The Audio Envy Cables reviewed – “Cable envy: an assessment on a loom!”

I know that there are a lot of audiophiles out there that ask the question, “Why are there no negative reviews on stereo equipment?” and there is a multitude of reasons one being financial interests and another being this is a living for a lot of small manufacturers, so don’t take food out of their family’s mouth.

On the other hand, I do not accept any censorship on my equipment evaluations. If I encounter any subjective problems with a piece of equipment, I will immediately get in contact with the manufacturer/distributor concerning possible remedies. (There are very few occasions when a product review may be withdrawn as such. Ed.)

As for audiophile cables, (of which I have evaluated many) we once again come back to that age-old dilemma: Why do cables sound different, how does the listener decipher his individual preferences, and of course how does the particular product react to the amplifier it is matched to and the loudspeaker loads it is being linked to!

I sincerely enjoy auditioning products that are reasonably priced and can provide great value for the dollar. A couple of products that I have reviewed in the past that were very affordable but have since gone up in price are Silnote Audio Cables and Wywires Audio Cables; you can read these back on the old StereoMojo site I used to write for.

I received three cables from Captain Payne, that’s right his first name is Captain, the head honcho at Audio Envy with over 21 years’ experience in the audio industry and located in Fort Collins, Colorado.  All three cables came in a bulk priority mail medium box and let’s just say not to heavy at all.  In fact, these cables are lightweight, quite flexible and nice to look at to boot. There was one strange thing about one of the cables that I will discuss later in the individual overviews.

I asked Captain to tell us something about himself:

“I am a Musician who has played overseas on a USO tour. After having built and owned 3 recording studios, I spent many years dissatisfied with the sound quality of my instrument and studio gear in general. This was the start of my cable fascination.

I have extensively studied and experimented with signal technology for about 10 years with a precursor of about 10 years in the A/V industry, examining cable tech. As a continual inventor, I have conducted around 500 cable prototype experiments. I love music and am now rejuvenated to experience it with Audio Envy’s solution. I look forward to recording and playing music again…between operating AE and building cables with my wife”.

Reviewing multiple cables can sometimes, if not always, be a daunting task; hell, even a single cable can sometimes make your head spin. I am going to handle this review by giving a short overview of each cable as it is introduced individually into my system and then follow-up with the meat of the review using all three cables in the complete system.

By the way, Audio Envy offers a limited 7-year warranty and a 45-day return policy. Terms and conditions can be found on their site.

Let’s get going with the technical portion of this review.

My Reference System: Norma IPA-140 integrated amp, L.K.S. Audio MH-DA004 DAC, Lumin U1 Mini streamer (Tidal), Rosso Fiorentino Volterra speakers, Argento Organic Audio Reference interconnect and speaker cables, Cullen Cables power cables.

Music:  Chris Jones – Roadhouses & Automobiles, Paolo Buonvino – I Medici (Original Soundtrack), Chantal Chamberland – Temptation, Sera Una Noche-La Segunda

The Ocean-Elite 3p power cord (5ft. $169 purple sleeve, grounded)

Audio Envy also offers a non-grounded cable, the Ocean- Elite 2p. In the 3p power cord, the 1.3 dielectric fiber should achieve the highest known velocity of signal transfer. It is built with a much lower resistance due to the cables quick thermal dissipation. The Ocean Elite uses OCC copper in a notably efficient low capacitance design configuration. The connectors used here are pure gold-plated copper. 

Plugging the cable in I immediately noticed the connection on both ends was very tight which bodes well for a secure, non-problematic fit. Preliminarily auditioning brought forth a bass response that was endowed with some solid power and focus.  Voices in the mid-range were noticeably fleshier, or fuller. Although a little high-end ‘airiness’ may well have been sacrificed for less mid-range tonal coloration, the sound was still quite natural and fundamentally even in its overall frequency spectrum.

Again–the bass response was very tight, tuneful, and displayed an impactful speed along with enhanced spatial cues. All in all, this power cord is a great value for the money! The majority of my listening was done with the Ocean-elite connected to my DAC but I also tried it with my Norma IPA-140 integrated amplifier. Connected to the Norma the sound was as described above but with less bass impact compared to my reference Cullen power cable.

Studio Prestige Interconnects (3ft. RCA $158 blue sleeve

The Prestige interconnects are fitted with Tellurium Copper Rca plugs and coated with an antioxidant gold layer. {a low mass, 1.3 capacitance design!}  The expanding barrel slides on/off the female connection with ease along with exact amounts of tension. This cable itself is made with high purity OCC copper. The interconnects are quite lightweight and very flexible. That blue sleeve that cover it is very pleasing to the eyes and the interconnects are marked for signal flow.

The first thing I noticed was how intrinsically fast this cable is and I found it to sound even more sprightly than the power cord!  The sound stage is a little further laid back than my reference interconnects but it does tend to draw you into the music quite intensively. The high frequencies are not particularly hyper extended–but open and superbly natural sounding. The mid-range is very evenly balanced, neutral, dead quiet, and inherently uniform in its sound presentation. These interconnects are a joy to listen to!

SP9 Speaker Cables (8ft. – $412 (blue/black swirl sleeve)

Here’s where I was thrown for a loop as the SP9 speaker cable spade connectors are nothing like I have seen before!!  They are not at all like regular spade connectors where the spade itself is all metal but instead, one side of the spade is plastic and the other side is copper. The cables are also marked for signal flow. Think I had better let Captain take over from here and explain the connectors:

“Our connector is engineered by Audio Envy and manufactured in the USA. Including parts that are stamped out specifically in our shop.

The core material is 100% conductive. The signal travels through less than 1 mm of connector material to get to the post. Our goal is to provide a high potential of the contact surface, without negating the signal. The unique V-shape helps to accommodate many different post sizes.  Quite intentionally, the top surface is not conductive. This is because the signal could potentially go through more impedance and disconnected threads.” A picture of of this bad boy is here below:

Initial listening sessions with the Sp9’s produced a smooth, yet slightly lighter upper mid/treble range while the bass was always solid and unyielding. These cables portray less mid-range richness with its balanced sound stage just in front and beyond the speaker planes themselves.  That mid-range may be missing some translucent purity of sound, but this is in comparison to my $4300 pair of reference speaker cables.  After more break-in time, the mid-range started to bloom and merged into focus so I would say give them some decent amount of listening hours before making any final judgments. These are still very good sounding cables and they did not embarrass themselves in any way.

The Full Monty

As my heart starts to race, I get up to connect the Studio Prestige, Ocean Elite, and SP9’s together into my system with great anticipation. On initial listening, I noticed something was definitely wrong – the sound tilted towards the bass spectrum while mid-range was a little diffusive and the higher frequencies sounded somewhat more recessed than I had remembered. This was quite peculiar as the cables did not present themselves as such when listened to individually. Much to my relief, as I played them for a few hours on, the sound began to come into focus. 

The soundstage started to come together with an unclouded and decidedly straight forward balance. The mid-range response now became much cleaner and tonally neutral while the highs came forward a touch with such a “smoothness” that it put a huge smile on my face.  This was much like a stretched rubber band being released and falling back into place. The soundscape was like I had installed a different system in my room.

When I played La Segunda, I was hit in the face with its formidable, 3-dimensional sound stage in all planes. The mid-range was now fully discreet and tonally correct, exhibiting precise transient speed on instruments and that blended faithfully into the high end. This treble response was exceptionally sweet and soothing with none of the harshness that some cables can bring forth.

To really give these cables a workout I played the soundtrack from I Medici.  This soundtrack consists of 47 tracks ranging from 43 seconds to 7 minutes and believe me, you’ll go through these tracks before you know it. Taken from the Netflix miniseries I could feel and hear all the cinematic effects as if I was actually watching the movie.

The volatile speed of these cables shined through to make the music come to life as the sound field presentation expanded with excellent depth, fine tonality and a layering of instruments and voices that were reproduced immaculately.

Chris Jone’s voice has a natural, male chesty sound that was wonderfully impressive while the string work on the guitar was nimble and inceptive; you could hear his fingers sliding up and down the neck of the guitar.

On Chantal Chamberland’s Temptation, the brushwork on the drums was so detailed I could hear every part of the brush as it hits the drum head.  The piano tone and decay on Beautiful Life  was to die for. Chamberland’s vocals on both of these cuts were stunningly natural-sounding displaying a fabulous “in room” effect!

Final Thoughts

These Audio Envy cables are some of the most evenly balanced sounding cables I have had in my system. They are understatedly dynamic, slightly on the warm side of neutral, superbly innate sounding with a consistent, non-fatiguing audible trademark. All the music is stationed cohesively in its own space within the sound stage.

The cables do need some burn-in time and since I don’t keep track of the hours needed — I like to just listen and be surprised when I discover some sonic changes. The amount of time will vary with each type of cable and I am guessing that about 50 hours would be a good starting point.

Here’s what Captain says about burn-in: “After a few hours of use the cable should perform well. However, customers report the sound opening up and gaining a neutral balance (Incrementally) up to 200+ hours.”

I received a hotline tip from Captain. Although the speaker cables are directional, if you reverse the direction of the cables you will get a fuller sound. Needless to say, I had to try this, and lo and behold the mid-range did indeed take on an explicitly richer tonality.  As ‘I loves me some mid-range’, I prefer the reversed set up. As such, the sound that these cables exhibit will make you melt!

These cables are without doubt a modern-day bargain and at a total price of approximately $739, you could do a lot worse for a lot more money! The Audio Envy cables could hold you through quite a few upgrades before you may ever feel the need to explore the plethora of higher echelon audiophile cables currently available to enthusiasts.

Do yourself a favor and give Captain a call (970-672-9511) to discuss your system so you can stay out of the rabbit hole for a long while.

Audio Envy prices range from: $158 – $412

Contact: Captain Payne

Audio Envy, Fort Collins, Colorodo



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