February 24, 2010

Clarity Defined - Cardas Clear Interconnects and Loudspeaker Cables

I listened to Cardas' cables in my system on one occasion in the past, that was probably more than a year ago. I had the Cardas Golden Reference loudspeaker cables in my system for a few weeks. The Golden Reference gave a sound that was easy on the ears, the pacing was easygoing, the tonal balance was pretty much on the warmish side, which many would take as the signature of Cardas' cable range. I thought they would be pretty suitable to balance out the hard and cold digital sound that many a system suffer from.

Fast forward to now, Cardas has come up with a new flagship range, called 'Clear'. Hi-Way Laser generously loaned us both the interconnects (XLR, RM11,990 for 1.5m) and loudspeaker cables (RM22,299 for 3m) for evaluation over a few weeks.

Cardas Clear Interconnects

Cardas Clear Loudspeaker Cables

While they are the new top dog, Cardas kept to a down-to-earth design - no flamboyance, no gimmicks. The interconnects and the speaker cables come in the same rather-non-descriptive blue jacket. And both of them came in simple zip-lock plastic bags, which can be off-putting when one is spending a 5-figure sum. This is one area that Cardas should just spend a few more bucks to improve upon, I think. Well, packaging wise, getting the Cardas cables definitely was not like unwrapping a Christmas present, so to speak. :-)

Ok, those were my grouses about their looks - but looks are just that, looks. I like the XLR connectors on the interconnects and the spades on the speaker cables. The XLR connectors are different from the usual run-of-the-mill Neutriks, they are chunky and lock securely. The spades are thicker than usual, they are robust and inspired confidence. I understand that these are Cardas' proprietary design, more interestingly, the cables and the terminations are crimped together under high pressure, such that they become like one continuous piece of metal, rather than being soldered together. This should improve signal transmission.

XLR connectors on the interconnects

Spades on the loudspeaker cables

I listened to the Cardas Clear Interconnects in my system first, putting then between my digital frontend and my pre-amp. Big E had generously burnt-in the cables beforehand, and the interconnects' performance settled down in my system after a few hours of use.

The Clear Interconnects' positive traits became apparent after just a short listen. George Cardas was right on the money when he named his cables 'Clear'. The interconnects afforded my system with a wide open clarity that I rarely experienced. The soundstage especially, opened up and became wider; each individual image became more focused, better defined, this was achieved by throwing away the fat in the sound and fuzziness at the image edges. The space in between the images was either dead silent or filled with ambiance cues, whichever was appropriate from the recording. I did not hear the amount of warmth that was Cardas' trait in its previous offerings. There was still a minute trace of warmth, to be sure, which lent a slightly forgiving quality to the cables, but the Cardas Clear sounded very much neutral to my ears.

At the end of the day, matching was still the key with the Cardas Clear interconnects. I feel that to get the best of the interconnects, your system should already has some natural warmth and some good body, then the Clear interconnects will let you know how good your system sounds; if your system is a little cold or a little threadbare, the neutrality of the Clear interconnects will expose it for what it is.

Encouraged by the interconnects' results, I moved on to put in the Cardas Clear loudspeaker cables. My, my, I found the Cardas Clear loudspeaker cables hit square in the middle of two excellent cables that I heard recently - on one hand the Clear speaker cables had quite a large measure of the energetic and dynamic nature of the JPS Superconductor 3 which I currently use, on the other hand they moved towards the Siltech Classic Anniversary 770L in term of silkiness and smoothness.

No, the Cardas Clear did not equal the Siltech in these areas of refinement, for that you have to add about RM10k to the price. However, when the Cardas was compared to the JPS, the latter sounded relatively untidy. Well, that probably was how it should be, the Cardas also added RM10k or so to the price of the JPS, sitting smack in-between the JPS and Siltech.

The Cardas Clear loudspeaker cables have the same virtues of the interconnects, just much more so than the interconnects, such was my observation from my listening tests. The Clear loudspeaker cables conjured up an even wider and deeper soundstage. The soundstage's dimensionality was easy to discern due to the clean sound where there was no noise or any 'dirtiness' to obscure the very fine details. Complexity in the music was easily unravelled. Image focus and delineation was first rate.

Take a classical orchestral track, I could hear the orchestra's sections 'spread' in front of me, with each instrument section nicely defined and focused. Take solo piano music (George Winston's Autumn), as the music moved from the lower register upwards, i could hear the acoustic source of the notes moved from left to right as on a keyboard, note by note, a great testament to the definition and staging capability of the Clear. The piano notes were also rendered with incredible details and excellent harmonic structure.

Through the Clear loudspeaker cables, bass had solidity and punch. Midrange had body and a certain creaminess on vocal, which I found very appealing. Ella Fitzgerald, for example, could just about melt every listener's heart. Highs were smooth and had certain silkiness and shine. The warmth that I heard in Cardas' Golden Reference was almost completely gone. What took its place was excellent transparency and honesty.

At the end of the day, I found both the Clear interconnects and speaker cables excellent representations of the high end cable creed, though, in my opinion, the speaker cables' performance was just ahead of the interconnects', in my system at least.

'Clear' - definitely an appropriate name for Cardas' new cable range.

Cardas is available from Hi-Way Laser. Contact Kenny 03-7873.8325; 019-281.3399 .

13 comments:

tan said...

Crazy high price, more expensive than gold.

viv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big E said...

tan,

You may consider the Cardas cables to be "crazy high price, more expensive than gold".

However, I do not one lucky sould who recently purchased a pair of the siad speaker cables for his supremely high end system, and is enjoying listening to music thru the Cardas every minute.

Big E said...

tan,

BTW, I do not mean to offend, just offering another perspective from another angle.

Happy reading and listening.

mikelau.2 said...

The good thing is one "does not need" these very expensive cables to be able to enjoy music. The culprit lies in the depth of our pockets, so goes for all other gears related to hifi. And people who continue to seek for "perfection" in their systems do not really ENJOY MUSIC though they say they do. The reality is there is still "much imperfection" even with the most expensive cable/system.

Level 4 (4 yrs hifi, 40 yrs music)- cheers

tan said...

mikelau.2,

I agree what you said. The "perfect" sound is to listen to the live music...which is what "Hifi" is trying to reproduce/imitate.
RM 22k+ ( for the mere 3m cable!)...can be used to buy a decent hifi system with quality sound. I would also prefer spending it on few good power conditioners which will relatively give greater system improvements.
Lastly, these cables are only for the very very rich and again more expensive than gold.

mikelau.2 said...

Way to go Tan. You got it right. Good power is foremost for hifi. But the really good power conditioners are also not cheap, heh heh..and almost price of gold too !!

tan said...

A good power conditioner could be used for many eqiupments or whole system compared to the RM22K 3m speakers cables only used for speakers and RM11k RCA cables only used for a equipment.
Besides we are paying for the conditioners technologies ( like ac regenerator ), research and protections for equipments, not just a mere simple cable, so money is more well-spent.
Most importantly is the degree of overall system improvement of ac products is much higher than the cables'.


Level 0. cheers.

mikelau.2 said...

I agree with your views and you are definitely not "level 0" heh heh. Cheers

Audio said...

Big E,

If money is not an issue, which speaker cable will you choose?
"Cardas Clear" or "Siltech 770L"?

Big E said...

Audio,

I did not review or try the Cardas Clear in my system. You'll have to ask Odiosleuth that question as he is the only lucky fella who played em' both in his system.

I think both will be very satisfying speaker cables regardless of cost.

Hey Odiosleuth! Where are YOU???

Big E said...

Audio,

Odiosleuth must be busy. Anyway, he says if $$$ no object, Siltech 770L Classic Anniversary would be his choice!

Mine too, if I may add!

OdioSleuth said...

Yep, if one's life is so good that cost is not an issue, I would of course go for the RM10k more expensive 770L. But then if cost is really no issue, why stop at the 770L? Go for the Emperor Crown lah!! ;-)