POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 27
THB Nebula interconnect, speaker, and AC cables
as reviewed by Dave Clark with comments from Robert H. Levi
Got to love cables. I mean, talk to any cable manufacturer and without a doubt they will all say that their cables are neutral in that they pass the signal with nothing added or taken away—meaning no coloration being tossed into the mix. What you hear is what they are passing. Uh… yeah… right …okay… I don't think that there are all that many which fit this description …actually perhaps none at all… okay, perhaps some… but with so many different approaches to passing a signal between A and B, can any serious audio nutjob ever not question how it is that they should all yield the same sonics? Which of course we all realize from experience (either shared or based on our own), that they really don't. Yeah, some cables sound alike, but few if any sound the same and most sound quite different—or as people want to say and hear ...neutral?! Yeah… right….
What they do possess is their own sonic signature that may or many not come across as being “neutral” in your—or some other—system. That is, it is all abut the hunt for the right cable that has that sound that makes things come together! Some cables may sound brighter, leaner, richer, warmer, darker, lighter, faster, slower, or whatever-er—meaning they just could be pure nirvana—in your system (with your music and your preferences). Yet in another system they sound brighter, leaner, richer, warmer, darker, lighter, faster, slower, whatever-er—meaning they just could be pure hell—(with your music and your preferences). It is all about what works for your system of components, your biases, your music… there ain't no one-size-fits-all to cables. Heck, I have had people love cable A here in my place while I preferred cable B. Take them to their place and they both sound like crap—but we just loved cable C! Which is right? They all are!
This brings us to …ah, yes…the THB Nebula cables from Dynamic Design. A true delight to the ears, they allowed me to settle in for long periods of listening where never an annoyance entered into the event. A pure joy they are. Musical as all get out, these came across as being warmer, richer, smoother, and more laidback-ish-er than either of my references. They did not come across as detail champs or cables that see themselves as the winner of the resolution pageant—not compared to either of my references. And it is not that the nits and bits ain't there, it is just that the cables presented the music from a few paces further down the road—one just had to look, er listen, a bit harder to hear it all. Which is not a bad thing, especially if one prefers rear hall to that of one being more upfront and personal …we agree? Along with this trait, the rest of the sonic tapestry has the a similar presentation—more of a sense of being removed and less of the visceral-ness that I prefer in my music.
I am not saying that the THB Nebula cables are boring or offer up a somniferous musical vision of the performance. No, they are very enjoyable and quite engaging. It is just that they have less of the this and that than either my reference cables possess, and as such reminded me more of a distant perspective or panoramic view of the performance. Less overt detail and presence, though you will still get just as much musical pleasure. Like being at the Grand Canyon, it is nice to just sit for a while and enjoy the view! No need to climb down and get face-to-face with the Canyon to appreciate its majesty—unless that is what you are into! The THB Nebula cables like to draw you to the performance.
Which means what? Well, for me, they are not nearly as neutral as the Kubala-Sosna Emotions, which are not nearly as detailed, upfront, and 3D-ish as the Audio Magic Clairvoyant 4D cables. See in this system the Audio Magic cables tend to lean a bit to the left side of neutrality or balance (being more analytically revealing or having a leaner-brighter tonality—sort of having less meat to the bones or a tad less flesh). The Audio Magic cables are silver and as such do possess to a much lesser degree than other silver cables that silver quality, but they do have a visceral quality that is difficult to beat. We love these cables for what they do and use them when the time is right.
The Dynamic Design cables tended to lean a bit to the right side of neutrality or balance (being warmer, richer, smoother, more comfortably Ahhh sounding). The THB Nebula cables are a blend of sorts—the Dynamic Design boys are rather mum on what metals are used, but it would not surprise me if what I heard is related to their elements—gold and/or platinum perhaps? Both of these possess, to varying degrees, a warmer richer tonality that is softer and more laidback-ish than heard from either copper or, most definitely, silver cables.
The Kubala-Sosna cables fall pretty much right in the middle of the two, coming across as being neutral-ish or having a nice balance of the two cables on either side—not too much of this or not enough of that sort of thing. Again, that is here and to my ears and well ...this ain't a review of Kubala-Sosna—that is for another day.
I did hear the same traits with the THB Nebula interconnect, speaker cable, and AC cord. All possess to some lesser or greater degree this sense of relaxed musicality and ease. No surprise there, as they are all cut from the same material cloth. All very well built and none is inexpensive. You do though get what one pays for …these are hand-built using the best of what is out there, all being chosen for how it sounds and how it works. They are not some fly by night company making some cheap-looking cables with generic materials. If you talk to the people at Dynamic Design they can explain where they coming from and where they are heading. Good people with no BS!
With regards to the digital AC cable, on the Cary 306 CD player, it had a nice balance of the Kubala-Sosna Emotion's more neutral stance and that of the even more right-ish sounding Elrod Signature 2. While I love what the Elrods bring to the party, they are warmer, richer, more laid-back-ish—more distant and diffuse—than either the Dynamic Design or Kubala-Sosna cords. The Elrod is a nice balance of sorts when used on the Cary player, but at times, it does go a bit too much in the wrong direction by obscuring through its own characteristics, the strengths of the Cary (though it does quite often mitigate any perceived problems as well). On the other hand, the Kubala-Sosna cord is too much of a good thing, with the sound now becoming a bit too sharp and defined—it simply takes what the Cary does and goes too far in a different direction. Here, the Dynamic Design was the more neutral cord letting the Cary be the Cary without grossly adding to or taking away from what the the player does right. As a side note, on the Cary SLP 05 preamplifier the Kubala-Sosna cable is a perfect match. Here it works wonderfully well, as opposed to the other cables which now were heading off in an altogether different direction than I prefer to hear. Ahhh …a balance it is.
The THB Nebulas are handcrafted, beautifully built, and quite a musical delight. It should be noted that the interconnect and AC cords are rather stiff and can be quite difficult to work with—they fought me every inch in getting them to go where they needed to be. On the other hand the speakers cables are quite flexible and easy to work with (they do not use nearly as sophisticated a shielding—air in their case—as either the interconnect or AC cords). As with any cable, you got to try before you buy. Even if someone has the same or similar system, preferences or biases will come into play. You have to find the cable that is right for you. All I can offer is what I hear here, and as such these cables are highly recommended. Dave Clark
A few words from Mr. Levi
After reviewing the single-ended Dynamic Design THB Nebula interconnects, I sought out the balanced version. I listened to them with my E.A.R. Acute CD player and NuForce 9 Reference Special Edition amplifiers, and was not disappointed! The balanced Nebulas are a bit quieter than the single-ended ones, and sound even more realistic and alive. They have airy highs, 3D mids, fast, tight bass, and mucho dynamics. They yield a live-performance-oriented listening experience that is bursting with definition. I love balanced interconnects, and I love the balanced Nebulas.
These cables are rather stiff, and I recommend that you consider a minimum length of 1.5 meters. The silver-coated connectors are quite robust. Break-in is about a hundred hours. The balanced Nebulas are priced the same as the single-ended ones, at $2500 per meter, but perform near the top of their class. They are faster and snappier than the Kubala-Sosna Emotion and Harmonic Technology Cyberlight interconnects that I have been using as my references, and sound more like the Silversmith Palladiums or the Nordost Valhallas. Though the Nebulas always sound smooth and natural, they provide a lot of dynamic nuance, and sound exciting and alive. They are also very quiet, equal to the best of their class. Images stand in stark, focused relief. The Nebulas are a great match with top-quality solid-state amplification, and superb with tube gear. Their only drawbacks are they are slightly lacking in midband plumminess, and bass richness and slam.
Using the Nebulas with my new NuForce 9 SEs, I get it all—reach-out-and-touch-it definition, tremendous clarity, and no discernible coloration. Jazz has lots of drive with the Nebulas, and on classical music, strings have a pristine sweetness and many layers. Depth retrieval is as good as I've heard from any cables under $4000 per meter. The sonic picture is quite intimate, starting a few inches closer to the listener than my other reference cables, but I hear no glare, grain, or etch whatsoever!
The Dynamic Design THB Nebula balanced interconnects are first rate, and a good value compared to many other cables in their price range. With drive and snap galore, the Nebulas are intrinsically smooth and detailed. They will win over many audiophiles, as they have yours truly. If, like me, you have a balanced system, the Nebulas are a great choice. Made in America by audiophiles, the Dynamic Design THB Nebula balanced interconnects are strongly recommended. Robert H. Levi
Interconnect rankings (revised to include the THB Nebula balanced interconnects):
In reading these reviews one would think that either we were listening to two somewhat different cable products (we both had the same balanced XLR versions of the interconnects) or that we are deaf and/or dumb (no doubt a little of both in my case). But the reality is we have two very different systems, rooms, preferences, biases, musical tastes, etc. that brought us to two somewhat different responses. The result is two somewhat different—yet positive—takes on the same product. Knowing Bob's system and he mine, we would both agree that what we each wrote are quite accurate takes on our experience with these fine cables. Dave Clark
THB Nebula cables