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Audio Blast: Silnote Audio Orion M-1 Master Reference & Epirus Master Reference USB cables

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Performance is never poor when the Kingsound King III speakers are fed reasonable power, but the outstanding Red Dragon S500 stereo amplifier is a very special Class D design. It is the most erudite sounding Class D I have used and it seems a strong challenge to competitors using the NCore module that has become popular. With the Orion the sound was a bit too warm, the treble unacceptably recessed. Solutions to such problems are typically very easy when one has even a few alternative cables at hand. In this instance, knowing the more laid back character of the Clarity Vortex power cord versus the more bright nature of the Poseidon GS, I simply switched their position and ended up with the Clarity power cables on the speakers and the Silnote power cords on the amps. Consequently, there was both an opening up of the sound and lightening of the top end with a good balance across the frequency spectrum. The midrange was now able to peek out properly whereas before it was overrun on the bottom end. This was a good point to begin assessment of the USB cables.

Exchanging the Orion and Epirus, I found their characteristics to be consistent across a variety of music. On Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman” and “Fly Away”, both songs with overwrought top end energy, the Orion was more subdued than I had anticipated. I expected a lot of upper end emphasis, but was pleasantly surprised by the warmth, despite this being an edgy rock ballad. The Epirus was more on the edge, brighter but not unreasonably so. It straddled the line between enough and too little energy and edginess in the electric guitar. Later I would move to a different configuration involving the Eastern Electric Minimax DAC Supreme and the SST Son of Ampzilla II Amplifier, which proved a capable setup that made the Epirus shine brilliantly.

Larry Corryell’s guitar on “Inner City Blues” had less twang with the Orion, which fans of warmer, syrupy sound would gleefully accept. With the Epirus the twang factor rose, but again, not at the expense of subtlety. When a guitar’s sound starts leaning into Banjo territory, where it is so harsh and high frequency emphasized that the entire body of the instrument seems akin to a hard surface, this signals to me the cables do not have enough midrange presence. Pleasantly, the Epirus was lush on the treble and midrange, a beautiful play across the spectrum.

The bass performance of these two USB cables are consistently as follows: The Orion yields warm and full bass with a respectable degree of definition. The Epirus does similarly, only more so. Every time I switched out the Orion for the Epirus I prepared myself for an increase in stridency, a tipping up in the upper end energy and an attendant thinning of the bass. But it never came, and the Epirus allowed me to listen very deeply into the music and do so at lofty levels without listening fatigue.

 

With the EE MiniMax DAC Supreme and Son Of Ampzilla II

I love the names of audio gear, “Minimax Supreme,” and “Son Of Ampzilla II”. Some guests’ eyes gloss over when I explain the components with their outrageous names. But to an audiophile, it’s like speaking lovers’ language!  And I do love this combination of gear. I had put aside the Eastern Electric DAC for a while as I reviewed the Exogal Comet DAC, but pulled it out again because I know how unassuming, yet surprising the Minimax DAC Supreme can be. With custom discrete opamps at the ready, in this particular case a full set of single as well as double Sparkos Labs opamps, the DAC Supreme was ready to impress.

New to the game is the unorthodox SST Son of Ampzilla II Amplifier. I would consider reviewing such a component just for the name. Well, not really, but it is a bonus when the product is both superb sounding and interesting. A full review of the Son of Ampzilla II and attendant Thoebe II Preamplifier is forthcoming. A most unexpected incompatibility presented itself when the Silnote USB cables were paired with the Thoebe II preamp. It didn’t work. It had static-like intermittent noise that intruded so loudly and consistently on the music that it was unlistenable.

At first I thought it was the preamp, but after conducting multiple tests to eliminate all other variables it was obvious that the USB cable was at fault. Or, was it? Contacting SST (Spread Spectrum Technology) I was informed by the cordial Tony Holt that he had encountered an instance previously in which a fancy USB cable did not work, but a cheap one did. I was skeptical, but pulled my throw-away USB cable from my computer printer and inserted it. The Thoebe II worked flawlessly! Huh, a fine aftermarket cable failed and the junk USB cable was running fine? I thought, “Really? This is happening during a review of some premium USB cables? Does it get any more ironic?” How would I explain that USB cables are a necessary part of an extreme rig if they are finicky?

To my relief, and Tony’s as he was wondering how the seemingly bomb-proof preamp was acting up, this is truly a compatibility issue, as I discovered the Orion and Epirus were not the only USB cables to be incompatible with the Thoebe II. A Furutech G2 USB as well as an earlier version of the Clarity Cable Organic USB on loan were also incompatible. What does one make of this? The Thoebe II sounded great with the printer cable, yet, ignoring the intermittent crackling noise the printer cable’s sound quality in comparison to the Orion and Epirus was paltry. There simply exists the potential for incompatibility of a USB cable with this particular preamp. I found no issues with any of these cables when using the ifi Micro DSD USB DAC or the DAC Supreme. I consider this incident a rare occurrence and am confident that you will have no connection issues with your DAC or preamp/DAC combo.

The combination of the Eastern Electric DAC Supreme with Sparkos Labs discrete opamps and the SST Son of Ampzilla II, as previously mentioned, was elegant. Again, the Orion was more reserved and laid back, and the Epirus was more forward but with exquisite refinement. Speakers of a variety of designs shown brilliantly with these USB cables. With implementation of the Silnote USB cables I have obtained the best performance to date from the King III, Legacy Audio Whisper DSW Clarity Edition and the Vapor Audio Joule White 3.

In conclusion, I find the Silnote Orion and Epirus to offer as unassailable performance as I have found in a USB cable. They have been proven reliable to attain the highest level of performance to date and enhance the performance of associated components. Their performance is such that they are priced quite reasonably for the advantages they confer on an audio system. They should be considered to be as coveted as extreme interconnects and speaker cables. In fact, they will yield as powerful benefits as these, and at a fraction of the price.

 

Associated Components:
Source: Macintosh Mac Mini; Sonos Digital Music System; Musical Fidelity M1CDT Transport
Playback Software: HQPlayer; Amarra 2
NAS: Buffalo Linkstation 500G
DAC:  Eastern Electric Minimax DSD DAC Supreme with Burson, Dexa NewClassD and Sparkos Labs Discrete Opamp Upgrade; Exogal Comet DAC and upgrade power supply; ifi Micro USBPower and Micro DAC
Preamp: TEO Audio Liquid Preamplifier; VAC Renaissance Signature Preamplifier MkII; Cambridge Audio 840E
Amps: Red Dragon S500; VAC Phi 200; First Watt J2 (two)
Integrated Musical Fidelity M6i
SpeakersKingsound King III; Legacy Audio DSW Clarity Edition; Kings Audio King Tower omnidirectional; Vapor Audio Joule White 3
Subwoofers: Legacy Audio XTREME HD (2)
IC’s: TEO Audio Liquid Cable Splash-Rs and Splash-Rc; TEO Liquid Standard Mk II; Clarity Cable Organic RCA/XLR; Snake River Audio Signature Series Interconnects; Silent Source “The Music Reference”
Speaker Cables: TEO  Cable Standard Speaker; Clarity Cable Organic Speaker; Snake River Audio Signature Series Speaker Cables; Silent Source “The Music Reference”
Digital Cables: Clarity Cable Organic Digital; Snake River Audio Boomslang; Silent Source “The Music Reference”
USB: Verastarr Nemesis; Clarity Organic
Power Cables: Verastarr Grand Illusion; Clarity Cable Vortex; MIT Oracle ZIII; Xindak PF-Gold; Snake River Audio Signature Series; Silent Source “The Music Reference”
Power Conditioning: Wireworld Matrix Power Cord Extender; Tice Audio Solo

 

Copy editor: Laurence A. Borden

3 Responses to Audio Blast: Silnote Audio Orion M-1 Master Reference & Epirus Master Reference USB cables


  1. Bill says:

    Do you plan on reviewing more silver conductor USB cables ?

    Has there been a definite answer to why the preamp did not work well with some USB cables ?

  2. Mark R says:

    A bit late on my response / question, but I am curious about the differences between these two Silnote cables compared to the very good Verastarr Nemesis USB cable, which I happily run in my system now. Any thoughts Doug?

    BTW, your reviews have been spot on! I love my Red Dragon S500, along with a Teo GC interconnect, and the Verastarr USB cable. Many thanks!!

  3. Mark,
    God’s Joy to you,
    In general I was able to get excellent results with both the Silnote and the Verastarr USB cables. The Epirus Master Reference would be more similar to the Nemesis. I am not sure that the difference in performance between them would be considered enough for you to make a change. If you are enjoying the Nemesis you may wish to work with other cables, i.e. power cords.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

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