This is the second in a series of reviews of HDMI cables.
This cable, as discussed below, differs in several respects from the Audioquest. Its retail price is $118.00. It should also be noted that although the the subject of the review is an HDMI cable, the audio signal provided by the HDMI is that of I squared S (I2S), unlike the audio signal used during the interface in the video mode. The I2S connection separates clock and data signal. The result is very low jitter. The I2S bus contains: 1) 1 bit clock line. 2) 1 word clock line. 3) At least one multi-plexed data line.
Breaking in the cable entailed video and audio signals — 1 week of cable box to tv set followed by one day of a continuous signal from transport to DAC. The cable had about 66 hours of play prior to serious evaluation. There are no arrows on the connectors, so I did not compare the affect of cable direction on the sound of the stereo system.
The metal is heavy silver plated copper exceeding 10 percent silver. The geometry of the cable complies with the v 1.4 standard. Some wires are twisted pairs, while others are parallel. The dielectric is nitrogen gas injected. Connectors are gold plated brass. Conductors are 24 AWG, while the bandwidth is 340 Mhz. Prior to listening, I spoke to the technician at Cardas. He said that HDMI cables sound different and mentioned that metal and dielectric are but two factors which could affect signal transmission.
The first selection was a solo harpsichord performance of a Scarlatti sonata, by Sophie Yates — the first track of a Chandos disc — Chandos 0635. The playing was very clear, articulate and percussive. Each note was distinct and the sound was uncongested, There was no edge or brightness. However, the balance between the strings and wood body of the instrument, slightly favored the strings. Thus, the wood body was slightly understated. The location of the harpsichord in the sound field exhibited a greater distance to the listener, than I have heard in conjunction with other cables and components –further to the rear of the hall than to the middle of the hall.
The second classical recording was Offenbach’s “Gaite Parisienne”, track 1, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, from a JVC disc, JVCXR 0224.From the first note of the orchestra, its dynamics and snap were evident — no wimpyness here. In addition, the orchestra was full-sounding, as no frequency imbalances were observed. Brass had body, strings sounded smooth, and the music filled most of the space behind the speakers. The woodblock was deep into the orchestra, a bit further back than usual, and the spacing between it and the triangle increased. The sound of the triangle revealed a balance between texture and sparkle of the instrument. There was no sense of thinness or excess of upper harmonics. The distance between the listener and orchestra increased giving the impression that the orchestra’s location was moving toward the rear of the hall, while retaining a mid to rear hall perspective, relative to the Audioquest cable.
The last of the classical recordings was “Concerti Armonici #2”., track 5, with the Aradia Ensemble led by Kevin Mallon from the Naxos disc 8.555384, featuring period instruments. The compositions are written for strings and harpsichord. I noticed a greater presence of the harpsichord than was perceived using the Audioquest cable — to a slight degree. String instruments had more of a bite and sounded less smooth and less romantic. There was a bit more emphasis upon the strings, relative to the wood body of the instrument. In spite of the changes, there was no forwardness, or harshness accruing from the extra emphasis upon the strings. Overall, there was a sense of increased articulation, but there was no analytical quality present.
Steely Dan AJA, track 3, “Deacon Blues”, was my next selection, taken from the MCA CD MCAD 37214. Donald Fagen’s voice was clearer than I observed using the Audioquest, but the latter rendered the presentation somewhat fuller. There seemed to be greater resolution, as evidenced by greater presence of the cymbal, and more prominence to the chorus. Although greater focus was noticed using the Cardas than using the Audioquest, the difference, while noticeable, did not seem to change the spectral balance. The saxophone still had much of the character of a tenor, but with a little less body in the upper register. Without knowledge of the recording, it was difficult to assess the accuracy or lack thereof using either cable.
My most salient reference, was my last selection, namely DON’T SMOKE IN BED, featuring a close-miked Holly Cole, track 1, from the disc Alert ZZ 81020. The acoustic bass exhibited the resonance of the wood body accruing from the plucking of the strings. As was the case before, there seemed to be an increase in articulation, relative to the audio quest cable. There was a change in the emphasis upon “s” consonants. Sibilance was a little more present than when the Audioquest cable was used. However, the sibilance was within the range of what one might expect from the close-miking recording approach, and did not sound unnatural. The Piano sounded timbrally accurate. Overall, background noise was very low and thus it seemed like the signal to noise ratio increased.
Both cables shared similarities with respect to stage width and depth. Differences were noted in the degree of articulation vs. fullness. The Audioquest Coffee was more full, while the Cardas was somewhat more resolving. Perhaps the extra silver and dielectric materials contributed to the observed sonic differences. The Cardas cable seemed more focused than the Audioquest. One might be tempted to conclude that the Cardas cable was revealing more of what was on the recording. Such a hypothesis can not be tested, as the sound of the recordings are unknown.
I suspect that some audiophiles configure stereo systems to sound as colorless as possible. Since all components, at a price point, are imperfect, it is not possible to remove all coloration, and thus all stereo systems are inaccurate.
In lieu of the above statements it is not valid to conclude which of the two cables are less inaccurate. As such, it is wise to audition each cable and decide for yourself if one or both are appropropriate for your needs.
Digital Hardware: PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC
Preamp: Bent TVC passive preamp
Amplifier: VTL Deluxe 120
Speakers: Quads Unlimited Quad 57 and Magnepan 1.6
Interconnects: Ear to Ear and Soundstring
Speaker Cable: Ear to Ear
Power Cords: Ear to Ear and MAC Burley
Accessories: PS Audio Juice Bar and Balanced Power Technology power strip, Sound Fusion Sound Busters, furniture foam, egg crate mattresses, Circuit Breaker Filters, Millenium Weight, Ennacom Filters, Room Tunes and maple bases, and the Z Systems Z Sleeve
The Cardas HDMI 1.4 Cable
Manufactured by Cardas Audio, Ltd.
480 11th Street, S.E., Bandon, Oregon 97411
541 347 2484 Phone
541 347 2301 Fax
Source: Manufacturer Loan