The SilverFi IEM-R4 – Cable Royalty

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Introduction

I’m not one for long introductions, but SilverFi is a unique brand that warrants a few words. Ever since the first time I came in contact with a SilverFi cable, their entry-level model at the time, I’ve been hooked on their special sound. Warm, but not too warm, and clear, without being bright: my experience with SilverFi cables has helped mold what I’ve come to consider truly natural sound. It’s a term that’s easily thrown around, but naturalness is a rare commodity in the world of hi-fi. SilverFi’s unique house sound isn’t by chance; Sezai is a master of the trade, a man that’s been experimenting with materials and design for the better part of the last 40 years. His search for perfection resulted in one of the rare companies making their own raw material, creating wire from the ground up – and most likely, the only boutique company. All SilverFi cables are made of pure silver, while each wire is always individually shielded with a special cotton fabric..

As a result, the SilverFi brand has a strong house sound throughout the lineup. The different models share a characteristic warm, smooth and extremely natural sound. But they vary in the number of conductors used, as well as their gauge sizes. This results in different accents in their signature, as well as their performance. I understand it’s hard to imagine cables can improve the higher up you go, even after you’ve passed the 1K mark. And that’s not even for the skeptics – it’s difficult to fathom for cable enthusiasts alike. After the IEM-R2, I figured I’d pretty much heard it all. So even for me, the IEM-R4’s performance came as a surprise. And it still does every time I listen to it, for the IEM-R4 never fails to impress me.Due to its individually sleeved 12 wires, the IEM-R4 is a cable that doesn’t particularly lend itself for mobile use. Yet despite its challenging ergonomics, I’m going to try to explain how a cable can still be worth its exorbitant price tag. It’s because of that one aspect that’s even more important – its sound. Still, this is pretty much a cable that will only appeal to the most hardcore breed of cable enthusiasts. Which when you come to think of it, isn’t really as drastic as it sounds. Because with a price tag of 2K, anybody willing to pay that much for a cable pretty much automatically qualifies for that label.


Build & Ergonomics

The R4 consists of 12 individually cotton-sleeved silver wires, woven together in a flat braid. The result is a flat, but rather broad cable. Each one of the wires roughly equals the size of one of those thin black OFC 3-wire cables you get with many ciems, or about the half of the size of something like Campfire’s 4-wire SPC cable. As they’re woven together, the end result is a width of roughly 1.5 to 2 cm – the equivalent of something like 8-9 OFC cables next to each other. Accordingly, it’s also not as flexible as a regular stock cable.The cable is finished with a Neutrik jack, and special top end connectors needed to fit the sleeved wires. Due to the thicker connector, it doesn’t work with deeply recessed sockets. It’s become the reason I always ask for non-recessed sockets for iems, although it’s worth checking with Sezai to see if there’s an alternative solution for the connectors.Practically speaking, the cable is similar to a desktop system in its use. You can easily walk around the house with it, but it’s not really meant to be taken outside. Besides, with its thick silky wires, it would make quite the sight. It’s best listened to sitting at a desk, or my preferred use – listening in bed to relax.Page 2: Sound impressions
Page 3: Comparisons and concluding thoughts



Sound impressions

Presentation
There are different ways to maximise the amount of detail you can retrieve within a certain sound. The first, and most common, is by just brightening the presentation – like turning on a strong fluorescent light. It’s effective, but it won’t necessarily be the most romantic setting for a date. The IEM-R4’s presentation is like walking over the hillside on a beautiful summer’s day. The sound is spacious, and all the detail is there – clear as day. But it comes with a natural touch. Not by lifting the treble, the easiest route; but by a high level of transparency and resolution. To do so, the R4 relies on its extraordinary treble extension.A high level of transparency translates to extreme clarity in the articulation of a note, while retaining a natural tone. Once you strip a note from veil, even the finest of details doesn’t need to be bright or even loud, to be heard. Similarly, high resolution results in a more natural, realistic presentation, that feels more lifelike. The R4’s upper treble is not only very well extended, it’s very linear. The result – a very black background. While this might seem like an abstract audiophile term, it’s nevertheless an important construct. With an increasingly blacker background, the contrast between the tones and the background improves; a difference like painting white stripes on either a light grey or black board. In doing so, detail becomes more apparent because of the increasing contrast. As a result of these factors combined, the R4 marvels with the ease in which it presents its detail.
The R4’s impressive extension returns in its stage. While some cables affect the stage dimensions in various ways, in general the differences are relatively minor. Not in the case of the R4 – this is the widest stage I have experienced from a cable so far, with quite a safe margin. The stage opens up, and gains more room to breathe. While the depth increases, the difference isn’t as significant as its width. However, the layering ability improves, resulting in a more organised presentation. The spacious feel is augmented by the airiness of the stage, resulting from its controlled mid-bass. This is a bass that solely contributes itself in the form of instrument tones such as the bass player or kick drums, rather than a source of warm air on the stage. The R4’s separation benefits as a result. The fixation of the instrument positioning, the depth and layering; it all comes together in a vast, holographic image.When it comes to tone, the R4 comes very close to neutral. But it’s the beautiful variation of neutral – one where there’s perfect harmony in the sound, balancing between warmth and light. Overall, the frequency response is very linear. There’s a slight bump in the 2-3 KHz range, resulting in a clear vocal presentation with a nice bit of body. And rather than lifting the treble, there’s a lift in the 5 KHz range followed by a slightly attenuated treble. The result is a clear yet very natural tone, with a smooth but articulate treble. Its midrange is warm, but only slightly warm – just a hint of warmth, essential for the naturalness of the tone.
Bass
The R4’s bass is fairly neutral, mirroring the source and iem in overall quantity. The bass impact is not enhanced, but as the sub-bass extension is very good, the hits reach deep. The balance between the sub- and mid-bass is very linear. Accordingly, the overall body of the bass is dense. When just the mid- or upper-bass is enhanced, a bass might have great quantity, but its nevertheless a fuzzy bass. The bass the R4 creates has good body, but it is also highly resolved. As a result, bass players sound more like a fellow instrument, rather than just a prominent source of warmth. Accordingly, the separation from the sub-bass is effective, bringing the mid-bass into the spotlight without needing to enhance its quantity. It’s a beautiful bass to behold, enjoyable for its musical contribution to the sound by means of its definition and true tone.Midrange
The midrange is slightly warm, although it isn’t warm enough to be classified as such. While there is an essential hint of naturalness throughout the presentation, overall, it comes very close to neutral. The lower midrange is slightly laidback, creating a compact but dense vocal presentation. The vocal positioning is fairly neutral. As it isn’t overly forward, it creates extra space on the stage. This results in an effective separation, especially when taking the stage dimensions into account. For instance, the IEM-R2 has a more prominent lower midrange, resulting in a fuller and more forward vocal presentation. The R4’s neutral stage position in turn creates a more open stage.Similarly, the upper midrange mostly sounds clear, although it isn’t bright. As the treble isn’t enhanced, it isn’t particularly sparkly, but it doesn’t have to be – it gets its liveliness from its transparency, the purity of the sound. This isn’t the type of upper midrange that steers you towards electronic melodies, as the midrange isn’t brightened by a prominent treble. In fact, the naturalness of the presentation gives an analog feel, even to synthetic music; like a DJ went out of his way to manually record samples from actual instruments, rather than just pressing a button to reproduce them. There’s a certain realism to the music, that makes the music sound beautiful for just sounding true; that sweeping, romantic feel that a violin or piano should convey. There’s still a touch of sparkle to make string instruments like an acoustic guitar shine, but the focus is on the accuracy of the tone. That slightly warm accent provides an essential trueness, essential for conveying emotion.
Treble
Treble always has an intricately complicated role in a presentation. On the one hand it’s a necessity to add clarity and detail. But it’s also polarizing for listeners. Some desire the upfront detail, sense of pace, and overall sparkle a prominent treble can give. But for many others it’s a necessary evil, which needs to be contained as thoroughly as possible. As the R4 relies on its outstanding transparency and resolution for detail, it doesn’t require a brighter treble – the result of its linear signature and outstanding top end extension.The treble itself is very linear, resulting in an articulate but smooth performance. It’s not very often I listen to the treble to actually enjoy its tone. Not the sparkle or micro-detail – just a treble note itself. For a treble tone to sound accurate, it needs to have a slightly warmer tone. The naturalness of the R4’s presentation results from a slightly attenuated treble. This doesn’t mean the treble itself is laidback, as the clarity of the signature instead results from an upper midrange boost. But attenuating the treble itself results in more natural tone, akin to the treble tone of iems like Aether, UE18+ Pro, or Deca to name a few.Page 3: Comparisons and concluding thoughts


Comparisons

SilverFi IEM-R4 vs. SilverFi IEM-R2
The 10-wire IEM-R2 shares the recognizable SilverFi house sound, with a warm and natural tone, combined with a high resolution due to proper extension. Both share a warm but well-controlled mid-bass, natural in tone. However, the R2 has a more prominent center and especially lower midrange, which gives midrange notes extra body and forwardness compared to the relatively more laidback R4. The R2 is warmer and denser, creating a more powerful vocal presentation, especially for male vocals. It’s a different flavor; arguably more emotional and romantic, although its warmer sound leans towards a more midcentric signature, making it less versatile.The R4 is more neutral by comparison, both in its stage positioning as well as note size. The R2’s stage might be wide; the R4’s stage opens up in all directions. Mostly, it’s wider, although it creates more depth. Accordingly, the R4 creates a more 3D presentation, although its notes are not as full-bodied as R2’s. In addition, R4’s tone is only slightly warm, and more linear throughout the midrange, resulting in greater balance between the center and upper midrange – the R2 tends to favor the lower portion of the midrange. Finally, while the R2’s midrange technical performance is already excellent, the R4 improves in transparency. Combined with its 3D stage, the R4 is not only more spacious; it’s significantly more upfront in its detail retrieval.
SilverFi IEM-R4 vs. PW Audio 1960 4-wire
The R4 and 1960 4-Wire are two cables that perform in a league of their own. Both have a warm, natural-sounding bass. The 1960 4-wire has a bit more low end impact, while it counters its low-end warmth with a brighter top end. The relative prominence of the upper treble provides more sparkle, and a more energetic presentation. R4 in turn pairs its neutral bass response with a softer treble, resulting in a truer tone, and overall more natural presentation.There isn’t much difference between them when it comes to resolution and transparency, the two pillars of technical performance. As the 1960 4-Wire is a bit brighter in tone due to its more prominent upper treble, it’s a bit more upfront with its microdetail. It tends to show off its extraordinary ability to uncover fine detail, where R4 is a bit more relaxed. Which isn’t to say the 1960 4-Wire is more detailed, their actual performance is similar – R4 just relies on different measures.For starters, its stage. The 1960 4-Wire creates a realistic stage, with good width and depth in fairly even proportions. While R4 has similar depth, its stage is significantly wider. In addition, its background is blacker, even though the 1960 4-Wire has a darker atmosphere. Its dark atmosphere and brighter treble creates a unique environment; a stark contrast between light and dark. R4 in turn is a bit smoother and warmer in tone.


Concluding thoughts


While cables can play a role in the stage dimensions, it’s pretty much my last priority. Overall, the differences are usually too small to play a serious role in a decision. But the R4’s stage sets it apart. And that’s not even mentioning its beautiful tone, or outstanding technical performance. For when it comes to resolution and transparency, only the 1960 4-wire is its equal; at least from the cables I’ve heard.Of course, it also comes with a similar restraint in its mobility. But if that’s acceptable for a headphone, why not for an iem system, if you’re getting an added benefit in the sound? The combined package of its tone, transparency and stage lifts an iem to a next level, and makes the questionable ergonomics more than bearable – at least for me.I understand 2K for a cable is quite insane. Even the lion’s share of the cable enthusiasts will probably side with the skeptics on this one, and call to revolt. If I didn’t have any experience with such high-end cables, I’s probably pick up my pitchfork as well. But truth is, as much as I love iems, I love a top tier cable like this even more. I’ve come to consider R4 as one of my most prized possessions, trailing only my AK380cu. Of course, that’s also for a great deal due to their rarity – I don’t have nearly as much quality cables as I do iems.


SilverFi IEM-R4


Material: Pure silver wires
Conductors: 12 wires in a flat braid
Shielding: Individual cotton shielding
MRSP: $1999