So this is my first post in Head-fi and hello to everyone! I've been a lurker, researcher and general Head-fi reader for the last few months, trying to make some good choices for my new headphone system. Thanks to the vast and varied array of knowledgeable folks here on Head-fi, I was finally able to make some decisions and ended up with a Burson HA-160 Amp (Totally Sweet!) and a PS Audio Digital Link III DAC to feed it.(Even Sweeeeeter!). I have a set of LCD-2.2s on order, but haven't received them yet. Anticipation isn't all it's cracked up to be - dang! I want 'em NOW!...but I digress....
In the mean time, I've been "making due" with a nice set of AKG K702s and Beyer DT-880-250s, which I must say sound every bit their good reputation via the Burson 160. My portable rig is an iPod 160GB feeding an RSA SR-71A, which does an admirable job driving both these cans, as well as my Shure SE425 IEMs. Since the arrival of the Burson this is strictly my portable rig now. Good 'nough. But I didn't start this thread to talk about my new rig for my new found headphone habit, I started it to talk about the awesome cables I just got in the mail from Chris at Charleston Cable Company on Ebay. Who knew?
Before I go into this, full disclosure here, I have nothing to do with Charleston Cable Company other then being a really satisfied customer. I'm not associated with them in any way, didn't get anything free from them and I'm not being paid by them to say any of this. Heck, no one here really knows who I am so I guess my credibility could be called to the carpet, but that's okay, you can take this or leave it. I'm still gonna write my little "review" nonetheless, because to me, turning you on to Chris at Charleston Cable Company and his peerless custom headphone and interconnect cables is my way of thanking all of you for the great help and [passive] advice I've gleaned from you over the last few months.
Now I think there's some real value in good cables and I know I'm not alone on this. I think that well crafted, high quality "components" like headphone cables and interconnects have a lot to offer for your money, including, but not limited to, some very definite sonic improvements. Or maybe it's better to say: good cables really let your good equipment show it's potential. I don't think the cables alone do anything really. (That's a little wry humor, sorry..) I think it's also partly about quality for quality's sake too.You've invested a significant amount of money in a high-end system and now your gonna route that delicate, refined signal you worked so hard to get through some $1.99 Wal-Mart cables? Or maybe a coat hanger, for those of you who read that article? I think not! I also think there's a lot of snake oil out there too, for those with either deep enough pockets or not enough.....I won't say it, I'm a budding "Audiophile" myself, so I won't be too critical here. I'm just saying that dropping more than a grand on any cable just doesn't make much sense to me. Unless maybe it's solid gold, but then silver is a much better conductor, go figure. If you think it's worth it and you have that kind of cash, more power to ya. It's just not my idea of the best place to stick the really big bucks into your system. Anyway....I'm gettin' there!
So after all that lengthy preamble, soapbox speech, what have you, I will finally come to the point: After much searching, I finally, on Ebay of all places, saw something like this: "Cardas Cable, 6' for K702, $159". Huh? The photo looks good, maybe this is somebody's old used cable that's all beat up and they're getting rid of it. No. This one looks to have a shiny new Furutech 1/4" on one end, a really nicely done braiding over the cable and a tidy mini-XLR on the other end for the K702. Cardas for $159? ((((Click; See Seller's other items))))---Dang! Here's another Cardas cable for my soon to be LCD-2, same deal and also less than $200! And RCA interconnects for, like sixty bucks! Kimber RCAs for even less! Oh I know what it is, this is from Shanghai or Hong Kong or somewhere and I'll wait until Christmas for it to get here and then it won't be at all what it appears to be in the listing. Nope. Ships from S. Carolina, USA. And the listing says "Welcomes custom orders!". I gotta call this guy! So I email Chris my number and he gets right back to me and I spend almost an hour on the phone with him.
Oh, by the way - I'm not all hung up on brand names, per se, but names like "Cardas" do get my attention. Just thought I'd throw that in there in case you were thinking this guy is just taking some Mouser.com control cable and dressing it up with some Radio Shack connectors to make it look nice. Nope, not the case here. Chris is a brand name guy all the way...
Needless to say, as my system grows I'll never have to look further for any kind of analog cable again! For less than the price of ONE of (Insert the big name of your choice) least expensive headphone cables, I get a custom, 6' extension plus two 3' 'stingers' for both my K702s and LCD-2s that connect neatly to the main cable via min-4 pin XLR, all with high-end Cardas Litz type wire and terminated with no B.S. Furutech and Switchcraft connectors. To save me some cash, Chris suggested he make this custom "universal" cable, rather than buying a dedicated cable for each set of cans - great idea and saved me at least $100! I didn't go for the additional adapter so I could run my LCD-2s balanced, but that was offered too. I also got a beautiful set of 18" RCA interconnects, as well a couple more little adapters with 1/8" minis for my RSA amp to boot. All with the nice braiding, Cardas cable and nice connectors. And still for less than the price of the ONE cable from you know who...Chris will also do these with Canare cable for even less if you've allready spent all your cookies on other gear. Whatever you want. It don't get better than that.
So I got the cables on Friday - like 4 days after I ordred them - and I've spent just about every waking hour since then evaluating what Charleston Cable Co made for me. It really didn't take an eagle eye (or a golden ear, for that matter) to see that this stuff was all the way right! First of all, what came out of the envelope when it arrived made me giddy! These things are soooo nice! I mean prefect in every way. Everything appeared completely consistent and "manufacture made" looking. Just the right 'feel' if you know what I mean. Perfect, soft, dense and flexible braiding, not too heavy (for the HP cable) and perfectly terminated with the best connectors available - Chris installed exactly what I asked for, Furutech and Switchcraft. Whatever you want, he'll do. So enough about the great looks, I wonder how they'll perform?
I had been making due for a several weeks with some, let's say, "less than audiophile grade" interconnects to get from my DAC to my amp and the 10' stock cable to get from my amp to my 702s. First I swapped out the RCAs and loaded a very familiar track - Tori Amos' Jackie's Strength. It's one of my references for it's clean, bright piano highs, VERY deep bass and Tori's distinctive vocals in the middle. Anyway, let's say the difference between the stock interconnects and the Charleston Cables was "discernible" to say the very least. Especially in the farthest bass regions, which might have surprised me if I was a more seasoned "evaluator". Nonetheless, it was definitely there! I even did a few back 'n forths to make sure I wasn't imagining things. I was really afraid I wouldn't notice anything at all and then all those "cable naysayers" (you know who you are) would have been proved right! After this I really think I'd feel confident subjecting myself to a blind A/B between these nice Charleston CC jobs and my old junkers. The point here is, there is a no-doubt improvement in the general....timbre, that's it! The timbre is the difference, or at least my definition of it.I'm sure what's actually happening here is the new interconnects are really letting my DLIII DAC sing to it's full potential through to my amp and I'm hearing it at the other end. Well worth the, what? $60 or so I paid for these gorgeous RCA cables? (I was about to drop a reasonable $200 on a set of these from Hong Kong before I found CCC. I'm so glad I waited!) And I haven't even installed the K702 cable yet!
And then the acid test. I installed the new cable on my K702s. The high quality 3 pin snapped right in with a confident click. Nothing sticky or loosey-goosey here. I connected the custom 702 'stinger' to the longer 'extension' cable and plugged the Furutech 1/4" into my Burson. Que Tori Amos..here come the opening piano chords and....Ahhhhhhhh! Oh yeah! It's all there! I can hear Tori's feet on the piano's pedals for cripe sake! I can hear her take in a breath before she begins to sing!....I spose I could hear most of this before, but now, well, it's more...defined? I wrote an emial to Chris after I'd had a chance to try out the cables and I told him the same thing. I love em, but I'm really having a hard time defining the difference I'm hearing. It's definitely there and I refuse to use the tired old "veil has lifted", because that's not exactly it. Is there more "treble extension"? Yeah. Maybe? Is everything just a little richer and with a little more "Presence"? I guess that's the word I'd use if I had to use a word - presence. It's more perceptible with this new cable. Really? Yeah, really. I can close my eyes and imagine I'm in the front row looking up at Tori preforming. Okay, not that I couldn't do that before, just now it's just a tad clearer in my minds eye. Maybe the "soundstage" opened up just a little? I don't know. So was it all worth it? Oh hell yes. And twice on Sunday.
I realize I took the long way around to talk about some really great, affordable cables that I found from a guy with an Ebay store and I hope I didn't wear you out too much with my long and rambling observations. But to me, it made sense to give you a little (okay, a lot) of backgorund in order to properly convey my experience with Charleston Cable Compnay. If I sound like some schill for CCC, no dice. It's just like I said, I've gotten quite a bit of help and guidance here on Head-fi and I am really enjoying my new system thanks to many of your posts, comments and equipment reviews. I would be remiss not to let you know about Charleston Cable Company on Ebay. That this guy will gladly make you up some really nice, custom cables for a relative song and that I'll just bet can keep up with any of the big boys you can name costing - the sky's the limit - more than Chris is asking. He's a Headfier himself. He know what quality is and he knows what you're looking for. He's a real nice guy and will actaully answer your email. And he'll make you whatever you need, the way you like it and his products sound great! What's better than that?
Look up Charleston Cable Company and see for yourself!
Best Regards and Good Sound to you!
- The Texas Trader