Wywire Phono Cables (Honey)

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Wywire Phono Cables (Honey)
« on: 12 Jun 2010, 04:39 pm »

Prior to reading a post on the Industry forum of Audiocircle searching for beta testers, I had never heard of Wywires.  They are a new-ish cable manufacturer based on the west coast with ambitious aspirations for their product.  Many manufacturers generate interest in their products by claiming themselves ‘music lovers’ first with implicit promises of their product ending our obsessive gear juggling habits, but Wywires’ approach is both different and novel.

Unlike most cable manufacturers, Wywires does not build cables to price points—instead they state every cable they make is the best performing cable they know how to make.  Another interesting and unique approach they have taken is an actual requirement of a consultation with new customers prior to allowing a sale in order that system goals, sonic priorities and expectations can be assessed and to further ensure customer satisfaction.

After reading of the company’s ambitious approach and finding myself wanting slightly for a little more magic in my analog system, I dropped designer Alex Sventitsky a line and asked to join his beta squad.

For the record, my system is composed of the following:

Well Tempered Reference (arm and turntable)
Denon DL-103D
Eastern Electric Minimax Preamp
First Watt F1 (Rawson built)
Cain & Cain Abby Speakers

While I have no financial interest in the success of Wywires, the participants of the beta testing program were invited to keep the cables with their compliments.  A formal review was not required of the arrangement and I have elected to write this on my own accord. 

The Review:

I’ve owned a lot of cables over the years ranging from budget to fairly expensive.  Off the top of my head I recall various Acoustic Zens, Nordosts, Van Den Hul, Bogdan, Grover, MAC and a handful of others as I’m sure many of you have.  In my experience they are an extremely finicky component to choose properly as different systems with different ears and different sonic priorities will yield different levels of satisfaction.  The only component I have found to be more difficult to choose and settle on has been phono cartridges. 

In my system, the Wywires phono cable (I am told it is the Honey flavor) replaced a pair of Grover Hoffman SC phono cables between my Well Tempered Reference and RSA Nighthawk.  I had no complaints as to the Grover cable specifically, but something had been just a touch off in my analog front end.  Things sounded good, great by most standards, but I was missing out somehow on emotional impact and decided to try cable rolling in a last effort to stave off thoughts of abandoning my WTR in favor of something else. 

With the Wywires in place, however, the distractedness I was feeling evaporated.  My immediate impressions were that these suckers are CLEAN.  I already had a quiet turntable and phono preamp, but with the Wywires in place I heard my noise floor drop a level or two.  I don’t know if this is due to more effective EMI/RFI rejection, but I felt like noise (surface and electrical/amplification) had diminished significantly.

I also noticed right off the back that these cables carried more weight, even without burn in, than the Grover cables.  I made a conscious decision in moving from the Eastern Electric Phono Preamp to the Nighthawk to sacrifice a little body in favor of a more nimble, and PRaTier presentation.  The Wywires however restored much of my harmonic development and richness while maintaining the virtues of the NH.  I would say the extra weight translated to a more textured presentation, equally nimble as before.

The Wywires are also pretty darn resolving cables and they accomplish this without being in your face.  This is not something I noticed immediately, but as I listened to my vinyl with them in place, I experienced the cliché ‘noticing things I never really registered before’.  The fun part was that this was not limited to musically insignificant things picked up in recordings, but often to things hiding in plain sight which were always there but not previously registered.  A prime example of this came about listening to the first track towards the end of Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.  Behind the bite of the very real and dynamic brass instruments is a soft and simple bass pizzicato holding the piece together which, I never stopped to focus on, always focusing on the horns.  This is musically significant and helps build the drama of the work.

During my initial listening I also cued up the Cat Powers Covers, an album with which I am very familiar and use to evaluate system changes.  Listening to my system with the Wywires in place, even with only a few hours on them, they sounded surprisingly good.  They had a very natural flow and presentation with good dynamics and spot on the money tone.  They also had an exciting, engaging quality that kept me spinning happily into the late night when it was time to retire.

As the cables broke in further I did note some change from their fundamental character with the largest being a perceived loss of focus which I discussed with Alex.  As I put more hours on, however, things cleared up nicely and the already impressive sound continued to improve almost daily.  They have been in my system for a few weeks now and I believe their character has settled now.  Staging and imaging are now dialed in and very realistic in presentation and proportion, though I do feel they prefer to reproduce more intimate venues. 

I’m having a difficult time describing what I am hearing without saying the same things others seem to say in reviews but in my system the level of refinement brought to the frequency spectrum has been something very special.

These cables are smooth! Very smooth.  Smooth enough that at first I was concerned I might be missing out on some treble information and actually discussed this with the manufacturer as well.  As I kept listening I came to the realization that nothing was missing—in fact I believe I was hearing more detail on top than with my previous Grover silver based cables, but it was portrayed in a relaxed, non-fatiguing matter which I have come to really enjoy. 

For those of you not familiar with my speakers, the Cain and Cain Abbys use a single, full range driver with a whizzer cone to reproduce sound.  As one cranks the volume up, that whizzer can make the presentation a little ‘shouty.’  With the Wywires in place, I found myself able to pump up the gain with the drivers keeping control. 

Bass performance with these cables appears to be very good and I am getting a bit more punch and ‘feel’ for atmosphere, but my single driver speakers and inexpensive subwoofer (Yamaha YST-315) has me hesitant to comment too much in this portion of the frequency spectrum. 

Where these babies really excelled for me was in the midband.  With the Wywires in place voices sounded so much more organic and real.  Between nailing tone, micro dynamics and just having a smooth presentation top to bottom, these things really dish out the information my brain interprets as emotional content.  These cables were meant to play Johnny Cash! 

That’s actually not a fair statement as everything I played through the Wywires was quite enjoyable, but where I really found them special was rendering simpler, vocal driven music.  Johnny Cash, Surjan Stevens, Bonnie Prince Billy, etc., were dreamy with this cable in place. 

I very much enjoy the Wywires and can honestly say without hesitation that they are the best cables I’ve heard (caveat for synergy).  The level of change I heard in my system is more akin to a component upgrade than a passive device swap.  I’m thrilled I got in on this beta testing opportunity as my system would not sound the same without them. 

They are not cheap cables, but if your budget allows for an upgrade of this nature I whole heartedly recommend you give Alex a call.  With the sixty day satisfaction guarantee in place, you have nothing to lose.

Bravo, Alex! 

P.S.  I have a pair of the standard Wywires interconnects on their way to me now.  Stay tuned for updates!