Ricable Supreme F1MKII HDMI Cable Review
This is a review written by Steve Crowe May 2023.
Terry recently asked me to review three cable looms for a comparative review. This is on-going and will be published when completed. The Ricable HDMI cable, included in the Ricable package, is almost an outlier in that I don’t have any other HDMI cables to compare as part of the wider review. I decided to look at it as a stand-alone item, hence this short review. I hasten to add that I haven’t looked at the cable from its video signal capabilities at all. However, it is marketed as made for I2S and so it is the sonic capabilities which intrigued me.
Over many years of reading reviews in HiFi Magazines I don’t recall having seen many (if any) reviews of HDMI cables made specifically for an I2S connection between suitable sources and a DAC. I certainly haven’t come across any comparative reviews of different cables. Some may say that different digital cables will not make any difference, but that is not my experience.
To put things into context I have two main digital sources – a PS Audio DirectStream Memory Player and a Melco NZ1/H EX music library. Both connect to a PS Audio DirectStream DAC. The DirectStream DAC also includes a Bridge II streaming module. Over the years I have tried various connection methods and have been able to compare and make judgements about which sounds better – the Memory Player or the Melco and my preference has been influenced by the cables and connection method used. The Melco can act as both a server/streamer or server only, which allows for a variety of connection methods. I won’t go into the make-up of the rest of my system at this stage as this review deals with the connection between sources and DAC only.
For those new to Ricable the company started in 2009 with one of their first products being a HDMI cable released in 2010. They are based in Oleggio, in the province of Novara in Northern Italy and all their cables are built there.
The Journey So Far
The table below illustrates my perception of sound quality preferences in my system using different connections:
The above covers about five years of living with these products. The Curious Cables Evolved USB has been my recent preference. Curious cables are Australian manufacturer and the Evolved USB is quite expensive at AU$550 for 0.8m but I found it to be revelatory in my system. The cables carrying power are completely separated from the cables carry the digital audio signal. Overall, the Curious cable added levels of detail and solidity throughout the frequency range, whilst allowing for a greater sense of depth and width to the soundstage. Prior to this review using the Melco to the DAC via the Curious USB was my clear preference.
The Ricable Difference – First Impressions
I was impressed with the Ricable packaging quality. I was also very impressed with the Ricable HDMI build and finish quality, I think its excellent. The cable feels substantial in the hand, with a certain stiffness that you know is going to make it interesting to twist to fit in a tight space! It has a bandwidth of 29 Gbps, has 24 AWG OCC copper conductors and ‘triple enhanced shielding’.
This is Ricable’s top of the range HDMI and, in HiFi terms, its cost of £139 for a 1m length is quite modest. After exploring different ways to loop the cable between player and DAC, where the connectors are only 10cm apart, I managed to twist the connector to the right orientation to fit the socket on the player. I’m not sure it would be as straightforward with a 0.5m length.
I have no intention of talking about ‘veils being lifted’ or other such audiophile clichés. My comments are based simply on what connection provided the best musical enjoyment and encouraged me to listen more.
I approached listening in two key ways. The first was to compare the Ricable with the Apollo AV HDMI, already in the system, and the second was to compare it with the Melco via USB.
I played several CDs and one SACD using both cables. As test discs I used Convergence – Malia and Boris Blank, Liberty – Anette Askvig, Damnation – Opeth, reVisions – Jen Chapin (SACD), and Distance and Time – Fink.
All the discs sounded improved with the Ricable in place. The difference was fairly obvious but not to the extent that one cable was unlistenable compared to the other. There was a general enhancement in smoothness and clarity but nothing extreme. That was until I played Blueberry Pancakes on the Fink album. This track has sections which are fairly congested with lots going on. The sound became noticeably uncluttered with the Ricable in the system. Playing more complex tracks on other albums illustrated that this was a consistent result. Overall, the Ricable provided a more enjoyable and musical experience; the best sound I’ve ever had from the DirectStream Memory Player. Damn, now I want one!
In the second stage of listening, I spent several hours playing the same tracks at the same resolution via both the Melco and the DirectStream Memory Player. No matter how hard I tried I found it impossible to separate them. All I was able to conclude was that both players with the connections now in use, with some very minor differences, are now on a par with one another.
I’ve been to many HiFi shows over the years and many exhibitors consistently play simple jazz music, which will make many systems sound good. What sorts the systems out sonically is how well they play complex and, occasionally, not that well recorded music. The same was true with testing the Ricable Supreme MkII against the Apollo AV. Less challenging music made both cables sound pretty good, although the Ricable was clearly ahead. It was when changing to more complex music that the Ricable truly showed what it could do.
This conclusion is an easy one. I’ll be buying the Ricable.
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential.
For the full specification of the Ricable Supreme MkII 2 please see their website linked here.