Positioned in the ‘super cable’ category, in terms of its price point, Paul Rigby reviews this new mains cable
One glance at the price for the Bolero S and you’ll realise that we’re in ‘super cable’ territory. A level of hi-fi that demands a performance of equal level.
Hi-Fi components occupying this category cannot relax. Even slight performance degradation will be jumped upon and exaggerated by the listener. Unlike budget equipment, high-end hi-fi enjoys zero mercy. There’s no quarter given. No leeway. At this price point, perfection is demanded.
Hence, for this level of hi-fi, the pressure is on because expectations are sky high.
Using research from the Charleston speaker cables, the screened Bolero S features high current, silver-plated conductors with a continuous power rating of 25 amps.
The black outer braid reportedly helps to damp vibration within the cable. Rhodium-plated connectors terminate the 1.7m design.
Cables can be supplied with UK 13 A amp plugs, European Schuko plugs or UL plugs. An IEC C13 connector socket is fitted as standard to connect to equipment and IEC C19 high current sockets can be supplied on request.
So, how does it sound?
I began with the title track from Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s The Way It Is (RCA). When I played the album incidentally, I mused how much it sounded like Huey Lewis & The News until I read on the sleeve’s rear that the LP had been partly produced by Lewis. Producer’s have no influence on their band’s LPs? Think again.
The title track, a major hit single for Hornsby, does have a rocking background but the presentation is all about Hornsby’s lamenting lead vocal and, of course, that iconic piano. This is piano writ large. Larger than Horsby’s vocal, arguably. A St Bernard dog of a presence, it bounces all over the soundstage in a cuddly, warm manner but, if you get in the way, it’ll knock you flat with its sheer strength.
I wondered how the Bolero S would handle this resonant instrument. Assume nothing. Even a super cable can trip up.
Not this one, though. Yet it does have a personality all it’s own.
Addressing the basics first, this is a neutral cable. There is no frequency indiscipline here. No upper mid brightness, no bass bloom, no treble tizz. In short, this is a cable that offers excellent balance, allowing all areas of the soundstage to express themselves fully and giving the ear a sumptuous display of information and detail.
Its performance, in terms of transparency, is top notch. I’ll give you one example of that. On the left channel, there are three or four brief glimpses of a very shy acoustic guitar. To be honest, for what this instrument does, I’m not sure why the producer bothered. Unless it’s the remnant of a rejected piece of instrumental filler.
This guitar is shy. How shy? It took me six entire listens to even suspect there was even something there. It sat there, at a very low volume, hiding behind the piano reverb. I actually thought the sound was part of the piano itself for a while but no, it moved oddly. Then I could distinctly hear a tiny strum. This sound was a epitome of subtle. With a lesser cable, it wouldn’t even register but the Bolero S picked it up and added it to the soundstage list. That’s how good this cable is.
In terms of of personality? There is a slight lack of soul, a touch less of the organic here. The Bolero S likes to bend – ever so slightly – towards a sense of focus and precision. It would rather enter the door marked ‘lean’ than the door marked ‘rich’. Not to any great extent, though. I’m talking about subtle degrees. Of course, this means that precision and accuracy is foremost when music is played through these cables.
So the lead vocal turned on a dime. It darted and flitted, twisted and turned quickly. The piano sounded large but the resonance was trimmed in favour of mobility and pace. Bass was toned and full of impact while the lead guitar offered a lyrical presentation that was quite delicious.
Switching the cable to my DAC and playing the CD version of Joy Division’s Warsaw from the album Substance, this track was more about energy, noise and emotion but the Bolero S applied its strength of focus and precision to separate and isolate each instrument and each vocal line to give the track a real sense of clarity.
This track can, via some cables, offer a mushy sound that tends to push frequencies together, losing detail while fudging the finer information which loses that important sense of subtlety, even on a high-energy track like this. The Bolero S avoided this trap, kept control, maintained a welcome sense of restraint and allowed each element of the track to hit the ear, giving you a full sense of the power from this performance.
Thus, the Bolero S was able to maintain the message from this track while never losing command of the frequency spectrum.
No matter what the price point, never underestimate the importance of ancillary equipment in and around a hi-fi system and never make the mistake of dismissing mains-based equipment in that sector. It can make or break a fine suite of components. Like the tread on a set of car tyres, the right mains cables will either keep your hi-fi on the straight and narrow or will have it skidding into a sonic grass verge after seconds of play.
The Black Rhodium Bolero S mains cable, on that score, does a great job. Sure, it’s a high-priced component but I’ve heard more expensive cables than this one miss the mark. And by a whole lot too. The Bolero S mains cable never falters, keeps its cool and provides a sense of focus, accuracy and balance that will impress.
BLACK RHODIUM POWER BOLERO S MAINS CABLE
Price: £2,400 for 1.7m
Tel: 01332 367261
GOOD: focused mids, accurate bass, detail retrieval, neutral presentation.
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