www.affordableaudio.org January 2009 issue.
Clear Day Audio Cables
By John Hoffman
There have been pockets of audio enthusiasts in the audio community that have had a long-standing appreciation of the sonic characteristics of silver wire. Silver wire has infiltrated the modern audio landscape, and is used in a wide variety of audio systems. Perhaps the first group to enthusiastically proclaim their appreciation of silver cables was the Single Ended Triode crowd.
Within a short time period, the vacuum tube enthusiasts took notice, and began experimenting with silver cables in their systems. It is not unheard of to see a kilowatt solid-state audio system being wired up with silver cabling. However, the main drawback to silver cables is the cost. Seasoned audiophiles know that silver wire is expensive, and are not considered a viable option for the frugal audio enthusiast.
Building a hybrid speaker cable from copper and silver is one way that cable manufacturers have attempted to bring the sonic benefits of silver to their lower priced products. Usually a silver coating is applied to a copper core, though this design has had wildly varying degrees of success. These designs are compromises, and they never fully emulate the performance of a cable built from pure silver wire. 1 Speaker cables contain a significant amount of wire, and wire can get expensive quite quickly. The average audio enthusiast does not consider speaker cables costing in excess of $600 a pair to be affordable, so silver speaker cables are often considered unattainable. That is, until now; a silver wire speaker wire has been introduced by Clear Day Audio that starts at $150 for an 8-foot pair of cables.
Clear Day Audio has roots in the DIY community, which is a common denominator connecting the small boutique manufacturers in the audio landscape. In the late 1990’s Paul Laudati became interested in vacuum tube amplification, and this segued into the area of silver wire. Paul began experimenting with silver cables, and has developed a philosophy of how to build a high performance speaker wire that is affordable. Materials are selected for their performance, and cosmetics are essentially a non-issue. As a matter of fact, some of the materials used in the Clear Day speaker cable are somewhat offbeat, and breaks with the accepted line of thinking about what is needed to make a high quality wire. In the end, performance is what matters, and Clear Day offers a 30-day trail offer, which ensures that the customer will be able to experience these unusual speaker cables with no risk.
The Clear Day speaker wire is built around a 99.9% pure solid core silver wire.2 Paul’s design employs an air dielectric, which is a simple and cost effective technique needed in a value priced speaker wire. Polyethylene is used for the outer jacket, which is somewhat unusual since a Teflon sheath is the accepted clothing for a high-end speaker wire. The spade terminations are a silver plated copper design. The banana plugs are a combination of nickel, brass, and silver. Paul modifies the connectors by removing a significant amount of metal, which reduces the colorations induced by the termination. This is another example of the unorthodox design characteristics that Paul instills into his cable. A classic recipe for high-end cables is to use exotic connectors that are massive and have a striking visual impact. These kinds of terminations are expensive, and therefore out of the question for this application. Finally, the Clear Day wires are hand built, and WBT silver solder is used to attach the terminations to the wire. The Clear Day wires are a combination of high quality silver wire, innovative parts selection, and modest selling price.
Paul at Clear Day sent out two pairs of speaker cable for review. The first pair is the Standard speaker cable; which sells for $150 an 8-foot pair.3 Paul also included his Shotgun model, which has twice the amount of silver wire, and is twisted to deal with capacitance issues. The Clear Day Shotgun speaker cable sells for $250, which is still a very affordable silver speaker wire. Both sets of cables had in excess of 300 hours on them, and can be considered fully broken in. The Standard pair of cables has spade lug terminations, while the Shotgun cables have banana plugs.
I installed the Clear Day speaker cables in place of a pair of Audio Magic Illusion 4D speaker wire. Two sets of Audio Magic Illusion 4D interconnects remain in place between the source/pre amp and pre/power amp. Amplification duties are taken care of by a Jeff Rowland Model 5 amplifier and Consummate pre-amplifier. A Bolder Cable Company modified Squeezebox is used as a transport for an Audio Magic Kukama DAC. Speakers are the Audio Nirvana Super 12 drivers, which are housed in Lovecraft Design cabinets. An Audio Magic Mini-Reference PLC, and Audio Magic Extreme series power cords handles the task of providing clean power to the system. All components are housed in a pair of racks from AV123.
Several years ago I was introduced to the music of Lyle Lovett, and I have to say that I am still an enthusiastic fan. One of my favorite songs from Lyle is “She Is No Lady” [Pontiac, MCA MCAD42028] which contrasts his bluesy vocals against a wonderful sounding big band4. This is a difficult song to reproduce, and it places a myriad of challenges in front of any audio component. The Clear Day Standard speaker wire turned in a respectable performance on this song. This wire is nicely detailed, and is free from any glaring anomalies in its tonal balance. Lyle’s vocals are clear, and the subtle variations of his singing style are properly portrayed.
Instruments in the soundstage are placed reasonably well, and there is an, acceptable amount of front to rear depth. The Standard speaker cable does have some limitations, which were noticeable on this song. The output in the lower midrange and bass region are slightly diminished, which gives this cable a light and airy personality.
The bass guitar on this track is not quite as prominent as it should be. The lower midrange is also slightly attenuated. Lyle Lovett’s vocals are not quite as full and resonant as they are when the Audio Magic Illusion 4D speaker wire is in the system. Actually these limitations in the lower registers are going to affect most instruments to some degree, although I found the alterations to the music to be fairly minimal. Given the modest price of the Clear Day Standard speaker wire, I found them to be a very good speaker wire. Audio enthusiasts who are looking for a speaker wire that resides in the $100 to $200 price category should consider giving these cables serious audition. Paul Laudati offers a 30-day no risk trial on his products, and I would suggest that anyone in the market for new speaker cables should consider giving them a home audition.
The Clear Day Shotgun speaker wire sells for $100 more than the standard, and in my opinion this is would be money well spent. The Shotgun version is free from any of the limitations of the Standard speaker wire, and outclasses it less expensive sibling in every other category.
I replayed “She Is No Lady” and the differences between the two Clear Day wires were readily apparent. The Shotgun version has a remarkably even tonal balance, and has no issues regarding bass reproduction. The bass guitar is full and rich, and has that elusive “bounce” to its sound. The Shotgun cable has a bit more detail than the Standard, and this is noticeable when the brushes are used on the drums in this song.
The horn section sounds sharp and dynamic, and has a metallic sheen that adds another degree of realism to the song. In many ways the Clear Day Shotgun speaker cables comes startlingly close to the performance of the Audio Magic Illusion 4D speaker wire. I would say that the Shotgun cables offer approximately 85% of the performance of my reference speaker wire. When the $2650 price difference between the two wires is factored in, this speaks volumes about the value of the Clear Day Shotgun speaker wire.
The Shotgun speaker wire does approach the performance of the Audio Magic Illusion 4D speaker wire, but it does fall short in a couple of areas. The soundstage created by the Clear Day wire does not fill up a room in the same manner as the Audio Magic wire does. The soundstage created by the Illusion 4D is impressive in regards to the width, depth, and height. The Shotgun cables do not generate a soundstage that is as deep or tall, but is still very good when compared to other cables that reside at the $300 price point. 5 Also, the performers portrayed by the Shotgun speaker wire tend to suffer from a cookie cutter presentation. Instruments and performers tended to have a two-dimensional feel to them, which is really only noticeable when direct comparisons are made to the Illusion 4D wire. In reality, these are very nit picky points, which are not significant detractions from the overall performance of this speaker cable. The Clear Day Shotgun speaker wire is an excellent cable, and offers a level of performance that the every day audio enthusiast would not be able to obtain from other inexpensive cables.
One evening I removed the Audio Nirvana speakers, and replaced them with a pair of Mordant Short Performance 880 speakers. The Mordant Short speakers are more of a mainstream design that more closely represents the type of speaker the average audio enthusiast would use. My listening sessions verified my findings on both of the Clear Day speaker wires. The Standard wire showed the same overall characteristics, and still had the limitations in the lower midrange and bass regions. The Shotgun speaker wire still sounded excellent, and I found my appreciation growing for this funny looking speaker wire. I wanted to determine how well the Clear Day wire would work with different types of speaker systems. While these two speaker systems are not representative of everything out of there, I do feel confident that the Clear Day wires will work with a wide variety of speaker configurations.
The savvy audio enthusiast is always looking for ways to stretch their audio dollar. The determined hobbyist is going to look for ways to cheat the system, and find those rare offerings that offer a lion’s share of high-end performance at an attainable price point. The Clear Day Speaker wire is one such way for a person to accomplish this goal. The Standard speaker cable is quite good, however the Shotgun wire is exceptional. The Clear Day Shotgun speaker cable has the hallmarks of a fine silver speaker wire, and at $250 is within the financial reach of the everyday audio enthusiast.
The tonal balance of the Clear Day Shotgun speaker wire is remarkably even. The subtle detail of a recording is not lost with this wire, and the dynamic shadings of a song are faithfully reproduced. These speaker cables will let you hear what your system is capable of, and will work well with a wide variety of equipment. If you are a hobbyist with a modest system, or an audio nut with a stack of high-end gear, the Clear Day cables will offer you high quality musical reproduction.