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The Bad News / The Good News

There are two phases of DIY cable building that are vital towards the success or failure of any given project. The termination aspects of mechanical integrity and the conductive interface, and the resulting sonic signature of a particular DIY build. In this case, the build quality of the Xhadow XLR Clone is a dismal failure if the expectation is anywhere near the notion of a truly precision XLR connector that the original Xhadow Precision XLR is known for. If there is light at the end of the tunnel, it's that the inexpensive Xhadow XLR Clone actually sounds very good if not excellent, with an identifiable sound quality that betters any pro audio XLR connector, and some audiophile marketed XLR connectors that I have experience of. So here's the lowdown of this DIY story:

The Bad News

The initial impression was very good, with an indication of good build quality on par with my other moderate-cost level favorite, the EIZZ XLR connector design. However, after looking at the enormously large opening of the connector entry point, and how limited the strain relief insert is to grip a cable OD that is any less than a couple of millimeters smaller than the entry point was a bit dumbfounding. I heard myself saying to myself, "What were they thinking?". There are few balanced cables with such a large OD that really require such a large XLR connector entry point, so the need of a massive cable OD build-up material was truly excessive; the most ever required, IME. That said, after examining what was needed to build a proper strain mechanism, I was able to configure a good grip on the cable without caveat.

The second finding was how poor the design is regarding the termination set-screws ability to provide a robust grip on the conductors when inserted into the termination slots. The fine threaded set-screws are far too prone to striping, in fact impossible to depend on. So if one seeks a solderless termination method, forget about it. That said, when the set-screws are removed, the termination slots are easily used for soldering the conductors, without issue.

The third bad news finding is that the male XLR prongs are not positioned within the Teflon dielectric in a precision manner. It was difficult to initially insert the male XLR connector into the XLR jack without fiddling with it until successful, after a goodly amount of concern that it would not actually fit. Thankfully it did, and as a result I liked what I heard.

The Good News

The presentation, even without a day to burn-in the solder joints sounded very open, with an expansive soundstage that sounds nothing like your typical pro audio XLR connector, with a very smooth sonic signature that is not unlike the original Xhadow connector design concept. Whether or not things could have been better via a solderless set-screw termination method is an unknown factor, but since my opinion of solderless vs. soldered signal connectors is not written in stone, I was not unhappy to have no choice in the matter. The connector sounds that good, to my ear. At this point, I prefer the Xhadow XLR Clone terminated AES/EBU cable for use with my digital CATV system set-up vs. the EIZZ XLR terminated AES/EBU cables in my collection.

If my findings are any less favorable after a proper burn-in process, I'll be sure to append this report with more insights.

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