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Siltech Classic Legend cables

It came as some surprise to me that, when it comes to Siltech Cables, we hadn’t looked at a single cable in the range for the longest time. Our last reviews of Siltech products were all about the company’s high-end amplifiers; fine, and very impressive in their own right, but hardly representative of the company and practically all of its output. It’s a little like spending time discussing a brand like Mont Blanc and forgetting about its line of pens.

Siltech Cables makes several ranges of cables, each with a name that sounds like a brand of whisky that sponsors golf tournaments; Royal Signature, Triple Crown, Classic Anniversary and now the new Classic Legend series. So sit back and pour yourself a glass of Classic Legend (just a dash of water, please… no ice), while I tee off.

Classic Legend is three different classes of cables in one; 380, 680 and 880, each having its own interconnects, speaker and power cables. There are also digital, USB and even network cables, but even if they are in one of the three classes, these stand alone in the Classic Legend range.

Core to the Classic Legend is the company’s new G9 silver-gold conductors. Metallurgy is a big concern with Siltech Cables, and the company prides itself on its research-based development of cables using the latest metallurgical developments. Edwin Rynveld, CEO and Head of Engineering of Siltech Cables, is the kind of guy who would have a subscription to Ruthenium News if such a title existed, and keeps ahead of the curve when it comes to developments in everything pertaining to the improvement of audio in general and cables in particular, so it might come as no surprise that where most cable brands make no great distinction about the metallic make-up of their cables (“It’s gold an’ silver, innit”), this is the ninth generation of silver-gold alloy used in Siltech Cable’s line since the early 1980s.

As the name suggests, G9 is Siltech Cable’s ninth (and most current) silver-gold alloy generation developed by the company’s metallurgists. They spent over 12 years of research and testing to develop a material that offers a significant, audible, and measurable improvement of the company’s previous G7 generation solid silver-gold wire (S8 being a solid-core monocrystal silver cable of the highest purity used in the flagship Crown models). The result of the G9 project is silver-gold alloy with up to two-times larger conductors than previous generations with an extraordinarily reduced boundary distortion of 0.01%. This 9th generation of Siltech silver-gold alloy contains all the latest developments and improvements in the melting process, resulting in an even smoother sound and improved cable run-in times.

Picture 3022

Going a little deeper (and perhaps highlighting the difference between actual metallurgy and someone who looks up the properties of wire in a cable catalogue) Siltech’s proprietary silver-gold alloy works to improves a natural silver wire by adding traces of gold to fill the microcracks that occur during the solidification process. This means silver conductors injected with gold, rather than simple gold-plating. This has been a core component of Siltech Cables and has been improved upon time and again since the company started the process back in 1997.

Siltech’s silver-gold alloy process is able to reach a purity of 9N by increasing the filling rate of the crystal structure gaps to the highest possible level. Launched in May this year, the Classic Legend Series is the first cable range using G9.

Alongside the new elements relevant to the latest Classic Legend, there are also standard Siltech Cable elements common to all designs in the range. Siltech holds that an ideal cable should have zero series resistance (R), zero capacitance (C) and zero inductance (L). That is, of course, notional because its functionally impossible to create such a conductor, but the lower each of these basic properties of wire can get, the more stable the sound of the system. The idea being you effectively remove the low-pass filter created by higher series impedance from high inductance, lower the capacitive load for any input, and reduce the general distortion additional series resistance introduces.

Another important concern held by Siltech Cables is that because there is no one system that Siltech Cables are used with, any form of filtration or alteration of the signal will change the performance of a system in unpredictable ways. While this sounds like stating the obvious (cables are not tone controls), this maxim becomes more important with cable length; a design needs to be stable enough to sound identical regardless of whether a cable is 1m or 8m long. Once again, this ties in with striving to produce as low as possible LCR figures in Siltech Cables.

The ‘TL:DR’ version of all this is “it’s nerd stuff, but good nerd stuff.”

Like all good cables, the Siltech Cables Classic Legend takes a while to run in. It’s not that ‘snooty’ about running in (as in, if you want to use a burn-in disc or machine, that’s fine) and once run in, it stays run in. The good news is the cables don’t need that much of a run in, anyway (a few days of music playing should do it) and they don’t go through one of those audio-psychosis run-in periods where they seem to undergo good and bad mood swings as the cable gets into its groove. It’s good out of the box. It gets better. Nothing tonally changes, just detail gets more, er, detail-y.

Having not reviewed Siltech Cables in the magazine for ages, and having not personally reviewed any Siltech Cables… ever. I started this review with a more or less clean sheet. I had some private experience of Siltech that was a very positive experience, and I distinctly remember Siltech being one of dozens of brands I auditioned in a blind listening panel for a rival magazine. But both of these events were back in the 20th Century, and a lot has changed since then.

Within a few minutes of serious listening, my first note on the page was “Why haven’t I used Siltech Cables more often?” because all that ‘TL:DR’ introductory preamble tells you everything and nothing about Classic Legend. The ‘everything’ part is that all that science does net an extremely neutral and exceptionally detailed cable series. The ‘nothing’ part is just how good that sounds beyond that.

The science bit speaks of a cable that is profoundly neutral… for good reason. Classic Legend is an extremely neutral conductor, adding or subtracting next to nothing to the sound of the equipment. It’s also extremely consistent: swap digital converters and the Siltech cable that wasn’t in the way of the first one, isn’t in the way of the second. Switch from solid-state to valve amplification and the same applies. That’s an outstanding job for a cable.

Where this bangs up against the limits of our terminology is that can read remarkably like a dull, measured and bland performance; a technical exercise in component connection. Some part of your consciousness starts reciting the famous ‘Cuckoo Clock’ speech from The Third Man at this point. But this sort of neutrality is not bland or simply ‘technically adept’; it’s the deepest goal of audio and what the magazine is all about: high-fidelity. Far from being a kind of bland neutrality, The Classic Legend sparkles by letting everything through.

Whether it’s because our terminology is flawed or because we have become so used to preferring ‘zing’ to ‘absolute accuracy’ is unclear. But that’s probably the only thing that is ‘unclear’ about the Siltech Cables Classic Legend. It’s uncannily natural and musically-directed, leaving the field open for the sound of the source to meet the sound of the amplifier with the minimum of impact.

Picture 3019

Each component of the musical whole is attenuated more by the execution of the rest of the system than it is by the connections between components. That is, ultimately, how things should be, but it’s only when you hear something like Classic Legend do you realise how much that goal of hi-fi is more honoured in the breach than the observance. And yes, I know this phrase is often misunderstood in the way I just misunderstood it, and that doesn’t really sit well when discussing a cable that prides itself on absolute honesty and integrity, but the phrase’s modern idiom is easier to understand and doesn’t require a knowledge of Danish drinking customs of the 13th Century.

Classic Legend (in all three flavours) doesn’t do what you might expect to your system. If you are expecting expanding soundstages or magical vocal projection and articulation… you really need to look to improving your electronics and loudspeakers. Similarly, although Classic Legend (again in all three flavours, and from power or network switch to speaker terminal) is at once a dynamic sound and detailed cable, it’s more an open window on your system than having any properties of dynamic range or detail in itself. These are aspects of performance that once again, the Siltech designs try their level best not to alter or interfere. In fact, you could point to almost any reviewing terminology and say the same ‘get out of the way’ point.

Instead, what they do is release the sound from the granularity and hashiness that we have become so used to, we take for granted. The Siltech cables remove that ‘electronic’ sound between recording and listener to an uncanny level. There’s a purity to the sound that you will struggle to find elsewhere to the same degree. Yes, it’s like the music is direct-injected into the loudspeakers, but that isn’t an uncomfortable process. In fact it’s extremely alluring and enticing. The electronics just doing their job without extra obstacles is hard to step away from.

I’ve got this far in the review consciously not citing musical examples or specific components that either benefit or fail to thrive with the Classic Legend. There’s a reason for that. I’m acutely aware of the fact that these SIltech Cables designs are universal in their appeal and performance, and their goal is to bow out of changing the signal as best as possible. So when talking about specific tracks, I was finding myself describing the music rather than the cable’s effect upon that music. When making notes about compatibility, I was writing more about the devices. And on it went. I guess that point about ‘neutrality’ applies just as much to the description of the cable as it does to the performance of the cable. If my job is to talk about how something sounds, and this is a fine example of not having a sound, then I might as well write about the last piece of music I played (‘Alexander’ by Sevenn) and what I played it on (a Primare I35 into Audiovector R1 Arreté). In fact, for all the impact it has on how the Classic Legend unpacks a signal, why not describe my favourite tea mug (Periodic Table of Swearing) too? The Siltech Cables work uniformly in letting devices communicate with the minimum of artefact.

That all being said, there was one specific interaction that did surprise me; the network cable. It surprised me because although I’ve heard differences in Ethernet cables before, I wasn’t so convinced the sonic disappearing act would be significant in a packetised data transfer system. But, in fact, it made a big difference. Once again, that difference was about reduction in artefact between the two devices, but the size of the sonic ‘fist’ getting out the way was large.

I’m not a cable sceptic, but I’m willing to play one for this paragraph. This could be the cable that challenges the preconceptions of such sceptics, primarily because these cables are so rooted in good engineering. They aren’t sold through the medium of psychobabble or pseudoscience, and their performance makes a good case for itself. Ultimately, if that healthy scepticism has scabbed over into unhealthy cynicism, no amount of hard science or observation will change your mind, but those approaching the whole cable ‘thing’ from a position of genuine questioning scepticism will likely be more swayed by Siltech Cables and Classic Legend than they might care to admit.

There is a distinct ‘good, better, best’ as you move through the numbers; 880 is better than 680 which is also better than 380. And better in this context means ‘successively less intrusive from an already minimally-intrusive foundation’. The size of 880 is getting quite ‘snakey’, albeit not in a ‘Boa constrictor after a good lunch’ way. I’d consider 380 as the default position for high-end entry level irrespective of price, while 880 is the preserve of the big hitter systems. In listening, I feel the 680 is in the Goldilocks spot within the cable range, and it’s certainly the one I returned to the most.

If there is a shortcoming to the Classic Legend, it’s more a reflection of listener’s demands than its performance per se. Despite repeated ‘they aren’t tone controls’ protests from practically everyone in the business of audio, consciously or otherwise people do treat cables as filters and tone controls… and when you try a cable that doesn’t play that game it shows up just how unbalanced such a system’s sound can get. Some will never be able to draw back from that unevenness in their system, whether as a sonic ‘sunk cost fallacy’ or through learning to like that unevenness. However, even here, those who actively choose valve amplifiers because they like their tonality (especially those who seek out valve amps with loads of second harmonic distortion to ‘warm up’ the sound) would still like the cables connecting those two devices to be as neutral as possible in my opinion. Which would mean a lot of listeners might think they want a cable to act as a filter, but when they hear one that doesn’t they will be swayed.

What we are incapable of testing here is just how accurate that claim is across different Siltech Cable ‘families’, however I’m pretty confident there is no problem here. These are meticulously engineered cables, as are the other cable ranges in the Siltech Cable portfolio. I have no doubt that they sound as internally consistent as Classic Legend, and I have little doubt that a pick ‘n’ mix assortment of Siltech Cable products will have the same consistency. This means that if someone buys a Classic Legend interconnect cable today, with a mind of using it with an all-Explorer cable system, the Classic Legend will be both a good ‘fit’ and show a degree of improvement to start the upgrade process. That will likely also work in the other direction; someone who buys a full system’s worth of Classic Legend cables today may well upgrade within the Siltech range to something like Royal Signature, Suntory Royal 12 Year Old Millennium, or Triple Crown. And this will be super compatible too.

You might not want to make that upgrade path, however, because Classic Legend is good enough in and of itself. To see why, please follow along with a little game I play when reviewing any kind of cable system. It’s called ‘consciously ignore the price until the end of the review’ game. OK, it’s not as commonly played as ‘chess’ or as much fun as ‘Call of Duty’ but it does allow you to place a product in its true context instead of pigeonholing it by price. I have kept price out of the review for that reason. And in sound, build, packaging and the rest, I would have placed these cables far further up the ladder than I expected. If you think an interconnect  cable that costs £2,380 is an interconnect cable that costs £5,000 – or more – by virtue of its build and (complete absence of) sound, you know you are on to a winner. And the Siltech Cables Classic Legend is certainly a winner. I’ll drink to that!

Prices and contact details

Prices as tested:

  • Siltech Classic Legend 380P power cord: £1,030/1.5m
  • Siltech Classic Legend 680P power cord: £1,690/1.5m
  • Siltech Classic Legend 880P power cord: £2,210/1.5m
  • Siltech Classic Legend 380i interconnect: £800/1.5m
    (XLR or RCA)
  • Siltech Classic Legend 680i interconnect: £2,380/1m
    (XLR or RCA)
  • Siltech Classic Legend 680L loudspeaker cables: £4,060/2.5m pair
  • Siltech Classic Legend 380 USB: £1,330/2m
  • Siltech Classic Legend Network cable: £1,030/2m

Manufacturer: Siltech/International Audio Holding BV

URL: siltechcables.com

UK Distributor: Padood

URL: padood.com

Tel: +44(0)1223 653199

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