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June 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
DanaCable's Braided Onyx Speaker Cables
Impressive style, technology, sound, and value.
Review By A. Colin Flood

 

Dana Cable's Braided Onyx Speaker Cables  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 line."

I could really hear the difference also. But that was not the surprising part.

 

Award Winning
First, let's get our terms right. Wires are not cords. Cords are not cables. The slinky black Onyx weaves are cables, not wires or cords. Power and interconnect patch cords are cords. They make connections with a plug. A cable is wires running side-by-side and bonded, twisted, or in this case, shielded and braided together to form a single assembly. Loudspeaker cables have more than one conductor, but they are not cords. Cables do not always have an interconnecting plug. Cords do.

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.

 

Search For Home-Run King
After two decades as a science writer with Bell Labs, a member of my local audiophile Suncoast Audiophile Society, Phil Rastocny has a sweet little $0.99 eBook on Amazon, "Extreme Audio 5: Loudspeaker Wires," that is well worth the huge investment–10 Blue Notes for Value. Rastocny says, "cable design is very different than equipment design and there are many other forces at play in getting an unaltered signal from point A to point B inside of a tight bundle of flexible wires as opposed to moving it from the output of one gain stage to the input of another. "Connector oxidation, pin/jack materials, solders composition, shielding styles, internal ground loops, conductor elements, wiring configurations, and insulation are all important players in the search for the home-run king of an audio cable. But much like ripples from a stone cast into a pond, electricity does not just go from point A and stop at point B. Some of it bounces back toward point A "reverberating" if you will just like echoes in a concert hall. And if all of these other issues are not properly addressed, even the best selection of components and materials will not get on base."

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.

 

Electrifying Attributes
Dana Cable's Braided Onyx Speaker CablesA loudspeaker cable is a passive device. It has three electrical attributes: Resistance, Inductance and Capacitance. Vu says an ideal loudspeaker cable would have no resistance, no inductance and no capacitance (zero R, I and C). Capacitance stores a charge in the cable, and is determined by the distance between conductors, and by the type of insulation (dielectric) between conductors. Inductance is the inverse of capacitance, and has a very tiny effect in cables. "You have to make the cable into a coil to really get any appreciable inductance." Inductance actually is a measure of lag, or inertia, in the capability of a current to instantaneously change its value, as a result of an instantaneous change in voltage across a specific network element.

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.

Nevertheless, 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.

 

Mojo Magic
Vu thinks cable lifters, to elevate cables off the ground, does make a significant difference, but only if "your carpet has a lot of static." He also thinks cables do require a break-in period, 100 hours. Each Dana cable is hand made in the USA, "we don't believe in mass production that can compromise quality."

 

    Model

  Construction
(2.5m length)

     R
   (ohms)

     L
   (uH)

     C
   (pF)

      Onyx

4 weave, 8awg

 0.0060

    1.6

   270

   Sapphire

8 weave, 8awg

 0.0040

    1.8

   508

   Sapphire   
  Reference

8 weave, 8awg
(no trans,. blks)

 0.0038

    1.8       

   485

   Diamond

4 weave, 4awg

 0.0034

    1.6

   383

   Diamond    
  Reference

8 weave, 4awg

 0.0023

    1.3

   726

Differences for Dana Cable Specifications

 

Personal Preferences
Please note I am not compensated, reimbursed or affiliated with any audio/visual company in any form or fashion except for online stereo equipment review magazine publishers. I have no ulterior motives, hidden agenda or professional bias, except to decide for myself what I like. Spent a long time recently listening to a variety of different loudspeaker cables on different systems, with some being very expensive ($6600) and some were very cheap ($15/50 feet). More about them later. At first, the differences appeared to be slight. Most sounded really good. On each system, me and other tweaking audiophiles would listen to a few songs and swap. Listen to the same songs over again and swap again. Eventually the differences began to float to the top. There was an apparent correlation between thickness and cost and overall quality. The more enjoyable (does not that mean better?) cables seem to be thicker, heavier, with larger connectors and cost more.

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.

 

Bozak Nation
I first heard the slinky Onyx weave on Phil Rastocny's heavily modified system in a small, square living room, open at the side. Rastocny's system consists primarily of a highly modified McIntosh MC2100 power amplifier and modified Bozak B-302A speakers. On Rastocny's system, my first impression of the Onyx weave was an attached sound, perhaps more subdued, with less high treble noise from the turntable. In this Bozak Nation shoot-out with other cables, the slinky Onyx weave was a clear winner. It may not cinch the Gold medal against far more expensive cables, but it stood proudly either the Silver or the Bronze pedestals.

 

Fine with Focals
The second cable shoot-out was Focal 726v towers in a dedicated, carpeted, unfortunately square, bedroom-size room. This is my second listening room, so let me tell you more about it. Walls are wood paneled. Floor and 9' high ceiling are wood also. We used Clarus' wonderful Crimson power cord (review coming), Dragonfly DAC, MacBook Air, JRiver app. We used Glow Audio Two (EL84) tube, solid-state Audio by Van Alstine integrated Synergy Control and the Sonic Craft Opus Signature pre-amplifier and amplifiers (reviews coming soon). The Focals are a three-way design, with two 6.5" woofers and a front-port. Stated frequency response is a narrow and high 49 Hz to 29 kHz, within a fairly flat three decibels (±dB). Impedance is nominally eight, with higher than average sensitivity at 91.5dB/W/m. Speakers were six feet apart, with the listening spot nine feet away. The room opens in the back with windows in the middle of each wall. The acoustics are not hard and bright, but not soft or muted either. There are no RealTraps in this room yet. We listened mostly about low 80s dB, on a slow, C-weighted, unadjusted Radio Shack SPL meter.

 

Wide Field – Few Finishers
The listening sessions at home and at other tweaking audiophiles compared the slinky Onyx cables against five others:

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.

 

Do You Get What You Pay For?
Though several times more expensive than the reels of Home Depot cable, in many sonic respects the slinky Onyx weave provided much of the dreamy capabilities of the Clarus Crimson. Percussion floated out into the room. Music was compelling. The slinky Onyx weave added an intoxicating element to the music. The full symphony orchestra crescendo, with its very wide frequency response, multiple and very different instruments all playing simultaneously at high decibel output (102dB), is about as challenging a task as any home theater music and movie reproduction system could ever try to accurately reproduce (see the Enjoy the Music.com chart). Such challenges therefore must be part of every tweaking audiophile's stack of Test CDs.

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 audiophiles. 

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 the Music.com.

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.

 

Blue Notes
On Enjoy the Music.com's scale from one to five Blue Notes, where top-of-the-line "money is no object" equipment merits the highest score, the slinky black Dana Onyx cable weaves rate very rare Above Average scores across the board - four Blue Notes! They were obviously better in all respects compared to the three thin cables auditioned in this comparison. On our Blue Note scale, I also rate the slinky Onyx weave above average (4) for my own Enjoyment category. Like many of the slight improvements to my own home theater music and movie reproduction system, I did not know what I was missing until I tried the Onyx weave cables. Quality cables do make a difference. They help you enjoy the music.

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear  
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Specially designed loudspeaker cable
Onyx: Four weave, 8-AWG, two meters, $695, $150 more for an extra 0.5 meter with spade connectors. For bi-wire add $300.

 

Company Information
Gingko Audio
8 Nicklaus Lane
Farmingdale, NJ 07727

Voice: (732) 946-9439
E-mail: gingko@gingkoaudio.com
Website: www.GingkoAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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