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Sennheiser HD600/580 replacement cable comparison/impressions (Dial-up warning)

post #1 of 93
Thread Starter 
Why Sennheiser continues to produce and ship the HD600/580,and now even the HD650,with the inferior stock cable is beyone me. Senn's oversite is the boon of the aftermarket cable vendors and a great thing for the users and fans of the HD 600 phones. I figured that Senn would for sure jump in the ring and offer a good cable on the HD650 phones and perhaps offer this cable to current HD600/580 users to get in on the cable replacement bandwagon,but alas,they opted to stay the course.

The first time I did this there were four replacement cables to chose from,today there are at least eight from six vendors. I have yet to decide if this really is a good thing. I spent the last week with all these cables burning them in as I listened and enjoying them all along the way.

The contenders are (from top to bottom)
Clou Red Jaspis 212
Stefan Audioart Equinox
Moon Audio Silver Dragon
Moon Audio Blue Dragon
Zu Cable Mobius
Cardas "Smurf Blue"



The gear list;
Headphones:
HD600-3 units,all well used
HD580-Thanks Mike for the loaners

Amps:
Headroom Max w/stepped attenuator
Headroom Cosmic w/reference module
Headroom Little More Power
Ray Samuels Audio XP-7
Meier Audio Prehead LM
Meier Audio HA1 MKII
Wheatfield HA2
JMT PPA
JMT Meta 42 Maxed

Sources:
Marantz DV8400 Universal Digital Player
Denon 2900 Universal Digital Player
Philips DVD 963SA
Musical Fidelity A324 DAC
Musichall Maverick SACD player
VPI Scout w/Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood Cart
Ray Samuels XR2 Phono amp

Cables:
Acoustic Zen WOW! 1 meter interconnect
Meier Audio 1/2 meter interconnect
Dimarzio M-path 1 meter interconnect
Moon-Audio Silver Dragon Interconnect

I have been playing with these cables all week and have been having a bit of a stinkin' good time doing it. While it may indeed be a matter of taste as to which of these cables you would like best in your system,there is little disputing that they are all an improvement over the stock cable. I listened to a lot of music this past week and watched a few movies on my laptop and portable DVD player and used it all in my comparison of the cables.

I just got the Moon-Audio cables and the Zu Cable Mobius at the end of last week and did'nt have much of an opportunity to burn them in before the Chicago meet last weekend. I'm sorry if everybody in attendance did'nt get a chance to hear all the cables but I do know that a good number of you did and I would love to hear what you guys thought about them as well.

This is a typical pic of my desktop this week with all the cables taking up space from my amps and the work I'm supposed to be doing.


I'm gonna do this short impression a little different than usual breaking things down into catagories to simplify my impressions. I'm also going to update the specs,prices and some other stuff a little later after this is posted.

Construction/Ergonomics

All the cables seem to have a very good build quality,using good quality parts and having excellent construction. As is usally the case, there are some standouts. I know this is,again, a matter of taste,but I tend to prefer the Techflex outer sleeves of the Equinox,Mobius,and the Moon Audio cables. The Clou and Cardas both function fine with the standard wire insulation but the Techflex seems to be less snag prone and looks better to me. The Clou and Moon Audio Blue Dragon are the stiffest cables but the Clou is much stiffer than any of the other cables including the Blue Dragon. This stiffness is only problematic when moving but it is annoying when you attempt to reach for something and have to move the cable out of the way. The Blue Dragon was not a big problem and it seems to have become more flexible over the past week. The connectors on the cables are a mixed bag of the good and not so good. The Equinox and Clou both use Stock Sennheiser cable ends spliced onto the cables. The Mobius uses a unique driver cable end made from machined aluminum. You can see in this pic the nice contruction of the Zu Cable Connector.


The Zu Cables connector was a super tight fit and forced me to use electrical pliers to install it. I don't know if it damaged the phones at all but it was a scary fit and I would hate to do this to a new set of HD650 Phones.

The Cardas and both the Moon Audio cables use the new Cardas connector, which is a huge improvement in terms of fit,over the old Cardas connector. You can see the Cardas logo on the connector in this pic of the Moon Audio Silver Dragon


I did not know there were so many 1/4" headphone jack plugs to chose from but I think all the good ones are represented here. The Equinox uses the very good Neutrik connector that I think has the best fit in just about every headphone jack I have tried. The Clou and Cardas I have both have Switchcraft connectors though I have seen later Cardas' with the Cardas Rodium 1/4 connector and Clous' with the new Neutrik Custom plugs. The Moon Audio cables both use the Cardas 1/4" plug and I have found them to fit a bit loose in most locking headphone jacks,especially those found on the Headroom Max and JMT's PPA. The loose fit is very obvious and has become a bit worse during use,causing static and RFI problems when moving around.

Only the Moon Audio is of Pure Silver construction with the ZuCable having silver plated copper and the other cables being of full copper construction. The Moon Audio cables are both in a 10 foot length as is the Cardas and Clou. The Zu cable and Equinox are both 9 footers which should be considered.



Sonics/Synergy

I was determined to try all the possible amp/source/cable combos available to me while I had the cables in my hands. I think I did but I certainly had some faves that I have to mention. The Equinox is my reference cable with the HD600, using the Max amp. I am very accustomed to the sound of this combo and any change to it was very apparent. Right out of the box the Silver Dragon impressed the crap out of me. It was Dynamic, detailed and had a fantastic front to back layering of midrange and bass. The treble of the Silver Dragon has smoothed out nicely over the week from the somewhat forward,but not harsh,upper frequency I heard on the first listen. The Midrange of the Silver Dragon is superb in almost every way with outstanding detail and imaging. Instrument seperation is the best in the HD replacement cable biz and vocals arrive at your ears as intended. The Silver Dragon was also suberb with the Wheatfield and Supra and responded very well to some interconnect swaps I tried a little later. It sounded great with all the amps but the Max,Wheatfield and **** all made it sound spectacular.

The Zu Cable Mobius was not far behind the Silver Dragon but surpassed it slightly in terms of bass extension and impact. It had a forward midrange that never calmed down during the 100 hours or so I used it but it did sound very good on all the solid state amps. The midrange bump made it sound a bit out of balance when using it with the Tubed amps but it was'nt terrible and I could see it being used with amps that have a slight midrange recession. I think this cable was voiced with the so-called "veil" of the HD 600 in mind. If this is your concern with the HD600 the the Mobius is your cable. The bass made this cable but the treble was outstanding as well. The extension is very good and the detail and timber was spot-on. This cable sounded great right out of the box as well with the improvements in bass depth coming with burn-in. The Mobius/**** combo was another of my faves and these two were just lovin' each other.I would not hestitate to recommend this cable strongly.

The Equinox has been with me for a while and I have loved every minute of our time together. It is as balanced a cable as I heard. It is still the most balanced cable,improving every aspect of the HD600's performance to a great degree. It excelled in treble accuracy and extention ,offering fantastic low-level detail. the new Silver cables trounce it in midrange performance but it does'nt get embarrased too much. The bass is still near the top with only the Zu Cable performing better with deeper,tighter bass. The Equinox/Wheatfield Combo remains one of my favorite headphone/amp/cable combos of all time.

The Moon Audio Blue Dragon took a while to grow on me. Out of the box it sounded dull as hell and very constricted,kinda like you had earplugs in your ears. It loosened up nicely over the past few days and became a contender. It has very good bass with good impact and very good dynamics through the midbass. Percussions sound very good with this cable and instrument seperation in the lower frequencies is excellent. This is one of those cables that sounds right on every amp and with every source. This is most likely the best choice for those of us who have a bunch of amps but prefer the HD600 phones over all others. The Blue Dragon does not offer the hyper-detail of the Silver Dragon or the deep bass of the Zucable but it does come very close to both after burning in some.

I'm still trying to find a way to enjoy the Cardas cable in my system. It always seems to sound pretty good when I hear it in other systems and at the meets but it just lets me down at home. The Treble extension can only be called fair and the midrange seems a mile away compared to the Equinox,Silver Dragon and Mobius. It has good bass but it suffers from mediocre extension. It has very good seperation of instruments throughout the entire frequency and this is why I think most people like it so much and why it sounds good at shows.

The Clou is not my flavor at all. It made all my tubed gear sound mushy and harsh at the same time if that's possible. I mean that the treble was grainy and splashy and the bass was sloppy. The highest and lowest frequencies were just phoned in. I really don't think this cable can do low frequencies at all and the highest treble frequencies were AWOL as well. I hate to beat up on it but the Clou was seriously outclassed here.


There are a bunch of factors to consider when chosing any cable but the HD600 cables will require even more system considerations. I encourage you all to attend a meeting where these cables may be in attendance so that you can audition them. I won't engage in the Copper vs. Silver wars here but there are some differences for sure. Cable skeptics need not apply,if you can't hear the differences in these cables you are in the wrong hobby.

I will edit and update this as I get more info on the cables. I will also edit to correct my horrid spelling as I re-read it.
post #2 of 93
Nice review tuberoller.! Interesting read indeed.
post #3 of 93
Good review, good read. Thank's.
post #4 of 93
Thanks for this guide into the jungle of extension cables, makes it a lot easier!
post #5 of 93
Do you have the prices for each cable please?

Thanks

Pinkie.
post #6 of 93
Very nice review. Thanks! *Still, I think I'll go with the Cardas as its available locally..*
post #7 of 93
Very nice review Tubey! Thanks.
post #8 of 93
Thanks for the review. Looks like Equinox or Silver Dragon for me.
post #9 of 93
Great review Tube - I've really been wondering about those three new cables (Moon & Zu), you've shed some needed light on the subject. I have an Equinox currently, and definitely love it. Would you think (given their costs) it would be worth upgrading to the Silver Dragon or Mobius?

-dd3mon
post #10 of 93
Amen to the "you're in the wrong hobby" comment about cables' effect on sound. Although I am no newbie to hifi, I am with headphones. I could clearly hear major differences over the anemic stock cable and do agree with the assessment of the Equinox over the Cardas. The Cardas is still quite good, esp. in the bottom end, but the Equinox brings out a sort of bigger soundstage in general but esp. in the mids and highs.

Has anyone had the opportunity to compare DIY replacement cables over these commercial products? I'm also eager to see what Jan comes up with given that he (apparently) feels these cables are quite pricey, given their parts cost.
post #11 of 93
Thread Starter 
don't you hate it when you spend an hour and half updating a thread and your computer spits it back and you and you loose all the stuff you just typed? and even worse when you are a key puncher....

I'll try again to update the thread with all the specs and prices and some other info I got from Andy at Zu Cable and Drew from Moon Audio. The building of these cables is no small feat and you guys have to understand what's involved with designing a cable for a specfic product like headphones. Talking with both these guys was a bit of a revelation and was very enlightening.
post #12 of 93
all i have to say is if there's anyone who wants to sell their Zu's, send em my way. either way, i'll have em in a few months. thanz tuberoller for the excellent comparison. it couldn't have come at a better time
post #13 of 93
Jan told me his new cables should be ready by December...
post #14 of 93
Thanks for the review, we're all appreciative.
The replacement cable is the last thing (for now) that I need to do with my system...

I'm using an MG Head OTL mkII.

I was looking at the Zu cable but now I'm a little wary of this "midrange bump" that you describe.
The Equinox has always been an option, seems like a quality cable.
The Silver Dragon is pretty damn expensive but worth it, maybe, if it's going to team up best with my amp.
Whatcha think?
post #15 of 93
Does anyone know the websites for the Zu and Moon Audio cables? Also, Tuberoller I wondered if you have heard the new hd650? If so which cable do you think would mate well with the 650; I am leaning towards an equinox. Nice review and very timely, thanks for taking the time to write up your impressions.
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Cables, Power, Tweaks, Speakers, Accessories (DBT-Free Forum) › Sennheiser HD600/580 replacement cable comparison/impressions (Dial-up warning)