A few weeks ago I was contacted by Marc Stager of Stager Cables, a New York-based company which manufactures “uncompromising high-end performance [cables] at sane prices”. The cables have received wide praise from critics and public alike. Many cite sound improvements, though I remain sceptical about that since no hard proof has ever been provided about those – and it’s with this mindset that I set out to review these Stager Silver Solids cables.
Disclaimer: many thanks to Marc Stager, who kindly loaned a pair of RCA interconnect cables to me free of charge. They retail for $170.
Packaging & Accessories
The cables reached me in a plastic postal bag – no fancy packaging to be found here.
Design & Build
The Stager Silver Solids cables are among the best-built I’ve found so far. The connectors look and feel solid, surely also due to the simple fact that the housings are massive and made of solid metal. There is a spring that acts as strain relief to prevent any damage from excessive bending.
The cables themselves are relatively thin and remind me more of headphone cables rather than interconnects, but there’s a couple of considerations to make about that. The first is that these are actually entirely made of silver, and not of copper. This makes a difference: silver is, in fact, a slightly better conductor than copper and the only reason why it’s not more widely used is due to its (relative) rarity and associated higher cost. This better conductivity is what offsets the thinner gauge, though one may argue that, due to the skin effect, theoretically only the outer layer counts and silver-plated copper should have the same, or incredibly similar, conductivity as pure silver cables. The second is that the amount of current flowing in the cables is actually low, so the difference between gauges only matters up to a certain (low) point.
The cables are quite malleable and kink-free, though they do tend to curl up a bit; I guess this would probably go away after a while, but in my desktop setup it was actually useful for them to stay curled up so I left them that way.
I have tested the Stager RCA cables with and SMSL DO300 DAC and a Drop THX AAA 789 amplifier. I have used an AudioQuest Tower 1 m RCA cable as a comparison, as well as the balanced connection using 50 cm XLR cables (the brand of which is not on the cables themselves, so I forgot it).
The good news is that the Stager silver cables sound exactly like I expect them: they make no difference. The bad news, if you believe that cables should colour your sound, is that the Stager silver cables sound exactly like I expect them: they make no difference. I have tried multiple headphones (HiFiMAN Arya, Letshuoer S12 Pro, HiFiMAN Edition XS…) and I haven’t been able to hear any difference, be it between the Stager cables and the AudioQuest one, or between them and the XLR ones. I simply cannot hear any difference whatsoever.
Stager writes on his website: “it is not how a cable makes music sound great. It’s about how it allows music to sound great by not hindering its transmission in any way. This is the clear and simple objective of Stager Silver Solids.” I can attest that, in fact, I can’t hear any influence from the cables. There’s the old issue with “believers” and “non-believers” about the influence of cables on sound; while I don’t want to stir that pot now, I would like to say that I find the lack of influence on sound a good thing, as the cables stay out of the way and do not introduce modifications. When you think about it, this is a good thing, because it allows the signal to go unchanged from your DAC to your amplifier, so that you can actually listen to the music as it was intended – and leave any colouration, if you would like that, to the amplifier and/or to the headphones or speakers.
Considering I couldn’t hear any difference between the $170 Stager silver cables and the $30 AudioQuest Tower, is there any point in buying the former? The answer is, perhaps surprisingly, yes, but it has nothing to do with sound. The reason is that the cables are incredibly well built and look absolutely stunning. This isn’t about sound, but more about how you want to invest your money – if you feel like you want nice cables for your setup because they look great or because they complete your setup better, then these cables are definitely a great addition. I don’t feel comfortable writing about extraordinary acoustic qualities which I simply cannot observe in my own experience, but I think there is a point in investing money in things you actually like and which make you feel better, especially when they are evidently made well and with lots of care like in this case. There is something to be said about doing things because they make you feel well, and I personally think it’s an important part of our experiences.