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Gunbei is correct...it would help knowing if the system is warm, bright or whatever. Just to throw some names around, Cardas, Acoustic Zen or Transparent should cover whatever you need. I have never heard their ICs, but am a big believer in the research and designs behind Analysis Plus. I am using the Oval 9 speaker wire, and am very impressed.
I not sure I completely agree with choosing a cable based on the sonic signature of the system. My goal is a pure signal; not masking or altering some sonic problem.
For example: If a system is bright because someone is using some cheap modern chinese tubes; they should replace the tubes; not buy cables to make it less bright. (New tubes are cheaper also.)
Now if cables are the final tweek, then yes, try a few different ones.
Hi Sugar, I agree with you in principle. I was using Kimber, Cardas, Harmonic Tech, Analysis Plus all in one system, but recently switched to one brand of cables that have a revealing character. I've achieved a state where my components are passing as pure a signal as I can afford, and I'm now doing tweaks only through swapping different NOS tubes.
However, we must consider Electrostaticman's query and his budget of $300. Do any ML components use tubes? Can $300 accommodate a set of revealing interconnects and a pair of tubes? Yes, definitely make sure it's the interconnect that needs changing first. In the past, I blamed my interconnects for a bright sounding system and replaced one cable at a time because that's all I could afford. That's how I ended up with so many different types. Eventually, I found that to be a losing battle. But if Electrostaticman is pretty well set in all areas except for one interconnect, then maybe a little more information might be helpful.
I also believe that sometimes there is a synergy between certain components and cables. This is very hard to predict, and we never know until we experiment. Even though My Cardas Golden Cross isn't in my system anymore, I've kept it because I'll never know when I might need it again.
I agree Gunbei. I don't know the posters personal taste, so I just try to recommend cables that seem pretty neutral to me. They'll pass through the signal pretty clearly, so they will sound good with whatever his taste is and his equipment is. I always feel colored cables are fine for someone who will probably never upgrade, but neutral cables are better in the long run for those are likely to upgrade at some point.
It works for me. I can try a new piece of gear and can be pretty sure I am hearing close to what it sounds like without something else coloring the sound.
In my experience there is no such thing as uncolored. I have never heard an amp, preamp, CD player, cable or other component which didn't lend at least a subtle sonic signature to the overall sound of the system it was in.
An often overlooked component in ANY system which is most certainly always colored to some degree or another is the room.
Of course there are components and cables which want to be closer to neutral than others but ultimately they too have an audible sonic signature - which can vary tremendously between different system configurations.
To me, music IS a coloration - it has body, weight, bloom, transparency, liquidity, texture, timbre, air... and what would music sound like if it were simply neutral? Seems boring... doesn't it? Music is comprised of so many opposites its difficult for any system to excel at both. Music is made of color and its the duty of a good system to faithfully reproduce music in all its glory.
What cables do quite effectively is balance a system with the environment to produce a sound which the listener can determine (based upon his/her preference & experience) as being more like REAL music.
It is much easier to balance a system with cables than it is to balance with excessive room treatment or various system components...it is ridiculous to expect that anyone's system is perfect. No two components make a perfect match in every case and it is less likely that any complete system is in-fact, perfect. Even in cases where someone uses components from one manufacturer they remain subject to what the manufacturer deems as the "correct" sound...which is never truly "neutral". Anyone in this hobby could tell you that every component manufacturer has their own idea of what music should sound like, hence their sonic signature - which is never truly neutral and in most cases never like REAL music on their own.
It takes the right seasoning to make any component sound its best.
Here is another question to ponder; what would food taste like if it was neutral? Yuck! We all like flavor don't we? But.. we all have different tastes.
I think its important that Electrostaticman understand the possibilities that await him and that he not limit himself to the solutions that worked for us. Of course we can provide guidance but none of us have his ears.
Electrostaticman, its my suggestion that you select one of the above mentioned cables and start your journey there. A world of possibilities await you. If your first cable doesn't suit you, sell it and try another. Every cable you experience will deliver a new vision into your system. It can be a difficult process but the end results are very rewarding.
Bwhite, very well said. Neutral. Colored. It's all relative to the listener. Currently, I'm locked in mortal combat with the challenges of my room's acoustics.
It seems Sugarbrie and I have a similar approach, in that we try to eliminate as many variables as possible, so we can add our different dashes of flavor via tuberolling.
Tube rolling is super effective but can be just as frustrating as changing cables, components or room variables. The trouble with tubes is - the tubes!! Good NOS tubes and the right ones can be hard to find, and sometimes are noisy (which adds an entirely new and unpleasant dimension to a system). For example - at our levels we may have spent loads of cash on power conditioning equipment in order to silence our systems - only to have noisy tubes - which can counteract results obtained by conditioning efforts. Shesh! Where does it end? :) I am getting a feeling it doesn't.
Really, there is no substitute for what the right set of NOS tubes can do for a system. But new tubes tend to be quieter and hence maintain that black background we all know and love.
It sounds like Sugarbrie has found his preferred flavor and now wants to ensure his cables don't mess things up.
This is a case of being soooooo close to where you want to be except... you aren't quite there. Building a system can be like playing Black Jack. You may have a 20 in your hand - do you hit and hope for an Ace? If you do, odds are you'll bust. At some point, we all must realize that this is as good as it can get without going over the top.
I would suggest replacing one cable first. That is the balanced cable from your primary source into the preamp. This where you should put your present $$$. Then, when your exchequer recovers, I would upgrade the other cables. If you do it this way it is a lot more fun. Cables from CD to Pre that I would suggest are Cardas Balanced Neutral/Golden Reference (try genesis168), Transparent Balanced Super or up, whatever Sergeui at Stealth suggests, Innersound Balanced (!), FMS, AlphaCore Sapphire or TQ1 if you can find one, and Acoustic Zen. When you want speaker cable in the future, check out Magnan as well as the other brands I mentioned. Have fun, but have more fun with incremental purchases!
I have tried many different cables over the years. I have come to the decision that Synergistic Research Cables are the BEST Sounding, It'll Bring the Best out in your system for the Money! Now that SR has ACTIVE SHIELDING it takes their Cables to a New Level ( World Class ). I'll compare them to Cables at least 2x the Price! All I use in My system now is SR ACTIVE Shielding Interconnects,Speaker Cables,and Power Couplers. Go to : synergisticresearch.com
You can Probably pick up a Good Pair here on AUDIOGON. Good Luck and Enjoy!
Good suggestions Ivanj. I usually like to work the other way around. A delicate sounding IC for between the CD and preamp - I find it better preserves the low level signal - followed by a more robust cable between the preamp and amp.
In my cable auditions I found that the second cable (between preamp and amp) was more difficult to finalize because the robust cables tend to have a richer sonic signature.
What three cables? Considering you have ML gear, I would work toward something like Nordost Quattro Fil between CD and Preamp and Cardas Golden Reference between Pre and Amp. That might sound nice. However on your budget... you might look at something like Audioquest Lapis or Nordost Red Dawn followed by Cardas Neutral or something from Tara Labs.
Lots of used cables on the market in this price range. I also own ES speakers and have found that a well designed pure silver cable sounds best (speed and resolution of low level detail). Brands I have tried are AZ, Silver Audio, and Pure Note. The Pure Note Sigma at $400/1m (new) may be a good match for your system.
Electrostaticman - it will most certainly help. I have NO doubt. The right interconnects (and power cords) bring about an amazing improvement in any system.
In fact, I have been hesitant to state this in "public" but cables can make more of a difference than any other component. I know its may seem strange strange but...its true. The old adage, "10% of your system price should be spent on cables..." is BS! Spend more!
I like Bwhite's suggestions. Let's run with that suggestion. You might want to borrow a super cable (eg Vahalla, Transparent Reference) between the premap and amp, and then find other cables that work well upstream of it that you can afford presently. Then you have a goal to work towards. NB: A dealer friend just lent me a Transparent Balanced and after 7 days of burn-in I can see what people are talking about....
Great suggestions: There is one local dealer with some of these cables Galen Carol. I will try and borrow a set of expensive cables and a few of the suggested cables made here. Is it fair to try this test only using a MD 102 tuner, since my ml390s is on order? I will let you all know once I borrow some cables. Thank you all.
Congrats on eliciting a great thread.
You have a reference quality tuner but unless the station, the antenna, and the broadcast material is of like quality I believe you should wait until the ml390s is broken-in before making any $$$ decisions. For example, I found a certain silver cable so-so on my Accuphase tuner until I made changes between the amp and preamp. Now that cable is super - I don't name it because it is not balanced and I assume you can run a balanced cable from your 102 to you preamp. YMMV. Again, the point is to have more fun doing it in stages. Relax, enjoy!
In my earlier posts I mentioned that I was using a single brand of wire throughout my system. Well, it's the same line as Richs is using. Virtual Dynamics. I have the entire cryogenically treated Audition Package. It is smooth, dynamic, detailed and yields a huge soundstage both in width and depth. The sound flows unrestricted, and any changes I make when tuberolling are very clear.