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Positive Feedback ISSUE 73
Black and Silver Dragon Headphone Cables
as reviewed by Frank Iacone
Moon Audio's Drew Baird started building cables in 2002. The first design that Drew tackled was an RCA interconnect and, today, Moon Audio offers a complete line of custom audio cables. Drew can conjure up a wire solution to suit everyone's individual needs and is particularly well-known for his high quality headphone cables. Drew realized early on that many manufacturers have to make compromises in their cable designs for their headphones, and that there are better sounding solutions available by carefully selecting high quality copper and silver. He also understood that the selection of better connectors and solder would make the sound of the wire as pure and clean as possible.
In 2002, portable audio and headphone solutions were still in their infancy. Headfi.org had started to get some notice from the Hi-Fi community and Moon Audio was one if its earliest sponsors and contributors. Drew as an early pioneer began by modifying lots of other companies' headphone cables for customers. He then decided to manufacture his own line of cables. The Black Dragon and Silver Dragon were created for high-end headphones and in ear monitors. Every order is custom made in Raleigh, North Carolina by the head brew master himself. Drew personally makes the cable orders that come in for just about any headphone in existence today. He uses the highest quality copper and silver available, and insists on premium solder to hold the connectors together. His choices of connectors are the best that are made in the industry today, and the cables themselves are all constructed in a professional way and not made to look shabby.
Drew sent me the Black Dragon cables for the Sennheiser HD800 and the Hifiman HE6 headphones. The Silver Dragons were also sent for the Audeze LCD-2 and 2.2 and the LCD-X and XC headphone models. The configurations for the HD800 and HE6 was both single ended and balanced. The Silver Dragon was sent in a 4 pin balanced configuration.
The Black Dragon
The Black Dragon cable is constructed of almost pure copper. The design used was similar for both the HD800 and the HE6. Both of these headphones have a tendency to be a little on the bright side. The stock cable that comes with the HD800 is a silver coated copper cable and many owners feel the highs of the HD800 are a little on the harsh side. The Black Dragon immediately took the harshness away from the treble. The HD800 highs are smoother and I could hear the sound more clearly coming from the instruments. The copper cable has a warmer sound over the stock cable and helped make the musical presentation less strident. The treble never seemed harsh on either the HD800 or the Hifiman HE6.
The Hifiman HE6 comes standard with a copper OCC cable that sounds very good. I noticed hardly any difference in sound with the Black Dragon. The Hifiman cable construction is not of the highest quality. The cable has a tendency to unravel at the V section of the cable and is in a litz design. The Moon Black Dragon construction is much better. The manufacturing quality of the cable itself is worth the cost of ownership. The Black Dragon, while not inexpensive, is manufactured to very high standards and will provide years of trouble free use.
The cost for the Black Dragon Premium model for the HD800 is $445 for the 5Ft version and for the standard Black Dragon the price drops to a very reasonable $290. All prices are based on the length and design of the cable. Prices can be found on Moon Audio website located here: Moon Audio: High End Headphones | Custom Audio Cables. The website is user friendly and easy to navigate.
The Silver Dragon
The Silver Dragon is made of almost pure silver, which makes the cable a little more expensive than the copper cable. The cable is similar in design and uses the highest quality connectors available. Drew sent me the Silver Dragon for the Audeze headphones. The original LCD-2 sounded terrific with the cable. The LCD-2 has a dark sound. The Silver Dragon completely lifted the veil and made the LCD-2 come alive. The sound was more vivid. The presentation and soundstage was more focused.
The LCD-2 really stepped up transparency with better extension at both frequency ranges in the treble and bass. The sound was cleaner and instruments and soundstage were better defined. There was noticeably more air and separation when using the Silver Dragon with the LCD-2.
The LCD-X and XC are brighter sounding headphones and have a different sound signature. The LCD-XC is the closed version and has a bright upper midrange. The Silver Dragon made them sound harsh and bright. The silver cable was not a good match for either the LCD X or the XC and the differences were not subtle. I found them to be brighter and harder to listen to. What worked so well for the LCD-2 with the Silver Dragon was absent with the X and XC models. The LCD 2.2 had a similar sound signature to the X and XC and, again, I felt that the Silver Dragon was just a little bright and harsh.
The Silver Dragon will work well and sound stellar with the LCD-2. I personally preferred the sound of all copper cables using the LCD-X and XC. Copper cables help to tame some of the XC's accentuated upper midrange. The copper cable will take away some of the XC's harshness in the upper midrange and be warmer sounding than the Silver Dragon. The differences that were so noticeable when using the Silver Dragon disappeared when I switched to the Black Dragon. The much better choice in my opinion for the X and XC would be the Black Dragon. The Black Dragon, being copper, offers a warmer signature than the silver cable. The Black Dragon is very synergistic with the LCD 2.2 and X and XC and enhanced my listening session.
The Silver Dragon Premium cable used for the Audeze headphones was $445 for the premium silver cable which included upgraded connectors and the better grade of solder. Considering the cost of silver and the purity used, the price is reasonable. The prices are all available on the Moon Audio website.
There is an age-old debate in the Hi-Fi community about whether cables really do make a difference. There are many people who believe that most cables all sound the same and make no difference in sound quality because it cannot be measured.
Many others, including myself, feel differently. The sound differences can be substantially better when using a good cable with quality materials. The use of the Black Dragon and Silver Dragon cables made considerable difference and always brought me closer to the music. The sound was closer to what I hear in live performances. Focusing on the music is what this hobby is really all about, and using cables from Moon Audio brought me closer to the absolute sound. It made the music more alive. The performances had a more exciting presentation. The listening sessions were always more enjoyable using the better cables.
The Moon cables removed the grain and veiling that was so noticeable using stock cables. It was similar to cleaning a dirty window. The grunge and grime when removed lets you see a clear picture of what is outside the window. The same principal is applied here. Once the Moon Cables were installed there was major differences in sound quality and the music was more enjoyable. The air and separation of the musicians and instruments were more noticeable. Vocals became crisper and the transparency increased. I could hear better tonality with the instruments. I forgot about the cables and just enjoyed the music.
The differences during my evaluation were clearly audible. I heard improvements over the stock cables from all cables used in this review. The sound was cleaner and more vivid. I could hear deeper into the sound stage and noticed more inner detail in the recordings. The sound and construction was much better than the stock cables that were included with the headphones. People who invest substantial money for flagship headphones would benefit from upgrading their cables
If you own a reference headphone with the manufacture's stock cable, you may want to consider replacing the cable to get the most out of what your headphones has to offer. Upgrading to a quality cable can make a substantial improvement in sound quality. The differences many times are not so subtle. The Black Dragon and Silver Dragon cables, when paired with the right headphone, never failed to impress me. The differences were well worth the asking price of the cables.
Moon Audio offers a 30-day no risk return policy. If you have a desire to get the most out of your headphones, you should audition the Moon cables and you may find as I have that quality cables do indeed make a difference. Highly recommended without reservation. Good stuff indeed. Frank Iacone