Hands On: Straight Wire Expressivo Step-up Cables
The products employ four air-suspended conductors of oxygen-free copper (OFHC) with multiple dielectric insulations that maintain mechanical and electrical performance. The cables use proprietary shielding technologies and custom jackets that are available in a choice of colors.
I installed the Expressivo cables into a system that features a NAD Masters Series M3 integrated amplifier and M51 DAC, along with a Cambridge Audio CD player and 640p phono preamp that is powered by a Pangea P100 power supply. I didn’t have any issue running a set of XLR cables from the output of the DAC to the integrated amp, or with a set of RCA cables from the phono stage to the integrated amp. I connected the bi-wireable Expressivo speaker cables from the integrated amp to a pair of PSB T2 loudspeakers.
I know there are some that don’t believe in cable break-in periods, but I put some time on the cables before I started my listening evaluations. Once I did my formal listening, which was mostly with vinyl via a restored Thorens TD-160 turntable, I was floored by how much of a difference the Expressivos made compared with the entry-level Monster and Straight Wire Super Quad products they replaced.
Listening to Yes’ 90125 I thought the LP sounded more focused with plenty of detail with the Expressivo cabling. I found the system delivered a more involving experience, notably articulating Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin’s Fender Stratocaster, as well as an overall smoother presentation of micro dynamics like the increased of vocals’ volume during choruses becoming more apparent.
Hearing the system’s reproduction of Randy Rhoads’ guitar reverb on Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman provided a sense of space and depth within the recording’s midrange. Factoring in the tight bass the system produced, the Expressivos helped my two-channel setup render a deep image with fast transient capabilities.
Steven Hill, president of Straight Wire, notes the company’s goal in designing the cables is to offer dealers a step up in performance and build quality without having to put electronics professionals in the position of justifying exotically priced cables. After installing and listening to the line of interconnects and speaker cables I think he has more than nailed those design goals.
MSRPs for the Expressivo line of cables:
Expressivo Interconnect: $300 per meter pair and $100 per additional meter pair
Expressivo Speaker Cable: $800 per 8-foot pair and $80 per additional foot per pair