Do you believe in fate, or that everything happens for a reason? That’s how I felt when I first decided to review ArgentPur cables.
First, Ernest Meunier of ArgentPur contacted PTA and asked if we would be interested in reviewing his new cables. Then, Ernest contacted me directly via email. Then, John Marks sent me an email recommending a couple of products including a new cable line–which happened to be ArgentPur. The folks over at Fidelis Distribution also chimed in with their enthusiasm for these cables, and I tend to listen closely to them. Finally, I visited Dr. Vinyl last spring in Baltimore to hear the Nola Baby Grand Reference Gold 3 loudspeakers, which were indeed connected with a pair of ArgentPur speaker cables.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
By the time I returned home from Baltimore, I considered whether or not this was a concerted effort from multiple parties, or just a coincidence. Nevertheless I agreed to review ArgentPur, based mostly upon my experience with Dr. Vinyl. We spent three days straight listening to that wonderful system, from morning until night, and one of the things I discovered was that Dr. Vinyl and I have very similar tastes in gear. He loved ArgentPur–why shouldn’t I?
I spoke to Ernest one more time, and in a few days I had one 2.5m pair of ArgentPur AGPur12 speaker cables ($6,000) and a 1m pair of Heracles RCA interconnects ($2,800). They were light-in-hand, as we say in the cigar world, weighing almost nothing. ArgentPur’s slogan is “nothing sounds like this,” and Ernest says his original goal with these cables was a “minimalist assault on the requirements of audio signal transmission.” He chose pure silver rather than copper for his cables, which is why you’ll see the letters Ag all over the place, because its conductivity is around 6% greater.
Ernest also brought up one more reason why so many cable manufacturers avoid pure silver. “First, the reason others don’t use PURE Ag (instead of plated Ag on Cu or naked pure Cu), is that AG costs 80x as much as Cu!” he explains.
The last time I played around with silver cabling, many years ago, I was mildly put off by the lean and analytical balance. Someone at the time told me to stick with copper, and I have. But my experience with ArgentPur at Dr. Vinyl’s house leads me to believe there’s more to the story–which is usually the case with high-end audio. It might be time for me to reconsider silver cables.
With a name like ArgentPur, it has to be all about the silver. These cables feature pure silver. Ernest has noted that many cable companies use what he calls “umpteen nines CU” and still use silver plating to improve performance. Why not just use all silver?
For every audiophile who has complained about the sound of silver cables–just like I already have–there’s a good chance that a mixture of different metals were the reason why the sound was interpreted as harsh, bright or etched. Ernest insists that pure silver has no sound of its own. This makes perfect sense to me after my experience with Audio Group Denmark products and their hierarchy of metals that are used in their products to reduce inductance–stainless steel, then copper, then silver, then titanium and then gold. (That’s not even considering the conductivity of each material, which is why this particular analogy is quite jagged around the edges.)
Ernest goes a little deeper into his cable construction on his website:
“In order of preference, the available media for the Ag conductors to rest within are: a vacuum (rather impractical), air, and then the low dielectric effect insulative barriers when necessary. The best of these are arguably the fluorocarbons.
“To minimize dielectric effect further, each individual Ag strand used in ArgentPur is manually threaded through its own fluorocarbon tube that is 5-10x larger so that contact between the Ag conductor strand and its protective carrier is dramatically reduced by this roomy air space. Capacitance and inductance are thus minimized, with the benefit of no “signal-hopping” destructive interference across the frequency spectra.”
Interestingly enough, the different models in the ArgentPur speaker cable lines are based on sensitivity, which is why Ernest’s first question to me was “which speakers will you be using?” As you go up and down the five models in the speaker cable line, from the AgPur16 (16AWG, 1.5mm2) that is ideal for high-efficiency speakers, to the AgPur11 (11AWG, 4.0mm2) that is designed for hard-to-drive speaker loads, you’ll notice this is largely the same cable design. The biggest difference is the amount of pure silver strands that are used.
Ernest goes into further detail:
“Importantly, the AgPur Speaker Cable choices are predominantly decided by speaker load SENSITIVITY, and then maybe next impedance, room size, bass slam level needed et al. To wit I developed an x-y simple graph suggesting how to match speaker sensitivity and cable length needed to make a high-value selection. You evaluated AgPur 12 (AWG) to ensure sufficient current delivery at the standard 2.5M demo length. As you know, I have lower cost models for shorter runs and more efficient loads I am decidedly NOT ever attempting to pull clients up in price. (Indeed I developed the AgPur 16 specifically for the 97dB/W-M Heretic I wired this past year at shows, as that’s all that was needed. That these speakers are $10k/pr also made the $3k/pr AgPur16 reasonable.)”
For the interconnects, ArgentPur is grouped into three different models–the entry-level Harmonie, Athene and the flagship Heracles. These three models, again, are differentiated by the number of pure silver strands that are used within, and are priced accordingly. Ernest mentioned this to me: “Most of the time folks cannot differentiate between my mid-level Athene ICs from the statement Heracles. That makes the lower cost Athene a superb value play ($2k vs $2.8k, 1M RCA).” In addition, ArgentPur features a line of power cords, and cables known as Flyovers, which are meant to be “laid over” existing copper wire cables for a larger helping of the pure Ag technologies.
Who is Ernest Meunier, by the way?
“I started as a baroque organist prodigy while building short wave and audio gear as a teen. At Brown I learned to bang piannas in the women’s dorms, then spent a decade as a metrologist and engineer in lab apparatus design and measurement scenarios, publishing ISO and ASTM standards therein. A major blowup resulted in career path #2 as Boston’s TheSubaruGuru for nearly 4 decades as I kept audiophilia and amateur classical pianism as passions. I developed a few disruptively low-cost decent Teflon/Cu power cables for a few hundred A’goners earlier, but core materials became relatively onerous.”
“Last year I decided to revamp my ref system…specifically shedding my old Nelson Pass Aleph monos and Nordost, hot-wiring new monos and jumpers with solid pure Ag…and my jaw dropped! I then made prototypes for Golden Ears around FIDELIS, wherein I was strongly cajoled to get off my ass and build speaker cables, and soon matching interconnects…and recently power cables.
“ArgentPur are all HANDMADE with many variable-gauge Ag strands individually pushed through hollow Teflon tubes. Speaker cables take 5-8 hours, interconnects 3-4 each pair. Since Ag-PLATED Cu is cheap (I call it Chinese rice), I wouldn’t bother if there wasn’t such a dramatic delta in performance.”
Based on Ernest Meunier’s observation that his cables made small monitors sound bigger, I used the ArgentPur AgPur 12 speaker cables with four stellar monitors I’m reviewing–the Aretai Contra 100s ($9,000/pr), the Piega Coax 411s ($10,000/pr), the Gershman Acoustics Studio XdBs ($12,000/pr) and the surprising Falcon Acoustics M10s ($2,195/pr), which are perfectly home in this group of excellent transducers. These cables are so light and flexible, they’re a dream to install. For the last few years I’ve been wrestling with relative big or stiff cables, which can be troubling when you’re dealing with spades and you’re constantly trying to get them to line up right-side up with the binding posts. There’s something to be said for cables that are not garden hoses, and for cables flexible enough so that you can install them in tight places without worrying about turn radii.
The ArgentPur cables spent a long time, too long really, breaking in with a secondary system. That’s because I’ve been listening to the Audio Note UK system for so long, which means I’ve been using Audio Note cables for the same length of time. By the time I made the move from a Portland apartment to a big house on the lake on the Oregon Coast, the ArgentPur cables were ready for their close-up in a system that included the Audio-gd Master 10 Mk.II integrated amplifier ($3,999, a stupendous value since it weighs almost 100 pounds and has 250wpc into 8 ohms, 500 into 4 and 1000wpc into 2).
The analog source was the Pear Audio Blue Kid Howard with Cornet 2 tonearm, and both the Luxman LMC-5 and my reference ZYX Ultimate Airy D cartridges. The digital sources included the $30,000 Antipodes Oladra music server, the Innuos Pulsar streamer ($5,695) and the Merason DAC-1 Mk. II ($8,000). Other cabling in the system was primarily Furutech NCF, and power management was supplied by an AudioQuest Niagara 3000. In addition, I used the RCA interconnects to test out the two GoldenEar subwoofers I have on hand. (I know, I should use nothing but AudioQuest on GoldenEar speakers, but I don’t have a single RCA interconnect in my entire AQ stash!)
I know this represents a somewhat tricky set-up for a review system–new review gear, new house, new room. I’ve been here before because I’ve moved so much over the years, but that doesn’t mean I can be capricious about my findings. I was determined not to jump to any conclusions, and to swap enough pieces in and out of the system so I could determine what each component contributed.
I know, cables aren’t supposed to have a sound. If anything, have NO SOUND WHATSOEVER is what we’re aiming for whenever it comes to cables. But I was fascinated by Ernest Meunier’s comment that small monitors in particular seemed to benefit from the ArgentPur technology. I wasn’t able to confirm that ArgentPur made little speakers sound like big speakers, especially when I compared them to other speaker cables I have on hand, but there’s no doubt that AgPur12 had an impact in soundstage width and depth. (That is a different type of “big,” after all.)
These cables also had an impact upon my preconceptions about silver cables, and that they usually offer a more detailed and analytical sound than their OFC copper counterparts. This old and creaky belief of mine was first addressed by the Audio Note UK system I just reviewed, with its silver cables. That system sounded anything but cold or sterile or bright–in fact, the AN system bristles with natural energy and tremendous warmth.
Perhaps that made it easier to slide into the ArgentPur combination, perhaps not. My brain, the same brain that loves warmth and euphonic colorations and vinyl and tubes, gave me an immediate thumbs-up and declared, “Ain’t nothing wrong with these silver cables, either!” This is one of the big lessons I’ve learned in 2023–don’t fear the silver.
If I could detect a signature to the ArgentPur cables, it was one of refinement and of quiet. I’ve clearly become accustomed to low noise floors in my audio systems, and not once did the ArgentPur make me feel like I was taking a step backward without all those grounding and noise-reducing products in my current stable. With ArgentPur in my reference system, the music took on a composed, mature sound that seemed incredibly well-anchored in space. In addition, I was quite pleased with the level of clarity I experienced. Most importantly, the ArgentPur preserved my standard for low noise in my system.
These were completely satisfying listening sessions. First, I discovered that my new listening room is quite exceptional. After setting up three different pairs of stand-mounted speakers, I uncovered no obnoxious bass nodes or room reflections–even with those huge picture windows behind the system. (Thanks to the size of this room, I can pull speakers out from the back wall five to six feet without a problem.)
After my move, I was finally able to relax and catch up on music for the first time since the Florida Audio Expo in February. So not only was I dealing with a new room and many new review components at the same time, I was exploring unfamiliar music as well. That’s a lot of variables to consider, and yet I was able to swap cables around until I noticed distinctive patterns in the ArgentPur sound.
The natural clarity and aforementioned composure turned out to be an ideal match for the Yulunga Test. That first soft bass drum strike on the opening track on Dead Can Dance’s Into the Labyrinth should yield a wealth of low-frequency information–it’s much more than a simple thud. (I’ll let you in on a secret–one of the super-duper six-figure speakers I heard during 2023 was perfect in every way, until it flubbed the Yulunga Test by offering a flabby and indistinct whump that I could barely detect.)
With the ArgentPur in the system, I heard everything I expected to hear–and from three relatively small speakers that don’t reach 20Hz (although the Gershman Acoustics Studio XdB monitors come surprisingly close.) That low whump should bloom and the decay should linger for quite some time. There’s an arc to this sound that goes beyond the usual three-part rendering of the hit–the actual strike of the drum head, the sound blooming inside the body of the drum and finally the way that sound floats out into the room. I could hear it all with ArgentPur in the system, even the way that the actual tone of the bass drum seems to change slightly during its trajectory.
I gotta admit–I was nervous about doing a cable room right after I moved to a new house, a new listening room, with a gaggle of other review components that were also getting their first auditions. I was even more nervous about the room itself–I’ve been wondering for quite a while if this irregularly-shaped big room, with its tall ceiling and huge picture windows and slightly uneven floors, was going to be a sonic disappointment. Luckily, this room might be the best-sounding room I’ve had. After listening to the ArgentPur with four different speakers and an unknown quantity of an amplifier, there were some consistencies that became obvious.
It should be clear by now that a great high-end audio cable does not add anything to the signal that wasn’t already there. It needs to step out of the way as much as possible. With ArgentPur in the system, I stopped thinking about reviewing cables and just started enjoying the music. I told myself several things: yes, this new room is exquisite and has not presented me with any problems, such as a need to constantly address the room nodes and reflections that sporadically haunted my last listening room. Yes, I’m spacing out on the music. Yes, I’m falling asleep in front of my system, which to me is the highest compliment I can pay to hi-fi. No, I can’t hear the ArgentPur adding anything to the sound at all.
There are many new cable companies in the high-end audio industry, challenging the status quo by exploring new ways to make a wire pass a signal with editorializing the sound. I’ve come to think of these products as boutique cables, but not in the pejorative sense. The high-end audio cable market is dominated by big names, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore people like Ernest Meunier, who has spent a lot of time wrestling with ideas and innovations. ArgentPur should be on your radar if only for the fact that people inside the high-end audio industry are talking about them and recommending them to each other. Maybe audiophiles should, too.