Do Tonearm Cables Make a Sonic Difference? You Decide! (Broken CU Link Repaired)

More Munich High End and LAAS coverage coming but first: can you hear differences among tonearm cables? Kuzma for one, offers a couple of tonearm wire options but without first hearing each, now can you know which to order? I asked Franc Kuzma for some samples. He sent me three 4Point arm tubes, one of which was wired with two different cables, for a total of four wire choices, though I'm not sure all are currently available options.

The four are: copper (CU), Cardas Clear (name recentlyy changed from "Silk" by Cardas), Monocrystal and Kondo. All of the wires were first burned in using the Audiodharma Cable Cooker and then each arm tube was installed on the Kuzma 4 Point arm fitted with a Lyra Titani. Phono preamp was Ypsilon MC-10 SUT into Ypsilon VPS-100 Silver Edition. In other words, the only variable was the cable, which goes in a single run from cartridge clip to RCA Eichmann "Bullet Plug".

The music is a 96K/24 bit excerpt from the just released D2D Chasing the Dragon LP Espana (VALDC004). AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer attended and reported on the the recording session. Here's the cover:

Since this is not a test or a guessing game, the files identify which cable is which. Your job is to listen and decide if they all sound the same (the "snake oil" position) or if they sound different and if so, which do you prefer and why. Here are the files:

KONDO

MONOCRYSTAL

CARDAS CLEAR

CU

COMMENTS
British-HiFi's picture

Absolutely they make a difference and you can hear it if you listen! the tapping of the triangle in the first 10 seconds of the track has either a long or short decay, each one of those cables were different with the time decay

Imho anyway

RR's picture

All sound different.

MONOCRYSTAL "highs far beyond me".
KONDO is kind of "neutral".
CARDASSILK smooth as silk.
CU introduces "sparkle" and THE ONLY seetup with apparent grounding issue(s).

bpw's picture

What are the cartridge and phono stage used? Cartridge loading?

Michael Fremer's picture
Is in the text and has been since first posted! Loading is 15K into Xformer secondary to produce appx. 100 ohm load.
bpw's picture

Don't know how I missed it.

Michael Fremer's picture
Try editing your own copy! That's what I have to do. You end up missing your own errors no matter how many reads you give the copy.
Ortofan's picture
vogelzang's picture

All others can be downloaded fine....should check on this

ravenacustic's picture

Kondo least neutral and warm
mono crystal closer to neutral
Cardas similar to mono c but shallower soundstage
Copper not available thru my iPad.

All of the above sampled on my iPad with headphones and subject to listening in person.

GruvyWade's picture

My turntable, a Pro-Ject 1Xpression Carbon Classic, just uses RCA-to-RCA interconnects for the turntable to phono-pre connection. Can I just use a high-quality interconnect (I currently use a Blue Jeans LC-1) or is there a still an advantage to a cable which is designed explicitly to be a "tonearm cable"?

Michael Fremer's picture
If you are using a MM cartridge, cable capacitance can affect the sound. So be sure the cable has low capacitance. The cable's capacitive load will be added to the phono preamp's.
Glotz's picture

Yes, you can, and if capacitance added is accounted for. Usually there are no differences on a tonearm cable, unless the designer has done something specific.

And no... It usually just refers to the termination used for most, Straight DIN to RCA, for example. Some designers have taken into consideration like conductor type and size/gauge, capacitance, and additional layers of insulation to transmit and/or protect the signal.

bhjazz's picture

Mikey, what are we going to do when you retire? This is a lot of fun, so many thanks.

I'm kindof with ravenacustic, although IMO the Cardas shallower soundstage is traded for some serious drama. As always, it would depend on the rest of my system to get some synergy.

elmore244's picture

Hard to tell on computer, but more apparent in Audacity, especially at around 18 secs, Kondo seems to have more dynamic range. Can't share screen shot here, but download aiff files and load into Audacity and take a look for yourself.

airdronian's picture

To pick one under current conditions it would be the Monocrystal. Now, if we could somehow Frankenstein the Kondo bass onto the rest of the Monocrystal output that could be even better. :>)

dbowker3d's picture

Which I'd pick... that'd be very hard to say. All were very good sounding for sure. Some had more sparkle and dynamics, so I'd probably be leaning towards that.
Question: What about cables that start right from the headshell and go right to the pre-amp? Or do you always need some sort of interface between the tonearm cables and the phono-amp?

Flash77's picture

CARDAS MOST EXTENDED AND NEUTRAL FOR ME

isaacrivera's picture

Then experiments like mine would not work, but they have. I did not have a large enough sample for statistical analysis or a control group. But I did get 4 people off the street with no prior audiophile history to describe changes in sound by changing cables and all descriptions referred to the same sonic qualities, though each in the vocabulary of the sitter. Never mind that with experienced listeners I have repeated the same experiment dozens of times...

In reality what is happening is that you have taken a philosophical point of view, decided it is absolute reality and dismiss every phenomenon that proves it wrong. A sort of pseudo scientific fascism better known as confirmation bias. I guess before physics defined the concept of mass and gravitational force people went around floating like balloons. Just because something is not understood does not make it superstition. You either have not conducted tests yourself or your system or hearing capacity are limited. Or perhaps you believe that 128K mp3s contain all the music information that human perception need and you would not hear the difference between and ipod and a mcintosh anyway.

Again, interesting and telling that you need to go around telling others what they are hearing instead of listening to your preferred mp3s. You are plain wrong and easily empirically demonstrably so...

Reading homework: Karl Popper--your opinion squarely falls in the unscientific.

Mike77's picture

Great idea and comparison!

For me the Crystal cable gets the vote followed by the Kondo. As a 4P owner with the Kondo cable installed without interruption I certainly consider a rewire. Michael, did the Kondo cable have their own plugs or something else like silver bullets? The Crystal cable wasn't an option when I got my 4P. As a fully loomed Ansuz Acoustics cable guy I wonder if Ansuz phono cable (D or DTC) would add some sonic gains, anyone tried?

DaveT's picture

prefered the Kondo and mono

Kondo sounded the warmest slightly more romantic seemed to have more bass probably suit leaner carts
mono crystal cooler and tighter but not too analytical, not know which one is most accurate

I have a 4pt I think the standard wiring is the mono

DaveT's picture

prefered the Kondo and mono

Kondo sounded the warmest slightly more romantic seemed to have more bass probably suit leaner carts
mono crystal cooler and tighter but not too analytical, not know which one is most accurate

I have a 4pt I think the standard wiring is the mono

igor's picture

sounded best in my opinion, but it was a very close call. At first listen, I found all the samples to sound exactly the same but after extended listening I find the KONDO sample has somewhat better handling of transients, it's faster. Might have a higher dynamic range too, but just very slightly (if at all). Cannot discern the other samples from each other and cannot hear any difference in tonal balance between all of them.

And of course thanks for the work uploading all this, it is always fun to listen to your system (even if it's digitized).

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