I recommend contacting The Cable Company and start listening for yourself using one of their "loaner programs". There are several cables, and it's an extremely subjective thing.
Don't assume that price has anything to do with performance.
Ballan has a good suggestion and a good point.
Kimber and Cardas are two solid products.
I have found over the years that many cables sound really terrific, and the pool of potentially satisfying possibilities is fairly robust.
I have come to the conclusion that if one is going to shell out large dollars for wire, the safest bet from a standpoint of strong residual value is to buy products that are in constant demand.
If this idea carries any weight with you, then take a look at the classifieds to see which cable companies have a strong list of items for sale, and follow newly listed items to see how long they stay on the market.
Some other options are Shunyata, Analysis Plus, MIT and Kubala-Sosna (no particular recommendation here from me...it's all too predicated on user preference).
If you find another cable for cheap that sounds like a Cardas Gold Reference please let me know. I really like what they did for my system between my pre and power amps. That said I didn't want to use Cardas Gold Refs in all positions. For instance my TT box to SS Phono stage is pure silver, "Homegrown Silver Lace." I have very detailed speakers. To sum it up it is a function of how well the IC accomplishes your objective between the two elements it connects.
I use Van den Hul The First Ultimate; I am also a dealer for them. They are very highly regarded over seas as an alternative to Cardas, but at a considerably lower price. They often come up here for under $250 a meter pair, the retail is about $400. I am familiar with Cardas and use Golden Reference as speaker cables. I also use silver for one TT, VDH for the other. Transparent makes even better cables than Cardas but makes them look cheap by comparison. You can't go wrong with Cardas but the VDH is close in my opinion. I don't sell on the internet so not trolling for sales, just giving my opinion. Whatever you buy I would go used.
Just my 2 cents, as I have used both Cardas Golden Cross and Cardas Golden Reference, I'd have to say the Golden Cross work better for me. The Reference is a bit stale and very neutral, where the Golden Cross has more dimentional and fuller richer lushness... this works for me in certain set ups better than the Reference. I also like the Ensemble cables, especially their interconnect, at least as much as the Golden Cross, but it is not as dark and heavy as the Golden Cross.
While you are looking at the cable co. consider the offerings from Synergistic Research. I have been using them with great results.
You are absolutely right, Ballan, prices don't always go with performance.
Hello Kenscollick, which Synergistic Research series were you using, and in what kinda gear?
I replaced my Cardas (Golden Cross), Kimber (KS-1011), and Harmonic Technology (Magic-Link Two) with Wywires (Hot Sauce). In my system, Wywires produced the most open and the most natural in sound with the truest tonality. They matched the Kimber in clarity but less harsh, and matched the HT in delicacy but far better tonality, especially of cymbals. Though the HT floated the most alluring soundstage of all, cymbals sounded more sharply metallic than they should, which really bothered me. I disliked the Cardas completely as they sounded muffled in my system. But I did have to get the Wywires cooked for optimal sound, especially the long pair (12 feet) from pre to amps.
Here's another vote for WyWires. They were rated #1 in their price category in a recent PFO review. There were some well-known names on the list. So I installed WyWire IC's earlier this week. Thus far what jumps out most is the realism and emotion in the music.
Some cables accomplish this by putting slight veil over the music ... rolling off the highs. Kind of like using a filtering lens on a camera; but with these cable the notes are rounded, yet still maintain detail and "musicality". I feel a bit closer to a live performance. One place where vinyl excels over the best digital is in reproducing the piano (IMHO). High notes from the digital side usually sound a bit "tinkly". These IC's really help tame that while still letting the full weight the notes flow through.
These cables display incredible micro-dynamics and musicality. There is a very good CD for testing dynamics. It's "Gershwin's World" by Herbie Hancock. It has a number of cuts where there are crescendos, then the music fades and gets very quiet. WyWires handled these changes effortlessly. Voices are very natural too. I was listening to Diana Krall "Love Scenes" last night and she sounded so natural and engaging. I've seen her live by the way
... my wife called me a Diana Krall groupie! At any rate, besides the near perfect timbre, what I like most about WyWires is the tonal balance - from top to bottom.
Everything else I've heard seems to be lacking in some area or they over-emphasize something else ... like the high's, low's, or mid-range. With these cables, everything is focused and coherent. Bass is tight and controlled, but still has some punch. Mid-range is present and blends well with everything else. Beyond that, they are very quiet, clear, and clean ... not a hint of grain anywhere. Finally, WyWires have great sound staging with excellent front to back layering. I could sit and listen all day/night.
The company has a 60-day trial period, and cables are custom made. That said, the only real way to know if they'll perform in your system is to try them. Good luck, and happy listening!
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Steve is famous for his digital gear but his interconnects and speaker cable have an incredibly beautiful sound. They are definitely in the warm school of cables but not has strongly as cables like Cardas.
Also the original Audience speaker cables AU-24 (not the AU-24E and not the interconnects) are, in my experience, also amazing and in the same family of sound. Also they look really cool - thin black wire.
BTW, I like the Audience AU-24E line very much as well, but it is much more fast, detailed and neutral than the original AU-24 speaker cable. They strike me as very different family sounds - which is unusual for a single manufacturer. And both are wonderful, IMHO, in appropriate application.
I would try xlo . Reference series and up , I think they are great cables but ultimately it's up to you and what you like.