Saturday, 7 March 2015

Chester Acoustica Show March 2015: Chord Cables

Here Chord were running step by step cable changes - climbing up the range of streaming network cables and interconnects.

System is:

Naim NDS streamer with 2x 555PS DR power supplies
Naim 252 or 282 pre-amp with Supercap
Naim 250 power amp
Focal Diablo speakers
Melco SSD NAS (with direct connection to the NDS - not using a network switch between the 2
Bennec mains unit
Chord cables (network and interconnects varied, speaker cables are Sarum tuned array throughout)
Quadraspire racks with the new phosphor bronze top shelf spikes

A track is played and the Diablos sound suprisingly good - I've heard these 3 or 4 times before with a variety of electronics and have not enjoyed them - to brittle, edgy etc.  Better sounding today on the first couple of tracks which are being fed music via a standard commodity ethernet cable sitting between the Melco and the NDS.

Focal Diablo with Chord Sarum Tuned Array cables

Naim streamer and pre-amp with the Melco SSD NAS drive.  Quadraspire rack using the new phosphor-bronze spikes

Next up is the removal of the commodity cable and in goes Chord's lowest cost C-Stream cable in its place.  It is worth noting (for the demo police) that the pre-amp was muted for this process, then un-muted.  The point here is that the volume control was not touched.  The C-Stream seems to give better control over the music, with more nuances as voices and instruments decay, imaging stabilises and the band sounds as though they've been practising a bit more.  There are no dissenters in the room.

Then incomes the next up the range, the Anthem and a similar improvement follows, and again with the Sarum.  I think the biggest changes comes from C-Stream to Anthem.

There's some discussion with our room host being disarmingly honest about what's going on.  Its all about rejecting interference which Chord thinks gets into the DAC (probably the clock) and messes stuff up (technical terms!).  They use shielding, but this is not actually connected to any grounding at either end of the cable.  They talk about dialectric properties and the speed and machining quality of the cable extrusion processes.  The smoother the surface of each strand of cable is said to improve flow.  But, and this was the most interesting bit for me, they really don't know what's going on.  They try stuff and decide which sounds better.  Some of it they think they understand the science, but much of it they don't.  They just listen - even to different brands of solder in the plugs.  Its a bit disarming, but there are a good few people in the room that hear the differences, just like last year.  Might have to take this stuff home for a try in the Musings system.

Similar effects with the interconnects, with the new as yet un-named top of the range cable using machined Teflon plug outers and Talon diaelectric.  Apparently Teflon causes frequency dependent phase shifts (dunno, could be true I suppose) but Talon doesn't and that's why its used in military systems that use radar arrays to track incoming missiles where phase shifts would be highly undesirable.  Not sure that £3.8k can ever be said to be good value for a pair of cables though.

But still there were tracks where the Diablos were edgy, brittle and unpleasant to listen to.

First listen to Troy Campbell's song Killing Time In Texas - really enjoyed that, will be investing further.

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