For once, we will be testing cables. Speaker cables, RCA interconnect and digital coaxial S/PDIF RCA cables by the French brand Viard Audio, to be precise. The French company’s high quality cables have been enjoying great success, particularly internationally, as they go really well with top-of-the-range electronics from McIntosh or Naim Audio for instance. Yet, Viard Audio also manufactures cables at interesting prices and we had to give them a go.
Viard Audio uses high quality copper, made in accordance with a patented technology called Cu-VHQ. Each cable is braided according to a specific technique and has a wiring direction indicated by an aluminium band marked by a red dot.
The RCA cable shielding mass is only on one side of the cable in order to avoid loops and must be as close to the source as possible, hence the importance of wiring direction and marking.
The sheath is made of white silicone, except for the Premium HP cable moulded in a PVC sheath. The connectors are all gold plated.
Three speaker cables put to the test
We tested the following speaker cables: Viard Audio Premium HD HP, Viard Audio Silver HD12 HP and Viard Audio Silver HD20 HP. In order to fully appreciate the quality of these cables, we used them along with different speakers and sources. Most of our tests were done using a Yamaha A-S2000 stereo amplifier, Yamaha RX-V775 amplifier, Pioneer N-50 network player and Q Acoustics 2050i floor-standing speakers. We also connected the terminals on the 2050i with Viard Audio Premium HD HP cable straps. We didn’t forget to also use mid-range amplifiers such as the NuForce DDA-100 and the Denon Ceol N8 network hi-fi system.
1. Viard Audio Premium HP
The Viard Audio Premium HP is the entry level of this series. Priced under 100? (for a 2 x 3 m pair) and fitted with banana plugs, this cable replaces the NorStone Silver 150 in our configuration. First, we kept the RCA Norstone RCS-500 cable in order to get a feeling of the difference one Viard Audio Premium HP would make.
The results were impressive, even with brand new cables which haven’t been broken-in yet. The listening experience is immediately enhanced: the medium range is pushed back a little and the bass is more subtle. This results in a feeling of greater transparency. This feeling became more and more of a certainty as we kept on using these cables.
Our second step was to replace the NorStone RCS-500 by a Viard Audio Premium HD RCA-RCA cable, which we used along with the Premium HP speaker cables. Everything seemed more calm, measured and detailed, so much so that we were a little scared at the idea of pushing up the volume of the Yamaha A-S2000. When turned up to a higher listening level, the overall sound is still very coherent and we do not feel overwhelmed. A very convincing test. We tried to plug the cables in the opposite direction and the Viard Audio Premium HD RCA-RCA sounded much less fluid.
2.Viard Audio Silver HD12
For less than 400? a pair and fitted with banana plugs, are the Viard Audio Silver HD12 four times better than the Premium HP? The first thing we noticed was how easy this cable is to install thanks to its 12 mm diameter silicone sheath which prevents the cable from being tangled. Each cable is fitted with a band indicating the wiring direction. Once the music starts, the Viard Audio Silver HD12 stands out immediately from the Premium HP. The lower-medium range is more present, which results in a pretty impressive emphasis on vocals.
At first, we were afraid that this change in the lower-medium range would colour the sound of the instruments but we were quickly proven wrong. This improvement was cleverly designed and does not affect the unity of sound tracks. On the contrary, it is even easier to enter the sound stage.
Another surprise: the low frequencies are even lower than with the Premium HP cable. The dynamic is immediately poignant, just like the quantity of information conveyed by the low frequencies. The Viard Audio Silver HD12 speaker cable is simply outstanding. Used along with the NuForce DDA-100 and the Denon Ceol N8, it felt like the listening experience was flowing better, although we didn’t think it needed any improvement. The Audio Silver HD 12 gave more room for the electronics to express their full capacity.
3. Viard Audio Silver HD20
Top-of-the-range model, the Viard Audio Silver HD20 speaker cable features a technology similar to the Silver HD12. Nevertheless, the copper treatment made it possible to obtain even lower inductance and impedance. The diameter of the silicone sheath is nothing short of impressive, just like the weight of the cable, which is close to a kilogram for a length of 2.5m.
Clearly, our Q Acoustics 2050i were not up to the task for such a cable, even paired up with the Yamaha A-S2000. The Viard Audio Silver HD20 delivers an incredible amount of information in the medium range but we can feel that only top of range speakers can truly benefit from it. We found that the medium was just as present as it was with the Silver HD12 but with a more refined and discreet treble.
The increase in transparency is clearly noticeable, but we would definitely not recommend using a pair of cables worth over 1000? with speakers worth less than 800?.
A digital coaxial cable with obvious qualities
The digital S/PDIF connection is, in most cases, the only way for a DAC to transmit studio quality audio, as optical connection is generally limited to 24 bits and 96 kHz. A quality coaxial cable is thus essential, which is why Viard Audio offers a variety of cables, including the Premium HD, which we tested.
For this test we used the NuForce DDA-100 amplifier as well as the Pioneer N-50 network player to stream CD and Studio quality FLAC files (up to 24 bits / 176.4 kHz). When compared to the 75 Ohms RCA cable we were previously using, the Viard Audio Premium HD proved itself to be very smooth and balanced. Oddly enough, the bandwidth seemed wider to us which is impossible considering that the signal is digital. It was then probably the result of reduced jitter and better high frequency delivery.
We noticed even slighter differences as the streaming of digital information was becoming more significant. Streaming a 24 bit / 88.2 kHz or a 24 bit / 176.4 kHz PCM audio file (which is the limit for the DDA-100) gave us the opportunity to notice a better airing of the sound stage, especially in high-frequencies.
It is absolutely clear that the Viard Audio cables bring smoothness and precision to music without robbing the buyer. Sure, Viard Audio manufactures and sells top-of-the-range audio cables with its Silver HD series, but the general public would make, in our opinion, a great mistake by overlooking the Premium HD series, which is not as expensive but is truly efficient.
We really liked the Viard Audio Silver HD12 cable?s analytical abilities in the medium and low frequency range. So much so that we have decided that it will be our reference for future tests. The same goes for the RCA-RCA Premium HD and the S/PDIF Premium HD cable.