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Cable Asylum: REVIEW: Cardas Audio Neutral Reference Cable by DeeCee

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REVIEW: Cardas Audio Neutral Reference Cable

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Model: Neutral Reference
Category: Cable
Suggested Retail Price: $546/meter
Description: Speaker cable
Manufacturer URL: Cardas Audio
Manufacturer URL: Cardas Audio

Review by DeeCee ( A ) on November 08, 2006 at 18:14:22
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for the Neutral Reference

Long ago I never imagined purchasing (even at used market prices) cables at this cost.

After several years and a few jumps in cable quality, I found myself seduced by the Cardas line of cabling.

My first experience in the line began with Quadlink 5C speaker cables that mated nicely with my Aragon and way outperformed my previous cabling, however I wanted more accuracy in midbass performance.

Good fortune smiled upon me when an opportunity to purchase used Cardas Neutral Reference speaker cable at a terrific price; 8 feet of biwire no less!

After hookup and running Ayre's Irrational, but Efficacious! CD glide tone track, I started to critically review the cables...well, after a number of false starts... I was seduced! Taken in! I kept falling into the trap of getting pulled in by the music.

After much play, I finally disciplined myself for a critical listening session.

Starting from the bottom, the bass was much cleaner and more distinct than the Quadlinks. Bass lines were deeper and easier to follow - acoustic bass was properly woody and strings plucked by fingers had a satisfyingly real "thunk". Along with a much appreciated cleanup of midbass, came a deeper, more solid deep bass foundation - punchy and clean. My observation is that this is due to Neutral Reference's ability to discern micro-detail and allow transients to naturally occur from silence to full volume with a minimum of exaggeration or overhang. This is evidenced by its aplomb in reproducing electric bass, synth-bass and drum.

In the most important realm (IMHO) is the famous Cardas midrange. Incredibly detailed without a dollup of fatigue, this is the heart and soul of the Cardas sound - in a word neutral. The reality of vocals had the persistance of gravity; it was difficult to critique as you are constantly drawn into the music. Violins, cellos, pianos and other string instruments projected their essence with full harmonics intact; a testament to NR's ability to cast complex harmonies in proper audible perspective.

In the matter of high frequencies, NR was extended and true. No shriek or excessive bite here (unless it's in the recording). Cymbols shimmered with the most natural fade I've ever heard. Brass and reed had all the bite and "spit" you would expect, full and breathy. Triangles rang with airy purity and extention.

Soundstaging is compromised by my room which is small and nearly cubical, however the stage was well layered and natural in width. It revealed the variety of textures from recording to recording nicely.

Of course, no cable is perfect and NR's faults are present but minimal - it's just a shade past "neutral"; still pure as sunlight - just a little golden in color, say "late afternoon" (a little warm)... Also, the NR midrange is so good, it tends to leave the rest of the audio spectrum slightly behind, showing as a slight lack of coherence throughout the entire frequency range.

In conclusion I am very satisfied with Neutral Reference's qualities: its natural, relaxed textures, impactful yet realistic bass, smooth and extended high end, and most of all, its pure, lifelike portrayal of vocals and midrange instruments make for a great addition to my audio system.

Definitely recommended for audition!

Happy Listening!

P.S. I listened to both vinyl and CD... across several musical genres and styles: Steely Dan, Tchaikovsky, The Eagles, Rita Coolidge, Rhian Benson, Dvorak, Miles Davis, Sade, Dianne Reeves, Fourplay, Casandra Wilson, Zap Mama, Johnny Guitar Watson, Cyrus Chestnut, Earth, Wind and Fire, Marcus Miller, Michael Franks, Ella Fitgerald, Shirley Horn and more!

Product Weakness: Price, Still slightly bass weighty ("golden" or "amber" coloration)
Product Strengths: Realistic midrange, excellent timbre and texture top to bottom

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Aragon 4004 Mk. II
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Sonic Euphoria PLC
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Sony DVP-S7000; Perpetual Technologies P-1A & P-3A DDE/DAC; Monolithic P3b Power Supply/VPI HW-19 Jr Turntable; Benz-Micro Gold Cartridge; Rega RB-300 Arm; Audio Alchemy VITB/PS-2 Power Supply
Speakers: Aerial Acoustics Model 7
Cables/Interconnects: Cardas Neutral Reference bi-wire speaker cable, Cardas Cross, Revelation Audio Labs Prophecy I 2 S digital audio cable, VH Audio Pulsar/NextGen Cu, AQ Ruby & various cheap brand cables.
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz, fusion, R&B/Funk/Pop/Rock, Gospel, Blues, 'World', Classical, etc
Room Size (LxWxH): 9'9 x 10'9 x 9'4
Room Comments/Treatments: Room too small and cubical. Carpet on slab, oversized chair & end table in room. Removing slap echo with ASC Flutter Stix.
Time Period/Length of Audition: Several days
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): HTS-2000 Power Conditioner, Room Tunes Deluxe Justarack, Audio Points under speakers
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Cardas Audio Neutral Reference Cable - DeeCee 18:14:22 11/8/06 ( 0)