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The Cable Kit Experience
Before you listen to your HiFi with its new high performance cable system, you have to make it. To do that you'll need a cable stripper and a pair of scissors or wire snips. I used a $13 Kronus wire stripper/cutter from RadioShack that worked swell. Let's get started. First take your Cable Kit out of the box and make sure all the goodies are there. Inside you should find a bundle of Stratos wire, a package of white plastic banana inserts for speaker cable & amplifier terminations and a package of white plastic RCA center pins & a package of black plastic RCA barrel connectors for interconnects. There is also one preassembled RCA wired up so you have an example to work from. No need to fret. It's easier than putting strings on your guitar!

Let's do speaker cables first. Figure out how long your cable runs need to be, then cut four lengths to size. Allow for about three extra inches in length to allow for the termination. Strip about 1.5" of insulation from each end. If you want to attach the bare wires directly to your speaker and amp terminals, you're already done. I recommend you mark each end of the hot wire with a red Sharpie so you can keep things separate. Since all runs look identical, it can get confusing otherwise. You can also use the supplied banana connectors. The bananas are easier to use so I went that route. All you do is thread the wire through the banana plug until it emerges out the top. Allow friction to seat the wire as you plug in the banana. With my Duos, I found the female connectors too loose a fit for that approach so I twirled the wire end around the end of the banana plug a couple of times to take up the extra slack [right]. You can also see the pigtail jumpers I made for my Duos in the same fashion as the Nirvana connector that Gordon Rankin made for me when I first bought my Duos. The difference is that there are no soldered connections with my 47 Laboratory piggies. When I was all done, I had a set of speaker cables made up and plugged into my Fi amps and Avantgarde Duo loudspeakers in about the same amount of time it took me to write this paragraph.

Interconnects are a little more involved to make but not by a lot. It's still easy enough for even a ham-fisted HiFi reviewer. Like with the speaker cables, figure out how long they need to be and cut four pieces of wire to make up one pair of interconnects. Remember to allow for about three excess inches. Now grab one of the black barrel connectors and locate the hole in its side. Slip the stripped wire end through the hole in the front of the plug, loop it back down through the barrel cutaway and you're done. You'll probably need a pair of tweezers or fine needle nose pliers to pull it through - it's a tight fit. You can twirl the wire end around the cable conductor at the barrel base or tape it in place but you don't really need to. Repeat with the other end. Now let's wire up the RCA pin. The RCA pin looks like a smaller version of the banana connector and has a groove in its tip. Just like with the bananas, thread the stripped wire through the pin, bend it over so it fits in the groove and wrap it around the pin a couple of turns and thread it through the bottom hole of the pin to secure it. You now have one leg of an interconnect ready to go. Just repeat the process and you're done. For a digital interconnect, you only need to make one leg.

Listening Impressions
I wired up my entire system with the 47 Laboratory Cable Kit to get the full effect. I needed more interconnects than the cable kit provides so I had to ask Yoshi for enough connectors to make an extra set of interconnects for the Auditorium 23 step up transformer to Fi Yph phono stage connection & a digital connector between my DAC and transport. Then I let 'er rip. For the first 20 hours or so, the Cable Kit sounded a little bit lean and forward - but just a little. I was impressed by the clarity, oodles of detail and the deep & tight bass - from a skinny little wire no less! When things finally settled down completely, the Stratos maintained its detail, clarity, deep and tight bass and attained just enough natural roundness on decent recordings to completely banish any sense of the slightly lean and forward break-in sound. Compared to my reference full Nirvana cable system, the Stratos was more extended in the highs and lows, with the latter's depth and power surprising coming from such a small single strand of wire. Compared to the clarity of the Stratos, the full-system Nirvana listening experience was a bit like the aural equivalent of looking through lightly frosted glass. The Stratos allowed me to see deeper into the soundstage, provided better image definition, better tone, better decay of notes, a greater sense of space and better delineated fine details than my reference Nirvana cables.

While I no longer have the Cardas Golden Reference I reviewed for 6moons, my aural recollection suggests that the Stratos performs in the same league for detail recovery (i.e. oodles of detail) and betters the Ref by sounding more natural and - ahem, a touch more golden. I like the Stratos better than both my reference Nirvana cable set and the Cardas Golden Reference cable set or any other full cable set I've heard in my system for that matter. So what we have in the Stratos is a realsizer's dream come true: A true reference level product that you can use to wire your whole system for all of $600.

The are a few caveats you have to consider. First, if you need a shielded interconnect between preamp and power amp -- like with the Tom Evans Linear A amplifier I just reviewed -- then you need to look elsewhere. However, my Fi and Almarro tube amps worked fine going unshielded, as did the new Sonic Impact amplifier. Second, the Stratos cable is somewhat fragile due to its very fine conductor gauge. If you plug & unplug your connections frequently as I do as a reviewer, you'll probably break an end off here and there. It's not really a big deal when that happens. All you have to do is strip a little insulation off the end and rethread it through the connectors and you're all set again. Lastly, because the Stratos is unshielded, if you live in an area of high RFI -- like right next to a radio-transmitting tower -- you could suffer free tunes superimposed on your tunes. And I almost forgot. Besides sounding great and playing music with abandon, the Stratos also disappears visually in the living room because of its small size and almost transparent coating, making it the visually least intrusive cable set I am aware
of. That's good news for spouses everywhere I suspect. Heck, even a hard-core audio nut like me appreciates the tidier appearance it provided my primary listening system in my living room.

Stratos as a digital interconnect
I've talked about how the Stratos compares to some high-end full-rig cable sets like the Nirvana & Cardas Golden Reference. How does it stack up on the individual basis of its component parts? First up was the Stratos as digital interconnect between my Meridian 508.20 and Audio Logic 2400 vacuum tube DAC. I was rather shocked at the transformation of my digital front end by the insertion of the minimalist Stratos wire in place of my reference Cardas Neutral Reference or Nirvana Digital Transmission Interface. The Stratos sounds altogether more natural and analog-like while still maintaining a level of resolution and detail retrieval that was rather astonishing. This is by far the best digital interconnect I've heard in my system for infusing an analog-like ease and musicality to the music while still delivering the HiFi fireworks of excellent detail recovery, soundstaging, imaging, clarity and dynamics.

While listening to Greg Brown's Honey in the Lion's Head, I was impressed by how natural the decay of the guitar strings sounded and how well they were delineated. I was also struck by how natural & analog-like it made my digital sound. If I hadn't known better, I could have believed it was my idler-wheel driven Garrard 301 spinning a licorice disk instead of digits streaming off a hard silvery CD. The Stratos gets the flesh & blood feeling right. Next was the degree of resolution & clarity that allowed the Stratos to unravel each vocal and instrumental nuance and make musical sense of it. There's something else too - it makes the music fun to listen to. It made me want to just keep dropping disks into my Meridian transport to see what would happen next. Another thing that impressed me was how well the nether regions were resolved. No booming blurry bass here. I could hear the clearly deep and resolved individual
bass vibrations making up the overall sound of Rick Cicalo's bass notes. One could have counted the bloody cycles per second! The Stratos is easily the best digital interconnect I've heard in my system and by a rather large margin. How would I sum it up? I think I'd use the same words that Junji uses to describe the combination of vacuum tubes and LPs: A "rich and fresh musical presence with ambiance".

Stratos as analog interconnect
The Stratos as an RCA interconnect sounds the same as I described the digital interconnect. No surprise there. It's the same cable. Why would it sound different? Yup, a "rich and fresh musical presence with ambiance" describes it perfectly well.

Stratos as a speaker cable
I thought it would be interesting to compare the Stratos to the Auditorium 23 green cables of Keith Aschenbrenner's that I have on loan from Jonathan Halpern at Tone Imports, plus my usual Nirvanas. Compared to the Auditorium 23s, the Stratos was a little -- and just a little -- leaner on my Acoustic
Sounds test pressing of Cookin' With the Miles Davis Quintet. The Auditorium 23 cables sounded a little more real and a little more organic in the sense of living and breathing musicians being present. I also thought that the 23s captured the sense of space in the recording better. I thought Miles trumpet sounded a little more rounded and natural without losing its bite. The 47Labs cable was a little more immediate sounding, with the emphasis again on a little.

The overall character of the Stratos was natural, with lots of clarity & detail and an overall enjoyable take on the music. The Stratos did a good job of articulating the brushes on cymbals and the bass was well defined if not particularly deep. Miles' muted trumpet could sound slightly strident in the higher notes but never became outright annoying in the way muted trumpets can be when not reproduced well. I did note that the higher notes of the piano didn't have the last bit of sparkle that I like to hear, instead sounding slightly rounded off and softened. Soundstage depth and clarity were both better than the Nirvana, however.

I think the Auditorium 23 cables had the best tone. They also have a closer perspective than the Stratos and make surface noise on my Cookin' LP a little more noticeable. The soundstaging is not quite as wide as with the Stratos but deeper. Imaging is about the same, with the slightest edge going to the Auditorium 23, which at the same time also manages to sound a little more liquid than the somewhat drier Stratos. The Auditorium 23 cables restore some of the lost sparkle to the piano and the bass has more weight and more PRaT, making it more rhythmically persuasive. Miles' muted trumpet has slightly less edge with the Auditorium 23s and there is more air & space there, with a touch more clarity too.

My Nirvana S-L speaker cables reside somewhere between the character of the Auditorium 23s and the wire of the 47 Laboratory Cable Kit. Miles' muted trumpet is not quite as natural sounding as the Auditorium but slightly more so than the Stratos. The Nirvana's bass sounded punchiest of the three speaker cables but was not as rhythmically convincing as the Auditorium 23 yet again slightly more so than the Stratos. I did notice that the decay of the notes was truncated noticeably compared to the other two cables as well as having the slightly 'frosted' presentation through the rest of the frequencies that I mentioned earlier.

All three of these speaker cables sound great and I could (and do) live with any of them as a long- term reference. How big are the differences? About the same as the differences you hear from vinyl playback when the VTA is spot on compared to when it's out of whack - not huge but noticeable. If cost were no consideration, I would choose the Auditorium 23s. When cost is a consideration, the Stratos is a runaway winner. It is close to the best sound available at a substantially lower price.

Wrapping Up
Like the single-ended triode (SET) amplifier and the single driver loudspeaker (SDL), the minimalist single conductor wire design of the 47 Laboratory Cable Kit with its bare-boned connectors makes the most of its simple and elegant design to provide excellent sound quality and music-making ability at what can only be considered a real world everyman's price of $600 to do a whole system.

The Cable Kit's level of performance stands proud among the priciest High End interconnects & speaker cables that are its competition from a musical & sound quality perspective. While the Cable Kit may be 47 Laboratory's most inexpensive offering, it's also
one of its most impressive, proving Junji's maxim of "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex". Is this the best cable solution out there in audio land? I don't know but in the right application, it's certainly among the best. Highly recommended!
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