Digital BNC Interconnect cables
Nick Bacon of Wave High Fidelity cables is an architect by trade but has had a passion for HiFi for some time and is an owner of a few very enviable HiFi systems. His aim in creating the Stream Premium and Storm cables was, he says, to manufacture Dual BNC cables which would enhance Chord Electronics BLU MK.2 and Hugo M Scalers by reducing RF (Radio Frequency) noise.
He tells me that what his cables are principally designed to do is remove RF noise. Any an audiophile will have an appreciation for how destructive such noise can be on the audio chain. His cables are not designed to alter the digital signal but, I’m advised, limit RF noise. This noise can apparently get into the analogue stage of the DAC causing intermodulation distortion, which will show itself as a graininess or harshness in the treble – that fuzzy characteristic sound that some cables can impart. This often becomes more pronounced as volume is increased. A tendency is then to keep volume low to avoid these bad artefacts.
Rob Watts, the Chord Electronics designer, incorporates enhanced filtering in the Hugo M Scaler to try to combat the RF noise however it is still so pernicious and insidious, some still gets past this filtering apparently. The fact Dual BNC connections of compatible Chord products requires two cable lengths is hardly likely to help given each cable is acting as an antenna for permeating noise.
As background for those unfamiliar with Chord products, the Chord BLU MK.2 CD transport and Hugo M Scaler upscaler contain upscaling technology to pass on a digital signal via quite an advanced digital filter, to your DAC (digital to analogue converter). Because the maximum sample rate can be 768kHz and each cable is limited in its data rate to half this, there is a need for two cables, hence Dual BNC digital outputs to the DAC. From either the BLU MK.2 or the Hugo M Scaler you can currently send Dual BNCs to four compatible Chord DACs; the base Qutest, headphone Hugo 2, midrange Hugo TT2, and the reference DAVE DAC. I had the Qutest and Hugo TT2 at the time of this review, as well as the Hugo M Scaler. I’ve tried all four DACs in various set ups except the Hugo 2 which has the same FPGA filter chip as the Qutest, so sound quality should be identical or at least very similar for the perspective of this review.
The two range topping Wave Storm cables Nick makes come in two varieties – an ‘O’ version (as pictured above) with Oyaide plugs to maintain the solid silver connection through the plugs and an ‘F’ version with Furutech plugs, the latter of which is the subject of this review. Both these cables use solid pure silver conductors. I was also provided a Wave Stream Premium cable which uses high quality copper conductors. All these types utilise a foil and mesh screen for high frequency and low frequency isolation, respectively.
Both sets of cables have 20 ferrite rings per single 1m length. It does make them quite heavy but so long as they are supported in the rack there should be no problems. I made sure that they were aligned without moving laterally so as not to exert any undue force on the BNC sockets of the DACs being used.
The purpose of ferrites in electrical cables is to limit RF noise but these are not of the usual clamping type you might find provided with a power supply or USB cable. This is because the dialectric screens have a job to do and being clamped too tight can affect this. From my biology studies way back when, they make me think of myelinated neurones, such is their appearance.
The wooden box provided is very nice and you can’t fault Wave Fidelity’s attention to detail and care in making these cables. With the number of ferrites and construction of other components, they clearly do require care in making them, and are self evidently well made.
What mainly excites me about HiFi is the life affirming experience of hearing music faithfully reproduced. I consider myself a ‘music first’ audiophile who is not hugely interested in the debate around whether some technical reason should mean I should or shouldn’t be able to differentiate system changes. For there will always be different technical opinions on both sides and frankly it’s not in my scope of experience or interest to understand between opposing sides. I report on what I hear mainly, and for me being an audiophile is about sound quality. It’s a non exclusive club for anyone with good hearing can empirically make out sound changes. If a product works for you, then go for it. Whilst cables are a contentious topic for some, they are no different a buying decision in this regard.
I used a Hugo M Scaler and Hugo TT2 in my system, with PMC twenty5 23s, partnering Cyrus Signature amplification and an Innuos Zenith mark 2 as a low noise server / transport source. I also used a Chord Qutest with matching MCRU linear PSU.
I went from having the Wave Storm ‘F’ cables connected for some time between the Hugo TT2 and Hugo M Scaler to then trying a basic box type set of BNC cables of the type manufacturers include to get you going. Edgy grainy treble is obvious in female vocals or when you’d expect there to be a natural airiness to a vocal, in using the box cables. The bass isn’t quite as thick and deep as using the Wave Storm F’s. Artists where this is apparent include those such as Andrea Bocelli, Barbra Streisand, or Tony Bennett. In fact any artist who is vocally airy. It is unpleasant and a bit grating and using the Wave cables is easier on the ear. Agnes Obel’s track Familiar on the excellent Citizen of Glass album has lots of backing singers with sibilant vocals, not least Agnes Obel’s vocal is incredibly airy too, much like those other artists mentioned. Playing this track, move back to the Storm F, and the sibilance is still there as it should naturally be, but it’s not grating as it is before.
Initially I heard nothing at all in swapping the cables over but as you pick the offending nuances out, they become more easily recognisable. Get up close to your speakers and at low and moderate volumes it is very obvious as well. There is also this slight sheen over the music using the box cables which is nice to eliminate in using these Wave cables.
It was definitely true that I wanted to turn the volume down as sound quality became more grating. Using the Wave Storm F did round out the rest of my system making me wonder if my thoughts of letting the Cyrus pre go would be a valid one considering it is often the weak link off harder treble as you turn the volume up. The Cyrus seemed to perform well throughout the volume range with these cables making me think, with the Hugo TT2 and these rounded cables, it’s perhaps no longer the weak link. I’d expect such is the resolving power of the Hugo TT2 and Hugo M Scaler, and reckoning the effects of RF noise is as initially described in this review, such grainy edginess is going to be more noticeable in such resolving converters from the ilk of Chord. Another DAC these cables could benefit is the Mytek Brooklyn+ which has an airy slightly bright forward sound, typical of current Mytek converters. It’s an edginess therefore that needs to be tamed and using the Wave Storm F is welcome in this regard. These effects are not something I thought is a massively insidious distraction from the overall quality of the HiFi, but more so an annoyance you want to eliminate. With Chord gear this good or any decent converter, why wouldn’t you not want to do that? Use on the DAVE would be an altogether new question considering it’s a more resolving DAC to the Hugo TT2.
Nick suggested I try a track called Trip Trap from Marcus Miller’s album Laid Black. Whilst not my sort of music really, it was a useful test track as it does have lots of percussive instruments and cymbals, which create this fizzing trebly sound. This is more apparent of the overall sound character when playing other music, in moving back to the box BNC cables.
I then moved to the copper Wave Stream Premium cables with the same Agnes Obel test track fresh in mind. It was much of the same experience against the box BNC cables, except in contrast to the Storm F, detail is a little reined in and a touch smoother in presentation. On balance I did prefer the Storm F cables.
Hooking up my Cyrus Cd-t CD transport to the Hugo M Scaler with 16x upscale set, using a RCA Chord Company Anthem Tuned Array digital cable with a RCA-BNC adapter on the Hugo M Scaler end, I then made a comparison to using one of the Storm F Cables. For the Storm F cable I had to use a BNC-RCA adapter on the CD transport end. Also of note, the Chord Company (Cables) has no connection to Chord Electronics and similar naming is incidental.
First off I didn’t know my Cyrus was this good into the Hugo M Scaler. It has a lighter thinner sound than the Zenith – maybe contributed to by the cable connection, but nonetheless pleasingly delicate and detailed playing Orbital’s seminal Snivilisation album. There is a track I use on this album for testing treble called Attached where synthesiser chords and samples stretch a system to its limits. I’ve always liked this Chord Anthem Tuned Array digital cable which has been known to me for its open character….
Compared to the Chord Anthem the Wave Storm F provides a more smoothed typical HiFi sound that more people will find pleasing. To be honest I really like the Anthem and was a bit miffed all that gorgeous treble detail had vanished for the sake of how pleasing it is in this Orbital track at least, but I can see how on balance the sound of the Wave Storm F is more suitable. A bit more balanced in its proposition. Playing different CDs I kept switching back and forth between the Anthem and Wave Storm F and the same results were achieved. With classical and instrumental music like Mike Oldfield’s Return to Ommadawn album I preferred the Anthem if I’m honest but anything acoustic and with a vocal the same story is as before – playing Amy Winehouse’s Love is a loosing game from the Back to Black album, the same unpleasant edginess is there with this Chord cable. I think with the detailed prowess of the Hugo M Scaler / Hugo TT2 combination (particularly with the talents of the Hugo TT2 being the main detail excavator of this pairing), the Wave Storm F is a better more neutral, less coloured cable. I found this presentation is much more marked in CD transport connection than changing BNC cables between the Hugo TT2 and Hugo M Scaler. This perhaps does demonstrate the colouring effect the Chord Anthem cable is having on sound but used in combination with a really resolving DAC, generally it’s not a nice balance.
Going back to using the Qutest with the Hugo M Scaler at 705khz upscale and using the Storm F and Stream Premium cables with the Zenith back in the mix, I play all the same usual suspects. Amy Winehouse sounds a touch more sibilant with this pairing than before using both Wave cables, however swapping to the box cables there is promotion of edginess, however the effect is less dramatic than differences using the Hugo TT2 in the mix. I found the same with other music as well.
I note a criticism of using ferrites on interconnect cables is they can draw a lot of the higher frequencies affecting overall balance, but this wasn’t the case to me from these tests. The cables are well balanced particularly the Wave Storm F cables.
These cables are definitely worth trying as clearly some thought has been given to how they sound with Chord products, not only in their design but in regard to their balance in Chord systems. They are well made and work as they say they will. In addition, they are far from a one trick pony for use with Chord systems alone, and make sense trying across installations. Not only do they make sense trying in Dual BNC Chord installations but also in single cable source connections too.
Buyers can return cables within 14 days for a refund if they are not happy so there are no excuses for not trying. Also I note Wave High Fidelity offers the chance to demo cables against own cables at their premises in Leicestershire, which helps if customers are Chord owners interested in trying these cables in situ on various Chord products. Recommended, so wait no further…….
- Wave Storm ‘F’ – 5N (99.999%) pure solid silver conductors, 75 ohm cable for lossless transmission, Furutech connectors, 20 ferrite cores per 1m cable.
- Wave Stream Premium – High Quality copper conductors, 75 ohm cable for lossless transmission.
- Black / red pairs or single colour.
- Both with foil and mesh screens for high and low frequency isolation, respectively.
- Wave specified ferrites.
- Wave Stream Premium 1m Dual BNC – £895/pair **
- Wave Storm ‘F’ 1m Dual BNC (Furutech BNC connectors) – £1260/pair **
- **delivered worldwide