Evidence of my recent obsession with evaluating high end audio cable with silver conductors can be found in my two part affordable silver cable overview (LINK), and (LINK), and with my Kimber silver overview (LINK). Element Cable’s Silver Serenade interconnect was featured in Part One of my overview, and I found it to be an incredible value and a superb performer punching well above its weight class.
I also noted that Element also had a Signature line, priced somewhat higher, and meant to compete with flagship offerings from the very best. It is from the Signature line that I will conclude my silver cable evaluations for the foreseeable future. And it will end with a bit of twist, with silver speaker cables, as opposed to interconnects. This will actually be my first encounter with a pure silver speaker cable, although I have heard a few silver plated copper cables from some very well known companies.
Anthony Wynn, one of the principals of Element, was kind enough to send me along a 6 foot pair of his Element Apollo Ultra Pure silver speaker cables for review. I was very excited, to say the least. The cables arrived in a well packaged wooden box with a sliding door. The Element Cable logo was embossed on the top, a classy touch. The cables were terminated with high quality pure silver spades. The Apollo starts at $1200 with custom lengths and termination are available as well.
I wondered if silver in a speaker cable would make as big of a difference as in interconnects. I specifically prefer pure silver between my source and my preamplifier or integrated amplifier. I believe that silver excels in preserving the delicacy of the music when carrying low level signals, which from a source are quite low; usually around 2V from an average CD player. Silver can make a difference when carrying signals from preamps to power amps. In my experience, they won’t have as dramatic an impact, as signal levels have been boosted quite a bit at this point.
When talking about speaker cables, the signal has quite a bit of gain and is meant to drive your loudspeakers to lifelike volumes. One of the main concern of many speaker cable designers is preserving the integrity of the signal from outside interference such as EMI and RFI, or from other unwanted degradation. The other major concern is working with high quality materials and conductors.
Protecting the purity of the signal is usually done in a variety of ways. Various cable geometries, shielding, network boxes, and more exotic, even questionable methods have been used. For the most part, hyper pure copper is generally accepted as a superb conductor. However, silver is gaining popularity as a conductor of choice. For the same general reasons it is considered superior by some for interconnects, silver being marginally more conductive and immune to performance degradation due to oxidation. One of the drawbacks of silver speaker cable is cost, since roughly a minimum of double the amount of silver is required for speaker cables in comparison to interconnects.
According to Element, “The Apollo uses 16 individual strands of solid core silver conductors for each cable. The strands are woven in a dual octennial braid and tightly wrapped with FEP Teflon dielectric. When complete, these cables account for over 300 feet of silver wire for an 8 foot pair. A large air core runs through the center, used to space out the conductors for minimal interaction.”
After installing the Apollo, the first thing I noticed is how utterly smooth and natural the overall presentation was. For those readers who still like to repeat the cliché’ that silver is “bright”, I respectfully say you have not heard a properly designed cable, regardless of conductor type. A “bright” sounding silver interconnect or speaker cable is a bright cable, period. From my experience it has nothing to do with silver.
The Apollo was so balanced in its performance, regardless of musical genre or program material. A disc I that I can’t seem to get out of heavy rotation is Broken Bells, by Broken Bells. I love this record. A throwback to the concept of an album as ten or twelve good songs, instead of filler to sell one or two decent MTV friendly hits. The Apollo was made for music like this, bold, round, retro bass, a bit of electronica, and nods to classic psychedelic bands of the 60′s like the Small Faces, Traffic, and Moby Grape, with a bit of modern rock thrown in.
Regardless of what I put on, the cables simply disappeared. No gimmicks here, just a well made cable, with top notch materials and conductors, obviously designed by music lovers, and not by marketing flunkies. I honestly don’t think my system has sounded better.
I have become a big fan of Element Cable, never even having heard of the company three or four months ago. I think their Silver Serenade silver interconnects, Red Storm and ElementCord power cables are the steals of the decade. I was determined to hear something from their Signature line, and I am extremely glad I did. The Apollo Ultra Pure Silver Speaker cable is beautifully made, makes beautiful music, and would satisfy the most discerning listener, even those with speakers priced in the stratosphere.
I think I hammered the point home in my previous cable reviews that ultimately all audio cables are made of metal, plastic, synthetics, and various fibers. All legitimate cable manufacturers use high quality conductors and shielding material. It really comes down to the application and combination of these materials. That is why mega thousand dollar cables are an absurd notion to me, along with bizarre claims of strange processes, which cannot be proven to improve sound.
The Apollo starts at $1200, with a 6 foot pair costing roughly $1500. This certainly is not cheap. but considering the amount of actual silver in the cable, the care of construction, and the level of performance, I believe it is fairly priced. It should be noted that is essentially the top of my personal speaker cable budget. I also believe any potential buyer would have a speaker cable for life and would officially be off the upgrade merry go round. The Apollo is also available in a bi-wire configuration.