The Custom House Barracuda

Cables That Make Sense

Clement Perry

5 November 1998

Specifications

Speaker cable and line level interconnect
Price (US retail):
Speaker cable - $300.00/10ft pr,
interconnect - $149.00/1m pr

Manufacturer Info:
Custom House
8 MatttewsDr.
East Haddam, CT 06423
Tel: 860.873.9494
Fax: 860.873.2721
email:bobch1@customhousecable.com

HOW often do you read fancy reviews of designer cables and interconnects that seem to be the very thing youíre looking for, except for the price? The cost of cables in todayís high end market is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS! Can you imagine prices at several thousand dollars per meter? Theyíre out there. Just give Transparent a call, along with MIT, Purist, Kimber, Synergistic Research, and a few others I may have accidentally left out. Sorry guys, instead of setting the industry on itís ear, the pricing has us turning a deaf ear! I donít give a hoot what other reviewers say: if you think for one moment that the most expensive cable "has" to be the best, youíve been reading too many magazines and not doing enough comparison homework!

Some audiophiles are probably too rich to spend the time us poor folks spend making listening comparisons. Cable manufacturers may be hurting this industry with their ever- increasing stratospheric pricing policies. Six nines, pure silver, OFC, flat geometry, etc, etc, everyone has their own buzz words. I sound upset, donít I? Well, you would too if you had spent the time I have making these cable comparisons, only to find small differences not justified by these grandiose prices.

Whatís the Limit to This Madness?

At a friendís house, I recently listened to a cable set that cost more than FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS! The gentleman who was auditioning these cables owned a pretty fantastic system, cables aside, but when he heard my system, using very inexpensive Custom House Barracuda cables, he preferred the sound of my system in many ways! When he finally asked me what cables I was trying out, he asked the fifty thousand dollar question:

"How much?"

I smugly replied "Six hundred dollars."

"A meter?" he asked.

"No, the entire wire setup, including power cords!" I proudly announced. Well, friends, you could hear his skin shrinking about this time, while he was trying to disappear and hide.

That was the last time I saw or ever spoke to that gentleman again. He hasnít returned any of my calls, but can you blame him? I certainly canít!

Custom House is owned by Bob Finch, a very nice guy, whoís an avid audiophile as well as a home theater buff, and more importantly, he designs cost effective cables. I know plenty of guys who brag about making their own cables, but they donít make cost-effective cables like Bob Finchís.

Several years ago I did a review of these cables for The Audiophile Voice. They were great sounding at the time, so I decided to follow up on Bobís latest work when I put together my new system. Mr. Finch has a new line out, now called Barracuda, since he believes his new cables will "eat up" other higher priced cables for breakfast! We shall see, dear readers...

My system is composed of the great Von Schweikert Research VR-6 speakers (Redefining Transparency should be their motto), Ed Meitnerís Musatex Bidat processor and transport, the Z-Systems preamp complete with digital equalizer, the HRS Harmonic Recovery System in conjunction with the TDS True Dimensional Sound processor, and the mighty KR Enterprises VT800 monoblocks, the finest amps Iíve ever heard.

Previous cables in my system have been Alpha Core AG-1 Silver and the Renaissance Audio Water Cables also using pure silver conductors. These are both expensive, but not outrageously so (i.e., they donít cost as much as a Mercedes!), and their sound has been great in my system.

So how did the Barracuda cables sound with this killer rig? Very fine, thank you!

The first disc up was from the box set of The Complete Recording, Keith Jarett Live at the Bluenote. There is a composition written by Jules Styne and Sammy Cahn called "I Fall In Love Too Easily" featuring Jack DeJohnette on drums and Gary Peacock on bass.

Well, it didnít take long to hear what the Barracudas were doing right. This song has such a delicate and soft approach that you could cry, but I was simply floored when I heard DeJohnette quietly stroke the snare drum......... the transparency of these small and quiet notes was amazing, not glossed over by the inexpensive cables. The overall speed and timing of the drums sounded "fast," but with no loss of decay. The sense of focus to each note was dramatic as well, sounding as if each image was locked into place.

Keith Jarettís piano is the obvious center attraction of this record, and typical of other ECM recordings, sounds simply wonderful. However, some of his piano tones become "hard" when played loud. This might be Keithís attacks on this live recording, but I was glad to find that the Barracuda cables seemed to downplay this "ringing." Definitely a bonus.

Although the imaging seemed fine, with nice focus, the size of the sound stage seemed to be slightly truncated and shrunk compared to the huge stage generated by the Alpha Core AG-1 Silver wires. However, this larger and more transparent image size comes at a price! Namely bigger bucks.

But the bass. Yes, the bass is where the Barracudas really shine, taking me completely by surprise. Man, the bass was great! This cable had the ability to snap DeJohnetteís playing right into focus, all the way down to the tight bass pedal. Peacockís bass now seemed easier to hear as well, the plucks now jumped out at me (with no artificial effect). Quick and clean with no caffeine! At very low notes, there was no slowing down of the speed nor bass blurring Iíve heard on lesser cables. The Alpha Core AG-1 Silver cables also avoided muddling the bass, but could not produce quite the "popping out" effect on each bass note.

The imaging, soundstaging, and focus produced by the Barracudas are quite good, besting cables at twice their reasonable price.

So what doesnít it do as good as the ten grand stuff, you ask? Well, not surprisingly, the Barracudas donít sound quite as smooth as the Renaissance Audio Water Cables, nor do they have the exquisite purity and correct tonal balance of the new Harmonic Technology cables, which might become the new "miracle" cable of the decade due to a new process (review in the next issue).

But guess what, the Barracuda isnít completely "blown away" by the hyper-expensive cables, either, since they donít do anything terribly wrong! AND, THEYíRE DIRT CHEAP, KEMOSABE!

I donít quite know what to think about the cable industry after auditioning the Custom House Barracuda cables. I have several friends who are thanking me profusely since I recommended these cables to them. Since their systems are at the mid priced level, these cables made real sense, making me a hero to my friends that need money for other things in their life that are more important than speaker cables, like food and rent!

Can you ask for a better deal than these cables? I donít think so! Highly recommended for all systems in the low to mid-priced categories.