The longer I am in the Audiophile game, the more I appreciate the particular capacity of cables to finish a fine rig. Having explored many and finding some exceptional ones, including Clarity Cable and Silent Source, I have made room in systems for a lovely “sleeper” cable named Silnote. As with so many of the fine products I have had the delight to review and own, this one began with a show demo.
I was at AXPONA, Chicago 2014 when I stumbled upon an improbable rig, the kind that ostentatious hobbyists might glance at through the doorway and bypass. However, some rewarding discoveries come when time is taken to dissect seemingly uneventful show rooms. In this particular case, Mark Williams of Silnote Audio was hosting the room with his fiancé Michele, presenting a system of rather conservative components, an Oppo 105 player, NAD M51 DAC, Balanced Audio Technology VK-32 Preamp, and driven by a pair of McCormack DNA-750 Monos running the B&W Nautilus 802 speakers, which date back to 1999.
This was Mark’s own system, an example of the fact that small manufacturers have to stretch resources, and more than a few have at some point used personal gear to make a show rig happen. Yet, despite the equipment having a vintage leaning, there was a distinct pedigree of sonic greatness happening. My ear told me the sound was far better than the system had a right to produce. Frankly, I was stunned that Bowers & Wilkins speakers could sound that good. Having heard them many times over the decades I had come to consider them, with equal parts, disdain and disinterest.
What was it that made them so engaging that day? It could only be one thing, I surmised, the cables. There was no way the speakers could sound that good unless the cables were sensational. Silnote Audio had flown under my radar, but a quieter moment in the room allowed me to probe for more information. Time was short that day, so I arranged to meet Mark and Michele for breakfast the next morning at the hotel lobby’s coffee shop prior to show’s open.
Meet my friends
I arrived early and sat down next to some men whom I would describe as elder rockers with poor attitudes. Knowing the variety of attire and backgrounds of audiophiles, I dismissed the biker look and attempted to strike up conversation about the show, which rooms they liked. I was met with silence and mean stares. It was macabre in that I had never met them, yet they acted as though my enemies. To his credit, one of the three nervously attempted to string along a reply or two, but the others continued to hone their death stares. I can only surmise they knew me from an audio-related website, as my moniker is my name, a downside to being a gregarious reviewer. A fellow local audiophile who was at the show arrived moments later, greeting them warmly, but they arose silently with stony faces and departed. The affront was so obvious that my friend called after them, “Was it something I said?”
Turning from the Audio cranks, I was happy to see Mark and Michele approaching, with kind, wide smiles. Mark strikes me as being of the Southern American tradition, soft spoken and polite, unassuming, and yet confident. It was at this point I learned that the system shown was his personal rig. The cost of a show is burdensome for a small manufacturer and they are up against a great deal of name recognition with manufacturers pooling their products for maximum effect to create big-gun systems. It was a risk for Mark to use his system, but it showed that he was confident of his product’s ability to impress.
Though the system was unassuming, Mark knows what he is doing, as he studied electrical engineering in college, then worked for GM troubleshooting electrical circuits and specializing in electronics. Silnote Audio, a contraction of the words silver and note, was born out of Mark’s desire to make his own cables. He sent them off to a few audiophile friends for assessment, and their response was that he should go into business. He took the encouragement and Silnote Audio was started in 2010.
I typically review one line of cables from a manufacturer, but Mark gently pushed for a blend of products similar to those used in the show system. Not being familiar with the Silnote philosophy of cables, I tried again to get consistency across the board. Mark was politely insistent that I use a selection of cables, and I deferred. I was sent a suite of products including the bi-wire spade and single wire banana sets of the Anniversary Edition Master Speaker Cables. Interconnects were represented by the following; Anniversary Edition Master Balanced, Orion Master Balanced, Poseidon Signature Balanced Interconnects, and Morpheus Reference Series II single ended. Power cables included the Orion Master, Poseidon ES, and Poseidon GL models. The power cables have cryo-treated Wattgate plugs.
Suffice to say there was enough variety to capture the feel of the Silnote experience! Later, as I began to unpack Silnote’s methodology, I began to understand the rationale for the mix of products. I had assumed that as is the case with a great many cable manufacturers, Silnote would draw hard design boundaries between its lines of cables. I was to learn that Mark intentionally varies all his cables’ terms of geometry and conductors, even across product lines. I don’t think I could have procured a set of power cords, interconnects and speaker cables all made with identical methods; no wonder the ever-polite Mr. Williams kept steering me in a different direction!
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