Cable Review

Black Rhodium Samba VS-1 speaker cable: Ninja Cousin

Looking for a high quality speaker cable? Black Rhodium wants you to listen to its new Samba VS-1. Paul Rigby checks them out

One of the more popular recent speaker cables from Black Rhodium was their Ninja speaker cable design. Slightly puzzled as to why this particular cable was gaining quite so much attention, the company realised that the connectors were spaced further apart than their other designs. After further investigations, it realised that the ‘feature’ produced significant sound quality enhancements.

“In the Ninja, we took all four cores of a bi-wire cable and put them together for the positive and the same for another bi-wire cable for the negative connection,” said Graham Nalty, company founder. “They had a thick layer of silicon rubber on an outer sheath. The thing was that the distance between the positive and negative was wider than normal.”

Nalty decided that other cables, with thinner insulation, were attracting a greater percentage of magnetic noise, “We started experimenting and the result was the Twist – at about a 50th of the price of the Ninja. We took away everything that cost money from the Ninja until we got to the basics. The Twist has done extremely well for well.”

The more expensive Twirl was also based on this principle which also did well for Black Rhodium. Next up the line was the basic Samba, again, on that same principle. Now, the company has ventured back up the feature ladder gain with the Samba VS-1.

“I tried to find a good quality connector for the new version of the Samba, the VS-1. I also tried a VS-1 vibration stabiliser on the cable too – it’s a 55gm device. We couldn’t afford to add a stabiliser on each end because the price would have been too high. In addition, we decided to add our own Graham Nalty speaker plugs. The core of the cable is silver-coated with 2mm of silicon rubber which has a low dialectic loss.”

So what do they sound like?

SOUND QUALITY

I wanted to use the Genesis prog instrumental, Los Endos, on vinyl for the first port of call because it offered plenty of potential traps for a typical cable design.

From the off, the Sambas seemed to exhibit a dramatic lowering of the noise floor. This was heard right at the beginning when the pastoral synth washes sat in a pool of silence. The benefit of this sequence was that I could hear even minor keyboard twiddlings placed within their own space without the intrusion of noise to obscure of obfuscate. In this respect, the Sambas proved to be  impressive.

Allied to this track was significant secondary percussion in the form of a set of bongos that introduced themselves at the very beginning of the track and then ran alongside the main drums as the track progressed, gradually fading from view later. With the Sambas, the ear could discern the bongos pumping away and providing a more substantial percussive heart to the music, adding to the richness of the track and the complexity.

In terms of the lower frequencies and the bass, there did seem to be a chocolatey, almost syrup-like coating to the bass which sounded warm but didn’t do anything for the pace of the music. More than that, this chocolate-like coating actually reduced the dynamics. It was almost as if the bass shine rolled off the midrange a touch.

Hence, the Sambas had a warm, glowing presentation via this rock track but you felt that if was refusing to stretch and reach up into the upper mid extensions.

Moving to spoken word and a Peter Sellers interview via the BBC’s Michael Parkinson Show. The interview began with a brief singing sequence, live in the studio before a live audience which, because of the Samba’s low noise performance, controlled the rather loose high frequency spectrum plus the rather wooly bass from the studio orchestra. In this respect, the Samba’s control was welcome and gave a tight focus to the presentation.

For the vocals themselves, both Sellars and Parkinson offered clean vocal deliveries. Again, though, the upper end of the dynamic range was strangely limited. I yearned for the sound just to be pushed a wee bit higher. My ears sought out more space and air and more delicate frequencies but they never arrived. That said, the vocals were controlled and any spurious, fractured frequencies that could cause screeching or nasty peaks were restricted which meant that if you have a hi-fi chain which is prone to such uncontrollable outbursts, the Sambas may be an ideal fixative, reigning in any nastiness.

Turning to CD now and a heart tugging balladic version of Tea For Two from the beautiful tones of Blossom Dearie, accompanied by her own piano and a double bass. Sparse with lots of air around her performance, this jazz piece really allowed the ear to centre upon the cable performance.

Interestingly, this jazz piece brought the best out of the Sambas. I think it might be down to the minimal bass frequencies swimming in and around the song as a whole. There was less leeching and a less warming soundstage. Yes the double bass was present but it was relegated to a minor player. In such terms, Dearie’s vocal stood as the principle ‘instrument’ and, as such, was distinct and unclouded, with extraneous noise cleared from the delivery. She provided a direct performance that added to her innocent tones.

CONCLUSION

Despite the restriction in the upper midrange performance and the warming lower frequencies, the Black Rhodium Samba VS1s provided a focused performance that removed any unruly frequencies which will be a valued addition to any uncontrolled hi-fi chain.


BLACK RHODIUM ARIA

Price: £599 for 3m 

Website : www.blackrhodium.co.uk

Tel: 01332 342233

 


GOOD: low noise, focus, warm presentation

BAD: veiled upper mids, restricted dynamics

RATING: 6


REFERENCE SYSTEM:

Avid Acutus/SME IV/Benz Glider

Icon PS3 Phono amplifier

Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp

Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II monoblocks

Quad ESL-57 speakers with One Thing upgrade

Atlas Mavros speaker cables

Atlas Mavros innterconnects

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