Associated Equipment:
Digital Front End
Amplification
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Cabling
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Cardas Audio – Golden Presence Cables
Wonderfully musical
 

 

December 2008


  
Not long after having several telephone conversations with various staff members at the Cardas Audio organization, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a box containing a full complement of the company’s Golden Presence interconnects and speaker cables. Interestingly, during our initial conversations, their top cable (i.e., Golden Reference) was actually more of the focus of our conversations. However, after discussing this further, it was decided that dropping down one level, in their cable lineup, actually made more sense. The folks at Cardas Audio felt the performance of the Golden Reference was sufficiently credible to warrant consideration of including in a high-end audio rig. As such, who was I to disagree, so the decision was made. Many thanks to George (Cardas) and his very accommodating staff for making this transaction such a smooth and painless undertaking.

Contained in a rather unassuming, and unmarked box, once the cables arrived, I was anxious to check them out. A quick inspection revealed each cable separately sealed in its own individual zip-lock type wrapper. As I removed each interconnect, I immediately noticed a high quality look and feel with the cables having a basic black outer covering, nicely dressed to their connectors. Along with this, each cable exhibited a high degree of flexibility – including the bi-wire speaker cables. This makes using these cables a very pleasant experience since being able to dress them in your audio system will be straightforward and relatively simple. Compared to some of those monstrous, thick and heavy cables I’ve previously had in my system, the Cardas cables were a joy to work with. Plus with these particular Cardas cables – there was no strain placed on either the RCA/XLR connectors or on my loudspeaker terminals.

Although my initial instinct was to put these cables in my system, for an immediate preliminary listen, instead I heeded the advice contained in the Cable Break-in Guide supplied by the manufacturer. In this guide, the Golden Presence cables were identified as being non-directional. Further, the guide suggested to install the cables and leave them undisturbed without moving them around. Supposedly this is done to minimize possible stress to the cable that can cause some degree of sonic degradation. Handling the cables gently is how Cardas suggests you care for them and this is exactly what I did.

In terms of the required break-in time, the guide further stated that the cables needed several hours of continuous signal passing through to remove some of the initial glare and lack of focus. Once I gave the cables a few hours of run time, with a quick listen, I definitely agreed because that’s exactly what I got; pleasant sounding – yes, but refined sounding - no. As such, I used my FM tuner to deliver a constant flow of musical signal through the cables overnight before attempting any further listening. Although this was still a relatively small amount of time and would not fully condition the cables, it did help. Extended conditioning clearly helped the sound improve through the cables and soon I was able to enjoy them in my system.

Each cable was clearly marked identifying the appropriate right and left channel and even though the cables are supposedly non-directional, they also have small arrows, indicating which end should be connected to the source end. For the balanced interconnects, this was not an issue. The bi-wire speaker cables were also marked for right and left channels. Also at the termination end there were four separate leads with spade lugs on each lead for connection to the speaker terminals. These have clear markings indicating plus/negative, left/right as well as which cable strand is for the high frequency and which is for the low (bass). The connector leads were quite flexible, making solid connection to the speaker terminals a breeze.

Also supplied with the cables was a small soft plastic tube of special Cardas Contact Conditioner. The instructions stated this was included to clean and improve electrical contact surfaces. The method of cleaning is pretty simple and quite straightforward. All that is required to clean the contacts is to apply a trace amount and then burnish the surface with a soft cloth. After this initial application, the instructions suggest applying another small trace amount and rub into the metal. According to Cardas, this contact conditioner fills microscopic irregularities thereby creating a smoother contact surface. Small amounts of this conditioner are said to enhance the overall performance of any electrical connection, so I basically followed these instructions as written. Further, the instructions recommend that you reapply this conditioner every thirty to sixty days. This is done to maintain enhanced levels of connectivity and overall sonic performance of the cables.

With approximately 30 hours of break-in time on them, my initial listening revealed the sound of the cables to be clean, clear and relatively open with a slightly leaner overall tonal perspective. In particular, the lower midrange had a touch less weight, power and authority than any of my other cables. Additionally, the sound was not quite as organic as my other cables and possessed less of the visceral impact that I was accustomed to hearing from my system. Beyond that the lower midrange and bass was slightly softer with acoustic bass sounding a bit more laid back and not as apparent or rich sounding.

With this initial listening, I decided to give the cables considerably more burn-in and conditioning. This particular experience was not unlike what has happened with other cables and I’ve found it best to provide significant periods of conditioning before attempting to seriously listen and assess a cable’s overall sonic qualities. Again, I put my trusty FM tuner back in to the system, picked out a decent station and just let music run through my system continuously for the next four days. Wow, what a difference; to say that the sound was transformed is almost an understatement. No doubt the additional burn-in time allowed these cables to form and their performance, top to bottom, was significantly improved and now very musical.

The sound was now more noticeably transparent with the soundstage being open and clear. The midrange also possessed a nice organic feel with a very nice presence along with neutral tonality. High frequencies were open, smooth and liquid with excellent inner detail. On one of my favorite recordings, Gonzalo Rubacalba’s CD titled The Blessing, Charlie Haden plays his acoustic bass in a solid supporting role to Gonzalo’s superb piano performance and it is ever present throughout the recording. On the track titled Silver Hollow, Haden is allowed to shine throughout the final closing notes. With the Cardas Golden Presence cables in place, Haden’s acoustic bass is round, warm, full, articulate and clear just as it should be. The overall sonic presentation was also dynamic and powerful giving life to the music along with excellent dimensionality overall.

Another recording that I listened to a lot was Regina Belle’s CD titled Lazy Afternoon. The recording quality for this CD is really quite good and provides a wealth of musical information/detail. With the Cardas cables in place – there was always a very nice balance of presence, organic warmth along with very good detail and resolution. Regina’s voice was displayed with her wonderfully rich sonic character along with a solid tactile feel provided by George Duke on the keyboards.

On recording after recording, and with the Cardas cables in place, the musical presentation maintained a very consistent sonic characteristic. The noticeable even-handed nature and overall neutral balance of these cables likely make them appealing in a wide variety of systems. For sure, the Cardas cables demonstrated their ability to convey differences in the recordings along with clearly allowing subtle sonic and musical nuances to become apparent. However, in terms of being the ultimate cable - capable of providing full state of the art musical expression and competing with much higher priced cables, these cables are not able to render reproduced music with the same level of detail, clarity and/or dynamic expression. On the other hand, what they did in my system often sounded magical; many casual and serious listeners have visited my home have, experienced a very similar reaction occurred.

In terms of dynamic expression – particularly that of keyboards, through these cables, I found piano presents itself in a very natural manner. Same with the melodic Hammond B-3 organ and/or other types of electronic keyboards. With the Cards cables in place, their musical expression possessed a warm, natural tactile character along with a solid organic feel to the music. Based on my extended listening and overall assessment, I found the Cardas Golden Presence cables at all times musical and consistently enjoyable.

Mated to my Bel Canto electronics, these particular Cardas cables seemed to be a very good match and worked beautifully. Similarly, using these same cables to connect the ModWright line stage to either the Bel Canto or Butler amplifiers provided a very synergistic match. In each instance the musical performance, of each combination, was highly musical and very enjoyable. Same goes for whether I used the wonderful Bosendorfer or the highly articulate and resolving Piega speakers. In each instance, the Cardas cables helped the system just simply sound like music. Real music.

Interestingly, throughout this review, I did have an opportunity to put various other cables into my system. Often these cables were considerably more expensive than the Cardas cables. While each cable had its own distinct and wonderful sense of musicality, using the full complement of Cardas cables (i.e., interconnects and bi-wire speaker cables) never failed to produce music that sounded authentic with a high degree of musicality. There was simply a level of synergy with these cables and the various components/speakers that I assembled as a total system where the sound was always very, very pleasing and provided me with many hours of pure musical enjoyment.

Are these cables perfect? Could they possess a bit more clarity, openness and extension on both ends of the frequency extremes along with improved dynamic capability? Are they a good value for the money? And would I recommend them to others? For each of these questions, there is a yes and a no response. However, overall, I can easily and unhesitatingly say that I thoroughly enjoyed having these cables in my system. In particular, one of the things I found most rewarding was the fact that once these cables were thoroughly broken in, left in place without me fiddling around with them, my system just seemed to relax and provide a musical foundation that was quite pleasing and totally enjoyable. Also, hardly ever did I find myself nit-picking and attempting to get my system to do any more than what it was providing.

Certainly I am not suggesting that these cables are the ultimate cable or capable of working perfectly in each and every high-end audio system. However, I am confident that if you take the time to work with them according to the directions provided by the manufacturer, you too will likely find the magic that is often a characteristic of Cardas cable products. Consistency of performance and high value are hallmarks of this manufacturer and I greatly appreciate having had the opportunity to enjoy these cables in my system. In fact, based on my experience with these cables, I went ahead and purchased the full set of cables and continued to enjoy them in my system.

                           


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Patented Golden Section Stranding and Constant Q construction - multi-gauge, Litz stranding in a symmetrical, hex-axial design.

PRICING
Interconnects - $700 per 1 meter pr (RCA or XLR) - $200 per .5 meter additional length
Speaker Cable - $1400 per 2.5 meter/8 ft. pair - $240 per .5 meter additional length
Bi-wire Option – add $180

Cardas Audio, Ltd
Address: 480 Eleventh St., South East, Bandon, OR 97411
Tel: 541-347-2484
Fax: 541-347-2301
Web Site: www.cardas.com

E-Mail: cardas@cards.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascendo