Today I am very excited to test a pair of XLR audio cables. And, of course, I am visiting my good friend Lukas, owner of Garso Namai, Kauno g. 31, 03215 Vilnius, Lithuania. I always enjoy visiting Lukas; he makes great coffee and offers a good selection of audio systems to test cables. And so I have written this article, “Audiophile XLR cable comparison”.
Audiophile XLR cable
Upon arrival at Garso Namai, the first order of business was making my morning coffee. The second order of business was selecting the music we would use in the cable test. And third order was to choose the amplifier and speakers that best suited the XLR cables, for the Audiophile XLR cable comparison.
Van Den Hul cable
The MC-SILVER IT Mk III Balanced is a balanced interconnect. A new sprig of 1982 introduced the famous MC – SILVER line of Matched Crystal Silver, the highest quality level interconnects amongst the true born high-end audio lovers. The van den Hul MC – SILVER series has gained a most respected audience of devotees and admirers. And their ears certainly aren’t wrong. And now enters The MC – SILVER IT Mk III Balanced, An even further improved version of the MC SILVER Mk II Balanced. Audiophile XLR cable comparison.
The latest technical insights have allowed VDH to incorporate sophisticated material and design refinements. The MC SILVER IT Mk III Balanced’s technical specifications remain the same as the preceding Mk II version, but the sound qualities are a step further. And sound characterises as being extremely clean and very dynamic. Listening tests have yielded the most dynamic sound impression experienced thus far compared to other products“
With its tri-axial double-shielded design, all conductors in the MC – SILVER IT Mk III Balanced are made of the world’s highest grade of Matched Crystal (MC) Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) with a very thick mechanically (thus non-chemically) applied layer of purest silver. Further adding to its stunning dynamics and vivid clarity, Audiophile XLR cable comparison
The MC – SILVER IT Mk III Balanced employs extremely low-loss Teflon as internal insulation material. This purest Teflon form is usually only used in the most advanced audio-grade capacitors. Also new is the eye-catching attractive, transparent, ruby red HULLIFLEX ® EHD jacket, which provides even more protection and durability. Regarding its top-notch sound qualities and delightful cosmetics, The MC – SILVER IT Mk III Balanced more than excellently combines with the SUPER NOVA, the most prestigious speaker cable in our program.
- Van Den Hul MC-Silver IT MKIII Balanced, 2 XLR to 2 XLR
- Length: 0.6m
- Cable Type: Triaxial (Balanced)
- Conductor Material: Strands with a thin high purity Matched Crystal OFC core and a thick High, purity dense Matched Crystal Silver layer; the Outer screen includes a high purity Matched Crystal Silver ribbon
- Design Purpose / Application Area(s): Interconnect for balanced signal transport at the highest quality level
- Eff. Conductor Ø/Eq. AWG No./Strands: Core: 0.382 mm²; Intermediate conductor: 0.308 mm² / Core: AWG 21.3; Intermediate conductor: ~AWG 22 / Core: 19; Intermediate conductor: 80; Screen: 216 + Ag tape
- External Diameter / Dimensions: 7.5 mm
- Resistance 20 °C / 68 °F: Core: 4.5 Ohm/100 m.; Intermediate conductor: 5.2 Ohm/100 m.; Screen: 0.90 Ohm/100 m
- Capacitance: Core-Intermediate conductor: 95 pF/m.; Intermediate conductor-Screen: 77 pF/m
- Insulation / Dielectric Strength / Test Voltage: Core and intermediate conductor: PTFE tape; Jacket: HULLIFLEX ® EHD / 300 Vrms min
- Connector Types Suitable: Neutrik XLR; RCA (unbalanced termination); Neutrik 1/4″ (6.3 mm.) Jack/Phone plug; Custom mountable on any ordered length
- Jacket Colours Available: Transparent ruby red
- Remarks: This cable is a technically extended version of our MC – SILVER IT Mk II Balanced. The MC – SILVER series is also available: The MC – SILVER IT 65 G and The MC – SILVER IT Mk II 75 Ohm.
Van Den Hul second cable
The MOUNTAIN is the mightiest of our 3T balanced interconnect range. No less than two .8 mm conductors, a thick LSC layer, double screening and a dense Hulliflex jacket make this 11.3 mm thick cable a must-have for serious audio enthusiasts. Once connected, you will never want to change to any other cable.
All galvanic conductors in the audio industry today are made from soft metals. The advantage is that many free electrons are available, which is beneficial for the cable’s conductivity. A large amount of free electrons automatically means a low conductor resistance. Traditionally the so-called “experts” love to see this. The disadvantage of this choice is that the conductors can be reshaped relatively easily; they need a stable internal structure. These metals are also very sensible for thermal, chemical and mechanical ageing.
Linear structured Carbon
To have a longer-lasting reply to the above problem, we were the first company that started producing a completely metal-free conductor series applying our Linear Structured Carbon® (The FIRST®, SECOND® and THIRD®). Another ten years of research, starting with our Fusion Technology has finally resulted in a new revolution in the conductor world: 3T (True Transmission Technology).
The idea behind the 3T concept is to use as many electrons as possible to bind the metal atoms together. The disadvantage of a slightly higher impedance is more than compensated by the rigid structure of the conducting material. The only way to do this was to disregard the general views again and go in a completely new direction. Audiophile XLR cable comparison
The base of research:
- No mechanical or chemical ageing anymore
- Also, no metal layers in the conductor to prevent any chemical activity between them
- Big mechanical flexibility combined with a minimum bending radius
- Also, Big mechanical pull strength, At least 150 Kg/mm2
- An amorphous structure has no crystalline boundaries in the conductive material
- Completely stable at higher temperatures ( up to 250 degrees Celsius)
- A stable structure was only possible in a mix of various metals in an exact ratio. In the end, it turned out that five metals and one non-metal were needed
- Extremely long lifespan without any change in sound characteristics
- A very short burn-in time. After approximately two hours, you can expect good results. After only 48 hours, the cables have reached their optimum
- Very high resolution during the replay
- Because of this high resolution, excellent audible acoustics
- No dynamic limitation whatsoever
- Especially the spectre between 40 – 200 Hz and 2 KHz – 15 KHz It needs to remain perceptible. A lot of conductors experience severe problems in these areas
- Last but not least: applicable in industrial situations.
This whole list of properties is packed together in our unique 3T conductors. All knowledge on how to build a cable is applied to make a series of four balanced interconnects (The VALLEY, The ROCK, The HILL and The MOUNTAIN. In early 2011 we expect to bring another series of four coaxial interconnects. The 3T speaker cables will have to come later as there are still some matters to be solved; amongst others, the higher impedance is a problem. Combined with our new jacket printing technique, distinguishing this product from any copycat versions makes that we have again done the unthinkable and created what is probably one of the best interconnects available today.
- Van Den Hul The Mountain Hybrid XLR to XLR Audio Cable
- Length 0.8 metre
- Cable Type: Double-screened twin core (Balanced)
- Conductor Material: 3T + HYBRID: Linear Structured Carbon ® saturated layer(s) + 2 layer screen of silver plated copper
- Design Purpose Application Area(s): Balanced and unbalanced audio interconnect
- Eff. Conductor Ø/Eq. AWG No./Strands: Cores: 0.8mm / Cores: ~AWG 18 / Strands: 1 x 0,8mm
- External Diameter: 11,3mm
- Connector Types Suitable: Our special Rhodium RCA type C – 11,3 or Neutrik XLR; Custom mountable on ordered lengths
- Jacket Colours Available: Saffron yellow
Musical Fidelity supplied the amplification for testing. And the M6S preamplifier and the M6SPRX power amplifier are a perfect choice. The M6s PRE is effectively a preamp without limits. Its wide range of inputs and excellent performance can form the heart of almost any system, regardless of price. It’s a pure Class A design capable of driving any power amplifier over any cable length.
The M6s PRE has various inputs suited to traditional and modern music sources. It has an MM/MC phono stage, two balanced inputs, and three line-level connections. A fully configured tape in/out loop and a digital USB socket. The performance is stunning—the M6s PRE sounds sweet, straightforward and fast, with tight, extended bass. And this set up used in 2021 for audiophile testing
The Jade 20 is an outstanding concert-like performer: a combination of “strong sound” with unlimited freedom and the natural scale of the instruments. The loudspeakers sound vital, with a strongly marked foreground, rhythmic, strong bass, and colourful highs. This set would create a friendly concert atmosphere during hours-long listening sessions and a suggestive background for work and relaxation.
In this two-way design, we entrusted the lower bandwidth to a designed in-house, 12-inch mid-woofer with a classic, paper diaphragm. The BMS compression driver, responsible for the top, works in a short tube with a Tractrix profile designed by our engineers. The appropriate selection and efficiency of the transducers allowed us to obtain a bandwidth division at around 1200 Hz. Thanks to the 8-ohm impedance and efficiency of 91dB, the Jade 20s are easy to set up – a low-power tube amplifier can quickly drive them, and they’re showing their claws and full potential with a powerful transistor amp. And we decided (after months of testing) the Jade 20 is perfect for all testing applications.
MC-SILVER IT Mk III
Our coffee had finished, and we got to work, starting with our favourite artist Diana Krall. The first cable tested was the MC-SILVER IT Mk III, and we certainly heard the beauty of her voice. And not only her voice but everything sounded alive and fresh, with an entire soundstage having impeccable transparency. The music sounded spectacular, flowing from the Jade 20 speakers, effortless and with all the feeling that we were on stage with her. The cables brought out the entire musical spectrum, and we were engaged in every word she uttered.
We played more of our favourite tracks, and time passed quickly. But this cable had captured our attention in many ways, and it was hard to want to stop listening. And so after a quick break, the Mountain Hybrid XLR was fitted, and we continued with our testing.
Mountain Hybrid XLR
I looked over at Lukas and said. People say a cable makes no difference, but I can certainly hear a difference. To which he replied yes, me too. The music now sounded as if something was missing, and very hard to determine what it was. But after listening, we both agreed that the sound stage had somewhat reduced, and the highs lost energy. Also, a touch less bass and Diana could be more inviting. We continued with the remaining tracks but were losing interest as our cable had let the side down!
It was a great experience to listen to two XLR cables back to back, and there certainly was a difference in performance. The first cable costs about 1800 euros and offers performance comparable to any high-end line in the 2000 euro price range. And I would welcome it in any of the audio systems on-site. The second cable could have been a lot better, considering the price in the region of 1200 euros. And I know of many less-priced XLR cables that give a better sound.
- Author: Tomas Blinder – Music producer, Vilnius, Lithuania
- Dated: 19/06/2023
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