CARDAS Golden Reference

MJ10.10.2009

Power cables

Please be warned in advance: the Golden Reference is, and similarly most George Cardas’s cables, not neutral. If your definition of neutrality is a strident professional sound, that is stripped of emotions in favor of precision (and many audiophiles will swear to such neutrality), then read no further and look elsewhere. The Cardas won us over with seductive lushness and intimate immediacy that became a very good companion of us for many evenings to come.

Function and form

100%
Ease of use
52%
Sound
94%
Appearance

Not the sound but the appearance of the Cardas Golden Reference is what I would call a ´professional´ one. Unlike many shimmering after-market wires with their translucent plugs and colourful jackets, the Cardas rather comes with a robust look of a professional studio cable. It is finished in matt carbon black with a rubbery feel to it - and so are its connectors. Thanks to its anti-slip finish, the cord is really comfortable to work with as you always have a good grip of it, and (that was very satisfying for me as a reviewer) it represents no danger for associated equipment neither for furniture. If you have ever tried to manipulate some very stiff power cables into their positions you know what I am talking about. George Cardas limited the stiffness of the Golden Reference only to its terminations. The cable uses Furutech‘ s FI-50 series connectors which are tightly sealed in shrink tubes on both ends of the wire (to prevent unauthorized manipulation and oxidation) so these are the places where otherwise excellent flexibility drops to zero. In exchange, with the Golden Reference’s IEC plug you will receive the tightest connection I have ever experienced from a power cable and you will have to force it into a respective socket.

Bass management

Weight
88
Slam
74
Articulation
70

We encourage you to check our Cardas Clear interconnect review if you want to understand what drives George Cardas to believe that a cord has to be designed according golden-section ratio principles. In the Golden Reference the magic ratio is achieved through 119 copper strands of different cross-section areas and different lengths arranged in 8 radial layers. Well, now I am speaking about just one conductor; there are three of them, of course, encapsulated in Teflon, then twisted together, shielded with a braided copper shield and run through a filtration ferrite ring at one end. The cable promises an excellent control of micro resonances and effective cancellation of unwanted high-frequency noise.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
76
Air
78
Transparency
79

If one says that the sound of LessLoss is balanced, the sound of Telos is grand and the sound of Nordost is clean and fast, then the sound of the Cardas has to be described as beautiful. The reason why we sat down again and gave a listen to the Golden Reference was how it rendered the duel of choirs in Veni Veni Venias (Carl Orff, Carmina Burana, TELARC). Not only were we listening to two choirs (it is not difficult to hear this as one is on your left and the other on your right) but it was stunning how the Cardas was able to subtly delineate individual singer within each choir. The Cardas’s soundstage is a very deep one; in our interconnect and speaker cables review we suggested that they made it perhaps too deep to the extent of being unrealistic – with the Golden Reference power cord the depth is without a hint of this ´unreality´ and keeps the right amount of scale.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
68
Dynamics
73
Temporal resolution
70

The sonic success with Veni Veni Venias led us to experiment with many vocal recordings and indeed, the biggest strength of the Cardas is how it treats both male and female voices. We liked the textural richness of Johnny Cash, the sweet delicacy of Jacintha, the intimate seduction of Rebecca Pidgeon, the magic of Dave Gahan or the raspy smoothness of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. This already indicates that, first, the Cardas Golden Reference plays from the midrange, second, it adds something to the sound. This addition, however, is much welcome, as the heart of it is in sweetness, rich tonality and an analogue-like sparkling clarity.

Spatial resolution

Holography
90
Soundstage width
89
Soundstage depth
89

Actually, in its price category, the Cardas is a must for anyone who is serious about the music with prevalence of strings, being bowed, hammered or plucked. Thanks to its hint of sweetness and tonal wizardry the sounds of strings are turned into enticing and delicate events that nail you to your listening seat for hours. It was apparent in Beethoven’s ´Seventh´ (Beethoven - Symphony No.7, Triple Concerto, LSO) where strings in rhythmical Allegretto just sung. Haitink does not restrain his players and the movement takes on a very free air and the rather dry acoustics of London´s Barbican Center contributes largely to a very intelligible sound. With the Cardas in place and its ability to subtly illuminate dark corners of a recording, the SACD layer of this hybrid multichannel lets you readily feel the difference from the standard red book format.

Some cable designs are more sensitive to settling-in than others. The Cardas requires proper burn-in period – the time really makes a difference and you will hear an improvement every 50 hrs further you are in the process: the cable‘s sound will become more refined, relaxed and organized with improved bottom end definition and top end sparkle. We had a chance to directly compare a new piece with a 120 hours ´old´ one and they were sonically very different from each other. If you plan to borrow a new cable from your dealer for an over-the-weekend comparison than forget it – you’ll be listening to different sonics.

George Cardas also points out that his cables are sensitive to being bended and moved and suggests that after reinstallation they need a certain time to settle-in again, though much shorter period, a day for instance. Again, this is something we can confirm; not that your ears get adapted but there must be something going on either in dielectrics or somewhere else which causes the effect. The golden ratio maybe. Anyway, I suspect that once you have the Cardas Golden Reference in your system, there will be no reason to move it out.

[This review is a part of our extensive POWER UP! power cord megatest. For other valuable information, competitors,and lists of recordings and equipment that was used we recommend to check the full article here.]

Price as reviewed:10 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

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Associated components

  • Sources: Accuphase DP-78, Linn Unidisk 1.1
  • Amplifiers: Accuphase A-60, Spectral DMA-150
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Krautwire Fractal, Homegrown Audio DNA, MIT MA-X and MIT MA
  • Loudspeakers: Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 8, Audio Physic Virgo V
  • Power conditoning: Nordost Thor (modified), Nordost Valhalla, GigaWatt PF-2 with GigaWatt LC-2 power cord

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