We admit that the change of plating on a set of banana plugs isn’t particularly glamorous. But take a listen to a 2022 sample of Chord Company’s award-winning RumourX speaker cable using the new ChorAlloy plated banana plugs and it’s hard to do anything but nod in appreciation.
It’s not that RumourX wasn’t already a great speaker cable. It has been our go-to premium recommendation for a number of years now, and rightly so. On paper, its twisted pair construction to improve electrical interference rejection is hardly unusual, and the use of relatively thin and stiff 6mm conductors – silver plated copper – isn’t massively impressive. But there’s a reason that the Rumour has been part of Chord’s line-up for decades.
It was introduced in 1996 and was just the second speaker cable the company ever made. Rumour was a success from the beginning and has been developed sparingly over the years. The addition of a soft outer sheath over the twin conductors and a change of dielectric from PTFE (Teflon) to Chord’s now favoured XLPE (cross-linked polyethylene) in late 2018 being the most notable revisions.
It is fair to say that in comparison, the change of plug coating from silver plating to ChorAlloy – the company is sketchy on details, calling it a multi-metal material – seems pretty minor.
Construction 6mm twisted pair
Conductor material Silver-coated copper strands
Plugs 4mm banana coated with ChorAlloy
The new plating looks shinier, almost chrome-like in comparison to the previous silver alternative. Chord says it gives improved connection quality with greater resistance to tarnishing over time. The result is claimed to be a more musical sound.
Of course, cables are passive components that only carry the sound between components in your system. They can’t actively make the sound better, so the best cable is the one that degrades the signal the least. We try the RumourX in a number of systems from our reference set-up of Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer, Burmester 088/911Mk3 amplifier and ATC SCM50 speakers, to a more price-compatible pairing of Naim Supernait 3 and KEF’s LS50 Metas.
We have a sample of the previous generation RumourX to hand, but it doesn’t take long to hear the improvements. Listening through either of our systems, it’s clear that the basic character of the cable hasn’t changed. This is still a detailed and dynamically expressive performer that’s unusually surefooted when communicating rhythmic drive. Yet, as we listen to the likes of Olafur Arnald’s Found Songs and Hans Zimmer's Interstellar OST, it is clear that the latest version of the cable is more balanced with a tauter, more controlled bass performance. There is a greater sense of openness about the sound and a little more subtlety in the way it renders dynamic nuances. At the top end, our system sounds just that touch more refined whereas the last generation cable adds a small degree of previously easily-ignored hardness in this region.
We switch to Carnage by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and enjoy the 2022 edition’s extra clarity and improved transparency. It feels like the inclusion of ChorAlloy has just increased the RumourX’s ability to pass the signal without messing with it too much. Anything that allows us to enjoy Cave’s heartfelt music even more is just fine with us.
We want to make it clear that these aren’t night and day differences. They are relatively subtle, even through a revealing set-up, so if you have last year’s RumourX it isn’t absolutely essential that you get the plugs changed to ChorAlloy. If you do though, the sound will be a little better.
- Sound 5
- Build 5
- Compatibility 5
See all the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winners
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I suspect you've been here long enough to know that this section doesn't get WHF replies, though.
As you can imagine, science has not fully unraveled the mysteries of human hearing and brain perception. How we each perceive what we hear is not necessarily the exact same way. This alone makes the musical listening experience as complex as the making of music itself.
Now add to this brew the physics of designing speakers, electronics design of amplifiers, sources, room acoustics, you will easily see cable materials and construction can and does influence the aggregate sonic result, either way.
Like fine wine, taste buds can't lie when it senses degrees of refinement and tools to measure this don't exist. Our natural tools are unsurpassed.
It's not too difficult to trace the output of two different cables, phase invert one and merge. That shows only the real differences, if there are any - good and bad.