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View Full Version : Rambling observations over direct cable comparisons



Erik Tracy
02-15-2009, 06:23 PM
I've been dabbling in various system upgrades - one of which are interconnects between the various components in my setup.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that for years I was using a set of Mmm... of Mmmo....(cough)....Mmmmoonnnnssssstttt...tttt..... monster cables between my old adcom preamp and carver amp.

Since switching over to an HT rig, I still had these between the AVR and Carver.

I sent my Carver out to be overhauled and modded and in the meantime I wanted to play around with other 'tweaks' and upgrades - especially in regards to interconnects.

As a skeptic over the impact of ICs on SQ - I decided to try for myself.

I decided to try a set of Audioquests Copperheads to connect my phono preamp to my avr and compare those to Monster ICs I still had, and a set of vanilla RCAs I had laying around.

I have a modest phono preamp that I use to my avr (TEC TC-760LC) -which then connects via RCA ICs to the aux input on my avr.

I conducted a 3 IC brand 'shoot out' between the phono preamp and the avr.

So, the set up was:

Turntable: Sony PS-X55 with a Grado Z1+ MM cartridge
Phono Preamp: TEC TC-760LC
AVR: Yamaha RX-V1800
Speakers: RTiA3s

And the ICs were:
* generic RCAs
* Monster Interlink 400s (bought waaay back in the 80s)
* Audioquest Copperheads

I set the AVR to be "Pure Direct" with no DSP processing and a straight analog pathway thru the avr. No Sub - just the RTiA3s.

I started with the generic RCA ICs that were already in my rig.

I played the Allman Brothers song "High Falls" from the album Win Loose or Draw as it is long song well mixed with a variety of sounds and dynamics.

The generic RCAs were, well generic and what I was used to. Nothing special, but the sonic qualities always left me wondering about whether ICs make any difference at all.

The generic RCAs started as the baseline as it were since I was familiar with their sound.

Next up were the Monsters which had served as the ICs between my avr and amp, but since the amp was gone for the mod upgrade, I put them in next between the phono preamp and the avr.

The sound was not much different. There was a detectable increase in gain, but sonically they were still what I would call generic. If it had been possible, I would have guessed that if I had been able to level match the generic RCAs to the Monsters that they would have been pretty darn close.

Last - I put the Copperheads in and started the song over again.

As I settled on the couch and closed my eyes, I immediately heard something different.

I was previously a cable skeptic, but I muttered outloud to myself - "No way".

What I heard was an even more noticable gain level difference - but aside from that I detected sonic differences. I perceived differences in the detailing of the highs - cymbals did not sound as 'recessed' and there was a tad more clarity and what I would call edge detailing to notes in the various instruments. Mid bass seemed clearer as well - instead of a general sense of midbass as being smeared, I perceived more individual notes and details.

In my mind, there was no doubt, with the only variable being changed were the cables, I clearly heard sonic differences in my rig. The Copperheads noticably performing better than generic RCAs or the Monster.

Since then, and with my Carver amp back, I upgraded the ICs for the amp as well to the Black Mamba IIs. When I have more time, I'm interested in going back and doing another shootout for the preout ICs as well.....but that is another report at a later time.... :D

Just stirring the pot....

Norm Apter
02-15-2009, 07:08 PM
Nice write-up.

AQ makes some great interconnects, I believe.

I took a chance last summer and bought a used pair of Diamondbacks even though I was already running Signal Cable Analog IIs and considered them to be roughly on the same tier. I thought why not give them a try, and lo and behold once I got them I could actually hear a slight improvement with the Diamondbacks. Nothing earthshattering, but there was a slight sonic difference.

Now, sometimes it comes down to taste if we're talking two cables at basically the same level. Someone else might like the SC Analog II sound slightly better, but I preferred the Diamondback's (maybe system specific too).

A few weeks ago I was thinking of going even higher up in the AQ chain. Almost got a pair of King Cobras and even bid on a pair of Jaguars on E-bay (I lost...) From reading several reviews after the cable swaps conducted by Club Polk members a few years ago, it seems like there is not too much difference between the Diamondbacks and the King Cobras, but my guess is that the Jaguars are fully in the next league up.

By the way, where do the Black Mamba IIs fit into the AQ food chain? (relative to the Copperheads) I've seen the name tossed about, but don't think I've ever laid eyes on them. Will be interested to hear your impressions of those, as well.

steveinaz
02-15-2009, 07:28 PM
Copperheads are a great value in IC's. I had similar impressions with the clarity in treble. Congrats, and welcome to the lunatic fringe of cable "believers."

See... we ain't so crazy afterall.

...and for those "bit is bits" types out there, replace your digital coaxial with a Kimber Hero and tell me again that ditial interconnects "can't" make a difference..in this case, for the worse (flabby, fat, thick bass; recessed treble---Hero's are great for analog, but not at all good for digital).

Erik Tracy
02-15-2009, 07:32 PM
Nice write-up.

AQ makes some great interconnects, I believe.

I took a chance last summer and bought a used pair of Diamondbacks even though I was already running Signal Cable Analog IIs and considered them to be roughly on the same tier. I thought why not give them a try, and lo and behold once I got them I could actually hear a slight improvement with the Diamondbacks. Nothing earthshattering, but there was a slight sonic difference.

Now, sometimes it comes down to taste if we're talking two cables at basically the same level. Someone else might like the SC Analog II sound slightly better, but I preferred the Diamondback's (maybe system specific too).

A few weeks ago I was thinking of going even higher up in the AQ chain. Almost got a pair of King Cobras and even bid on a pair of Jaguars on E-bay (I lost...) From reading several reviews after the cable swaps conducted by Club Polk members a few years ago, it seems like there is not too much difference between the Diamondbacks and the King Cobras, but my guess is that the Jaguars are fully in the next league up.

By the way, where do the Black Mamba IIs fit into the AQ food chain? (relative to the Copperheads) I've seen the name tossed about, but don't think I've ever laid eyes on them. Will be interested to hear your impressions of those, as well.

I've read similar observations on different cables - depending on the system in question, a certain type of cable may either compliment or conflict with the overall system 'synergy'.

As for the Black Mambas - I believe they are Audioadvisor's equivalent to the Diamondback. So it is, I would guess, a 'mid-tier' cable affordable by those of us with modest gains and within mortal reach :D

Mike21
02-16-2009, 01:07 AM
Hi Norm.

Take a look at this link from The Needle Doctor.cm:

http://www.needledoctor.com/Brand-Stores/Audioquest-Interconnects

comfortablycurt
02-16-2009, 01:39 AM
I just recently got an AQ Black Mamba myself(in a karma from Mike Reeter:D). I had been something of a skeptic myself before that. I knew that there was a difference between using a cheap spaghetti noodle cable, and using something of quality, with shielding and whatnot, but I didn't realize how much of an impact the cables would have on all aspects of the sound.

After I swapped the Mamba in, I immediately noticed a lot of differences. The bass was a lot punchier, more controlled and a lot more accurate. The mid's really cleared up a lot, lower mids got a lot punchier, and the upper mids had a lot more clarity. The highs were vastly improved...there was a lot more upper end shimmer and sparkle, and it also got rid of the over brightness from my Monster cable that I never even knew was there until I upgraded.

I'm definitely a believer now. AQ makes some quality products. I'm going to be picking up some AQ Type 4 for connecting my speakers soon, as well as a couple more IC's. I'm thinking about upgrading to the King Cobra's myself a little farther down the road.

dragon1952
02-17-2009, 11:16 PM
And there are hundreds of thousands out there that will tell you that it's all in your head. You just picked them because they were more expensive or prettier.....yeah, that's the ticket :rolleyes:
:D