Family cable shootout

Two weeks ago, I performed a little interconnect shootout in my own system. I have made a lot of changes to my system over the spring/summer, and wanted to find the best cable to use between my CD player and preamp. It was my brother - in - law's birthday, so my family was together for a celebration. As a music lover, he was really into listening to my system. We spent two hours playing whatever he wanted to hear.

Along with us, were three other members of my family. As I have not totally dialed in the cables I should use, I have a pile of interconnects laying around the system. My brother - in - law inquired about it, so I told him that I will try to pick the best "one of these days". That's when the "wire is wire" comment came up. My position was that people can hear differences in cable, but that some people take it to the point of silliness. He and my fiance wanted to hear the differences, if any, and help me decide which would be the winner. So here was the perfect opportunity to do the evaluation. I especially welcome the opinions of non - audiophiles, as I think they often bring the right perspective, not being prejudiced by brand names, cost, etc. They wanted to see if wire sounded different.

The players were AlphaCore Goertz Copper(loaned from a friend), AudioQuest Emerald, Coincident CST, HomeGrown Audio Silver Lace, HomeGrown Audio Super Silver, Musical Fidelity NuVista, and Stealth SCR.

As I don't want to name names right now, I will just use an anonymous name for each cable as I go through a description of what we found.

Cable A sounded a bit fuzzy, and destroyed the speed and detail that my Atma Sphere OTL amps have infused into my system. Cable B retained the speed and detailed, but was thin, lightweight in the lower frequencies, and sounded a bit zippy. Cable C showed fine detail and speed, but did not offer the weight of the best cables. Cable D was similar to the Cable C, but a tad zippy. Cable E sounded smooth and relatively clear, but incoherent, disconnected, and not especially extended, particularly in the treble.

The two best were Cable F and Cable G. I feel that the reason was that these two cables were able to extract the most detail and speed, without sounding white. Both were extended at both ends of the frequency spectrum, along with a very natural midrange. Air was impressive. Dynamics were special.

In the end, everyone except for my brother - in - law had already given up the ghost. Listening intently to 30 seconds of a song 3X, followed by the same thing with another cable is laborious. Often, the differences are quite subtle, and need a very great effort to discern differences. But, we both felt the overall winner was Cable G. It edged the Cable F due to more impactful bottom end, and more detailed overall.

I will like to say that I would probably be happy with most of the cables in this group. But, two seemed to be more right than the rest. And, it was interesting to see the reactions of "normal people"; how none of them could say after that that "wire is wire".
Joe, were the Goertz copper cables their earlier flat design or the newer "purled" design ? Besides that, you KNOW that we all want to know what worked the best in your specific system. You can't lead us to the edge and not push us over like that : ) Sean
I did a similar but slightly more haphazard shoot out over a six hour period last weekend with Audiogon member Viggen. He'll be continuing the testing for another few weeks, then will post his thoughts.

Trelja, was anyone else besides you and your brother-in-law able to perceive the same differences imparted by the cables? Also, 30 seconds makes it kind of tough to get a good feel for a cable or even a component for that matter. And yes, please reveal which cables performed best and what the rest of your system is. Was the AlphaCore and Coincident G and F? Heheh, thanks for sharing.
I have most of the cables you mentioned.
In our informal listening
I like Alpha core TQ2,
Zu Varial after painfully long 3 months of break in period-eternal break in.Please post uour winners.
When I originally started to write out this thread, I did name the names. But, kind of changed my mind, as I didn't want to seem as if I was disparaging Cables A through E. I realized that people would probably want to know which witch was which, and I guess I should come clean soon.

Sean, the AlphaCore I used was the older, flat design. As I believe you are pretty familiar with this product, you may already know which cable it is. I have not heard it in a while. It was not Cable G.

Gunbei, you are correct about Cable F! It was Coincident. What surprised me the most was just how great this cable is wherever I use it. I think this is probably the one cable I can recommend to anyone, in pretty much any system. It lost out to Cable G by a slim margin. It took about 3 or 4 times of going between it and Cable G before the winner was certain. As mentioned previously, it sounded very, very close to the winner. I had to listen pretty intently to discern the differences, but they were apparent under that type of scrutiny.

In most of the cases, I let the others give their opinions before I would offer anything. The thing about people who aren't in this hobby is that they often have great perception, and can instantly come up with the right analysis of a system's sound. I only needed to get involved in coming to conclusion on the differences between Cables C and D, and F and G.

Most of the test was not done in 30 second rounds. I should really take back my comments about that. The 30 or so second thing came out of the necessity of trying to discern differences in cables which sounded very similar. Like Cables C and D, and F and G. The other cables got at least one song.

Cables A and B were the only two which I basically felt were not suited to my system. Which doesn't mean I think they were not good cables, just not right for me and my setup. I think I could go on just fine with any of the others we tried.
Trelja - I'm actually more curious to know what music you used as a basis of reference. Is it possible with the cables that were really close that it would come down to what type of music you were playing, or possibly even which track? Or were the differences a little bit wider than that?
The flat Goertz interconnects are phenomenally high in capacitance per foot. As such, i can see them being VERY system dependent and not working too well with just about any SS preamp, especially those that use integrated circuits as the main gain stage. Even some tube stages may have a hard time with these cables and i think that this is why they came out with their newer, lower capacitance "micro-purl" series.

While i'm obviously still curious as to what you thought worked best, i'm also curious as to if you have ever tried any of the flat Goertz speaker cables in your system ? I know that Ralph at Atma likes and recommends these cables for use with his amps. Sean
Sean, I have not tried the AlphaCore speaker cable. Maybe I should give it a listen. Right now, I am ecstatic with my Coincident CST 1.0 to the midrange and tweeters, and the CST 0.5 to the woofers. But, I should definitely see how Ralph's feelings translate into my system. Maybe, I can try a pair from The Cable Company.

Although, the more I think about it, he shows his electronics with the Classic Audio Reproductions horns. From hearing this combination the past two years in NYC, it needs a bit of softening, mellowing, and slowing down. Maybe the Goertz provides this.

By the way, Cable A was the AlphaCore Goertz copper IC. In my system, it took away from what the Atma Sphere amps have given me. The unreal detail, speed, and effortlessness. My system has a good amount of richness via my older generation Coincident speakers, and the full bodied speaker cable. And the very refined Blue Circle preamp is definitely on the rich and powerful side(kind of tube dependent). Maybe what would add a welcome measure of warmth and richness ala the Alpha Core was over the line in my system.

Only an audition would show me how the Goertz speaker cables meshed in. I would tend to think pretty well, as they may parallel the Coincident speaker cable's richness.

I am confident you can guess what Cable B was.

I think Esoxhntr asks a great question. Definitely relevant to any test.

The evening consisted of the 2 hours where we were not evaluating cable, then approximately another 2 where we were.

The music played(tracks listed where special attention was given paid - and not every song was played from every CD):
1) 20th Century Masters - Allman Brothers Band. Whipping Post, Melissa, Blue Sky. Classic guitar and drum interplay by Duane Allman/Dickey Betts and Jaimoe/Butch Trucks. The perfect American rock band.
2) Shelby Lynne - I Am Shelby Lynne. Thought It Would Be Easier, Gotta Get Back, Dreamsome, Where I'm From. A stone cold soulful singer. White hot, smoldering, lingering.
5) New Order - Best of(Not Sure). My brother - in - law's CD. We listened to all of their hits. Electronic, thunderous, techno. Acid test to see if a system has cojones.
6) Beth Orton - Central Reservation. Stolen Car, Sweetest Decline, Couldn't Cause Me Harm, Pass In Time, Central Reservation. Excellent feeling in her vocals, powerful arrangement, lively.
7) Louis Prima - The Best Of. Just a Gigolo, "Jump, Jive, & Wail", Whistle Stop, Banana Split For My Baby, They'll Be No Next Time, I've Got It Bad. Would have loved to have seen him live, interplay with Keely Smith.
8) Sonny Rollins - Theme from the movie, Alfie. Alfie's Theme, Street Runner With Child, On Impulse. Rollins showing all facets of the diamond he is, every emotion capable of being pushed through the saxophone comes through. Jazz at its zenith.
9) Southern Culture On The Skids - Dirt Track Date. Voodoo Cadillac, Camel Walk, White Trash, Make Mayan A Hawaiian, Dirt Track Date. Dynamic; in your face, fun, straight ahead rock & roll.

The 30 second tests consisted of the beginning of Southern Culture On The Skids "Voodoo Cadillac" to separate Cable C and Cable D, towards the end of Sonny Rollins "On Impulse to hear how Cable E compartmentalized the musical spectrum and lost a bit, especially in the treble, and the final determination for Cable F(Coincident) vs Cable G was a bit after the beginning of Beth Orton "Sweetest Decline".
Sounds like a great test and a fun time. I definitely agree that non-audiophiles can have some pretty astute perceptions, and some creative and enlightning ways of describing what they hear.