CARDAS Neutral Reference

MJ09.02.2009

Interconnects

The resolving capacity of the Neutral Reference is higher than that of the more expensive Cardas Golden Presence cable, yet it is less involving and less neutral. However, I like the Neutral Reference's good dynamics, great imaging and the aforementioned resolution.

Function and form

95%
Ease of use
52%
Sound
85%
Appearance

Teflon dielectrics, PU jacket, capacitance 117pF, inductance 0.034uh, no information on number of wires.

Note: During this review a set of an interconnect and a speaker cable was auditioned. The performance evaluation was put in the context of other Cardas's cables; we encourage you to read their reviews to understand the performance differences.

Bass management

Weight
58
Slam
60
Articulation
69

George Cardas claims that resonant behavior of a conductor or a strand is the reason for performance gaps in many cables. Each and every strand in a cable has its own ´sound´ due to microscale vibrations and ringing. Two or more wires of the same mass and tension are supposed to have common mechanical resonating points and share the same note. Two or more wires or bundles of wires, differing in size, each have their own resonant points. When combined, wires find new points of interaction, creating another note.

There is a solution - create a multiple strand conductor, where the individual strands share no common mathematical node or resonant point and layer them to cancel the noise they each create. In so called golden section stranding, derived from divine ratios (Fibonacci sequences), the individual strands are arranged so each strand is coupled to another, whose note or sound is irrational with its own, thus nulling inter-strand resonance.

Cardas cables also employ a unique stranding method where strands diminish in size towards the interior of the conductor. This design is called Constant Q Stranding and it allows each strand of the cable to share the load equally. All George Cardas's cables use OFC copper - actually Cardas Audio is one of the few manufacturers that draw their own conductors from copper rods instead of outsourcing the wires from elsewhere like most competitors do.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
56
Air
56
Transparency
50

The Neutral Reference is definitely more transparent and more neutral cable than the Cross. In the direct comparison it is also drier and less colorful sounding. The Neutral Reference is like a pair of studio monitors - the sound is pristine but misses emotions. The focus on detail may, in already highly resolving set ups, accentuate the audiophile side of music too much. I found it to be overly brilliant in some combinations.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
54
Dynamics
52
Temporal resolution
52

The Neutral Reference is also a lighter sounding cable against the darker The Cross. Thus the sound appears to be faster through it. It favours strings over instruments' bodies and sizzle over ringing. If your set up is already bright then e.g. Cardas Golden Presence could be a better choice. However, if you miss a bit of spark then give a try to the Neutral Reference.

Spatial resolution

Holography
70
Soundstage width
75
Soundstage depth
73

If I should compare the Neutral Reference to the Golden Presence then the sound of a tapped cymbal may be a good example. With the GP I can hear the contact of the drumstick with the cymbal, the cymbal's resonance and its trailing off. With the NR the sizzle of the cymbal is accentuated, with slightly less transient impact at the beginning, and with much faster decay. The texture of the vibrating cymbals's body is a tad suppressed. Thus the Neutral Reference appears to have cleaner sound as the textural nuancees are actually missing.

The imaging of the NR is also a grade less convincing than with the GP. The Neutral reference makes the soundstage a bit more compact and moves orchestra players closer to each other and closer to a listener.

Price as reviewed:17 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Excelia HiFi, Chrudim, tel. +420 724 00 77 44

Associated components

  • Sources: Carat C57, Meridian G08
  • Amplifiers:  Carat A57, Meridian G02, Mark Levinson No. 432
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Krautwire Fractal, Homegrown Audio DNA, the whole family of Cardas Audio cables
  • Loudspeakers: Focal JMlab Diablo Utopia, Revel Ultima Studio2, Revel M22

ANALYSIS PLUS Copper Oval-In

Analysis Plus Copper Oval-IN (1m XLR) brought up images of a hornet to me. There was nothing hornet-like in its sound, rather it looked exactly like it with its black and yellow camouflage. Contrary to a hornet the Copper Oval-IN is ...

Recommended resellers

Audiostudio s.r.o., Olomouc, tel. +420 608 752 475

Sound
53%

ANALYSIS PLUS Silver Oval-In

After many computer simulations and other exhaustive tests, in Analysis Plus they determined that a hollow oval cable constituted the best possible conductor design. The primary advantage of an oval conductor design rather than ...

Recommended resellers

Audiostudio s.r.o., Olomouc, tel. +420 608 752 475

Sound
69%

ANSUZ Signalz C2

The design goal of Ansuz Acoustics is to keep inductance as low as possible. The Ansuz interconnects are using three twisted 3 mm coaxial cables (Direct Ground Connection alias DGC), and 2x6 wires twisted in reversed directions to ...

Recommended resellers

RP Audio, Ostrava, +420 737 366 831

Sound
93%

ANSUZ Signalz D2

Like the Ansuz Signalz C2 is the Signalz D2 a showpiece of modern technicistic design of interconnects. The black and grey of braid is complemented by translucent copper that gives the cable its depth of colour and premium look. Like ...

Recommended resellers

RP Audio, Ostrava, +420 737 366 831

Sound
94%

AUDIOQUEST Wild Blue Yonder

The Wild Blue Yonder brings a new grade of illumination, the recording bathes in light and air and has unbelievable amount of subtle detail. I have not heard anything like that before. The sound flows like a pure water in a mountain ...

Recommended resellers

AQ s.r.o., Červenka, tel. +420 585 342 232

Sound
89%

CARDAS AUDIO Clear

The Clear is so transparent and leaves so little its own imprint on the sound that it can be used almost universally. I would even dare to put it differently: if the Cardas Clear spoils the sound of your system, keep the Clear and ...

Recommended resellers

SK: Platan Audio, Hlohovec / Bratislava, tel. +421 905 409 802

Sound
85%

CARDAS Cross

The Cross represented a milestone in the Cardas's portfolio and soon became one of the best selling cables in audio. It takes you only few minutes of auditioning to understand why. In the early era of sterile digital sound it arrived ...

Recommended resellers

Excelia HiFi, Chrudim, tel. +420 724 00 77 44

Sound
36%
Back to category