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The Wow Factor - BIS Audio Speaker Cables & Interconnects
In business for twelve years, BIS Audio is making a sound connection with their low priced, high performance cables.
By Ernie Fisher

Regular readers will know that I find cable reviews time-consuming and, were it possible, I’d love to hand this task over to someone with more patience than I can muster. However, all the cables reviewed here are of good quality, which makes the reviewing task more interesting and compensates, in part at least, for the many hours devoted to the auditions.

Universal Music’s Nelson Poirier, a long-time audiophile and TIE reader recommended the BIS cables to me. Nelson is in charge of Universal’s Import division and his job responsibilities include auditioning all new releases as well as likely material from around the world. His audio system has evolved over the years and what began as entry-level high-end is now approaching super high-end. He auditioned the BIS cables in his system, promptly changed all his wiring, then called me and here I am undertaking another cable review!

The BIS Audio cables under review are a pair of model RCA Maestro interconnects, a pair of model Silver-S RCA interconnects and a pair of biwired model Type 3 speaker cables.

Bi-Wire Type 3 Speaker cables
4 Conductors in one cable.
As an afterthought, I included the Maestro AC cord and the PowerBis AC distribution block. Although I used the PowerBis (Cdn. $494) and AC cord (Cdn. $1,300) for the evaluation, this review focuses on the bi-wired Type 3 speaker cables and the Silver-S and Maestro interconnects.

BIS Audio Inc. is a small Canadian company, headed by Bernard Brien, located just outside of Montreal in the province of Quebec. The company has been designing and manufacturing cables since 1993. Until recently, BIS Audio also offered service for audio equipment specializing in repairs and restoration of Quad components. This prompted Bernard to experiment with cables connected with the European DIN connectors (Deutsche Industrie Norm) and DIN to RCA conversion interconnects. Noting that the overall sound of his customized cables was, in fact, better than expected, he decided to expand the cable line to include regular RCA to RCA interconnects and speaker cables. Bernard’s mission was to produce cables that allow “the same impressive results” he achieved with the (earlier) Quad-related cables. He told me that each cable must meet the highest quality standards and that he has made many customized connectors for special applications. In business since about 1995, the company is not interested in the mass market, but rather works with specialty dealers who understand the technique of audio and the necessary dedication to the art form — the music. The company offers several models from entry level to ultra high-end.

Silver wire. Double shield.
Silver BULLET PLUG(TM) connectors.
Like many small cable manufacturers, BIS finishes their cables with a jacket of woven material. However, the fit and finish of the interconnects, speaker cables, AC cords and even the power block seems a lot more professional, more closely resembling that of some of the industry’s major players. The set of long interconnects, speaker cables and AC power cords I received came with a black outer jacket, while not flashy, my samples blended beautifully into my decor/system configurations. The interconnects are about 9mm thick, while the speaker cables thickness is 15mm, the AC cords are 13mm

The Sound

I used three system combinations to assess the compatibility of the BIS cables with different components and to pinpoint their sonic signatures: the Simaudio Moon components (reviewed in Vol. 17, No. 3), the Musical Fidelity kw 500 integrated amplifier (reviewed in Vol.17, No. 1) and the EAR integrated amp. For all evaluations, I used my in-house Ethera Vitae speakers as well as the Sonus faber Guarneri Memento speakers (reviewed in The Inner Ear’s last print issue, Vol. 17, No. 4)). The Simaudio Andromeda CD player was my source component connected with the Silver-S interconnects.
The three system combinations represent a fairly diverse component mix: solid state technology by Simaudio, tube and solid state technology by Musical Fidelity and tube technology by EAR. The BIS “voice” emerged after about 100 hours of burning in and it became clear that the BIS cables (interconnects and speaker cables) worked well with all components. The cables’ “wow factor” is effortless handling of all frequencies and a clarity that caught and held my attention, regardless of the system combinations I used. This is where the Silver-S interconnects did a marvellous job.

Midrange information is accurately proportional to the bass frequencies and I was really impressed with the effortless, refined handling of frequencies between about 30Hz and 2kHz. However, the cables’ handling of frequencies from 2kHz up sets a benchmark. I listened to a few of my piano recordings and rarely have I heard better. The pianos’ hammers hitting the strings, especially on the right side of the keyboard (mids and highs) sounded as real as a live performance. If I played keyboard (which I don’t) I would have liked to compare live vs. reproduced.

I recently set up a new listening room, which is a rather challenging environment, although it allows me to comprehend musical elements such as space, midrange clarity and delicate presentation of inner detail. It was here that I tested the cables’ ability to deliver — and deliver they did. With music ranging from the most boisterous passages to barely perceivable pianissimo, the cables came through without embellishing or subtracting any of the important complex musical elements. This, dear reader, is cable performance we usually associate only with high-end products.
RCA MAESTRO Interconnect
THE RCA reference
Super dymanic high density OFC wire.
Super wide frequency range.
Permits long run without performance loss.

Synopsis & Commentary
As I have a few words to say about the cable industry, I’m going to begin with the commentary. I believe that cable design and production is the one area of the audio business that allows new entrepreneurs to enter the market without investing a fortune in equipment. However, R & D, attractive packaging and effective marketing are necessary when launching any new product and

It’s impossible to guess how many cable manufacturers have entered the market since the 1980s. I’d estimate that about 650 cable manufacturers have tried their hand at the market but only about fifty have established brand recognition and are doing well. The rest, who sell to local retailers and to customers direct (via the internet), usually have a daytime job to support themselves. BIS is an interesting company inasmuch as they already have a pretty efficient and growing dealer network. What set BIS cables apart from many other small manufacturers is the finish and, perhaps, the sound quality. The high quality of the workmanship and the sound of these cables make me wonder how, for the money charged, the company can make a profit. While that is none of my business, I can recommend that readers try these cables in any upscale audio system. Try a pair of the interconnects first, listen and decide then if you’d like to cable up your whole system.

While there is a sonic signature, the overall voice of the cable is on the neutral side, allowing the end-user a clear look (or listen) into the world of music, as it would be heard in a live performance. The BIS cables’ strengths are its solid resolution at mid and low frequencies, the smoothness in the high frequency domain and its handling of space/time elements. Its weakness is restricted to a slightly exaggerated “bloom” when used with soft-sounding amplifiers, such as some tube-based components. However, some of my audiophile friends who took part in my listening tests actually preferred the additional bloom, stating that it sounds more musical. In conclusion, I’d like to quote Bernard Brien: “BIS Audio’s approach to marketing cables is based on the win/win principle, which is to say that profit made by the company is viewed as a reward for providing first-rate quality products and outstanding after-sale service.”

Bi-wired Type 3 Speaker Cables and
Maestro & Silver-S RCA interconnects
Bis Audio inc.
Maestro RCA interconnects and bi-wired Type 3 Speaker Cables
Silver-S RCA interconnects
BIS Audio inc.
344 QuintalAvenue
Laval, Québec
Canada H7N 4W6
Cdn. $1,180 (2.5 meter / bi-wired Type 3 speaker cables)
Cdn. $830 (1 meter / Maestro RCA interconnects)
Cdn. $530 (1 meter / Silver-S interconnects)
All BIS cables are hand-made and adhere to very strict assembly criteria. Bernard stresses that he follows three essential elements during design and production: finest quality materials, optimized design complementing these materials and painstaking hand assembly.

In the design stage, every cable is burned in for 300 hours and tested on systems that represent a variety of equipment personalities (voices) available on the market. If the final resulting sound does not meet Bernard’s rigid standards, the cable is rejected.

Bernard doesn’t ignore the fundamental laws of physics governing the transmission of electrical current. He has developed what he calls “a streamlined, no-nonsense design, using elements that adhere to these principles”. However, BIS does not permit theoretical science to get in the way of creativity. Thus, the cables’ design doesn’t include useless “bells and whistles”, but rather, it embraces leading edge technology, which results in a pure, simple and efficient conductor. This includes special attention to the selection of soldering material and careful application of thermo-shrunk materials to insure maximum insulation of the contact areas, resulting in firm cable construction. Interconnects employ high-density oxygen free copper, terminated with gold-plated quality connectors (some models are double shielded and feature Eichman connectors). For balanced configuration, BIS uses Neutrik™ XLRs. (Overall, all models employ premium parts and high quality materials. Interconnect s include a silver-plated, double shielded subwoofer cable with high density OFC. BIS offers three models of speaker cables —Type 1, Type 2 and bi-wired Type 3 for single or bi-wired application. BIS also manufactures video connectors in various price ranges and a very solid power bar — the PowerBis. Two models are available with either six or eight receptacles. The inlet for the main (removable) power cord can be ordered either on top or at the end of the unit.

Of course, BIS power cords can be used with the unit and there are four models in the line.

BIS employs Eichmann Bullet Plugs for a variety of reasons beginning with their ability to work in a straight line with the conductor. As well, the ground in the plug is a pin rather than a massive ring (which could introduce some resistance) and is made of copper or silver like the cable to which it is attached. BIS tests revealed that the Eichmann products, connected to any of the cables, always provided superior performance. The engineer-grade polymers used in the cables exhibit good dielectric qualities plus high temperature deflection.
The PowerBis power bar is designed to provide high conductivity, mechanical integrity for long-term use and sonic neutrality. "Hospital grade" plugs are avoided as the unit sports much better receptacle construction. The company’s use of high quality materials result in greater heat resistance and superior contact stability guaranteed to remain tight. Mechanical resonance is avoided with an asphalt-base dampening material that prevents vibrations on the electrical contacts. To reduce the "crackling" phenomenon on power lines, produced by household appliances or electrical tools, BIS has added a parallel circuit, which does not limit available amperage or speed.
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