Aimed at high-end users, Paul Rigby gets to grips with these new interconnect cables
And yes, high-end users only need apply for the Oratorio S interconnects as we’re looking at £2,000 for a pair.
So what do we have here? Regular Black Rhodium watchers will recognise the Oratorio name. As you might expect, the new ’S’ model has been developed from the earlier design.
Hand built at the company’s Derby office, the ‘S’ models are made from 99.99% pure silver wire. The cables are insulated in PTFE too, chosen because of its low dielectric loss to reduce distortion. Dielectric distortion is further reduced by a layer of air separating the wire from the inner wall of the insulation along its length.
The Oratorio S conductors are covered in a silver-plated copper braided screen return conductor. This protects the inner cores from picking up radio frequency interference (RFI).
While the termination cables are the branded Graham Nalty GN-4 rhodium-plated models.
The cables themselves are meaty, there’s some bulk to them but they’re not unwieldy. Unlike some cables I’ve reviewed, which remind of Tarzan battling an eight foot python, the Oratorio S cables will roam around the rear of hi-fi with comparative ease. The weight won’t drag on your hi-fi sockets either.
I began the sound tests with vinyl, Sammy Davis Jr and the title track from his 1968 Reprise release I’ve Gotta Be Me.
Davis starts his performance quietly and builds the vocal power steadily on this track. Thus, you hear wide dynamic range across the delivery while the man himself fronts a full orchestra. Hence, there’s plenty of instrumental complexity on view here. The mastering is pushed hard against the upper end of the mid band so it won’t take too much to tip it into an edgy sonic area. Any cable has to be bang on neutral to get away with it, in other words.
The Oratorio S interconnects provide a large, rather epic, grand sonic response. This track is ideal to illustrate the abilities of the cable because of its big performance along with that full orchestra. The Oratorio S revelled and wallowed in the bigness of the event.
Never mind air guitar, this cable will urge you into air conducting, complete with flailing hair, studied frowns and a spot of gurning for good measure.
There’s plenty of emotion here, heaps of passion in fact. The Oratorio S will give you a performance, it will plug you directly into the soul of the music you’re hearing.
In terms of frequency presentation, the Oratorio S interconnects do push everything towards you a tad. It’s as if the record producer has asked everyone to stand up and take one step forwards towards the listener. So there can be a, “Whoa!” allied with the head moving an inch backwards approach because the music appears that bit closer to you.
Associated with the grand approach of the music, its physical closeness and the large scale delivery, there is a slight etching to the midrange. The mids are honed a little, they are not perfectly neutral. I’m not saying the Oratorio S are bright but there is a slight emphasis here which enhances the focus on the lead vocal. This means that Davis is sprightly, the precision of his performance moves the song onwards. Percussion is tight and snappy too.
That means that there’s a slight trade off in terms of space around the midrange. Yes there remains air in this frequency band but there is a slight reduction because that space is being squeezed into focus instead. Honing the detail gives the music a sense of immediacy that takes it away from an easy-going presentation towards one that appears to be addressing you directly.
Some listeners may prefer and expect a more laid back reading of the music which allows for great delicacy and fragility, especially at this price point but others will love the Oratorio S interconnects approach because it also fine tunes the detail, adding information. For example, early in the track there was a guitar doing that trademark ‘chicka chicka’ thing, in a low key way, nothing too Funkadelic you understand. Nevertheless, the ‘chicka’ sound was more upfront and embossed via the Oratorio S.
Moving to more dynamic fare, I played the CD version of the perfectly formed EP, Mad Love from Lush (4AD) and the track De-Luxe, an uplifting, quite beautiful track combining female vocals, heavy beats and guitar washes.
The Oratorio S loved this style of music. Its inherent grand approach to music meant that it dived in, head first. The music is loud and joyful and the Oratorio S was right in there, giving it the head nods and the peace signs. This cable offered passion and verve.
The slight embossing nature of the cable meant that the bass guitar threatened and paced up and down like a prowling wolf, the percussion was meaty and driving, bass overall was heavy, deep, nasty with lots of grunt. The vocal performance keyed into the fire and spirit of the lyrics while the electric guitars spat electricity all over the soundstage – it’s going to take ages to clear up, let me tell you.
I wouldn’t say that the Oratorio S cable are particularly cultured or even mature. This cable plugs into its emotional side. It focuses on the soul of the music because it tends to emphasise that part of its sound envelope. And that’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a valid sonic choice. You’ll get a lot of embossed detail around jazz and classical so information will pop while the Oratorio S will work best with balanced recordings. Nevertheless, high-energy music is where this cable really kicks off its shoes and boogies.
BLACK RHODIUM ORATORIO S INTERCONNECTS
Price: £2,000 per metre; £2,800 for 1.5m
Tel: 01332 342233
GOOD: epic sound stage, big bold bass, focused mids, accented detail
BAD: slight midrange emphasis
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