The smooth black weave of the braided Onyx cables is softly pliant. Slinky, in fact! Putting these $695 cables on and off three different systems numerous times was actually a pleasure. So many high-end loudspeaker cables are so thick and stiff. First impression was immediate. There was noticeably increased detail and a smoother top-end. The surprising thing about these unique looking silkiest came later. The Dana Cable Onyx uses four 8-gauge wires on each side that are specially braided in a soft black weave. Gingko Audio distributes the woven Onyx cables exclusively. I hope you recognize the Gingko name. You should. They make amazingly effective Vibration Isolation Platforms (VIP). Their Cloud VIPs are acrylic platforms floating on small racquet-like green balls. Every home theater music and movie reproduction system can benefit from a VIP under some or all of their front-end equipment, even their amplifiers. I have and enjoy their Cloud 10 VIP.
Vinh Vu of Gingko was his usual fast and responsive self. He spent 23 years at Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies as a system engineer, product manager and marketing manager for telecom switching systems, optical transmission systems, intelligent networks and video products. He holds two patents in design of telecom systems and another patent for his VIP system. He has a B.A. of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering and a Master of Engineering in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech.
You make such
wonderful vibration isolation platforms, why branch out into something like
cables and cords? "I wasn't sold on cables
until my friend Dana Robbins sent me his designs," he said. "I could readily
hear the difference unlike other cables. That's when I decided to market the
I could really hear the difference also. But that was not the surprising part.
Gingko first introduced their loudspeaker cables at the Rocky Mountain Audio fest in 2012. They invited attendees at the show to a shoot-out with their own cables at 2013 RMAF. Vu says, "five out of five attendees preferred our cables." Indeed, the Sapphire Reference version of the Dana cables won a Writer's Choice Award of 2013 from Positive Feedback. Therefore, I expected quality sound.
The weave looks wonderful, but how can such a simple trick make such a big difference in sound?
But Vu was not so forth coming. All he said was "we have a patent-pending on how the weave works to control both capacitance and inductance levels to insure their 1st order effects are well above the audio spectrum." The Onyx line has strands of Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC). OFC is high conductivity copper alloys refined electrolytically to reduce oxygen levels to .001% or below. It has TWENTY to FIFTY times less Oxygen Impurities parts per million than traditional copper wire. The process involves charging anodes and cathodes, like tube amplifiers, to purify the copper.
Each cable consists of more than 600 strands of 36-gauge OFC copper so there are more than 5000 strands of copper in the pair! The measurement of 0.006 Ohms (6 milliohms) of the Onyx is among the lowest of all cables at its price point.
Gingko offers spades or bananas pin connectors, for the same price. While I appreciate the supposed sound quality of spades, due to their large surface area, the pins are certainly much easier to use. But what about no connector? Why add another link in the chain? Some of the cables I use have bare ends. Vu said he could provide that also.
For Home-Run King
Ammar Judsingh (AJ) of Soundfield Audio is also a
member of my local audiophile Suncoast Audiophile Society. He says loudspeaker
cables can and do make an electrical "difference," that is most
certainly measurable. "But measurable," he says, "does not always equate to
"audible" in the sound waves/hearing thresholds of human perception
sense. And we most certainly can determine human hearing thresholds and whether
something is indeed audible in that sense. We are all humans whose senses are
all tied to the same CPU. Thus, we get sensor input and post processing from a
wide variety of sources, at any one time."
American wire gauge (AWG) is a standardized wire gauge system used since 1857 predominantly in North America for the diameters of round, solid, nonferrous, electrically conducting wire. Thicker widths have a lower gauge number.
How do tweaking audiophiles choose between so many choices between all the various loudspeaker cables? "Low resistance is key," he says. "If capacitance and inductance are managed within reasonable range, low resistance will help the amplifier to better control the loudspeaker with higher damping factor for tighter bass, clearer highs, and better soundstage." A low resistance cable minimizes negative effects on amp/loudspeaker damping factor that result in loose bass, smeared highs, and confused soundstage. He says their loudspeaker cables have the lowest RLC measurements when compared with similarly priced cables.
Gingko has a fascinating video on their site demonstrating the dampening factor of their slinky black Dana weave cables versus a typical thin big-box retail stereo cable! The demo shows a waveform as good as no cable at all between the amplifier and the loudspeaker. In addition to the visual proof on the scope, the video has a listening test too.
Gingko claims that their Onyx cable at half the price is 90% of the performance of their award-winning top-of-the-line Dana cables. The video says the dampening factor of typical (not tweaking audiophile quality) loudspeaker wire is about 50. The Onyx is about 80 and their best is 95.2. He says that a dampening factor of 90 is close to ideal. The dampening is important to reduce the muddiness of the sound and add clarity.
aren't cables and patch cords merely attenuating the sound? Wouldn't a good
equalizer make as much difference? Vu said
cable design is about matching impedance between the components. He says he says
they sell more of their top-of-the-line models because customers are amazed by
their performance. He feels Onyx models allow customers to benefit from the
trickle-down of technology of their top models.
Gingko choose black for their cables and cords because black goes with everything. Dana does think cables are directional. The plastic blocks at the ends of the silky black weave remind users of the break-in direction (which follows the Dana Cable logo). The connectors are marked. One end has gray trim and the other has gold to denote left versus right cable.
Differences for Dana Cable Specifications
The cables costing only a few hundred were very competitive. They were the true bargains. Yet the stand-out sonic champ was always the ten times more expensive, red and black, flat and wide Clarus Crimson. The real surprise however, was how close the far less expensive braided Dana cables came to the Clarus Crimson ones.
Field – Few Finishers
First and foremost – the marvelous sounding and
jaw dropping expensive $6600 Clarus Crimson cables (review coming) with spades
Second – my gray $25 Belkin four-wire, shielded
star-crossed copper strands with no connectors
Third – my bass bin cables, thick $495
Coincident CST 1 rattlesnakes with spades (see Reviewer's Bio*)
Fourth – red Home Depot copper 14-AWG with no
connectors (50 ft. for $15)
Fifth – while and gold CablesForLess.com 99.99%
OFC copper 12-AWG with no connectors, also 50' for $15
Eight AWG Onyx loudspeaker cables for two meters are $695, $150 more for an extra 0.5 meter with spade connectors. For bi-wire, add $300.
Immediately the slinky Dana weave gave an impression of increased detail and smoother top-end. It had better decay, added more definition throughout mids and highs. The slinky weave exhibited improved separation. It made each instrument more distinct. The Dana weave showed deeper bass, higher treble, was clearer, fuller mid-range, with improved texture, and less of an electronic feel.
André Gagnon is a Canadian composer known for
his bopping fusion of classical and pop styles. On "Ta Samba" from his "Neiges"
album, for example, the slinky Onyx weave was noticeably better, with deeper
bass, higher treble. It was clearer than the comparison cables with fuller
mid-range, more texture and detail. It sounded less electronic. The pizzicato
plucking was readily apparent and now part of the melody. The effect was
impressive, enjoyable and listenable. The Onyx weave rendered "Ta Samba" as a
much different song by adding the deep end beat and high end of brushed cymbals
to the rhythm where none existed before. I once had the chance to take another
path in life, as a chauffeur for Grover Washington Jr. Been a fan ever since.
Compared to the cables above, not the Clarus Crimson, the impression on
Washington Jr's "Poacher Man" (Soulful Strut) was immediately of more tone,
depth, soundstage, separation and more musically feeling. The slinky Onyx weave
brought life to the lead vocals and made horns seem alive. The cables
transformed songs, brought instruments out into the room, bringing the back-up
singers performance alongside the instruments.
You Get What You Pay For?
On Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," the slinky
Onyx weave handled the crescendo without harsh ringing of the trumpets' blare,
with violins sounding silky, not squeaky. It handled the challenge at least a
smidgen better than the other cables, but not of course the Clarus Crimson. It
came close to the Clarus though when handling the climax of the "Ride." There
did seem to be less emphasis than the Clarus to the mid-range and the high end
was not quite as detailed soft and smooth. Yet the Clarus is charging a huge
premium for its magic. The slinky Onyx weave is the family sedan in this
competitive class- a lot of practical and enjoyable value for tweaking
I felt the challenge of the Wine Spectator, rating 300,000
wines, deciding on the differences between hair-splitting points between 89 and
98 of various wines. The differences can be slight to be sure. It can be like
comparing apples to apples, not apples versus oranges. I hope I convey the
textures properly. A few quick listens easily placed the Onyx cables into the
award winning DACT Dual* interconnects class – among the best, if not the
best, I have ever seriously auditioned for Enjoy
In my opinion, the Clarus Crimson clearly ranked as the best
in every category. The slinky Onyx weave was a distant second, certainly ahead,
but back with the rest of the pack. Depending on the musical turn, the others
jockeyed for third place, without huge differences between them. The least
expensive among them will easily do what Rastocny's says: it will get "an
unaltered signal from point A to point B." The slinky Onyx weave gets you more
than half the way to Crimson nirvana, 80% perhaps, for 1/8th of the cost. On a
scale of one to 10 of audiophile tweaks, quality cables like the slinky Onyx
weave rate as high as some amplifiers! They are well worth the investment for
those seeking the 3D sonic holograph of live performances.
The better and more expensive choices do something different. They help you enjoy the music. For all but the most demanding "money is no object" dream system, I can easily recommend the slinky black Dana Cable by Gingko Audio's braided Onyx loudspeaker cables. I am impressed with their looks, technology, sound, feel and value.