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vendredi 11 mai 2018

The winners are the classic: Wireworld, Cardas and Purist Audio


I am old enough to have experienced the very beginning of the cable war.

The first MIT boxes, VDH the First all carbon cable, the birth of Straight Wire with its Maestro that was, at least in my origin country a best seller, and not long after the Purist Audio with the incredible idea of putting some liquid around the cable to avoid perturbation of any kinds. And yes the first cables made of liquid conductors that never took off. In all these years I have bought, listened to , sold and worked with a very large number of cables of any kind and price, from very modest to some costing like a new car. Now that I am in my early fifties I feel the need to sum things up, getting to some conclusion, with an honest critic sense. I am not going to play again with considering the question if cables make a difference since if you are in this hobby and you trust more your ears then what you prefer to believe in it is absolutely clear that cables do make a difference.
Waht should be our attitude towards cables?  Most of the time we get lost in our upgrading path. And most of the time cable makers get lost too in their offering and in their attitude. Many cables manufacturers do like some restaurants,  trying to get satisfied as many clients as possible they propose the longest menu. You can surely find there what you prefer and in many declination. What you get from this doing is that who is proposing it does not relally have a leading sound or a leading belief how something should sound and so they prefer driving on the highway where the direction is clients budgets and personal taste. The first thing is a correct attitude but the second is a risky one. Even though a listener have the right to have their own taste and even if they would not have the right they have it anyway, and to go after their liking to get pleasure out of it, we must admit that if this was the leading criteria for the building of a musical instrument we would have never had a Stenway or a Gibson or a Stradivari. Can you imagine if Stradivari was not listening with its ears but keeping in mind only what could be a little better or getting to some bulding construction only having faith on a client taste. It would have not made any legend. An individual can have a taste capable of perceiving the most subtle nuance while another one just perceive the global thing. Everyone listen in its own particular way. Listening is a question of frequencies since if we are not able to perceive any frequencies we would be deft, but music is not only the perception of frequencies but expecially in the feeling aroused by a certain sequence of frequencies, the way they are linked or proposed, the resonace of different woods or percussion even if they would do the same frequency they comunicate to our feeling center a different response. Frequencies are mesurables. The different response of our feeling center is not. Our feeling center can react and does react to things that are also not scientifically mesurable. Building a cable is like building any musical instrument. It is a blend of artistery and science. It is also accepting that a certain material or configuration even though it gives the same mesurements sounds different to us and to some other people. There are out there few blessed people that don't ear any differences in cables or in amplifiers, for them a Stradivari or a Guarnieri are identical to a 200 dollars violin and a Chateau la Tour has more or less the same taste of a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. But crazily enough they are very able to appreciate the difference between a Coca and a Pepsi...
It is not bad belonging to this last category but if we belong to this last category we should be aware of it. Can you imagine if you should trust an individual used to eat the same two things to become a gastronomical critic. No, you could not rely on his liking since his liking is not capable of expressing a wide palette of appreciations. Good for him for sure, but not good as a guide for absolute quality. In this hobby there are people that are there to get pleasure from the music, and others that get pleasure from trying to get the most music out of their sistems.
You belong in one of these two categories for sure.
With a cable, as with any other hifi equipment, you can satisfy these two categories, but few are the companies that are able to do it in a linear way.
You have some companies like VDH that even though proposes some cables that I really like, it is uncapable or unwilling of proposing a coherent approach. So you have some cables that sound in a way, and some that sound in an opposite way. There are other company that offer a very consistent sound and have a clear objective in the music reproduction like MIT cables (for which I admit I have a weakness for ) or Audioquest. They propose some absolutely wonderful cables, but they have a catalogue proposition that is "strange" at least for me and for other buyers. I am sure for them it makes perfect sense, but when you propose cables that are so close in price or some that are less expensive but have more expensive material but less efficient geometry, things that leds you to different series, it becomes too much, expecially when you see the  top offer of an inferior serie costing more then the entry one of the higher serie...which one should give you, at least on the paper the highest performance? And MIT is too unclear in what they are proposing you about material and so on. Only articulation points... I would like to know what the cables are made of the higher you fo up in the range to justify my money on it.

Then there are some companies that make wonderful cables but...if you want to sell them in the second hand market for upgrading or just because you are like me and you like to change after a while even if what you have is already very good, you can just consider either that you have lost almost all your money, or that is going to be long and difficult or you have to rely in your personal luck.
It is only for this reason I didn't consider them in my final choice. Nothing to deal with their performance.
For example: Vovox makes some very good cables. But try to have a Vovox and a Cardas of the same price range and sell it second hand. You are going to sell the Cardas in probably a week or so, if you sell the Vovox in a week you are going to be very lucky. It is not because the Vovox is worse but because Cardas in all these years has built a certain reputation among the hifi people. And who is going to buy it is also considering that if for a reason or another he is not going to like it he can sell it again easily. With the Vovox it is different. Who is going to buy it, it is just either for a direct exposure, he had listen to it to a dealer or to a friend's house or a friend has lend it to him, and he is sure he wants it.

At the end, after considering all these things I ended up with only three makers: Cardas, Wireworld, and Purist Audio.

They present a simple and clear catalogue. They propose one leading concept that is fine tuned by a more sophisticated geometry and or more metal or better quality conductor the more you get in the higher part of their catalogue. And they are like Audi or Mercedes cars so they are easy to sell in the second hand market. In this aspect the Cardas is the   clear winner. Any cable from the present or past Cardas line is surely the easiest cable to sell with a decent price in the second hand market. This cannot be said for other cable makers even for some models that are or were exceptionally good. In this regards Cardas has an advantage over Wireworld and Purist Audio.

Going back to the catalogue of these three cable makers: their catalogue is clear. The path toward the highest performance offering has no mistery or woodoo involved. And expecially if you already have one of their cable and move up in the line you will find a sonic consistency that is very seldom achieved by other manufacturers. Yes you can hear they belong to the same family. This is a distinctive advantage since with other cable makers when you go up in their line the sound can get completely different. They change geometry, they change dialectric, they change so many things that at the end the more expensive cable it is like coming out  from another universe, maybe better, but also sometimes a better that we don't like. This is very important since too often we cannot try a cable long enough for an honest appreciation or we cannot try it at all. And another thing is that our ears get used to a certain sound so it is easier to feel an improvement if we moove in the same direction. 

Then about quick conclusion and weird things: comparing one thing to another is a common thing to do but also a thing that brings to a common mistake.
The classic A vs B comparison is usefull only to detect how and in which ways two things sound different from each other and what we prefer...in that moment right after the difference has been exposed.
I don't say that it is always useless I just say many times it is not the right way to choose. You will detect better parts of the musical spectrum but not musicality. And at the end this method is going to lead you to the wrong choice.

There are beautifull qualities that wares us out and small defects to which we get along well after a while or after a very short while.
Small defects made legends: Quad ELS, LS3/5a, Linn LP12, Thorens TD124 and others. No one of these design was perfect or it is perfect, and for this same reason they are extremely easy to criticize but...
Let's go to another point: it is better a boring perfection or an addicting but imperfect musical reproduction? 
The difficult point is that to make legend you need musical geniuses not just engineers. They must have understood one or two things.
And here we get to an important point: has a cable neeed to be built as a musical instrument or as a neutral bridge? It depends. But it depends from what? From the system it is going to be connected to. Most systems needs adjusters and make ups, few systems needs as less as possible influence from other components if not their balance will collapse. Now another point: do you have a system which components are well matched togheter? You think so, I think it is not probable. When I was working for many years in hifi shops it was not that easy to assemble a satisfying system (at least for me). And this difficulty was present even though I could choose among many components. Very rarerly sometimes things summed up well togheter, most of the time unespectedly and without following my logical prediction. When this "balanced" system passed the two months listening fatigue test one thing was clear. It was constantly showing the better cable following the moving up scale of serious manufactures companies. With other set up this was not the case. Sometimes a lower rank cable was better. Why? because a lower ranking cable is most of the time a more masking cable. 

How we can sum up the result you have with the three makers I have choosen? 

Wireworld line is the search for nothingness. The higher the line you go the less sound of the cable you have.

Cardas line is the right use of butter. And like butter is good with most things. And like butter make things nice. The higher you go to the line the less butter you get though. 

Purist Audio is the pacifier and it stays with elegance right between the two.

So what can go wrong using one of these three? 

Let's start with Wireworld: your system has some prominence of the mid high range somewhere, amplifier, loudspeaker, room speakers interaction,  wherever, you change your cable for Wireworld it will expose this except if you buy the entry level cables, and the higher you go up in the range the worst is going to be. You are going to get to the point of reveiling the  balance of your system and you are going end up saying stupidity like: Wireworld are bright. If you have a very nicely balanced system the higher you go in Wireworld range the nicer the mid high is, not bright but more richer and complex. 

What would happen with Cardas? You already have too much coloration in your system or your system lacks life and rithmic capability. You put a Cardas and your system is going to be dead. You are going to get a nicely layered sound but coloured and sometimes tick. The higher you go up in its range the better thing will be but you are not going to feel you get what you need. So at the end you will end up saying Cardas cable are too coloured or slow.

And with Purist Audio? I would say if you are not sure what kind of balance your system has in the right or in the wrong side, and if you don't know what you prefer it is the one that is the least risky to use.

At the end of this you realize something: the best thing is at the begining to have a well balanced system. But how to get it? How to do it? Start from the cables!  Get one of these three companies cable set of the level adapted to the system you would like to have (a complete set including power chords, it is very important) and then built a system around them. Everything is going to be very easy. It is an extremely strange proposition from my part, but I assure you it works! Then you can upgrade in a predictable way going up in their offering range and you can easily sell second hand the cables you had before!

What sense does it makes when you try to match components to balance the outcome of the cable they are connected with? And then at a certain future upgrading changing the cables in a way to suit the components that you have choosen to balance the other cables they were connect at the beginning with? What sense does it make to have a cable that connect your equipment that every professional reviewer judged bright or arsh in the mid high? What kind of amplifier or preamp or speaker would you choose with it? Certainly some that are overly educated in that frequency region. And then in the future you will end up having either a component or more then one component that is this way. When you are going to upgrade your system with cables or whatever, you are already limiting yourself with something that sound like the first you had but slightly more controlled. And it is going to be more difficult to find. Not impossible but more difficult for sure.
When you start with  a set of cables from the company I have mentioned (remember including power cords),  the components you are going to select to work togheter surely are going to have a certain coherence since they are going to be connected with something that have some coherence.
With  this starting approach I think Wireworld has a margin vs Cardas and Purist Audio. If you set up a system using Wireworld cables you can upgrade or change taste with Cardas or Purist being able to really grasp the difference in sound without going too much toward a certain character. And in a all Wireworld set up if you would like to add a little silkness just insert a Purist Audio somewhere in the chain.
If you start with Cardas (not the Clear line, but a lower product) when you change for example to Wireworld you will have a little more of the caracter of the pure Wireworld sound, and a slightly less of the pure Purist Audio sound.
Wireworld gives you more possibilities of inserting another flowor without making the achieved balance of your system collapse.
in second place for this we have Purist Audio in third place Cardas.
What about universality of sound of thiese classic makers? What about if you just insert one cable in your system that has different makers?
Considering that most of the systems out there (I really guess more then 90%) suffer of a certain balance problem, when you insert a Cardas you will end up saying is too closed even though it has a very nice layering and it is not fast, if you put a Wireworld you will say it is slightly brigh in the nid high and tight, if you put a Purist Audio you will probable say it is nice but not exciting. All of this is not true.
In a well balanced system an all Cardas set up will sound calm and majestic, a Wireworld  one will sound reactive and focused, a Purist Audio refined and smooth, but all in a natural manner. They never will give you too much in their own natural direction. With this I mean that with Purist Audio you will never have a too much refined and smooth sound to become boring, and with Cardas not so calm to became too slow and with Wireworld not so focused to be tiring.

Most important thing: before trying to get a highly satisfying system or even just a satisfying one the single most important thing you have to do is to find the right placement of your speakers. Speakers interaction with your listening room can produce strong colorations that surely will bring you to wrong conclusions when you try cables out. If your speakers are not in the best position or at least close to the best position you can forget about everything else.
Speaker placement in most of hifi owner is very far from optimal. It is the very first cause of the coloraition of their system and why they end up with wrong opinion since they get wrong experiences about cable and equipment. The bigger the speakers the worse.
Hifi made around speakers that are not difficult to position generally give the best results. Whenever I go to someone's house when I see Audio Note speakers the sound is good since they like to be positioned close to the rear wall. Another sure good result is when I see an all Naim (old olive) system and speakers, for the same reason of the Audio Note. The worse systems I have heard are from difficult to place speakers such Avalon, big classic Spendor like the SP100 or the SP1/2, and generaly electrosatatics. And the same speakers I heard in bad sounding system where speakers I generally like, owned and knew they could sound very well.
Once I have heard a system with big Focal Utopia in a romm no bigger then 24m2, and McIntosh big monos. It was very expensive and terrible sounding. No immage, bloated bass, and so on.
I have personally experienced in some difficult rooms with difficult speakers the difference from sound to good sound could change within 1 cm!

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