High-End Quality on A Shoestring Budget!
Two Interconnects $49.00
for 2’ pair, $5 each additional foot; uses premium,
gold-plated Scosche Platinum RCA connectors. Bullet
plugs are optional for an extra $25 per set.
Double Run Single-wire Speaker Cables
Price: $109 per 6’ pair; $6 each additional foot.
MagicPower – Power AC Cord
$59.00 for 3’ length, $4 each additional foot; uses
Marinco 15A hospital grade, male plug and Marinco
IEC320 15A IEC connector.
SPDI/F Digital Coax Cable
$29.00 for 2’ length, $3 each additional foot; true
75-ohm, RCA or BNC connectors. (Note: an AES/EBU
version is available for $39 for 2’ length.)
MagicPower Digital AC Cord HC
$59.00 for 3’ length, $6 each additional foot; uses
Marinco 15A hospital grade, male plug and Schurter 15A
Signal Group Inc.
89 Oakridge Road
Pleasantville, NY 10570
Tel: (917) 957-8508
High-End quality at
downright cheap prices? Emphatically, YES! It can be
done! I’ve never thought of audio cables as “jewelry,”
but with high-end prices being what they are, that is
exactly what the elitist cables have become. As a
veteran audio reviewer and longtime audiophile, I have
seen the prices of “high-end” cable products escalate
to stratospheric heights over the past decade or so,
and I have to wonder where, or if, it will stop.
Personally, I’m tired of all the hype and logarithmic
markup strategies that high-end companies use to lure
well-intentioned audiophiles into paying their
wallet-thinning prices. I’m also weary of paying high
prices for cable jewelry and then finding a cable for
half the price three months later that sounds as good
or better. Enter SignalCable’s Frank Dai.
Frank (like me) is also tired of the escalating prices
of high-end cables. Accordingly, he made the decision
to take matters into his own hands. Frank has
developed a line of cables using premium-quality
materials and connectors that he sells at honest, down
to earth prices. His strategy is simply to market his
products direct to the consumer, charging a fair and
reasonable markup for his labor and business costs—no
R&D surcharges, no distribution and retailing
networks, and no nonsense. You have to love it! I
mean, who, in their right mind, would do such a thing
when the prevailing “wisdom” appears to be, set prices
at whatever the market will bear?
But are they any good?
Unfortunately for SignalCable’s competitors, the
answer to the above is yes, they are plenty good!
There are many who simply will not believe me when I
say that these modest, unassuming cable products can
compete with other lines at over 10 times their cost;
but that is the simple truth. For those of you with
too much money, or for those who need to have the most
expensive cables on the market mainly because they are
the most expensive, read no further. This review is
meant for those who crave true high-end performance at
almost disappointingly low prices. For shame!
My first listening comparison involved inserting
SignalCable’s SPDI/F Digital Coax between my CAL
Icon II CD player/transport and my Modwright/Perpetual
Technologies P-3A processor in a system using
solid-state amplification and Klipsch Chorus speakers.
The SignalCable coax replaced a half-meter of Sonoran
cable that I thought sounded quite competent and
musical. Frankly I had no idea of what to expect.
Playing Dire Straits’ "On
Every Street" (Warner
Bros. 9 26680-2) CD, my immediate impression was that
dynamic contrasts were presented more vividly and the
bass had tightened up. Further listening revealed a
better sense of focus, with excellent rhythm and pace.
Vocals and midrange instruments retained their
immediacy and character and were not diminished in any
way. Lyric comprehension appeared marginally better.
Curiously, I preferred the same type of Sonoran
digital cable to the SignalCable coax in my big rig
between the Perpetual Tech P-1A correction engine and
Bolder-modified ART DIO converter. I felt the Sonoran
was a bit more immediate sounding through the midrange
and lower treble. This could indicate that
system-dependent synergy is a key factor in optimizing
any cable choice. Also, the possibility exists that I
may have had a better result if I had used a second
SignalCable coax between my transport and the P-1A
instead of the Harmonic Tech digital cable that
remained constant. The fact that my margin of
preference was slight speaks highly for the
SignalCable digital coax in any case. Bottom line:
this is one of the best digital cables I’ve used, and
it costs an abashed $29!
What really shocked me was inserting the MagicPower
Digital AC Cord HC (high current) on my CAL Icon
II. This 12 gauge, Teflon-insulated cable made me sit
up and take notice. Listening to the intro to the Pulp
Fiction soundtrack CD (MCA MCAD-11103), “Pumpkin
And Honey Bunny,” I was amazed at how clear,
dynamic, and lifelike this soundtrack became. The
soundstage expanded and there was a greater sense of
depth and space around the performers. Hey kids, this
soundtrack has a parental advisory for explicit
lyrics, so you might not want to let it rip in polite
Also, Samuel Jackson’s edification, Ezekiel 25:17, is
especially convincing when the gunshots break the
calm; the shell casings hitting the floor is a nice
touch. All of this was rendered with an extra dose of
realism through the MagicPower HC. I’m not taking it
out of my system, and you can’t make me!
As good as the system sounded after installing the
SignalCable digital coax and AC cords, there was still
something that was bothering me. It was a slight
edginess (for lack of a better term) that kept the
sound from being totally natural. So, on that note, I
decided to insert a pair of Analog Two
The interesting thing about this experiment was that
prior to the insertion of the MagicPower Digital AC
cord, I had listened to the Analog Twos (with standard
Scosche connectors) in the system. Although they
sounded competent, especially in the high frequencies,
I did not feel they were an improvement over my
existing cables. But, after installing the MagicPower
Digital AC and then reinstalling the Analog Twos,
suddenly (as if by magic) the system lost that trace
of edginess and started sounding as transparent as can
be. Transients were fast and natural with just the
right amount of focus and bite. I was amazed, but very
pleased by this turn of events. To celebrate I started
playing through some favorite CDs, finishing the set
with A GRP Christmas Collection (GRP GRD-9574), which
sounded absolutely glorious. In fact, I never heard
Diane Schuur’s vocal on “The Christmas Song”
sound quite as convincing. Listening to the jazzy
holiday selections through the Analog Twos proved so
enchanting that I had to play the CD twice.
Installing SignalCable wiring in my big rig was both
educational, and inspiring. I started with a single,
3’ MagicPower – Power AC cord on my John Curl-designed
Parasound P/LD-2000 line stage. This is a very well
made, 10-gauge cord with the look and feel of true
high end. True high end also means that no matter how
your components are situated the male AC plug will
invariably want to align 180 degrees out of synch with
the female AC receptacle. Hmmmm! So using my patented
twisting-the-snake® technique, I finessed the feral
plug into its intended outlet.
I was rather pleased with my ability to make the
hookup without breaking the power cord or my
equipment. In truth, the SignalCable cords are more
supple and pliable than many high-end cords, but hey,
I’m a reviewer and I need something to complain about!
The rewards of my efforts were immediately apparent.
There were noticeable increases in immediacy, bass
definition, and bass extension. There was also an
improvement in overall tonality. The MagicPower AC
cord replaced another audiophile-grade, 3’ cord, but
unfortunately I can’t recall the manufacturer
(really!). I thought the cord sounded fine until I
installed the Magic Power AC. Then its shortcomings
became painfully evident.
Next, another interesting experiment took place. I had
such luck using the MagicPower AC cord on my preamp
that I figured they had to sound great on my amps as
well. But when I initially installed them, they
sounded a bit darker and more plodding—less immediate
than my existing cords. So, I put the original cords
back on the amps and then swapped SignalCable’s
Double Run Single-wire speaker cables for some MIT
cables that had performed very well with my Audio
Physics Virgo II speakers.
Guess what? Nope, you’re wrong! The sound was good
with the SignalCable wires, but it was actually too
good! By that I mean that it sounded just
over-the-top, or hyper-detailed—this was a
double-edged sword. Some recordings sounded absolutely
fantastic, while many others became brighter and more
analytical than I felt was acceptable and natural. It
seemed an interesting mismatch.
My first thought was that the cables needed more
break-in time, SignalCable recommends two weeks of
break-in, which is shorter than that for most high-end
cables. From my experience, the break-in process is
short. My samples sounded very good right off the bat
and seemed to settle in nicely after about a week of
playing time. Although more break-in couldn’t hurt, I
had a better idea. I reinstalled the MagicPower AC
cords on my Monarchy SE-160 monoblocks.
For whatever reason, using the MagicPower AC cords in
conjunction with SignalCable’s speaker cables on the
amplifiers was my ticket to musical Nirvana. The
system’s dynamics improved and the soundstage grew
larger and more lifelike. There was a greater sense of
depth and solidity. But what impressed me most was an
apparent improvement in linearity or resolution that
extended from the lowest bass through the midrange.
Indeed, the improvement in lower midrange accuracy
allowed me to clearly hear the unique sonic signatures
of many different types of brass instruments on the
Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Perennial Favorites (Mammoth 354
980 169-2) CD. Whether it was a sax, coronet, trumpet,
or trombone, I could now discern the particular
character of each instrument, and not have to wonder:
“What type of horn was that?”
And, although the soundstage grew larger the
individual instruments and performers retained their
appropriate size and did not become unrealistically
bloated. Instrumental focus improved, and transients
like plucked guitar strings were rendered with aplomb.
Bowed instruments like violin and cello sounded
extremely natural and I heard more of the fine nuances
and quick changes these instruments produce when you
hear them played in a live venue.
Summing up: the whole is
greater than its parts
At the almost laughably low prices that SignalCable
charges, buying a system’s worth of wiring will not be
a burden for most audiophiles. Those who are just
getting into high-end audio and spent the bulk of
their audio budget on components should be elated to
learn that they can buy such high performance cabling
at genuine bargain prices.
Admittedly, I do not use, nor can I afford, today’s
most expensive, high-end cables. I normally use
top-of-the-line cables from Sonoran, Full-Spectrum
Audio (out of business), and Harmonic Technology, all
of which have been reviewed very favorably in the
audio press. SignalCable’s individual products compare
very favorably to that of my much more expensive
cables. All the customary audiophile parameters such
as speed, detail, transparency, tonality, dynamic
capability, and imaging are portrayed to a noteworthy
degree. Compatibility with other brands and models of
cables is hit or miss. However, as a complete cabling
system the SignalCable line develops a synergy that is
difficult to beat or fault. For the money, nothing in
my experience comes close. I will be purchasing
multiples of all the SignalCable models I’ve described
in this review, and smiling all the way to the bank.