The Analysis Plus Silver Apex cables are extensively appraised in this full review!
Analysis Plus Cables have consistently manufactured some of the finest Audiophile Cables available to the audiophile enthusiast and music lover for a good many years. Founder and president Mark Markel passed away over a year ago, but his legend in the high-end cable business certainly lives on! Historically, Analysis Plus products have been regarded as high-quality, audiophile products selling at very fair price points visa-vie their exquisite and formative sound quality.
I recently spent about 6 weeks auditioning their Silver Apex, interconnects both RCA and XLR terminated) and speaker cables which were on loan here for this evaluation. I mean to bring forth an extensive subjective ‘analysis’ (no pun intended) of these two products. The Silver Apex loom includes silver-plated copper speaker cables and interconnects as the former cables are categorized just under their line of Big Silver Oval – their premiere silver plated wires in the catalog.
High-end audiophile cable assessments are absurdly complex; not to mention a costly undertaking. Inevitably, what is one man’s meat is another’s poison. As it is with most audio enthusiast components, and particularly cables, how an individual cable interacts with an audio system can bring forth a supremely rewarding or in some instances, possibly ill effect to the listener. Home auditioning can be innately effective and I must admit, imperative before purchase if your dealer can accommodate this!
The Silver Apex is their top-of-the-line cable loom and while it isn’t cheap (for a meter pair of interconnects, or a six foot length speaker cable), the design complexity, custom parts, and labor-intensive manufacturing procedures brings forth challenges, and this also factors into the final price of the interconnects and speaker cables; as does the high silver content of the raw wire.
The wiring used in the Silver Apex contains a copper core for stabilization, which is then coated with high purity silver. The physical demands of the hollow core geometry require a threshold of strength to maintain shape, and this is the function of the copper core. The RCA ends are a custom design for Analysis Plus that maintains a firm grasp on RCA jacks.
Silver Plated Copper Cables
A dilemma which has made a great many audio designers and other pundits, which includes me, to believe that some pure silver, or in this particular case, silver-plated copper cables may sound thin, bright, or somewhat hard in the upper frequencies, has always proved to be a contentious yet definitive observation by critical audiophiles. In some instances, it may be more convenient, not to mention cost-effective, to always blame the silver for the ills created by poor solutions chosen elsewhere.
Broadcast-quality cables are generally made with copper conductors; but it’s not uncommon, in the consumer a/v market, to run into cables made with silver, or silver-plated copper, conductors. Why is this? As for pure silver, Silver is a superior material for cable building than copper in one respect: it is somewhat less resistive (that is, more conductive) than annealed copper (approximately 5%).
As for the quality of pure silver, it must also be observed that “Resistance” is a feature of any substance that causes some of the energy that passes through it to be transformed into heat, and it’s safe to assume that in cables, the less resistance the better.”
However, regarding “silver plating, while there are notable exceptions, the following theories have been documented by some of the best cable designers, a few of which I know personally, with some discreet thought and technical competence.
To quote 2 experienced cable and high-end audio component manufacturers:
“Silver plated wire is bi-metallic, so the signal is dependent on signal strength (voltage/current level) and this thickness of the silver layer on the copper wire can introduce a discontinuity between the parts of the signal that passes through the silver layer and the other part of the same signal that passes in the copper. This can cause many problems audiophiles describe, or worse”.
“Silver plating induces slightly greater smearing than a non-plated wire of the same size. That slight bit of extra smearing can be perceived as brightness and accentuate sounds in the treble region, thus leading to a perception of greater detail.”
With the Apex Silver cables, Analysis Plus has now created a refinement to their cable design that results, in many instances, with noticeable improvements in signal transfer over their lower-tiered, initial oval recipes. I guess you could call this their ” premiere ” line of products with some of the new upgrades.
Quite interestingly, the Apex geometry is a hollow oval cable housed inside another oval cable and therein contained in the third and final oval cable. This double-shielded design’s pure silver covers a stabilizing strand of oxygen-free copper that is woven into AP’s patented oval geometry. The third layer is the final layer of wire, and it is also connected to the outside connector. This shield wire is not floated in the Analysis Plus cables; instead, it is soldered to both ends of the RCA connectors. The nine-gauge conductors are encompassed in this top-flight cable.
Exploring the “AP” Interconnect Cable Sound!
As implemented by Analysis Plus, the character and sound quality of the Analysis Plus Silver Apex cables was, in most cases, an exception to this rule!
Starting with the Apex Silver RCA interconnects, these beautifully made cables were quickly notable in that they didn’t draw much attention to the upper octaves other than to provide remarkable focus and bloom, which supported and even seemed to reinforce the midrange and presence range with fine resolve and resolution; thereby adding to their close to ideal neutrality.
This had a noticeable effect on the midrange of the frequency spectrum. The Apex Silvers exhibited a distinctively enticing separation of all the instruments within an orchestra or ensemble as well as many vocal tracks. Depending on your system component set up, in almost every case you will initially notice a slightly more discernible accentuation of the full performance of the recording, yet without any “showcasing” of the mid to upper frequency band of the musical sources I used.
I first noticed this when replacing my terrific Wireworld Eclipse 8, (copper) with the Apex Silver interconnects (although this effect was in some ways similar to the Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnects and cables; review forthcoming). All the recorded sounds had a fully embellished and exceptionally clean, smooth frequency response while never sounding “sharp” or sterile. As the cables broke in, (2 weeks) they became more subtle and integrated into the music played, but still retained that distinct instrumental separation and superb tonality of the music being reproduced. This seemed to get better and better as the Apex Silvers spent more time in my system.
I was somewhat surprised by this when playing some huge orchestral classical recordings while at the same time noticing certain instruments enriched within the orchestra to be “highlighted” within their locational depth perspective far back within the soundstage presentation. This was surely a distinctive quality of the Apex Silvers as such; being able to let you hear the individual parts of the band or orchestra more clearly within the full body of the group—yet still displaying an well integrated representation within the immense sound being permeated from the loudspeakers.
Some listeners may be a bit baffled at the start when they first notice this. Why? Because initially, and as the sound of the interconnects guide you through its “normal” break-in process, the instrumentalists start to emanate distinctly and more individually from the soundstage. NO- they do not stand out per say—they just become a bit more real and “tactile” as if you were truly noticing their subjectively perceived “natural” timbrel quality for the first time! Nevertheless, it must be stated again that different people will find this effect to maybe sound a bit “unnatural’ depending upon a specific system’s overall sound quality and tonal balance and most particularly, the loudspeakers in use.
When I first noticed this, I was a bit confused and quickly tried more program material to confirm my findings. Sure enough, it happened often; particularly on program material that was expertly engineered. Much well-recorded popular music had much of the same effect, (Dusty Springfield) but the better the recording the more enticing and noticeable this feature became.
Frank Sinatra’s Capitol years are another exquisite example of the good old days of Capitol where Sinatra’s voice was captured with his true expertise, smooth clarity, and beauty. His voice was displayed with excellent tonality and central imaging when using the Apex Silver Interconnects. The cables portrayed very good transient speed (too good?) and when some classical piano was later introduced to my sources, the timbre of the piano keys hammer impact was immensely honed and distinguished.
I put on an old but great vinyl recording of Alfred Brendel’s Mozart’s Piano Concerto 22 in E flat with the late Neville Marriner and the ASMF In over 40 yrs.; this is still considered one of the best performances and recordings (Phillips) of this work to date. I was enticingly involved musically with this recording and am now ready to acknowledge that the AP Silvers were very much different as compared to some ‘Silver plated Copper’ cable experiences I had previously had.
The Silver Apex Speaker Cables and XLR Interconnects
The conductors used in AP’s Apex Silver loudspeaker cables are carefully braided into an oval cross-section tube and are composed, as are the interconnects, of silver-over-copper wire, the same as in AP’s other Silver-model cables.
The innermost spacer is constructed of Mylar, and the cables dielectrics are composed of polyurethane (speaker wire) which is used between each pair of nested conductors to obtain the necessary impedance.
This design, according to AP, enables a more uniform current distribution than traditional conductors with solid round or even solid rectangular cross-sections. And so, the loudspeaker cable is similar to the interconnects in that they contain the three individually stacked tubes that are hollow oval inside the hollow oval, whereas AP’s other cables are built one atop of the other. This novel design and complexity of the oval shapes can be quite a hassle to manufacture; one of the reasons for the more expensive price of the Apex Silvers.
After about 2 weeks of intense listening, using just the “silver interconnects” between my 3 DAC’s (see finish) and preamplifier (Pass Labs XP-12 into the XA-30.8 power amp; currently being used and reviewed shortly), I was ready to connect the Apex Silver Speaker Cables and XLR interconnects; the latter between pre and power amp as well. The listening journey was now ready to continue with the full loom and I sincerely did not know what would lie ahead.
It was now time to bring out a deluge of my best commercial CDs, ripped live CD-r concerts from the internet, some streaming with my Inuous Zenith, and of course the best of my vinyl collection.
Here are some links to the program sources: (for this session I will apologize to any of our non-classical listeners—for only the most minimally miked acoustically recorded sources should be used; theoretically on any component reviews!)
Mozart Symphony 33 – and Posthorn Serenade ~ Hansler digital IONA BROWN/ ASMF — outstanding sound!
Dame Janet Baker sings Handel/ Leppard/ ECO
Rostroprovich / ASMF/ Hayden Cello Concertos (High Resolution file)
Barenboim Mozart piano concertos EMI 1967 high-resolution file preferred (cross pair microphone)
Jaqueline Dupre / Janet Baker – Elgar Cello Concerto ~ Sea Pictures (cross pair microphones (EMI 1966 |>>>High resolution file download preferred
Having listened to and reviewed a plethora of loudspeaker cables since starting The Sound Advocate, the subject of Reference-quality loudspeaker cables undoubtedly stands out in the audiophile world as a serious and overtly subjective topic in itself. When auditioning them, (preferably in your home environment if possible) one must take into account that amplifier/loudspeaker interactions–(as well as your preferred DAC) which include a loudspeakers’ varying characteristic load impedance — which is determined by its physical construction, are the most formidable and compelling factors involved when subjectively analyzing a cables sound quality.
It is important to understand that the impedance match does not have to be exact to get very good results. –below 20 ohms being quite fine. Let’s add to that, and notwithstanding individual personal program source subjectivity, high-end cables (as mentioned in many of my other cable reviews) are a full time and deeply intensive job undertaking unto themselves.
As noted above, silver cables can occasionally be known for sounding a touch forward and detailed, in some people’s opinions. As I carefully dissected the sound of the Apex “ Silver XLR interconnects and speaker cables, I found the above traits to be mostly non-existent and arguably, could only be observed to be somewhat obtrusive when combined with a “brighter” sounding pairs of loudspeakers. With the 4 loudspeaker systems employed in this review, in most cases, I found The Silver Apex to be of reference quality in my system.
As compared to the AP’s interconnects, the Silver Apex Speaker Cables need a darn good break-in time. Even then, in certain instances, some may find the upper mid/treble a touch lively, particularly if combined with their interconnects, and of course, this will correspond to the balance of the loudspeakers in use. Even so, this was not at all out of proportion within the rest of the frequency spectrum.
If we collate the program material above that I used for evaluation, the Apex Silvers delivered an intrinsically clean and notably fast presentation on female vocals while orchestral sounds were quite spacious, filled with excellent and beautiful depth perspectives in the sound stage, and secured a locked in stereo image quality. The “Silvers” as compared to some other quite expensive cable brands, while distinctively outlining an unmistakable quality of the harmonic structure of all the instruments in the orchestra, routinely reached far and away from the speaker boundaries bringing a huge soundstage, subtle detail, and a fine amount of excitement and intense musicality to the quality of sound presented in individual performances.
The bass quality was superb; therein pumping out bass detail when the recording demanded as such. The Mid/ treble response was very neutral, even when certain parts of the midrange response distinguished themselves graciously by surprise and quite unexpectedly. This inadvertently brought your attention to their inordinately clean and wonderfully transparent qualities that you may have never noticed before on your preferred program sources. The aforementioned aspects of the AP’s Silver loom ultimately became the ensuing expression of these defined, high-definition cables in my system.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Needless to say, when using the full Apex Silver loom in a particular system, caution must always be observed as to the Silvers’ match to the reference system in question. When used with some of the best quality audiophile separates and DAC’s, one must obviously be careful to pertinently analyze the sound when mating the Analysis Plus Apex Silver combination within the full system.
It is undeniable that you may find certain pop music sources, (undoubtedly over-engineered), to show a specific mid/treble up-tilt in certain instances. (My pet peeve with most pop recordings). However, if your whole system is quite well balanced, this perceived aberration, most of the time, will be oblivious to the majority of users. As it pertains to my well-recorded classical repertoire, these instances were virtually far and few between!
During further listening sessions, I noticed The Apex Silvers’ had a huge amount of detail and resolving strength which came to my attention on multiple occasions. They could elicit small changes of timbrel and quality contrasts between instruments which always delightfully surprised me. The overlapping soundscape was always noticed; proceeding to keep me intensely emerged in the music being played.
The Apex Silver loom was compared to the following cables; as incorporated within the review system at the bottom of the page.
∙ Wireworld Silver Eclipse and interconnects – bi-wired for speaker cable. (A full review of this system is coming up shortly.)
∙ Silversmith Audio “Fidelium” Speaker Cables.
∙ Inakustik LS-4004 speaker cable ~~ My current reference loudspeaker cable now for about 3 years.
∙ Audience Studio One cables and Interconnects ~ The newest release from Audience, (1and 2) replacing their formative Au24SE cable line. (The Studio One Loom to be reviewed here shortly!)
∙ Audio Note (UK ) Lexus cables and interconnects ~ The Lexus interconnects and bi-wired speaker cables review coming up along with our review of the AN/ED loudspeakers.
Theoretically, cables should be as unobtrusive as possible in their function within our systems. Presumably, this is what most enthusiasts want…though sometimes, I am not so sure of that! A high-performance cable needs to have an even octave to octave tonal balance, and never “overtly” accentuate any portion of the audio band. This is a tall order; although on the other hand, there are many cables at lower prices that can fulfill most of the above requirements and would be considered “great values”! Cable “sound” will always be subject to an individual listeners’ needs and/or biases. Additionally, one must never forget that cost vs. the type and amount of improvements in some of the more expensive audio cables may be an influential factor!
The Apex Silvers are musically invigorating cables that combine detail, super clean transient response, and an “intricate, generally well-balanced overall quality that was undeniably forthcoming in their sound presentation capabilities. When used in the many of the most demanding and accurate audiophile systems, they remained vigorously discreet yet pleasantly serene and refined.
Although the Apex Silvers are silver “coated”, oxygen–free cables, the sound attributes they present are without a doubt extremely revealing of musical detail, fine tonality, and first-rate musical dynamics unto themselves. With so many high-priced cables on the market, some audiophiles will find it difficult to justify their prices accordingly. However, in the case of Analysis Plus Silver Apex Cables, I can incontrovertibly say that these cables brought forth some considerable improvements when applied in context with the particular system components I used them with. You could spend much more on cables from some other manufacturers, but in my opinion, The Analysis Plus’s Silver Apexes provided a sumptuous sound quality and are definitely RECOMMENDED!
Review system: Loudspeakers: Living Voice R25anniversary loudspeakers ~ Spendor BC1 ~ Quad ESL-63 ~ Audio Note AN/ED ~ Digital:Border Patrol DAC SE-I ~ Prism Sound “Callia” DAC ~ Innuos Zenith Mk.3 server/streamer ~ Wyred4Sound 10th Anniversary DAC ~ Audio Note (UK) CD3.1x/2 ~ Analog :SOTA comet 5 and Dynavector high output moving coil cartridge. Amplification: Pass Labs XA-30.8 power amp/ XP-12 preamplifier ~PS Audio M1200 monoblocks ~ Naim Supernait 3~ AVID Integra Integrated Amplifier ~ Cables/ Conditioners: Inakustik AC-3500p power station & LS-4004 speaker cables, AC-2404 reference Air Power Cord ~ Silversmith Audio ‘Fidelium’ loudspeaker cables ~ Audio Note (UK) Lexus cables and interconnects ~ Wireworld Silver Eclipse 8 speaker cables ~ and interconnects ~ Audience Studio One Loom ~ Wireworld Electra 7 digital SPDIF/ Audio Art 1 e” AC Power Cord
PRICES: Silver Apex Interconnects: 1 meter / RCA or Abbatron XLR ~ $1106.00 (other sizes and terminations available)
Silver Apex Speaker Cables: 6 feet /T-1 Spade or BFA Banana ~ $2575.00 (other sizes and terminations available)
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