I've come to the realization...

I want cables that will give my ears a rest.

I've come to the realization that my ears are rather sensitive (to the point of pain) to what some other audiophile listeners and reviewers find exciting and acceptable. I like to listen to the music firstly.

I work as a concert piano technician I am privilaged to be exposed, up close and personal, to real and actual top-notch instruments both American and European.

Over the years, piano voicing has become my specialty, and I am now sought after for this service. I find that some of my most discriminating clients and institutions completely defer to me for the voicing of their instruments.

All this to say that my ear is highly trained and very skilled in reference to actual instruments.

Also, some years ago, I retailed audio in a high-end store in the SF Bay area. Some of our brands were CJ, Rowland, Quad, Apoggee,Thiel, Benz, Koetzu, SME, MIT, etc.

Last year, I decided to upgrade my speakers from the original Quad ESL to the then critical darling the Gallo Reference III. To my ears, this speaker is better in most ways that I care about.

Having first broken-in and then listened to my speakers in several venues, and with a great variety of inputs and amplification, I have concluded that the reviewers of the Gallo speaker must be using better cables than I am, or must have a high tolerance for a shrill and tipped up tonal balance.

Putting tubes behind me, I was an early adapter (before the hype) of the NuForce monos, and I feel that these amps currently represent one of the very best values in amplification and is not considered to be a "bright sounding" amplifier. I found the sound of the top-end of these amps to be smoother than my EL-34 based reference tube amplifier.

When using a preamp, I insert the Sonic Euphoria autoformer PLC, a component known for its neutrality.

I have used vinyl and tube CD players as sources with the Gallos and the tonal signature is never completely relaxing to me. Currently I am using the Squeezebox 3 for a source, with a modified linear power supply.

For speaker cabling, I started out with some OCOS, then tried Alpha Core M1-2, and in a quick attempt to save my hearing, switched to some almost 20-year-old MIT 750. It helped.

As interconnects, I have experimented with using Ven Haus Pulsars. A great value, Chris's product transparently spotlights the midrange, and has great bass and dynamics, but features little depth, and is still much to lively for me. I tried original MIT 330 (not very transparent by today's standards, but coherent tonally and good soundstaging, I'm sure the MIT sound has come a long way since 1988). And I tried Magnan Signature (fabulous soundstaging and tonality but alas, compressed dynamics).

I still need something much smoother or laid back in the 5-10k hz range than any of these designs, + added warmth in the lower midrange wouldn't hurt either. And, I want great dynamics.

Cardas Golden Cross and Golden Reference seem to be a common suggestion for taming brightness and hardness and providing a smooth and warm tonality. MIT also has this reputation. For my buget, used these cable are still cost prohibitive. Zu is cheaper, and is voiced for Zu speakers, which are decribed as being somewhat forgiving in the highest octaves.

Any lower cost solutions? Interconnects in the >$200-300 used range. Speaker to $400 or so. What have you found.

Experience valued over conjecture, or the parroting of reviewers.
Thanks for your help,

for the music,
Audience AU24, Cardas Golden Cross, Purist Audio, all of these fit your needs and your price range.

I too find many of the high end speakers to sound shrill. I belive you have come to the same deduction as I have that cables become an important factor in "voicing" your system to your needs. Cardas is always a good choice for smoothing out high end response. I also like the Harmonic Technology line as well. I find their cables to be excellent in presenting a well balanced stage that does not tilt too much to the High Frequency extremes. I currently use the Purist Audio Dominus and find it the best to suit my tastes. Purist also makes some more budget priced IC's and Speaker cables. Another fave is the Harmonix line of IC's and speaker cables.

hope this helps,

I use Ensemble Masterflux interconnects, which should cost in your range for used examples. I have not compared them with the ones you know--I lucked on to them early and have never thought they needed fixing--but the lower mid warmth and the smoothness in the 5-10KHz range which you mention fit their sound well.

Congrats on your clear and complete description of your situation.
For the ICs I might recommend Oritek X-1. It's in your price range and I have been using a pair of late with excellent results on my digital front end. As for speaker cables I'd have recommended the AC Goertz MI-2 but you've already been down that road.
Hi Earthpulse,
Although cables can be helpful in relaxing a system to an extent, I think you may have to take a more painful look at your system: All truly excellent components in my humble opinion (Sonic Euphoria PLC, Nuforce Monos, Gallo Ref. III), but when combined together in one system, maybe the result might tend to skew the sound in one direction more than the other. That is, all these components have been praised for transparency and resolution of details, and when combined together, it might reach the extent of being too analytical, too edged. I hope my theory is wrong, but you might consider borrowing an active tube pre to rule this out.
I used to have a too bright system and experimented with a few interconnects where I had good experience with Acoustic Zen Matrix I, and Aural Thrills Active Gold interconnects (Charged w/external power supply). Ultimately though, changing the source did the trick for me.
One more thing, you did not mention any power conditioners or power cables. In my case, cleaning up the power has done a lot to improve the sound, including relaxing the top end.
Earthpulse, my opinion is that you should try ICs and speaker cable in your system. Since you are so familiar with a sound of live instruments, it may be worth it for you to call cable company and borrow different ICs and speaker cables and possibly power cords to audition these in your own system. That would be the only way to make sure you like the cables. And mention to them what you are looking for the cables to do. They are pretty knowledgeble and have database of speakers-cables combinations that were reported to work better. I know this is a pain in the neck kind of process, but it is far better than buying an interconnetc cables based on recommendation. Everyone's system and tastes are different. Just an idea....
I think power delivery/noise control & acoustics should be well addressed before begining an endless component swap. In my system, power delivery/noise control gear takes the highest percentage of the total budget--around $9K list price. Worth every penny, IMO.

As for cables, I suggest a phone call to Robert Schult of Ridge Street Audio Designs. His cables feature naturally insulated silver cabling. Way to go...

With psychic power and primal intensity from a hardcore salsa freak,
I have the same sensitivity to high end energy. I'm a great fan of cardas golden reference, but I just tested the Speltz anti-cable and I have not heard anything that can compete with them near their price. My experience has led me, in broad categories; to vinyl, the el34 tube and silk dome tweeters. If you can, demo sonus faber with a good tube amp (and a good source). Jeff

To JJ2468,
My sensitivity extends to surface noise and pitch variation as well (from off-center records). No more vinyl for me, even though I have many hundreds of records. Not to mention the cost of a turntable, phew! I got used to having a good one in the old days SOTA Star/SME IV/Decca/Sumiko DTI. Still have the Decca cartridges, dynamic as hell: London Super Gold, a VDH modified Gold, and Garrot Micro-Scanner Plum. Not going there again.

One thing I didn't mention in my post is that I am moving to the humid tropics, so wooden and leather speakers are not a working possiblilty, though when choosing speakers, I did considered the Sonos Faber line based on many comments written here by SF owners.

I'll try the Speltz, IC's first.

Power delivery? I agree with you that this may be a contributing factor, so, I am shifting to a solar/battery system, off the grid (actually, I was going to anyway). The tonal issues I am experiencing may be exaggerated by my present power situation, (Monster HTS-5000 for sources, NuForce with NuForce upgraded cables into the wall). None the less, my limited experience with power delivery suggests that the tonal imbalance I am hearing is beyond what power supply abnormalities might cause.Thank you for your ideas about Ridge St., I am ear-shy about silver. The natural cotton sheilding sounds comfortable for the tropics, I'll try a pair on for size.

I will demo some of the cables suggested in this tread in my system to zero in on the cure.

I tried the Oritek IC over the weekend and heard it really compress the music in this system: APL Marantz/Cayin KT88 integrated/Gallo Ref 3, Harbeth Super HL5

Surprisingly, I found the Nuforce Monos to be more smooth and mellow than the CJ MV-60 they replaced. So, while I agree that too much "transparency" - read: high-frequency energy - can add up to an unlistenable system... I do not hear NuForce's brand of transparency coming across in the form of distrorted tonal balance or exaggerated HF dynamics.

Harmonix is 3x my price range. Purist is 3-6x my price range, Harmonic Tech... thats the ticket, thankx, I'll try them.

to my ear, my ancient MIT 750 'music hose' beat out the AU24 speaker cable, in all areas. Yet, the price is right for AU24, and given its popularity here I want to give a listen to a complete AU24 set up. Thank you.

Your system looks great, I would love to hear it. Ensemble cables... none available used at the moment. I'll keep looking.

Thanks to all! More suggestions welcomed.
Audio Note AN-V for interconnect and Lexus for speaker wire they have beautiful bloom on top and never edgy. I found the AN-V to easily better the Audience AU24 in my system - the Audience is bright and thin.
don't laugh, but with most well designed, neutral components.....less is more. outside of the sonic generalizations of copper, silver, or hybrid cables, there is no cable brand that will dramatically 'fix' anything. if the old MIT'S sound better to you. use them. I have 15 year old Acrotech wire that i can't throw away....they just don't do anything wrong...in fact they don't do anything that stands out either........cables shouldn't bloom or vrrroooom or create anything. they should just solidly link components.
I too would recommend you try the Speltz interconnects and speaker cables. They are cheap (especially the speaker cables) and you could re-sell them and not take too big of a hit to your wallet.

I tried Paul's speaker cables and they certainly took the edge off the highs and they added some warmth. Actually, too much warmth for my taste. I bought mine used and re-sold them for the same price. Only cost me $5.00 in shipping to try them.


Try DiMarzio M-Path Interconnects and Super M-Path Speaker Cables. I use them with my Gallo Ref3's. They are in your price range and a great value. Additionally, they provide the sound you seek and compete with much more expensive calbes.

Good Luck,
I agree about the Cardas speaker cables - they present lots of details and a superb soundstage without the etched high end many cables have.
I have just switched speakers (to non-bi-wireable) and changed my cables from my bi-wire Cross in 3 meters to non bi-wire Cross in 2m , so my bi-wire Cross 3m is for sale. Interested? I would want $375 + shipping, list on these is almost $1100.
One of the most neutral, fast and open cables, which don't change any frequency in sound is XLO Signature. Check it out, can be amazing.
A cheap one to try out would be Signal Cable's analog 2 with Eichmann RCA's...I found these to be pretty warm sounding and are very cheap compared to most cables...

Also I recently added a Balanced power tech conditioner and power cables...this really changed my system, eliminates digital noise and hash and seemed to really make music more listenable overall. They have units that start pretty cheap, around $500 I think, definitely a better investment than cables as it works for all your components. I went with the upgraded FIM outlets on two of the sockets and they are definitely warmer sounding than the other cryo hubbels on the unit.
I understand your vinyl reluctance, so I'd recommend looking for a wadia 301 or 861 with mods by GNSC. The mods make these cd players very musical and analogue. Regarding cables, I just did a shootout and the Speltz were remarkable and beat out some other respected and more expensive cables. Lastly, did the MV60 you heard have the el34 or the 6550 tube. For what you are saying about high end energy, you would want to audition the MV60 with the el34 tube, which is more musical than the 6550.

I am going to attempt to move you away from the cable path for just a moment.

You don't say wether you are going from the SB to your pre or to a dac. I am asuming directly to your pre. If you can try SPDIF out of the SB to a quality tube dac. I have the Roku going to my Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista DAC with execelent results.

Other than that I am using Synergistic Research Kaladiscope Phase I IC's and Signature 10 Speaker Cables which new are above your price range.

I don't feel that the highs from my B&W N803 are fatiging (SP) at all.

Good luck in your search.

Earthpulse, I don't understand how can you claim to be knowing your instrument sounds and not prefer high frequency in the reproduced sound. Unless your system produces excessive tipped up sound off neutral at high freqencies. So if you are looking for neutral sound and not warm at bottom end and rolled off at high end, some of the cable suggestions may not be correct one. MIT and Cardas will do the "warm at bottom end and rolled off at high end" but will not be absolutely neutral IMHO. I happen to think most real instruments have enough high freq content to sound "lively". Piano tend to have lot warmth except some seleted keys. So I really don't understand most audiophile preference for rolled off sound!!
If you like Cardas, try the FMS Zero interconnects. I think they may meet your criteria plus they offer excellent harmonic detail.

I still need something much smoother or laid back in the 5-10k hz range than any of these designs, + added warmth in the lower midrange wouldn't hurt either.
Methinks that's a spkr/source voicing matter rather than connecting wires. In other words, it's difficult to find a wire which, connected to yr specific electronics, attenuates (i.e. has its anomalies) within that specific fre range...

OTOH, are you sure it's 5-10kHz & not ~3-6kHz you want to attenuate? Our ears already have a low pass filter up there -- whereas they don't @ 3kHz and excessive energy @ ~3-4kHz can be annoying...

Dynamics: you need hi-fre extension (among many other things) to obtain an illusion of "dynamic impact".
to Gregm,

Thanks for the question,

Since I don't have an equalizer in my system, I think its quite possible that part of the spectrum that's troubling my ears is wider or lower than I suggested on my post.

Any one have some speltz/eichman that they would let me try or buy?

For the music,
A solar system w/ a true sine wave inverter & capacitor module will produce better electricity than any utility will provide. All you need after that is to work on a star grounded system for delivery, parallel noise filtration and maybe digital filtration. Read the archives & experiment.

I wear cotton insulated silver, even in winter. Call Robert for proper sizing...
Look no further than the Outlaw website and try their PCA's. They made my system too laid back and warm, but they might be just what you need. They add weight and warmth to the sound.

I also very highly recommend you take a listen to the Naim CDP's. I've been through many, including the SACD path, and these are just incredibly musical. I have their entry level model CD5i. Never listen to my SACD's any more and am completely satisfied with my source.

It's a real task finding the proper synergy of a system. I just replaced my Monster Mi4's with the Alfa Gore M1-2's and in my system they work very well. Just a little shallow in bass and sound stage depth, but the detail, dynamics and realism are very good. Not shrill or etched at all with my speakers (Energy Veritas 2.3i).

However, I don't think I could use them with a Nordost cable or things would go overboard on the bright (shrill) side. I had the Nordost Blue Heaven's in my system, but even with the Monster cables they were just too etched. Sounded great with the rite recordings, but I could not stand to listen to others. Maybe too accurate; if that's possible. Also, like the Gore's, they collapsed the soundstage a bit. I'm starting to think this might be characteristic of the flat design cables. Dunno?

On the Naim forum many folks recommended the Chord Chrysalis, a modest cable by most standards, and they did the trick for me.

The one thing I'm still looking for that I haven't been able to accompish is getting the weight that a real piano or horn has. I'm sure you know what I mean. I'm thinking this is probably due to my amplification (Oulaw Model-755 multichannl amp), but I'm not sure.

Anyhow, the cables are very reasonably priced and easy to sale if they don't work for you. Let us know how things turn out.
Yes, sir!
It's been several weeks...

and I have had a chance to try the Speltz Anti-IC's that were so highly recommended.

I was very impressed by the sound: Overall, very cohesive top to bottom, no areas of the spectrum highlighted, same with dymamics very integrated presentation. Very tight bass, these cables would be my first choice for driving a subwoofer amp. I suppose they would only get better with more burn in...

Problem is, the used Cardas Golden Cross I purchased here arrived the next day. Now, what would you expect from a cable that retails for 5 to 6 times the price if the Anti-IC? Used, these cables are at the very top of what I would spend on cables. Personally, I didn't know what to expect, I had never auditioned a Cardas product in my system. I had always wanted to hear them, and wondered how they would stack up against newer offerings.

My opinion? They are worth it! Superbly dynamic, with beautiful tonality that compliments my digital front-ended system well. Great trasparency, transients sharp without calling attention to speed. Soundstaging on a par with the effect of the introduction of a tubed preamp to the system. In fact the sound of these cables reminds me of what I love about tubes; eminently satisfying to listen to for hours.

Cardas Golden Reference, a great product, and one I consider a classic.
I'm keeping them.

Thanks to everyone for your help, expertise and assistance.
I just picked up a set from a fairly new outfit by the name of Audio Art Cable. They only have two ics, the IC1(copper) and IC-3(copper/silver coated). Mine are the IC-1s for $45. They have gotten some very positive reviews.

The reason I mention them as a reply to your post is that the sound is just like what you described you were looking for. I campared them to a set of Tara Labs RSC Prime, which is, admittedly, an older product, but still pretty nice.

I compared them with the Dave Brubeck Take Five CD. The biggest difference was in the sax solos. With the IC'1s, the sax was so smooth and listenable, while through the Taras, the sax was more "edgy" and "jumpy". This was accomplished without undue loss of treble. The Tara's had a little more clarity on the highs, not much. The piano also sounded really good on the IC-1s.

I only have about 8 hours on the cables, so it remains to be seen how they do after the suggested 80 break in period.
I'm confused, Earthpulse. You mention Cardas Golden Cross early in your post, and then Cardas Golden Reference at the end of your post. Which do you own?
i owned the quad esl--2 pairs for 7 years. i'm surprised you gave them up for anything else.

i have never heard timbral accuracy like the quads from any other speaker.

alas, you may need an equalizer, with that speaker, or a resistor accross the speaker terminals.

Friends, the alert Tvad has read carefully and discerned my inconsistency.
I have made a blunder. I refered to the Cardas Golden Cross I do own, as the Cardas Golden Reference I do not.

Long live Golden Cross.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify,

For the music,
You chose wisely. Cardas Cross was the first that came to mind. As an aside, for others who may keeping up with the thread, Tara Labs Reference Gen. II, interconnects and speaker cables have become rather inexpensive and will tame the digital nasties and brightness and impart a somewhat analog signature. The downside is a slight dip in the mids and a roll-off of the top. Truth of timbre in the mids and authoritive bass with good pitch definition is a strong suit. I wouldn't recommend them except in isolated cases of a much needed taming of frequencies around 2-6K.
that I may need new interconnects. Has anyone experience with the MA line from MITcables.com? They seem to have come a long way from the MIT-330 and MIT-750, at least price wise. Would appreciate any suggestions, comments. I am using Nak 1200 headunit and Milbert tube car amps to Spica TC-50 two way speakers mounted in the back of my SUV.
Sounds to me like the issue is the speakers. Have you auditioned Vandersteen 3a Sig.? Compared to the Gallos, the Vandies have far better bass definition, much smoother midrange, warmer treble, and an incomparably better soundstage and imaging. They are very easy to listen to at any volume. I don't own either, but I've given both an extended audition. Plus Vandersteens hold their value better than most. As a piano technician you might equate the Vandies to a Steinway and the Gallos to a Yamaha in tonal characteristics.