August 15, 2009

DH Labs Silver Sonic White Lightning Interconnects

Category: Cables & Accessories


Darren Hovsepian founded DH Labs in 1992 with the goal of creating high-performance audio and video cables that deliver the highest possible level of sound and video quality. Since then, DHL has continually produced high-performance and cost-effective speaker cables and interconnects that have won a wide following in the audiophile community.

DH Labs currently offers four lines of factory-terminated interconnect cables in its Silver Sonic brand: the Revelations, at $399 USD per 1m pair; the Air Matrix, at $195/1m pair; the BL-1 Series II, at $99/1m pair; and finally, replacing the Phantom, the new White Lightning, at $49.95/1m pair. Knowing DH Labs’ reputation for producing high-value cables at affordable prices, I was anxious to hear the Silver Sonic White Lightnings.

Description and setup

Each White Lightning conductor is made of strands of oxygen-free-copper (OFC) completely sealed in a dielectric of foam polyethylene. The copper connectors are soldered by hand using high-purity, lead-free silver. According to DH Labs, the White Lightning’s very heavy braided shield gives it 95% coverage and a low capacitance of only 24pF/foot. The model’s name is printed on its pure white jacket.

I found the White Lightning not only attractive but very flexible; users will have little difficulty snaking this interconnect around corners or through audio cabinets.

During my time with the White Lightnings, they mostly linked a Sony CDP-CE375 CD changer and an Onkyo TX-SR602 receiver. The TX-SR602’s amplifier provides 85Wpc into 8 ohms, and drives two Klipsch RF-35 floorstanding speakers.


After inserting the White Lightnings in my system, I heard an immediate difference in output level compared to my generic cables. The DH Labs seemed to cut the general level of distortion and damp the background noise, with the result of a marked reduction in volume, though that reduction in noise also helped me distinguish individual notes.

The White Lightnings provided an excellent balance of sounds, especially in the mid to high frequencies. They were particularly efficient at revealing the differences among specific voices in a chorus, whether instrumental or human. I was able to distinguish specific performers in an orchestral arrangement that had been previously unidentified.

While the White Lightnings assisted in clarifying specific sounds in the lower frequencies, I can’t say that they enhanced that range in any way. In fact, I found that, in their quest for perfect tonal balance, the White Lightnings slightly marginalized the lower tones.

"February Song," from Josh Groban’s Closer (CD, Warner Bros. 48450-2), provides a balance between piano, strings, and voice. During Groban’s piano introduction, the White Lightning easily delineated each keystroke with a clear reverberance that seemed to fade off into a silent background. When Groban began to sing, the midrange was descriptive, letting me identify smaller sounds, such as his inhalations. When the strings and the rest of the band entered, they filled out the midrange beautifully, adding to the overall composition without overwhelming it.

Impressed, I then challenged the White Lightnings with an excellent recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.8 in C Minor, Op.13, "Pathétique," performed by Murray Perahia, from the soundtrack album for Immortal Beloved (CD, Sony Classical 66301). The DH Labs provided me with yet another lovely listening experience. While not extraordinary, the White Lightning’s ability to reproduce the acoustic piano was surprisingly good. Not only could I hear each of the keys being struck, but the background was so well defined that I could distinguish individual notes while they held their place in the melody. Again I found that each of the notes in the mid- to high range sounded more robust, adding a wonderful element of balance.


I began my comparisons with a pair of cheap, generic cables like those that accompany any typical audio component; I wanted to point out to novice readers the differences, if any, that a modest investment in audio cables can make in the overall listening experience.

With Groban’s "February Song," the no-name cable provided a large yet undistinguished sound. When Groban began singing, it was clear that his voice had been recorded to be the predominant one in a chorus of instruments. It was well pronounced but tinny, and without depth. When the strings and band entered, the generic interconnects failed at delivering an overall balanced presentation. As before, the White Lightning produced a lower volume than the generics; however, each of Groban’s piano keystrokes was individually detailed. The White Lightning’s ability to accentuate the midrange was very noticeable when compared with the no-name interconnects.

I then listened to "Attack," from Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack score for Pearl Harbor (CD, Warner Bros. 48113-2). For those unfamiliar with this track, I highly recommend it for a clear balance of intense percussion backed by a full orchestra and choir. "Attack" begins with an onslaught of percussion simulating the Japanese invasion. Switching back to the no-name interconnects, I immediately heard an increase in volume; the combination of timpani and bass drums was loud but muffled. A snare drum and tambourine in the background were difficult to distinguish, as the balance seemed dominated by the lower registers. The orchestral instruments sounded like a big melting pot of noise cumulating in a series of high notes led by the brass, which ultimately became broken and distorted. "Attack" proceeds into a lovely ballad led by a soloist that was entirely lost in the orchestra’s sound. Overall, the sound through the generic interconnects was loud, but tinny and without depth.

The White Lightnings produced a quieter, softer listening experience, eliminating any distortion while providing a much clearer, more distinguished sound. Through the DHLs I could identify individual drums; specifically, the snare and tambourine stood out to lead the percussion section, providing a marked improvement in clarity. During an orchestral crescendo about two minutes into "Attack," I was able to distinguish each of the individual wind and brass instruments, and the trumpets’ final notes were assertive and well defined. In the choral section, the soloist was more dominant, with a better balance between the string instruments and the singer’s vibrato. At no time was the voice lost in the orchestra -- quite the opposite: the voice flowed with the melody for maximum emotional effect, something that was completely lost with the no-name wires.


DH Labs’ Silver Sonic White Lightning produced crisp sound with well-defined mid- to high frequencies. Although there was an apparent decrease in volume when going to the White Lightnings from my generic interconnects, there was also a noticeable reduction in distortion and background noise, and a definite increase in resolution and detail. The subtle details were easier to hear. The White Lightnings tended to be a bit lighter in the bass, but not to the point of imbalance.

DH Labs’ reputation is safe. They’ve created in the Silver Sonic White Lightning, at $49.95/1m pair, an incredibly cost-effective interconnect that gives the developing audiophile on a modest budget a great upgrade from generic interconnects, and that will result in a greatly improved listening experience.

. . . Jarrett Dixon

Price of equipment reviewed