I thought I’d follow up on my cable testing and after giving all but one of the XLR audio cables a re-try, I’ve found three important things.
One is that none of them make my system sound bad. One is definitely rolled off at the top a bit, but still not bad sounding. They all sound good, to excellent.
Secondly, they all sound more alike than different and the magnitude of differences aren’t nearly as great as the difference between the USB cables I’ve used over the years. Given a resolving enough system, USB cables make a components worth of difference in audio quality in my audio system.
Obviously, I know my system well and if it was interesting enough for me, I could do a blind test, with someone’s help, to see if I could tell the difference between my least and most favorite XLR audio cables. With quarantining, this would not be easy to do, nor do I have that much interest in doing this, so not going to happen.
So, after swapping almost all of them in and out one more time, nothing’s changed and the one XLR cable I liked best, is still my favorite. On my test discs, the biggest differences are in imaging and top end response.
It has better soundstaging, in that separation of the musical instruments in a soundfield are more distinct and more accurate. Drums are placed well back , where they belong and every instrument has its own place of the stage. The others all sort of congeal the imaging. They aren’t bad this way, just not as good.
Secondly, the top end transients are better with the cable I like best. So, when I listen to a well recorded piano piece, say by Ellis Marsalis on the album he did with son, Branford, the strike of the piano notes sounds much more real than all of the other cables and after all the piano is a percussion instrument and you should be able to hear this. If it was mostly top end transients, I wouldn’t listen to this cable, but this cable follows the top end with the tone and fullness of the entire piano. All of the other cables, to one degree, or another, are a bit lacking this way.
So, this cable is the second most expensive in the test, but far less than the most expensive. At $120 for a meter pair, a bargain in high end audio.