Cardas HDMI 1.4 Cable

by admin on March 14, 2011 · 26 comments

in Cables

by Roy Harris

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.

Cable Construction

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.

Listening Sessions

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.

Conclusion

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.

Associated Equipment

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
USA
541 347 2484 Phone
541 347 2301 Fax

website
email

Price: $118
Source: Manufacturer Loan

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

admin 03.14.11 at 8:08 am

Well, here we go again. The second in Roy’s series. This one is by Cardas and is much cheaper than the Audioquest Coffee.

Once again, let’s have polite, thought-provoking comments of all bents.

That said, I’m not sure if anybody is going to change Roy’s mind. He’s the most stubborn and single minded audiophile I’ve ever met. Just a heads up before your begin your screeds. ;)

Roy, your Conclusion seems to cover your behind by making some blanket statements about recordings. Specifically, ‘the sound of the recordings are unknown’. What do you mean by that, please? I know perfectly the sound of recordings I’ve made. I know the original acoustic. I know the different styles and sounds I’ve produced in those recordings, and, through the cans and through the monitors, I know how the electrons have changed the sound. I make these claims as a professional musician, not an audiophile.

That said, many thanks for the review.

Cheers, a

roy harris 03.14.11 at 11:15 am

here is what i mean:

as a musicican you hear the sound of the orchestra on the stage.

when it is recorded the only way you can audition the recording is after a hard copy is made. in order to audition the recording you have to feed it through some kind of stereo system. thus you are aware of the mike, its placement, what the engineer is doing, but you don’t know the sound of the recording. there are too many variables.

this is especially true for someone who purchases the recording.

it would take a rather involved mathematical explanation to make my case.

it should be sufficient to say that fall owners of a recording have no idea what a recording sounds like and therefore cannot judge definitively, the sound of any stereo system or component..

i await some kind of proof , mathematical, preferred, to change my position.

let me add that i do not consider myself an audiophile and that my views are based upon logic and mathematics.

let me add that when comparing two cables, one may have confidence (opinion) as to which may be less inaccurate, but one does not know.

in the future, i will just state my perceptions and omit, what you probably consider, questionable speculations.

as we all accept no cable is accurate, but some are more inaccurate than others.

admin 03.14.11 at 12:59 pm

‘what the engineer is doing, but you don’t know the sound of the recording. there are too many variables’

Name them, please.

And, on a personal note, you are in denial about not being an audiophile. Don’t be silly. Of course you are an audiophile!

Cheers, a

roy harris 03.14.11 at 2:11 pm

i am not an audiophile becuase i believe you can attain the same pleasure or emotional satisfaction regardless of the medium. i make a distinction between the music and sound.

i assume one knows the definition of music. sound is another manner. some stereo systems sound different from each other. i believe that you can derive pleasure from listening to music independent of the quality of sound.

i will admit that i prefer a well behaved treble and natural timbre, but if i like the music i can abide poor sound.

i don’t think audiophiles would agree that emotionally or psychologically the satisfaction of listening to music would be the same if the sources were, a table radio, boom box or well configured stereo system.

it is this philosophical difference between myself and others which, in my opinion does not meet a criterion of being an audiophile.

now let’s talk about variables.

if you have a recording–a hard copy of electrical signals, the question is what does it sound like ?

as someone who has participated in recording sessions, you are obviously aware of microphone type type(s), microphone, cable and all other components used to create the recording.

these are some of the variables. you don’t know the sound of each, in an absolute sense. these are antecedent or independent variables, in that one has control of them. one can select the mike, position it, select the recording device, etc. .

having the recording, one requires a means for auditioning it– some kind of rudimentary stereo system. the components in the stereo system are variables as well. you do not know their sound in the absolute sense. you may have confidence in the sonic attributes but that is the extent of your “familiarity” with the stereo system at the recording studio.

supposing you change the monitor speakers, what you will hear, will change. yet the recording remains the same–it is the dependent variable.

to put it succintly, in mathematical terms, you have insufficient information to “solve for the dependent variable”, the recording.

i would have preferred to avoid this kind of arcane discussion because you probably won’t accept my arguments and most readers are either bored by it or have no interest in the discussion.

this type of “back and forth” is most appropriate face-to face.

I suspect that most readers are bored or have no interest in the discussion.

I think you enjoy pulling my chain rather than the logic of my argument.

admin 03.14.11 at 2:58 pm

Which is why audiophiles use a reference system.

Other than a mic or monitor (let’s not talk of cable differences), the variables you talk of are small to miniscule.

‘I think you enjoy pulling my chain rather than the logic of my argument.’

No, what I most enjoy doing is proving you incorrect. I really quite like that.

:)

Cheers, a

admin 03.14.11 at 3:02 pm

In all seriousness, Roy, I would love a go at that blind test. My amazing wife does this for me all the time — mixing cables, kit, etc.

A shootout between the $500 Audioquest, $120 Cardas and a Monoprice $3! My system, my software, my wife’s deft touch.

roy harris 03.14.11 at 6:23 pm

you have not proven anything. instead, you have provided opinion.

i will restate my case.

a recording of an orchestra is made. you are a flutist in the orchestra.

you are in the studio and want to listen to the cd. you realize that if you introduce the cd to 100 stereo sytems, you will perhaps observe differences in sound .

the question is ” what does the cd sound like”?

In the studio you will need speakers, a player, an amp and cable to audition the CD. the aforementioned components are unknown. it can be proven mathematically.

the fact that you may disagree is immaterial. i was a math major and took a course in logic.

how can you possibly “know” what the cd sounds like if you don’t know what the components sound like.

your situation is akin to a diophantine equation.

you can describe the live performance from the vantage point of the stage and your location within the orchestra, but you can’t hear the CD without employing other equipment.

it’s not worth arguing about this . i would rather have a mock trial or debate with judges so that i could see the color of your face after the debate had concluded. this exchange on the internet is clearly not going to accomplish anything.

regarding the blind test, i urge you to obtain the cables and do a blind test. i also ssuggest that you do other blind tests using components already reviewed on audiophilia and compare said components against other similar candidates. you’ll be busy for a long time with such a project.

is it not possible that you will not be able to discern differences in sound 10 out of 10 times, comparing analog cables, preamps, or amps ??

what is the point of a blind tests?

it does not prove that differences don’t exist. it only allows you to accept a hypothesis that “differences can not be discerned”, using statistical analysis.

i also have a harmonic technology cable to review and perhaps i will review an inexpensive signal cable as well.

as you know very well. a review is an opinion subject to errors of omission and commission.

i can’t see what is to be gained by making a fuss about them.

if you want to express your opinion, hopefully that opinion will improve the content of the next review.

i acknowledged that i will confine my statements to what i have heard ad reduce all speculation dealing with acuracy, or other issues of which i do not have sufficient information to comment upon.

i will always consider that a reader of my reviews does not know what his/her components sound like and does not know what his/her recordings sound like.

i accept the above as given.

admin 03.14.11 at 7:10 pm

‘it’s not worth arguing about this’

I’m not arguing, I’m educating.

‘this exchange on the internet is clearly not going to accomplish anything.’

Oh, but it has.

‘what is the point of a blind tests?’

Because they’re fun.

Charles 03.15.11 at 5:24 am

I’ve been taking a look at this website for a while now; I found Audiophilia while looking for audiophile websites in general, and this seemed quite serious. But this debate on cables in particular, and the notion of reviewing in general, is terrible. If Roy Harris’s views are representative of the magazine’s ethos, then what is the point of the magazine?

We have statements that readers know how neither their equipment nor their recordings sound. We have had a statement to the effect that it is not the reviewer’s job (in the coffee cable thread) to say how good the equipment under review is, or to describe how it works, and barely to describe how it sounds. We have had statements to the effect that the reviewer does not have to defend their review.

In effect, we have had statements from RH to the effect that it is not the reviewer’s job to review. Bizarre.

admin 03.15.11 at 7:28 am

Charles:

‘If Roy Harris’s views are representative of the magazine’s ethos, then what is the point of the magazine?’

To bring to our readers unbiased, honest reviews.

Mr. Harris is but one of our reviewers. And true, his ’style’ is certainly unique. As you have been ‘reading for a while now’, you will know that the majority of our reviews published over the past 14 years are more mainstream. In fact, the last 20 posts include reviews of two CD players, live music reviews, CD reviews, Editorials, news posts, a Guest Post, reviews of inexpensive kit, etc. All in the style (I assume) you seek. There is a place for Mr. Harris’ few reviews on Audiophilia. Why not scroll past them, next time?

I will take the blame for the above exchange. I was having some fun, Mr. Harris was not.

Cheers, a

Charles 03.15.11 at 7:31 am

Fair enough; I’ll take your advice and scroll past, next time!

Ciao!

roy harris 03.15.11 at 10:43 am

hi charles:

i will address three of the issues raised, while the others i reject.

the first two, that no one can know the sound of a recording or equipment is true. you have every right to disagree, but i stand by my position.

i believe, although i may be unique, that the reviewer’s job is to report what i hear, not criticize the product or express an opinion as to how “good” its or recommend or not recommend it.

i have been both commended and criticized by manufacturers for my stance.

i don’t believe it is a reviewer’s job to influence the reader in any way. i am more of a factual reviewer. i accept the fact that my style is not to your taste.

Darkangle 03.16.11 at 2:32 pm

Hi Roy,

To answer your question from the last review as to why so many people reacted to a HDMI review:

When you use HDMI, even uncompressed, it’s still encoded. For many (well, it’s an absolute fact you’re trying to deny here) this means that when you claim to hear a difference in how your encoded signal gets carried, they call shenanigans. Therefore they doubt your perception and thus your believability in a field that mainly comes down to perception and the trust they have in their reviewer.

“I find these gold plated CAT5 cables really bring out the contrast in the JPG’s on this site way better then the $0.02 ones I made myself”
You can argue about such a statement’s perception, but all in all technically this is nonsense: facts about the TCP/IP standard, the JPG standard and all that comes with that. On the same rig, it will be the same. Now, please look into HDMI, the protocols and how it works. And for the love of all that’s holy avoid wikipedia for this one. Please.

Good luck,

Darkangle.

roy harris 03.16.11 at 6:11 pm

hi darkangle:

there is onl;y one way to settle this. not by argument, or by asking you to present a mathematical proof, .

if you wer to pay me a visit and allowed me to listen to two different hdmi cables–v 1.4 of my choice in a blind test.

there are many instances in audio where differences should not be perceived, but are alleged to be experienced.

as for crdibility in reviewing, all reviews are opinions–period.

when you talk about perceptions, even where differences could be or should be
observed, e.g., between speakers, you the reader have no way to verify the reviewer’s statements.

as far as credibility, as assessed by a reader, that is also an opinion.

roy harris 03.16.11 at 7:25 pm

by the way, there is a thread on audiogon under the heading “cables”. it’s subject is the question:

“why do digital cables sound different? “.

darkangle, i suggest you read some of the 200 + comments.

admin 03.16.11 at 8:02 pm

Some rare photos of Roy using his very special HDMI listening kit. Of course there’s a difference! ;)

j/k Roy. :)

Roy’s last in the series is by Harmonic Technology. Personally, I’m looking forward to reading his thoughts.

Darkangle 03.17.11 at 6:07 am

“darkangle, i suggest you read some of the 200 + comments.”

I did read the 11+ year old discussion as you suggested, and concluded the following:
* Only non experts post there (none are reliable sources) ;
* They discuss opinions, not facts;
* At best some lightweight napkin math ;
* No reliable sources for their napkin math;
* Both parties are seemingly talking from beliefs, not facts (see lack of sources);
* The main discussion point (integrity of the trans-coding) being blindly avoided by both sides;
* Possibly the worst layout in BBS/Forum history

I shiver to think why you asked me to read such a thing. It took a lot of time, it’s a discussion without anything to back it up. In short, it adds nothing.

Now,
http://www.dybkowski.comule.com/download/hdmi/hdmi_spec_1.3_gm1.pdf

For you, the whole of chapter 5, and page 99 downwards would be interresting.

For an encore, chapter 7.7 and the workings/definition of IEC 60958 and IEC 61937.

And yes, this is a reliable source, I helped in compiling it ;) (only some of the math) . I’ve left the company involved in this alliance a while back, so I’ve not contributed to 1.4, but they are akin.

Granted, my expertise is moreover in the video part of the standards, but I do think my grasp of the subject extends into the audio part (data is still just data ;) ) far enough for me to claim that I understand it as well.

I’ll leave my comments at this. I look forward to reading about the proposed double blind test with Admin and Roy ;).

@ Admin: http://www.stereophile.com/content/audio-meet-science might be a nice read for you ;).

Martin Appel 03.19.11 at 1:45 am

The man is nothing but thorough and relentless and will take any steps necessary in the pursuit of audio truth no matter how ‘unusual’ they might be. If anything, Roy’s dogged determination is to be lauded…..

On the other hand, we have to see the humor of things and poke a little fun at ourselves. Happy listening Roy!

admin 03.20.11 at 8:54 am

Did, ‘DarkAngle’. Thanks. Pretty good, fence-sitting article. Nothing I haven’t heard a million times from audiophiles. It’s not exactly new.

But, some things:

I liked this line: ‘especially for the online ‘zines’, seem eager to prostitute themselves for the latest preposterous product.’. LOL Mr. Atkinson, in his pervue, doth protest too much. His screeds against the internet product are getting louder. Hmmm?

I think he was still editor when Johnathan Scull wrote about the YBA Blue Laser, combing the nap of the rug a certain way and his glasses reflecting sound. Gimme a break!

There’s a place for science and emotion. The balance is what’s important. We do fine.

Anyway, back to Mr. Harris’ review. >>>

roy harris 03.20.11 at 11:21 am

hi darkangle:

there is another thread on audiogon cwhere memers indicate their favorite hdmi cables.

can i conclude from all your comments that anyone who claims to hear a difference between two hdmi cables in the audio domain is “hearing that which is not there”, i.e., has erroneous perceptions ?

if you read my comments on blind tests you would see that the only way to settle this, given your position , which is a hypothesis, that all hdmi cables sound the same, is that you and i conduct and design a blind experiment and that you and i participate in it.

youalso realize that given your position that is supposedly based on science, no 2 hdmi cables will sound different, only a mathematical proof would settle the issue , not a blind test.

for a blind test cannot prove that differences exist or don’t exist. it deals with perceptions , i.e., what is heard.

so i suspect, sinc ethe subject is really not that important, and you have stated your position, that the subject of hdmi cables is not worth discussing anymore.

sometimes it pays to “give it up” and move onto something else.

by the way, i wonder if you would question me with such persistence , if the subject of the review were an amplifier in lieu of an hdmi cable.

i am not aware of your experiences reading my reviews dealing with other components.

anyway, i respect your views, but will not alter my confidence in my statements.

Darkangle 03.23.11 at 4:33 am

Hello Roy,

Your questions:
I’ve not commented before, I do lurk from time to time.

I felt the need to reply since I’m thoroughly familiar with the subject (let’s call it a professional deformation).

If the piece would be about an Amp, I’d wisely keep my mouth shut, read the review and compare it to others (the freedom internet does provide), since I can only say something about the tech specs, nothing about the sound (having not heard it).

I wouldn’t go as far as to call my view on HDMI a hypothesis and “supposedly based on science” though. Since that would hint towards an idée fixe from your part, which I’m sure mustn’t be the case.

But, I agree with you on one thing, let’s agree to disagree (nice contradictio in terminis).

As for the reviews, keep them coming.

D.

Darkangle 03.23.11 at 4:37 am

Oh, I forgot to ask, did you ever read the PDF I linked?

roy harris 03.23.11 at 11:09 am

hi darkangle:

i haven’t read the pdf. i’m more interested in reprting on what i hear than becoming an expert on a particular subject.

any information gleaned from reading the pdf you provided would not , in my mind, negate my subjective observations.

i provided a solution to the problem, perhaps impractical anad as a gentlemea which you are, we will agree to disagree.

thanks for your intreset advice, counterpoint and persistence.

i always appreciate feedback.

Darkangle 04.08.11 at 3:04 am

“i haven’t read the pdf. i’m more interested in reprting on what i hear than becoming an expert on a particular subject.”

Yet, you ask me to read a whole 10 year long discussion to try and make your point. I’d expect at least the same courtesy, instead you whisk it away.

That’s not a respectful discussion, that’s a very polite rant.

jb 06.08.11 at 8:51 am

Without commenting on the specific review above, here’s my personal experience.

I bought a VERY expensive USB cable, almost 1K, in order to decide for myself if it would make a difference or not. I was receptive to arguments made from both sides of the fence.

When I first plugged it in, I heard the differences. The new cable was a dramatic improvement. Bingo. Take this, you skeptics!

Then I asked my wife to swap cables without telling me which one was playing. I couldn’t, for the life of me, identify the expensive one.

I had exactly the same experience with magical silver fuses. Fuse and expensive USB cable went to Audiogon and I’ve been a happier audiophile since.

I suspect if more reviewers had the balls to do that, it would make for some interesting reading. But then 50% at least of this industry would sink like Atlantis into the sea never to be seen again…

JB

Joe 05.30.12 at 11:15 am

And that 50% should sink into the sea. There only reasons to buy a more expensive HDMI (or any other digital) cable are:
You prefer the higher-quality connectors
You like the construction of the jacket and need to expose the cable to a noxious environment
You like the way the cable looks
Money is no object

Any other reason is just somebody trying to sell something or explain whey they paid more than $10 for a cable.

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