Here is an edited review of the Zavfino 1877Phono tonearm cables, courtesy of Tom and originally posted on the Art of Sound forum:
“I’m on record as being something of a low level cable skeptic: at one point I had a full rig of expensive of Kondo interconnects, which I’d built up over years. Out of interest, I swapped them out for some of Paul Coupe’s RFC cables, decently made from proper stuff, but hardly in the same bracket price-wise, and frankly heard no loss of quality, indeed I heard precious little difference at all, whether in musicality or enjoyment, or in hifi qualities like timbre, detail or soundstage. After a few weeks of back and forth, I sold the lot and re-invested most of the not inconsiderable amount raised in some new components. I have zero regrets about this, fine audio jewellery that the other stuff was, it really wasn’t pulling its weight in terms of outlay.
That’s not to say I believe in using bell wire or the stuff you used to get free in the box. Rather, it’s my view that for most practical purposes, once you reach a certain level of quality (and, inevitably, price) – decent quality copper or silver conductors with appropriately low resistance and capacitance, proper shielding, quality connections properly put together – cables for the most part become quite hard to distinguish between. I’m not saying that for line-level use, cables can’t make a difference – only that differences tend for the most part to be relatively small in the grand scheme of things, and are not necessarily predictable or repeatable from system to system due to differences in component behavior. My solution was simply to go for good quality/well made but not astronomically priced stuff, and forget about it.
The one exception I’ve always maintained in this area is tonearm cables. When used with MC cartridges, these handle electrical signals with a tiny fraction of the voltage and current of line-level cables. As a result, they are for me the most critical cable in a system (followed by digital cables which are in a similarly critical position) so they more than merit special attention. This is where, for example, the lower resistance qualities of silver wire, top quality connectors, or well-executed shielding can and do make a significant, clearly audible difference, in ways that can be harder to discern at line level. So for the last 7-8 years since flogging the Kondo stuff, I have held on to my Audio Note solid silver tonearm cable.
However, a recent system shuffle left my trusty Audio Note silver interconnect a bit too short for comfort – so I turned to Hugo at Ammonite Audio for some thoughts. He sent me three cables from a new line he’s carrying – Zavfino, who are well known for supplying high quality connectors to DIY users and tio other audio companies for many years, but they are relatively new to the UK.
My main interest was in their top-end cable, the ‘Highlands’, listing at £355. This is a pure silver litz cable, albeit with fewer but thicker solid silver cores compared to the Audio Note’s very fine ones; the shield was ‘aluminium mylar’ (according to the Zavfino web site) with silver coated copper braid, made up with decent quality push-fit connectors of Zavfino’s own manufacture and a TAD arm plug, gold plated internally. Length was 1.2m and the cable itself was very flexible. The sound quality was comparable to my departing Audio Note silver – detailed, lovely timbre, nice space, balanced top to bottom – a real sense of rightness. My feeling was that both cables were doing exactly the same thing in the same way – with the kick being that the Zavfino is a third of the AN’s list price. For my personal tastes – renaissance, baroque and early classical music mainly, with a bit of jazz / jazz fusion and folk/acoustic stuff thrown in – this cable is frankly a bit of a bargain and worth a look in any high-resolution system.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I bought one, though with straight connector (the demo ones were with right angled connector which only just fits into the TD124). I have a suspicion this new cable will be a fixture for many years in the same way the Audio Note one was.
I also tried out two other cables, which like the first cable, I made a point of not reading about until I had listened to them. First was their entry level cable, the ‘Cove’ which comes in a fetching copper-braided sleeve. Listening tests were kind of surprising as my expectations were fairly low, but in fact it did a very competent job, albeit without the more delicate spatial nuances of the silver cable. Surprising quality sound and feel for what I later found was a price of £69. Not many bargains left in audio but I would suggest this is proper one.
Last but not least was the cable a notch up from this one, the ‘Mahone’. This actually was comparable in its quality feel and flexibility to the Highlands, only in grey stripes rather than green finish. It uses similar construction to the Cove, though with four cores of multi-strand OCC copper as opposed to the Cove’’s four cores of multi-strand OHFC. A small change it would appear, but the difference was palpable – this is a cable that has a big, bold sound to go along with its ability with detail, and indeed it wouldn’t surprise me if some preferred it over the silver cable, depending on musical genres and tastes. A further surprise was the price – I was expecting something closer to the price of the silver cable but in fact it sells for just £119 – well worth considering upgrading to this if there’s a prospect the system it’s going into would benefit from what it does.
Anyway, my thanks to Hugo for letting me have a play with these on the TD124″