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XLO Reference Type 4, Part 11

Posted on June 7, 2020 at 00:05:12

Posts: 4726
Location: Bay Area
Joined: December 11, 2000
Here on the California coast, the latter half of 1993 was warm and dry. That gave plenty of opportunity to go out, and get into separate CD transports and DACs. However, that necessitated digital cables, which, unfortunately, all had their own sonics.

My main new albums used to audition digital cables were Carcass' Heartwork; Cynic's Focus; The Ocean Blue's Beneath The Rhythm And Sound; Joe Satriani's Time Machine; and Sepultura's Chaos A.D..

We especially liked listening to The Ocean Blue, while going outdoors. My girlfriend ACS laughed, "Ah, since you don't have any human friends, is that how you make new ones? I've heard of plenty of fish in the sea, but this is ridiculous."

It certainly seemed like there were plenty of fish in the transport, DAC, and digital cable sea. ACS and I reeled in the CAL Delta and Theta Data Basic transports; and CAL Alpha and Theta Cobalt 307 DACs. Of the myriad digital cables we tried, we ended up with the AudioQuest Digital Pro and XLO Reference Type 4, each retailing for $150.

My home alley was San Francisco's Japantown Bowl. As teens and young adults, we loved traveling to other alleys for leagues and tournaments. When we were in Southern California, you felt this magnetic pull towards AudioQuest (San Clemente), California Audio Labs (Huntington Beach), Theta Digital (Agoura Hills), and XLO (Rancho Cucamonga).

In addition to 75-ohm RCA coax, the CAL Alpha sported a 110-ohm AES/EBU XLR input. Sigh, so that was yet another facet to explore. Many AES/EBU connections were smooth and civilized, but slow, lifeless, and boring. The balanced XLO Reference Type 4B may not have bucked that trend, but was clearly more neutral, versus not just other AES/EBU cables but XLO's own RCA or BNC coaxial Type 4.

The XLO Reference coax and AES/EBU digital cables have different construction, so it's not an apples-versus-apples comparison. But as with all cable comparisons, we bust out the audiodharma Cable Cooker.

Wow, we even have an XLO Reference Type 7 ST optical cable. But anyway, the AES/EBU Type 4B sports a more, um, balanced sonic palate. It makes the coax cable sound warm and dry. A closer inspection reveals the coax to have a slight midbass boost, coupled with a diminution of sparkle and ambient information between the images.

Since the original XLO Reference series was made until 1998 at the latest, you may be able to find good used samples at very reasonable prices. If you do opt for XLO's Reference series, you can limit that to the digital cables between sources and DACs. You do not have to feel obligated to use XLO Reference line-level analog interconnects. But if you do use the analog interconnects, they'll preserve the imaging and timbres. You won't have to worry about discontinuity or sonic mismatch.

-Lummy The Loch Monster


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