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Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Rotel RCD-971 as transport, Audio Zone DAC-1, Zero One Mercury CD/HD Player [in for review], Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge
Preamp/Integrated: Manley Labs Shrimp, Audio Space Line-2 preamp [(in for review], Audio Zone AMP-1, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage
Amp: Manley Labs Mahi monoblocks
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand filled Skylan stands), Hornshoppe Horns, 2 x REL Q108 Mk II subwoofers
Cables: Audience, Auditorium 23, DH Labs, SilverFi [in for review]
Power Cables: Audience, GutWire, Harmonic Technology
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier rack
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center w/Wattgate 381 outlets, Bybee Quantum Purifiers and ERS cloth, GutWire MaxCon, Blue Circle BC86
Sundry accessories: Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Herbie's Way Excellent II Turntable Mat, Herbie's Black Hole CD Mat, Isoclean fuses, Walker Audio SST contact enhancer, Nanotech Intron 8500 CD fluid, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments
Room size: 11' x 18' x 8', long wall setup, hardwood floors with large area rug
Review Component Retail: SP-8 $1,499; SP-11 $3,299; SI-6 $2,099
Today we have two power cables and a pair of interconnects from GutWire's new line of solid-core cables, the SP and SI series respectively. Until now, all of GutWire's cable designs have featured stranded copper wire with multiple shielding layers. The new series do not supplant the stranded designs but simply complement them by offering different sonic signatures for greater system compatibility. The key sonic characteristics of GutWire's Clef series power cables -- for me -- are their extremely low noise levels, bottom end weight and rich, mellifluous ease. However, I wouldn't disagree if some found them ever so slightly closed in (no doubt due the degree of shielding) and perhaps lacking in ultimate speed and dynamics. The SP series is aimed at those seeking a punchier, more dynamic presentation. GutWire's Herbert Wong offered that the SP series were probably best suited for power amp applications and his stranded Clef² Series for front-end components. For this review I received a 5'.5" pair of SP-11s, a single 5'.5" length of SP-8 and a 1m pair of SI-6 interconnects.
Both SP models were substantial snakes that were far easier to handle than their girth and solid core design suggested. Indeed, Herbert told me that he spent several months developing a solid core cable that was as flexible as possible. While both cables were fairly heavy and stiff, they were surprisingly easy to bend and twist. They just require a little muscle power to force them to lay them the way you want.
As with previous GutWire cables, the SP-8 and 11 sported excellent construction with high-quality hospital grade Hubbell 8215 plugs and Wattgate 350i IEC connectors. Both cables were clad in black woven sleeving. The one-inch thick SP-8 sports 8 x 16 AWG solid-core Teflon insulated HPOFC conductors (high purity oxygen free copper) shielded with a 100% coverage braid. The one-and-a-half inch thick SP-11 is essentially the same cable except there are 11 x 16 AWG solid core HPOFC conductors plus the addition of GERP, Gutspeak for GutWire Electron Rectification Processing. My guess makes this some sort of filter, perhaps utilizing a ferrite material or a parallel capacitor buried in one of the connectors. Furthermore, each conductor bundle has its own shield. The GERP filter plus the more extensive shielding and greater conductor mass are responsible for the substantial price increase over the SP-8. While both cables are shielded, Herbert added that the degree of shielding was not as extensive as in their Clef² Series.
|The SI-6 interconnect uses shielded solid core HPOFC wire in a three-conductor twisted design. Terminations are WBT-0108. The SI-6 addresses resonance, EMI and RFI with thick aluminum collars at each end of the cable. An epoxy-like material encases the wire terminations. While the SI-6 is a solid core design, it is a remarkably flexible cable and I experienced no difficulty integrating it into in my system.
I tried the power cables with all my components including running one from the wall outlet to the passive BPT PPC outlet multiplier that feeds my entire system. Indeed, as Herbert noted, this new series is an audible departure from the Clef² series. Either feeding my entire system or my Mahi monos, both cables were notable for their punchy and powerful sound compared to the Power Clef² which was more relaxed and mellifluous. I also thought that minute instrumental details and ambience retrieval were not as evident as with the Clef series. That's not to say the SP wasn't as good. Both series simply have very different sonic signatures. The more expensive SP-11 is in another league compared to its less expensive sibling. Timbre was more true to life and the sense of greater pace and authority was certainly more audible. However, when I connected the SPs to my source components, I noted a mild tonal coolness and a slight loss in transparency. I obtained the best results with the SP-8 on my preamp, the SP-11s on my monos and the Power Clef and C Clef on my source components and preamp. Now everything started to click. First I got the resolved, dead-quiet, relaxed ease but also the sense of weight and sheer muscle and driving force all matched together in a cohesive whole. It seems there is some truth in matching the proper power cable to each component. Rather than mixing and matching several brands, GutWire provides one-stop shopping for all your AC needs.
However, if you are seeking a faster, more open and dynamic presentation with excellent inner detail and a neutral tonal balance, I recommend Audience's powerChord and BPT's L-10. Both are considerably cheaper and more flexible, albeit without the degree of tonal warmth and noise reduction as the GutWire SP and Clef series cables. The Harmonic Technology Fantasy AC-10 I own sits somewhere in-between.
|The SI-6 interconnects were easily one of the finest interconnects I have used to date. In terms of silky smooth, grunge-free sweetness, they are truly stunning. Image focus, the sense of three-dimensional space and the utterly relaxed and open ease with which music flowed was first rate. Compared to the veritable snake pit of cables on hand, the SI-6 possessed ever so slightly rolled off treble but exhibited a lovely liquid midrange and superior degree of bottom end articulation and solidity. Additionally these
|weren't the sort of cables that offered up a ton of minute detail or insight into every sonic nook and crevice. It was a unique holistic balance that leaned slightly to the Dionysian side of the sonic ledger. The SilverFi cables I currently have for review exhibit a completely different but equally valid set of characteristics in my system. I'll have more to say on SilverFi in a future review. Due to its smooth grain-free sonics, I expect the SI-6 would be ideal in taming a harsh top end without removing the juice and drive of music. However, I wouldn't use them in a system already balanced on the romantic side. Standard audio reviewer protocol suggests I tell you not to use cables as tone controls and instead ask to sell off the offending component. Well, that's all fine and dandy for those who can afford to swap out components every few months. But for many folks, a cable change might be the most cost-effective solution. Although I admit it's difficult to think of a pair of $2,099 interconnects as cost-effective. What the heck. Ignore the audio police and mix 'n' match cables at your fancy. Have some fun.
Yes, cables do make a difference. However, I have no idea why they can exert such a huge effect on music playback. There seems to be more to it than the optimal matching of capacitance, resistance and inductance figures. I just wish these things weren't so darn expensive. At $2,099 for the interconnects and a whopping $3,299 for the SP-11, I don't know anybody who'd cough up that much scratch for mere wire, pretty connectors and fancy sleeving. In the past, I've mentioned my concerns regarding pricing to Herbert who just smiled and claimed that plenty of customers have little difficulty in justifying the cost. Ah well, I should know better than to opine on pricing. What might induce divorce proceedings for one music lover might garner a mere bored yawn from another while writing the cheque. I can't say these cables will work wonders in your system nor can I tell you they'd be money well spent. You will need to determinate that for yourself.