The second installment of the exploration of STEALTH Audio cables continues with the Śakra V16 and Śakra V17 Limited Edition analog interconnects. The STEALTH Audio power cables have already made a great impression, and as you can read in the review, the Śakra V16 and Śakra V17 Limited Edition continue that impression with accolades.
STEALTH Audio Cables
Serguei Timachev and his team’s goal at STEALTH Audio Cables is to advance the “state of the art” in high-end audio cables.
This goal is achieved by perfecting all design elements: the use of highly complex non-resonant and impedance-matched, multi-layer and multi-conductor cable geometries in conjunction with the most advanced conductive media available: carbon fiber-based conductive composites, high-purity silver and pure solid gold, single-crystal metal alloys, and the most exotic of alloys: amorphous metal alloys.
STEALTH Audio Cables top-of-the-line cables use helium gas as a dielectric and feature cost-no-object proprietary connectors with solid silver contacts, Kevlar composite inserts for strength, and ultra-modified PTFE housings enclosed in carbon fiber jackets and reinforced with milled aircraft-grade titanium.
STEALTH Audio Cables are individually handmade because STEALTH Audio cables simply cannot be mass-produced by machine due to their complexity.
All STEALTH Audio cables are bench tested and sonically evaluated to ensure uncompromised performance and quality backed by STEALTH Audio Cables LIFETIME WARRANTY against defects.
STEALTH Audio Cables are designed from the ground up with esthetic beauty and unsurpassed build quality in mind and to experience the standard of sound that comes from superior design, materials, and attention to detail, thus ensuring an unforgettable experience.
The STEALTH Audio Śakra V16 differs significantly from the standard (the original Sakra or the Sakra V.12): The cables are directional – as they are inside and outside CONICAL and have the new “Vari-Cross” geometry – the cross-section of the cable varies along the length; this is done to improve the impedance matching between the source and the receiving end.
Sonically, the cables are more relaxed right out of the box and sound even fuller (and therefore more natural), while having better resolution and transparency than the “original” Sakra.
Due to the improved geometry, the Śakra V16 is more relaxed and natural (right out of the box, in a brand new condition, the V16 sounds more “broken in” – compared to the original 1000+ hour Sakra). In addition, the Sakra V16 has better resolution and transparency than the “original” Sakra.
The Śakra V16 is simply a better cable and the flagship analog interconnect cable from STEALTH Audio for 2022, and it’s up to date.
For almost five years, STEALTH Audio developed and gradually improved the Indra cable, and felt that the Indra cable would remain the pinnacle of their development (in the field of analog line-level interconnects).
As with STEALTH Audio’s designs, the cables are improved with each new revision. The Indra was revised three times, and each new version sounded better than the previous one, but the overall sound character of the Indra remained the same with all revisions.
The ŚAKRA may be considered the next updated revision of Indra. Still, it has a different name and IS a different cable altogether: it is a clear upgrade over each Indra revision, and the difference is very substantial.
What makes such a profound difference? – Quite simply: a better geometry and a better dielectric.
Compared to its predecessor, the Śakra V16 offers a much better low-end, more subjective “body,” and better midrange transparency.
Without any play-in, right out of the box, the Śakra V16 sounds more “relaxed” than a well-rehearsed Indra, and fuller in the body than the original Sakra. And it continues to improve as it is broken in!
KEY DESIGN FEATURES
Amorphous conductive medium
The wire is completely homogeneous, grainless – i.e. identical in all directions because it has no crystal structure.
0.001″ (one-thousandth of an inch) thick. A very thin wire is important for:
- minimizing the skin effect (no roughness or harshness in the upper mids and highs)
- minimizing errors in the time domain (necessary for clean, well-defined bass and perfect imaging)
- in realistic cable dimensions allowing the use of the distributed LITZ geometry developed by STEALTH Audio.
Proprietary non-resonant cable geometry
STEALTH Audio vari-cross distributed LITZ advantages:
- Single insulated strands (to eliminate direct electrical contact, i.e. galvanic interaction between strands – otherwise the multiple bare strands behave like a single thicker wire)
The advantage of STEALTH Audio’s non-inductive bifilar winding – multicore geometry are:
- Electrical resonance control: the advantage of STEALTH Audio distributed LITZ geometry.
- Mechanical resonance control: dielectric and mechanical properties of the jackets: optimized density and damping. Too much damping sterilizes and muffles the sound, while too little damping is worse due to excessive “ringing” (unwanted uncontrolled resonances).
Control of the impedance characteristic impedance
Optimized relationships between capacitance, inductance, and DC resistance: the characteristic impedance of Śakra and its resonant behavior (“Q” at RF frequencies) differ from any machine-made cable.
Dielectric with extremely low energy storage
STEALTH Audio para-vacuum (helium gas) + porous – i.e. foam-like Teflon. The helium dielectric, combined with the multicore geometry, is the MAIN technical advantage of the Śakra compared to the Indra.
Porous Teflon has the lowest dielectric constant of any solid or semi-solid material. Low dielectric constant = low energy storage = low distortion = fast sound. The dielectric properties of helium gas are much better than porous Teflon, better than air, and better than realistic (commercial) vacuum.
Proprietary STEALTH Audio connectors
These propriety custom and advanced connectors have very low overall mass, solid silver contacts, machined ultra-modified PTFE (Teflon®) dielectric, Kevlar composite frame, and carbon fiber/titanium housing.
Advanced termination technique
One high-pressure crimp = cold weld – one direct contact translates to a seamless transition between the wire and the contact – no intermediate (solder) involved.
Sakra V17 Limited Edition
Has all the features of the Sakra V.16, but also has some additional features that take it a step above the Sakra V.16 and make it the top flagship of the STEALTH Audio audio product line. Only a handful of the Sakra V.17 will be available, making it the first Limited Edition from STEALTH Audio.
Here are what makes them different and stand out:
- Double runs of Vari-Cross amorphous wire-in-Helium, C-37 treated.
- Higher dynamic resolution and volume response. Realistically higher dynamic resolution. More precise range in spatial position. Higher purity of individual sounds and musical instruments.
- Richness of detail affecting small and miniaturized sounds increased legibility, more evident in percussion instruments.
- Improved bass control, better bass contour. Lower octaves become deeper and convey a detailed sound image.
- Tonality is very natural, but has a touch of brilliance and clarity.
- Wider soundstage expanding in the listeinign room with a wider, deeper and larger scope, surrounds and escaing the speakers cabinets, while allowing listener to be more involved with the music scenery.
Available in red and blue carbon fiber, but also in black and red combination. There are also pure black Sakra V.17 Limited Editions to meet the visual desires of our customers and match them to their system.
Reactance and characteristic impedance
The reactance and characteristic impedance of audio cables are even more technical and confusing, but in short, the impedance of a cable is a vector sum of its DC resistance, inductance, and capacitance.
The reactance of a cable is the ratio between its DC resistance and – the sum of its inductance and capacitance. The lower the “ratio” of the reactive components (inductance and capacitance) to the total impedance, the lower the reactance of the cable. An absolutely ideal cable has no reactance at all: In an “ideal” cable, both the inductance and the capacitance are zero.
But in the real world, this is never the case. The lower a cable’s reactance, the less distortion a cable can practically and theoretically introduce into a signal.
Characteristic impedance – is very different from impedance because it is defined and measured differently.
A cable’s characteristic impedance has no known and recognized direct effect on the cable’s sonic performance, but the designer Sergei Timachev personally always prefer to have it higher than lower (since a higher characteristic impedance is usually associated, albeit indirectly, with a lower reactance of a cable).
The music section and its treatises in each review are a kind of boundary object in which different kinds of music as sole units reinforce the capacity of an idea, something that can also be translated vividly between different pieces of music.
Here are some of the reference albums that have quickly shown the merits of the two STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition Śakra V16 cables.
STEALTH Audio Śakra V16
Montreux Alexander – The Monty Alexander Trio Live at the Montreux Festival, a live album by Monty Alexander Trio is one of those rare emotional charged, and musically excellently records that simply rivet the listener to the seat with the one-of-the-kind lyrical bond that can occur when everything is set to a certain level in the high-end audio system.
STEALTH Audio Śakra V16 has managed to fully develop and reproduce Alexander’s unique consonance between lyrical and dynamic playing.
These qualities were further explored and enhanced by the way Śakra V16 highlights piano notes and tones through their fully unfolded sheer energy channeling, and prolonged, but spot-on (life-like) echoing of decay, and delay.
It is never easy to reconcile the juxtaposition of the music’s transparent and more physical heaviness and lateral mass. It’s a rare thing indeed, but the Śakra V16 has combined these two assumed contradictions like never before. The piano’s middle and upper mid-basses gained weight and tonal richness without losing speed or blurring the leading edges of the note attack.
The Ernest Ansermet – The Royal Ballet Gala Performances orchestral momentum can too quickly sound as if artificially charged and tempered particles are part of a chaotic narrative. Interestingly, STEALTH Audio Śakra V16 did not alter the sonic faculties but presented an intriguing equilibrium in which a higher than expected sonic order was fixated at all times.
A unique Śakra V16 para-vacuum helium gas dielectric not only provides extremely low energy storage but also seems to allow more control of the “air”, which consequently lets instruments vibrate properly, so the sound is freer from dynamic congestion, and the timbre, tone, and color can be retrieved spot on.
This was particularly evident in the Royal Ballet’s gala performances, where dynamic shifts spread easily and the orchestra sounded more like a whole. Here the analogy of the forest and a tree fits perfectly.
When it was necessary to locate and virtually visualize the individual instruments, they could be decoded with the same attributes also occurring in reality: the huge energy bubble of harmonies. Among the many Śakra V16 qualities, this particular attribute is worthy of all the high praise.
It was more than interesting and captivating to observe how with STEALTH Audio Śakra V16 Fritz Reiner – Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra was presented in a unified way, with the sound particles coming together in surprising constancy and consistency.
The spheres of the macrocosm of Also Sprach Zarathustra have achieved a newfound tonal symmetry, without the ringing effect that can bludgeon the orchestra and lower the level of acoustic nodes and focal points, and that is usually associated with cheaper cables and even some of the high-priced ones.
Due to its nature, the Śakra V16 cables reproduced Also Sprach Zarathustra quite differently than usual. With the higher density allowed, not only was the acoustic space got portrayed much better but so were the unbridled dynamics and sheer drama of a pulsating force that was never deprived of the needed dynamism.
Śakra V17 Limited Edition
The Poll Winners The Poll Winners from 1957 was the first all-star trio with Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne.
The Śakra V17 Limited Edition surely goes beyond the stereotype about high-end, high-performance audio cables.
Many cables, regardless of price, are characterized by a particular rigidity that too often focuses on particular aural decorum, rather than featuring the evenness of the entire frequency spectrum.
Even the very first STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition impression was positively alarming. No sonic tensions, nor the lopsided effect, but a full-featured potency endowing the music with lasting quality.
It was also fascinating to observe the way STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition dealt with sonic hues. The consistent timbre, tone, and color were of consistent quality and differentia.
The Śakra V17 Limited Edition creates a splendor, dense canvas of sound with an extremely rich tonal palette. What makes these flagship cables so enticing is the resolution that set the ground for natural color to fully form.
Visual purists will prefer Technicolor or Plasma TV tonal balance, which for many is still closer to reality than the ultra-hyped contemporary resolutions. While we will probably get there eventually, and the visual drama may be very compelling, the excitement wears off pretty quickly without an organic feel and in the constant triggering of the sensory mechanism in a varying mode that alters the genuine sensory perception.
The same is true for music. With modern amplifiers, diamond drivers for loudspeakers, pure silver conductors, etc., it is easy to achieve excellent resolution, low distortion, and so on. But as with everything in life, it can quickly become too much of a good thing.
The Śakra V17 Limited Edition cables certainly need to be carefully placed in the system to achieve higher level synergy, but they come standard with unparalleled resolution, transparency, and speed that allows for the true state-of-the-art signal transfer with very little to no loss.
And The Poll Winners exemplary exhibited Śakra V17 Limited Edition virtues instantly and exemplary.
The superbly captured higher-level interplay between the musicians of Yamamoto Tsuyoshi Trio – Misty provides a magnetism that rarely occurs.
If I had to single out one record that is a pure embodiment of pure mood, Misty is one of the best specimens.
With STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition, Misty was not forcibly translated nor sounded as fatigued extracted reconstruction, but as an astute observation, full of emotion. An experience that binds the soul.
Although the Śakra V17 Limited Edition introduces an additional layer of detail, this did not alter the already superb natural sonic balance of the Śakra V16. The music became livelier, and the far bigger being there factor was present.
The inherent higher resolution worked against what many cables do. There were no inconsistent phenomena, but Misty was laid out with affinity. The STEALTH Audio Śakra V16 is a great performer in its own right, with a wealth of qualities that are hard to find combined in one cable. Yet!
The STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition adds as icing on the cake a further refinement of the entire frequency spectrum, a step up in the horizontal and vertical expansion of the sonic field, and like the Śakra V16, embraces some of the qualities normally associated with the active components.
As startling as this sounds, it quickly becomes meaningful with the first notes of familiar music in the play.
High-end audio cables represent a significant investment. Audiophiles and music lovers are therefore eager to discover much finer details and delve much deeper into the music without further rationalization.
These rationalizations have already been covered in detail before purchase and insertion into the system.
The signal that passes through an audio cable is a far more complex undertaking than handling what is simplistically thought of as sending and receiving electrical impulses.
All too often, and regardless of the price range, analog interconnects cables can alter the signal passing through them in ways that distort the music and sound distant.
In contrast, STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition and Śakra V16 cables invisibly act with a richer flow, and a unique magnitude of sound, acting with more effective sonic mass while delivering the uniformly extended horizontal and vertical soundstage.
On different levels, yet on a similar plane, the STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition and Śakra V16 interconnect cables to expose the music in its true essence.
When a high-end audio system sounds as balanced, it is always due to the properly used cabling.
Any part of the entire cable loom should never change or distort the fragile signal throughout the system.
High-end audio cables represent the actual veins of the audio system, where all strands of music should flow in harmonic unison.
Above a certain price threshold of high-end audio cables, the music should be able to be translated across all genres without defined limits, which are usually associated with an entry-level cable.
And that’s exactly what the STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition and Śakra V16 have achieved. Transcending the genres in absence of any predefining aural limitations.
When we talk about high-caliber, state-of-the-art music reproduction, music should never sound like a simplified expression of the original.
Unlike many other cables on the market that make the music feel like it’s been stripped of its intrinsic qualities, STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition and Śakra V16 high-end audio cables can initiate a very different kind of engagement.
Every part of a high-end audio system is of utmost importance and should not interfere with or break the connection with the music. STEALTH Audio interconnect cables are a rare example of maintaining this binding interaction and prime bond.
As I wrote in my review of STEALTH Audio power cords, the differences and merits of the various cables are not always as obvious as they are with the various series from STEALTH Audio. It can be easy and quick to understand where the dedication went in and why the price difference.
Echoing the merits of STEALTH Audio audio power cables, STEALTH Audio audio analog interconnect cables allow for infinite variations of music with a wealth of detail where the music can be fully appreciated.
For what they represent sonically and how proficient they are in delivering the music, I award the two STEALTH Audio Śakra V17 Limited Edition and Śakra V16 cables with the 2022 Mono & Stereo Upper Echelon Product Award. ⧉