June 11, 2012

NBS Professional IV Loudspeaker Cables

A few of us were having our regular ‘teh tarik’ session. Someone said that someone else has upgraded his cables, which were now more expensive than the components those cables were connected to; and yet another someone else spent tens of thousands of Ringgit upgrading his entire cable set and the sound quality saw tremendous improvement. And thus the polarizing topic of cables in our hifi system came up, and it immediately invited both support and ridicule.

The supporters opined that cables should be regarded as a component in a hifi system and not an accessory, simply because, like other components in the system chain, no sound will be produced if there is no cable. Cables should thus be accorded the same emphasis like the other components. The naysayers countered with the argument that if one has an amount of, say, RM50k to spend, which is now not an unheard of sum spent on cabling in a highend system, one can possibly get a bigger improvement if the money is used to upgrade something else in the system, for example the loudspeaker or the source, rather than the cabling.

Then there were those who took cables as the ‘be-all and end-all’ - all ills could be cured and all the glories could be revealed by the right cables in a system; and there were those who took cables as a fit-and-forget – find something just decent enough, put them in and don’t tinker with them anymore; instead focus on your room and your main equipment where more returns on sonic improvement can be had.

So this perennial debate/discussion topic in hifi went on and on, and like the other great topics in hifi, there was no consensus. At the end, when all the ‘teh tarik’ was finished and all the ‘roti bakar’ eaten, the topic was settled with the great escape clause we use whenever we came to a deadlock, “there is no right or wrong, it is the person’s preference ‘lah’!” And so it was, until the next time the same topic rears its head again.

I digressed. Let’s start talking about the focus of this write-up, the NBS Professional IV loudspeaker cables.

The NBS Professional IV retails at RM35,700 per 12ft pair, which immediately puts it as one of those cable aimed at the highend.

NBS is the abbreviation for ‘Nothing But Signal’. NBS says that, and I quote from its website,
“This is the key to the design philosophy behind our cables. At NBS, we do not attempt to "reproduce" sound. Instead, we RETRIEVE what's on the recording.

Most audio cables incorporate devices of one type or another to filter-out undesirable frequencies. While these devices do remove a certain amount of hiss, they also, by their very nature, add to the noise floor. NBS cable does NOT employ any ancillary device. We use a unique weave of solid core copper combined with unconventional applications of silver shielding to achieve true retrieval of the recorded sound.

As a result, NBS cables deliver the lowest noise floor in the industry - reducing Radio Frequency and Electromagnetic Interferences up to 98% - while transmitting the FULL dynamic range of recorded sound. That's why, with NBS cables, you literally hear nothing but signal. This is the primary reason why NBS cables convey such a realistic presence.

You can test this with your own ears by listening to the pauses in recordings. No one delivers silence like NBS. You'll also experience an increased gain (volume boost) as well as significantly greater clarity and recognition with NBS cables.”

Commensurate with its price level, the construction of the NBS Professional IV is impeccable. When I handled them for the first time I was surprised by their weight, which probably attests to the amount of metal that has gone into the cables. Coupled to the weight is the rather unyielding nature of the cables, making cable routing just that little harder than others. It is just as well that the NBS Professional IV is constructed as a single-run cable, meaning that 2 separate cable runs are used per channel (4 separate cables in total for stereo use), allowing more flexibility to the user to work on one cable at a time for placement.

It is also interesting to note that the cable marked as the red/positive leg is constructed differently from the black/negative leg. In the photo above, you can see that the red/positive leg has a tighter twist pattern, giving more turns for the same cable length. This is NBS’s secret construction recipe for better sound possibly?

The NBS Professional IV loudspeaker cables are an excellent performer. Through my TAD Compact Reference loudspeakers, the sound conjured up through these NBS cable was bold, impactful and explicit. The sound had excellent body too. I’d put these NBS cables in the ‘yang’ camp, meaning that they give relatively more emphasis on the masculine aspects of sound. Listening to the bass guitar tracks on Dean Peer’s Ucross album, his every pluck was launched with energy and gusto into the room. The bass notes also had better definition and focus compared to my resident JPS Superconductor 3 loudspeaker cables. The latter gave slightly more diffused image edges and a more warmish feeling, though it also has to be said that the JPS cables are less than half the price of the NBS.

The scale and soundstage that these NBS cables conjured up was also grander than that achieved by my JPS. Listening to orchestral recordings (try any Reference Recordings CD), the soundstage stretched in all 3 dimensions, and was more clearly projected independent of the loudspeakers. The images within the soundstage were nicely focused with very good definition of position and ambiance/air. Image delineation was excellent, each instrument group played at its own defined location within the stage without congealing together. I credited this to the transparency of the NBS cables, which let through much more low level details, allowing the loudspeakers to paint the acoustic space much more effectively.

I mentioned earlier that the NBS cables allowed the music to sound bold, impactful and explicit. Indeed, music played through them gave an energetic feeling, as opposed to being draggy or lethargic. Yet, the cables did this without harshness or aggression. The energy was tempered with an appropriate amount of smoothness and refinement, which was evident in the naturally rendered midrange (listen to vocals or jazz sax) and the silky and extended highs (listen to cymbals and high-hats). This smoothness and refinement, while just a little short of what some silver cables could achieve, is beautifully balanced with the cables’ other robust qualities. In my opinion, it is a package deal that is very well judged and in most circumstances well nigh unbeatable.

The NBS will prove to be a superior choice for an appropriately high resolution system. With the NBS Professional IV, you loudspeaker cables will not be the stifling link in the system. They will ensure that the full glory of the musical details reach your loudspeakers.

And that is what a highend pair of cables should be.

NBS is carried by The Audio Store, contact Mr Aw at 03-78872233.


Ken said...


I am always a bit confused with the hierarchy of the NBS cables. Exactly which level is the Professional series?

Can't seem to find it in their website.


OdioSleuth said...


This is my first encounter with NBS cables, so honestly I am not familiar with their product hierarchy too.

I am sure you have seen NBS's product and price list on their website, http://www.nbscables.com/products/prod.html.
I suppose the prices will tell how high a model is relative to the others. However there are also price overlaps between the omega extremes range and the Classic IV range.

When I visit The Audio Store, I'll ask Mr Aw to clarify this matter for me.

Ken said...


Thanks for your feedback.

Just a matter of opinion, if you have the same amount to spend, which would you choose to upgrade, the cables or hardware?

I ask this because I am in a dilemma. To upgrade the cable or to get a new source???? Both upgrades will cost me about the same!

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...


My 2 sens.

Upgrade cable if you already like your source very much.

Upgrade source if new source can give you a new level of performance and passion.

Then upgrade the cable to maximise source!

Have fun.

OdioSleuth said...


For me, I'll try to borrow the items I am interested in and listen in my own system, then decide for myself.

Ken said...

I always feel that upgrading equipment is more worthwhile than cables. Spend the big bucks on the hardware seem to be more "correct" thing to do.

But now I seem to feel the other way round. The cables seem to be the secret ingredient i.e. the "spice" which will elevate the system to another level.
You could have the best gear but if the signal is crap, so will be the sound! But if you hv great cables, the signal is poor, then same result!


Ken said...


Any news on the hierarchy of the NBS cables?


OdioSleuth said...

I spoke with Taikor Low of The Audio Store about your question. He said the only straightforward identification for NBS cables are for those with black cable jackets, they are from the top end 'Black Label' ranges. 

For the other ranges, he suggested that you, or anyone interested, visit his store, and he can show you in person the models they carry and explain to you the differences.