The Iconoclast Series 2 SPTPC Cables and Generation 2 Interconnects are now available! Douglas Moore listens and evaluates them in this latest review.
This is a follow-up review to my 2022 review of the Series 1 SPTPC speaker cables from Iconoclast. You can read my first review here. I played music for the majority of my late teenage years through my early 30s. I will always remember those years as they gave me an insight into how music was made and recorded. Being on the creator side of music was instrumental in my understanding of the tone and timing of music and how important they truly are.
Rhythm and Timing is something sometimes taken for granted by people listening to music. They might get the overall flow of the music but ultimately have limited knowledge of what each musician has to do to get this timing and how important it is.
Most people associate the drummer and bass player with setting the pace and while this is true to some extent all of the musicians play a part in this. One wrong move by any of the musicians playing can potentially destroy the flow of the song. I’m still astounded by how imperfect individuals are, yet through music, they can play their respective roles and combine to create something far greater than themselves.
In digital audio timing associated with digital information is paramount in accurately converting digital signals to an analog waveform. This “word clock” is paramount in the digital audio chain when Jitter and distortions can damage a theoretically perfect audio waveform.
Speakers are also very sensitive to timing as their drivers and crossovers must be designed and installed into the speaker to protect the music’s very sensitive timing structure. From low to high frequencies each frequency has a sine wave of different lengths. These waves flow through the room at different speeds ultimately making it harder to design a time-correct loudspeaker. Speaker designers use science and measurements to arrange the speaker drivers to correct this ultra-sensitive timing.
In high-end audio both digital and speaker timing are a known issue and companies have spent years of research to try to mitigate these issues. However, cable timing is something I don’t hear talked about as much. It is well-known in cable circles that resistance, capacitance, and inductance values will change how an audio cable behaves and sounds. Many companies measure their cables and will think of this timing as a constant.
Galen Gareis being the engineer at Iconoclast has studied cable most of his adult life and knows that this is not the case. Galen has spent years studying audiophile cable and knows that timing is a key factor in cable performance. But instead of me trying to explain how important this is I think it is best left to Galen himself to explain why it is important. Here is his paper on cable timing:
I now understand why these cables perform the way they do. A lot of cable companies will hide behind made-up words or scientific philosophies with no information to back up their findings, not here. While there is and always will be a divide between the cable deniers and believers, Having explanations and literature explaining the reasons behind Iconoclast’s decisions should give you more peace of mind for sure. If you would like to read all of these documents for yourself here is a link to the webpage: Iconoclast White Papers
Generation 2 differences:
While I have been happy with Generation 1 speaker cables for a little over a year now I have been wanting to see what the next generation brought to the party. Having talked to Galen and the crew at this year’s Axpona they made it very apparent that I needed to hear the next generation of cables from them.
So after getting back and settling in from the show I reached out the Bob Howard who is the sales director for Iconoclast. He also expressed his excitement when I asked to review the Generation 2 speaker cables. This time I also asked for the series 2 XLR cables to go with them to review a whole Iconoclast loom. Bob and I decided on the Series 2 SPTPC speaker cables and Generation 2 ETPC 4X4 XLR cables from the DAC to preamp and preamp to amplifier. Bob and I agreed this would give me the full taste of Iconoclast for this review.
All of the cables include what I would call birth certificates showing measurements made on that exact cable before shipping. This small but important step is very much appreciated as it gives peace of mind that the cables you are getting measured are true to the design.
Generation II XLR
I will start with the XLRs as to the differences between them and series 1 cables. The 1×4 generation 1 cable is a star quad of single conductors that are isolated by air tube chambers. While these cables are quite excellent, Galen felt he could improve on them. The second generation of the XLR cables uses an additional step in the manufacturing process adding a tiny star quad section in each of the four main star quad locations.
Using smaller 30 AWG wires that are isolated and not touching one another will raise capacitance a little but current coherence is improved substantially. This in turn time aligns the low and high frequencies and the lower inductance improves phase shift which the human ear is especially sensitive to. Another advantage to the new design is that it can cancel noise even better than series 1 cables. The overall size of the finished cable is the same and due to the air tubes used in the cable, the cables are somewhat stiff. Bob advised that an 8” radius is about the smallest that these cables will bend before issues. I had no issues in my system due to this but take note as this may in yours.
One important thing to mention is that both series 1 and Generation 2 XLR cables are both available and Iconoclast ensures that the series 1 is still a great cable. Also of note, the series 2 cables were specially built to maximize analog performance and are not to be used for digital transmission unlike the series 1 which can be used in both digital and analog signal transmission.
Series II SPEAKER CABLES
The series 2 speaker cables also are an evolution of the series 1 cable. The main physical difference is that while series 1 cables use 12-twisted bonded pairs of 24 AWG conductors the series 2 uses 24-twisted bonded pairs of 28 AWG conductors.
Velocity of propagation is ,in effect, how quickly signals move through the cables at different frequencies. From the graphs above you can see that the line gets closer and closer to flat as the gauge of the wire gets smaller the VP line gets closer to flat. Galen’s choice to use 28 AWG conductors in the series 2 cable was to get this VP line as close to flat as possible all while keeping capacitance, inductance, and resistance within spec for the best cable performance
Iconoclast uses the same design and manufacturing process for their series 2 cables as their series 1 albeit using a higher count of smaller wires in their newest design. Like any other product manufactured the smaller you go the more precise you need to be and this is true of all of the series 2 cables. Seeing this level of technical proficiency in design and manufacturing is impressive and while the price level of these cables is not inexpensive for most of us average audiophiles, they are much more attainable than most of the cables out there in their performance league.
Over the years I have had different cables in my system and have even made some custom cables. The XLR cables I switched from were a mixture of Mogami studio and custom-made cables plus I had a couple of others in my arsenal to compare against the Iconoclast XLRs as well. The speaker cables I switched from were the generation 1 Iconoclast SPTPC cables so this comparison would be even more interesting as I am directly comparing series 1 to series 2.
I wanted to start with the XLR cables and use my series 1 speaker cables as I know them well and could delve into what the generation 2 XLR offered.
Julian Lage’s 2022 album “A View With A Room” is in my opinion one of the best jazz guitar albums I have heard in years. The playing is top-notch, and the recording is done well. The Generation 2 XLR cables go from my DAC to the preamp and then to the amplifier. I installed the cables and went about my week doing other things letting the cables get sorted before coming back for a listen.
The first thing I noticed was that the Generation 2 XLR cables just seemed to give the music an effortless flow. Instruments had more air around them and more precise localization.
On the song “Tributary” Julian Lage and Bill Frisell’s guitars had better body and the tone of the instrument seemed to come through more than my cables could muster. With my series 1 speaker cables the XLR just took everything up a notch. Bass was smoother, yet tight and more engaging while dynamics seemed to be much more effortless. I could see that the bias meters on my Pass amplifier seemed to be moving much more than it has in a long time. I wasn’t sure if it was the better signal transfer from these cables or me enjoying the improvement so much that I was a little more volume curious!
Either way, I felt that these cables were improving things in every way. Music coming from my DAC seemed to be much more natural and balanced with a silky yet detailed treble and a midrange that had great tone and body.
Then I took the full plunge and hooked up the series 2 SPTPC speaker cables so I would have a generation 2 full loom of cable. Replaying Julian Lage’s album everything changed and came even more into full focus. The upper midrange and treble are where I immediately noticed the largest improvements with all generation 2 cables used. Initially the Series 2 speaker cables were warmer sounding but there was no loss in treble or upper midrange information being presented! The presentation had more intact characteristically nuanced sound than before but digital playback had nothing in the form of brightness or edge. Cymbals had all the energy as before but there seemed to be much more subtlety in the cymbal’s sound showing the overtones and body of the cymbal.
Instrumental placement went stratospheric letting me almost see the player in my room, I love hearing all of the detail in my music but not at the expense of listenability. These cables gave me all the accouterments my speakers could reproduce while keeping things smooth and all-day comfortable.
I get my taste for Colter Wall’s music directly from my grandfather. It is the only style of country I listen to. The old school is basic and simple! No flash, no boot-scooting boogie, no pop elements. In my opinion, Colter’s music captures this better than most country artists today.
When I do my reviews, I listen to music I know and love not prescribed “audiophile” tracks. “Western Swing” is a well-recorded album for this genre and to me has many of the traits that can test a system. With the Generation 2 ETPC XLR cables and Series 1 SPTPC speaker cables the music had a good body and tone. Colter’s vocals set back on the stage and were center. Acoustic guitars, steel guitars, and harmonicas had great tonality. The bass drum and snare both had a very life-like body and impact.
When I switched out my series 1 speaker cables for the Iconoclast series 2 SPTPC speaker cables everything I mentioned above was taken a notch up in both detail and realism. The series 2 speakers cables added to the soundstage width and depth and strengthened imaging by a good margin.
As with the Julian Lage tracks the instrument separation with the series 2 cables was ‘off-the-charts’ good. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest strengths of the series 2 speaker cable upgrade. This album is meant to sound like an older analog-style recording and while succeeding at that it contained more clarity than country recordings of old.
The last album I thought would round out my review of these cables is a popular throwback to an earlier era of rock. Santana’s album is chock full of musicianship and a great 70’s rock tone. Listening to the song “Soul Sacrifice”, I was treated with a wide soundstage and great musical tonality from the Generation 2 XLRs and series 1 speaker cables. By stepping up to the series 2 speaker cables this increased by giving each instrument more of its own space to perform.
Another aspect of the series 2 speaker cables that must be mentioned is that they might at first seem like the sound is warmer in the treble. After listening to this album a couple of times with both series 1 and series 2 speaker cables I realized that they were not warmer at all. The upper mids and highs were there just as strong as before but more natural and realistic. Crash cymbals had more body and leading edge clarity. I found myself being able to listen louder with the series 2 speaker cables in place due to this clarity and focus.
Seeing that I have already compared the series 1 and 2 Iconoclast SPTPC speaker cables I will just say this. The series 1 cables are great cables that have served me well this last year and if I had not heard the series 2 in this review would still be riding into the sunset with them. For someone with a system that is resolving enough to show the differences the series 2 speakers cables take things up several notches giving the listener much more realism, soundstage width, imaging sharpness, and are more dynamically revealing.
I had the ArgentPur 13 speaker cables in for review as well and comparing them to the series 2 Iconoclast speaker cables proved a tough undertaking.
Both cables sound realistic with great tone and body as well as presenting all the musical detail one could ask for while remaining listenable all day. The iconoclasts had an edge in soundstage width while the ArgentPur had a very slight edge in imaging. The differences between these cables were very minute having to listen very closely and attentively to pick up the subtleties.
Both companies offer trial periods to try out their cables and that is exactly what I would do with both of these brands. I think it would come down to system-dependent analysis to see which cables work best for your system. In this battle, there was no winner only the recommendation to try both for your system.
Over the years in this hobby, I have heard a lot of cables. Some of them do not live up to their hype, some punch above their price class, while others are nothing more than tone controls altering the delicate fundamentals of the music being played through them. I do not and will not subscribe to cables being tone controls as cables should transmit the signal to the best of their ability and NOT alter it.
With that being said, the Iconoclast Series 2 SPTPC speaker and Generation 2 ETPC XLR cables do nothing to alter the music signal fed through them only opening a window to more of what is on the recording. Having a 30-day return policy allows the customer to try the cables to make sure they are totally satisfied and gives them peace of mind if they are not.
While this review is specifically for the series 2 SPTPC speaker cables and ETPC XLR cables, Iconoclast has these cables available made with different metals at different price points that give the end user the ability to put together a package that is both affordable to them and gives them the performance they are after. After hearing the cables you choose to upgrade to one of the upper-end metals you can as long as you meet certain criteria explained here. In my view that gives even more incentive to give these cables a try as I did when I reviewed the series 1 cables.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with both the series 2 speaker and XLR cables. I just could not let them go back so I purchased the loom and now have it set up as my reference for all others to be judged. Very highly recommended!
Review System: Speakers: Spatial Audio M3 Turbo S open baffle./ REL T9x subwoofer/ Digital: Denafrips Venus II, / Modified PC-based Music server/streamer. Analog: Vintage Hitachi PS-17 Turntable, Darlington labs MP-7, and SU-7 phono preamp, Audio Technica VM95SH cartridge Amplification: Hegel P20 preamp. Pass Labs X150.5 power amp. Conditioner: PS Audio Quintet. Cables: Iconoclast Series 2 SPTPC speaker cables, Iconoclast Generation 2 ETPC XLR cables and Gotham 4/1 RCA interconnects, Iconoclast BAV REL subwoofer cable
- Series 2 speaker cables
- Capacitance: 65 pF/ft
- Inductance: .08 µH/ft
- Resistance: 1.36 Ω/1000 ft
- Electricals (typical): XLR cables
- 4×1, 12.5 pF/ft
- 4×4, 17.5 pF/ft
- 4×1, .155 µH/ft
- 4×4, .115µH/ft
- Resistance, Conductor:
- 4×1, 17.5 Ω/1000 ft
- 4×4, 15 Ω/1000 ft.
- Resistance, shield:
- 4.8 Ω/1000 ft.
- Iconoclast Series 2 SPTPC speaker cables(7.5’) – $2925.00
- Iconoclast Generation 2 ETPC XLR cables(8’) – $855.00
- Iconoclast Generation 2 ETPC XLR cables(3’) – $680.00
850 860 0940
3216 16th Ave W
Seattle WA 98119
Sales inquiries (Bob Howard):
850 860 0940
Production questions (our shop; ask for Andrew or Jeff):
206 284 2924
WHERE the MUSIC BEAT meets the AUDIOPHILE ELITE !
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.