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George 47

Wave Audio Storm Reference Cables

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Wave Storm Reference Digital Cable

Review by George Sallit

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Storm Reference Cables with Oyaide connectors

Recently I have been very interested in improving my digital front end, the digital streamer in particular. I have always found the sound quality of my music was best via vinyl and then CD and finally the streamer. And to be honest the streamer was a way back from the CD player. My original digital front end was an Auralic Aries, Audionote DAC 4.1x and an AN CD4T CD player. What was proving difficult was trying to get the streamer sound quality up towards that of the CD player.

Slowly and surely, I have taken steps to try to close the gap between the streamer and the CD player. The first and so far, the biggest step was when I heard the dCS Bridge. That made a big improvement and started to close the gap. After talking to a few experts in this field at the Bristol Audio Show there was a lot of counter-intuitive advice on clean digital signals. I knew the Audionote DAC 4.1x was galvanically isolated through the SPDIF input so noise should not have been a big problem. But the advice I got at Bristol was try a Melco digital library. So, I borrowed a Melco with a Plixir balanced power supply and heard a big jump in sound quality. In truth, it was nearly as big as the move from the Auralic to the dCS but not quite the same. But still, there were problems with what I was told was noise, not hiss or hum like analogue but digital noise that adds a digital edge to the music. And it can diminish the decays you hear from music dying away in a large concert hall. This robust source was proving to be sensitive to noise.

I know from personal experience audio cables can make a difference but they are very system dependent with some analogue cables making no real difference. However, digital signal cables seemed to be a whole new world to explore. And to be honest I soon settled on three cables. The first was a straightforward copper cable that used double shielding and is used in recording studios. Stryder from the Wam made a really nice one for me. He swore by it, so I borrowed a metre cable with BNC connectors and of all things BNC to RCA adaptors as my digital boxes used RCAs. This cable was good. In fact, it saw off all the other digital cables I had at that time and became my reference. It stayed that way for a year or two. I gave up using other cables, especially when I got a commercial digital cable with 2 ferrite clip-on filters. The sound was cleaner and less grainy but where had the dynamics gone?  So, this studio cable made great Strides in my system!!!.

 I was good.

And then I came across Cut Loose silver ribbon cables, which at that time were being sold by a major UK manufacturer as a ‘base model’ and a super ‘black model’.  I put the ‘base model cable’ into my system and there was a big, positive change. This cable made the soundstage huge and very 3D and retained the superb dynamics. It did not have an ultra-clean background but I forgave it that as it had a really lively sound. At last, the gap was closing?  In a good way. The sound quality of the streamer really improved and so did the sound quality of my CD transport. Good news but it did not solve my original problem of wanting to improve streaming but it was progress. And then I heard the ‘black model’ and another jump in sound quality. This was getting better and better and yes, the CD transport and streamer both improved. Problem? Yes, the RRP for the base model was £1.6K and the black model was £3K and that was for 1 cable. Wow.  Nevermind, once heard I could not let those cables return to their maker.

And that is where I remained with my digital front end with the sound quality being very good and closer to vinyl…..but it felt like one step closer to reality but still about half a mile away. Other cables have come and gone and none were able to approach these two digital cables so they remained the top cables with their lively sound. They also showed that a lot of the cables using ferrite filters just ended up reducing the dynamics and that made me avoid them.

And then a few months back I borrowed a Chord Electronics Qutest and reviewed it here: https://www.hifiwigwam.com/forum/topic/144426-chord-electronics-qutest/   I had a few discussions with our own Fourlegs about this equipment as he is a fan of Chord Electronics equipment.  Fourlegs makes the Wave Digital cables used between the Chord MScaler and Dave DAC using BNC connectors. The cables have been very favourably received by the Chord Electronics community and even the designer of the Dave and M-Scalar, Rob Watts, was converted over to them. Nick said to me why not borrow one and hear what it can do in your system. I was nervous as there were two problems.  I would need those horrible adaptors again as I only had RCA connectors. Nick has just sent me a new photo showing he can fit RCAs for the same price, so problem one gone.

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And wait for it, it did not have 2 ferrite filters but 20 of the blighters. Nick was great about it and said borrow the cable and hear them, no obligation. I agreed that if it made no difference or made things worse, I would smile sweetly and return the said item with thanks.

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(Storm Reference with Furutech connectors)

The WAVE Storm Reference BNC cables use a 5N (99.999%), pure solid silver conductor. A foil screen is incorporated for high-frequency shielding with a silver-plated mesh screen. They are a true 75-ohm cable. The ferrites are carefully selected to target specific problem frequencies. The ferrites are tightly fitting on the cables which is said to increase their effectiveness. WAVE claim their ferrites can be contrasted with clip-on split ferrites which are targeted at the wrong frequencies. They also say that clip-on ferrites pinch the dielectric and the screen is brought closer to the central conductor at the pinch points resulting in a change to the cable characteristics.

 

And so, it arrived in a few days. The cable comes in a nice wooden box with the name burnt on the front. The Wave Reference is a weighty cable due to all those ferrites and you have to ‘dress’ the cable carefully as it can move light digital equipment around. I just played a lot of tunes without my reviewer’s hat. Just to make sure it all worked correctly. I have had a digital cable that caused issues with the AN DAC4.1x and a Metrum Acoustics Octave by not being able to lock onto the digital signal.

So to be fair I just listened to the Wave Reference for a few hours and then compared it to the ‘base model’ cable in my system. I checked the volume levels and they were the same, which is not a great surprise. And found…….they were very close in sound quality. Different, but close. And after a few hours, I came to the conclusion I preferred the Wave cable!! The Wave cable had less background noise but did not quite match the dynamics of the Cut Loose cable. The Wave cable also seemed to have a slightly smaller soundstage than the Cut Loose cable. But the benefits from reducing background noise were evident and they were most welcome. This has always been an annoyance with the added digital edge. Both the Wave and the Cut Loose cables significantly reduced the digital edge although it can be recording dependent.

And what a surprise, it had toppled the ‘base model’ from its second position.

So, the big test was how would it do against the black model? Well, the Earth has not been shaken on its axis. Yes, the Wave cable was quieter in the background and had a good soundstage but the black model was more dynamic, more lively and had a larger soundstage.  Now that is actually a great result considering, in my view these two cables are the best I have heard and both are more expensive with the ‘black model’ being 2-3x more expensive.

And this pattern was repeated over a broad range of music for the next few weeks. During this time, I mainly used the Wave cable or the ‘black’ silver ribbon cable. On some equipment, the balance of sound quality changed especially if the equipment was bright where the Wave cable was preferred.

The Wave Storm Reference cables are a little over £700 for a single reference cable with Oyaide connectors and £650 with Furutech connectors.   Yes, that is pricey but in comparison to the best (for me), they are very competitively priced.  

The Wave Reference cable can be used as a SPDIF cable, outside of its originally intended Dave/M-Scalar role, and do an excellent job. If you are interested in getting a good digital cable then call Nick and he will send it to you on 14 days trial.  It will probably not return.

https://www.wavehighfidelity.com/

Edited by George 47

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