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).

Michael Fremer's picture
Mr. Carl Engbretsen A/K/A TOOL, A/K/A Micro-Penis again provides valuable entertainment: Yaba Daba Douche Bag
Glotz's picture

You are correct sir! Whata baggadouche.

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?

TOOL's picture

Can Fremer get an audio hearing test and PUBLISH the results, old ears, and a wild imagination......how funny. You neglected to include what the material for the mouse pad was that u used to do this nonsense, mouse pad materials have a very large effect on the sound of my computer

isaacrivera's picture

Can you hear a difference between the files or not? You are your own test and you reach your own concussions. Why would you want some report to tell you what you can hear for yourself? In this test all variables are accounted for... since the only difference is the cables. Your mouse pad, your degree of tone-deafness, your system's resolution threshold, and the scale of your genitals. I will tell you what is nonsense: taking the time to comment about something that does not interest you when you could be listening to music on whatever rocks your boat, or perhaps you do not find the sound coming out of your system that enticing... maybe you should change interconnects?

Glotz's picture

and has SOOO much more wit than you will ever exhibit. Yabba Dabba Douchebag... STILL laughing at his brilliant rip on you- DAYS later!

You must be some really pissed off dude who just HATES ANY JOY.

I think you'll need more mousepads... to soak up ALL THE DOUCHE around you.

One sad, nasty mess, you are. Sorry about your small penis, too.

Flash77's picture

CARDAS MOST EXTENDED AND NEUTRAL FOR ME

TOOL's picture

Funny is what people convince themselves what they believe they are hearing....there is no sound in a piece of wire. Fremer's ears are old, and way past it's prime, yet, he will keep trying to convince his minions, that he can hear things, that don't exist. And continue to make up terms, that mean nothing. Always entertaining, and when his thoughts ebb, he resorts to name calling. Like you...

isaacrivera's picture

A cable's material properties and geometry affect its conductive qualities in measurable ways. Just because some asshole with lack of imagination who could not see beyond what he did not know and who did not know how to measure a limited set of properties said there are no differences between cables it does not make it so. I was on the camp who SUSPECTED there was no quantitative difference is sound to qualitative changes is cables, but simple tests on any system with enough resolving power will flatly demonstrate that to be just a belief that is not sustained by experience.

You know what is unscientific? To dismiss heaps of empirical evidence in order to sustain a belief. I doubt you have done the tests yourself, for it would be hard to continue trolling had you done so. If you have and noticed nothing, then there are 3 possibilities: Your system sucks, your listening sucks or your hearing sucks. The first 2 can be improved.

I have done this test with people off the street who are not audiophiles. I have NOT told them what the changes were going to be. I let them choose the music to use from a selection of great recordings and using a great base system. The only change is the cables which they are unaware of and 100% of the time they notice the changes, though not all find the changes equally appealing.

I have no problem with your beliefs, for as long as you do not try to impose it on me or negate my experience. So, go ahead, enjoy your music Sonos and petty dogmas and let those with a bit more inquisitive minds and ears investigate seriously.

TOOL's picture

Why would you take people off the street, into your home? Now that's weird. Be specific, what in a wire changes "pace" or as other wild imaginations, call for an improvement in tempo and "jump factor" What values are assigned to these quality, since everything in an electrical conductor can be measured, and asigned a numerical value, other wise, how could anything be manufactured to a spec, for a specific function? wire, it's very much understood, there is of course lots of BS, when it's sold for $10,000 for a 6foot piece, of WIRE for a consumer grade setup, and the stuff has no industry standards specs, not even a UL or NEC required use data printed on the outer cover material. Ya ever notice REAL legit wires, have all kinds of stuff printed on it, learn more, understand more

isaacrivera's picture

Things are not all the same. Same is same and different is different. Differences are measurable and as such different measures have different effects. We seem to agree as much. It is not such a wild jump to infer that different effects sound differently and all kinds of ears empirically confirm this phenomenon... So can you concede defeat?

BTW... I never said it was my home, nevertheless it is true and factual and there is nothing numbers can show that makes it different for It is not human experience that has to match expectations.... It is science's burden to explain human experience and not the other way around.

TOOL's picture

Versus measurements and actually hearing what you think you are hearing. Always entertaining. It's like a good satire, on how gullible folks are, every month, it's the same imaginary things, very entertaining, how much elaborate prose, can be written about things that ain't happening. One of my favorites of one comedy writer, was how a speaker cord had better "pace" and jump factor?!!! What does that even mean, nothing, it's comedy, and word fill.

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.

TOOL's picture

My system is fine as is my hearing....marketing has you all baffled, of course you hear how that RCA connector sounds, the colorful, full page ads say so. Always entertaining stuff. So if you are not using the identical wires and equipment that the stuff was recorded on, you are not hearing what they wanted you to hear, if all these wires matter...you wind up putting oneself into a never ending circle of nonsense. What ever happened to Demagnetizing all these records? that's not this years fad?

isaacrivera's picture

Everyone's ears are somehow bound by placebo, but yours are infallible?

"Falsifiability or refutability of a statement, hypothesis, or theory is the inherent possibility that it can be proven false. A statement is called falsifiable if it is possible to conceive of an observation or an argument which negates the statement in question. In this sense, falsify is synonymous with nullify, meaning to invalidate or "show to be false".

For example, by the problem of induction, no number of confirming observations can verify a universal generalization, such as All swans are white, since it is logically possible to falsify it by observing a single black swan. Thus, the term falsifiability is sometimes synonymous to testability. Some statements, such as It will be raining here in one million years, are falsifiable in principle, but not in practice.[1]

The concern with falsifiability gained attention by way of philosopher of science Karl Popper's scientific epistemology "falsificationism". Popper stresses the problem of demarcation—distinguishing the scientific from the unscientific—and makes falsifiability the demarcation criterion, such that what is unfalsifiable is classified as unscientific, and the practice of declaring an unfalsifiable theory to be scientifically true is pseudoscience." -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

Your statement is not scientifically provable as it requires that ALL cables that exist and all that will to be tested for sonic changes, which is impossible. On the other hand a single observation of the contrary renders it false. In other words, the theory "interconnect cables can make a sonic difference" is probable by a single observation to that effect, while the theory "cables do not make a difference" is unscientific and can never be proven, yet it can be demonstrated false by a single observation to the contrary. Since there are many of those and it is highly unlikely they are all placebo, many confirmed by tests like mine and better and even by well-trained ears, you are simply wrong.

TOOL's picture

Ears? Who trained them, and to what standards? If your ears are not trained as all others, it's all random nonsense. If you can't train all ears to hear the identical stuff, the TRAINING is useless. And if everyone has to be so trained, then the imaginary differences are meaningless, as in, the world's best car is now $3 million...useless, as the other 3 Billion people can't buy it, so who cares. And if you are not using the identical equipment, that recorded the original stuff, any changes due to the wires, is distortion, which is any change to the original. And if you cannot quantify, and document the changes, it's all an imagination. What changed? And pace, air, and other useless audiophlake terms, have nothing to do with audio. Which of these imaginary "differences" is the correct difference? And just personal preference is as useless as an empty water bottle in the desert. Hi Fi, means true to the original...wires don't matter, only to the advertisers and magazines that promote the nonsense. Funny stuff...what is well trained ears? Specs, data, or is it, just who has a more vivid imagination?

isaacrivera's picture

First of, the fact that what changed may be unknown does not preclude that there are differences. Science and engineering are where they are at any point in history, and though we love to think we know it all, we are quite far from it. NOT KNOWING ALL OF THE VARIABLES IS ALWAYS PART OF SCIENCE. Most scientific theories have a 10 year half-life. 50% of what we think we know today will be understood as wrong in a decade. So, not knowing what differences there are is not the basis for asserting there are no differences.

Secondly, there are measurable differences in wire conductors according to composition and geometry. I am not an electrical engineering, but I have spoken with many and there are. And there are physical properties or conductive cables that would yield different results according to design. Like the fact that a wire conducts at different speeds on its surface than on its core. A thicker and longer wire will have a more pronounced effect of some of the information being delayed, for instance. And other differences are not inherent to the wire but the insulation for instance.

If you want to believe that your beliefs on cable conductivity is factual. Go ahead, but you are wrong and demonstrably so. Your irrational and irrelevant, subjective and judgmental arguments arguments do not change a think in the world of common reality, real as they appear in your head.

TOOL's picture

So your ears can now hear the differences in SPEED of electrons, since you mention different wires affect the SPEED? Wow, you really have been bamboozled. When mfgs start with non realted specs, about skin effect, which is related to ultra hf stuff, not audio freqs. They throw in stuff irrelevant to audio. Please explain how you can hear a difference in audio hi fi, based on the speed of electrons, of an audio recording, that's rich. And you do know that if you turn your head the slightest, everything now sounds different, that's a fact, much more audible, than the speed differences of electrons. The acoustics of a room actually affect things, I really doubt you are hearing the differences in conductivity of electron flow...but that's how they sell the gullible, absurd stuff. Funny stuff, any more brilliance? Funny stuff. Do demagnetized records, have faster or slower snaps and pops?

isaacrivera's picture

In your petty little closed world, TOOL. It matters not a Higg's Bosom particle to the rest of us.

TOOL's picture

What do you hear according to what different wire, facts, not just broad statements. You know you are reading too many full page cover ads. What wire sounds like what? Explain, bet you cannot. If a certain spec of wire has this easily heard sound, it should be easy to explain what, why , how. What wire specs are you referring too? Facts, not reviewer fluff. and you said earlier, more reveling speakers would let one hear this, how revealing, to what standard? My speakers are very good, extremely good, actually great....can you hear a whisper?

the impossible game's picture

Thank you for your sharing. Thanks to this article I can learn more things. Expand your knowledge and abilities. Actually the article is very practical. Thank you!

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

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