This is a tough call. This system is very new to you and you are going to speculate on some final touches. The chances that the result is still going to be satisfying to you in even three months are low. On the one hand you could take the considered route and try everything before you buy and then pay retail (since this is the only honourable course, right?). Arguably this represnts good economics because you have improved your chance of getting a synergistic balance in your system. On the other hand, with the whole system being new to you, and ditto this level of performance, I could equally argue just buy second-hand and take the risk. After you have lived with it for some months you will have a better idea of what you need to change about this system, and the issue may not be speaker cables, but one of your components. In fact I wouldn't mind betting this system changes your taste in music! And even if you do need to flick the cables, buying second-hand means the loss is not great. On balance the second course seems best to me in both the long and short term, unless you feel confident in the first. Of the cables you mention I would tend to go for the Cardas Cross even though this risks the system being a bit warm. I am not a fan of Harmonic Technology cables, not from a taste perspective but because they are very over-rated, and believe the Nordost Red Dawn is too system dependent for taking a punt on.
The Cardas is a safe bet, but it is a bit pricey. The Nordost is a little zippy in the upper midrange and treble, and requires VERY careful system/room matching. The Harmonic Tech. cables are a over rated and over priced in my opinion. Permit me to throw another hat in the ring. The Analysis Plus cables are (in each of their respective price catagories) very nicely balanced and don't require careful system matching. They are very detailed yet very musical. I think the the Silver Oval outperforms the Cardas and would be a little less expensive. Their Oval Nine would be comparable to the Cardas, and would be quite a bit less expensive.
If you read any of the negative reviews of Harmonic Tech. cables you will note that people offering these comments have not tried these cables in their system, at home, for a period of time long enough to let them burn in. I have owned Transparent, Kimber, and Tara Lab as well as listened to many other speaker cables and these only had a small change in tonal quality after break in. At best they got a little less bright and smoother over time. Please note that HT's sound like junk, until they burn in. This takes about 80 hours of continuous play. So I would give them a listen before buying anything else. You will be amazed at how good they are if given a proper amount of burn in time. I could not justfy spending my hard earned money on anything else. Their interconnects will provide even a greater improvement in your system. They have a 30 day money back return policy so you can't loose. These cables are built using science not snake oil as many others do.
You are welcome to your opinions Lost, but my negative reviews of the HT cables are due to six weeks with a full set of the cables, that the importer had used for two months previously. It is not fair of me to leap to conclusions, but my experience of cables led me to the suspicion that the purity of the HT sound was due to the single crystal structure of the conductors, but that the cable geometry, which appears to be very "garden variety" to me, was responsible for the phase errors that I heard in all of the HT cables. While the cables could be labelled promising, the phase errors, which in turn meant they had a less than even-handed presentation of all frequencies, mean that for me they do not belong in the high-end. I concede that these opinions relate to my experience in my system, and I am not going to claim that you are wrong about how they perform in yours. But I respectfully suggest that this forum is for the honest expression of personal opinions, and is not enhanced when someone attempts to disparage the opinions of others - particularly based on assumptions about the validity of those assumptions (such as - all those who don't agree with me failed to listen to burned in cables) for which you can not possibly have a factual basis.
I agree with Walkera. Try the analysis plus. the oval nine is ULTRA neutral and fairly cheap to boot.Unbelievable detail yet not bright. Super dynamic, wide, deep soundstage.
I feel compelled to throw my two cents in on this subject. Cardas cables are as much tone controls as many of the other cables offered by manufacturers who make claims based upon geometry, grain structure, specific burn-in times and so on. Lets not forget that cables are simply designed to "connect" your hardware, not impart any sonic signature or other artifacts which could alter the speed, pitch and timbre of your system. Speaking of science, not voodoo, have you gone to Nordost's site and read the specs on their wire? Pure science with published specs and reviews which support the test data. I have heard too much about "burn-in"...have you thought that possibly you are achieving positive or negative results after a lengthy burn-in which is nothing more than becoming accustomed to the "sound" of the cables? Have you noticed that more than a few of the writers for Stereophile start their reviews with "At first I thought component XYZ sounded harsh and overly agressive, but after six weeks of continuous playing, it finally got broken in enough to reveal its true sound?" this is just another way of saying "I finally got used to its sound, and now I like it fine". Cables are not supposed to have attributes which you can identify, quantitfy or use to "balance" a systems sound. The Nordost Red Dawn is an excellent choice, as is SPM and several other wires in their lineup. The only way to fully understand the proper role of cables is to experiment with different wire to hear for yourself what they do in your system. If you know what you want, the used market offers excellent deals on quality wire, if you do not know what you want, nothing beats a local understanding dealer who will loan you different wire to try in your system. If Nordost is too expensive, the Goertz wire is also excellent value for the money. You have a very promising system, the right cables can allow the true voice of your rig shine through.
I have had a similar experience to LOST . When I first got my Harmonic Tech. cables there was an upsetting period of about 85 hrs break in with poor results, BUT... after another 5-8 hrs. passed, things really did change significantly. They offered the most focused imaging I have heard to date, The least distortion in the high end and a clear bass. I did not simply "get used to them". I have far too much experience for that. As it happened I was almost never home during the break in period and listened critically for short amounts of time during the first 80 or so hours. I do agree with JRT that in many cases people ears do adjust to the sounds they are hearing. Sometimes this leads to an exaggerations of the qualities of the product being reviewed, but sometimes it leads to something great, as occasionally, aquired tastes are the best. I think Redkiwi knows a lot about these subjects and only hope that his problems were on his own system and not that as I gain more experience I will notice te same things he did with H.T. cables. I have the Pro-9 bi-wire spkr. cables, The Pro-9 AC power cord and the Cyberlink Platinum interconnect. So far, I am delighted with the improvements over my previous cables(Monster 2.4s', XLO and Tributaries interconnects and spkr. wire). A good friend of mine has a dream, top of the line system, DCS Delios & Purcell, Avalon Opus, Conrad Johnson Premier 16 LS, VAC Rennaisance 70, Theta transport w/Synegistic Designer reference cables through a Bybee power conditiner, etc. and although his speakers are superor to mine, the Harmonic Technology cables and their pinpoint imagiing, clarity of the high end and enormous midrange are not outdone by his system. I therefore recommend that you try the H.T. cables as they can be returned have a 30 day trial period. Just make sure you really break them in for over 90 hours with both pink noise and music with a lot of dynamic range. Good lick. Great to hear such imformed and open minded opinions.
Sorry, meant to say good LUCK. Taking foot out of mouth.
Hi Redkiwi, How do you detect phase problems. I have my suspicions about the bass frequencies in my system, and I thought you might offer some advice.
Hi Bmpnyc. You flatter me. I really don't think I know a lot about these things at all. I just have this dreadful habit of stating my opinions in a very forthright manner. My, perhaps overly negative, reaction to the HT cables is borne of repeatedly falling for the hype around so-called giant-killer cables (previous examples include DH Labs and JPS Superconductor) only to find that they are somewhat wanting compared to the giants after all.... and after being disappointed, feeling the need to provide some negative comments to balance the hype. With respect to the HT cables - I really think they are reasonable value for the money. But they are not outstanding, and if you go up a price point, there are better cables to be had. I do not know how to explain to you what I mean by phase problems. For a start, phase problems are something you tend to feel. For example, in the extreme case of sound that is 180 degrees out of phase, people often refer to flatter images, weak bass and brightness - but these descriptions fail to convey the feeling I get when the sound is out in reverse phase. It is a kind of unnaturalness that I cannot describe, even if it is usually accompanied by a perceived tonal imbalance, but which I recognise when I hear it. The point is that I heard some of this unnaturalness in a certain narrow band, with most of the HT cables, the band affected differing from cable to cable. Experience tells me that this is usually a function of cable geometry. I could try and prattle on further but I doubt I can add much to this explanation. You mention bass frequencies Bmpnyc. My recollection of the characteristics of the individual cables is vague now, but I do remember that the single-wired speaker cable tended to emphasise bass purr over bass slam. Is this what you are experiencing? Finally, I don't think you should care much if someone else does not like your cables. All cables are system dependent to some extent. My experiences with cables could be entirely driven by my components presenting certain complex drive/load combinations that only certain cables work well with.
I have virgos w/audio research vt100m2. I read lots of reviews and the top reviewer choices were consistently Yamamura, and Nordost (Red or SPM). I went with Nordost red and have had excellent results. I went from cheap heavy guage copper to these, and the results were remarkable. I haven't heard anything else in my system.