CARDAS Fans: Golden vs. Neutral vs. Presence?

I know the Reference series is considered to have less of the traditional house Cardas sound. However, I've read many differing opinions that leave me in the dark as to what they sound like.

Also, one 6moons reviewer liked the Golden Ref IC more than the Golden Ref speaker cable. He found the speaker cable somewhat lean, though detailed and transparent. The most worrisome trait, though, was that he found there to be a loss of "body sound" to vocals and strings, with an emphasis on what he called the "head sound." And the bass a bit overblowsn. This was compared to Nirvana S-L.

Then there is both the Neutral Ref and the Golden Presence. I know what Cardas says about them on their website, so I don't need their descriptions of how they hear them.

Many people find the Neutral Reference too lean with brightness on less than ideal recordings. And the bass seems to be good, but not as deep and tight as it could be.

Then there is the Golden Presence. Few have written about it, but there are a couple of people who like it best of all the Reference series.

Can I get some informed opinions on both the interconnects and the speakers cables of all three models?
I have used all but the GP, and my opinion would be in most sytems the GR IC's and the GC speaker cables hit the sweet spot. They sound good, but I currently use all Purist wire if that tells you anything.
Cardas Golden Cross is the best.
Next is Hexlink 5C.
Power cord is "Golden" and no other.
my 2 cents....
I have Golden Reference Bi-wired speaker cables and I don't find the sound to be lean or the bass overblown. I think it is an exceptional cable with my equipment. I am also using Cardas Golden Cross interconnects from My CD player to the preamp and they are a great sounding, articulate, but yet warm cable. Golden cross is warmer than Golden Reference. I also use Golden Reference power cables.
I would not own either. The Golden Reference masked detail my system is capable of. They are nothing but overpriced lures IMHO.

I am using very short ultra thin copper ribbons to much better results.
And away we go.....
for many years, i owned golden cross, golden hex 5c and hexlink 5c. i would not own cardas cables anymore. i sold them several years ago.

i found the cardas cables somewhat unbalanced. a bit too much emphasis upon the uppper mid/lower treble and not as extended in the bass as other cable.
I just went from Zu Gede ICs to Golden Reference. The improvement was quite noticeable across the spectrum. I'm using it with McIntosh and the Mc is nice and smooth to start with. I was originally planning to buy GC but my dealer talked me into GR. They're about the same price.

I'm happy with the GR. GC are well-known for being smooth. If I still had my Krell I would have got the GC for sure but with my Mc it might have been overdoing it. Spending the $$$ on the GR surely made me a believer that you can keep improving the sound with cables but it costs.

I had tried a lot of $200 and under cables and the GR was a clear step up from all of those. I don't think you could go wrong with GC - they sell almost immediately used on Agon. I could understand reviewers saying GR are bright if their system already tends that way. I spent a lot of time and money getting away from the harsh highs.

Probably any cable would sound decent with the Mcintosh IMO. What components are you using? It really depends on the synergy the cable will have with the components. And Usblues is right - you'll get a slew of responses all recommending something different. I would stick with well-characterized brands where you can read a lot of different opinions on a single model, e.g., Golden Cross. You'll get a feeling about the sound if you read enough different opinions about it. I wouldn't trust a single "professional" review.
Having owned the original Golden Cross for over a decade I upgraded to the recent configuration of The Golden Reference last year and noticed more detail in the mid range in my system. Other than that they are about the same but the detail brought fourth by the Golden Reference was worth the money spent having bought them here used on Agon. I also upgraded all my Power Chords from The Hex Chord by Cardas to the Golden Reference. This made the backround more black,more silent for the instruments to emit from.
I've used and auditioned a lot of cables from a lot of companies over the years (top of line to midgrade) and I continue to come back to the Golden Refs. I find the Golden Refs are pretty much neutral sounding cables, perhaps just a touch warm. They pretty much communicate what the rest of your system is doing (wonder why people claim they're anything from overly warm to lean).
They are not a cable that jumps out at you in any department, there are cables that are more detailed, quieter, airy, spacious, etc. The GR's just kind of cover all the bases nicely, you can build a nice musical system around them. Want some more air and spaciousness add a bit of silver somewhere, need more bass, get some PAD Dominus, I could go on and on.
The Golden Cross have always been too warm and lacking in detail when I've tried them, YMMV.
Quite a difference in opinion. Just as I found on searching the net on these.

I wasn't even asking about the Golden Cross, but I appreciate the opinions. That cable seems to have many admirers. From my understanding, it has an engaging, pleasant sound that lacks some detail and is a bit rolled off on the highs. People especially like it who find it makes their older, less than perfect recordings sound more pleasant.

It is interesting that two gentlemen here moved on from Cardas and really don't like it. I have found other similar comments on Audiogon and other sites, as I have found high praise as well.

It seems the Golden Reference IC gets higher marks than the speaker cable. Some consider the spkr. cable a bit heavy in the bass, but the "body" vs. "mouth" emphasis thing is what I wonder about. I do know what that reviewer was talking about, because I hear this in other components. Rather than hearing the resonant cavity of the throat, or guitar or violin body, certain components emphasize the "lip" sound or the sibilants or attack on the notes, to the detriment of thinning out the important resonant component, which gives body to the sound, sounding less electronic and more real.

I certainly welcome more comments. And I've heard from no one regarding the Neutral Reference or the Golden Presence.
I've owned both the golden reference and the neutral reference and both in interconnects and speaker cables. IMHO the golden reference is better in all respects. In my system, the major difference is that the golden reference has very good body and timbre. The neutral was quite veiled and timing was muddy - again, limited to my system(s) experience. I can recommend the golden reference, but the neutral is not my cup of tea at all. Also, I feel the moniker of "neutral" versus "golden" and its implication that the "golden" is warmer and less neutral is inaccurate. The "golden" is simply a better cable and therefore my conclusion is that the "golden" is also more neutral than the "neutral" since it interferes less with my perception of the music. Last, none of the Cardas cables IMHO are super detailed, fast or super transparent. However, the golden reference does timbre and body very well, especially in a system that is already too bright. Of course, limited to my experience and subjectivity. Jeff
Hi Zear, I thought you were using Straight Wire Crescendo? Why are you moving to Cardas?

I think Jeff has it right with the Golden Refs vs. the Neutral Ref., the Golden Refs are definitely the most accurate of the Cardas cables. I would suspect the Golden Presence would be closest to Golden Ref, seeing as it is a decontented Golden Ref. I would expect it would just have less of everything. Again, the Golden Ref will have the body vs. mouth thing down. You should hear more body than mouth in a synergistic system, the Cardas is more about spaciousness and decay than attack. I am experiencing truly dimensional imaging and and a nice full tonal balance with mostly Golden Ref cabling.
I should also add, I do think the IC's are a bit more neutral than the speaker cable, in my experience the speaker cable does add a touch more bass than neutral. With tubes and all Golden Refs I could see how one could have an overly dark presentation, again it is all about synergy.
In the end, you simply cannot count on other's opinions for what it will do in your system. Buy some used here on the 'gon and sell them at no loss if you don't like them. Or borrow some from the lending library at the Cable Company.
one of the problems of elicitingopinions about cables or any other compoents is differences in perception.

two listeners exposed to the same stereo system could voice diametrically opposite perceptions about what they here.
it seems that if you place 4 audiophiles in the same room, there will be 5 opinions.

an experience i had at jabuary ces illustrates this point.

at one of the rooms in the ventian, i midly objected to the treble response. some adjustment of room treatment materials occured. we listened again. i objected again and there was a disagreement between about 6 people in that room.

be careful of eliciting opinions. the same product can be described using opposite terms. in the context of this thread, i am surprised that anyone describes the cardas cable as warm. i don't find any of their cables warm.

let me add one more experience. a friend visited me and described my stereo system as "muffled", where as, i disagreed saying it was quite extended. assuming no hearing loss, such a difference in perceptions is perplexing.
Mrtennis you are right about everyone having an opinion and perhaps a different listening experience. However, I was one of the person's that stated the Cardas Golden Cross is a warm cable and you can believe that to be the absolute truth when compared to the Nordost SPM's that I was using for the past few years. Everything is relevant!! If you have ever heard Nordost, you would say that Cardas is on fire!!
Hi - I have experience with the Neutral Ref & golden Cross Speaker cables - Both cables are excellent - The golden Cross are as you might have read - are a very musical warm cable - This is 100% true so if you looking to tame your system a bit and add some mid bass look no further - The neutral ref surprisingly are also warm but are way more open - presents a bigger sound stage at least with my gear. I have also used a GC Interconnects between Cd and integrated with both speaker cables - I found this combo to be to much of a good thing - I prefer a faster open non coloring interconnect - like Nordost - This combo works very well for me - The last big improvement to my sound was switching from a monster conditioner to a Shunyata - This also made a drastic improvement to my system - All these changes made absolute and dramatic changes to my gear - Hope that helps...Tony
Firedrums, you don't find the NR to be bright on the highs? So, do you use the NR or Nordost now?

SNS, you say the GR would give more "body than mouth". However, that is the opposite of the reviewer I referred to. He claimed there was more of the mouth, less of the body. Confusing.

Chris in Netherlands, the Crescendos I had reviewed were borrowed and not for sale. There are personal reasons I did not end up purchasing Crescendo though I had intentions of doing so.

As I said before any review has to be taken in context of the system its in, also, as MrTennis mentioned, the perception of the listener. You cannot make judgments about how a cable will work for you until you experience it within your system.
I reiterate, Cardas Golden Refs are essentially neutral cables, wildly differing opinions only serve to reinforce that assertation. You don't hear such differing opinions about Nordost or PAD, Nordost, warm, PAD, thin, I don't think so!
I can't somehow imagine how a cable that spews dielectric noise into the signal can be beneficial for certain systems. But, if that is what is, then who am I to argue.

How do I know the Golden Reference is noisy? My system is that sensitive.
No, to me the neutral Ref were not bright at all - I found them to be full bodied open with a smidge of warmth - The Golden Cross a bit slower, smaller sound stage and lots of warmth - I have been using the Golden Cross / Nordost combo for about a year now and am very pleased with that synergy - I still own the Neutral Ref speaker cable - They are sitting in a box with another NR cable I have purchased to be used in a future Surround set up - The Neutral Ref are more revealing so they might highlight any weakness in a system - Golden Cross are way more forgiving - I would like to try the Golden Ref - I have heard that they have the positive qualities of both the NR and the GC - That would be terrific if it is true. Tony
Muralman, I also use the Speltz anti-ic's in my system, very nice cable. Still, the fact it doesn't use a dialectic doesn't make it inherently better. The Speltz cable has it's own noise to add to my system, in the form of increased rfi and emi.
I too can hear what each cable does in a very revealing system, the Cardas Golden Ref. will be the correct choice for many systems.
Muralman, it's curious you found them noisy when so many have commented on how black and quiet they are.

Firedrums, why did you not continue to use the Neutral Ref speaker cables, instead moving to Nordost? I'm guessing because the Golden Cross was so warm, you needed the Nordost to give it definition.
I'm still trying to find those with Golden Presence.

It has been said the G Presence IC is the same as G Ref, except less shielding. But I also heard that was not true.

Also, the G Presence speaker wire. Since it has 4 bundles of conductors, like the Neutral Ref, how is it different? It certainly costs more.
Sns, thanks for your opinion. I am open minded to interconnects. It is the one area I have not finalized.
Zear, Those cables were brought to my house by a CODA salesman. On his amp. you couldn't hear the fizzzz. He also brought Jena cables.

They sinned too, though less noticeably. MIT have been the worst.

These cables are carrying the signal to my speakers. The fact naked wire produces no hiss, and the Cardas has metal conductors, I can only think it is the thick cable jacket that is noisy.
Muralman, your system looks killer, and your posts show you to be a well-seasoned audiophile.

From your MIT comment, I would guess you hate networked cables. My only experience was with a borrowed Transparent that sounded pretty good at the time to my ears, though probably pumped up and larger than life, so it impressed me.

Are you referring to Gold Ref shielding and/or outer jacketing as the noisemakers?

Perhaps the Gold Presence w/less shielding would sound better.

Have you fooled around with the AQ DBS stuff? Curious how that may effect dielectric issues.
Zear, I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think it is the shielding on the Presence that is different than GR, rather it is less conductors.
I've also owned and demoed Synergistic Resolution Ref. and Absolute Refs. the active shielding does make for a quieter cable, but not necessarily a better cable. The quietness/blackness of a cable is only one aspect of what makes a cable sound the way it does. There are so many variables in a cable, that to put too much emphasis on one aspect of it's design is fruitless.
SNS, on Golden Presence, there are obviously less conductors than G ref (4 groups vs. 12 groups). But, on the IC, I am pretty sure the design is very similar. So it should sound much different than Neutral Ref IC, and more like G Ref. But what do I know?

SNS, you use Speltz as well. Is this anywhere in the same league? I've heard both praise and lackluster comments on the Speltz.
Yes, surprisingly, the Speltz cable is at least in the same league. Thus far I've only used it from my DAC to preamp (replacing Cardas Golden Ref), and it only has about 125 hours of burn in. I've tried many of the relatively inexpensive cables in the past and have never been much impressed, ie. I was somewhat cynical about the cudos given this cable. At this point I'm really impressed with this cable, at this price it is a no-brainer, it compares with much higher cost cables.

I hear really wonderful transparency/detail, tonal balance perhaps a bit on the warm side, actually, very similar to the GR in my system. I have only a couple of small nits thusfar, it seems a tad more aggresive on the attacks than the GR, the GR seems to accentuate the decays rather than the attacks. Image density and demensionality are a tad thinner as well, GR's really excell in the spaciousness category. Finally, there is a bit of confusion in more complex passages. The slight aggresiveness and confusion could be due to either RFI/EMI or lack of burn in. The info sheet that comes with the cable, and talk in the forums indicates these cables may need 500 hours to fully burn in.

I am somewhat skeptical that any wire needs 500 hours to burn in, 100 hours has been the usual mark in my experience. Anyway, I'm burning in the cable further at the moment, I will listen again at 200 hours, then 500 hours. Even as is, this cable is worth a listen, it may be all one needs! Keep in mind I'm only using the single IC, Golden Ref and PAD Dominus everywhere else, a full system of Speltz IC's and speaker cable, who knows?
I did a comparison of all Cardas GR interconnects + bi-wire GR speaker cables and all Speltz interconnects + Speltz single wire speaker cables. In my comparison, with CJ electronics and sonus faber guarneri speakers, the Speltz had better prat and was more transparent. It also sounded more relaxed and like timing was cleaner. The Cardas had a little more bass and a little more natural timbre. I preferred the Speltz. I've not heard or done the comparison in other setups. Jeff
Jj2468, your experience sounds right to me. The Spelts SCs are smooth, spacious and musical. Speltz has the same dislike for dielectric distortion as I. As I have said, on my system that distortion comes out loud and clear.

Upon getting letters from some folks in Europe, with the same speakers as I, that said they love ribbon SCs, I decided to try a naked ribbon. There I got all the bass and natural timbre you noticed with the Cardas, but retains all the clarity of the Speltz. What's more, the fore and aft separation became phenomenal. PRAT even improved.

Zear, thanks. That was very nice of you.
I am using the Nordost as interconnects and have changed from Neutral ref to golden cross speaker cables - Yes - for me this combo works very well - a balance of speed and warmth.
Muralman, interesting your experience with the Speltz. I was intrigued by them, but after reading tons of opinions out there, I was left with the impression that they were only good for the money, but they could not begin to compete with moderate, yet alone high, price cables. Some people did not like them at all, finding tonal and balance problems.
Zear, are you sure you were reading opinions of the Speltz IC. I have yet to read anything about Speltz ICs. I encourage people to search Asylum for comments on his ICs, not to be confused with the SC.
I'm using Golden Ref speaker cables and in my opinion they sound just fine. There are too many variables in the system to say what causes differing sounds, harshness, mouth, head sounds, fat bass etc. It could be caused by so many parts of the entire sound reproduction chain but in my quest for a balanced sound, the Golden Ref have never been found to be at fault to date. If there is a family resemblance of sound, it is not with the other members of the Cardas line but of copper wires in general. Copper has a particular sweetness that mixed or silver cables cannot match. But they can sound dull and be lacking in ultimate resolution. This is what the physical construction of the GR was designed to avoid and I think they have managed it pretty well. So my experience with them is very satisfactory and I have yet to find a more neutral speaker cable.

So to answer your question, try them all in your system and see how they sound. GR is highly neutral and extended so if it turns out sounding otherwise, something else in your system is causing it. But two unbalanced components can be match to sound neutral so ultimately it's still your choice.

I also have tried the Speltz speaker and ic cables (balanced configuration). Burnt them in for a LONG time as per instructions (500 hours) and they still sound like their prices, ordinary - neither extended nor neutral. I gave the speaker cables away and have the ics lying around somewhere because they look cool.
Flkn. it may just be as possible it is your system parts that make the Speltz sound wrong. I have had many very expensive cords run through varius systems, including your favorite Golden Reference. The Shunyata Helix fair were very good. The Cerious ceramic ICs also were very good. Nothing I tried though were better than the Speltz ICs.

In my system, matching has to be done with care. Simpleness is the rule I found best to follow.

Other systems will benefit from calming devices like cables that infuse the signal with white noise.

BTW, my copper ribbon SCs are markedly better than Speltz. These ribbons are ruthlessly honest. Any misstep in the system chain will be magnified. They have forced me to upgrade my DAC finally.
Flkn: What are you using for interconnect, and what for phono cable if you listen to lps ? Thanks very much.
Muralman1, it's entirely possible that it's MY system that is unbalanced and that the Golden Reference speaker cable brought it back to neutral. After all, what we are listening to is the TOTAL SUM of all our components. Faced with too many degrees of freedom, solutions are by necessity empirical only.

But I've dropped the apple many times and each time it falls to the ground in a predictable and correct way, so I believe the Golden Reference is a darn good cable. I'm sticking with it until I find better. Like many others here, I've tested many speaker cables too and I still stand by my comment that speaker cables can be sound grouped by the construction materials ie. pure copper or mixture or silver or gold etc. I would like to add one more significant cable sound contributor - the termination spade material - Rhodium or Silver oxide or Gold or ProGold. And what they are paired to on the speaker and amp terminations.

Not referring to anyone in particular, I find it amazing how audiophiles can pick one item in the equipment chain and make a great number of comments about it and say that it seems to make the difference between Day and Night when one should only be able to describe the CHANGE in sound perceived when the item is replaced and not make ABSOLUTE claims about the item. That's why ultimately it's the entire system all together not the individual components that matter the most. Perhaps I should have said that in MY particular system, the Speltzs, both speaker and balance ics, were ordinary.

Opus88, I use Harmonic Technology Magic Link 2s for all my interconnects. These are hybrid copper/silver designs and again I have yet to find better. I've gone through more cables than I can remember and there is no lending library where I am so it's all purchased between my hifi groupie and swapped around. Tested all kinds including gold hybrid but in my particular setup and system these are the bees knees! They don't make my system sound like playing with harsh silver cables but add just that touch of clarity and excitement in the music. And it's very extended at both ends. For phono cable, I use the original Linn Ittok arm's cable. Just got the old turntable working again after a long sleep and haven't had the time to mess around with it yet.
Vince and his ribbon cables.

How many threads is this posted in now?

Shout from the mountaintop.

Tell the world.
Re-inserted the Golden Ref. for the Speltz cable (between DAC and preamp), over a long listening session I realized how much more involving the Golden Ref. was. Now I'm not interested in re-inserting Speltz.

This tells me there is simply more resolution/detail with the GR in my system vs. the Speltz. The GR is more life-like, more image dimensionality and density, the Speltz is flatter more like hifi in my system. I suspect this very slight veiling is RFI, EMI issues.

Still, I would have to say the Speltz is a really nice cable for the money, if your cable budget is limited these are a nice choice.
I use the GR IC and the GP speaker. I love the synergy of the two and find the more revealing IC is where i needed to spend more money. I think it's interesting that several feel the GR to be colored when it is know to the industry as one of the most neutral cables made. I believe the problems arises in what you are used to hearing. IF you start with low end and work your way up the audio ladder of both cables and electronics then you change perspectives with each alteration. However, if you started out with top front end and amplification, speakers, and cables then you could truly judge small differences between cables. MHO.
One thing about the GR is according to the specs the capacitance is relatively very low. Most cable companies provide this spec for their ICs. I assume the lower the capacitance the more neutral it is. Of course like everything else the measurements provided by the vendor are not provided by a 3rd party.
Audiofiel says: "Vince and his ribbon cables.

How many threads is this posted in now?

Shout from the mountaintop.

Tell the world."

Oh, really? Google it guys. I think this dealer is feeling the heat. My DIY is just that good. The GR cable failed the test miserably. Funny how there are similar ribbon cables costing thousands.
There is nothing that ruins my system so completely as Cardas. I tried all of them, but they where abysmal. The power cords are the worst of the worst.
Sorry Vince GR is not in my line.

Feeling the heat?

I am also in the search for a Golden Reference speaker cable. Can't find any demo around. I am using GR IC and thiels 3.6 and CJ premire 350. anyone knows would they match?
Luna, you'll really need to hear them in your system to make that determination.

Cables are system dependent; there is no "one size fits all", a fact, not opinion, that some fail to recognize here.

However, with enough experience they eventually may understand.

Even the home grown crowd.
The great thing about the GR is resell value. Buy used and try. You can get your money back out if needed.
The type of sound I am looking for is detailed but not overly high energy in the high freq area. Would the GR speaker cable be like that?