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Reviewer: Jeff Day
Digital: Sony PlayStation 1 SCPH-1001, Shindo Arome CD matching transformer [in for review]
FM Tuners: vintage Scott 370 Stereomaster
Preamplifiers: Leben RS-28CX [in for review], Shindo Monbrison [in for review]
Integrated amplifiers: Leben CS600, Leben CS300X Limited, Almarro A205A Mk1 & Mk2
Amplifiers: Fi 2A3 monos, Shindo Cortese [in for review]
Speakers: Harbeth Super HL5 (with 18" Skylan stands), Merrill Zigmahornets, ART Emotive Signature [in for review]
Cables: 47 Laboratory OTA Cable Kit interconnects; Nirvana S-L & S-X interconnects, S-L speaker cables, and Transmission Digital Interface; Auditorium 23 speaker cable; Tom Evans Audio Design interconnects; various SilverFi interconnects and digital interfaces; White Lightning Moonshine DIY interconnects and speaker cables; Shindo silver interconnects [in for review]; Furutech power cables and connectors [in for review]
Stands: McKinnon Bellevue Symphony walnut media cabinet, Atlantis Video Reference equipment rack, Skylan speaker, isolation [in for review] and amplifier stands
Room sizes: Room 1: 20' L x 17' W x 17' H; Room 2: 11' L x 11'W x 9' H
Review components retail: Woods Yard Master Patio Cord $7.44 for 40 feet, Switchcraft SWC-3502A RCA connectors $1.66 per RCA (no minimum order), Multi-Contact LS4 banana plug $1.11 per plug (100 minimum order), Kimber 1/4 inch heat shrink tubing $0.63 per foot, Kimber 1/2 inch heat shrink tubing for $0.80 per foot.
Source: Reviewer purchase - you know, like Consumer Reports...
I don't know about you but the exorbitant prices of good interconnects and speaker cables really piss me off badly at times. It's just Wire by Morrigan (a legendary Celtic goddess)! Well, yes and no. Some commercial interconnects and speaker cables really do have a lot of technology, expensive materials and assembly behind them. I'm not really sure that's what makes some of them sound so good though. And perhaps those that sound good do so in spite of all that goes into them? Who knows - but today's project does raise the question...
White Lightning Moonshine Interconnects & Speaker Cables
What if you wanted something that sounded as good as the top tier stuff when your pockets had nothing in them but lint? That's where the do-it-yourself (DIY) White Lightning Moonshine interconnects and speaker cables enter the picture. They're right up there with the really good stuff and they'll cost you about the same as a nice lunch. The conductors used in these cables are one of my friend Pete Riggle's recent underground discoveries. The resultant speaker cables and interconnects made from this wire have a musical balance not unlike Cardas Golden Cross. They do lots of space and positively nail the tone. Tone, tone, tone - everywhere there's intensely beautiful tone! They have lots of musically natural detail and decent PRaT too. They do nice tight bass. They actually rank right up there with some of the best interconnects and particularly speaker cables that I've heard for overall musicality.
To let you in on the humor, the White Lightning Moonshine moniker is a tongue-in-cheek play on words. First, the W-L-M is a tribute to the main ingredient, the 40 feet of patio cord that serve as conductor and can be purchased from WaL-Mart for the meager sum of $7.44. Second, white lightning, or moonshine, was an illegally distilled alcohol beverage made from corn and sugar during the Prohibition years of 1920 to 1933, concocted from Montana to Appalachia when alcohol was made illegal in the US. It had a reputation for big-time whiskey-like kick. If it didn't kill or blind you, it gave you quite a buzz - or so they say. In that same DIY spirit of cheap thrills and bang for your buck, the White Lightning Moonshine interconnects and speaker cables deliver remarkable performance for your investment and as a side benefit, you won't have to go blind. Interested? Read on.
Woods Yard Master Patio Cord
The first thing you'll need to do is go down to Wal-Mart and buy a Woods Yard Master Patio Cord. As you would suspect by its price, the Yard Master Patio Cord is manufactured in China for Woods. The patio cord is a 40-foot long extension cord containing three 16-gauge wires wrapped in a white covering. How good is it? After hearing a set of speaker cables made of the patio cord in his own system, fellow moonster Stephaen ditched his high-dollar speaker cables (which shall remain nameless). I've been using a pair in my system too and they're really good.
Switchcraft SWC-3502A RCA Connectors
The SWC-3502A RCA connectors are made by that fine old USA company Switchcraft. Switchcraft has quite a good reputation in other parts of the world but lucky for you and me, the HiFi marketeers haven't yet heard about the Switchcraft witchcraft RCAs in the US so they're still relatively cheap here. How good are they? It's what Ken Shindo considers to be the best-sounding RCA regardless of cost and he uses them exclusively on his superb Shindo Silver interconnects. To make the whole thing even sweeter, I was able to buy mine online from CMH Electronics for the ridiculously low price of $1.66 per RCA. To order them, click here and search on SWC-3502A. Then scroll down the page to that part number and add your quantity to your cart.
Multi-Contact Banana Connectors
Multi-Contact AG is a Swiss company that makes ultra-high quality connectors for the electrical industry. I really like the concept of ultra-low mass banana connectors for speaker cable terminations. They're easy to use and minimally degrade the signal. The Multi-Contact LS4 plug is a perfect example of a high-quality low-mass banana plug that sells for the very fair price of $1.11 from Multi-Contact USA. There's a slight hitch though as Multi-Contact is a supplier rather than retailer and only sells the LS4s in lots of 100. Hopefully one of the audio parts suppliers will read how good these connectors are and begin to stock them. It takes eight to make a pair of speaker cables so maybe you can get a couple of buddies to join the project and defray costs. You can contact Jereb Johnson at Multi-Contact USA at firstname.lastname@example.org to order them. How good are the Multi-Contact LS4 banana plugs? Keith Aschenbrenner believes they're the best-sounding banana connectors available today and the only thing he uses to terminate his superb custom Auditorium 23 'Green' speaker cables with.
Heat shrink Tubing
You'll need some heat shrink tubing too. I like the Kimber Kable polyolefin heat shrink tubing sold by Parts Connexion. I got the following: Kimber ¼" polyolefin 2:1 heat shrink tubing in black (part # 64092) and red (part # 66093) at $0.63 per foot for the speaker cable leads, and Kimber ½" polyolefin 2:1 heat shrink tubing in black (part # 64094) and red (part # 64095) at $0.80 per foot for interconnect terminations and termination of the main speaker cables. I like to order a little extra just so I won't run short.
Putting It All Together
First cut the plug ends off the patio cord and toss them. Then measure and cut off two 9-foot sections for speaker cables and two 3-foot sections for a pair of interconnects. If you want longer or shorter speaker cables or interconnects, adjust accordingly.
For the speaker cables, strip off about 5 inches of the white covering on each end. You'll see three wires: black, green and white. Strip off about a ¼" of insulation from each end. To get the best performance -- important -- twist the white and green wires together and put a dab of silver solder on them to prevent fraying. Put a dab of silver solder on the black wire too.
Now cut two 5-inch pieces each of the ½" black and red heat shrink tubing. On one cable, slip the black heat shrink over each end and put the red pieces on the ends of the other cable. I let the heat shrink tubing overhang the main cable onto the wire leads by about a half inch. You don't need to use that much tubing but I did because I liked the way it looked. To shrink the tubing down to size, I just held it over a range burner for a few moments but a hair dryer works just as well.
Next solder the Multi-Contact RS4 bananas to each of the speaker ends and let them cool. Now trim off two approximately 1-inch sections of the ¼" black and red heat shrink tubing for their respective leads. If you look closely at the RS4 banana, you'll notice how it features a raised section that serves as stop when you push it into your speaker posts. The stop is a little sharp so I like to have the heat shrink tubing cover it. That also gives you a better grip on the banana for insertion and unplugging (you know you're not supposed to pull on the cable itself ). I like to use a permanent marker to identify the cables ends with 'amp' and 'speaker' respectively to maintain orientation. Your speaker cables are now ready so connect them while we finish up the interconnects.
|Trim about two and a half inches of insulation from each end. The Switchcraft RCAs are a bit of a tight inner fit so you can't use all three conductors as with the speaker cables (or as you can with bigger RCAs like Eichmanns) so you have to trim one of the wires even with insulation - I discarded the green. After you've done that, strip about a ¼" of insulation off the black wire and slip the RCA barrel over the wires. Then slip the stripped end of the black wire into the pin on the RCA and crimp the small tab down to hold it in place.
|Then crimp the inside rear tab down over the black wire and trim the length of the white wire to the inside end of the tab. Strip a small amount of insulation off the white wire and lay it over the inside tab. Then crimp down the outside tab over the bare wire sandwiching it in place between the rear inside and outside tabs. Solder both the wires in place to secure them. Now cut 4-inch lengths of the black and red ½" heat shrink tubing and slip it over the end of the finished RCAs so that it reaches just to the top of its textured surface. Shrink it in place. As a finishing touch, I used a black permanent marker to identify the ends as 'source' and 'preamp'.
You now have a full set of speaker cables and interconnects that'll rewrite the book on cost versus performance. Okay, I know it seems ridiculous that the WLM cable set can kick major butt but try it and call me a liar. If your reaction is like everyone else's who has heard 'em, you'll be more than pleasantly surprised. I'd say the speaker cables are the better performer of the two musically and sonically but the interconnects are still mighty fine. Give both about a 100 hours to settle down and sound their best and then enjoy your music!
Quality of packing: Packing materials for these products were nicely done.
The following page reports on the White Lightning Moonshine power cord...