Conversely, while at times, I agree that you get what you pay for in audio (with diminishing returns), I have a much more difficult time justifying any set of cables sporting five-figure price tags (some even mid-five figures) that isn’t constructed from pure gold or some other hyper-expensive conductor. Sorry, in my mind it is incomprehensible that a 2-meter pair of interconnects or speaker cables made of silver or copper wire should cost as much as a new car. As I’ve mentioned in my other cable evaluations for the Advocate, I simply cannot justify the intrinsic value as such; regardless of any claim of recoupment of R & D costs.
That said, admittedly I could also be called a hypocrite since, fourteen years ago I did justify buying, at the time, a set of cables with a higher four-figure retail price-tag because, truth be told, the level of improvement they brought to my system and my enjoyment and connection with the music were never matched by any cable either before their arrival or in the 14 years afterward. Moreover, given the cost/retail price of the rest of my system, I could easily justify the price for that level of improvement compared to the other “components” in my system which were much more costly than those cables. Plus, the cables were made from an expensive palladium alloy which also partially justified the higher cost (at least in my mind).
As you may have guessed, my reference interconnects and speaker cables for the last fourteen years have been the Silversmith Audio Palladium cables. So, when Jeff Smith, owner and chief designer for Silversmith Audio, reached out to me with an offer to review his newest cables and making a “wild and crazy” claim (sorry Steve Martin), I set aside being in cable “purgatory” again and agreed to review his newest creation – The Silversmith “Fidelium” Speaker Cables.
What wild and crazy claim do you ask? Jeff knew that I was still using his Palladium speaker cables as my reference cables (and have been since 2006) and have listed them as such in all my reviews — so he knows that I probably know the Palladium cable line better than most people other than Jeff himself. When Jeff told me his new Fidelium speaker cable would soundly better my reference Palladium (a feat which all challengers over 14 years failed to accomplish), I was cautiously optimistic but still somewhat skeptical – “trust but verify!!!”
But what Jeff said afterward made me fall somewhere between a Doubting Thomas and considering filing for a “guardianship” over Mr. Smith. I began wondering if he had taken a temporary leave of his senses or just decided to take the outlandish TV Infomercial approach and become the Popeil Pocket Fisherman Guy (or the Flex Steel or Ginsu knife guy). Jeff told me that this new Fidelium would not just beat my reference Palladiums but do so at roughly 1/10th of the price!!!!!!! Yeah right… and the Detroit Lions are favorites to win the Superbowl in 2020!!
JEFFREY SMITH AND SILVERSMITH AUDIO
I do not hide the fact that I have the utmost respect and admiration for our armed service members who risk their lives for our country. Many of my closet friends and relatives are former military. Jeff is not just former “military” — he’s got one of the most distinguished military resumes I’ve ever seen. You might be asking why this is relevant to a cable review. Well, for two reasons: first, for a man who’s been serving our country for almost three decades, it amazes me how he found the time to design and produce some of the most critically acclaimed and best sounding cables in the industry (both the Silver and Palladium lines).
He garnishes a B.S in Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy to Advanced Nuclear Weapon, Insider Threat, and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Certifications at the National Defense University and the Defense Nuclear Weapons School. He then went on to obtain a Master of Science Degree from Missouri State University (With Distinction) in Defense and Strategic Studies/Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction. It’s quite obvious that he’s a man of science.
Jeff describes Silversmith Audio as a hobby that got out of control and became a business. Silversmith Audio and its original Silver line of cables were launched on January 1, 2000. The following weekend, Jeff was in Las Vegas for CES where, thanks to introductions and recommendations by the late Ralph Dodson of Dodson Audio and Lars Fredell of Ultimate Audio, Silversmith Audio exhibited with Lamm electronics and Nearfield Acoustics Pipedreams speakers. That month’s issue of Ultimate Audio (where this author got his start in reviewing), also contained a review of Silversmith Audio’s Silver line of cables which were extremely well-reviewed by my late and respected colleague, Lars Fredel. Not a bad beginning I’d say!!
Jeff’s beginnings in the “hi-fi” world and, in particular, the cable design field, traces back to his time in San Diego around the new millennium where he got to know one of the local audio store owners who also had a Navy background. One of the store’s employees was a DIY’er who inspired Jeff to build his speakers. Jeff had access to a very nice woodshop on the Navy base so it seemed like a fun project to try. After Jeff selected the drivers and designed and built the cabinets, the next question was how to wire them.
He drew from his engineering background but also looked into the physics side of the equation. It was physics that seemed to offer Jeff the best explanation for how wiring affected sound quality. Jeff built his first set of silver ribbon cables solely for his use, and to use inside the speakers he was building. He then took his DIY silver ribbon cables into the store where he and the store’s employees compared them against a $10k set of networked cables. Everyone who heard them thought Jeff’s homemade silver ribbons were vastly superior to the store cables. It was from this humble beginning that Ralph Dodson heard Jeff’s silver ribbon cables and was so impressed that he called Lars Fredell and the rest, as they say, is history. It was all a classic case of being in the right place at the right time.
I was initially introduced to Jeff’s cables by Lars’ Ultimate Audio review and then, personally met Jeff, while attending a CES show in 2001. I began using his Silver line of cables in 2001 until mid-2006, at which time, Jeff and John Quick, then with Nagra and Verity Audio, came to my home when I was reviewing the Verity Audio Sarastro loudspeaker to help set-up the speakers. Jeff brought along his new Palladium cables as Verity Audio utilized Silversmith Palladiums in their systems at demos and audio shows alike. I loved the sound that this combination produced in my room so much that I bought both the Sarastros and the Palladiums’ which have been my reference cables and interconnects for the last 14 years and they have never been seriously challenged during that time — taking on all challengers.
Jeff formally retired from the Navy in October 2019 and finally had the time to complete the development of his new line of cables – the Fideliums’ under review.
THE FIDELIUM SPEAKER CABLES
Immediately upon receiving the FedEx package from Silversmith Audio containing the 8’ pair of Fidelium speaker cables, I knew this was no typical cable. The box was a mere 6” X 6” and weighed almost nothing – I am thinking this is either a bad prank or these were no typical “high-end” cables inside with heavy conductors, measuring two inches thick with Teflon and braided shielding and robust and beefy spade or banana-plug terminations. Quite the opposite – all 16 feet of the 2.25” wide but less than 1/1,000th of an inch thick Fidelium ribbon cables came neatly rolled into a circle with no insulators or sheathing but rather a super-thin polyimide laminate and primarily air-dielectric. What was also immediately noticeable is that this was a seamless single run of ribbon with no soldered, crimped or welded connectors at all – simply a “U-Notch” cut into the end of the 2.25” ribbon where the conductive surface is .75 inch square and the U-Notch is .25 inches wide to accommodate most binding posts.
Thus, even though my Palladiums are also a “ribbon” cable, the Fidelium is a whole new animal. While the Palladium is a single run of a thin .75” wide palladium alloy ribbon, that ribbon is encased by a Teflon tube system and Mylar/PET mesh and has heat shrink near the end exposing the conductor with its .25-inch U-notch. The Palladium ribbon is not laminated to protect the conductive ends as the Fidelium is. The red/black labels on the Fidelium add additional strength at the connection point.
I assume this will greatly reduce tearing if not eliminate it – a slight problem I had with my Palladiums over the years (this was more of a connectivity inconvenience than any sound degradation).
Jeff claims that the “skin-effect” characteristics of the Fidelium alloy are vastly superior (up to 33 times) to those of copper or silver and that the Fidelium speaker cable, already at less than a thousandth of an inch thick, performs as if it were 5.5 times thinner, thus experiencing less frequency-dependent attenuation and phase distortion than even a .00018 inch thick copper or silver ribbon or 64 gauge wire. Jeff’s speaker cable design also gains a further sonic advantage by avoiding the significant sonic degradation caused by traditional spade and banana connectors.
In talking with Jeff, he noted that, while not unique, his Fidelium cables use the transmission line/waveguide physics model. Of the very few manufacturers who also employ the waveguide model, Jeff is aware of only two that attempt to control skin effect through anything other than geometry and conductor size. The vast majority of other cable designers/manufacturers, instead discuss simplified engineering concepts of electron flow, impedance matching, optimizing inductance and capacitance, etc., when mentioning the methods used to improve their cable designs. Jeff believes that it is difficult, if not impossible, to explain how audio, digital, and power cables affect the sound quality using those parameters. Then again, the “all wire is the same” crowd will simply revert to the claim that cable sound differences are just snake oil. On the other hand, Jeff asserts that wave-guide physics explains why audio, digital, and power cables affect sound quality.
Read any cable review over the last 20 years and you will note that most other cable designers manipulate their cable geometry to control inductance, capacitance, and resistance values to achieve what they believe to be an ideal relationship between those parameters and, therefore, optimized electron flow. The Silversmith design goal, however, was to control the interaction between the electromagnetic wave and the conductor to minimize the phase errors caused by that interaction. In the last few years, you may have seen more manufacturers jumping on the ‘smaller is better’ bandwagon, but only a couple have delved into the world of metallurgy to take the next step toward better performance (David Magnan, for example)
The following paragraphs, in Jeff’s own words, resulted when I was asking him questions and seeking more information about his methods in developing the Fidelium:
“My Silver, Palladium, and Fidelium cables were all designed from the transmission line or waveguide point of view that electricity flows between the conductors, not in the conductors. The energy is transmitted in the form of an electromagnetic wave. Energy does, however, penetrate the metal conductor material and that portion of the energy becomes a secondary error or memory signal (time-delayed).
The physics behind this suggests that the smaller or thinner the conductor is, the less time it will take for the electromagnetic wave to penetrate the conductor, thus resulting in a smaller timing error. As you know, many cable manufacturers have evolved to produce cables with smaller and smaller wires to minimize what they describe as the skin effect. Most of them, however, still view electricity flow as electrons inside the wire, like water in a pipe. This is an analogy that does not allow or account for phase or group delay in a wire.
The thing that makes the Palladium and Fidelium designs unique is that, in addition to using extremely thin ribbons to reduce the timing errors caused by the penetration of the electromagnetic wave into the conductor, the Palladium and Fidelium alloys increase the penetration speed several fold – and, therefore, reduce the timing errors even further. Because of that, the physics suggests that the Palladium and Fidelium cables are some of the most accurate cables ever made, at any price.
Anywhere there is a thick piece of metal in the signal path, more errors are introduced. By notching the ribbon, itself, I avoid adding a traditional, thick metal spade or banana connector and the solder that goes with them. The laminate and labels are designed to reinforce the connection point, making the Fidelium almost impossible to tear. Also, the use of an extremely thin laminate adds very little solid material and therefore reduces any dielectric absorption issues.“
Another fact that seems to separate Jeff’s methods from others is how he reaches his end goal. It’s not uncommon to read on other manufacturers’ sites or forums how they spent countless hours conducting countless tests of countless cable variations to come up with a cable design they liked. That choice was based upon the personal preference of what the music should sound like in their room, using their music and their sources, amps, and speakers.
However, rather uniquely, Jeff’s cables were designed solely on the drawing board, based upon the physics equations. Jeff does not listen to multiple designs or multiple metals. He knew the conductor had to be as thin as possible and knew the optimum parameters of the metal. Thus, he simply searched databases of metals and their properties until he found the best metal available for his purpose. Jeff’s first find years ago was the palladium alloy. His next find – separated by his years of military service — was the Fidelium alloy. The only listening tests Jeff conducted were to first confirm that what he heard matched what the physics predicted, and then to make sure his cosmetic choices didn’t cause any audible problems. As such, he could count on one hand the total numbers of listening tests he performed on the Palladium and Fidelium cables.
While some could argue that this type of design method could be disastrous – especially with loudspeakers – ultimately “the proof will be in the pudding” so to speak, and in this case, I can tell you Jeff’s method worked like a charm.
Unless you are talking about electronics such as digital TVs where the prices have dropped substantially over the last 15 years while the size and quality went up, in the high-end audio world, performance improvements are almost always followed by an obligatory price increase. Here, with the introduction of his Fidelium cables, Jeff and Silversmith Audio has reversed course – that is IF the Fidelium delivers the sonic goods.
This is where I had to raise my eyebrows when Jeff called me about his new cable line claiming that geometry and alloy advancements contributed to the new Fidelium cable’s 330% performance improvement over the previous top-of-the-line Palladium, and all of this claimed increase for only 1/10 the price!!. The Fidelium is even less than half the price of Silversmith Audio’s original Silver speaker cable line.
The Fidelium speaker cable is offered at lengths and prices from 4ft at $795 to 10ft at $1,395. As much respect as I have for Jeff and as much as I have preferred his Palladium cables over the last 14 years, this claim seemed not just like sales puffing but like a claim that could turn an eternal optimist into a Doubting Thomas.
Worse yet, as I have stated in previous reviews, when I know and respect a designer and end up reviewing his/her designs, (Andy Payor, previously with Rockport Technologies comes to mind), I hold them to a higher standard to avoid even an appearance of impropriety. When I was young, my father owned a very small restaurant with 4 booths and a counter where I was a short-order cook in my teens. So, with my dad as my boss, you might think I had an unfair advantage over the other employees. It turned out to be contrary.
While I’ve read the countless audio-forum posts lambasting reviewers for their alleged bias toward manufacturers that advertise in the rag or provide the biggest accommodation discount, in my experience most of the reviewers I know are ethical and as objective as possible. This is why I am likely holding Jeff Smith to an even higher standard — to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Finally, for the record, I paid for my original Palladium cables back in 2006 so nobody can accuse me of any “quid pro quo” with this review.
DO THE PHYSICS AND SUPER THIN RIBBON ‘FIDELIUMS’ TRULY DELIVER THE GOODS?
Before getting to the sonic analysis, I should mention that installing the Fidelium may cause the uninitiated some initial problems (which are easily solved in most cases).. (Ed. Note- with some power amplifiers, the U-notch connection can indeed be a bit trying when connecting them to the amplifier terminals because of space limitations).
For optimum sound quality, the Fidelium cables should be connected with the conductive side facing the component AND by tightening the binding post down on to the non-conductive side. ’There was only one problem – the double set of binding posts (so that you can bi-wire) on the back of my Lamm M1.2. reference amplifiers are stacked only about 3/4ths of an inch above each other and the red and black posts for each horizontal set are also only about 3/4ths of an inch apart. Given that each Fidelium cable is 2,25” wide, EACH cable will have over an inch of cable on each side of each binding post. So, I would not have sufficient room to connect just one of the Red or Black cables with only 3/4ths of an inch between the posts – and I was hesitant to bend or harm the Fidelium to make it fit. I texted Jeff informing him of my dilemma, and he said it was easily addressed by simply making a big “U” out of the end of each cable and come in from over the top or from the outside of the binding post. Due to the laminate, there was no risk of harm to the cable and no risk that the conductors would touch and short out!! Problem solved!!!
To help frame the perspective on this review, let me propose a few questions: Why do you/people listen to music? What brings you closer to the music? I will not attempt or pretend I can answer those questions for you or anyone else but I can answer those questions for myself and those answers will impact, whether consciously or not, how I make my decisions or reach my conclusions in my purchases or a review of any audio component.
For me, music is one of the greatest gifts in life, and one I cherish the most. From an early age, music affected me immensely. It could make me happy or sad or drive me to train harder in the gym. Music could make me appreciate the important people, places, and things in my life more intensely or get me through bad times. However, what draws each of us to music may be different and highly personal. For me, I was initially drawn to the melody of music and the power, majesty, and impact of both big band music and orchestral music. In each case, I was drawn to the varying sounds of the instruments – especially brass instruments. So much so that, as a trumpet player, I studied and played classical music in Junior High and High School and studied jazz in college.
My earliest influences were Harry James, Doc Severinsen, Dizzy Gillespie, Herb Alpert, Al Hirt, and Freddie Hubbard and, thereafter the early jazz-rock bands Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, Lighthouse and Chase. As a musician and as a listener, I mentioned these artists because this many years later I am still drawn to the unique tone, phrasing, style, and technique of not just the horn players but the entire band.
AND THE SOUND
I usually start a cable review with my staple of albums I enjoy (not just “audiophile approved” material) where I feel I have the best handle on how the artist or instruments sound. Years playing and listening to live music helped me develop my auditory memory of the sound of a real instrument and/or performer. It also helps that many of the CDs or LPs I use are of artists I have heard live many times in numerous venues. One such band, Tower of Power, I’ve been blessed to have heard well over 100 times live over almost 5 decades.
Having used Jeff’s Palladium cables as my reference for 14 years my initial impressions of the Fidelium were going to also be a direct comparison to Jeff’s previous reference cables. With that in mind, I was surprised that my first impressions were that the Fidelium seemed more detailed with more resolution but not in an analytical way. I also initially felt like there was a bit less drive bass weight with the Fidelium – an impression that changed dramatically over the next 8 weeks – whether because of burn-in (probably not) or because I had time to settle in with what the Fidelium sounded like – I do not know.
Next, I hate to admit that, myself, I get tired of reviewers saying they were “gob-smacked” or that their jaw “literally hit the floor” (Really? Your jaw dislocated and fell off?) when they heard Reviewed Component “A” or that it blew away the competition. Or, another oldie but goodie, that they could now hear so much new information on the CD that they never heard before. Those lines seem overused thus desensitizing the reader. Having been around so long and having had the opportunity to hear some very good gear, those types of hyperbolic revelations are few and far between anymore and a 10-20% improvement becomes more impressive as you gain more experience. What eventually expired over time is that with the Fidelium, I could more easily hear each instrument spread across the soundstage and follow the lines of that performer better than I had ever been able to. Thankfully, this turned out to be a very positive attribute of the Fidelium because it was not caused by emphasizing one aspect of the cable over another or by unnaturally notching up the detail, leading edges or transient details – kind of like turning up the “brightness”, ‘sharpness” and “contrast” buttons on the TV display in the big-box electronics stores.
Moreover, this clarity of the individual performer did not come at the cost of the enjoyment of the overall sonic picture and in no way drew attention to itself or detracted from the overall performance. Rather, it enhanced the performance for me because I could not only appreciate what the individual performer was bringing to the performance but also their unique tone, style, and interpretation that made those performers who they are both individually and as an integral part of the ensemble performance. This is the best of both worlds — when you get to enjoy both the individual components’ parts and the greater sum of those parts overall.
Case in point, while my favorite band Tower of Power is known for its horn section, it truly has one of the best rhythm sections in the world and, in particular drummer David Garibaldi and bass player Francis “Rocco” Prestia who have played together for the best part of 50 years, have very unique sounds and styles. Rocco’s style is distinct and identifiable. He invented a style some call the “finger-funk” style using muted or ghosted 16th notes in a percussive “in the pocket” style that has been emulated by thousands of bass players of the last 5 decades.
Through the Fideliums, Rocco’s style was more distinct, more recognizable, and easier for me to follow and appreciate his mastery of this style. On their Tower of Power’s new CD Step Up, (ART7067 Mack Ave. Records 2020) a mere half a century after their debut LP in 1970, the band is still tight as a drum and funkier than ever. On “East Bay All The Way” and “Look in My Eyes” what also struck me was the harmonic correctness and integrity and development of the notes as Rocco ghosted or muted his strings. The transient attack, the sustain and quick decay of David Garibaldi’s syncopated beat, Jerry Cortez’s guitar work, and Tom Politzer’s soulful tenor sax answering Emilio Castillo’s scat vocal riffs were better than I have ever heard in my system with any cable at any price. To be fair, I should mention at this point that I have not heard every mega-kilo-buck cable out there. However, I have heard many of the upper-tier mega-buck cables in this version of my system over the years from reputable companies like Nordost, MIT, Transparent. Audioquest, Kharma, Siltech, and Kimber. While I did not have those cables in for side by side comparisons with the Fideliums, I did compare those other cables against my Silversmith Palladiums and, while many came close or had individual attributes that may have equaled or slightly exceed the Palladium in one area, none of those other cables bettered the Palladiums overall or tempted me to sell them.
One of my necessary tools for comparing cables is Jackie Allen’s The Men in My Life CD (A440 Music 2003). I know this disc well and Jackie’s sultry jazz vocals are intimate and band the well recorded. This CD can quickly tell me if my system sounds slow, lifeless, or is uninspiring. I was immediately emotionally connected to “Come Fly With Me” and felt like the performers were in the room. Their holographic images of appropriate size reached beyond the outside of my speakers. This was that “reach out and touch someone” type of sound that more closely emulates the live event. Could this $800 cable be beating it’s much more expensive sibling at suspending my disbelief that an acoustic guitar was being played in my room? That’s why I continued to listen to the Fideliums for 4 months!!
An admittedly non-technical measure of a cable’s (or any component’s) performance under review is whether I find it hard to review because I end up distracted. If I find myself toe-tapping, foot-stomping, air-guitaring, or just plain gyrating in my chair, I know that the music has connected with me emotionally – thereby making it harder to listen critically. By that measure, the Fidelium was just plain spooky and revelatory. I was hearing the performers more clearly yet so naturally that I finally fully appreciated what that frequently cited phrase “blacker background” sounded like. It dawned on me that what I was probably hearing was the diminution of timing or phase errors or the so-called “skin-effect” caused, as Jeff described above, by the interaction of electromagnetic energy with the conductor and exacerbated with increasing conductor size. Clearly, something was different about this sound I was hearing.”
Next up was Phil Roy’s thought-provoking and musically engaging CD, Issues-Options (OR 803022 OR Music 2003). When good songwriting meets good musicians, the result can be powerful. In this case, the Fidelium took an already compelling album to new heights. On “Undeniably Human” a track with a cornucopia of instrumentations featuring samples of electronica by Delerium. This track is haunting yet propulsive and dynamic. Micro and macro dynamics were, in a word, “mesmerizing.” The electronic drum wacks and bass lines were explosive and exciting while not at all glaring, bloated, or analytical.
This cut was more energetic and emotionally engaging than I have heard it to date. With a musical 180° turn, Roy’s “Hope in a Hopeless World” took me on another emotional journey. This time the slide guitar and acoustic bass were more believably rendered with, again, more detail, clarity, and harmonic and tonal accuracy. The Fideliums revealed some of the most transparent and delicate textures I’ve heard in my system. With no blunted leading edges or hyped up detail, transients were nimble and quick; again, with that profound timbral accuracy. The realistic leading transients were followed by equally genuine sustain, trailing transients, and room reverberation in proper balance throughout the frequency spectrum. As a former professional musician, I reveled in the stunning accuracy of the individual instruments and vocal performances.
Treble was lightning fast, extended, lifelike and natural-sounding – everything you want from the upper frequencies – with none of the downsides that can accompany such clarity and extension – harshness, glare or brightness, The Fidelium’s top-end infused the music with energy, drive, and believable extension and resolution – producing treble at its natural and musical best.
Since I have always conceeded that the midrange is where much of the music resides, if you cannot get the midrange right, you won’t be able to make up for it at the frequency extremes. The Fidelium’s midrange frequencies shared the same positive attributes as its upper frequencies – speed, delicacy, harmonic and timbrel accuracy, and, most of all, balance. The midrange did not have to try to make up for lack of treble or bass energy so it stayed true to the source. On Phil Roy’s “The Have and the Have Nots” Ricardo Silveira’s and John Leftwich’s guitar and bass were breathtakingly clear, with realism and texture. Similarly, Efrain Toro’s brilliant percussion work and Larry McKenna’s wonderful Stan Getz-like mellifluous and wispy tenor saxophone were on full display and realistically reproduced. Their instruments were rendered with such lifelike images suspended in space across the soundstage and transient attack that was so clear, that with my eyes closed, it wasn’t a huge leap to think they were playing live in my room – my disbelief was that far suspended.
THE DECEPTIVE BASS RESPONSE!
Finally, the lower frequencies through the Fidelium were what took me a little more time to get a handle on – but once I did, the Fidelium revealed what was wrong with every other cable I’ve had in my system. It was that “Goldilocks” moment for me. When either electric or acoustic bass is accurately reproduced with less bloat or that mid-bass “bump” that many cables impart, the first impression can be one of less drive or energy. When I first started listening to the Fidelium, I was so impressed by the stunning lack of noise or hash and wonderful clarity, I started thinking there had to be a weak link or Achilles heel – and I first thought I heard a tad less bass drive.
I will be quite frank with you – no pun intended – I am not sure if it the Fidelium changed due to any “burn-in” (I think Jeff would say the design of his cable relieves the owner of that common necessity) or that I needed long term exposure to settle in with what it delivered, but my first impression of the bass performance was not at all accurate. Long term listening to every kind of musical genre showed the Fidelium to have equally balanced and realistic bass performance. The attack and bass impact were not only better than my Palladiums but the nimble and “correctly” defined bass response through the Fidelium extended even deeper than my Palladiums.
By stripping out any mid-bass hump or emphasis, the entire development of the note was more lifelike and dynamic. I usually pull out a CD with not just fabulous performance by three bass legends but some of the best electric bass torture tracks I can think of – Thunder, by S.M.V. (https://www.amazon.com/Thunder-Smv/dp/B001BP4U5O) (Stanley, Marcus, Victor – as in Clark, Miller, and Wooten) (HUCD3163 Head’s Up Music 2008). You are in for a wild ride when just one of these incredible bassists is featured on a recording but with all three – it’s a bass player’s dream.
These players are known for incredible technique and expansive styles as well as their solo chops. Using three different styles of basses, I could easily differentiate between them. Hearing them slap or pluck or pull the strings was clearer than I’ve heard it before and fast yet deep and powerful. Bass extension was foundation-shaking when the source had the goods. On the other end, the upper bass frequencies were lithe, clearly delineated and the notes perfectly developed with proper impact and finesse. It is a rare but beautiful thing when the bass is rendered precisely and the Fidelium delivers bass with realism, power, delicacy, accuracy, and extension. There is no mistaking an acoustic bass for an electric bass through the Fidelium.
Finally, as you may have gathered, I was struck by the clarity and detail and low noise floor of the Fidelium that allowed me to hear into the individual musical performances more easily. What I realized during this review is that the Fidelium is the most “balanced” speaker cable I’ve heard. It does not impart any sonic signature or emphasize and part of the frequency spectrum. It does not hype up or tone down any part of its sound to deliver an intended effect.
Downsides? One downside may be what this amazing cable will not do for you – those looking to address sonic anomalies or weaknesses in their system or use this cable as a “tone control” may be disappointed. Utter clarity, delivered with harmonic accuracy, transient speed, and realism is the Fidelium’s strong suit – acting as a Band-Aid for weaknesses elsewhere in your system? The Fidelium may not be suited for that task.
In closing, I have to recall back in 1999 when a well-known high-end component manufacturer had introduced what was then a high-priced CD transport and DAC priced at about $14K for the pair. I had traveled to the facility to have some minor service work on the transport (which I bought and enjoyed) when the President confided in me one of his “pet-peeves.” He admitted to me that he could profitably sell this same transport and DAC combo for half the current retail price. However, his market research and what I will call the “quirky pretentiousness” or “Keep Up With The Joneses” attitude in high-end audio revealed that he would sell more units and his transport and DAC be taken more seriously as a “reference “ level product if he doubled the retail price.
If you are in that category, passing on the Fidelium will be your loss. In my system and with what I value most in the complete musical message, the Fidelium is a transformative design and transformative speaker cable at ANY price. The fact that its price to performance ratio is off the charts makes this the audio steal of the century. The Fidelium is not just a giant-killer it is a revolutionary product when you consider what Jeff Smith and Silversmith Audio have delivered– a virtually indestructible lightweight and flexible cable with absolutely none of the issues or typical problems associated with conventional cable designs – heavy thick unwieldy cables that can cause sound degradation due to soldered or crimped connectors, skin-effect, and static build-up. Last, but not the least of which, the exorbitantly sky-high mega-kilo-buck pricing for copper or silver cables. The designer has bettered his previous reference at one-TENTH of the price!
Jeff Smith has laid down the gauntlet and proven you can produce Ferrari or Bentley cable performance for the price of a Buick or Honda. I cannot tell you that the Fidelium beat his Palladium cables by 330% as I do not have any way to measure a statistic like that – based on a waveguide model, physics, or metallurgical scale this claim may be accurate. I will leave that to the metallurgists. What I can tell you is that the Silversmith Audio Fidelium speaker cable beat my 14-year reference Silversmith Palladium cables at one-tenth the price and, by extension, all of the high-end cables that have engaged my system in the past 14 years but failed.
At $795 for a 4’ pair ($1,395 for a 10’ pair), this could be the last cable you will ever need regardless of the cost of your system and leave you thousands of $$$$ to spend elsewhere. The revolutionary Fidelium gets my unequivocal and highest recommendation!!
Howard Milstein comments:
Jeff sent me a pair of his Fidelium cables about a month after Frank started his evaluationI so I thought I might add some thoughts and insights.
First off, there is little doubt that the Fidelium cables are quite extraordinary in their subjective sound quality and that nothing…. can touch them at their price point! I have since been using the Fidelium’s with a variety of loudspeakers and electronics. Their intuitive sound quality has never changed whatsoever no matter what amps and speakers they were mated to.
What I found most distinctive and unrivaled among the variety of cables I have auditioned over the years is how the Fideliums project the sound of a grand piano. In audio, Decay is how sound ceases. Any acoustic signal or waveform envelope of a musical instrument can be said to have a few components such as attack, internal dynamics, sustain, release and decay which help define the character of the signal or waveform envelope. The nature of the Decay of any signal or waveform envelope varies based on factors such as time duration and amplitude of the Decay.
The Fideliums, so far, are the only cables that I’ve auditioned that can take good recordings of individual singing voices and particularly, piano soloists; be it in recital or accompanied by an orchestra, and display an extremely fast and dissolving sound of the keyboard without any smearing of the individual piano keys or hangover– keeping this fully intact despite the studio acoustic or concert hall where the recording originated.
As an amateur pianist and classical music lover, this was the first thing that hit me by surprise when employing the Fidelium cables into my system. It cannot be overemphasized the beauty and importance of this characteristic.
As Frank noted above, these cables also can integrate the full spectrum of the music’s frequency response and instrumental harmonics into one complete whole in the projected soundstage. They produce exceptional width, depth, and again, proper ambiance when the source material provides as such.
Most importantly, they never impose any character of their own, no matter what electronics or loudspeakers that they may be engaged with. Indeed, these new cables by Jeff Smith are a ‘tour de force’ in high definition sound reproduction. they are bound to embarrass many, if not most of the currently available, extraordinarily priced audiophile cables currently available to the enthusiast.
Speakers: Rockport Aquila Subwoofer: JL Audio Fathom F112 (only used on certain occasions) Amplification: Lamm M1.2 Reference Monoblocks Preamplification: Line Stage: conrad-johnson ART III w/ Telefunken CCa’s Phono Stage: Aesthetix Io Eclipse w/ Dual Power Supplies Digital Sources: Esoteric K-01; Esoteric K-03; Reimyo 777 and AMR CD-77 DAC: Bricasti M1 SE Analog Sources: SME 30 Turntable w/ SME V Tonearm, and Dynavector XV-1s Rack: Silent Running Audio Triple Wide CRAZ Rack (main system); TimberNation Maple Audio Racks Cables: Silversmith Palladium speaker cables and interconnects; LessLoss Signature, Harmonix Studio Master and TG Audio HSR-A AC Power Cables Conditioning: Reimyo ALS-777 power conditioner (DAC and Reimyo only); 20 amp dedicated AC lines, Wattgate or Oyaide AC receptacles with WPC-Z outlet covers
Pricing: Fidelium Loudspeaker Cables: $795.00 ~ 4-foot pair, $1395.00 ~ 10 foot pair
Silversmith Audio: https://silversmithaudio.com
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