Saturday, April 7, 2007

Round ?: Cabling

Despite what some ICE enthusiast will tell you, I'm a firm believer that cables play a very important role in how decent your system will sound. This believe goes back to when I was still a student in the UK. Back then the local hi-fi shop in Conventry where I bought my first proper 2-channel hi-fi system from loaned me a complete set of Audioquest cables from the low to the highest end. Me and my cousin tried blind auditioning and both of us after a while could detect the differences with the different cables used. No joke!

With the major build going on I wasn't going to stinge on my cables. First I had to decide on a decent power cable to replace the caplang 4 AWG I was using. Adding an additional amp means that I had to step up a gauge as the 4 AWG would barely suffice. Mind you max power from both my amps at this point would be more than 1 kilowatt! The BCAE web page has a fab tool to calculate your power cable requirements. Just key in the max power from your amps and the length of power cabling to be used and the tool will inform you if the gauge you are planning to use is suffice. Just look for No.16 "Wire" in the Directory section. I settled for 2 AWG sizing. Now unfortunately getting big gauge (2 to 0 AWG) branded power cable is very difficult and expensive proposition in our dear country. Luckily I had assistance from Bro Fooyc. Soon some decent Phoenix Gold 2 AWG power cables were delivered to my doorstep. Pix below of the Phoenix Gold power cable. I ordered about 16 feet. Damage was more than 500 smackers!
The Phoenix Gold power cable nicely laid out and ready to be connected to fuse holder in engine bay.
Also ordered a Phoenix Gold ZWF500 fuse holder and 150amp ANL type fuse. Again fuses with big power ratings are unbelievably expensive. Damage was about the same as the power cable. 1K and I haven't even started on my audio cables. Pix of the fuse can be found in my "The Carbon Dream Continues" article.

With the power cabling requirements taken care of I set about looking for a decent subwoofer interconnect. The Bremen HU's sub-out features only one RCA connector and likewise the Steg K2.02 when connected up in bridged-mono mode. This save some money as I only need to buy one subwoofer interconnect instead of a pair. Being an Audioquest audiophile cable user and fan I settled on the Audioquest Sub-1 subwoofer interconnect. The Sub-1 is second from the top in Audioquest's range of subwoofer interconnects the highest end being the Sub-3 which incorporates a DBS battery pack! You don't wanna know how much the Sub-3 costs. Details of the Sub-1 interconnect can be found in Audioquest's web page. Pix below of the Audioquest Sub-1. RCA connectors are silver. Damage came up to 580 bucks for a 4.5m cable. Wallet getting lighter by the minute! For some apparent reason the braided sleeve reminds me of the rice cooker's power cable.
For subwoofer speaker cable I decided to try something different. Wanted something thicker gauge due to the big power being pushed out from the K2.02 amp. Settled on Van den Hul's THE WIND Mk II HYBRID speaker cable. Talk bout a long name. Try saying the name real fast 10 times :P The WIND Mk II HYBRID consists of a total of 173 single non insulated strands in 5 different layers with a total cross-section area of 4.67 mm² equalling AWG 10.5. AWG 10 is about the max diameter that will fit in the K2.02's speaker cable terminals. More details in VDH's web page. Three metres of a single cable run (I'll be using a 1.5m pair) cost me 357 smackers. No joke. I decided to use a Neutrik Speakon NL4FC cable connector at the sub-box end for easy removal and reinstallation of the speaker cable. Looks trick too but shame everything is hidden up after installation. Pix below of the Neutrik Speakon connector's associated parts before assembly and termination.
Pix below of the VDH THE WIND Mk II HYBRID speaker cable connected to the subwoofer box via Neutrik Speakon cable connector.
View from the side. The Audioquest Sub-1 subwoofer interconnect can also be seen snaking into the amp rack.
The VDH WIND Mk II HYBRID speaker cable looks really cheap being grey in colour till you touch it. Somehow the Hulliflex sleeve feels different from ordinary plastic or PVC sleeving. Difficult to put in words. Touch it and you'll know what I mean.

Was going to upgrade the Supra Dual interconnects I was using but then my Bro Anthony Lim set me up on a deal I couldn't refuse. Manage to get a 4.5m set of Audioquest Sidewinder interconnects at cheaper than dealer price. Per SMS from Anthony "price is so silly, you can buy me lunch and dinner when we next meet". Will do Bro! Price is too cheap and sensitive for me to mention in this blog. Sorry... Pix below of the Sidewinder.
Sidewinders connected to the Steg Qmos II amp. The Steg K2.02 has not been installed at this point hence the cables meant for it are hanging about.

Anthony also set me up on some Audioquest SR (Shielded Round Series)-15/4 speaker cables. This is 2 step up the range compared with the FLX (Flexible Series) -15/2 speaker cables I was using. Pix below of the SR-15/4 nicely terminated by Uncle.
The SR-15/4 is bi-wire ready and features 4 separate 15AWG cables within it's blue coloured outer sleeve. Since I won't be bi-wiring two each of the four 15AWG cables are soldered together to make a pair of 12AWG cable. Neat eh? The Audioquest SR-15/4 speaker cables ready to be connected to the Focal K2P's crossover. The FLX-15/2 cable (in white sleeve) will remain on the crossover to speaker connection as the SR-15/4 is too big and bulky for efficient routing through tight confined spaces. The SR-15/4 will be used only from the amp to the crossover.
Pix below of megabucks cabling running beneath the rear seat. Guess the term "sitting on a pot of gold" applies to the rear passengers :) Everything is neatly routed and secured in place via zip ties.
Another pix.
So how does it all sound? I'll have to admit there were too many upgrades to my system at this point to give a decent comparison with the previous cabling setup. I did not notice any quirky sound quality traits with these cables so this is a decent start. Highs are highs without being grainy. The lows are deep and punchy. Having said this I would recommend any home audio or ICE enthusiasts to not spend too much on your cables. No point spending 5K on cables if your entire system only cost 10K. A good reference would be to spend bout 10% of the total cost of your ICE/Home Audio setup on cables. Having said that I have some Audioquest Diamondback interconnect on order to complement my TRU Technology Billet amp. Poison runs deep!

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