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Head-Fi Review: The Bolder Cable Company Type I and Type II Interconnect Cables

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
NOTE: This review by DanG is the first of what will become a regular feature of Head-Fi -- Head-Fi Reviews. JMT will serve as Head-Fi's Director of Reviews, the liaison between manufacturers and members of Head-Fi, to set up reviews of products that we might not otherwise see without such relationships. This will expand our horizons, exposing us to products we're not regularly exposed to, and increased review activity of established products that we want to learn more about. You'll also notice that we'll welcome some feedback from the manufacturers at the end of each review. Now, onto our first Head-Fi Review. --Jude




Build, Design, and Convenience
When the Bolder Cables Type 1 and Type 2 interconnect cables (both 1-meter pairs) arrived in the mail, I was immediately struck by the build of these cables. It is quite unusual, as far as I know, for interconnect cables at this price to have metal mesh coverings and large RCA terminations. I didn’t particularly like the looks of the Type 2 cable, though, as I found the one-cable-red-one-cable-black design to be a bit flashy and not to work well together. But, of course, you want to know about the sound more than the looks, and I’ll get into that in a minute.

I found the large RCA terminations to be slightly inconvenient for A/B testing, as plugging them into my CD player and amplifier and then unplugging them proved to be a little time-consuming. But if one is to keep these cables in a system, it isn’t really a problem, and it seems to provide a tighter fit than standard RCA terminations.

Sound
The music used first to audition the cables was Johannes Brahms’ Quartet for Violin, Viola, Violoncello and Piano No.1 in G Minor (Opus 25) performed by Isaac Stern (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Jaime Laredo (Viola), and Emanuel Ax (Piano) on Sony Classical. What I particularly love about this piece of music are the suspenseful passages which start out with a provocation, if you will, from the cello and lower piano, and elicit a vigorous response from the violin and the higher end of the piano.

During the suspenseful minor-key passages, the Bolder Cables Type 2 allowed Yo-Yo Ma’s cello and the lower registers of the piano to dominate, to drive the music forward – what comes next? It kept me tense and waiting for the next passage. However, when the violin’s response came with the piano (higher keys), the treble felt muffled and almost clouded, so the antithesis seemed weaker and felt unsatisfying. It was likely a matter not of true muffling, but rather that I expected a little more from the response. I was waiting for a stunning attack in the treble range, but when I used the Type 2, something felt missing.

With the DH Labs cables, the violin and the higher registers of the piano seemed just heavenly – they sounded airy and even better-separated. It felt like the violin and piano were dancing – no, flying – in a way that the Type 2 simply couldn’t reproduce. Just the way many people describe the Silver Sonic cables, the treble seemed to have a certain refreshing “energy” about it. The treble attacks were more pronounced – it felt like a young child adamantly demanding her parents to buy a toy. While in an adult this sort of behavior is distasteful, in a child it seems almost invigorating.

The problem is that this youthful energy pervades even the passages where we don’t want excited yelping, namely those very suspenseful passages where the Type 2 allows the rumbling bass of the violoncello and piano to tear at us. Not only is the treble still pervasive with the BL-1, but the cello and piano feel less pronounced due to a lack of bass extension. The result is that while the passages with a dominating treble feel energetic, fresh, and beautiful, the rumbling passages lack a degree of body and foundation. Again, the thesis-antithesis relationship is too close and not pronounced to my satisfaction. The frequency ranges of the two cables feel very similar – the Type 2 cable seems to let the lower registers pass through, while the BL-1 seems to offer higher frequencies.

But how could this be? Both companies, DH Labs and Bolder Cables, use conductors that are very good. It simply did not seem possible to me that one cable would literally pass along a different frequency than another. When listening to Thelonious Monk’s live performance of “Straight, No Chaser” (on the 1998 Columbia Jazz release Live at the “It” Club – Complete), I realized why I might perceive a difference in frequencies as though even the audible range within the spectrum were affected.

I decided to do a blind test to determine what the fundamental difference was between the two cables. The bass line felt a little deeper and weightier, but not enough that I could tell for sure that it was the Type 2. The saxophone did not seem slow or too close to the bass end of the midrange. What cued me in to the fact that it was the copper cable was the cymbal. As I listened, I clearly felt that there was somehow less of the cymbal’s sound present. It sounded very real, but I still could not shake the notion that I was missing something. So I plugged in the BL-1 and after listening for a minute or two, I realized that what might have been missing was the high-frequency harmonic structure generated by the cymbals. Perhaps, then, it is only the extreme high end of the treble which is exclusively present on the BL-1.

I continued to test my hypothesis with my favorite Thelonious Monk piece, “Round Midnight.” This time I really wanted to see what my general impression of the piece would be when listening to each of the two cables. In the end, I came upon a somewhat unexpected, if not unprecedented, conclusion.

The Type 2, I realized, sounds quieter than the BL-1. Not that the volume is lower, but the hiss from the recording is gone. Does this mean it’s a euphonic cable? No, I don’t believe so. It seems to me yet another sign that the BL-1 highlights the higher frequencies.

Furthermore, the Type 2’s increased emphasis on the lower frequencies makes it feel slightly slower. It doesn’t sound worse in any way, but the pace feels more relaxed. And the overall deeper range allows the cable to lend itself to a relatively laid-back presentation.

The BL-1, of course, has a natural treble energy which I’ve mentioned several times before. The overall sound comes across as faster, more up-front, more active. The drum’s cymbals drive the beat more than the bass, which predominates as tempo-keeper on the Type 2.

So what’s the surprising conclusion, you ask? It’s the following: the difference between the two cables, as you may have noticed, is very similar to the difference between Sennheiser headphones and Grado headphones! While I simply will not say that one pair of cables is better than the other, I will say that most people should be able to choose what suits them best.

I found that overall I prefer the Silver Sonic BL-1. Then again, I’m an active member of Team Grado and swear, as I always will, by my Alessandro Music Series Pro headphones. I enjoy the energetic trebles that the Silver Sonic cable lets through. If you enjoy relaxing while listening and letting the music you hear wash over you, perhaps the Bolder Cables Type 2 interconnect is more to your taste. But whichever cable you choose, I think it will certainly let the music through in even the best of systems.

But wait… there’s more?
I was also fortunate enough to be able to audition a less-expensive interconnect cable from Bolder Cables, their Type 1 cable. This product makes use of the Jon Risch recipe for the Belden 89259 cable.

My overall impressions of this cable were mixed. They are quite inexpensive compared to the Type 2, but the difference was definitely audible. If one is to say that the Type 2 and the DH Labs BL-1 have different frequency ranges, then the Type-1 has a frequency range somewhere in between the two and more compressed.

But, truth be told, I enjoyed my jazz and classical collection about as much on the Type 1 as I did using the Type 2 or the BL-1. While at times I missed the extended bass response of the Type 2 or the flashy trebles of the BL-1, the music was certainly always present. When I listened very closely, I could hear that the Type 1 sounded a little cloudy compared to the other cables, but it was not a major issue.

Overall, I’d say that the Type 1 is a fine budget cable. It does a better job at transmitting the information than radio shack cables or stock wire, and some of the characteristics of higher-end cabling are present in this (physically) thinner cable. I would strongly recommend considering it when in the market for sub-$100 cables.

Associated Equipment
Marantz CD-6000 OSE CD player
Wheatfield HA-1 valve headphone amplifier
Alessandro-Grado Music Series Pro headphones
DH Labs Silver Sonic BL-1 Series II interconnect cable (1-meter pair)

Dan Gross
Head-Fi Moderator
Head-Fi Reviewer

The Bolder Cable Company Type-1 and Type-2 Audio Interconnect Cables
Pricing:
$65 for 1-meter pair, Type-1 interconnect
$190 for 1-meter pair, Type-2 interconnect
Warranty:
Lifetime warranty on both cables, 45-day satisfaction guarantee
http://www.boldercables.com
__________________________________________________
The Bolder Cable Company responds:
I want to thank Dan for his review of the Bolder Cable Company Interconnect cables. Both of the cables are based on the designs of Jon Risch. The explanation of these designs can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/jonrisch/cables.htm

The Type 1 cable is a simple single run of Belden 89259 Teflon insulated coax. It is covered in Techflex, which is a polyester covering to protect to outer covering of the cable. I use the Cardas AGMO connectors on this cable.

The Type 2 cable is quite a bit more complex. It uses the center cores of two different cables. One is an 18 gauge solid core and the other is a 22 gauge stranded. These are tightly twisted together. Two other Teflon cores, without any copper in them, are twisted about the first twisted pair to provide spacing. The whole bundle is then wrapped in Teflon tape and then a braided copper shield is placed over the bundle and covered with heat shrink. I use red and black simply as a way of telling the cables apart. I can easily use the same color on both cables if anyone so desires. These are also covered in Techflex. I use the solid core conductor as hot and the stranded as ground. The shield is grounded at the source end only to act as a shield against RFI and EMI. I use the Cardas SRCA-GG connectors on this cable. These are the best connectors that Cardas makes. They have a coiled spring around the ground connection to make sure there is a constant pressure on the female connector. While this may be a bit of a problem if you are constantly changing cables, I feel the constant extra pressure and greater contact area are worth it because of the sound you get from it.

The DH Labs cables all use silver plated copper. When you have two different metals, the signal travels through them at slightly different speeds and phase. This accounts for the slightly “bright” sound that Dan G. reports.

Different systems and different musical tastes will call for different cables. The review that Dan wrote brings that clearly home. The only way to find out for sure which cable is right for your system and music is to try it in your system.
Please check out our website at http://www.boldercables.com

Wayne Waananen
The BOLDER Cable Company
wkawayne@qwest.net
Wayne1
post #2 of 7
Nice review, Dan. I have some DBSE Belden interconnects, which sound pretty similar to the Type I Bolder cables. Your description of their sound matches my impressions very well. I would like to emphasize that this type of cable is not dark, it just doesn't put a strong emphasis on the highs, like a cable w/ silver usually would. It's also not the last word in resolution, though you do get a quieter background.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks dhwilkin. I'm quite sure that the Type 2 is somewhat dark, because I have compared it to the Tara Labs RSC Air-1 interconnect (retail $795). The Air-1, which I assume is more neutral than either the BL-1 or Type 2, has airier highs than either cable but without the emphasis of the BL-1, as much bass (if not slightly more) than the Bolder Type 2, and greater resolution than either cable. I do think that the Type 2 may lack some of the higher frequencies, but probably not more than how the HD 600 lacks in the treble range. Many people love the HD 600, and it's very easy to enjoy the Bolder Type 2.
post #4 of 7
Dan,

It may be that the cables you like do have a slight upward tilt. When I was out at Kimber Kable in the spring, we did test a lot of cables. The shielded twisted pair was -.201 db at 41 Mhz. I don't think it is lacking too much on the high end side

Check out this site for the test results
http://www.harlandjobs.com/subwebs/kimber/
go to day two and click the link for test results.

Cheers,
Wayne
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
That may be true, Wayne. It's just that when I heard the Tara Labs Air-1, the sound was far more natural than with either the BL-1 or the Type 2 -- and there was a more natural treble. Maybe it just compensated in my system, but all I really know is that I liked the sound of my system with the Air-1.
post #6 of 7
Dan,

That is GREAT! I am glad that a cable locked in the sound you want from your system. The very expensive cables are quite marvelous. I truly fell in love with the sound of the Kimber Select Series. I can never be able to afford them however.

Cheers,
Wayne
post #7 of 7
Wayne,

I fully agree with you about the Kimber Select cables. I have now replaced all my cables with Kimber Select 1010 or 1011 (with the exception of a Magnan Vi between pre and power amp), and I am replacing my Kimber Bifocal XL speaker cable with Select 3033. (I prefer the copper 1010 cables to the more expensive 1020 or 1030 silver cables). All cables represent some trade offs, but the Kimber Selects are the closest to perfect that I've heard.

Ross
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