The BetterCables Silver Serpent and Straight Wire Silverlink II

The BetterCables Silver Serpent and Straight Wire Silverlink II

Milan Cernohorsky

9 April 2002


0.5m BetterCables Silver Serpent – $69.95
8AWG Solid Silver – clad copper center conductor
Nitrogen injected Foam HDPE Insulation
Dual shield (100 percent foil, 95 percent braid)
75-ohm nominal impedance with Impedance-matched RCA or BNC connectors
Capacitance (16.2 pF per Ft.)

0.5m Straight Wire Silverlink II – $49.95
Silver-plated OFHC copper conductors
Foam polyethylene dielectric, double shielded

Better Cables LLC
PMB 170
43761 Parkhurst Plaza # 108
Ashburn, VA 20147

Straight Wire

After several preceding tests of loudspeaker cables and connecting cables, I dared to try to discern the difference of sound in two different types of digital connecting cables. The Straight Wire Silverlink II had been in my system for some time connected between my Kenwood DP-5090 transport and the Perpetual Technologies P3-A DAC. After speaking with the Better Cables Company and Mrs. Margaret, they very quickly sent me their full-silver model called the Silver Serpent.

Better Cables Silver Serpent

The extraordinary facility to differentiate details, not only in middle band but also in the bass area, is the most impressive advantage of reproduction with this attractively designed product by Better Cables. The treble has a very pleasant character – free from any sharpness or uncomfortable graining. Even the most exposed positions in the voices of Patricia Barber or Rachelle Ferrell are without any trace of hiss. When I listened to live recordings from organist Joey DeFrancesco, the space of the concert hall and resolution of the instruments were excellent. The bass is compact and exactly controlled. I also listened to recordings that could be found in collections of audio lovers. I am fond of the works of Astor Piazzolla. The high-quality recording of his famous “Maria de Buenos Aires” from Tango Operita [Teldec 3984-20632-2], only confirmed the quality of the Silver Serpent. Space and sound of the individual instruments are reproduced in such exactitude and easiness that I have to claim that the Silver Serpent is really the cable. The masterful instrument of fiddler demon Gidon Kremer sounds very natural, as the violin really should sound. The reproduction of the Argentinean Bandoneon, in fact a kind of accordion, was also a great experience for me. When compared to the classic instrument, its sound is more colorful. During testing, the bright vocals of Julia Zenko and Jair from this recording are usually a hard nut to crack. However, their reproduction with Silver Serpent cable managed them brilliantly. This cable mainly impressed me with its tonal balance on all frequencies across the spectrum. Highs, midrange as well as the women vocals all lost their ‘digital’ character. This is what I have found as most appealing with this cable.

Straight Wire Silverlink II

Space and performance of the tiniest details are very good. This was confirmed by listening to the work of the outstanding organist Joey DeFrancescoJoey Live at the Spot[Sony/Columbia CK53805]. The sound of his Hammond XB3 pushes me down into my easy chair. From the other side of stage, Jack McDuff, another prodigious organist assists him substantially. I consider this live concert album to be one of the best for verifying spatial reproduction capabilities of various audio systems. The spatial character was reproduced very convincingly.

The Silverlink II was not frightened with classical electrical blues. Listening to the album Have Mercy! [Alligator AL 4845] by guitarist Michael Hill, I noted very good reproduction of percussion instruments and bass guitar. The massive, precisely defined portions of blues sound from this band were driving me into a feeling of slight inebriation. The precisely reproduced female vocals of Patricia Barber from her album Nightclub [Premonition Records 27290] gave me the truth: this cable is excellent. I must admit that my system doesn’t render high frequencies as accurately and that a grain of sharpness was occasionally noted. It was marginal, but was noticeable from time to time nevertheless. The Silverlink II will appeal to listeners who prefer greater openness and vividness in the higher regions of the audio spectrum.

Comparison: It is relatively difficult to find any significant differences between these two digital cables and thereby determine an order of preference. They are both excellent products selling for very affordable prices. The individual cables have such slight sound differences that the selection is rather a question of personal taste. However, if I had do decide on one of them, I would slightly prefer the Silver Serpent by Better Cables. Simply put, this cable reproduces all music genres in an excellent way and its spatial recreation seems to be a bit better. The Silverlink II by Straight Wire is quite comparable both in sound and outstanding design.

I wish I could compare both products to a real reference class cable, but haven’t had such an opportunity yet. You should therefore think of this review as a contest between two high quality, yet very affordable products. From my experience, I have learned that with many of the high-end cables, price doesn’t always correlate with their actual performance. In my system I have been using the Trico cable to connect my DAC to my power amplifier. This high quality digital cable from the Swedish manufacturer SUPRA certainly doesn’t belong to a class of over-priced high-end, yet it keeps up well with both overseas candidates. You shall here about SUPRA again. I can also promise you that I will be happy to extend this profile, as soon as a real “killer” digital cable arrives in my possession.

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