Homegrown Audio Silver Lace and DNA Interconnects

Homegrown Audio Silver Lace and DNA Interconnects

February 3, in Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Specifications:

  • DNA proprietary substrate that optimizes conductor placement and reduces microphonic vibrations all natural cotton dielectric used throughout solid silver 99.997% pure conductors
  • LOK Silver Point termination (single ended) or Neutrik Silver plated
  • XLR (balanced)
  • Each set of DNA cables is given an individual serial number for quality assurance
  • Price: .5 meter $525, 1 meter $575 (LOK)
  • Silver Lace
  • Optimized 8 strand braided geometry
  • Individually insulated, ultra fine solid silver conductors
  • FEP Teflon dielectric
  • LOK™ rhodium over silver plated locking-barrel RCA connectors
  • Price: .5 meter $245pr, 1 meter $280pr

 

 

Homegrown Audio is one of a handful of companies that have brought silver audio cables within the financial reach of the everyday audio enthusiast. During the early years of its existence, HGA sold a lot of product to the DIY market. As a whole, the DIY crowd is a tough group to please, and their acceptance of HGA wire is a testament to the overall quality of their merchandise. In a phone conversation, Holly Frye relayed stories about the beginnings of Homegrown Audio. It was a captivating story of how an enterprising group of college students formed a successful audio company.1 As its name implies, Homegrown Audio has a philosophy that is markedly different than other “big-time” cable manufacturers. Homegrown Audio’s strategy is to keep the prices of its products affordable, and reinvest its profits into the company. If you turn the pages on any major audio print magazine, you will not find any glossy color ads for their products. Cable manufacturers are often accused of soldering ends on “off the reel” wire, hiding it in a fancy jacket, and raking in the profits. Homegrown Audio offers a well-crafted product that is built in-house, and pricing it within the reach of the average audio enthusiast.Homegrown Audio Silver Lace and DNA Interconnects2

For quite some time the premier interconnect cable offered by Homegrown Audio has been the Silver Lace. The Silver Lace is composed of eight 26-gauge silver conductors that are woven in a proprietary Litz braid. 3 The dielectric is FEP Teflon, and an outer jacket is used to maintain the continuity of the braid and to protect the wire from damage. The terminations are a rhodium overlay on top of silver-plated RCA plugs. These RCA terminations are of the locking variety, and ensure that the cables get properly coupled to a component. These cables are fitted through a distinctive
wood block that is intended to perform wire management duties and keep everything neat and tidy. There is no mystery to the Homegrown Silver Lace cables. This interconnect uses a tried and true Litz geometry, and is produced by industrial braiding machines that ensure a consistent pattern and tension. High purity, solid core silver wire is at the heart of the Silver Lace, and a Teflon dielectric is once again the favored material for this application. The RCA terminations are a solid, no-nonsense design, which is required to maintain the favorable price-versus-performance ratio of the Silver Lace cable.

Homegrown Audio has recently unveiled their new flagship interconnect. The DNA interconnect has come about as a result of the knowledge gained from manufacturing the Silver Lace cables. This new interconnect still uses a woven Litz design, and solid core silver wire. A proprietary substrate has been incorporated into the design, which gives the DNA interconnect an air-dielectric configuration. This material also maintains the placement of the wire within the weave, and dampens any micro-phonic resonance that may occur. Natural cotton insulation is used in the design, which has markedly different performance than the Teflon dialectic. Finally, the DNA interconnects are fitted with upgraded terminations. These cables can be had with the LOK Silver Point RCA ends, or Nuetrik silver plate XLR connectors.

Cables review

The primary focus of this review is the Silver Lace interconnects. Holly Frye sent out two pairs of interconnects to place between the amp/pre-amp and the DAC/ pre-amp. Two pairs of Audio Magic Illusion 4D interconnects were removed from my system, and served as the reference point for my evaluation of the HGA cables. Holly felt so strongly about the capabilities of the new DNA interconnects that she shipped out a pair to offer A$$A readers a glimpse of what the latest HGA products are capable of. The DNA interconnects were placed between the DAC and pre-amp, while a pair of Audio Magic Illusion 4D cables were used between the amp and pre-amp. My reference speaker wire remained in the system, which is from the Audio Magic Illusion 4D series of cables.

Homegrown Audio Silver Lace and DNA Interconnects3

A Jeff Rowland Model 5 amplifier and Consumate pre-amplifier comprise the heart of my review system. A Bolder Cable Company modified Squeezebox is used as a transport for the Audio Magic Kukama DAC. This system feeds a pair of Mordaunt Short Performance 880 speakers. An Audio Magic Mini-Reference power conditioner provides clean AC current. All components reside in a pair of AV 123 racks.

Woody Guthrie cover

Woody Guthrie is one of the legends of American folk music, and I suspect few people would disagree with this viewpoint. Guthrie’s music has a timeless appeal, and is still appreciated by fans of the folk genre. In my music collection is Woody Guthrie’s American Song, which is a staged musical, dedicated to Guthrie’s music. One of my favorite songs on this disc is “Pastures of Plenty” {Woody Guthrie’s American Song-Cast Album; Self Released WG1001}. Since this song is recorded on a stage, it contains a set of challenges that will unearth any brightness or stridency in a cable. The combination of a live stage acoustics, acoustic guitar, fiddles, and female vocals are a devilish combination to get right. The Homegrown Audio Silver Lace interconnects turns in a solid performance on this track. One of the stereotypes circulating in this hobby is that silver cables are bright; and I have heard examples of this being the case. The Silver Lace cable is vibrant and energetic, yet is relatively even in regards to overall tonal balance. Mimi Bessette and Helen Russell sing a beautiful duet in this song, and this cable preserves the sweetness of their vocals. The acoustic signature of the theatre is clearly captured in this recording, and is difficult for any component with a tendency towards brightness to get right. The Silver Lace isn’t tripped up by this task, but if paired up with the wrong components I could see where difficulties might arise. As a general rule, cables that occupy the sub $300 price point are going to have a distinctive personality, and I would characterize the Silver Lace as being lively and spirited.

Suzanne Vega cover

While Suzanne Vega is well known for her socially conscious ballads, most fans know that she can turn out some high-energy songs. In 1992 Suzanne Vega decided to branch out, and experimented with an electronic style, which is featured in the 99.9F album. “Rock In This Pocket” [99.9F; AM Records CDB 0005] is a dramatic departure from her earlier music, and shows another side of this diverse artist. The track has a powerful electronic bass line that is deceptively complex. I had no complaints with the bass performance of the Silver Lace cables. The lower registers of my system were nicely filled out, and the individual bass instruments could easily be separated. Another observation of note is how this song really expands to fill a room. The HGA cable adroitly handled this task, and this song had excellent spatial characteristics. The Silver Lace interconnect is a surefooted performer that did not make any glaring missteps during its time in my system. I can see why this cable has been one of the perennial best sellers for Home Grown Audio.

Any interconnect from the <$300 price category that I have heard imparts its own personality, and the Silver Lace is no exception. A wellimplemented silver cable design has distinctive clarity and detail, which is an accurate description of the character of the Silver Lace. However, the Silver Lace lacks the refined and relaxed presentation that can be found in a properly executed copper wire interconnect. High-end silver cables can also possess this attribute, and this sets them apart from their mid-range priced brethren. The Audio Magic Illusion 4D interconnects are smoother than the Silver Lace, and present more fine detail than the HGA cable. The final bit of realism imbedded in a recording is not lost by the Illusion 4D interconnect, but this is to be expected from a wire that sells for $1200 a meter pair. Certainly the laws of diminishing returns are applied to the Audio Magic wire; and the Silver Lace was never intended to be an assault on the state of the art cable market. Of course this takes us to a discussion of the Homegrown Audio DNA interconnect, which is intended to compete in the affordable high-end cable market.

While the Silver Lace cables validated my previous experiences on how mid-tier cables perform, I was not prepared for what I heard out of the DNA interconnects. To be frank, if I did not know that these HGA cables were built from silver wire, I would have never guessed this to be true. The DNA interconnects are relaxed and graceful, with an unassuming presentation that gets out of the way of the music. When listening to these interconnects, I found that I stopped analyzing the benefits of materials and construction techniques, and just sat back and enjoyed the music. I decided to replay the two previous tracks and catalog the differences between the DNA and Silver Lace cables.

The vocal duet of Mimi Bessette and Helen Russell in “Pastures of Plenty” improved markedly with the DNA interconnects in the system. I heard the lower registers of both singers voices fill in, and increase in texture. The fine detail of this song is showcased with the DNA interconnects, however there is a conspicuous absence of high frequency artifacts that are often mistaken for a detailed top-end. All of the high frequency information is still portrayed, such as the reflections from the stage acoustics, or the sharp edge of the fiddle notes. On this song, I could not detect any of the limitations associated with a cable built from silver wire.

The differences between the two cables on the Suzanne Vega are not quite as readily apparent when I came back to this song. Although the differences between these two cables were once again documented when I swapped the Silver Lace back into the system. The DNA interconnect is so evenly balanced that it becomes unassuming and overlooked. While the Silver Lace says “Hey! Look at me! Look what I am doing to this song! Aren’t I so clear and detailed?!” With the DNA interconnects installed, the lower registers of Vegas’ voice gain texture, and complex undertones become noticeable. Even though this is a multi-tracked recording, the perceived space between instruments is clearly delineated, and the definition of the acoustic space is improved. The differences I experience between the two HGA cables are consistent, even if they are not as dramatically portrayed with this song.

The principals at Homegrown Audio have worked diligently to position their company as a credible audio manufacturer. HGA maintains sophisticated production facilities that allow the company to own the bulk of the manufacturing process. The Silver Lace and DNA cables are literally “homegrown”, and represent the efforts of a talented and enthusiastic group of people. I suspect the Silver Lace line of cables will remain Homegrown Audio’s bread and butter product for a long time. These cables offer value and performance, which is a combination that the cost-conscious audio enthusiast is looking for. For the audio enthusiast searching for the affordable high-end interconnect, the DNA cable is an authentic contender. The DNA interconnect has that enviable balance between warmth and detail. This cable passes on the detail that silver based designs are known for, yet have a relaxed presentation that is easy on the ears. Homegrown Audio offers a 30-day in-home trial period, so auditioning their products is a risk free proposition. If you are in the market for new cables, order up a pair and see what high quality silver interconnects can do for your system. If you are adventurous, try a pair of Silver Lace and DNA interconnects, and make the comparisons between the two designs yourself.

from affordableaudio, By John Hoffman

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