Thanks Opus88, for posting your impressions of the Cardas and Discovery tonearm wire harnesses. The rewiring of tonearms with a continuous run of wire from cartridge clip to phono input is something that I have always felt is conspicuously rare among the many tweaks available to an audiophile; specially when it can be done externally, as I did. The benefits of eliminating several solder joints, plugs, and the continuity of type of wire all the way to phono preamp are, in my experience, as significant as major component upgrades. However, as every experienced audiophile knows (or should know), synergy is the key to good sound, and there is still much that we don't understand about what exactly, in the technical realm, creates good synergy in the aural realm. Then, of course, there is the issue of personal preference.
The two wire harnesses that Opus66 writes about are the wires that I rewired my Eminent Technology 2 air bearing tonearm with for the first (Cardas) and second (Discovery)times. Over the course of the many years that I have used that tonearm I have rewired it three times. I purchased it wired with VDH MCS150, and it is currently wired with Audionote silver. I used it for a minimum of three years with each of those wires, and with the exception of the VDH, always with one continuous run to preamp. I have used a variety of different cartridges of the MM, and primarily MC types. The arm has been mounted on three diffeent tables, and for the last three years on a TNT MK6, on which I have used the Cardas, Discovery, and AN wires. Amplification has been varied, but mainly of the tube variety. Point is, I feel I have a pretty good idea of how all four wires sound in my system.
My system definitely leans to what most audiophiles would consider to be the rich and romantic side of neutral. I don't think so, as I feel more times than not, that most audiophiles' systems are way too lean sounding and lack the body and tonal density that I consider realistic. In that context, my impressions of the four wires are as follows:
VDH MCS150: Excellent detail retrieval, great speed, but dry sounding through the midrange and highs. Overly bleached sounding tonally. I did not find the sound enjoyable. Flutes sounded too metallic, clarinets not woody, and not luxurious enough in their low registers. Strings could get strident very easily. Reminded me of my old Audio Research SP9 as far a tonal color.
Cardas: As Jeff noted, a very smooth sounding cable. There was a very attractive ease to the sound that let one relax into the music. Well balanced, but too dark sounding for my system and my tastes. The high frequency extension was all there, but there was the sense that all the light bulbs in the room were changed from 100W to 40W. I hear a similar effect with the only Benz cartridge that I have heard in my system (Ruby2). A dark tonality, but with images that are smaller and leaner than real. That is the mystery to me, and why I think that there is a lot that we don't understand about synergy (well, I'll speak for myself). Jeff found the Cardas to present fuller and bigger images than the Discovery. That is exactly the opposite of what I experienced in my system. The Cardas seems to shrink the size of images. Detail, dimensionality, and depth were all good, but the entire presentation seems to shrink by what seems about 20%. The mentioned darkness of tone tended to obscure the natural nasties that are present sometimes in the sound of unamplified instruments such as sharply articulated woodwind notes, and the ascerbic sound of muted trumpet for instance. Jeff has a sophisticated ear, and I know that he heard what he describes. So it must be due to the interaction of the wire's characteristics with those of his cartridge, preamp, and the rest of his system.
Discovery: Much more open in the high frequencies, and what I would consider a more natural/realistic tonal signature. Bigger soundstage with full images. My main objection to the sound of this wire is that I found it to have what I would describe as a soft grain. Almost as if you were looking very very closely at a picture in a newspaper, and being able to see the dots. But, overall, in my sytem, closer to right. I do not consider it to be "bright", but consider the rest of my system.
Audionote: To say that this wire transformed the sound of my analog set-up would be an understatement. I consider it to be a fantastic and beautiful sounding cable. It is extremely refined sounding, with amazing detail. Extremely open and clear in the highs, but not harsh. There is a striking absence of grunge in the spaces between images. Romantic, as usually described by audiophiles, it is not. But it is not bleached sounding at all. It lets a flute sound appropiately metallic, while not forcing the cello's upper range to sound strident without enough wood in the sound, while they play together. Adding this cable to my set-up reminds me of some of the qualities that I would hear when, in a less-complicated-lifetime ago, I had the time to keep my system entirely harwired, without a single jack or connector in use. A purity that was beautiful, even with the lesser components that I owned at the time. It is the most realistically dynamic of the four, in the sense of allowing the small increments of dynamic change in the sound of a string section's crescendo to be heard, while the orchestra's percussion stays at one volume. I can't say enough good things about this wire. It is, unfortunately, a PITA to work with. It is extremely thin.
Best to all.
-Eminent Technology2/HP manifold/HP pump
-VDH Grasshopper, VDH MC1S, Shelter 901, AT ATML170, Azden PVL50, Empire 4000DIII, Decca London.
-EAR 834P(highly modified), Melos 222c (highly modified)
-Audio Synthesis "Passion"
-Manley 200 mono's
-Stax F-81's, Maneplanar MGIIIA's (highly modified), Paragon Regents
-Siltech cabling throughout
-Stax Lambda Pro/tube driver
-Porter Ports, BDR cones, maple platforms, homemade lead- bar resonance tuners.