EGM Audio Cable Range Review
Brisbane-based EGM Audio makes a range of affordable, high-value cables. Joel Massey launched the company back in January 2016, with the idea of becoming his country’s leading supplier of audio cables and accessories. Being at the value end of the market, some of the materials used are sourced in China, but all cables are terminated and finished in Australia.
Joel started some twenty years ago with Queensland Speaker Repairs, now one of the largest and most successful businesses of its type in Australia. Q.S.R. specialises in the repair of loudspeakers, PA equipment and home and car audio. It sells an exhaustive range of high-quality aftermarket spare parts such as recone kits and driver surrounds. Unlike a lot of businesses, it carries out all repair work in-house. This skill base is also key to its manufacturing of cables, a selection of which we look at here.
EGM Audio currently has nineteen different audio connectors available, including seven different banana speaker plugs – in plastic, metal or carbon fibre shells and with copper, gold or rhodium-plated finishes. Spade speaker connectors come in either gold or rhodium-plated finishes. There are rhodium-plated RCA plugs, as well as XLR plugs and sockets with a carbon fibre jacket that are ideal for making into high grade interconnects, and very reasonably priced for the quality. Fit and finish of the connectors are world-class, with a lustre to the plated finishes that wouldn’t be out of place at a European automotive retailer.
The accessories that piqued my interest are the banana, RCA and XLR noise stoppers. These are caps that are placed over unused sockets at the back of your amplifier or audio device. Normally those connections are left to the elements to gather dust and corrode over the life of the device. These noise stoppers are rhodium-plated, tight-fitting, good looking and likely to make a huge difference to maintaining the quality of the covered connections over time. Joel says they also block out a significant portion of incoming high-frequency energy from your connectors, which would otherwise end up operating like RF antennas, feeding noise that could easily interfere with optimum circuit performance. They push on to any free connection not being used.
With my Cambridge Audio Edge A integrated amplifier, they reduced the noise floor and allowed the music to breathe easier. The soundstage widened and deepened, giving a more natural recorded acoustic. Bass improved subtly and was better defined, and there was greater transparency to the instruments. I heard the same from a Perreaux 255i integrated – it reduced noise levels and again improved sound staging, dynamics and detail. This amp has two sets of speaker binding posts, so I used the banana noise stopper in the unused pair and it didn’t make much difference but looked neat nevertheless.
Inserting RCA noise stoppers into a Bluesound Node 2i also improved things in much the same way as the amplifiers. Results may vary, but in my system, I could certainly hear worthwhile improvements. The RCA and banana noise stoppers are only $3 each and the XLR are $5 each, so it’s a cheap tweak to try for yourself. Build and finish are fantastic and they look and feel like they’re far more expensive than they actually are.
Fibre Optic TOSLINK cable
These provide galvanic isolation between devices by transmitting the signal via a fast pulsing red light source, rather than by an electrical signal. EGM Audio sells a 1.0m length for $23 which features 24k gold-plated connectors and precision polished fibre tips. Hooking up a Bluesound Node 2i to my Chord Qutest DAC, the sound was full, balanced and detailed, with a wide-open soundstage. I compared it against an existing no-name cable, and the EGM audio sounded noticeably better. It was nicer to listen to, with more detail and transparency. I also compared it to Wireworld’s Supernova 7 TOSLINK – $399 for 1.0M length – which is seventeen times more expensive, but sounded far from seventeen times better.
EGM Audio’s offering conforms to the latest v2.0 standard for 4K Ultra HD, and surpasses the standard minimum requirement of 18Gbps, with 23Gbps transmission speed. It is made from 99.99% oxygen-free, high-conductivity (OFHC) copper conductors with 2% silver plating and triple aluminium shielding for minimum interference and speed. With 24k gold-plating on the connectors, a 1.0m length costs a modest $35.
It delivered excellent results on a high definition 4K projector, with no dropouts or artefacts – just a clean colourful image. I also tried it on the latest Samsung 4K UHD television with an Apple TV 4K without the slightest issue. Video clarity, graphics and sound quality were excellent, and the other two-way communications of an HDMI cable like ARC and CEC worked faultlessly. A top value, fine quality high bandwidth HDMI cable.
Audio power cables
EGM Audio offers four grades of audio power cables, starting at $119 for a 1.0m Grey Series and going up to $399 for the top-grade Black Series cable:
- Grey Series V2 from: $119.00 16AWG 3 core
- Red Series V2 from: $199.00 14AWG 3 core
- Blue Series V2 from: $299.00 12AWG 3 core
- Black Series V2 from: $399.00 16AWG 7 core
Touted as ‘audiophile-grade’ power cables, they naturally have EMI/RFI protective screening, connected directly to the ground pin at the AC side, so the interference can drain to earth. This improves the sound and/or the picture quality of your connected device. These cables are designed and handmade in Australia using 99.999% OFC pure electrolytic copper, and available in a wide range of custom lengths with IEC C19, C15 or C7 female plug tops to suit your device. They all conform to the AS/NZ standard. American and European male AC receptacles are also available to special order. The Grey, Red and Blue audio power cables are all now second-generation versions.
The Grey series cables are pleasingly flexible due to their use of 16AWG 3-core wiring, but things get thicker as you go up the range due to heavier gauge cable with superior current handling capability. The Black is the latest inclusion to the range, and the current reference grade. It uses seven cores of 16AWG wire in parallel to effectively make 13AWG cores, again using 99.999% OFC ultra-pure electrolytic copper. This is complemented with EGM Audio’s AC plug top with Copper/Tellurium composition pins for optimum sound quality.
Subjectively, as you go up the range, you get an increase in sound quality. These cables are equally happy powering source devices as well as power amplifiers. They resolve fine detail very well, showing an open and unrestricted soundstage that’s spacious and tonally neutral. The Black Series ML Reference cable was put against an older model Analysis Plus cable worth $1,200 and sounded resoundingly better for less than half the price. I also used a Grey series cable fitted with an IEC C7 connector into a Bluesound Node 2i and it embarrassed the standard cable that the unit was shipped with.
Do longer power cables sound better or worse than shorter ones? I was able to test three grades of power cables at one and two-meter lengths. In all cases, the longer power cable sounded significantly better. There’s much conjecture as to why cables longer than a single meter may sound better in systems, so I won’t add to the speculation. What is certain is that if you’re in the market for an audio-grade power cable, you’ll likely prefer the longer length.
EGM Audio currently has two speaker cables, the Grey and Red series, both available with the second generation improvements. The Grey series has a smooth PVC jacket, so is flexible and easy to handle. The conductors are made from high quality 16-gauge 99.999% OFC pure electrolytic copper, and are two flat solid core cables paralleled together, one each for the positive and negative terminals. These flat wire cables have low capacitance and are claimed to have less skin effect than multi-strand. The cables are made to order, with a 2.5m pair costing $119 with either banana or spade connectors fitted.
The Red series cable is very similar, using similar but thicker 14-gauge 99.999% OFC pure electrolytic copper cores and an extra nylon outer jacket, for additional protection. The outer sheaf is an attractive red and black nylon braid with clearly marked polarity, and classy rhodium-plated banana or spade connectors. The 2.5m pair tested retails for $299. Both cables are directional and are marked with arrows for the correct orientation.
The Red Series V2 cable sounded clean, even and detailed on my big system. Against my $1,500 speaker cables, I was pleasantly surprised just how well it performed. There wasn’t quite the treble and bass extension or dynamic energy, but it does cost one-fifth of the price. Indeed, taken in isolation it’s highly convincing because it doesn’t do anything wrong. As such it represents excellent value for money.
EGM Audio doesn’t have the cachet of some fancy foreign brands, but nor do its products have the price. Instead, it offers good, old fashioned, unalloyed value for money. Sound is really strong for the price, and build is beyond reproach at this end of the market. This is certainly a manufacturer to watch then, one with a growing range and reputation. Factor in the company’s money-back risk-free guarantee on everything it sells and its products really are hard to fault.
For more information, visit EGM Audio.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.