Not all the best stuff is made by the big boys, sometimes a one man business can beat the odds and deliver the goods. That is the case with SImply Audio from Holland, a new force for value in the of over hyped world of cables.
Anyone who thinks that small, one man companies only exist in the UK is wrong. In the Netherlands we have amongst others Dimitri van Hoven making Simply Audio cables. Dimitri is an audio veteran who used to write reviews until he got a job with the distributor of Audio Note in Holland. Later he returned to his original profession in IT, but remained a music lover and enthusiastic audiophile. In his search to find out why little changes in audio systems can have big impacts he developed his own line of cables, these are now available in limited quantities to fellow music lovers. Limited in numbers and limited in type, competitively priced and well made.
Hard and bright
Simply Audio cables are always made out of woven silver conductors, regardless of the application. It is never a good idea to combine different metals, for instance copper cable and silver plugs/spades, Simply Audio uses heavy silver plated Audio Note spades and bananas but other options can be had. Unfortunately silver is still associated with a hard, sharp and overly bright sound. This is an outdated idea that stubbornly lingers due to rogue manufacturers. Silver can indeed sound hard and sharp, but that is due to impurities, the silver wire that jewelers use is notorious for this because metals are deliberately added to make the silver more wear resistant. Simply Audio uses only pure silver only for the conductors in its thin and highly flexible cables. Thick is not always necessary as Crystal Cable and Kondo have proved. There is apparently also another material in these cables but that’s Dimitri’s secret.
The product range includes speaker cable, jumpers, interconnects finished with RCA plugs (for phono, analogue and digital), USB and a mains cable. Dimitri handed me a set of jumpers (spade to banana) and 4m speaker cables with banana plugs on both ends. I already had some spade to spade jumpers. To give you an idea of the prices, the speaker cables cost €459 (£345) a pair and a set of four jumpers sets you back €149 (£115). Each extra stereo metre of speaker cable adds €35 (£26). These are real world prices for silver cables. I put the speaker cables in my reference system between PMC fact.12 speakers and an Audia Flight 50 power amplifier, where they temporarily replaced Crystal Cable Speak Reference. I also tried them in a second set-up connecting a Naim NAP 100 power amplifier to PMC Twenty.23, Russell K. Red 100 and Spendor D1 speakers. In the smaller system they temporarily replaced Chord Co. Epic Super (twin) speaker cable. Later I installed them permanently between Exposure 3012S2 mono’s and Harbeth P3ESR loudspeakers.
First I tried a pair of jumpers on my fact.12 loudspeakers. The loudspeakers can be tri-wired or tri-amped, but my Crystal Cable is only suitable for bi-wiring, so I had used the silver plated shorting bars supplied by PMC between the binding posts for midrange and tweeter. After I tried various jumper sets in this position I reached the provisional conclusion that the PMC bars are not bad at all. A whole lot better than the gold-colored lumps on virtually all other loudspeakers.
Because Simply Audio offers home trials I ordered them for private use even before we started the review idea. The conclusion was simple, the overall performance of the system improved, not shockingly but clearly. A slightly rough top end disappeared and some small details became clearer. The Cadenza loudspeaker cables supplied for the review were single wire so I needed to install a second pair of jumpers, this time between the midrange and the bass. First I used the tweeter terminals for the cable connection, but the sound got too bright. Next I made some cross connections: plus on the woofer, minus on the tweeter etc and ended up with plus and minus on the woofer terminals only and jumpers from there to midrange and tweeter. The fact.12 is very sensitive to this sort of thing.
The sound improved in two ways, dynamics and stereo image. A less restricted sound fills a larger part of the space in front of me. This seemed quite strange because my reference cables cost significantly more. Fortunately the additional cost pays off in other respects, however not to a massive extent. A few music examples I used were Avantine by Agnes Obel and The Bug by Dire Straits. The Simply Audio cables are pretty transparent and reveal many details, what’s more I never get the feeling that I’m listening to ‘silver’, instead I enjoyed their balanced character. In the stereo image the soloist is pulled forward and the band moves more backwards. For the most part depth is clearly improved while width and height show no substantial change. Instruments sound as they should, especially the cello on the Agnes Obel album which shines. In addition to the better dynamics it is remarkable to hear how much the timing and attack improves. With The Bug I like the fast percussion that splashes through the space while the low notes are powerful and detailed, there is plenty of transparency. The cable sounds a bit warmer than the reference, but as I indicated before, connect the Cadenza to a different terminal (midrange or tweeter) and the sound changes. Initially it takes a while to get used to the balance of the Cadenza cables, but it’s not very long before I'm used to it and compliment Simply Audio for the performance it delivers for the price. J.S. Bach in the hands of Janine Jansen sounds smooth and even at a low volume levels, the music is filled with detail. With Song To Soothe by Jacqueline Govaert I notice a complete absence of nasty edges and an abundance of tiny details. This is combined with a round and at the same time dynamic performance, within a beautiful stereo image. The sound opens up and lets the loudspeakers disappear.
Live and direct
In the smaller system I reached a the same conclusion with all the speakers tried (PMC, Russell K., Spendor and Harbeth), so it is unnecessary to cite each one. The Chord cables that normally connect to the loudspeakers are suitable for bi-wiring but the Russell K., Spendor and Harbeth only have single wire terminals. On the PMC I am again grateful for the use of the Cadenza jumpers with a single wire run. Again the most impressive things about Cadenza are the increased dynamics and opening up of detail that it provides. Especially with a loudspeaker like the Russell K. Red 100 which has nothing in the way of damping inside the cabinet. Where the Chord Co. cable remains fairly tame, Cadenza takes off and makes the sound of a live pop concert seem truly live. Without sharpness, without losing tightness, just blindingly fast. While the Chord is made of heavily shielded, massive, high purity copper conductors, it is the lesser cable on all four speakers. The price of the Chord is similar to the Simply Audio, so this is a better comparison than we made in the reference set-up, where the price ratio is almost 1:10 (Simply Audio:Crystal Cable).
I am not the type of reviewer that likes to switch cables all the time. I am quite happy with the cables I use and a few spare ones. I do not like to tune my system using cables and believe that cable should be as neutral as possible, transparent and lossless. If you change a component in a set-up that’s tuned with a particular ‘cable sound’, you might end up with an imbalance and have to start tuning all over again. I also dislike inflexible thick cables that try to pull equipment from the shelf. My belief is that in many cases cable dimensions and looks are used to make up for a heavy price tag. But I am prepared to pay a price that covers research, materials, production and finish. I also think that every manufacturer, distributor and dealer deserves an income (what about reviewers? Ed.). A cable costing a small fortune should be worth the sum of money paid, that’s the reason I own €2500 interconnects.
The reason Simply Audio appealed to me at a local hifi show was the finish in relation to the price. Next came clear information on the website, statements without the usual marketing spiel. After the review I can only conclude that Simply Audio offers excellent value. A man working and selling from his home has lower costs and can therefore be very competitive, but he has to know his stuff too and Dimitri clearly has golden ears and knows his way around materials as well. His start with Audio Note led him to their spades and banana connectors and silver as base material. I really like the Cadenza loudspeaker cables and jumpers, the latter already have a permanent place in my system and the speaker cables are now in use behind a pair of Harbeth speakers. The possibility to try the cables first at home, no matter where you live, is a huge advantage. The worst that can happen is that you have to pay to ship them back. Dimitri van Hoven has chosen his company name well, it is Simply all about Audio, good value audio at that.