Need help with cable mess

Hello forum members. I've been infected by the high end audio virus the past 2 years and in the process have accumulated a mishmash of cables in my always evolving system. In the beginning I ran a Simaudio Moon I-5 with all DH Labs silver cabling and it was just too bright. During the last two years I've switched to copper cables, added a DAC, changed to the Electrocompaniet ECI-3, changed speakers, more cable experimentation...blah, blah, blah.

So here's where I'm at now...

Theta Pearl transport
Bel Canto DAC 1.1 [via Kimber Illuminations D60]
Blue Circle BC 21 [via Cardas Golden Cross]
Blue Circle BC 22 [via Harmonic Technology Pro Silway II]
NHT SW3P sub [via Analysis Plus Sub Oval]
ProAc Tablette 50 Signatures [via Analysis Plus Oval 9 biwired]
Acoustic Zen Tsunami and Absolute Power Cords PCs

I also on occasion swap in Mapleshade Double Helix coax, Cardas Lightning L-15 coax, and DH Labs Silver Pulse interconnects.

After all this time of correcting for flaws by changing cables I'm wondering what I'm missing by not having a coordinated set of cables throughout my system. I've always fought a battle to tame a bright system, and in the process have ended up with a system that is very enjoyable and fun to listen to for extended sessions. However, there are those times that I miss the tinkling of triangles and lifelike top hats that my earlier, albeit lean system produced.

Recently I spoke with Rick Schultz [not the EVS guy] of Virtual Dynamics by phone and Randy Bradley of Bear Labs via e-mail. They both make very appealing cases for switching to their cables system wide. I've read many great things about each of their products and can see the benefit of having some cable coherency throughout. From my equipment list you can see that I definitely suffer from a sort of Frankenstein cable approach. However, I don't have a lot of money to spend. I'm considering getting 2 one meter runs each of the VD Reference ICs and Bear Labs Silver Reference in place of my GCs and HTs and comparing them. Since the Bear Labs are custom made for each order, I'm not sure if I will be able to have the cables simultaneously for a shoot out. The Virtual Dynamics have a 14 day trial period and the Bear Labs can be auditioned for 30 days.

My question to my fellow Agoners is this. Do you think I will realize a noticeable improvement using THESE brands? Will a coordinated cable run from ANY manufacturer be an improvement? Will replacing only 2 interconnects and not the rest of my cables and cords be representative of possible gains? I like the ease with which my system performs. I don't want to lose the midrange fullness, deep bass and naturalness of female vocals I'm hearing now. However, there are times when my system sounds a bit veiled and I was wondering if either of these brands of cables would preserve what I like about my system and at the same time bring some added life.

This is a hard question to answer. I find that cables are component specific. I can never predict what will happen. I get the biggest bang for the buck, with the preamp to amplifier cable and the power cable from the wall to the conditioner. I think it is because both of these cables influence the character of the whole system; not just one component.

I use Nordost, Siltech and MAS. For example: I was using Siltech with my tuner, and was comparing it to another tuner using MAS Grey because I did not have another Siltech available without tearing apart the system. Well I liked the other tuner, so I replaced it in my system and discovered I did not like it as much with the Siltech that was there, so it is being run with the MAS I demo'd it with. I am sure my system would sound fine with one brand, but I am happy tweeking it further with different cables.

As a point of reference for you, I am also running a Blue Circle BC22 with a Motif MC-8 (Conrad Johnson). My speaker cables are Blue Circle's best, the BC92. My power cords are Vansevers except for a Blue Circle BC62 from the wall to the conditioner.

Sugarbrie, thanks for your response. What you're saying makes a lot of sense to me.

A couple weeks ago I installed an Acoustic Zen Tsunami power cord on my BC22 and was very happy with it, so I decided to look into replacing all my Absolute Power Cords with better ones. After talking with Rick of Virtual Dynamics I guess I got sidetracked into the whole matching interconnect thing. Your response has made me realize that I should make sure my power cords and conditioning are in order before prancing off and spending more money on interconnects and speaker cables. I should take care of my room acoustics too for that matter.

Besides, who cares if I combine combat boots with a bikini as long as I like it. Heheh.
My guess is that the Bel Canto DAC, which is reputed if anything to be a little on the smooth side, combined with the Golden Cross(also reputed to be on the laid back side) may be in large part responsible softening some detail. I would think replacing just the Cardas with the DH Labs would bring a lot more detail back to your system. If that works but goes too far in the direction of brightness then something like the Bear Labs might do the trick. I'd also highly recommend Acoustic Zen's Silver Reference interconnect, which is very full and detailed but not at all bright(at least in my system).

In my experience changing even one interconnect can make a dramatic change in the sound of a system, which I would have thought you would have already found out with all the different combinations you seem to have tried. If this doesn't work I'd look at trying another DAC and/or speaker cables to see if either of these can get you what you want.

I'm not sure about having to match cables from the same manufacturer. I'd think its more important first to have cables that work successfully with the output/input impedance characteristics of the individual components in your system. Hope this helps and best of luck.

I had a similar experience with a lesser system. Over time I had a particular combination that seemed to work together but made no sense intellectually. I became convinced that an all Van den Hul cable setup (ics and speaker cable) might hold the answer based on what I had read about the carbon technology used and reviewer/user comments. They didn't. I'm back to what came together piece by piece. -- What's most addictive about this hobby and Audiogon is that we're always wondering what another change might hold in the way of better sound. Something about curiosity and cats comes to mind.
Soix, we're on the same wavelength. I'm planning to switch out the Golden Cross for the DH Labs Silver Pulse and see what changes are realized. Also, I've been long considering swapping the GC for the AZ Silver Reference. You're right about one cable making a big difference. I've really noticed that with the digital cable running from my DAC.

Danner, yes piece by piece is fun and often fruitful. And wondering "what if" has kept me so immersed in this hobby the last two years. I promise to trust my ears more, and the marketing by manufacturers less.
Hello, Gumbei. I agree with what Sugarbrie said: “This is a hard question to answer. I find that cables are component specific. I can never predict what will happen. I get the biggest bang for the buck, with the preamp to amplifier cable and the power cable from the wall to the conditioner. I think it is because both of these cables influence the character of the whole system; not just one component”.

I also believe at times it’s best to do a mix and match to achieve the best sound. After a lot of experimenting I am presently using with great success two pairs of Bear Lab Silver Lightning (or I substitute one pair of Granite Lab Silver #470) [both are excellent] Silver Audio Symphony 48 speaker cable and Purist Proteus Digital Cable. If it’s helpful, here is a list of my dedicated sound system:

First Sound Presence Audio Linestage I
Wadia Transport #20
Dodson Audio Model DA-217 MK II D
Cary 2A3 Monoblocks
Equi=Tech 2Q Power Balancer
Soliloquy SM-2A3 Speakers
Velodyne F-1200
Silver Audio Sympony 48’s
Bear Lab Silver Lightning Interconnects
Gradite Lab Silver #470
Purist Proteus Digital Cable
Purist Proteus 20 Amp Power Cord
BMI Whale Elite MK I Power Cord
BMI Whale Elite MK II Power Cords
Shunyata, Black Mamba
Audio Points
Salamander Archetype 5.0 with Mega-spikes
Dedicated 20 Amp circuit
Piece by piece, cable by cable is how a system should be done. Anything other than that is like saying "one size fits all". The ones promoting the "all one brand of cable throughout" ideology are the cable manufacturers. Can you guess why ??? Sean
Hi Gunbei,
I too have a Theta transport, the DB Mk II and I've found that power cords and isolation devices not only on the transport but also the other components do make a difference and if used correctly for the cones and the right ones used for the cords, the sound does change considerably! I think before changing any interconnects, digital cables etc, try to tweak your system with the isolation devices like the DH cones and squares, Black Diamond Racing cones plus also getting the best sound from the many available power cords out there! Once this is done, then moving on to the rest of the cables will be easier! I never did really pay much attention to these things before and was changing cables here and there but after I tried them, I realised how important they were!
BTW, I too am going to try the Virtual Dynamic power cords! For cables, I did try the Cardas Golden Cross but although good it was a bit too warm for me and like you, I wanted the ease and the details and I finally found that with the Stealth PGS ic!
Hope this helps! If anything, please feel free to email me anytime!
Hey Gunbei,

You've been quite helpful in aswering my queries in the past, so I will try my best to pay you back the favor.

First of all, to answer your first question, I think it is best if the cables used throughout the system are homogenous, and, this includes all the cables used within the hardware and speakers. This is all theoretical, but I believe the best sound quality is achieved when the sonic characteristcs are equivocal from front end to the transducers, and the best way to achieve this is by using all the same cables because this method will have less added sonic characteristics.

If you believe in this theory and want to apply it, ask the manufacturers of your components what cables they use in their system, and get a bunch to audition. I know Blue Circle uses Cardas inside their components, so give them a try. Personally, I would like you to sample the Bear and Virtual stuff because I am curious to hear how the sound from your perspective.

In my own system, I use AQ Emeralds throughout, and they sound great. But, like yourself, I can't help but to want to audition more cables. I've auditioned maybe 5 other cables, but since I don't have 2 pairs of them, I am unable to run the sames ones throughout the system. But when I first plug in the "new" cable, generally I get either more of something, but then I get tired of it and plug my emerald back in. I conclude the added something to be coloration, and using the same cables sounded most pure. Also, my speaker cables are AQ Argents, so all my cables are from the same family.

Secondly, you mentioned your system sounded bright before the upgrades, are the brightness cured by now? If it still is bright, judging from your system, I would say the culprit is your sub. NHT are the dryest sub I've heard. I also tried to find some information on the Proacs to find out how efficient your tab 50s are. I've never auditioned the BC22, but they are only 30lbs, so I question how good they are at driving speakers with higher impedance. If they don't have enough juice, your speakers would sound bright when playing when your playing them loud.

Anyhow, that's my 2 cents worth,

Good luck.
You are counter-balancing and have, predictably, lost track. It may cost you, but if you want out of the cycle, here's what I'd do:

1. BMI PC's instead of Absolutes (@350 new)
2. NBS Sig II or better IC for Cardas & Harmonix ($550 used ea.)
3. Bybee Sig power "purifier" ($550 used)
4. AudioNote copper KSL spkr wire
5. Only then do you mess around with dig cables.

Good luck.
Thanks friends for pitching in and helping a confused audiophile. I've decided to make sure my power conditioning is taken care of first, then I'll look into a cable swap. I've already found that one Acoustic Zen Tsunami cord has mellowed my BC21. I'll cord the rest of my gear, then reassess my situation. Thanks again!