Wywires Cables: a whole system rewired
It is a source of no little amusement to some that audiophiles worry about cables and are often convinced to part with large amounts of money in return for wire. Surely, common sense suggests, any reasonable cable only has to transfer a signal and the laws of physics and engineering dictate the limits of how well this can be done? Why then spend more than you have to for a piece of cable to join two, presumably well-engineered audio components together or to carry current from your wall? I agree common sense seems to have a pretty good case here, yet in 20 years of serious audio system construction and listening, I’ve come to realize that sometimes common-sense is not enough. Differences exist among cables I have listened to at home, and though the changes are usually, to my ears, small, in audiophile terms small differences matter a lot. Once you hear something that works for you in your rig, it’s pretty hard to settle for any cable you think is limiting your enjoyment.
I have been pretty settled though over the last two years on a set of cables that work well for me: Grover Huffman interconnects, Harmonic Technology’s HDMI cable, and set of Elrod speaker cables that were produced for Spectron amps some years back but never made it to market. Give or take the occasional flirtation with power cords from Pangea and whatever I might luck upon in the used market, as well as the usual review samples I’ve handled, I’ve not worried too much about wire recently. All this meant, naturally, I was a sitting duck for an offer from Wywires to review their cables.
Not convinced I wanted to take on another cable review, I countered that if Wywires would supply a full set for my entire system, I’d do it, otherwise I’d pass the project to another reviewer. My thinking here was to explore the argument some audiophiles make about the importance of the complete wiring loom. The theory, if we may call it such, is that the true benefit of cable changes are found when one employs the same manufacturer’s cables for the complete rig rather than cherry picking different cables for different components. I suppose there is some sense here but I cannot recall ever having done this, and with my rig having grown more complicated over the years, I was not likely to attain such consistency in the near future otherwise. Not one to be deterred easily, head designer and CEO of Wywires, Alex Sventitsky, cheerfully took the details and custom-made everything I needed (well almost, since Wywires do not as yet have an HDMI cable), including building a special set of biwire speaker cables with extra long tails at both ends to accommodate my speakers and the unusual wiring for my mono amps. If nothing else, here was a sign that this company can cater for all customers, no matter their needs.
Who are Wywires?
Wywires is a relatively new entrant to the audio cable business, though their site mentions years of R&D preceding product launch. The company specializes in hand-made, unshielded designs woven into a braid of relatively thin and flexible construction, making handling a dream compared to some of the snakes I’ve wrestled into place over the years. No secret boxes or magic materials are involved as best I can tell, and Wywires mentions on their site their own particular form of listening tests which ask people to map out the soundstage they perceive on schematics as they listen. I can’t be sure how much these tests affect the resulting design but it’s clear that listener impressions are part of their development process. And yes, I did say ‘handmade’ cables using ultra-pure copper constructed at room temperature which Wywires believes is important for avoiding damage that might otherwise occur with automated machine assembly.
There are three product levels (Blue, Silver, Gold) in increasing price and informal feedback I’ve read online is generally positive. Alex even took the product to the people by providing samples on the Audio Circle forum for interested folks to try out and ship on in return for comments to the group. So, Wywires is not your usual company, but the question is, are their wires the usual audiophile product (interpret that as you will!)?
‘Wyring’ up my rig
There is a lot of technical talk available online for those who want to read about the theories and manufacturing details of cables. Knock yourself out. My job is listening and telling you what I hear. When the large box of cables originally arrived they came without speaker cables as Alex was waiting on new supplies. While I waited on those, I started to introduce the power cords, and eventually some interconnects, into my second system which was home to several other products under review at that time (see the Sept 2011 review of the Perreaux integrated amp and the Dec 2011 review of the Harbeth P3ESR for early impressions of these wires). I was impressed enough with the effect the Wywires power cord had on the Perreaux amp to leave it in place for the rest of that review as it seemed a very synergistic match. By the time the speaker cables arrived, I had my second system fully wired up with Wywires and was very happy with the results, these were clearly a step up from the mish-mash of PS Audio, Pangea, Anti-Cables, and MIT Terminators I typically pull together in this rig. Everything was more relaxed, musical and plain enjoyable with the Wywires and I was particularly pleased with the improvements wrought by both the power cord on the amp and the digital coaxial between CD player and DAC. With these in place, I felt the little rig was elevated that little bit higher in terms of resolution while remaining smooth and listenable at any volume.
In as much as I’d wanted to determine if whole-rig consistency of wire offers more benefits than a mix of individually good but distinct manufacturers’ products, I could not really say. Once I’d linked the digital front end with the coaxial and the integrated amp and CD player with the power cords, I felt further improvements with more Wywires were less pronounced. If I was spending my own money for this set up, that’s where I’d plonk my cash down first. I won’t repeat the listening details I mentioned in those previous reviews here as my real goal was to put these wires into may reference rig for this evaluation.
Stepping it up to the main rig
I’ve mentioned before how much I hate cable swapping. In theory it’s simple: switch everything off, pull wires out, add new ones in and use the opportunity to dust a little here, move something there, then sit back and listen. Maybe it is so for some folks but my gear sits on racks which back up to a wall and offer little room for access. Changes mean having to reach around and through shelves, banging my watch against hard edges, pressing my neck up against metal supports and generally inducing aches and pains in a temper-inducing effort to adjust to a rig that is too heavy and too poorly positioned for easy access. Yes, I tell you this to reassure you that the life of the amateur reviewer is no bed of roses and to remind you that when you plan your system set up, think ahead to the need for access because at some point you will want to change something around the back.
Loath to change out everything at once, I introduced the changes over the course of several weeks until I had a fully Wywired rig. First up were the front end power cords: two on my PS Audio PWT/PWD combo and two more on my SME 20/2 motor control and Whest phono stage. I did no serious listening until I had the whole set up complete but I did listen to music over this period. After the front end I changed power cords on the pre and monoblock power amps, finally adding the speaker cables. Once there, I listened to my fully Wywired reference rig only for almost two months, then proceeded slowly to take various cords and wires out to determine two things: are some of the wires more important than others and does the combined use of one manufacturer’s cables (the consistent loom) have some special quality that you cannot get by mixing and matching?
Sound is such a personal thing
Keeping in mind my experience that sonic differences between cables are rarely dramatic, let me try to describe in detail what I heard with Wywires connecting everything up. First off, the cables ensure a relaxed, pleasing and resolving sonic presentation emerges from a quiet background. The Wywires presentation is very open and airy at the top end with cymbals and upper instrumental registers coming through cleanly and without sibilance or harsh transients. Indeed, when I started to listen closely to reference recordings from the likes of the Tord Gustavsen Trio, the presence and resolution of the percussion was noticeable and inclined me to think these cables offer a slight edge here over my reference wires in this system. I confirmed this again with other recordings that I know intimately, from Ronnie Earl’s Grateful Heart to Deep Purple’s Purpendicular (Steve Morse is on fire on this, his debut album with those old English rockers). The Wywires have a quality that reveals and resolves the upper registers slightly better than other wires I own and in so doing give music a palpable advance in upper-register resolution.
In the mid range, where the magic is in most music, the Wywires are about as good as anything I’ve heard. Holly Cole is there whispering in your ear on “Take me home”, the opening cut on Temptation, and the non-vocal but equally engaging guitar lines from Pat Metheny on his classic Beyond the Missouri Sky (with Charlie Haden) are palpable, finger on wood, skin on steel coming through in the kind of way that makes music real in your home. For me this is a real test. I play and listen to a lot of guitar so I am very sensitive to its reproduced sound in my home. As a test of timbre, the Wywires passed with flying colors, and it was as true on Starker’s cello as it was on Metheny’s guitar.
While I loved what the cables were doing at the important mid and upper frequencies, I found myself a little less satisfied with the results in the bass regions. In comparison with my reference set up I found the bass a little less clean, the overall presentation a bit darker and less resolved than I am used to hearing with my reference wires. In combination with the excellent upper frequency reproduction, the resulting total sonic signature was curiously different than my reference, and I found myself thinking the overall effect gave me a darker picture than the uber-clean sonics across the spectrum I hear with my usual cables. There was slightly less separation of bass drum and guitar on driving rock (like that aforementioned Purple album) or electric jazz combos compared to my references which caught my ear and seemed to make the final sound a little thicker than I am used to hearing. As always, some folks might prefer this in their system and I should note, this was an impression I obtained only with my reference system, I did not hear it with the Denon/Perreaux/Harbeths rig.
I don’t know a perfect cable but I would say the Wywires have got to be among the most pleasing I’ve used in my system over the last five years, a list that includes a wide selection from companies such as Virtual Dynamics, Morrow, Huffman, MIT and PS Audio. Over the course of two months listening to them in my reference rig I have had many wonderful hours of sheer enjoyment on every conceivable kind of music, from classical to Celtic. On listening to Kenny Burrell’s live group album Be Yourself, I even thought, for the first time in a long time, that I really could discern depth of soundstage when his band took solos, with the drummer for once truly sounding further back on the stage, and the guitar not only slightly left but nearer the front. Good recording or good system? Both really, and the Wywires played their part in the results.
So, with a whole loom of Wywires, I’d say I was largely a happy camper. However, I was curious to know if one part of the wiring set up seemed more influential to overall sound than the others, e.g., if the interconnects were more important than the power cords etc. I really cannot give you a complete combinatorial analysis because I live in the real world where I have to go to work and eat, but I moved cables in and out sufficiently to arrive at a couple of conclusions that might be pertinent to some of you interested in upgrading to Wywires.
First, for me, the Juice II power cords are as good as anything I’ve tried on the PS Audio front end. This is likely a result of the PS Audio PWT/PWD’s relative immunity to cords once a certain standard is met but if you told me to keep the Wywires there and never use another cord, I would not object. Given I really enjoyed the effect of the Wywires on my older Denon 2900 and Parasound DAC 2000 Ultra, I’d say these are a great choice of power cords for front end digital gear. As I mentioned in my review of the Perreaux integrated in October 2011’s issue, these cords are also a synergistic match with that amp, so whatever Wywires are doing with their power cords, it’s working.
Next, on my power amps, the Spectron Mono Musician 3s definitely showed a preference for Spectron’s own Thunderbolt cords (review in the works) but then, the ‘Bolts were made for these amps and trump anything I’ve tried with them. They also cost a lot more than the $399 Juice II cord. In this regard the biggest difference is in the bass regions where the Wywire power cords could not quite match the sheer power and articulation of the Thunderbolts. I’d not consider this a weakness; if you have not experienced the ‘Bolts with the Spectrons then you would as likely as not be more than satisfied with the Wywires, and I think they were better on the power amps than other cords such as the Pangeas which I have on hand. On the preamp, the Wywires were competitive with but not quite the match of my reference Elrod cable, though at a significantly more affordable price. So, I conclude that with power cords, the Wywires are as good as it gets on the front end, and will cost you a lot more money to improve upon at the amplification stages.
For the interconnects, I really liked what the Wywires LITESPD S/PDIF digital cable did and while the only serious comparison cable I had to hand was an older Tara RSC, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Wywires for anyone linking a DAC to a transport. The regular balanced interconnects I used between DAC and pre, and from pre to power amps really worked nicely and I’d be as happy with these as anything else I’ve tried, not hearing anything particularly different between these and my reference Huffmans, both offer excellent sonics and to my ears, the results sound like music. Finally, as speaker cables, they are a joy to use and install. I prefer my custom-made runs of Elrod (4 individual cables per amp) with my Von Schweikerts but this is not entirely a fair comparison as these Elrod-sourced cables are not commercially available. In comparison to other speaker cables I’ve used with this rig, I’d say the Wywires are extremely competitive and I never felt I was shortchanged sonically.
After three months of serious listening, I found myself very satisfied with the Wywire cables. I could happily live with these in my reference system and give up worrying further. Can you ask for more than this as an audiophile? The Juice power cords are the star of the line-up in my view and could be the last stop for many. They offer remarkable value compared to other expensive cords I’ve tried and own. In terms of the whole loom argument, I appreciate the logic and intuitive appeal but I did not really notice that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in my rig and so I conclude there is still value to be had in exploring options for your particular set up if that is how you want to go.
What the Wywires offer is a highly musical, pleasing sonic picture that is never short of detail in the all important midrange or the upper frequencies where I found them to be an easily heard improvement over most cables I’ve heard in my home. That the Wywires are easy to fit and manipulate is no small advantage too, there is no need to support the connection at the back of components or fear that any small component move will pull a wire out, and the cables are visually unobtrusive compared to many other specialist cables. These are not the type of cable that draw attention to themselves, other than sonically. That I found these to work really well in both mid-level and reference systems speaks to the consistency of quality on offer here, I don’t think you’d feel any concerns with keeping these cables even as your system evolved. Wywires offers a 30-day home trial for purchasers so you have a chance to try these for yourself without worry. If you are the kind of audiophile who thinks cables probably matter but who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time or money second-guessing a choice, here’s the cable for you. Can I stop changing wires now?
- Digital-PS Audio PWT/PWD digital front end combo, or Denon 2900 into Parasound DAC 2000,
- Analog-SME 20/2 w/ SME309 arm, Benz Wood Body SL cartridge, Whest PS.30RDT phono stage
- SMcAudio VRE-1
- Spectron Musician III Mk 2 bridged monos with Bybee Upgrade
- Perreaux Audience i
- Von Schweikert VR5SE, Harbeth P3ESR
- Elrod custom-made single runs, home-made 14awg, Spitz Anti-Cables, WyWires speaker cables
- Grover Huffman interconnects, Pangea AWG9, PS Audio Prelude and Virtual Dynamic David power cords
Manufacturer and product information
- Silver Bi wire speaker cables: $1899 for an 8 foot pair. $180 per foot extra
- Silver analog single ended interconnects: $849 for a 4 foot pair. $125 per foot extra
- Silver Juice II power cords: $399 for any length up to 6 feet. $50 per foot extra
- Silver LITESPD S/PDIF cable: $499 for 5 feet. $75 per foot extra
- Blue analog balanced interconnects: $399 for a 4 foot pair. $30 per foot extra
- Wywire Cables website