AES/EBU cable shootout

As I had promised (please refer to Grimm Mu1 thread and Fee for Audition thread under Digital for more context), I am going to share my experiences using different AES/EBU cables in my system. I am going to gloss over the general question of whether cables, especially digital cables make a difference. I am always careful in choosing my components, and unless something makes a tangible improvement in sound, I will never pay for something. If something makes an improvement, I do evaluate if it’s worth the asking price, and only then do I purchase it. So it’s up to you to decide if something is worth the price that you pay for. Also, please note that, these findings apply to my system in my room and may not translate into the same findings in your system. 

Now let’s go into what I heard in my system. I had the following AES/EBU cables. The Mogami cable, Shunyata Omega cable, Nordost Odin 2 cable and  the Sablon cable. Unfortunately I was unable to obtain the Jorma design cable as I was unable to reach the cable company either through phone or email. I am not aware of any other dealer who carries it near me.

There is a significant difference between the basic Mogami and the rest of the cables. The difference is easy to discern in the bass. There  is simply more texture, dimensionality, and clarity that is missing in bass with the Mogami cable. This is unfortunate as this is the cheapest cable. The rest of the cables are closer to each other. It takes a bit of back-and-forth of listening to discern the differences.

First up was the Shunyata cable. This is an excellent digital cable which is extremely natural sounding. Everything sounds clear with a nice sound stage. The sound stage extends beyond the speakers with a nice depth to it. There is a sense of fullness to the sound, more fleshed out, but in a very natural way. This is the first cable that I had for evaluation (this belongs to my friend). I will be very happy with this cable, if it were my only option. This cable retails for around 4.5 k. 

Next step was the Nordost Odin 2 cable. I understand that there is a significant jump in price as this cable retails for over 12 K. The difference between the Shunyata and the Odin 2 cable is more subtle. The primary difference is in the sound stage. The sound extends well beyond the speakers and front to depth soundstage is increased compared to Shunyata. There is also more detail and air at the top end. There is slightly more dynamics with the Odin 2 cable on back-and-forth listening. Please note, these differences are not in your face but subtle. Whether this is worth the price difference is something only you can decide.

The last cable that I had was the Sablon cable. The other cables measured 1.5 m but the Sablon was 1 m. I could not test if the length of cable makes a difference as I did not have the same cable in different lengths. (Please refer to Grimm Mu1 thread for context.)

The Sablon cable brings a lot of nuance to the entire spectrum of sound. The bass is taut and has a lot of finesse. String instruments reveal a good amount of inner detail, whether it’s plucking or bowing. Percussion sounds realistic. It nicely brings out the textures and extremely accurate with regards to tone and timbre. The mid range is extremely clear and well presented, which is one of the strengths of this cable. The top end is clean and extremely accurate. It has an uncanny ability to make the softest sounds really fleshed out and clear. If are a Pink Floyd fan “Hello Colonel, how are you tonight” never sounded this clear, it’s like you are on shrooms. 

This is how I would compare the Shunyata, Nordsost and Sablon. The system plays a huge role in laying out the differences. The bass is similar in all the three cables, they go deep, feel taut and have a lot of textures. It’s the midrange and highs that sound different. Nordstrom has a very neutral and sweet presentation that is very inviting. It sizzles in the top end and has superb dynamics. The other two cables cannot touch the Nordost in the highs. The Sablon shines in the midrange. It has one of the most accurate midrange sound and sounds really organic. The nordost is close but Sablon wins the midrange. The Shunyata is close to the other cables but does not sound better. So what did I choose? The sizzling dynamic Nordost or the realistic sounding Sablon?

I always believed that the highs are most important for music to sound alive and  imparting the feeling of being there. But Sablon changed my opinion, it’s the midrange that gives the sensation of live music. The Sablon made the music sound more alive than other 2 cables.  The difference with Nordost is subtle but definite. The other important thing especially for me was tone and timbre. I play violin and I value tone and timbre (reason for the choice of my speakers) as the most important attribute.The Sablon again wins this. Of course the price is the icing on the cake. So I have decided to buy the Sablon. Of course, in your system and for your ears, the outcome may not be the same. My recommendation is to try before you buy especially considering the price of the these cables.



No offense to any other DIY or designer….IMHO, what Shindo Labs has accomplished and continues to render that other worldly sound is simply cannot be imitated or even for that matter properly understood. Once you hear an all Shindo system, there is no turning back.

@lalitk Agree 100%, Ever since I bought the Shindo, I never got any urge to upgrade. The sound is something that very few systems can even think of bettering irrespective of price.

Lately I have been thinking of Aries Cerat but not to replace Shindo but as a second system.

@rudyb Anyone who thinks their cables make better zeros and ones is unfamiliar or disingenuous about the nature of digital communications. Cables live at Layer One of the model, so copper, fiber, radio are all interchangeable. Errors in digital communications happen all the the time and are accounted for by the protocol used. For example, an Ethernet frame is preceded by a preamble and start frame delimiter (SFD), which are both part of the Ethernet packet at the physical layer. Each Ethernet frame starts with an Ethernet header, which contains destination and source MAC addresses as its first two fields. The middle section of the frame is payload data including any headers for other protocols (for example, Internet Protocol) carried in the frame. The frame ends with a frame check sequence (FCS), which is a 32-bit cyclic redundancy check used to detect any in-transit corruption of data. (Wikipedia). Dropped packets are retransmitted and reassembled in their correct order by the receiving device. Remember, this is all happening at at Gigabit speeds, and audio only requires Megabits, a thousand times slower. The other issues with digital, things like quantization errors (when a sampled signal is between the voltages recognized as a zero (<300 mv) and a one (> ~3V) have nothing to do with cables  and are all about the digital filter design in the DAC.  Noise, in the analog sense, doesn't exist in digital. Spurious voltage spikes that might be sensed as a 'one' are trapped by the error correction. Voltages below 300mV are treated as zeros, and ignored. Everything a listener interpret as 'definition' or 'space' or whatever is occuring in the DAC filters or in the analog circuits, not in the digital cable. And that's by design. Do you think your ISP is using Nordost cables between your streaming service, across the internet, through lord knows how many intermediate routers, switches, and buffers? No. I can assure you it's the same Belden  Cat 6 or fiber you get off the shelf at any electronic supply house. I was trained by AT&T on both copper and fiber, and am a certified fiber splicer (which takes a very cool $20,000 tool). Digital cables either work or they don't. Binary, zero or one. If they have ANY impact on performance, they are defective.


You haven’t auditioned different high quality digital cables have you? Engineering background? It can’t possibly make a difference so it doesn’t, right? Guess what? It does, and can make a huge difference.