|The Wow Factor - BIS Audio Speaker
Cables & Interconnects
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
|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.
3 Speaker cables
4 Conductors in one cable.
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.
RCA BULLET SILVER Interconnect
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
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
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
RCA MAESTRO Interconnect
THE RCA reference
Super dymanic high density OFC wire.
Super wide frequency range.
COPPER BULLET PLUG™ connectors.
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
|Bi-wired Type 3 Speaker Cables and
Maestro & Silver-S RCA interconnects
|Bis Audio inc.
RCA interconnects and bi-wired Type 3 Speaker Cables
|BIS Audio inc.
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
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.