HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



May
2008

Reviewed by
Roger Kanno

 


DH Labs
Silver Sonic HDMI 1.3 Cable

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: Silver Sonic HDMI 1.3

Price: $70 USD per 1m cable

Warranty: One year parts and labor


Features
  • Silver-coated OFC copper conductors
  • Nitrogen-injected dielectric
  • Double foil shield
  • Custom die-cast connectors with contacts plated in 24-karat gold
  • Protective woven outer jacket
  • HDMI 1.3 certification
  • Lengths over 6m include built-in amplifier-equalizer

I love how the HDMI format allows me to transmit high-definition digital video and audio signals through a single cable. I used to connect my universal player to my surround processor with a set of component-video cables and six analog audio cables. Now, not only can I send hi-rez signals digitally to my processor -- which has its own advantages -- but the number and complexity of cables in my system has been greatly reduced.

Because many HDMI cables are relatively expensive, I’d been using generic brands since upgrading my system with an HDMI-equipped Anthem Statement D2 audio/video processor and a JVC HD-56FC97 1080p D-ILA RPTV. One of my sources is an Oppo DV-970HD universal player, which came with an HDMI cable; I picked up another generic HDMI cable at a local computer store for around $10.

But high-end cable manufacturers have now begun to offer HDMI cables, and DH Labs is known for providing high-quality, high-performance cables at reasonable prices. I’ve been using a DH Labs Silver Sonic D-75 digital coaxial audio cable for several years, and consider it one of the best values in that category. Based on my experience with the D-75, I was curious to try out the company’s Silver Sonic HDMI 1.3 cable, which retails for a very reasonable $70 for a 1m cable.

Description

The DH Labs Silver Sonic HDMI 1.3 cable looks to be a relatively straightforward but high-quality design. Its surface-treated, silver-coated, OFC copper conductors are encased in a dielectric injected with nitrogen. A double foil shield and high-density copper braid are designed to provide maximum rejection of both RF and electromagnetic interference. The custom die-cast connectors have contacts plated in 24-karat gold, and the Silver Sonic’s woven protective outer jacket, intended to prevent abrasions, gives it a purposeful look. A 6m length is available for $170; longer runs begin at 9m ($495) and include a built-in amplifier-equalizer.

I used the Silver Sonic HDMI 1.3s with my Oppo DV-970HD universal player and Sony PlayStation 3 as sources, along with my Anthem Statement D2 and JVC RPTV.

Performance

With the DH Labs Silver Sonics, my system’s picture quality was pristine. 1080p material from Blu-ray Discs was simply stunning: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest exhibited incredibly detailed dark scenes, tons of shadow detail, and razor-sharp daylight scenes. The very best HD material has a sense of depth and dimension, and the Silver Sonics conveyed that. The beautifully restored exterior shots in the Blu-ray edition of Blade Runner: The Complete Collector’s Edition had the kind of detail that I would not have expected to see in a film more than 20 years old. I was expecting to see flaws in the set design, but none were visible -- and not because the source was not resolving this fine detail. The Tyrell Corporation building, for example, did not look like a model but like a real building; the DH Labs cables wonderfully reproduced this incredibly lifelike picture.

High-resolution multichannel audio from Blu-ray also sounded spectacular through the Silver Sonics. The acoustic guitars on Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall sounded like real guitars -- big, bold, and rich. Their sound, strummed by these talented players, was something to behold. Although this is primarily an acoustic performance accompanied only by Matthews’ singing, the sound is incredible -- it’s my favorite demo disc for music in hi-def. Unless you have a Blu-ray player with 5.1- or 7.1-channel analog outputs, you’ll need an HDMI cable to send the Dolby TrueHD signal as either a bitstream or a transcoded PCM signal to your receiver or processor. I reveled in the purity of the transcoded Dolby TrueHD soundtrack sent via the DH Labs cable from the Sony PS3 to the Anthem D2.

Upscaled standard-definition DVDs also looked excellent. While the results varied depending on the initial video quality of the DVDs, I used the Oppo DV-970HD to send a 480i video signal to the Anthem D2 for scaling and deinterlacing. With the DH Labs cables, the picture was rock-solid and sometimes breathtaking. I would not mistake this upscaled SD signal for a true HD source, but detail and color were generally quite good, and there was a distinct absence of video noise. Background details were typically lost in Becoming Jane, but close-ups had a particularly filmlike yet natural look that made me overlook the lack of resolution when compared to true hi-def source material. CGI animation can look stunning when upscaled, and Pixar’s Cars was no exception. As expected, the colors were bright and eye-catching, but I was again struck by the picture’s smoothness and lack of noise, even during rapid pans around the stadium in the opening scene. The Anthem D2’s Gennum VXP-based video processing no doubt had much to do with the excellent images that I was seeing, but the DH Labs cables functioned flawlessly, with no dropouts or other problems, while transmitting video up to 1080p and 24-bit/96kHz multichannel PCM audio.

Comparison

I could not reliably discern any difference in the picture quality between the DH Labs HDMI 1.3 cables and the generic HDMI cables. Nor did the generics suffer from dropouts. However, when I bought one of the generics and it wouldn’t lock on to a signal, I exchanged it for a replacement that solved the problem. That replacement has since functioned without problem, but it doesn’t exactly instill a sense of confidence in the quality or reliability of generic HDMI cables.

Although the generics matched the DH Labs in terms of picture quality, there was a noticeable difference in audio performance. When I switched back to the generics, I noticed a subtle but definite degradation in the sound. This was most obvious with music sources such as Boyz II Men’s II [CD, DTS 1021510012]. The kick drum on "Comin’ Home Baby" was definitely a little boomier, and the highs lost some of their sparkle. The baritone on "Yesterday" was less distinct, and instead of seeming to emanate from a single point, became more diffuse. Interestingly, DH Labs’ Silver Sonic D-75 coaxial cable sounded best with these DTS tracks. Compared to the generic HDMI cables, the vocals snapped back into focus and the bass tightened up considerably. Although the Silver Sonic HDMI 1.3 cable could not quite match the exalted audio performance of the D-75 coaxial cable, it sounded nearly as good.

With hi-rez multichannel PCM, the DH Labs HDMI 1.3 cables again bettered the generic HDMIs, but the differences weren’t as obvious. The guitars on Dave Matthews’ "Crash into Me," from Live at Radio City Music Hall, didn’t quite have the same clarity with the generic HDMIs. The strumming and resonance of the instruments were just not as distinct. Matthews’ vocals on "Grave Digger" are not recorded as cleanly as they are on "Crash into Me," and with the generic HDMIs they sounded even a bit more veiled. The sound of the generics was just a little less refined overall than the Silver Sonics. The uncompressed PCM soundtrack of Black Hawk Down on Blu-ray, for example, lost some of the smoothness in the higher frequencies that could become fatiguing during extended listening.

Conclusion

You could easily pay as much or more for brand-name HDMI cables at a big-box retail store as you would for the DH Labs Silver Sonic. I would rather spend my money on these high-performance cables, which appear to be well constructed and come from a respected specialty manufacturer. You could also spend a lot less on generic HDMI cables, but I found that the improvement in sound quality alone was worth the difference in price of the DH Labs over generics. Like other DH Labs products, the Silver Sonic HDMI 1.3 offers exceptional performance at an affordable price.

Review System
Speakers - Paradigm Reference Signature S8 (mains), Paradigm Reference Signature C3 (center), Paradigm Reference Servo-15 v.2 (subwoofer), Mirage Omni 260 (surrounds)
A/V processor - Anthem Statement D2
Amplifiers - Bel Canto e.One REF1000, eVo6; Axiom A1400-8
Sources - Oppo DV-970HD CD/SACD/DVD-A/V player, Sony PlayStation 3, Trends Audio UD-10.1 USB converter
Cables - Analysis Plus, Essential Sound Products
Surge suppressor - ZeroSurge 1MOD15WI
Display device - JVC HD-56FC97 RPTV
 

Manufacturer contact information:

DH Labs, Inc.
9638 NW 153rd Terrace
Alachua, FL 32615
Phone: (386) 418-0560
Fax: (386) 462-3162

E-mail: dhlabs@silversonic.com
Website: www.silversonic.com


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