The Cable Doctor Q&A

  • ChordMusic RCA or XLR for a Rega hi-fi system

    Q

    I'm currently using ChordMusic rca/rca interconnect between my Rega Isis and Rega Osiris. It's absolutely brilliant, but I'm wondering if the ChordMusic XLR/XLR would be even better. I'm specifically thinking of the work you have put into the RCA plugs. Does using the XLR plugs lose out?

    A

    What a lovely system. I have heard the Isis with Sarum Super ARAY cable and it was wonderful. I can easily imagine how good it must sound with ChordMusic. The XLR versus RCA question is not as straight forward as it could be. It really depends on how the XLR output has been implemented.

    I have only ever used an Isis with RCA cables (at the time, we didn’t have any amps or pre-amps with balanced inputs) and connected this way it’s easy to hear that the Isis is one of the most musical CD players available. However, there is a retailer I have known for a good twenty years and I very much respect his opinion. He sold a large and extremely expensive system and replaced it with the Isis and Osiris - the key being that the Isis produces the most musically coherent performances he can get from his large CD collection. He uses a Sarum Super ARAY (hasn’t heard the ChordMusic yet) and having tried both he uses the XLR connection. He made his judgement purely on the coherence of the music and his connection with it. So I think you should try a ChordMusic XLR and see for yourself how it compares.

    You are right. Over the years we have put a good deal of work into producing a really good RCA plug. The XLR connection is very different and the Neutrik design is still the best we have tried. We only use the front section of the XLR assembly and replace the rear section with a custom machined aluminium part that provides a good level of strain relief while avoiding any compression of the conductors.

    I think you should compare XLR to RCA connection - and I would be very interested to hear what you think.

    Equipment
    • Integrated amp : Rega Osiris
    • CD Player : Rega Isis
    • Speakers : Rega RS10
  • Speaker cables for a Naim NAC / NAP and Focal hi-fi system

    Q

    I'm running Blue Jeans Cable from my Naim NAP 300 DR into my Focal Sopra 2s. Looking at Chord cables and wondering what you might recommend? I'm sure more expensive is better :) But there's usually a sweet spot beyond which returns diminish. Shawline? Epic?

    A

    The law of diminishing returns is one that we would challenge. From our point of view, cables get more expensive because we use better designs, materials and higher build complexity. We do this to achieve a higher level of performance. We also think that anyone who takes the time to listen should be able to hear exactly why one cable is more expensive than the other.

    You have an extremely good system and I suggest you try a set of Chord Epic and a set of Chord Epic Reference speaker cable. This way you can hear the differences between the two cables. Both work well with your amplifier and speakers, however the Epic Reference in particular is a very good match with your Focal speakers.

    Tell us where you are and we'll put you in touch with a dealer/distributor who can let you have a listen.

    Equipment
    • Pre amp : Naim NAC N-272
    • Power amp : Naim NAP 300 DR
    • Speakers : Focal Sopra 2
  • Interconnect upgrade for a Cyrus, Monitor, Linn hi-fi system

    Q

    I am currently using Signature tuned Array from Cyrus xp2 Qx Streamer to my first Cyrus Stereo 200 amp . Chord Chorus original to another Cyrus Stereo 200 bi amped. To epic twin. I am interested in getting a better cable to replace the Chorus. Which cable would you suggest?

    A

    I think you should try Chord Shawline and Chord Epic interconnects. Both were introduced in 2016 and use the same Tuned ARAY conductor geometry as the Signature Tuned ARAY. The Shawline is excellent and would produce a more coherent balance than the original Chorus. That said, the Epic while being every bit as coherent as the Shawline, is extremely good at carrying high levels of detail and Cyrus equipment has always been able to pull a great deal of detail from digital sources.

    Have a talk with your usual/nearest retailer. Hopefully you can listen to both and decide for yourself which one works better in your system.

    Equipment
    • Power amp : 2x Cyrus Stereo 200
    • CD Player : Linn Kairn
    • Streamer : Cyrus XP2 Qx
    • Speakers : MonitorAudio Pl100 mk 2
    • Power cable : Kimber
  • Shawline interconnects with Rega P7, Heed Audio, Cambridge Audio, B&W system

    Q

    It took me some time to get around to upgrading cables, but today I took the first step! I purchased a Shawline RCA interconnect and I have now connected it between my phono stage and the amplifier replacing my old Chameleon Plus. First impressions after listening to a couple of records is that bass is more defined, voices are crystal clear and the sound has a nice drive in it! Excactly the way I like it! Right now I am listening to Jens Lekmans album Life will see you now and it sounds superb!

    A

    First of all I will check out the Jens lekmans album. The main reason for this e-mail is to say that if you put the Shawline you have just got onto your CD player you could leave a CD on repeat with the volume turned down on the amplifier so that you can burn in the cable overnight or while you are out, it will speed the process and after a couple of hundred hours the cable will perform a lot better.

    Equipment
    • Integrated amp : Cambridge Audio 840A v2
    • Turntable : Rega P7 with Rega Apheta 2
    • Phono Stage : Heed Audio Quasar
    • CD Player : Cambridge Audio 840C
    • Streamer : Bluesounde Node
    • Speakers : Bowers & Wilkins dm68
  • Cables for Marantz and Spendor hi-fi system

    Q

    I'm trading-in my complete Naim / Focal system, for the new Marantz S10 & PM 10, premium cd player, integrated amp and Spendor D7 speakers. I'm looking to purchase Epic interconnect cable, but was wondering what would be best - XLR cable or RCA ? Speaker cable would be Epic twin, as I've got an 8m run and cost comes into it. I would dearly love the epic reference cable ! I was wondering what termination would be best banana or camcon plugs - and what, if any are the differences ?

    A

    The XLR vs RCA question can be hard to answer. It comes down to the way the manufacturer has chosen to implement the connection, in particular the balanced XLR output. Done well, it can be good but it can also be done cheaply. This is not the case with the Marantz equipment. The last time we had the Reference Marantz in the demo room, the XLR connections were a lot better, in fact the RCAs sounded almost poor in comparison. That said, you may well find a dealer who can let you try both so you can make up your own mind – my money would be on the XLR, though.

    We've used Spendor D7s in our demo room. They’re an excellent speaker and at the moment we have the new D9s in there. The 7s work extremely well with Epic and yes Epic Reference is better, but they do sound really special with Epic and given the 12AWG conductors, 8m lengths will not be a problem.

    Equipment
    • Amp : Marantz PM10
    • CD player : Marantz premium
    • Speakers : Spendor D7
  • Connection of Benz-Micro-Glider-H cartridge to Audio Fanatics (Ed de Jong) phono stage

    Q

    The internal wiring in my Zeta tone arm is a silver litz and through the familiar 5-pole DIN plug it continues with Audio Note AN-V. But this is not without some problems. Especially in the highs (violin) I detect some phase issues (audible). I posses an extra Sarum- RCA interconnect (not yet upgraded) but termination with the DIN plug would be giving mechanical stiffness to my turntable because the Sarum is not supple enough I fear. So unless you have a better idea I think the internal wiring should be renewed and extended to a RCA female plug at the side of my turntable (Oracle) frame and eliminating the DIN plug. I would be pleased if you'd have better internal wiring for the arm. The rest of the connections in my system is all Sarum and I can only say it it's the best investment in my system since years. I appreciate it's transparency and ability at the same time to keep the instruments apart and sounding 'natural'. So to summarize: what is the best (and affordable) solution of getting the signal from the Glider into my phono stage (tubed kit by Ed de Jong).

    A

    We used to produce a Sarum slim tone arm cable with 5 pin DIN to fit tonearms, we can now produce the same cable with the new and vastly improved, Taylon insulated cable. The new Sarum T is phase stable and a lot more flexible than the PTFE insulated version and I think a Sarum T tonearm cable would be a revelation. What do you think? We should be able to work out a way of letting you try one. Your usual retailer should be able to arrange a demo.

    Equipment
    • Speakers : Living Voice IBX
    • Phono stage : tube-Audio Fanatics (Ed de Jong)
    • Turntable : Oracle Delphi, MK II, partly upgraded to VI. Zeta tone arm
    • Power amp : Audio Innovations-First 6B4G
    • Pre amp : passive , combined with phono-stage
  • Speaker cable for Denon, Sony, B&W (Bowers and Wilkins) hi-fi system

    Q

    What speaker cable would you recommend for a Denon, Sony and B&W hi-fi system?

    A

    We have a speaker cable called Chord Rumour, It has 16 AWG silver-plated oxygen free copper conductors these are insulated with PTFE and are arranged in a twisted pair configuration before and outer jacket of PVC is applied. It has been part of cable range for almost twenty years and it’s a cable we know that works well with your speakers and also happened to be a very good match for Denon amplifiers as well. I have heard Denon systems many times over the years connected with Rumour and it is an excellent match.

    Equipment
    • Power amp : Denon AVR 1611
    • CD Player : Sony BDP-S4200
    • Speakers : B&W DM303
  • HDMI cable compatibility issues with Samsung 4K equipment

    Q

    I've had a 5m Chord HDMI cable (v1.3 I think) buried in my wall since 2013. Seems to work OK with my Samsung 4K Blu-Ray player, but am I actually getting full 4K and HDR content from this cable ?

    A

    We have always tended to design HDMI cables with performance as the main target. As such, we used heavier gauge conductors and because of this your HDMI cable will carry a high speed signal. It’s a hard one to guarantee, because there can be handshake issues, but in most systems they work well and I’m glad that yours does.

    Equipment
    • TV : Samsung UE65KS8000
    • Blu-ray player : Samsung UBD-K8500
  • Speaker cable for Yamaha, Nakamichi, Monitor Audio system

    Q

    Which speaker cable would you recommend and is there a noticeable difference? Currently using Van Damme Studio Blue 2.5mm

    A

    Try Chord Rumour speaker cable on the front left and right and centre speaker. Here I think you would hear a significantly better sound. The power amp has seven channels, are you using all of them? Have a word with your local retailer he may well have a set of Rumour that he can let you take home and listen to, that way you would be able to hear for yourself.

    Let me know about the power amplifier. If you have 2 spare channels you could bi-amp the front left and right speakers.

    Equipment
    • Pre-amp : Yamaha rxa3050
    • Power Amp : Nakamichi AVP1
    • Speakers left and right : Monitor audio Silver 6
    • Speaker centre : Monitor audio Silver
    • Speakers surround : Monitor audio Silver fx
  • Cables for Cyrus, Dynaudio, PMC, Spendor system

    Q

    I want to upgrade the digital, analogue and speaker cables and eventually speakers. I'm looking at either the Epic or Signature ranges but uncertain whether the additional cost of the signatures are justified by any difference in performance. Which of the two would you recommend, bearing in mind that I'm looking at the PMC Twenty5.23 speakers, or Spendor A6Rs as potential replacements for the Dynaudios.

    A

    Talk to your retailer and see if he can lend you analogue and digital cables from the following ranges to try. Shawline, Epic or Signature Tuned ARAY. Although the words don’t appear in the name both the Shawline and the Epic are also interconnects that use the Tuned ARAY conductor geometry. Tuned ARAY was originally developed for our then flagship Chord Sarum range and since then we have found ways to apply it throughout our cables ranges. Musically a Tuned ARAY cable carries a signal with a degree of musical coherence that can be a revelation, they certainly forced me to completely reappraise the performance I expected from CDs and CD quality music. I have heard systems like yours performing with Tuned ARAY cables and it something you should try. The three cables I have mentioned will all work and if I was pushed to pick one in particular it would be the Epic – it has all the coherence of the Shawline and at the same time carries huge amounts of detail extremely accurately and detail is something the Cyrus is really good at.

    In the order of things, Signature is a superior cable to Epic, however there are always exceptions to the rule and one of them is PMC speakers and Epic speaker cable. It’s a popular combination that works well together, so in this case, go for Epic. We use Spendor D7s and D9s in our demo room and both work well with Epic and Epic reference speaker cable, so I can’t see a problem with the A6Rs

    Equipment
    • Pre amp : integral with DAC
    • Power amp : Pair of Cyrus Mono X's
    • DAC : Cyrus DACXP with PSX-r power supply
    • CD Player : Cyrus CD8x with PSX-r power supply
    • Speakers : Dynaudio Audience 52SE
  • Chord Clearway cables with Arcam amplifier and CD player

    Q

    I'm thinking about using Chord Clearway cables with an Arcam amplifier and CD player

    A

    We know and use both the A19 and the CDS27 on a regular basis, so I am pretty certain there are no connection issues. As an observation both amplifier and CD player are extremely good - and good as the Clearway is, at some point you should listen to Shawline. It will let you hear how good the CD player is and it will let you hear just how musical it is as well.

    Over the past few of years there has been massive step forward in digital players and DACs and the level of performance, especially when it comes to producing genuinely coherent music would have been hard to achieve even if you were spending a lot more not that many years ago. It was a quiet revolution but players like the CDS27 are very special and fully exploiting the performance of players like this was one of driving forces behind our current cable range.

    Equipment
    • CD player : Arcam CDS27
    • Amp : Arcam A19
  • Cable upgrade for Marantz, PMC, Musical Fidelity hi-fi system

    Q

    I have a Chord Solid (I think) from about 20 years ago. A red sleeve, solid core with silver strand, very stiff. £100 at the time. Sounds good but the stiffness is weakening the connection at the amp end. Looking to upgrade. What would you recommend? Also looking at upgrading speaker cable soon after. Currently have a Chord Cable. Don't know the name but translucent jacket and silver in appearance. Bought cheap off eBay about 10 years ago, but a bargain because it sounds better than the auduoquest cable it replaced. However I recognise that it can be improved upon again. Suggestions gratefully received, but can't go ridiculously expensive.

    A

    Glad to see you are still using a Chord Solid, it was ahead of its time and still sounds good. It had a huge influence on the cables we went on to design. However, the latest ranges use either ARAY or Tuned ARAY conductor configuration and you should probably talk to your dealer and take a Shawline RCA home to try. Shawline uses Tuned ARAY conductor geometry, originally developed for Chord Sarum and when it comes to systems – particularly CD source systems - sounds properly coherent and musical. Tuned ARAY can be a revelation. It certainly forced me to re-think my views on the performance potential of CD. I remember the Marantz CD17 as being very good, so it will be interesting to try it with Shawline.

    I am pretty certain you have a set of Carnival Silver Screen speaker cable. I’m also pretty certain that you need to try a set of Epic. Like the Carnival Silver Screen, it's a shielded speaker cable, but more effective. It also benefits from silver-plated conductors and PTFE insulation. It works particularly well with PMC speakers and it will also suit your Musical Fidelity amplifier.

    Equipment
    • Amp : MF A1000
    • CD : Marantz CD 17
    • Speakers : PMC twenty 23
  • I am using standard Naim interconnects in a Naim/Linn system. I think its capable of more, but what cables should i try?

    Q

    I am using standard Naim interconnects in a Naim/Linn system. I think its capable of more, but what cables should i try?

    A

    What a very nice system! I have to mention Sarum interconnects to you. In DIN to DIN and DIN to XLR configuration they are capable of producing some truly remarkable results with Naim systems. They are undeniably expensive but I think you should have a listen. You'll find a list of Sarum dealers on our website and if you contact your nearest one, if he doesn't have the DIN to DIN and DIN to XLR cables in stock, we can arrange to lend them to him for you to have a listen to and I do think this would be a really good idea. The improvements that just the additional one of these cables can make to a system like this is really quite remarkable.

    Equipment
    • Pre amp : Naim Nac 52 and 52 PS
    • Power amp : Naim Nap 250 (2 of)
    • Turntable : Linn LP 12, Ekos, Archive
    • Phono stage : Internal Naim Boards
    • CD Player : Naim CDS 3 and XPS 2
    • Streamer : Naim NDX
    • Speakers : Naim SL 2
    • Other : Naim Naxo and Hi Cap
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