Cables are a polarising topic for audiophiles, with some claiming that they all sound the same and that spending money on them is a waste. In my experience, I have heard clear differences in cables for over forty years and find them to be a fundamental component in any natural sounding system. Specialist manufacturers like The Chord Company from England manufacture an extensive range of cables to suit tastes, budgets and intended sonic aspirations. The Sarum T line is its second-highest level of performance and includes interconnects, digital cables and power leads. This review is for the speaker cable at the not-insignificant price of $4,700 in Australia for a 2m pair…
The company's philosophy starts with the dielectric, or insulating material, used within a cable. This is key as it plays a major role in the sound quality of the finished product. The Chord Company previously used PTFE or Teflon, which is commonly used within the industry, but says that it is not phase-stable at normal room temperatures, which results in colouration of the signal. So the designers have introduced an improved proprietary insulation material called Taylon, claiming that it brings striking performance improvements, especially over Teflon and other materials. Incidentally, this is what the T in the name stands for.
Attention to every minor detail of design, construction and materials is what separates exceptional products from their underperforming peers. In the case of Sarum T speaker cables, Chord specifies high purity oxygen-free 12 AWG copper conductors that are micro-polished and then silver plated. Each of the two conductors is shielded in a silver-plated ribbon braid and heavy foil, then placed within a hard polyethylene outer jacket. Terminations are available in either silver-plated 'ChordOhmic' banana or spade connectors. The connectors are crimped rather than soldered, supposedly for better sound.
The cables have arrow markings on the aluminium separators to indicate the direction from the amplifier to the speaker. I found the cables rather stiff and difficult to roll into smaller coils, so ensure you have enough cable length to suit your system. The finish is first class, as expected, and they feel heavy and substantial. Please spend time and attention suspending them off the floor and other surfaces to reduce ground-borne vibration, as it makes an audible difference.
How they sound depends greatly on your system, its level of transparency and resolving power and the cables already in use as a starting point. It would be silly to fit these expensive high-end cables into a mid-fi system and expect significant improvements, for example.
What you hear with Sarum T in the system is more as well as less - more detail, more clarity, more bass energy, more top and bottom extension, greater speed, more spatial information and so on. You also hear less noise, grain, smear, harshness and less confusion. This 'more' is not randomly or haphazardly applied, but rather sounds smooth, coherent and musical.
For example, listening to Alabama Shakes' Sound & Colour, I got the sense of being closer to the performance with a natural presentation that was less artificial and more believable. I heard more nuance and detail, which was previously obscured, with everything brought into a sharper focus. The tonal richness of the vibraphone was stunning, along with its tactile reverb in the listening room. The separation of the drums, guitars and keyboard and the way they had their own three-dimensional space in the soundstage proved impossible to recreate with lesser cables.
Tonally, the Sarum T is close to faultless, with an extremely smooth and linear top-to-bottom spread. Lovers of classical music or any music recorded with natural unamplified instruments will find that the Sarum T brings out their best. The instruments in Stravinsky's Infernal Dance of all of Kashchei's Subjects by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra appeared holistic, correct and life-like. The dynamics of the recording were also noteworthy, with the loud parts noticeably uncompressed and transients unforced and delivered with speed and impact without any sense of exaggeration.
Provided the rest of your system is up to it, using the Chord Company's Sarum T speaker cables is a revelation, with a palpable cohesion and naturalness that made me want to listen to album after album all the way through, as if for the first time. So I recommend you audition this range of cables at a reputable specialist retailer and decide for yourself whether they're right for your system.