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Now that we're past the esotericism of dielectrics, grounds, shields and cryogenics, let's get to the sound. With cables you need an open mind so set aside the belief that silver cables, high resolution and detail are the antithesis of an emotional musical experience. Silent Source has taken that theory, crumpled it and drop kicked it out of the stadium. Yup, these babies serve up real detail without the brightness of a tilted response curve, combined with a listening experience that just grabs hold of you. Live and learn.

It seems that Silent Source might be correct; it's the low-level noise that produces graininess and masking, impacting the musical experience. An orchestra in real space displays clearly defined micro details with leading and trailing edges of the music that flow naturally. Silent Source allows us one step closer to this ideal. Bells and chimes are great indicators of attack and decay. How does the initial impact present itself? Is it an instantaneous appearance of a blaring sound, or a natural fast rising transient exploding into the room? And does the natural decay die off into a silky background or just abruptly stop? I dug out several bell & chime records to test the References - Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition [Lorin Maazel, Telarc 10042]; John Klemmer's Touch [Mobile Fidelity 1-006] and Faith's Brazilian Sleigh Bells [Fennell, Mercury SR90144]. The verdict was unanimous. In each of these uniquely divergent recordings, the initial impact was clearly audible and the ending decay floated into the room eventually dissolving into silence. This result matches Frank's design theory. A cable's job is to deliver a signal. Grunge, noise, or RFI interference of any kind mask the lowest-level resolution, altering the subtle musical cues that distinguish recorded from live music. It's the initial moment of attack and final moment of decay where the signal levels are so low that they are often obscured by the inherent filtering effects of the cable. Frank's complaint against most if not all cables on the market is that they obscure these crucial low-level elements. There is no doubt that The Music References are superior in this respect to any cable in my
experience. The only possible exception might be the darTZeel's connections, which are a proprietary impedance-matched interconnect system. They too have an extraordinarily low noise floor and superior resolution. But in reality it's an apples and oranges comparison since the Zeel cables only work with darTZeel equipment.

From my experience, you achieve the most realistic sound when the air clearly surrounds each instrument and simultaneously the entire musical event is held together from top to bottom with focus and coherence. Again The Music References excel, with an ease that allows the sound to just flow naturally. As good as the Silver Signatures are -- and they are very good in absolute terms and certainly for the money -- the sound from the References just snaps further into place. While obviously cut from the same sonic cloth as the Signatures, they are a significant step forward in terms of musical detail and resolution. Also, the music just floats from a much darker, quieter and blacker background. Discussing this phenomenon with Frank Dickens made him cringe at the term blackness. "It actually leads to a minor pet peeve of mine when someone says our cables have a black background. I really don't like that term where the background takes on almost a life or sound of its own. To me that comes about from filtering and ends up actually taking away low level information. What we did was create cables that helped to eliminate lots of noise and therefore have a naturally quiet background without that blackness that in reality has a 'sound' of its own."

Whether you accept the terms blackness or call it lack of noise or go for the romantically inclined "velvety void of nothingness from which sound emerges", it's obvious the Silent Source cables are certainly at or near the top. As to the description, I'll still use the term blackness as I believe it best conveys the musical reality of the cables. After a rather long audition, I view the Silent Source cables analogous to a giant pipe, allowing the complexity of the music to flow with a smooth yet detailed presentation. Yes you read it correctly. "Smooth and detailed." The characterization is not a contradiction. I know that many believe cool, bright, and edgy are often synonyms for detail, with smooth at times representing warmer, more laid-back and rolled off sound sans detail. Not here. The Music Reference is the best of both worlds. The effect is instantly obvious - silky elegance combined with resolution yields detail without the nasty side effects. It's an instant reaction. You don't have to struggle to hear minute differences. Silent Source gets the fundamentals right, a glorious midrange set in a correctly proportioned soundstage. The cables don't hit you over the head with any single element of the music reproduction, just a wonderful consistency from top to bottom.

There's a lot right with these cables and at the top of the list would be the silent background and low-level detail. There is just a cleanliness to the sound that differentiates it. Again, don't substitute that for coolness, edginess, hardness or grain - they are the polar opposite to those characteristics. The detailed and textured images are presented in a highly cohesive whole, not carved and disembodied but floating within a musical sphere emerging from a 3-D space dramatically different and superior to any of the cables that I've heard. Leading edge transients, ultra clean precision and speed that truly popped from the background. No gray areas. They sneak up with low level information presented on a beautiful delicate air. The overall soundstage was satisfyingly deep and wide. Again, from discussions with Frank, he attributes this to the subtle musical cues of the signal previously filtered out or buried. The emotional impact is there in full force, evoking what I call the "goose bump" factor. The Music Reference has it in spades, presenting complex harmonic detail and air between the instruments, letting the essence of the musical experience effortlessly flow.

As to the low end, the deep weight of an orchestral foundation was presented with full articulation and allowed the subtleties of the low end their own distinct character. If you want low end authority, listen to Beethoven's "Sonata Opus 57", Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, [Carol Rosenberger, Top Music Intl], the Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand Piano is deep and resolute without the slightest hint of boominess combined with spectacular but natural decay.

The really big question is how do The Music Reference cables compare to some competitors? Like many audiophiles who randomly accumulate cables, at the time of the review I had several divergent sets of speaker cables hanging around. First the magnificent, ultra-expensive Transparent Opus, the Omega Micros, an old pair of Purist Maximus cables and the Silent Source predecessor in my system, the Silver Signatures. Some might question the Purist cables. You could be asking, why bring out a decade-old design three generations removed and compare it to a state-of-the-art contender? Well, Purist has a reputation for quiet backgrounds and lots of low-level information. Since that's the Silent Source claim to fame, I dug the Purist out of the box, cleaned the terminals, applied the Walker SST and let them settle in to fight it out. I didn't do this mini shoot out to rank the cables or to review the competitors but to give you an overall comparison between vastly different cable technologies and to let you know where The Music References fit into this small but eclectic group.

I guess the first question on most people's minds is the comparison to the Transparent Opus. Can a $5,995 cable be the giant killer? Drum roll please. The answer for my system with my components is yes. While both cables produce a wide and deep soundstage, The Music Reference did it with more cohesion. With the References, the sphere of music emanating from the speakers was more precise and the images more delineated. The bass from both was deep, rich and full with a touch more resolution from The Music Reference. The Music Reference is also a win in terms of transparency. For a real instructive comparison, I listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Sure it's been analyzed to death. But it remains a complex and layered piece which makes the Transparent/Silent Source comparison interesting. With The Music References, subtle details pop to the surface with far more clarity. A recurring Sax riff that was buried now floats free. Other textures emerge. As a food analogy, the Transparent offers a wonderfully tasty pie with all the flavors present, but with the Silent Source it's a delicate layer cake with far more individual tastes, the sound producing an almost tangible presence. Now I am going to put in a minor disclaimer here. I do not know what is in the network box of the Opus but I'm assuming some type of Zobel configuration. I can tell you from my experience that this external circuit does not interact well with the Wilson X-2s and in my opinion, degrades the cable's performance.

The comparison with the Omega Mikros is very interesting. The Omega's frequency response seemed tilted up in comparison not only to The Music References but to all of the other speaker cables. It's as if there was a slight treble boost around 10k. All the recordings seemed a touch brighter with the Omegas and against the Silent Source, slightly less natural. If you want to read into that that the Omegas sounded a touch cooler and with slightly less deep bass than The Music Reference, be my guest because it's true. Both cables displayed a ton of detail and resolution but the Silent Source noise floor and blacker background was clearly superior.

I was actually interested in the Purist after reading some reviews and Internet blogs claiming that their newest cables with their Ferox shielding are vastly superior. The discussions jogged my memory and I brought out an old pair of Purist Maximus cables. Historically Jim Aud promotes some of the same philosophies as Silent Source - superior construction, materials and most importantly, elimination of the noise and garbage in the signal. However, Purist has taken a different path with their internal fluid and Ferox compounds. Yes, my Maximus are over a decade old and yes, they are at least three generations removed from the current Purist top line; and yes, a used pair probably costs only a few hundred dollars but what's the harm? Listening to the Purist first showed that they are still capable of a decent, acceptable sound but as one would rationally expect, they were no match for The Music References. In a critical comparison, the soundstage was compressed to the space between the speakers and the References clearly brought more low-level info, life and sparkle to the sound. I would be curious however to listen to the newest Purist designs.

Then we have the middle sibling of the Silent Source line, the Silver Signatures. Here the comparison actually was more difficult. As one would expect, they paint a very similar sonic picture but the difference is that the less expensive Silver Signatures present the music with slightly less continuity. With the References the entire picture just snaps together. With the Silver Signatures you get almost all of the detail but it seems presented in slightly more discrete elements and to use an unfair analogy, the Silver Signatures would be digital music and the References, analog. For someone like myself with a Walker Black Diamond Turntable, the analog version is obviously superior. The differences are audible especially in a high resolution system where the Silver Signatures provide perhaps 80% of the sonic glory for 60% of the price. To be quite honest, I believe that the Silver Signatures would stand stiff competition with some of the top cables in the market today.

There are people who don't view cables as components. With all due respect, they're making a mistake. The improvement brought by the Silent Source speaker cable was not subtle. They are extraordinarily musical, coherent and neutral. While not inexpensive, they are certainly reasonably priced in a crazy market that can command megabucks for eight feet of cable. They blew away my expectations. If you are looking for the best, you must try them. Highly recommended.

Quality of packing: Circular zipper pouches. Distributor delivered, therefore no comment as to shipping package.
Reusability of packing: Reusable.
Ease of unpacking/repacking
: Very easy.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: Cable and instructions, what could be simpler?
Quality of owner's manual: Single sheet instructions. Basic and adequate.
Website comments: Under construction. As of publication, website to be launched shortly.
Warranty: "We warranty our cables for life against defective materials or construction. The client is required to register their cables to get the warranty."
Global distribution: Four distributors in Asia; two in Europe, five in the US plus Walker Audio's network. Three others are pending including Canada.
Human interactions: Helpful and courteous. All questions were answered promptly and professionally.
Other: For those wanting the best, a must audition.
Pricing: At the low end of the state-of-the-art segment.

Silent Source's website