Cable upgrades

Happy Holidays to all!

I’m reconfiguring my system and am interested in upgrading my interconnects and possibly my speaker cables, and I was wondering if you could make some recommendations.

I was running Audio Sensibility Impact SE XLR between my Benchmark DAC3 HGC (as a DAC/pre) and my Benchmark AHB2 power amp.  The amp is running bi-wired Kimber Cable 8TC (I think that’s the model #) to a pair of ATC SCM40 tower speakers.  In this setup the bass is tight and the mids are clean - overall I’m quite happy - but sometimes I feel, for my ears, I’d love a bit more openness / brightness in the higher end.

My questions are: would improved XLR interconnects help to open up the top end a bit, without being harsh, and perhaps increase the dimensionality of the soundstage?  Or would I be better off starting with upgrading the speaker cables?  I’ve been looking at the Cardas Parsec level of cable, and could perhaps stretch to the Clear line, pending your recommendations.

Also, one other question: pending the possible move to 2 AHB2s (in mono-block configuration), do both XLR interconnects have to be the same length?  If not, would it cause any timing issues between, say, a 2' XLR and a 6'?

I’d appreciate any guidance.  Many thanks in advance.



HI James - your best bet is going to be using something like Synergistic Research Foundation interconnects for the bigger soundstage and extended upper frequencies.  and YES - your cables should be the same length.  Why would you fool around with THAT?

Hello @jwpstayman Thanks for the quick and detailed reply.  Will check out the Synergistic cables you mentioned.

Only reason for irregular XLR lengths would be that my DAC/pre stack would be on the right side, and mono blocks would be one on left, one on right, in order to be equidistant from each speaker.  I know, it's not much of a reason for not just coiling up the longer XLR...

Best, JAMES.

@jimboman "...I’ve been looking at the Cardas Parsec level of cable, and could perhaps stretch to the Clear line, pending your recommendations."


I almost did not reply to this because this is a trial and error thing. I’m noting the rest of your gear and the cables your using now, and having been up/down the older and newer Cardas line myself past 30+ years. I’d say save your money, and pass on the Parsec. They are okay for entry level systems, nice quality build, but I hear a notable difference moving further up the line if you choose Cardas. The next level jump up the 4-wire Cygnus open up a bit more, with more air, detail, openness coming in. Not as smooth compared to once you go further up the line noticing more texture and other fun and interesting results. You do kinda need to find the cable version that matches up well with your speakers/ears and gear, to make it worth it. Some folks here will say "cables should not have a sound’. Okay, good for them. Let your ears be the judge. I don’t think some of the lower entry-level cables in many of the brands are worth it (maybe only for added shielding) or you can just use Supra Classic soft copper lamp chord style from Madisound, or bulk roll stuff by the foot from Cardas to test, starting out. Best of luck on your search.



@jimboman - take a look at this thread for some detials on what makes for a good cable

.At least you’ll have a bit of knowledge before you go shopping

If you are not into DIY then take a look at Audio Envy Cables - very affordables and very good

A little more advanced is Zavfino - Excelent cables - but a littlemore pricey

If you are up for a DIY challenge then take a look at this link

Hope that helps - Steve


Thanks @decooney for the Cardas/cable advice. Much appreciated.  And @williewonka for the links. Will check them out.

i placed an order for some Audio Sensibility Statement SE interconnects, as a first step, given that I’m familiar with their ‘house sound’. They have a 30-day refund policy, so it will give me some time to run the cables in and hear what they do in my system.

Seems a certain amount of willingness to experiment is par for the course!


@jimboman what is the source for the Benchmark DAC 3? I was running the DAC3 HGC with a Lumin U1 Mini and I don’t recall needing more top end sparkle. I’d be careful there as you can easily tip the scale with that dac.
One other bit of info - I didn’t think the DAC 3 was a great preamp. It couldn’t compete with my then Pass Labs XP12 preamp. It was kind if flat sounding.

But if you’re looking for a cable recommendation, look into Kimber copper/silver hybrid XLRs on a used market. They should open the top end up. But again careful what you wish for. 

@audphile1  thanks for your reply.  I had a Lumin U2 mini w SBooster running into the DAC3 HGC, but have now upgraded to the Lumin U2.

Regarding preamps, I’ve been considering getting a ‘full stack’ from Benchmark by adding their LA4 preamp. Hard to know if the addition of a preamp would open up the top end in a non-fatiguing manner, and improve the ‘flatness’ you mentioned?

As an experiment, I put the DAC3 into unity gain mode and tried using the LeedH setting on the Lumin as a volume control, but it didn’t seem to be any better (and no worse) than using the DAC3 for the same purpose.



James…I think you would really like a nice tube preamp between the dac 3 and the amp. The biggest change would be more organic sound, improved soundstage and layering, better tone. Then put a good balanced cable between the preamp and the amp and you’ll get what you’re looking for. Just my opinion. Or try a more resolving cable between the dac and the amp now just to see what happens. With that combination I would recommend Acoustic Zen Matrix Ref II or Absolute Copper, or the Kimber KS1126 for a bit more top end sparkle but I’m afraid it might be too much of a good thing there. 

Yeah, as usual @audphile1 is plugged right into my brain.  I’d recommend Acoustic Zen Silver Reference interconnects and Hologram speaker cables.  Their naturalness and 3D sound staging are outstanding, and IMHO are a bargain at their asking price.

Hello all:

An update on my cable journey:  I purchased some Audio Sensibility Statement SE XLRs, and am in the process of running them in (Steven suggests at least 100 hrs).  Out of the box, I'd say they are capable ICs, closer to the 'front row' in terms of presentation.  I like some things they do, and others not so much...but am finding they are improving as they burn in.  Time will tell.

I've tracked down a few other options, based on the recommendations given.  Ranked by cost, from highest to lowest:

1) Cardas Clear Cygnus (recommended by Brian at Cardas)
2) Cardas Gold Presence (which may be an older but similar match to the Cardas Cygnus line)
3) Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference (haven't found the Series II used yet...but there is a pair of the first gen on CAM)
4) XLO Reference 3

I haven't found a dealer close to me to arrange a demo, and am considering taking the plunge and purchasing one other set (used), which I can compare in house with the Statement SEs.  Of course, I have 30 days to return the SEs, but would have to resell any others.

What's your take on the selections mentioned above?  I get the impression that any of them could be worthwhile test candidates.

Best, JAMES.

Hey James I wanted to ask how are you connecting Lumin to Benchmark DAC? Are you going via USB or coax?

Congratulations. Yes, at first listen before being broken in, cables tend to be forward and a bit bright… they “relax” over time. So, you are doing the right thing.

What's your take on the selections mentioned above?  I get the impression that any of them could be worthwhile test candidates.

Given what you’re looking for I’d recommend the Acoustic Zen Silver Reference over the Matrix.  I own the original Matrix and the Matrix ll, and the Silver Ref is a significant level above given what you’re looking for.  Open and detailed but not harsh and with excellent 3D soundstage.  Natural and organic is how I’d describe them.  FWIW.

Thanks @soix for the recommendation. I read your posts and @ghdprentice posts with great interest/respect for your opinions. Many thanks.

I’ll keep an eye out for a used pair of Silver Reference IIs. In the meantime, I am enjoying getting to know the Testament SEs.  I admit, it’s a bit of an ‘experience-expander’ for me. I’m beginning to see how improvement of system components have created a finer ‘sonic resolution’ which enables me to discern strengths and weaknesses of all parts of the chain.

I’m grateful to folks sharing their knowledge and experience. It’s a great help!


@jimboman ..." but sometimes I feel, for my ears, I’d love a bit more openness / brightness in the higher end."


"...An update on my cable journey: ...1) Cardas Clear Cygnus (recommended by Brian at Cardas)".


Yes, Cygnus will work as prescribed. Working with Brian I did some early factory cable testing with Cygnus when they first came out, and later bought two pairs to compare to Golden Reference and Clear Reflections. It all depends on the rest of your system and I found the particular design of the 4-wire Cygnus can provide the added openness and brighter detail you are looking for in comparison to the others in the line. Each of the ICs in the lineup do have a different balance of low/med/high frequency results and presentation in the three different systems I’ve tested them on. Without getting into the weeds too much, the only way to know is to try them.


I’ll keep an eye out for a used pair of Silver Reference IIs.

Just fyi, there’s not a lotta difference between the Silver Ref l and ll — I have and still use both.  The good thing is there’s a fluid market for AZ cables so you can likely try them and sell for little/no loss if they don’t work out, but I’d say they’re well worth a try

Thanks @soix   Good to know.  Is there a good place you’d recommend to look for AZ cables (other than Audiogon)?  Not sure, but is AZ still in business?

Best, JAMES is a good site that tracks many sites including Audiogon.  Here’s a link…

New AZ products are still being sold so they must still be in business.

@soix thanks for the information and clarification of AZ status. I was only wondering because a local dealer said the cables are ‘pretty rare’ nowadays…perhaps he was referring to his experience in the used market in Canada.

Will keep an eye out for a pair of Silver Reference XLR, either generation.


Are you in Our Home and Native Land?  Spent a lotta time in Canada vacationing and playing hockey.

Hi again:

An update on my audio journey:  I purchased a set of Cardas Golden Reference XLR interconnects, and after a week of running them in my system, I'm sad to report that these cables were not a good fit.  While they brightened the top end, and seemed to punctuate the mids to create a bigger soundstage, the mid/lower bass frequencies were hampered.  I kept hoping the cables would settle in, and the low end slam would return, or that my ears would adjust, but...

I ended up putting the AS Testament SEs back in the system, and the frequency balance that I enjoy returned immediately.  The process did help me realize that I like the way the AS cables sound -- and this was a huge benefit.  If I can find a local dealer who will let me demo some higher end cables before purchase, I'd be open to trying again.  But making a blind purchase and hoping it will be a good fit in my system -- especially as one goes higher up the price spectrum -- seems unwise.

So, lots to learn in the upgrade journey.  Perhaps my number one lesson, is to make sure one enjoys the system they already have.


James…if those XLRs are new, my recommendation would be to give them a minimum of 200hrs of signal/play time. If you ran them for a week 24/7, they’re not done cooking yet. Keep them in and give em 40-50hrs more. If they don’t work for you then, move on. I think you may have potentially rushes to judge them. 

Hi @audphile1   Thanks for your thoughtful reply.  I believe the Golden Reference cables are previous gen Cardas cables, and as such, this pair has had two owners before me.  So I didn’t think burn-in would change their signature much.

That said, I wondered if they would benefit from a running in period, so that’s why I gave them a week trial.  Maybe it wasn’t enough?   (I’d say, to my ears, they improved slightly during the week, but the lower bass was still substantially attenuated)

When I switched back to the Audio Sensibility cables, they just sounded ‘complete’ to me.  It was the opposite of my expectations.  And it would have been much easier to return the AS cables, as they come with a 30-day return policy.

I learned a few valuable lessons in the process, though.  Switching the two sets of cables gave me a fresh perspective, helping me properly judge the effect of the change on my system.  And I also learned that I don’t want to pursue gear that I can’t evaluate in some fashion before purchase.




I am familiar with Cardas Golden Reference. The odd thing is, your description of the sonic effect is completely contrary to what they sound like… by design and observation. Is it possible they were counterfeit? They are extremely warm cables that emphasize the bass and midrange, easily attenuating the high frequencies.


While some cables are highly dependent on the components… some cables… like these have a very definite sound… from their materials and construction. I am really puzzled. 

Yes Cardas are warm and bassy. If the cables were not in use for few months, I’d say it’s possible that they need more time. But it’s unlikely that the lower bass will all of a sudden show up. I thought they were new.
Another question…is the DAC gain at the XLR outs set to 0db? There are jumpers inside the DAC that you can use to alter the gain.  

@ghdprentice I wondered the same thing, as this was certainly not the sonic effect I was expecting.  The seller was a reputable Canuck Audio Mart member, but he may have not known if they were legit or not.  The lettering on the cables has all but disappeared, except for the stencil on the XLR sheaths.  I've read on the Cardas site that the only way to know if it's counterfeit is to cut the cable open to check the internals.  That's an exercise I'm probably not going to attempt at this point.

@audphile1 Thanks for your suggestion, but the DAC jumpers have been properly set for output matching going directly to the AHB2, as per the manual; and have been this way since initial setup.  And yes, the lower bass didn't appear over the course of a week of running in, so I doubt that more hours would make a difference.

It's definitely a steep part of my learning curve, thus my reticence to purchase without demo, going forward.

Best, JAMES.


James…talk to the seller. Propose to authenticate the cables by sending to Cardas. If they check out, all is well. If they don’t, you should be issued a refund. You shouldn’t be the one taking a hit. 

@jimboman would you mind sharing the photos from the original ad, if you can locate the former sold/expired ad, or search from Hifishark.

A few thoughts, even on some of the older versions, the jacket label lettering should still look pretty decent and not rubbing off on Golden Reference. It can be possible to spot counterfeits too, visually, with some back and forth photo comparisons - if the photos are decent. I looked over a few old ads, not sure which ad they are from. The seller should have no issue with you sharing the former public ad if they are legit.

Note; There was this one seller on Canuck last year who was selling cables with zip bags, not the original container boxes from Cardas, and sorta what appeared to look almost like color copied factory paperwork. I inquired a few times on these particular cables, and mentioned I’d be shipping them to Cardas for authentication, immediately, and never received a reply. I saw them reposted a few times, same photos. So I inquired again, several months later and got no reply. Will try to help figure out ifs the same person or not. They should have serial number paperwork with them, all of my former Clear Reference, Clear Cygnus, Parsec, Clear Reflection and others all had this. Most people dont easily lose the real papers and containers when it comes to Cardas. You do see this with dealer trade-ins some.


If you don’t return them for a refund, its almost a must to send them to Cardas for verification in case you decide to resale them later. And, at least you’ll know and have the proper papers with the cables for someone to take them off your hands. All of my former three pairs of Golden Cross cables were sent to Cardas and i had them reterminated with the new style solderless connectors, with papers, before I resold them. New happy owners now too, fyi fwiw.

@decooney I have the pics from the CAM ad...not sure how to post them, but I'll PM you a link to the original ad, as I don't want to use this forum to call him out publicly.

There was no original paperwork/container boxes with the cables.  Perhaps I should've known better...

@audphile1 I still think the seller probably didn't know the status of the cables.  For what it's worth, he's got 165 transactions, and 100% positive feedback.  I'm really not sure I can hold him responsible if they are counterfeit.  It's more my lack of due diligence, if that is the case.  If they aren't fake, then I don't know what Cardas can do to satisfy what I heard in my system..?

Thanks again for your help.  I really appreciate it.

Best, JAMES.

Sorry for your troubles James. But I still thinking it’s worth sending the cables to cardas. If you get them authenticated you can sell them. If they’re counterfeit they will be destroyed and you can relay the communication from cardas to the seller. You can decide on the next steps then. Worth the $25 fee.

...and IF you decide to send them in to Cardas for validation and certification, and they check out to be the genuine article, imo its worth it to at least inquire about the new termination process, and/or getting that done should you decide to keep -or- resale the cables. 

I reached out to the seller, explaining the situation, and requesting a refund.


@jimboman that is a step in the right direction. I applaud your initial approach to just fall on a sword but in this case I’m glad we were able to convince you.
If you used regular PayPal Goods and Services, you may be able to file a claim with PayPal if you can’t work it out with the seller first. Hopefully this gets resolved.

Hi @audphile1  Unfortunately, it was a cash transaction.

Just heard back from the seller.  He does not want to offer a refund.  He figures I just don't like the cable, so I can simply resell it.  I told him that the problem is the cable doesn't work as it should.  And therefore, I can't resell it, in good faith.

I also suggested that if I send it to Cardas and they determine it's faulty or fake, then I'd have to pursue a fraud claim.  Although, that's probably not gonna bear much fruit.  So I asked him again for a refund, and offered to cover the cost of return shipping.  We'll see what he comes back with.  My guess is he won't comply.

I'd send it to Cardas, as many have suggested, but my gut is that it's not counterfeit, but rather, old, and perhaps damaged in some way.  And by the time I pay for shipping, validation, re-termination (assuming it's okay...which doesn't make sense, given its sonic signature), shipping back, duty/taxes/brokerage fees etc -- just so I can resell it -- it's doubtful if it would be worth my time.

Best, JAMES.

I would absorb the shipping cost plus the $25 authentication fee. If it turns out counterfeit, you leave a feedback to the seller that reflects what had taken place as part of this transaction. 

@audphile1 You're probably right.  Makes sense to at least find out if the cable is salvageable.  Then maybe I can use it in my system, ha!

I think the next step will be to reach out to Josh or Brian at Cardas and see what they say before I ship.

Many thanks for all your encouragement and support in this process.

Best, JAMES.

Tell us how this turns out. Sorry it is such a pain for you, but I am really interested. I owned some of the same cables and are familiar with most of the Vardas lines.

James, @jimboman IF you send them in to Cardas, once they peel back the end jacket they will know quickly, able to help determine next steps.

If they are the real McCoy, they may tell you the older soldered XLR connectors are history. The conductors and dielectric inside may still be just fine. With the current [standard upgrade] option, they recut the ends fresh, install the newer/better crimp style ends, re-wrap the connector end jacket sleeve fresh, test and certify.

In this case upon return, if you still don’t like them, I bet someone will buy them from you now knowing they just came back from Cardas with an upgraded bill of health.


@ghdprentice Thanks for your help and thoughts.  Much appreciated.  I'll definitely report back.  It's a good learning experience for me.

@decooney I've got all digits crossed, that they can rehabilitate the Goldens.  And, as you say, if they don't work in my system, I will be able to sell them with confidence.

Best, JAMES.

Sent in the Cardas Return Authorization form.  Aiming to connect via phone this week before sending cables.


Kimber Cable 8TCs are amazing speaker cables... no need to upgrade AT ALL. save money to upgrade your DAC. or if you have some extra money to waste... then get some silver interconnects between DAC and amp... probably you won't find any audible difference... then again they might

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Hello again:

Sent off the Cardas Golden Refs to Cardas today.  Fingers crossed that they can certify them, or better yet, repair them.

In other cable news, I demoed a pair of Neotech 3001 MkIs (all OCC copper) over the weekend, from a local dealer.  Compared to the Audio Sensibility Statement SE XLRs, they were very similar in mid/upper frequency response, but the bottom end was more full and weighty -- not in a bloated way, but rather a musical one -- and the soundstage was a bit better defined/wide.

So I decided to stick with the Neotechs and return the Audio Sensibility cables, as I'm within the 30-day return period.

I am also going to be demoing the Neotech 3001 MKIIIs soon, which have about 20% added silver.  If they sound good/better than the MkI cables, I'll bump the Mk1s for use in my office system.

Hopefully, this will satisfy the interconnect upgrade itch for now.  Then, I'll turn my attention to power cords, 'cuz heck, cable-swapping is so much fun!

Best, JAMES.

Hopefully, this will satisfy the interconnect upgrade itch for now.  Then, I'll turn my attention to power cords, 'cuz heck, cable-swapping is so much fun!

Heh heh.  Necessary evil, right?  Congrats on at least moving a bit in the right direction and maybe even better with the Mk3s.  🤞🤞🤞

@jimboman you are having too much cable fun. Good for you.  Keep us posted, and keep up the good work! 👍