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Connoisseur cables for the cost conscious
Ultralink offers consumers affordability and performance with their new Argentum Acoustics series cables

The Argentum Acoustics series of cables represent the latest development from a company that introduced the affordably priced Ultralink cables back in 1993. The company’s success was almost immediate and in a couple of years, it had grown enough to expand its marketing to include all of North America, Europe, the Middle and Far East. Ultralink moved on and acquired the XLO Electric Company in 2002, thus introducing a high-end, high-performance series of cables to its customers worldwide. Some time before the XLO acquisition, Allen Sung president of Ultralink Products, Inc. brought a new cable to my studio, stating that it was the beginning of a new series he was going to produce — it was an Argentum Acoustics product. It was designed to become the company’s high-end, above the existing products. I reviewed it back in 1996 and remember that it was indeed an upscale design. However, the Argentum development was placed on hold as Sung was preoccupied with a rapidly growing business and later, the acquisition of XLO. Recently however, with consumer awareness at its peak and public acceptance that cables make a difference, it was decided to reintroduce the Argentum Acoustics series of cables, which evolved from Ultralink. However, the designs employ state-of-the-art cable technologies and manufacturing expertise gained from XLO. In some way, Argentum may actually compete with some of XLO cables at similar retail price points.

My samples included the bi-wire speaker cables, two pairs of interconnects and digital cable, which I used with a DA converter and the source component. All cables sport a unique black woven jacket and are beautifully terminated with custom-made connectors. The Aureus speaker cable and the Proteus-12 power cord are about 20mm thick, while the Mythos interconnects and the Argento digital cables are about 10mm thick. The cables are flexible enough for easy placement and with their classic black jackets make them rather unobtrusive, thus minimally offensive to the hard to please.

The Sound

In order to see what I had to say back in 1996, I checked the pertaining issue Vol. 9, No. 2 of The Inner Ear Report magazine (now shuttered). Upon reading my own review, I recalled some of the cables sonic characteristics which, at the time, was right up there with some of the industry’s more expensive cables. It outperformed the likes of Monstercable, Straightwire and Wireworld, but also held its own when compared with top-of-the-line van den Hul, Monster’s Sigma and Audioquest. The new Argentum, however, surpasses all performance characteristics of the older version, which, I believe, can be attributed to design and material advances. What I like about it the most is its sonic firmness and resolution. Bass reaches deeply into the low note registers of instruments performing in that region; and it does so without leaving behind unresolved fundamentals, or obscuring important harmonics. Indeed, the second most liked item of important performance parameters is the Argentum’s potential to pry out harmonics throughout the entire frequency range. It is relatively easy to hear the different tonal qualities of a trumpet and a cornet for example; to enjoy the sound and hear the sonic makeup of various pianos, such as a Yamaha, a Steinway, a Baldwin or a Boesendorfer Imperial Grand. It is those subtle harmonics which allows us to hear these differences and, as the saying goes “the more, the better” when it comes to contributing distinction to the entire audio set-up.

Female vocals are exceptionally clear, real enough to imagine the vocalist in the listening room. Tenors and baritones turned out to be almost as impressive, especially noticeable when used with my in-house high-end components.

Resolution and harmonics are very important to identify and complete a musical score, but are not enough to enjoy unless a few more elements are in place. Well, let me assure you that there are more.

To ascertain the Argentum’s sonic make-up I used three different auditioning systems and, though different relative to high-fidelity accomplishment, the signature of the cables consistently emerged. With the high-end setup — the Wyetech Labs Ruby monoblock amplifiers and matching preamplifier — I achieved the best results. This system had been connected with top-of-the-line, much higher-priced cables I have in-house at all times, and when I replaced them with the Argentum speaker cables and interconnects my respect for them went up dramatically. Not only did the cables match elements such as tonal balance, imaging and the essential musical quality, they also introduced spatial effects and appropriate focus on instruments and voices. I would be looking for these refinements in high-end cables and was not expecting the high degree of sonic accomplishment with Argentum cables, priced at two-thirds less than my existing cables.

In a lower-priced system — a Magnum MD 208 receiver, a pair of Ethera Vitae speakers and a BelCanto CD player, the Argentum cables’ sonic attributes were basically identical to aforementioned system.

The BelCanto S3001 integrated amplifier, with the BelCanto CD player as source component rendered another admirable performance when I used the Argentum interconnects and speaker cables. In fact, this medium-priced system leaned towards the high-end classification than the system price would suggest. The cables complemented this system by easily reproducing dynamics and harmonics while maintaining tonal balance throughout the frequency range. As with the other system configurations, resolution throughout the audible extent, but most appreciable in the bass region, matched my highly priced in-house cables’ performance.

I tested the interconnects — a 25-foot pair and a one-meter pair — and found that their sound was identical, quite organic and free of rough edges. Still, when hard sound was called for in musical arrangements (trumpets, percussion, etc.) the cable faithfully reproduced the dynamics, but did not modify the soft sound of a voice, for example. This tells me that harmonics are undiminished to finish the musical impression. The shorter interconnects worked well with the CD player and the tuner in my set-up. The longer ones, mainly used between amplifier and preamplifier in the classic system configuration, provided a natural link that didn’t diminish or enhance the components to which it was connected. That can be a good thing, provided the equipment is of good quality.

The speaker cable
Every cable I have auditioned has a sonic signature — and the Aureus-2BW bi-wire speaker cable isn’t an exception. Its sonic disposition is made up of absolute clarity, razor-sharp resolution and compatibility with different components. My tests established that the Argentums’ high degree of sonic neutrality provides a transparent window for auditioning components to which they are connected. Ideally suited for reviewers and audiophiles who audition a lot of equipment.

Synopsis and Commentary
There seems to be no limit when it comes to the price of cables. I have followed the cable companies’ developments for over twenty years, observed their progress and appreciated their contribution to the consumer electronics industry. Although I have been in the business since lamp-cord speaker wire and the give-away interconnects, I became one of the first believers regarding connecting methods and sonic improvements gained by good cables. At first, cables were a tweak, accessories not an absolutely necessity. Soon, however, I saw/heard startling improvements in materials and technical disciplines which made prices soar to an all-time high in the high-end categories and become outright cheap in the low-end. Thus, I began to regard the more expensive cables currently on the market as components when used in high-end applications. Though not always an indicator, high price does lead us to cable manufacturers who made a science out of transferring electronic or musical signal, and it’s almost bewildering to see cables priced at up to five-thousand bucks ($5K) a foot.

The Argentum series has been designed to conform to all-important technical guidelines employed by high-end manufacturers. However, a great deal of money was saved and research and development costs were cut significantly, because the parent company, Ultralink Products, Inc. has a standing R&D program for its Ultralink and XLO products. Therefore, Argentum cables come in relatively inexpensive, while they give some of their expensive competitors a run for the money, sometimes winning, sometimes matching the performance of cables priced as much as three times higher.

Finally, I’d like to clarify my comment at the beginning of this review where I mentioned that the Argentum cables were designed to fit between the Ultralink and the XLO cables. I wish to add here that they will fit between many of the very highly priced and medium-priced brands out there in consumer land, and provide high-end signal transfer for serious audiophiles and music lovers.

Aureus Interconnects
Proteus 12 AC power cable

Aureus-2™ biwire speaker cables
$1,300 8ft/pair ($150 per additional foot)

Mythos™ Single-ended Interconnects
$400 1M/Pair ($100.00 per additional meter)

Argento™ Coaxial Digital Cable
$350 1M/length ($100 per additional meter)

Proteus-12™ AC Power Cord
$900 6ft/length ($50 per additional foot)

Ultralink Products Inc.
♪♪♪♪ Tel: (905) 479-2831
It took a few years for the cable industry to establish itself and, though there still are many pessimists around, their numbers have decreased tremendously. Reputable cable manufacturers have invested huge sums of money to help advance signal flow to the same level of high-end performance, the electronic industry offers in all categories.

The designers of the Argentum Acoustics series studied the various material choices and, unlike some manufacturers, decided to select only materials that present sensible conductors and a logical method for their application. Thus, several stranded and solid-core materials are employed throughout the manufacturing process, always regarding the best performance for the intended application of each specific cable. In addition to carefully chosen conductors, they are cryogenically treated. Cryogenics (Greek for “producing cold”) and its technology refer to the production and maintenance of temperatures much below normal. The scale for low temperature physics is the Kelvin scale and the aforementioned treatment lowers temperatures to about 80 K (-190 degrees Celsius), near absolute zero. The treatment spawns various phenomena, one of which is the conversion of conductivity to superconductivity, thereby significantly improving performance.

Argentum Acoustics employs only 99.99997% pure UP-OCC (Ultra-Pure Ohno Continuous Cast) copper for interconnects and speaker cables. Interestingly, silver (Argentum is Latin for silver) is said to be the best conductiv metal, but (almost) only when used in association with direct current (DC). Therefore, in this business where alternate current (AC) dominates, a greatly different set of rules applies. However, silver is used in digital and video cables that function in higher frequency domains than audio signals. (Argentum has published a white paper on the subject). Where silver is utilized (the digital cable) it is ultra-pure laboratory grade (measured 99.99997% or better).

While conductor material is important, dielectric material is at least as consequential, because a signal carrying cable’s insulation and its geometry can convert it to capacitors that store energy. This phenomenon affects performance by deteriorating inner detail, adding artifacts caused by capacitance and imposing small degrees of phase shifting (a timing inaccuracy in part of the audible frequency range with reference to the rest of the range). Argentum avoids high-energy storage by employing materials such as Dupont® Teflon® and Teflon-variant fluoropolymers) in all its cables. The materials are chosen for their low dielectric constant, to incorporate air or other low dielectric constant materials or both. These carefully chosen dielectrics aid in accomplishing what is called the capacitive discharge effect.

Argentum Acoustics’ solution to cable geometry includes a composite approach, using multiple primary conductors of varying diameters formed into arrays of secondary conductors arranged in an alternating pattern over a single large diameter core. It’s a multiple shielded solution, said to reduce both self and mutual inductance which allows for very low resistance and provides perfect time alignment for all signal information.

The Mythos™ interconnects are time aligned, have two conductors and are shielded with full copper foil and copper braid with dielectrics from DuPont™ Teflon. They are terminated with patented Vacuum Spring-Lock RCA® (or XLR). The RCAs feature 24K, mil-spec gold-plated contacts.

Argentum’s Proteus-12™ AC power cables feature advanced technology, protected under U.S. Patent No. 5,110,999. To match various current capacity requirements, ten, twelve or fourteen (10, 12 or 14) gauge (AWG) configurations are available. They are counter-spiral wound with multi-gauge, multi-core structure of 6N UP-OCC copper and UL approved low dielectric constant insulation and jacketing. Each is double shielded and double grounded, for noise-free operation and all are terminated with Furutech™ Alpha Pure Copper™ AC plugs and IEC connectors with Argentum’s proprietary precision machined metal shells.

All cables are terminated by hand with Argentum’s own design to meet a self-imposed high standard. Audio interconnect terminations — RCA and XLR are made from the very best materials and dielectrics. All connectors are non-magnetic, minimal conducting mass designs (for low self-inductance) and feature direct gold plated contacts. Speaker cables are terminated with interchangeable “large” (8.0mm) billet-cut spade lugs or “Deltron-style” banana plugs. All spade lugs are made from CDA alloy 101 “four nines” (99.994% pure) copper, and all are gold plated, with no intervening layer of nickel.
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