Getting Wired with Rivers Cable
By Jim Bray
Cables. They can be one of the bugaboos of the audio/video market. Mainstream
audio/video components, when they come with cables at all, generally foist thin
and cheap wires on the buyer wires that most buyers undoubtedly find
Until they listen to better wires. A good set of interconnects or speaker cables
can indeed enhance the listening experience. Good wire transmits better than
But with cables running from pennies to hundreds of dollars per foot, and from
very thin to almost fire hose thick, at what point do cables become ridiculous?
Well, thats a toughie. Weve heard cables costing from pennies to
hundreds of dollars a foot - and the cables we generally use to connect our
reference speakers to our reference amplifier are custom made things that are
quite thick and heavy, but which would be priced (if they were retailed) probably
in the middle of the pack.
Naturally, the bottom line is that its your ears (or, in the case of
video cables, eyes) that have to judge - as well as the size of your checkbook.
And to be fair, a great many people dont live and breathe this stuff like
we do, and spending a lot of money on cables is not something they can justify.
To them we say, this article is not for you!
Once youve decided that you do want to spend some extra after tax income
on some good interconnects, you need to wade through the manufacturers, from
comparative giants such as Monster to smaller outlets such as the subject of
this piece, River Cable.
River Cable is a newer entry in the field, at least under that name, and from
our experience they make some pretty nice products.
Rivers parent company has been around for years. Their Digiflex Gold
cables are popular in professional applications, places where they not only
justify spending extra on quality, but they insist on it (at least to a point).
Now, as River Cable, theyre really going after the consumer market, selling
directly to customers via their Web site at www.rivercable.com.
Their cables cover a wide range of audio and video applications, from straightforward
analog patch cords to connect a CD player to a stereo preamp or
receiver, to digital interconnects, video cables, subwoofer cables, and speaker
They sent us a couple of pair of their new FLEXYGY 6-conductor speaker cables,
a nice product that sounds very nice and is small enough that you dont
need to put ramps on the floor to get over them when walking through the room.
The FLEXYGYs are slim and flat, looking almost like an FM antenna. This makes
them easy to hide behind a baseboard, under carpet, or wherever. A nice touch,
and theyre also colored subtly to be less obtrusive in the room. Not a
showcase for your equipment, but that isnt what you want anyway.
And get this: each River Cables cable comes with a birth certificate! Now,
this may seem like a gimmick (and that perception undoubtedly has some truth
to it), but at least theyre giving you something with that gimmick. The
birth certificate includes a printout of that particular cables factory
test scores, from a physical check of the cables fit and finish, a test
of its DC resistance, capacitance, and something called a Risetime Overshoot
Different cables get different tests; the bottom line is for River Cable to
assure the customer that hes getting what he paid for.
Some of our reviewers at least pretended to understand the technical language
- unlike me who doesnt even pretend such. You can take it or leave it,
but you have to hand it to these people for their attention to detail and seriousness.
River Cable also gives a 30 day home trial guarantee (to make sure you like
what you bought) as well as a lifetime warranty.
You can get the FLEXYGYs with banana, spade, or pin ends as well.
So what makes these thin little buggers good? Well, heres how the company
describes their construction:
6 x 16 AWG in parallel, for an aggregate value of 8.5 AWG
Hyper fine stranded 4 Sigma laminar copper
0.015" conductor insulation with 0.030" lead- and cadmium-free polymer
0.60" wide x 0.180" thick (15mm x 4.8mm)
Exclusive gold plated expanding banana plugs, gold plated pins, or gold
spade cable lugs
Capacitance: 43 pF/ft
DC Resistance: 0.003 ohms/ft
Velocity Factor: 0.87
Yeah, our eyes glaze over at such stuff, too, and since this is the consumers
non-technical guide to technology, we wont get into the nuts
and bolts any more than that. Lets talk about how the cables sound, which
is the bottom line anyway.
We tried them in a variety of configurations and situations. In our main home
theater, we hooked them between our big Rotel amplifier and our main Definitive
Technology speakers. These speakers feature built in powered subwoofers, so
we got to try them with all audio frequencies and with only the upper end. This
was our home theater setup.
We also connected them between a classic (read old) NAD amp and
some fine Monitor Audio speakers. This was our home audio setup.
Alas, our reviewers disagreed about the cables. We all liked them but one
of our reviewers thought they were a little thin in the low end (though he also
admitted that they got better as they broke in). I didnt find them lacking
in low end, however though on the other hand that other review to whom
I refer thinks my hearing is impaired (I think his listening is!).
Anyway, I was very pleased with their overall performance. I found the FLEXYGYs
cleaner and more transparent than our custom built reference cables, and better
sounding than a pair of Monsters I keep around for just such emergencies. It
mattered not a whit whether we were using the cables to transmit movie soundtracks
or music including DVD Audio. The FLEXYGYs tended a little to warmness,
but not excessively so (and that sure beats being shrill!) and that warmness
actually helped with some of the audio sources we tried that tended toward brightness;
it was nice to have the rough edges smoothed a bit.
Heres an example: In the Digital Mood by the Glenn Miller
Orchestra. This is an early digital recording of the old big band classics and
it tends to sound a tad sharp. But the FLEXYGYs did a really nice job of taking
the roughness from the sound, making it sound more natural and real.
This might sound a little like an oxymoron, since a cable theoretically shouldnt
add or subtract anything from the sound it should just pass it along
unaltered. But in the real world theres no cable, indeed no audio component,
that doesnt color the sound in its own subtle (and sometimes not so sublte)
way. So if youre going to color the sound, better to color it nice.
And the FLEXYGYs color it nice.
I also loved listening to the DVD Audios of Sinatra at the Sands, Chicago
II and Led Zeppelins How the West Was Won. The liveness of
the Sinatra concert came through beautifully, Chicagos horns and electric
bass parts sounded very smooth, and Zeps raw power was almost enough to
make ones ears bleed.
The tympani on the second movement of Beethovens 9th also came through
with spectacular results. In all, very musical and we also liked the
way they transmitted the deep bass of explosions and other movie mayhem.
So while the FLEXYGYs may sound a little warm, they dont sound forced,
or colored, or fake. They help create a very nice listening experience, and
you can listen all day. We wish we had more of them, enough to wire the rest
of the 5.1 channels of our main home theater.
Yes, they arent cheap. The four meter length FLEXGYs we tried retail
for about $260 a pair (different lengths sell for different prices, which makes
sense). Not chump change, indeed, but quite affordable in the world of high
end cables. Both the Monsters and the custom built cables we used for reference
would have sold for substantially more than the FLEXYGYs, which indicates that
River Cable seems to be holding up its end of the bargain, especially since
I liked the FLEXYGYs better than either of those "competitors."
Besides the FLEXYGYs, River Cable also sent us an example of their StarFlex
Subwoofer cables. This was also a handsome, good performing cable that quickly
made itself right at home in our reference home theater.
The StarFlex uses oxygen free copper cable and hand soldered Canare connectors,
and we have no quibbles with their choice of materials.
We ran it between our Rotel processor and the Definitive Technologys
power subs and between the Rotel and a THX-certified M&K subwoofer and the
oomph it transmitted was just fine, thank you. We wish we had another, so we
could run them to both of the DefTechs at the same time, but such is life.
The bottom line is that the bass we heard (and felt) was full and deep and
non-directional, just as it should be.
If you dont know the first thing about cables but are interested in learning,
River Cables Web site is full of good information on what makes a good
cable good, how to choose cables, the differences between different types of
cables, and that type of thing. Some of its pretty technical, but a lot
of it isnt and of course they have a special soft spot for their
Not that theres anything wrong with that
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think