No matter what type of hi-fi component currently makes a splash, whether it is headphones or network-based storage systems, shortly after they have popped up, the respective companies have added the required cables to their portfolio. No wonder that even Cardas Audio now is offering high-quality network cables. And they have, to my understanding, a unique selling point.
In his review on the Cardas Audio Clear Headphone Cable, Bert Seidenstücker mentioned that the conductors were made from "Cardas copper." In other words, Cardas manufactures its copper and silver conductors by themselves. The reason for this was, according to the Cardas cable specialists, that in the mid-80's industrial copper was easily available and cheaply priced, thanks to mass production techniques such as the resistance annealing process. Very pure and ultra-soft copper, however, was simply not available. Some cable companies side-tracked to foreign manufacturers, but their products showed big variations in quality, despite being sold at astronomical prices. Therefore the Cardas people were forced to produce the required conductors by themselves. For quite a long time they remained their sole and most discriminating customer. Meanwhile, Cardas furnishes product to a substantial number of the audio cable manufacturers. Of course, Cardas isn't soliciting around with its customer list, but I'm pretty sure that the primary material of some of the reviewed cables here at HiFi Statement originates from Cardas. And it is by no means a diminution when a company puts into practice its ideal cable geometries with the best materials available.
Even the best photograph won't show what's inside: Cardas draws and refines the conductors for their cables by themselves
Furthermore, Cardas states that the most frequently requested copper quality is the so-called "Grade 1 (Ultra)," in which the conductors are purified and annealed after each drawing process under a hydrogen atmosphere. A special coating guarantees that the copper does not harden or oxidize between the processing steps. In addition, the surface of the conductors gets diamond-polished after each drawing in a special custom-built appliance. The conductors used by Cardas for their own cables are sheathed with urethane to achieve a long-term protection from oxidation. As primary material for the conductor, production copper ingots of the highest quality with a zero recycling proportion are being used. I know of no other manufacturer whose cables are being made with such a vertical range of production as with Cardas.
The Cardas Clear Network comes with eight solid-core conductors made from Cardas Ultra-Pure Copper, with a cross-section of about 0.2 square millimeters, jacketed in skin-foamed polyethylene and arranged in shielded pairs, each pair with its own drain wire. The four pairs are wrapped firstly in a foil shield, and then secondly in a braided shield. The outer jacket is formed by a soft, flexible thermoplastic rubber. Incidentally, it is no wonder that the solidly-made Ethernet connectors may look familiar to German readers: the RJ45 connectors provided by the German company Telegärtner are also used by Audioquest for their top-range cable models Vodka and Diamond. Even for the Audioquest Carbon, which is available bulk from a reel, the connectors from the prestigious German manufacturer are offered as an option. Currently my digital audio system includes a Carbon of approximately 15 meter length, which connects the router to the Melco NAS, and a Diamond, which connects the Melco to the Auralic Aries Femto.
Cardas uses high-class connectors from the German manufacturer Telegärtner
At Cardas there exist no length restrictions for Ethernet cables [although I should note that there is a Ethernet standard specification maximum length of 100 meters per segment with twisted pair – Ye Olde Editor], and therefore Jan Sieveking, owner of the German Cardas distributing company, ordered a 15 as well as a 1.5 meter long Cardas Clear for the review. Even for the temporary stay in my listening room, I made the effort to move four shelves out of their place, just to be able to lay the long Cardas right next to the Carbon - thus to avoid any room-related interferences that could affect the comparison.
Of course, I gave the two Cardas cables sufficient time to transport some data back and forth, before I gradually exchanged them against the Audioquest counterparts. First, it was the long Cardas' turn, which I put in charge of connecting the router to the Melco, which, despite providing a USB output and his own renderer, purely works in my audio chain as an audiophile network-based data storage system. Although not entirely recorded with acoustic instruments, I recently very much like to listen to "If You Look" from Arild Anderson's album If You Look Far Enough, given its wealth of information and its spatial effects. Thanks to the Cardas, Nana Vasconcelos' percussive sound carpet sounds by a fraction more clearly structured, and the interwoven brass nonetheless sounds more aureate than silver. And the tonal colours gleam somewhat warmer, too. Ralph Towner's spherical synthesizer sounds now billow a bit deeper into the imaginary space, and the kettledrums emerge with plenty of pressure, in spite of their supposedly greater distance to the listener. Very convincing! And, Ravi Shankar's mandatory "West Eats Meet" makes the Cardas capture me as well—primarily because of the energy within the drums and their precise positioning in the room.
During transport or when not in use, the connector's contacts are protected with plastic caps
I find it quite amazing that these differences are audible at all, given their relatively small dimensions in the overall sound. Since I ain't a profound network specialist, I cannot say whether only control commands, or music data, as well, are exchanged through the connection between the Melco and the router. [All timing and data content goes through the audio network packets in TCP/IP via Ethernet. – Ye Olde Editor] If not, it would be important which cable in the end does pollute the signal less due to its design and shielding characteristics. But regarding the possible scope of immunization against HF contamination, firstly, a lot of effort is already put into the Melco. Secondly, there is the SOtM iSO CAT6 filter that operates between the Melco's Ethernet jack and the router. In simpler configurations, the positive effect of well-shielded Ethernet cables like the Cardas Clear should therefore become even more apparent.
However, the shorter connection between the Melco and the Aries Femto carries music data for sure. And so at this point the Cardas Clear is going to face the more than three times more expensive Audioquest Diamond. Within Keith Jarrett's "Wrong Blues," the latter is sounding a little bit more open in the highs and suggests a minimally larger space. Therefore, I assumed that it would also draw a more spectacular image with my reference recording that I use for testing spatiality, Patrice Herals' "Improvisation" from Le Concert De Parfums. But the Cardas offers such a homogeneous and coherent illusion of the refectory of the former monastery in Norlac that one doesn't miss the Audioquest's minimally deeper, but also somewhat dissecting presentation, for a single second. Well, at this point the Cardas Clear is getting dangerously close to the significantly more expensive Diamond. So, in some of the testing disciplines one finally isn't able to use the words "better" or "more"; it's simply a matter of taste.
This high-class cable is supplied with a certificate of authenticity. Prices start at 290 euros for 50 centimeters
[Another Ethernet note from Ye Olde Editor: With Ethernet cables, note that shorter is not always better. While this guideline is debatable, depending on the quality of components, a one meter Ethernet cable length is wise as a minimum length guideline, to avoid problems with the proper propagation of the signal. If you source cables shorter than that, you might experience a problem with a given configuration. Try before you buy in that case.]
Instead of continuing to look for negligible, minimal sound differences—at least negligible on most of the audio systems around—I'd rather lose myself in the large virtual rooms quietly celebrated by Carlo Crameri on twelve-string guitar and voice, Arild Andersen on bass, Marc Halbheer on drums, and Paolo Vinaccia on percussion. This music eludes any stereotyped thinking and leaves the listener wallowing in sonic than rather than melodic spheres. Nevertheless, I don't perceive them in a cumbersome way. That's rather the name of the quartet: Plastic Art Foundation. However, when listening to the CD or the music files, the title of the CD, Andorra - Part Two, isn't self-explanatory either. Nevertheless, I wasn't intrigued in the same way by any other album for the last few months like I have been by this one, which, I must say, remained in secrecy for quite a long time. This type of music is only able to create such a tremendous fascination when a system is playing at an extremely high level. All of them, the Melco, the Aries and the DAVE, certainly do. And the Cardas Clear equals them in every aspect: Speed, image definition, spatial illusion, bass energy, and playback dynamics, all of which leave nothing to be desired.
The times when audiophiles hoped that digital technology would make everything easier, are, unfortunately, bygone. Even high-quality streaming solutions require appropriate cables. With the Clear Network Cable, Cardas Audio provides plenty of sonic benefits at a comparatively moderate price. You necessarily don't have to set up your router and streamer close to each other due to price restrictions. Listen to it—at all costs!
- NAS: Melco HA-N1A, WD MyCloud
- Wireless Streaming Bridge: Auralic Aries Femto w/ SBooster BOTW P&P Eco
- D/A converter: Chord DAVE, Mytek Brooklyn w/ SBooster BOTW P&P Eco
- Preamp: Einstein The Preamp
- Power amplifier: Ayon Epsilon w/ KT150 tubes
- Loudspeaker: Lumen White Diamond Light Monitors, Kaiser Kawero! Classic
- Cables: HMS Gran Finale Jubilee, Audioplan Powercord S, Göbel High End Lacorde Statement, Audioquest, Carbon and Diamond, Swiss Cable Reference Plus, Habst Ultra III
- Accessories: PS Power Plant, Sun Leiste, Audioplan Powerstar, HMS wall sockets, Audioquest Jitterbug, SOtM iSO-CAT6, Acapella bases, Acoustic System feet and resonators, Artesania Audio Exoteryc, Harmonix Real Focus, bfly bases and feet
Cardas Audio Clear Network (CAT 7) ethernet cable
Price: 380 euros (1,5m), 1,595 euros (15m)
Sieveking Sound GmbH & Co KG
Contact person: Jan Sieveking
28215 Bremen, Germany
+49 421 6848930