Ricable Invictus Speaker Cable and Balanced analogue cables REVIEW
This is a review written by Steve Crowe June 2023.
When Terry discussed with me if I could review Ricable’s top of the line speaker cable, what came out of that discussion was the preference to review a loom, rather than the speaker cables alone. This would ensure the integrity of the system and ensure that there were no mismatches along the way. I already own a single manufacturer loom, I have been using Townshend F1 Fractals between DAC, preamp and from preamp to power amp and power amp to speakers. Unfortunately, I need two metres between phono and pre and the cost of F1 cables at that length was outside my budget. Instead I use a pair of Atlas Ascent Ultra phono cables, which seem to do well. Fortunately, Ricable could supply the cables needed and I have been enjoying them in my system for the past couple of months. Full system details are below. Ricable also supplied their Supreme HDMI for an I2S connection between my SACD player and DAC. I found the Supreme HDMI to be excellent and you can read my review for it here.
I don’t have vast experience listening to lots of different loudspeaker cables to this point. Prior to the Townshend I had some time with the MCRU Ultimate cables and Tellurium Q Statement I. In view of this I approached the Ricable loom with a very open mind.
Both my existing Townshend loom and the Ricable loom consist of one metre XLR balanced analogue cables and two metre length speaker cables. Although some comparisons are inevitable, as the Townshend’s are my benchmark, a direct comparison would be disingenuous as the Townshend loom has a suggested retail price of £6,574 and the Ricable, £3,890. If you Google the F1 Fractals, don’t be fooled by some of the prices you see – several are for single cables rather than pairs so it can be misleading.
Ricable are an Italian manufacturer based in Oleggio, close to the Alps in Northern Italy. All their cables are hand built and there are several comprehensive ranges to suit all pockets. Something I really like about Ricable is they offer lifetime warranties on their products, which is activated once you register them on their website. I think this is very welcome peace of mind reassurance for someone spending Invictus level money, but its also fantastic peace of mind for all Ricable customers and something worth mentioning and praising.
These cables exude quality. If you can have a pride of ownership in cables then Ricable delivers in spades. The XLR plugs are flawless and they bind tightly to a substantial sheath which hides the inner workings. The Ricable range is colour-coded and the Invictus come in a muted but pleasant shade of blue mixed with white. Neither the XLR nor speaker cables are good in tight corners and I reckon that manufacturers deliberately design their products to make you struggle with that last quarter turn to orientate the XLR plug into its socket, maybe as part of encouraged audiophile yoga or exercise. Here’s a tip – put the lower end in first – I didn’t so learnt the harder way. Fortunately the speaker cables have flyers which separate the positive and negative from the main cable and they are quite flexible helping eith their installation. The review pair were terminated with heavy, locking, banana plugs, which worked fine for me. The XLR and speaker variants visually match perfectly and I liked that attention to detail. Full specification details are available here.
All the Ricable cables came well packaged, which you should expect for a top-of-the-range product, but still it creates a nice buyer experience to unbox them. The XLR balanced cables are about 1.1cm in diameter, very substantial for this type of cable and they have an interesting design that is triple shielded with a multi material mix of copper, aluminium and magnesium. The conductors used are all 7N MARC (Multicore Annealed Ricable Conductors) these same conductors are used throughout the Invictus range. The XLR connectors have OFC copper connectors and a proprietary 24k gold / copper electrolysis plating. Even more interesting is the use of RNR Ricable Noise Reduction system that uses a Germanium semiconductor on all of the conductors, they claim this reduces noise. I didn’t know what this meant so did the usual Google search and could find a lot of information about Germanium but not so much about its effects for noise reduction.
The speaker cables, are directional and surprise you with just how heavy they are and at 2.2cm diameter feel very substantial in your hands. The Ricable Invictus speaker cables have ‘1038 triple-twisted wires in six strands and a 9 strand solid core insulated conductor’ – well beyond the ’79-strand’ many of us will have used years ago. I cant help but be impressed by this. The conductors are all 7N MARC as previously mentioned as is the triple layer shield and the connectors are again proprietary made from OFC with the same copper / gold electrolysis plating.
My Townshend speaker cables are very different designs, their hexagonal structure of the twin Zobel networks at the end of each cable give them, what you might call, an ‘industrial look’. This perception is enhanced by the XLRs which arrive packaged in movie canisters. The Townshend speaker cables house a dielectric as can be seen here, totally unlike the Ricable, which is unfiltered. The design of the XLRs is completely different, both in look and construction. They have a pink inner housing the connecting wires (for an explanation see here) and an outer transparent sheath. It is somewhat reminiscent of the type of washing line my mother used to use. The specifications of the two cables are available via the links. What you can take from this, is there are many different ways to approach HiFi cables design and its interesting to listen to such contrasting approaches.
My TV is connected through my HiFi system and this was ideal for letting the Ricable just play for a couple of weeks before undertaking any serious listening. I have to add here that, in this review, I am pulling out minor characteristics to illustrate the perceived audible differences I experienced when comparing two excellent sets of HiFi cables.
The Ricable Invictus are, without doubt, very good sounding, very high quality cables. The noise floor is exceptionally low and the amount of detail let through is quite remarkable. The sound has a crispness about it and the overall balance is very engaging although I found it to be a little on the drier side in my system compared to what I am used to. Bass is clear, well separated, and is able to plumb the depths. Vocals are crystal clear and are neither too forward or too deep in the soundstage, taking a neutral position along the plane of the speakers and I of course really enjoyed this attribute. My speakers, although stand mount, have built-in sub-woofers and they produce a lot of energy in the sub-bass region. My room isn’t ideal for controlling the deepest bass and music can frequently rattle the doors! The Ricable didn’t create any new problems in this situation, in fact my perception is that there were less, indicating a nice and tight bass with excellent control.
The Ricable sounded different to the Townshend but not necessarily better or worse, just different and there in comes preference and choice. Each have their strengths and few weaknesses. Interestingly, in my system, the Invictus loom I found suited my vinyl source (Rega P10, PS Audio Stellar Phono) more than my digital setups (Melco, PS Audio Directstream player), something I was not expecting but did experience so thought important to share
For listening, I play a wide range of music but concentrate on a limited selection of albums I know well. I also listened to some albums from different sources – local streaming, CD/SACD, and vinyl. Clearly mastering, pressing quality etc. can make a big difference between formats but the result was consistent across several albums.
For concentrated listening I always start with the title song from Joni Mitchell’s album Blue. Joni’s voice can be prone to sibilance and the Ricable tamed this with aplomb. The acoustic sound of the piano was also well handled, with both the timbre of the strings and the long decay of the notes coming through both naturally and powerfully. On Fink’s mixed-venue live album, Wheels Turn Beneath My Feet, I like the track Sort Of Revolution. This is a powerful track characterised by a bass ‘slap’ which, at a high enough volume, literally kicks you in the stomach. The Ricable didn’t let me down and I enjoyed the tight bass detail and fun factor of the track and on this occasion, the lounge door vibrated in sympathy.
One of my favourites for determining sound quality is the title track from Anette Askvig’s Liberty. Her voice is crystal clear, initially backed with a delicate scraper-type sound, perhaps from a wooden Guiro, or something similar. This is augmented with a powerful, breathy, saxophone taking over from Anette’s voice between verses. The Ricable delivered these sounds with a natural balance enhancing the beauty of the arrangement and my enjoyment of this lovely track.
I was particularly impressed with the way the Ricable handled live performances – I’ve been listening to a lot of REN’s solo work plus his collaborations and with his band, The Big Push. Many of the recordings are one-shot live takes, and some with lots of street noise. The Ricable perfectly captured the live, outdoor acoustic of these performances and this is so important for music like this because it elevates the listening experience through your deeper immersion into the overall atmosphere. Its the atmosphere that is the “special sauce” of live music so I definitely didn’t under value this key aspect of the Ricable.
Over the weeks I’ve become very used to the Ricable Invictus in my system and have lived with them happily. They are expensive HiFi cables for sure, but they are considerably more affordable than my own Townshend and many other high end offerings and that is something very important to consider here. Especially as at no time have I felt short-changed, its been quite the opposite I have really enjoyed my time with them.
I am very mindful that different systems will behave differently in different rooms as might interconnects and speaker cables so I feel where possible auditioning cables in your own system of course makes sense, especially before investing at this price level. However given my very positive overall experience with the Ricable Invictus loom I can easily conclude this review with the recommendation to put them on your shortlist.
Prices (all pairs)
Ricable 1m Invictus XLR x 2 £1001 (£2,002) / $801 ($1602)
Ricable 2m Invictus Speaker Cable £1,888 / $1513.38
PS Audio DirectStream Memory Player
PS Audio DirectStream DAC
Rega RP 10 record deck with RB 2000 arm and Apheta 2 MC cartridge
PS Audio Stellar Phono Stage
Bryston BP 17-3 Preamp
Bryston 4B-3 Stereo Power Amp
Vienna Acoustic, Klimt Series ‘The Kiss’ stand Mount speakers on Townshend Podiums
Main equipment support – HiFi Racks
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential.