Offering a new range of cabling plus a low cost set of lifts to run alongside (or should that be underneath?), Paul Rigby reviews Titan’s Styx interconnects, speaker cables, digital cables and cable lifts
Styx is Titan’s latest range of cabling for the entry-level user. I was very happy with the company’s mains power block which I reviewed earlier this year and was eager for more so was fortunate to grab an exclusive review on the new batch of Styx cable releases. Namely the new speaker cables, RCA interconnects, digital cable and cable lifts.
The speaker cables have been hand built with CNC-machined parts. They feature 2-core stranded conductors which are sheathed with metal braid and then extruded with a PVC dialectic before being covered in decorative braid, “One of the huge problems at this price point is the cable splitter section,” said the company. “The vast majority simply splice and cover with a Y boot or heat shrink (even with cables twice the price) which some may think is only a cosmetic issue but by stripping the dielectric you are essentially welcoming airborne frequencies which is why we felt it was very important to create a splitter which protected them as much as possible from any interference while also keeping the cost to the consumer at a reasonable level, in the end we went with acrylic as it’s resin based which blocks frequencies pretty well and also allowed us to fit a small ferrite.”
The banana plugs are the usual 24k gold plated affairs. The connection is single screw clamp for grip and then a pressed cylinder crimp to keep the cable/plug straight while sealing the connection from any airborne frequencies, “Just before the crimp we fill the plug with an anti-vibration gel which hardens during the crimp process,” said the company. “This means there is no oxygen in the plug, creating a harmonically dead ‘shell’. The plug cover is machined from aluminium which, as you know, is non magnetic so again doesn’t invite any nasty frequencies.”
The interconnect and digital cables basically follow the same pathway as the above The main difference is that there’s a 3-core design for the interconnect while the digital cable uses a similar design to an aerial cable in that the centre pin is ‘floating’ between a thick extrusion which is why the cable is pretty stiff.
All the cables have unique serial numbers for a lifetime warranty’s and the same labels also show you the direction the cable should be used as it was extruded in that direction.
The cable lifts are simple construtions, made from acrylic, “Acrylic is a fantastic material for absorbing high frequency vibration which is why you see so many turntable platters made of the stuff and that’s the main reason for the material choice in our lifts,” said the company.
It would have been much easier for Titan to vacuum form them in a ‘U’ shape but the reason behind the lengthy build process is partly due to that V shape, “If you take one of the lifts and place a pencil across it you will see the minimal contact area between the lift and the table and same with the pencil and the lift. This is simply because we didn’t form the edge flat, the legs literally sit on the edge/point of the acrylic making the contact area incredibly small and therefore allowing as little room as possible for vibration to make contact,” said the company.
So how does this lot sound?
I began with the speaker cables and played You’re Free to Go via Emmylou Harris from the album, Thirteen and found them instantly balanced and neutral in their sound presentation. No nasty bass bloom, pinching treble or hard mids here. Details abounded around the lead vocal with plenty of emotion within the Harris’ delivery, guitars were incisive and informed, drums were steady with a nicely measured bass thump, strummed guitars offered a satisfying ‘string ring’ while the piano provided a controlled yet transparent demeanour.
The cables were almost boringly good, in fact. After a few seconds of listening to them I felt like exclaiming, “OK, good…next!” An extended review almost seemed unnecessary because of the confidence that the cables exuded, right there and then.
Some cables around this price point tend to be either coloured or ever so slightly coloured, a touch warm, a little bit on the cool side or lacking in midrange insight. The Titan Styx speaker cables never fell into any of these open traps.
I then moved to Supertramp’s Dreamer, from the LP Crime of the Century, and found the lead organ informative but controlled. This organ has the potential to bleed all over other voices and instruments, masking and swamping the soundstage. The Titan cables held a discipline that prevented that which meant that subtle secondary percussion was easily heard, as well as the relatively complex vocal harmonies.
The low noise aspect of the cables also enabled the ear to pick up a lowly tambourine, even at a stage in the song where the drums were flailing around and the band were performing at full volume.
I then moved to the Styx interconnects and carried on with the Supertramp track.
I liked the speaker cables but the interconnects are, I have to say, a bit special. They moved the sound into hires mode without cheating their way to that state by cramping the mids and compressing the sound. The interconnects, instead, opened up the midrange and allowed masses of detail to wash around the soundstage. Once in, that detail was honed by impressive focus that enabled, for example, the vocal delivery to sound far clearer than most other cables at this price point. The proof of the pudding was that I could more easily understand what he was singing about!
Similarly, the organ and secondary percussion benefited from extra precision which afforded them greater impact. Drums, meanwhile, were big, hefty and plain heavy in their approach, giving the lower end a dramatic and, above all, organic weight.
Switching to Emmylou Harris, I was impressed by the mandolin solo during the middle eight in terms of its approach and detail but, more than that, the low noise performance of the cables because I could still hear the mandolin noodling away in the background very easily, even after the solo had fiished. This is often a rather shy detail but the Styx interconnects highlighted the information without difficulty.
I then moved to the Styx digital cable and used it to connect my CD player with my DAC. Playing Bing Crosby and the jazz-infused Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella from the Bluebird album, Bing with a Beat
Two things stood out here. Firstly, the low noise performance of the cable provided room and space for the Crosby vocal to relax and focus. This reduced a common element of digital cables at this price point which often smears the midrange. The Styx digital cable removed that issue, reducing the size of the lead vocal because it was focused and compact but that also meant that the vocal was fleet of foot and nimble across the soundstage. The lower noise also enabled a shy background piano noodle right at the start of the music to be brought nearer the ear and to take more of a role in the mix. It added to the richness of that early action of the song while the drummer – busy playing the metal rims of his drums – was given extra vitality and energy.
The brass section featured a precise output, again reducing midrange smear, which added transient speed to the background instruments of the song. The entire song was snappy and snazzy now, making you want to click your fingers to the beat.
Similarly, Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence also benefitted from the lower noise, reeling in subtle little percussive noises and synth effects, adding layering to the soundstage while the focused beats added speed and pace to the overall song, .
Finally, I leapt upon the cable lifts. These little plastic items are cheap and cheerful accessories that make Titan exactly zero profit. They’re a bit of a loss leader in that the company wants you to use their cables (of course) while offering you a bit of a bargain as far as the lifts go. As cable lifts can be very expensive then I see this as a ‘good thing’. Unlike the recent review of the highly complex Furutech Cable Lifts that I recently reviewed, the Titan examples only want to lift the cables off the floor to remove it from speakers resonances, static from carpets as well as isolating the cables themselves. Cable ‘noise’ is not just on the inside of cables, it infests the outside too.
The better your system, the more you’ll hear – as ever – but everyone should benefit from this one. And the benefits are? A sparkling suite of midrange frequencies. Harris’ vocal was much smoother than before and, more than that, less tense…calmer, if you will.
I grabbed three more boxes from Titan and did the same thing with the power cables from the rear of my Quad 57 speakers (they’re powered electrostatics, you see). Result? More. Better. The job started by the speaker cable lifts was continued and furthered. The key was that mandolin. Apart from the mid-song solo, the guy sits in the corner, facing the wall (well, it seems so) and noodles to himself. With lifts on both the speaker cables and speaker power cables I heard more mandolin in more areas of the song. An effect of lowering that noise once more.
All frequencies benefitted from this simple but effective upgrade and the changes occurred whether I was playing vinyl or CD. On the Supertramp track, the powerful drums enhanced their precision, the vocal added emotive texture and the secondary percussion sat in a wider space making their presence known and allowing the ear to target them ever more easily.
If you are investing or have invested in Furutech cable lifts and cannot afford to lift all of your cables with the relatively expensive Furutech kit then buy what you can and lift the rest of the cables off the floor with these Titan lifts, you won’t regret it.
The speaker cables are supremely even-handed. For this day and age, looking around at the competition and judging expectations, they provide top quality sound and do everything you’d expect and want for cables of this price point. That is, after a full 10 seconds, you just know that you can put faith in them and that they’ll do a job.
The interconnects are real stars of this test, offering focus and a sense of midrange insight that drag detail from dark corners of the soundstage without resorting to compressive stridency. The sound output with these cables benefits with enhanced tonal insight.
The digital cable effectively grabbed the music by the scruff of the neck, tidied up the signal, added precision and pace, wound everything back up like a clockwork toy and released it not the sound stage to great effect. Adding both style and elegance.
As for the cable lifts – a bargain! The best value for money results in terms of sound enhancement in these sonic tests, the Titan cable lifts are actually one of the most effective hi-fi gadgets, in terms of price/performance ratio, that you can currently buy on the market.
[Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]
STYX SPEAKER CABLES Website: titanaudio.co.uk Price: £250 for 3m GOOD: balanced output, neutral mids, firm bass, confident presentation BAD: nothing RATING: 8
Price: £150 for 1m
GOOD: airy mids, incisive midrange, organic bass, high resolution sound
STYX DIGITAL CABLE Price: £80 for 1m GOOD: precision, focus, transient pace, open mids, punchy bass BAD: nothing RATING: 8
STYX CABLE LIFTS Price: £30 for a pack of four GOOD: low cost, easy to use, noise reduction, sparkling mids BAD: nothing RATING: 9
Pro-Ject RPM 3 turntable
Ortofon 2M Black cartridge
Rega Brio R amplifier
Tellurium Q cables
QED Reference interconnect cables
Nordost Qbase QB6 power block