Perhaps not exactly a new boss, though the new XV2 looks so similar to the HDXV it replaces that I had to call up Chris Sommovigo and ask him if he had sent me a placebo. "Are you sure you sent me the new one?" I asked. At first glance it looked like the same thin cable with braided shield and the same BNC connectors with RCA adapters. But it was labeled "Stereovox XV2 75 Ohms" and it had white shrink-wrap on both ends, unlike the HDXV. On closer inspection, the XV2 seemed to have a tighter woven metal foil shield. I took his word for it and swapped it into the system. After reviewing the Aural Acoustics Model B speakers for a couple of months I turned my attention back to the XV2. To establish a base line for this review I started listening with my original Illuminations D-60. This was Chris' earlier digital cable that had been a standard for many Stereophile writers back in the 1990's. If you haven't relegated your D-60 to the Audiophile Hall of Fame, do so immediately. To try and sell it on eBay would be immoral. Time has marched on. And so has Stereovox with the new XV2. Your HDXV, however, is still good enough to be utilized in a second system, possibly for carrying a video signal, or donated to the budding audiophile you are mentoring.
There is little point in writing a lengthy formal review of the XV2. It is blatantly superior to the HDXV it replaces. There is no need to punish you with a tales of recordings with which you are probably not familiar. At a cost of $150, the XV2 is such a gift to High End audio that Chris Sommovigo should immediately be forgiven for selling outrageously expensive turntables and loudspeakers I listened to most of the eighteen segments on my compilation CD, first with the HDXV and then with the XV2, swapping cables with each segment of music. Tedious, but telling. This CD contains a wide variety of mostly non-audiophile music that I know by heart. In every instance the XV2 outperformed the HDXV by a significant and unquestionable margin. Better focus, more transparent, slightly wider and slightly deeper soundscape, better illumination at the back of the stage, slightly more recessed soundscape, tighter bass improving pace and rhythm, as well as revealing more timbre in the bass, better inner details revealing more room tone and timbre, lower noise floor (because there was less noise all over), smoother, more grain-free, more open at the top end revealing better shimmer on the cymbals, better upper harmonics of string instruments, better control of sibilance, etc. All in all, the XV2 is a significant step closer to the master tape.
Listening became easier because I didn't have to concentrate to hear the details; they magically appeared. Time and again, my reviewers' hat fell off; it was so easy to lapse into enjoying the music. I'm not a big fan of classical music, but I was amazed by the clarity of massed instruments and the retrieval of ambient hall reverberation and detail. Who cares any more if it's digital? Possibly, in the exalted $600 to $2000 range there is a cable that will surpass this one, but it is hard to imagine an expensive cable surpassing the XV2 in value. So, what's not to like? Well, it didn't do much for my LP collection. But if Chris ever gets around to designing a tonearm cable that does as much for LPs as the XV2 does for CDs, analog will surely never die. In street-speak, I guess you would call this a "no-brainer." If it doesn't get you where you want to go, check the oil, check the air filter and check the tire pressure. The problem is not with the cable.
While I lust after a primo video system, I really don't have the time to watch much TV. Consequently, my video system is modest. But I figured somebody would ask the question so I ran a comparison of the XV2 carrying a composite video signal with an Acoustic Research Performance Series High Definition S-video cable costing in the neighborhood of about $30. In theory, an S-video cable should produce a better picture than a composite video cable, but the XV2 produced a slightly cleaner picture with better skin detail on close-ups and a little less contrast. The DVD player was an inexpensive Sony and the TV was a 24-inch Sony Wega flat screen CRT. Like I said, modest. In the real world, though, video is gravitating toward HDMI and a component video set of XV2 cables, while available, would be a costly commitment to an outmoded solution. As a single digital cable running from a DVD player to a surround sound processor or receiver, the XV2 would make a lot of sense in a premium home theater.
Type: 75 Ohm digital audio and video cable
Price: $150 for one meter length
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