is not my first interconnect rodeo show. Eight "oh my gosh, what the hell have I
been doing?" years ago, I plowed through a stack of subtle silver cords only to
find one gold champion. (See two-part "Silver
Shoot-out," July 2006.) Back then, a few friends and I listened mostly
on my office bookshelf system. This time, alone and together with friends, I
listened to dozens of the same new and favorite songs on half a dozen different
interconnects on several different home theater music and movie reproduction
systems. I compared the $195 DanaCable Onyx cords:
Always wonderful and expensive Clarus Crimson (review coming), $995
Almost as wonderful and yet still expensive Clarus Aqua (also to be reviewed), $495
aging Monster "Silver"* twisted pair with 24k gold contacts, discontinued, about
Monster Interlink 250 twisted pair with 24k gold contacts, discontinued, about
Amazing, award-winning gold champions, DACT Dual Connects, discounted, $428
The DanaCable Onyx are interconnecting patch
cords. Their connecting ends are made of a solid feeling anodized brass plugs in
a dark gray color. The plugs are also the same shiny dark gray. The bodies of
plugs have a knurled band of either gold or dark gray at the end. The knurling
makes it easier to twist the plugs off and on – no small matter for reviewers
making several dozen swaps between ˝ dozen cords on three different systems.
Vinh Vu of Gingko Audio is the exclusive distributor of the DanaCable product line. He answered my questions with his usual fast and responsive emails. Vu has 23 years at Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies in electronics. He has a Masters of Engineering in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech. Gingko Audio makes amazingly effective Vibration Isolation Platforms (VIP). I have and enjoy their Cloud 10 VIP. He says the DanaCable design philosophy for interconnects is to minimize capacitance (C). Given the higher impedance of low-level components (such as preamps, sources such as CD players, etc.) capacitance is the primary culprit to attack.
Like my Big Ole Horn system, Robbin's reference system is also tubes with large, solid-state sub-woofer support. His system is a highly modified 845 SET tube amplifiers running from 100 Hz up, through a custom crossover, driving uber rare French Orthophase ribbon speakers, circa 1965, then a custom 1/4 wave stub tuned 12" center sub driven from a bridged 800-watt solid-state amp to provide tight bass. "It is something to hear, Robbins says, "because just when the tube amps are starting to run out of their 15-watts, the 800-watt amplifier is running out too! Shows you how much more power is in the bass of music as compared to the rest. The Fletcher-Munson loudness curves don't lie!
"It is audible electrons," Vu says, "[sound] flows much more unimpeded. If you take a picture of copper [molecule] at a minute level, it's not like it is homogenous inside the copper. Extruding [the copper] pulls it a certain way" My friend, Phil Rastocny - retired science writer with Bell Labs and author of the $0.99 "Extreme Audio" series on Amazon - uses a rope analogy to explain this. "Ever tie a knot and the pull on it hard? What happens to the knot? It changes its shape, right? This is ‘sort of' what happens inside of a loudspeaker cable and interconnect."
Wires wound by the manufacturer are spaced in the twisting-and-manufacturing process. Rastocny says, "adding signals invokes the right-hand rule of magnetism. This means magnetic fields are generated along the entire length of the wires. Any "slop" in the twisting will make the wires move – just a little. This changes the capacitance or inductance or both of the wire (depending upon how it moves) and therefore the sound. Add heat as in loudspeaker cables, then the insulation also softens and the wires again move. Get the idea?" Vu recommends using the same cords to all of your components connections. If you have to choose only one, he says the source is more important than the amplification. So use your best cords between the source and the preamp first. Gingko has been making the rounds at the high-end consumer trade shows, such as AXPONA. Unlike their wonderful woven loudspeaker cables, Vu did not have measurements, graphs or video for the new cords.
In the interest of full and objective disclosure, I came into this contest with some pre-conceived notions:
From "Silver Shoot-out," that my Monster cords are mediocre quality.
DACT Dual connects rank among the best, not just in the review above, but also
against some XLR and other gold cords in other Suncoast Audiophile Society
shoot-outs. (Audio clubs are wonderful for swapping, listening and talking about
Around the corner, in another room, unaware of the change, first impression of the Clarus Crimson line on Rastocny's heavily modified Macintosh powered Bozak system was amazing. As if some major component was changed.
So these were not single or double blind studies.
I saw and knew which patch cord was swapped in and out. I had some idea of the
price range of the Clarus and DACT interconnects (ICs). The collar and pin
connectors on all of these cords are only slightly different. The delicate white
weave of the DACT Dual interconnects and their polymer plugs stood out from the
pack. The Bullet Plug* from Eichmann Technology "down-under" won rave reviews
from my publisher (See Male RCA Shoot-out, September 2001)
question is, could subjective listening tests alter my perceptions? How did the
Onyx stack up against far more expensive pure copper, silver and gold cords?
The famous Blue Note scale was very kind to the slinky black
DanaCable Onyx woven cables. They won four Blue Notes -- Above Average -- scores
across the board! A rarity for me. The Onyx IC also did extremely well against
far more expensive and exotic competitors.
A Canadian who began composing at the age of six, André Gagnon' fusion of classical and pop styles is renown, but not easy to classify. It ranges widely and makes audacious combinations of elements from both sides of classical and pop. In 1975, "Neiges" was on American Billboard's Top 10 for twenty-four weeks and sold 700,000 copies worldwide. He composed music for "The Pianist" movie with Harvey Keitel (1992). Gagnon's "Ta Samba" is a snappy, Latin percussive popcorn rhythm with slashing New Age Techno signatures, symphonic violins and flutes; it is an electronic beat with fast changing and foot tapping melodies. On it, the Onyx IC displayed the same characteristics that I noted on DanaCable's slinky woven cables: deeper bass, higher treble range, clearer, with fuller mid-range. The Onyx had better texture and detail than the Monster cords.
Here again, the Onyx ICs seemed much less electronic in nature. Pizzicato plucking was apparent where it was absent before and now part of the melody. The Onyx ICs were impressive, enjoyable and listenable. The Onyx rendered "Ta Samba" as a much different song by adding the deep end of bass and the high end of brushed cymbals to the rhythm where none existed before. Sadly, my Monster Silver missed a lot of the sound. Like the cables and interconnects, some songs make it pass the elimination stage. In the semi and the finals, you want to listen to them again and again. Going into the second round, it was DACT and Clarus Crimson in the lead, with both Onyx and Clarus Aqua close in 2nd place. Both Monster ICs fell further behind, clearly out-classed.
American smooth funk/soul-jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. (1943 –1999) is considered by many to be one of the founders of the smooth jazz genre. Washington is credited for giving rise to a new batch of smooth jazz talent that would make its mark in the late 1980s and early 1990s. So of course, I have much of his music. Big Ole Horns love horns! On Washington's "Poacher Man" (Soulful Strut, 1996), horns dance with jungle notes and Catherine Russell's strong female lead in the opening. In 2012, Russell won a Grammy Award for singing on the HBO TV series "Boardwalk Empire." It is hard for many systems to reproduce that many different instruments accurately, with equal enthusiasm and competence. Here the capabilities between the Onyx and the Clarus Aqua versus the Clarus Crimson and the DACT Dual ICs stood out clearly. The two leaders were fuller, more jungle notes, with a golden feel. Their vocals were more forward and exuberant.
Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (1671 – 1751) was an Italian
Baroque composer. Famous in his day as an opera composer, today we remember him
mainly for his instrumental music. On his "Concerta for Oboe and Strings, Opus
7," the Onyx was not missing much. It had less body than the expensive cords,
which is backhanded way of saying the cord was quite good. It was as if the
flute was more electronic and less breathy. The high notes were sharper than the
top cords, a tad brighter, but mostly not as rich or golden, as if formed with
incomplete waveforms for the notes. Minor criticisms perhaps, when comparing
differences worth hundreds of dollars. Overall, I was very impressed with the
Onyx cord. Having heard and compared this IC to a few others, I would recommend
it to anybody who doesn't want to spend the coin on the more expensive
For Value category, I would still choose the DACT Dual for golden delicacy and detail, but if that price is not in your range, the DanaCable Onyx interconnecting RCA patch cord by Gingko Audio at half the price is an excellent five Blue Note value.