River Cable FLEXYGY 6 Loudspeaker Cable and Starflex Subwoofer Cable

River Cable FLEXYGY 6 Loudspeaker Cable and Starflex Subwoofer Cable

Rollin on the River

Nelson Brill

January 2004

FLEXYGY Loudspeaker Cable
Flat Topology 6 x 16 AWG in parallel with hyper fine stranded 4 Sigma laminar copper in cadmium-free polymer jacket. Dressed in proprietary River Slinx Gold FX, a unique mesh, threaded with gold. Terminated with choice of bananas, spades or pins. 
Price: 2 meter pair- $185; 3 meter pair- $215; 5 meter pair-$270

Star Flex Subwoofer Cable:
18 AWG oxygen free copper with top line Canare connectors and special
 polyethylene dialectric for low capacitance and high velocity factor. Dressed in River Slinx Gold FX mesh; non-directional.
Price: one meter – $40.00; 2 meter: $50.00; 3 meter: $60.00

River Cable Technologies
350 Power Avenue Hudson, NY. 12534
Telephone: 1-888-927-4837
Fax: 1-888-776-3713
Website: www.rivercable.com

The behavior of water is often used as an analogy for electricity. Think of a stream flowing over various streambeds and consider the effects the rocks and pebbles and fallen branches and variations of the streambed all have on the water’s flow. Similarly, the music signal may meet with greater or lesser resistance from the capacitors, resistors, and wire that it must flow through.”Good Sound, by Laura
Dearborn, p. 105. 

                        The River’s Source

One of the things that absolutely warms the cockles of my audiophile heart is finding a product that performs well above its price point and brings to listeners a myriad of sonic rewards and pleasures at a reasonable price. It is in this vein that I take pleasure in introducing the family of River Cables to readers of Stereo Times, as a product, which to my ears personifies these admirable goals. 

The parent company of River Cable has been designing and building cable systems for the television and professional audio industry for over 25 years. Earlier this year, River Cable was launched as a separate business unit and began its operations on the shores of the Hudson River. Katherine Hilliard, Director of Marketing for River Cable talked about her company’s admirable commitment to preserving the environment of the Hudson River and its local Hudson Valley guild shops, one of which provides the hand soldered cable connectors and other parts for Rivercable products. 

The outstanding build quality, attention to detail and craftsmanship of the cables under review here, the FLEXYGY 6 speaker cable and Star Flex subwoofer cable, was readily apparent right out of their box, or should I say, “birth.” Each cable comes with a unique feature: its own birth certificate. This sealed document (looking to my lawyer’s eye quite impressive) is signed by a River Cable test engineer who certifies that your baby has met all of four separate test conditions for its release under River Cable’s Lifetime Warranty Program. In lieu of a infant’s footprint, this certificate provides a graph detailing the results of a rigorous “Risetime-Overshoot Test,” done on each individual cable. This test passes a 5 KHz square waveform from a direct coupled amp through the cable attached to a 4 ohm precision load. This test highlights any slight defect in the cable’s construction or structure before it is packed and sent on to its new owner. 

In taking these new babies from their packaging, I was immediately struck withthe beauty and simplicity of their design. After experimenting with various cable designs and conductor materials, River Cable engineers concluded that construction geometry, (the size, shape and topology of the wire used to fabricate speaker cable), was THE controlling factor in attempting to minimize inter-conductor capacitance and obtain as close to zero resistance in a speaker cable. They found that only a flat cable, where the proximity of individual conductors can be minimized, offered the lowest capacitance and least resistance in a cable design. Hence the birth of FLEXYGY 6: a flexible cable of flat topology with lots of ultra-fine, high purity copper arranged in conductor groups. The Star Flex Subwoofer cable is also composed of high density copper material with a polyethylene dialectric for achieving low capacitance and high velocity in a subwoofer cable. It also contains a polyvinyl carbon inner shield to help reduce amp noise. Both cables are safeguarded and dressed in an elegant proprietary mesh, called RiverSlinx Gold FX, a unique and beautiful protective covering threaded with gold for added style. I found both the FLEXYGY 6 and the Star Flex cable to be elegant and extremely flexible to use, particularly in my setups where the FLEXYGY cable had to sit flat under heavy carpet and where both cables had to connect to amps in very tight places in my racks. I also particularly liked the easy to connect design of the small spades and elegantly locking banana connectors designed for these cables. 

                               The River’s Sound

I began my listening sessions with the FLEXYGY 6 in my small office space setup, connecting a pair of highly resolving Talon Khite monitors to the dynamic solid-state integrated amp, the Portal Panache. Upon replacing my reference Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cable with the FLEXYGY 6, I was immediately struck with the litheness and resolution of the midrange and how the treble was defined with more energy and finesse, without any unwanted harshness added to the mix. This was particularly noteworthy in vocal music, where the pitch and tone of the specific performer was captured in all of its energy and color. For instance, one of my favorite chanteuses, Patty Larkin, entered my listening space singing just for me, with her unique vocal range and colorful guitar rifts perfectly placed in tone, space and pitch. On “Booth of Glass” from her wonderful disc, Angel’s Running [Windam Hill 7290210318-2] the FLEXYGY 6 pushed the energy of Larkin’s vocal delivery, (ranging from a whisper to a gallop), to crystalline heights, even at low volume. Another vocalist captured just right by the addition of the FLEXYGY 6 was Ricky Lee Jones, from her wonderful, eclectic recording Pop Pop [Geffen GEFD-24426]. On “I Wouldn’t Grow Up (a personal anthem of mine), the FLEXYGY 6 allowed full delivery of Jones’ unique and delicate vocal styling without compromise, even as she goes from the lowest to highest vocal registers and offers a breathy whistling of the chorus. Distinct male voices also were well served by the addition of the FLEXYGY 6. I love to use the recordings of Bill Morrissey to see how a system handles his unique baritone. Morrissey’s “Songs Of Mississippi John Hurt” [Philo 11671-1216-2] is a masterpiece of blues band, jug band, old-timey classics. Through the FLEXYGY 6, Morrissey’s voice was captured in perfect pitch and tone and even background sounds like the clock that ticks throughout “Hey, Honey, Right Away” rewarded the avid listener. Similarly, Van “The Man” Morrison, on “The Street Only Knew Your Name” from The Philosopher’s Stone [Polydor P2-31789] was delivered full tilt through the FLEXYGY 6, with no distortion of his vocal styling and great separation between Van and his backing band, portrayed accurately with great power and finesse. Bass was also present in spades through the FLEXYGY 6, kept in good clean balance with the FLEXYGY’s treasure trove area: its delivery of accurate and energized midrange and treble. 

The replacement of the Analysis Plus Oval Nine with the FLEXYGY 6 in this small room system made for an efficient comparison between these two similarly priced speaker cables. I adore the Oval Nine, for its robust and weighty presentation, especially with bass heavy rock and blues material. However, I have to say that in this small listening set-up, I preferred the lithe and detail of the mids and highs that the FLEXYGY rewarded. With small scale jazz and vocals, the FLEXYGY was hands down my favorite, as the Oval Nine seemed a bit slower and weighed down. Others may hear this differently, but the FLEXYGY 6 was my choice for this sweet second system in my office space. 

I next moved the FLEXYGY 6 cable downstairs into my reference listening system to test its meddle in a much larger listening space with my floorstanding speakers, the Talon Khorus, driven by a Class D digital amp, the magnificent beast known as the Spectron Musician II. I started my listening sessions with large-scale orchestral works to see how the FLEXYGY 6 handled focus and soundstaging of these large works. First up was the wonderful recording of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances [Reference Recording RR-96CD], a shimmering, complex piece of music recorded in brilliant form. The Third Movement presents a wealth of orchestral sound and color, with xylophone, triangles, tambourine and chimes all thrown in to the glorious, robust string sections. The FLEXYGY 6 handled this section with finesse and grace, although it was immediately apparent that with its introduction into the audio chain, I had been ushered graciously from my front section seat in the theatre to a rear or balcony section. The bursting energy of this piece which I was accustomed to hearing through my reference Spectron Remote Sensing Digital Speaker Cables was now slightly more relaxed and a new, more removed, perspective on the soundstage was heard. It was not that it was a negative change, simply a change in musical perspective, one that another listener might prefer. I hunger for the energy and sense of being there, in front, with the players, but one might prefer a more relaxed perspective, which is what the FLEXYGY 6 provided. The same observation was made when playing big band jazz. My current favorite arranger is Bill Holman and his A View From The Side [JVC2050-2] is a recording that highlights this brilliant arranger and the artistry of his bandmates with brash and gusto. With the FLEXYGY 6 in place, the difference in tone between a trumpet and a flugelhorn, on the composition “The Peacocks” was clearly portrayed, yet again from a slightly more recessed listening position than I had heard with the Spectron digital cables in place. This difference might be due to a difference in solid state amplification verses the Class D digital circuitry of the Spectron amp, whose Remote Sensing Cables (costing a good bit more than the FLEXYGY 6) complete the digital loop from amp to speaker. I preferred the Spectron cables in this large scale listening context, although another listener might prefer the more relaxed perspective offered by the FLEXYGY 6. 

My last stop with the FLEXYGY 6 cables, combined with the Star Flex sub cable, was in my home theatre system to see how these reasonably priced cables might reward the home theatre crowd. Well, I’m here to tell you that I barely made it out of the Hobbit Shire to tell you about the results. The same sweet and dynamic midrange of the FLEXYGY 6 heard in my office system literally hurled me into the center of the celebration action in Chapter 4 of The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of The Ring [New Line Home Entertainment DVD 5413] with dancing and fireworks exploding accurately all around my five Talon Khite monitor speaker setup. Explosions of those fireworks, as well as the falling walls in Middle Earth, were perfectly rendered in space and time with bass impact from my Talon Roc sub being the way I like it: definitive, crisp and solid. The FLEXYGY’s way with mids and highs created a realistic environment where dialog was delivered in perfect pitch and tone, even over such loud, dynamic effects as bursting fireworks. The Star Flex sub cable clearly allowed the Roc to flow with definitive power on the freewheeling chaos in Chapter 12 of Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines [Warner Home Video DVD 85392772322], where California’s new governor (a.k.a. Arnold Schwarzenegger) is propelled through shattering glass, concrete blocks and upturned fiery cars in his pursuit of the “Terminatrix” who’s driving a huge construction vehicle. All bass effects were delivered in powerful strokes, with appropriate air and combustion. Listening to a smiling Jerry Garcia’s “Touch of Grey,” from the View From The Vault 3 [Monterey Home Video DVD 12233479621] brought clear delineation of Garcia’s sweet treble notes over Phil Lesh’s solid bass foundation without a loss of focus, which can be the case with this particular live recording. Finally, for you audiophile birders out there, (who always have your binoculars close to your listening chair) you must check out Winged Migration [Columbia Tristar DVD 43396002418] with its wonderful, sinuous musical score and myriad of nature sounds. The FLEXYGY 6 handled all of it seamlessly, from the urgent calls of snow geese to the rumbling final explosion of falling Arctic ice. The synergy of the FLEXYGY 6 speaker cable with the Star Flex sub cable made for a seamless, enveloping audio experience that clearly improved the fun, accuracy and dynamics of my home theatre system. 

                              Take Me To The River

I highly recommend the FLEXYGY 6 speaker cable and the Star Flex sub cable as products that clearly surpass and surprise well beyond their price point, and reward the listener with a bountiful improvement in sound. If you are looking for a reasonably priced speaker cable which will give you everything your associated equipment can offer, especially in the all important midrange, you should audition these cables. With their 30-day home trial guarantee, you can just sit back and “Watch The River Flow.” 

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