Over the past 10 years, DH Labs Silver Sonic has popped up occasionally on my audio radar screen but I've never had the opportunity to sample their wares and verify the positive claims made by many audiophiles. Indeed, their BL-1 interconnects and T-14 loudspeaker cables have a legendary reputation for offering budget-conscious audiophiles superb, giant-killing performance for a relative song. My first introduction to DH Labs came about as a result of need rather than interest. I have been quite happy with my JPS Labs Ultraconductor speaker cables, interconnects and Superconductor+ interconnects. For me, they offered the best bang for my buck and were the most musical sounding cables I had heard. Due to the Ultra's thin, delicate, solid-core design, they are not conducive to constant swapping during equipment reviews - I repeatedly broke the speaker leads just behind the terminations. As you can imagine, I quickly tired of affecting repairs and the hunt was on for a more robust, yet fine-sounding and inexpensive replacement.

I would have sprung for the thicker Superconductor+ speaker cables but alas, they were priced beyond my reach and even more difficult to manage. Since my loudspeakers were Meadowlarks, I surmised that their designer, Pat McGinty, would have an affordable yet synergistic cable recommendation. As I was also in the process of reviewing the modified Unison Research Unico at the time, I asked Parts ConneXion's Chris Johnson to weigh in as well. Both gents suggested the DH Labs Q-10 for excellent sound quality and minimal wallet impact. So I purchased a 6' pair from Chris and suffice to say, I liked what I heard and thought further investigation of the Silver Sonic stable was in order. I emailed Darren Hovsepian (the DH in DH Labs), and a week later, the subjects of today's review showed up on my doorstep: a 1m pair each of Air Matrix and Revelation interconnects; two 2m Power Plus AC cables; and a 1m run of D-75 digital interconnect. I also asked Darren to offer some insight into his philosophy:

"DH Labs was founded in 1992. Our mission has been to design and manufacture cables of the highest quality, without letting the price get out of control. We spend as much money as necessary to procure the finest materials available, but we don't waste money on extravagant packaging and full-page ads in all of the magazines. We do most of our design work in-house, but we also consult with outside firms when we feel it will help. We have worked with various testing laboratories, engineering firms, and even the Copper Development Association to help us improve our products. (See the pages on our web site describing our air-Teflon matrix dielectric and the HC Alloy Ultimate RCA for examples - Ultimate RCA below.) We always try to price our products strictly based on what it costs us to make them, and no higher."

During a recording session back in the late 80's, Darren Hovsepian was surprised at the audible difference he noted when swapping out one pair of microphone cables for another. Curiosity piqued, he later conducted a series of experiments to determine why these cables had differing sonics. After all, as long as LCR (inductance, capacitance and resistance) were similar, they should sound identical - at least that's what Darren's electrical engineering background told him. Hovsepian discovered that the insulation or dielectric surrounding a conductor had an audible effect on sound quality. Some materials actually sounded better than others.

As a result of his research, Darren started to make his own cables, mostly for his own use - until friends and colleagues showed interest, too. It wasn't long before Darren realized that the fruits of his cable experimen-tations were taking him places he hadn't thought of. Therefore, DH Labs Silver Sonic was created to offer audiophiles and the recording industry high-performance audio and video cables that would compete with more esoteric and expensive cables. During a rather lengthy phone conversation with Darren, I was surprised not only with his technical savvy but his commitment to back up his cables with science rather than voodoo. While most cable companies use copper, DH Labs is among the few who use silver and especially silver-coated copper. Many audiophiles agree that silver is superior to copper but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Sure, silver is measurably more conductive than copper but since silver is softer, its surface is less prone to damage when being die-drawn.

The resulting smooth surface assists the preservation of crucial low-level information in audio signals, hence silver's reputation for sounding more detailed and subtle than copper. But making solid-silver cables can be expensive. Why not coat copper with a layer of silver - surely this will keep the cost down? Alas, said configuration has a reputation among many audiophiles for sounding hard and bright. According to Darren, it's all in how you do it. I asked Darren why his choice of silver-coated copper;

"A silver-coated conductor can be surface-treated in such a way that it has a much smoother surface than a copper conductor. This is not automatic; you have to specify the process and equipment used during manufacturing. We don't buy our conductor off-the-shelf. It's not military surplus either. It is all custom-made for us, and we have to buy a large quantity to get it processed according to our specs - usually at least 500-1000 pounds at a time, depending on the gauge. The enhanced surface integrity is at least as important as the increase in conductivity that the silver provides. It's a major reason why our cables, although clean and detailed, are also smooth and non-fatiguing. Customers are constantly telling us things like, "I was concerned that your silver-plated cables might be bright, but after listening to them, they are very smooth and warm"."

The upshot for the budget-conscious audiophile? You get the benefits of silver; immunity from copper oxidation; a smooth conductor surface that better preserves sensitive audio signals; a measurable increase in electrical conductivity; and all at a reduced premium. Sounds like a good deal to me!

To obtain optimum performance from its interconnects, DH Labs offers its own custom-machined locking RCA connectors that are composed of 99.3% pure copper, unlike most others which are made of brass alloy and only contain roughly 60% copper. DH Labs contends that signal purity is better preserved with higher content copper connectors than brass alloy ones. I must say that these are among the best RCA connectors I have used, exhibiting no problems in clamping on even the loosest of equipment jacks. As for the claims of better performance due to increased copper content? I really couldn't verify that assertion, but these are certainly fine quality connectors and far cheaper than WBTs.

Upon closer examination of the cables, I asked Darren why the Power Plus and Revelation were not shielded:

"The Power Plus already has very good noise rejection. We didn't feel that a separate shield offered any real improvement. The Revelation is the only DH Labs interconnect not shielded. It uses 6 conductors that are interleaved in a helical arrangement. Noise rejection for this type of geometry is inherently very good. We have customers using 10meter/30 feet runs out of passive preamps with no problems. Plus, the addition of a shield would have increased the cable's capacitance higher than I wanted it to be. (Our other interconnects use simpler geometries which, although they too have good inherent noise rejection, benefit more from having a shield)."

Upon arrival, I installed all cables and allowed about a month of burn-in before I put on my critical reviewer's cap. I listened to them as a complete system and I also swapped individual cables to determine their particular sonic characteristics. Equipment used during the review included: Audio Zone's AMP-2/PRE-T1 combo; Bryston B60; Houston Audio Mini-2 EL-34; Song Audio SA-34SB SET and Vasant-K's integrated; Rotel RCD-971 CD player; Sony SCD-670 SACD player; and Scott Nixon's TubeDac+. The Power Plus was compared with generic and Wireworld Aurora III AC cables. Comparative interconnects included: AudioQuest Quartz; JPS Labs Ultraconductor and SuperConductor+. Speaker cables were my 6' double run of JPS Labs Ultraconductors. Monster DataLink IDL100 digital cable served as my digital reference. Speaker cables to my Kestrel 2s were single-run with DH Labs T-14 jumpers installed. As I have stated previously, I am no fan of biwiring. All connections were treated with Caig ProGold. Whew!

Before I get into the physical descriptions and listening impressions of each cable, I shall point out that they all had similar sonic characteristics that really gelled into a more cohesive whole when employed together as a complete system, the result being not merely additive but greater than the sum total. Some audiophiles feel that musical synergy is better served by employing wiring from the same manufacturer. My experience with the DH Labs cables suggests that there is indeed some truth to that. In future cable reviews, I shall endeavor to obtain complete system cabling to further explore that theory.