In recent month due to my Articles in TNT-Audio, Newsgroup Postings and other sources, my experiments in DIY Cables have become somewhat notorious. It seems that now some Distributors and Manufacturers of Cables choose to ask me on my opinion about their Cables.
In this little Article I will cover some of the Interconnects I have recently had the chance to try out. Two of the three cables actually originate with companies subscribing to the "system" approach and hence where created from a backdrop of these Systems.
Audion specialises in systems build around Single-Ended Valve Amplifiers while DNM is very much working in the high-tech solid state field. So how will the different approaches and designs fare?
The Plugs fitted are of the "Tiffany Style" type, a high quality Plug with Teflon dielectric and solid machined goldplated brass-contacts. In keeping with the "silver" theme, the Plugs outer parts are covered in some silver metal. On investigation, the solder joints are very good.
The braided shield is connected only on one end of the cable. This makes the cable directional and the directionality is marked. The loop resistance is low (about 100 mOhm) and the capacitance for a 1m cable is about 140 pf, neither Value being specifically remarkable.
The Audioquest "Quartz" Cables are of a large Diameter with a deep Blue Jacket.
Inside we find three Conductors of 0.6mm Diameter (22 Gauge) "functionally perfect copper" in individual polypropylene insulation twisted together. This bundle of wires is surrounded by a metallised mylar-foil Shield with another 22 Gauge copper wire connecting the shield. The jacket is PVC.
The Plugs are of good quality, with a split centre-pin to improve the contact. The insulation is Teflon. Instead of soldering the cable to the plug Audioquest uses high current welding for what they claim to produces a superior connection when compared to soldering. Again the shield is connected only on one end of the cable and the Cable is marked for directionality. The loop resistance is low at around 200 mOhm with a fairly low 80 pf capacitance.
Now while the previous two cables are pretty usual in their arrangements as cables composed of several solid insulated wires and a shield, DNM have never been known to things the usual way. So as usual, the DNM Interconnect breaks the mould.
To be honest, the DNM Interconnects reminds of nothing more but a balanced FM Radio feeder cable. Before you rush out to buy such and put RCA Plugs on them, the DNM Cable is quite different on closer inspection.
Two individual thin solid copper conductors are spaced apart by 6mm with a polyethylene insulation. The plugs fitted would draw severe criticism from me on any other cable. They are slightly customised Versions of the really "cheap'n nasty" Plastic Cover Plugs. At least the metal parts are goldplated.
With DNM these Plugs are part of the philosophy. This philosophy is to minimise the amount of Metal in the signal-path. Hence the thin conductors, the missing shield and the Plugs with a plastic covers, hollow centre-pin and a very thin sleeve.
So, not really much to look at then for your money. But after all, I at least, am interested in how cables sound and not how they look.
Lastly, the loop resistance measured about 1.5 Ohm, fairly high in comparison to other Interconnects but totally inconsequential in real terms. The capacitance however works out as a spectacularly low 10 pf, hence ensuring compatibility even with fairly high impedance passive controllers.
Having spend a lot of time working on a range of DIY cables, I have produced a range of easy to make and very good sounding cables described in these pages. I have also come up with a range of more complex and even better designs.
In this case I decided to compare all the cables at hand against what I consider my personal reference. The reason was to isolate the individual sound of the different cables rather than to competitively pit the cables against each other and determine a "winner".
The "formal" audition consisted of blind and sighted A/B tests, complemented by informal auditions bypassing the A/B switching. In each case the comparison was between my reference and the cable under test.
The source was mostly Vinyl, with some of the better CD's I have around also taking spins. Each cables formal audition included the same pieces of music, with additional excerpts added to the playlist where needed to pin down the character of the cable under test.
The Audion "Silver-Blue" proved quite a surprise. My experience with either commercial or DIY cables using solid silver conductors has been poor. However this silver cable lacks the brightness and thin-ness often found with silver-cables.
The "Silver-Blue" offers a fine sense of detail and "tonal colours". Its main sin is one of omission. Unlike the best cables the Audion "Silver-Blue" does not offer the last sense of "air" and detachment from the Speakers. Against my reference the "Silver Blue" also results in a Soundstage slightly narrower than what I am used to.
Playing the pure acoustic guitar duet from Acoustic Mania, "Birdland" the Guitars where portrayed rather realistically. With classical and choral music the cable never seem to impose itself on the music.
So, offering a fine resolution of spatial details combined with a very balanced tonal characteristic this is a cable that can be recommended for anyone seeking a cable which mostly gets out of the way of the music. It is certainly best applied in a well-balanced System. It is not very much of a tone-control to tame any system faults.
The Audioquest "Quartz" is made from a different Metal, notably copper. I have before found solid core copper cables to sound good. Initially the "Quartz" did not seem to disappoint. The sense of acoustic space and fine detail certainly seemed to match my reference cable.
On longer audition it became however clear that the "Quartz" added a rather fatiguing edge to anything passing through it. Specifically playing the massed vocals of a piece like Haendels "Messiah" found the soprano voices sounding as if the singers where being approached in a particularly rude way. The presentation of orchestral climaxes and low frequency Instruments like timpani also seemed diminished. With a VERY critical ear it was also evident that some detail, some of the acoustical space was being removed from the music.
All in all, the "Quartz" can nevertheless be seen as a qualified success. In a system that is well balanced the "Quartz" can be obnoxious and too bright. But in a system that could use a little livening up and a better soundstaging the "Quartz" could easily be the ticket.
The last Cable in this Article is the DNM. Outclassed by the other two Cables in test on ground of price and technology, it nevertheless gave a rather good accounting of itself. While the tonal balance was somewhat light, the overall retrieval of small cues and of the acoustical space in the recordings where very good.
Compared to my "real world" reference, the Radioshack/Tandy "Goldpatch" cable, the DNM sounds way purer, way truer to the real thing. Compared to the "UBYTE-I" DIY design I suggested in these Pages the DNM cable has a similar rendition of acoustic space and detail, compared to my current reference some of the Soundstage width and depth is missing, but the music generally emerges unscathed.
I would scold the DNM Interconnect for being a bit too British, too much matter of fact and hence taking a little of the "magic" out of my system. Though considering the price of the cable, the overall performance puts it straight into the big league.
The DNM "Rainbow" Interconnect is a no-nonsense, moderate price Interconnect of superb quality. Applied best wherever a system could use something better than what the factory supplied or where the first upgrade was little better. This cable really is the universal "working man's" interconnect.
For any Cable costing a substantial amount there really is no substitute for a home-audition. However depending on the amount you are willing to invest and the system you have; all the tested cables can be recommended and in notable ways stand out from the more usual.
I also cannot fail to note the DNM Cable specifically for being probably the lowest Price cable with a claim to true High-End Audio Performance.
© Copyright 1998 Thorsten Loesch
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