CARDAS Neutral Reference

MJ09.02.2009

Speaker cables

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
60%
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:28 100,- 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

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