Audiophiles are an eccentric bunch. When we start describing sound the way a sommelier might describe a bottle of fine red wine, it can be difficult for even the most openminded non-audiophile to take us seriously. Speakers, DACs, and amplifiers are the easiest suspects for which to make an objective case. You can measure them, and correlate your subjective listening impressions to draw broad conclusions about how good a component sounds.
But cables, man—what a divisively contentious topic. I’m not a pure objectivist—I think it’s arrogant to presume that we can reduce the sound of an audio component to a suite of anechoic or electrical measurements. But I lean pretty far toward objectivity, and am convinced that no maker of audio gear should be taken seriously that doesn’t test its creations using commonly accepted engineering principles. Despite what some manufacturers would have you believe, this isn’t magic—there are no shamans behind the veil. Which is why I was interested in taking on some of Siltech’s newest creations for review: their Classic Legend 680L speaker cables ($4899/2.5m pair, $759/each additional 0.5m; all prices USD). I needed to challenge my preconceptions.
Siltech = silver technology
Siltech was founded in the Netherlands in 1983 and, as they tell it,
From the start, Siltech invested heavily in research, which is something that continues to this day. Our focus was initially on researching the effects of different conductor, insulator and construction formulations, both on empirical and subjective performance. In other words, we wanted to find out what makes cables sound the way that they do.
A propitious beginning. What I like even more is that Siltech is no small operation. International Audio Holding BV, which owns Siltech and sister brand Crystal Cable, has 32 employees, and an R&D team of five engineers holding various degrees, including two at master’s-level honors and one a PhD in gas dynamics. In addition to other high-end design softwares, they use COMSOL Multiphysics. Other resources include two vacuum ovens for metallurgic research and treatments, a wideband 3D magnetic analyzer, three Audio Precision rigs for electrical measurements, and even a Tektronix 70GHz oscilloscope. Given their longevity, engineering talent, and deep investment in measurement gear, it’s fair to say that Siltech is the real deal.
As I explained on sister site SoundStage! Global, in a blog about unboxing the 680L and other new models in Siltech’s Classic Legend Series, the Legends comprise the fourth generation of Classics, and their first update since the launch of the Classic Anniversarys in 2008 (reviewed by SoundStage! publisher Doug Schneider in 2011). The Classics are Siltech’s mid-tier cable offerings, slotting in above the entry-level Explorer Series and below the considerably higher-end Royal Signature Series. (There are also two special high-end offerings, in the forms of the 35 Years Anniversary Series and the flagship Triple Crown Series.) As noted in my blog,
[T]he Classic Legend Series is comprised of three tiers: the 380, the 680, and the 880. There’s a speaker cable, analog interconnect, and power cable at each tier, as well as single digital (the 380D), USB (the 380 USB), and network offerings to be used across the series. There’s even a Zero Ohm Link grounding cable for analog guys, and all the usual suspects are available insofar as terminations go. I liked the middle-of-the-road 680, and I duly requested a 2.5m-long 680L run of banana-terminated speaker cables ($4899, all prices USD), a pair of 2.5m 680P power cords ($2710 each), and a pair of 1m 680i XLR interconnects ($2275). I also requested a 2.5m 380 USB ($1690).
In making the jump from 380s to 680s you get a +50% increase in conductor diameter, and a similar increase from the 680s to the 880s—and the prices leap accordingly. A full 380-equivalent loom retails for $9654, an 880 loom for $21,444. Siltech makes many things, but their Classic Legends ($14,284 for the loom described above) are not budget friendly. However, they are impressive.
It’s clear that to Siltech, presentation matters as much as performance, as it should for premium-priced cables. The Classic Legend 680Ls arrived in a high-quality, magnetically fastened blue box. The cables’ serial numbers were handwritten on the box, and a near-field communication (NFC) tag is attached to every unit of Classic Legend Series cable to demonstrate authenticity; apparently, Siltech cables have been counterfeited.
The build quality of my 2.5m-long samples was beyond reproach. Siltech themselves make the cables’ rhodium-plated banana plugs (Siltech-made spade connectors are also available), which snugly locked into the binding posts of my KEF Reference 3 loudspeakers without wiggle or give. Between the polish of the plugs themselves, the laser-etching on the barrel of the cable, and the fine, cobalt-colored sheath, the 680Ls were clean and [ahem] classic in appearance. Perhaps most surprising to me was their weight. Despite lacking the garden-hose thickness of some speaker cables—a good thing, as they’re reasonably pliable—they were heavier than I’d imagined.
Peel away the attractive exterior and you’ll see why. G9, the creatively named ninth generation of Siltech’s proprietary silver-gold alloy, is used throughout the Classic Legend Series. (The outgoing Classic Anniversary Series were made with G7; Siltech’s current highest-quality models with G8.) The Classic Anniversarys’ Teflon-Kapton insulation has been replaced with a layer of polyether ether ketone (PEEK) sandwiched by two layers of Teflon. All Siltech cables are made in their factory in Elst, the Netherlands, the Classic Legends entirely by hand. Each cable is individually inspected and tested against a reference, then visually inspected by two different employees before packaging. For each cable shipped, Siltech keeps on file the measured results of that cable’s resistance, inductance, capacitance, and dielectric tests; for their digital interconnects, Siltech ensures that each link’s impedance and jitter measurements meet specification. In addition to applying their technical and engineering expertise, Siltech also uses listening tests in the development of any new cable model; before going into production, they compare multiple prototypes of each model with one another, as well as with the current model the new model is intended to replace.
Siltech’s Classic Legend 680L speaker cables replaced in my system AudioQuest’s modest and comparatively dirt-cheap Rocket 33 cables ($449.95/10′ pair). I bought the AQs a couple years ago because I kept finding myself needing banana-terminated cables to review some speaker models, and I liked how no-nonsense the AQs were: pure copper design, attractive sheathing, and none of AQ’s battery-powered Dielectric-Bias System. I snaked the 680Ls from my Hegel Music Systems H590 integrated amplifier-DAC to my KEF speakers. For the purposes of this review I did not install the rest of the Classic Legend loom Siltech had sent, instead using my trusty Nordost Blue Heaven power cord (plugged into an Emotiva CMX-2 power conditioner) to provide juice to the Hegel, and a DH Labs Silver Sonic USB link to connect the Hegel to my Intel NUC Roon Core, through which I play Tidal HiFi and Qobuz Studio Premier files.
It wasn’t long before I heard improvements in my system’s sound wrought by the Classic Legend 680Ls. I’d thought I might hear variations in tonality—after all, I’ve found some companies’ cables to be as much tone controls as conduits for the music. Instead, I heard what sounded like a consistent decrease in distortion across the audioband. As I began playing “The Sky Is Broken,” from the 2014 remastering of Moby’s 1999 album Play (24-bit/96kHz FLAC, Mute/Qobuz), I was spellbound by his enunciation. His muttered words were immaculate. His voice was velvet-smooth, concise, and clear as driven snow. It sounded more natural, more real, than through my modest AudioQuest Rocket 33s. Spatial definition also improved, with unambiguous layering of reel-to-reel spooling and a simple drum melody providing the backdrop for this remastered cut.
The lack of apparent artifice continued with “Sinner Man,” from Nina Simone’s Four Women: The Philips Recordings (16/44.1 FLAC, Verve/Qobuz). The instrumental interlude at about 3:30 was delightful, defined not by the whip and snap of attack transients—though those were faithfully reproduced—but by tonal and timbral purity. The sporadic guitar chords at far left and right flanked the rapid hi-hat with a three-dimensional palpability difficult to describe. Swapping out the Siltechs for my AQs produced a slightly flatter sound, one more mechanical than organic—certainly not as spooky and ethereal as what the 680Ls could muster.
That was the most impressive result of installing the Siltech cables in my system. Everything in my collections of local and streamed music benefited—everything sounded better with the Classic Legend 680Ls. These cables didn’t suddenly make soundstages bigger, or somehow transform the fundamental tonality of my Hegel-KEF system. Rather, they stripped away from the music a fine layer of noise and grain. Everything sounded purer, as if my subconscious could now mainline all those ones and zeros that much faster. “Cleopatra (Acoustic),” from the Lumineers’ Cleopatra (Deluxe) (16/44.1 FLAC, Dualtone/Tidal), is one of my favorite acoustic recordings for its simple, unfiltered arrangement. Lead singer Wesley Shultz’s voice sailed into my room with a resolution, liquidity, and ease that forced me to raise my head from my laptop and just listen. Ramping up the volume pushed me back in my seat. I had to restart the song twice just to finish this paragraph. The subtle but pervasive improvements wrought by the Siltechs were impressive.
While I’m not generally into cables or tweaks, Siltech’s Classic Legend 680L speaker cables captivated me. Yes, their build quality is excellent, their materials clearly first-rate, and Siltech’s corporate narrative emphasizing measurements and iterative improvements in metallurgy is compelling.
But for an audio component to earn my highest recommendation, I must be able to hear its contributions to my system’s ability to re-create the sounds of the music I love. Siltech’s Classic Legend 680L speaker cables gave me a lot of such contributions to hear. Their ability to reduce low-level distortion and artifacts below what my lower-cost copper cables could manage was as enjoyable as it was surprising.
It’s been a long time since I’ve ended a review in this way, but here goes nothing:
The Classic Legend 680L is my new reference speaker cable. Siltech, you’re not getting these superb cables back. Send me the bill.
. . . Hans Wetzel
- Speakers: KEF LS50 and Reference 3
- Integrated amplifier-DAC: Hegel Music Systems H590
- Sources: Intel NUC computer running Roon, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz Studio Premier
- Speaker cables: AudioQuest Rocket 33, DH Labs Q-10 Signature
- Analog interconnects: Dynamique Audio Shadow unbalanced (RCA), Nordost Blue Heaven LS balanced (XLR)
- Digital link: DH Labs Silver Sonic (USB)
- Power conditioner: Emotiva CMX-2
Siltech Classic Legend 680L Speaker Cables
Price: $4899 USD/2.5m pair ($759/each additional 0.5m).
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
6662 NW Elst
North American distributor:
Monarch Systems Ltd.
16 Inverness Place E, Building B
Englewood, CO 80112
Phone: (720) 399-0072