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Equipment Review

February 2007

Dual Connect DC-I100 Interconnects and DC-S200 Speaker Cables

by Vade Forrester

 

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Dual Connect DC-S200 speaker cables...

 

Review Summary
Sound "The first impression the full set of Dual Connect cables made was of harmonic sumptuousness. Their sound was mellow and full. Instrumental harmonics were well defined, and musical details were clear and easy to follow." "The bass of these cables was quite extended and showed considerable detail," and "performers’ positions were well defined both horizontally and vertically." "Apparently the treble mellowness is due to the interconnects; the speaker cables didn’t display this same quality."
Features "The cables’ design is simplicity itself: a pair of conductors running each direction in a loosely fit Teflon tube." "As to the choice of conductors, DACT believes that gold and silver have desirable sonic properties due to the availability of a single electron in the outer shells of their atoms." "In DACT’s view, gold sounds best, with silver next. So the company constructs its interconnects from solid-gold wire. Because gold is so expensive, it’s not feasible to construct speaker cables, which are thicker than interconnects, from gold, so DACT uses solid silver wire that has been plated with gold."
Use "About 150 hours in, I removed the cables from my break-in system and installed them in the reference system. Bad idea! They exhibited quite a bit of brightness for at least another 50 hours."
Value "The competition among audio cables is fierce, especially in the over-$1000 price range of the Dual Connect interconnects and speaker cables. You may decide that a full set of Dual Connect cables suits you just fine. I, on the other hand, am enthusiastic about the DC-S200 speaker cables but would counsel you to play the field some before settling on the DC-I100 interconnects."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

Old Al was a pretty bright guy, and his message in the quote above resonates with me. That could be a reflection on my simple intellect or on my experience with audio products. If it’s the latter, it means that for me, in my system, products that are the simplest seem to sound best. They just have a more direct, more musical nature. They may not measure the best, but I don’t think we understand everything about how our current measurements relate to how a product really sounds.

Another Al, Allan Isaksen at Danish Audio ConnecT (DACT), has been making interesting audio products for quite some time. Until recently, DACT’s products have been components and modules for the original equipment manufacturers and do-it-yourself market. DACT’s stepped volume controls are greatly admired for their superb sound, and they are used in several high-end preamps.

But now DACT has released several finished products in the form of interconnect and speaker cables. And when I say "finished," I mean finished, as in exquisite. DACT’s Dual Connect brand of cables implements Einstein’s view of simplicity in several respects.

A condensed version of DACT's philosophy would be: Convey the signal without any change, concentrate on eliminating energy losses, and assure that electric current passes through the wire without obstacles. Even I can understand those precepts. The cables’ design is simplicity itself: a pair of conductors running each direction in a loosely fit Teflon tube. No fancy sheaths, no multiple conductors of varying sizes, no batteries, no vacuum fittings: just wire, Teflon and air. As for the choice of conductors, DACT believes that gold and silver have desirable sonic properties due to the availability of a single electron in the outer shells of their atoms. However, "sonic properties" are unrelated to the metals’ conductivity. While silver is the best conductor available, gold is only 73% as conductive as silver. On the other hand, copper, the second best conductor, is 95% as conductive as silver, so it’s not just a matter of the best conductor producing the best sound. In DACT’s view, gold sounds best, with silver next. So the company constructs its interconnects from solid-gold wire. Because gold is so expensive, it’s not feasible to construct speaker cables, which are thicker than interconnects, from gold, so DACT uses solid silver wire that has been plated with gold.

As I mentioned, the Dual Connect cables are designed symmetrically, so that the same type of conductor is used to carry the positive and negative parts of a waveform. Particularly with interconnects, it’s common to use a coaxial cable where the positive part of a signal is carried on a high-purity central conductor and the negative part is carried on a braided shield made from a different metal. It seems plausible to me that such an arrangement could distort the waveform. Dual Connect’s interconnects use tiny gold wires to carry both parts of the waveform.

Dual Connect’s belief that each connector should use two strands of wire is based on the concept that when a wire is "rolled" (drawn) into shape, a preferred direction of conductivity is established. By using two wires drawn in opposite directions for each section of the waveform, it’s possible to eliminate any preferred directionality of the wires. This principle is applied to both interconnects and speaker cables. The interconnect wires are so small they are almost invisible to the naked eye (at least mine), while the speaker wires are each 13-AWG solid silver. Two of these solid-core wires on each leg of the speaker cables are the equivalent of 10-AWG cables. Because the wires are silver, they are naturally pliable, although two 13-AWG solid-core wires are still pretty stiff. The interconnects, on the other hand, are very flexible. The wires are insulated by Teflon tubes that fit very loosely to minimize dielectric effects. The interconnects use three clear Teflon tubes braided together for dimensional stability, but one of the tubes is empty when RCA connectors are used. Balanced cables use wires in all three of the tubes: positive, negative, and ground.

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...and DC-I100 interconnect

Dual Connect interconnects come in only two lengths: half meter ($920 USD for RCA terminations and $1020 for XLR terminations) and one meter ($1090 for RCA terminations and $1290 for XLR terminations). The RCA plugs come from Eichmann, although Dual Connect plates the silver components with gold before Eichmann assembles them. The metal-barrel version is used, which is easier to grip firmly. The XLR connectors are sourced from Neutrik.

Like the interconnects, the speaker cables come in only two lengths: two meters ($1685 per pair) and four meters ($2565 per pair). The only termination available is a 1/4" spade lug, which is made of high-purity, gold-plated copper. If you need different lengths, you might try one of the DIY (do-it-yourself) options offered, which includes separate wire and termination packages. Assembling a speaker cable is just a matter of cutting it to length, soldering on the spade lugs, and heating the shrink wrap. All those materials, plus some silver solder, are provided in the DIY packages. If you absolutely must have banana plugs, you can get those from other sources.

The short standard lengths for both the interconnects and speaker cables are a limitation of the company's manufacturing capabilities. "With a different manufacturing setup we could make longer cables, but we thought that what we can do currently is sufficient to cover most of the demand," says Isaksen.

Preparing

I seldom comment on how components are packed, but in this case, I have to observe that the Dual Connect cables are packed in heavy fine-furniture-finished wooden boxes. For a moment, I thought the shipment came from Tiffany’s! The boxes are not only gorgeous; they also protect the cables against shipping damage far better than any cardboard box would.

I usually break in cables 300 hours before I listen to them critically, but DACT suggested a mere 100 hours of break-in. I wondered at first if that wasn’t just a very optimistic estimate, but then I realized there really isn’t much to break in. The dielectric is mostly air, and I don’t think you can break in air. The Teflon tubes that loosely surround the conductors would require some dielectric break-in, but maybe these cables really didn’t need the full 300 hours I usually give cables.

So about 150 hours in, I removed the cables from my break-in system and installed them in the reference system. Bad idea! They exhibited quite a bit of brightness for at least another 50 hours. Silver cables often get blamed for sounding bright, so maybe it was the speaker cables I heard -- I really don’t know. But eventually, after more signal was run through, the sound smoothed out nicely.

The DC-I100 interconnects’ braided construction essentially makes them an unshielded twisted pair. I always worry a bit when using unshielded cables, because I live just under four miles from a large broadcast antenna with an FM station radiating 100,000 watts. My fears proved groundless; the interconnects picked up no RFI. They did pick up a little hum when I tried running them underneath an Atma-Sphere S-30 Mk. III amplifier, but it’s pretty goofy to route any cables that close to power transformers.

I appreciated the interconnects’ extreme flexibility, which let me easily route them from the back of my preamp to the front-mounted input jacks of the S-30 Mk III amp on the shelf underneath. Some cables in my collection were too stiff to make that connection. I was cautious not to put any strain on the interconnects when I disconnected them because they look so dainty. The first time you plug an Eichmann RCA plug into an RCA jack, you may wonder if you have the wrong size, but after spreading the sides of the plug, future insertions become easier.

The two-meter set of DC-S200 speaker cables were quite stiff but could be bent to whatever shape is required to connect them to your speakers. I elevated the speaker cables off the floor to prevent interaction with the carpet. I’m not sure that really makes a sonic difference, but it can’t hurt.

I used both my Second ReTHM and Opera M12 speakers during the review. The ReTHM speakers are slightly more detailed and faster, and have a more aggressive sound, but the Dual Connect cables made them sound very open and smooth. While the Opera speakers are more laid-back, with the Dual Connect cables in place, I still heard plenty of detail.

The sonic characteristics I describe below were evident with both amplifiers I used, the Art Audio PX 25 SET amp and the Atma-Sphere S-30 Mk. III OTL amp. The cables drew good performances from both.

Listening

The first impression the entire set of Dual Connect cables made was of harmonic sumptuousness. Their sound was mellow and full. Instrumental harmonics were well defined, and musical details were clear and easy to follow. Sometimes a component will fake musical detail by artificially boosting the high frequencies, but the Dual Connect cables avoided that obnoxious practice. In layman’s terms, music sounded lovely through the Dual Connect cables. Their treble was smooth and detailed once the cables were fully broken in, and it displayed not a smidgen of etch or grain. However, small details seemed a tiny bit glossed over. On "The Panther," from Jennifer Warnes’ SACD The Well [Cisco SCD 2034], the treble was fairly extended, but the highest frequencies were restrained, lacking in the sort of energy I was used to hearing. The triangles and chimes lost just a touch of their sparkle. If your system has any sort of high-frequency emphasis, this restraint could be a boon. When I replaced the DC-I100 interconnects with others, the highs returned in full, so apparently the treble mellowness is due to the interconnects; the speaker cables didn’t display this same quality.

Associated Equipment

Loudspeakers –  Second ReTHM, Opera Audio Consonance M12.

Power amplifiers –  Art Audio PX 25 and Atma-Sphere S-30 Mk III stereo amps.

Preamplifier – deHavilland Mercury 2.

Digital – Meridian 508.24 CD player, Oppo DV-970HD universal player.

Analog – Linn LP-12 turntable, Graham 2.2 tonearm, van den Hul Frog cartridge, Audio Research PH5 phono stage.

Interconnects – Crystal Cable CrystalConnect Piccolo, Purist Audio Design Venustas, DNM/Reson TSC.

Speaker cables – Crystal Cable CrystalSpeak Micro, Purist Audio Design Venustas, Blue Marble Audio speaker cables.

Power cords – Purist Audio Design Venustas, Blue Marble Audio Lightning.

Accessories Walker Talisman LP/CD treatment, VPI HW-16.5 record cleaner.

The Dual Connect cables handled the dynamic envelope -- the range of volume levels from very quiet to very loud -- effortlessly, with no compression or smearing. The minute volume changes that make up what audiophiles call "microdynamics" were conveyed in superb fashion. On "Folia: Rodrigo Martinez" from Jordi Savall and associates’ formidable CD La Folia [AliaVox AV9805], the sinuous changes in volume were easy to follow. A surprising number of components tend to level out the volume levels in this piece, making it rather boring. Not so with the Dual Connect cables. I could follow both the volume and tempo changes easily, making for an exciting rendition of the piece.

The bass of these cables was quite extended and showed considerable detail. In fact, the bass was about as strong and resolved as I’ve heard from my system, although because my speakers only go down to about 35Hz, I can’t comment authoritatively on how they reproduce the very lowest bass frequencies. One area where the Opera speakers clearly surpass the ReTHMs is bass extension, and the Dual Connect cables produced excellent bass depth and weight. As all audiophiles know, you can never have bass that’s too deep, but I started to worry that I was getting too much bass from the Opera speakers. Although such low frequencies are kind of fun in some ways, if the Dual Connect cables took up permanent residence in my system, I’d probably need to reposition the Opera speakers for better bass balance.

The most memorable thing about the Dual Connect sound was the soundstage the cables created. I have read with considerable amusement other magazines’ lengthy discussions of the three-dimensional soundstages various components are supposed to create. I have heard such re-creations, but only from speaker systems with line-array drivers like the Dali Megalines. The Megalines’ seven-and-half-foot-tall ribbon tweeters and equally long array of woofers created a very memorable soundstage at the 2004 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. But I had never heard any quasi-point-source speakers produce this type of soundstage until I inserted the Dual Connect cables into my system. Performers’ positions were well defined both horizontally and vertically. Line-array speakers still throw a much better-defined total soundstage (especially the height dimension), but at least I heard some of that characteristic from my system.

With the Dual Connect cables, the dimension of depth was substantially better defined than I had previously heard from my system. With orchestral recordings, the groupings of instruments, like the first violins, occupied a space in the soundstage that had both width and depth -- just as they do in a concert hall. On "Miserere" from the Tallis Scholars’ CD Allegri: Miserere [Gimmell 454 939-2], a small solo group sings from a location well behind the main choir. Without the Dual Connect cables, my system does suggest a feeling of depth, but with them, the solo group was plainly placed a considerable distance behind the choir. The Opera speakers I used for the bulk of the review are just two-way quasi-point-source speakers, and I’ve never heard such a clearly defined dimension of depth from any system that didn’t use line source speakers.

Comparing

Reviewing audio equipment is not all sonic revelations and serene moments. It often involves a lot of grunt work even before the writing begins. I had a few cables around with which to compare the Dual Connect interconnects and speaker cables, and my knees are all the worse for the wear!

Blue Marble Audio's speaker cables ($795 for an eight-foot pair) are a fine value, especially at their price. They have a good balance of detail, speed, and frequency extension. However, the twice-as-expensive Dual Connect speaker cables were slightly more open, displayed even better retrieval of detail, and had deeper bass -- just as I would expect for their price. The Purist Audio Design Venustas speaker cables, at $2460 eight-foot per pair, sounded quieter and even more open and detailed than the Dual Connect speaker cables, but at a 50% premium, they should. The sonic difference between the Purist Audio cables and the Dual Connect cables was not huge, however. Both the Blue Marble Audio and Purist Audio Design speaker cables can be customized with different terminations and you can specify a wide variety of lengths -- things that are not possible with the Dual Connect speaker cables.

The unshielded DNM/Reson TSC interconnects use a very pure grade of copper wire and are terminated with Eichmann copper bullet plug RCA connectors. At only $145 per meter pair, they could easily be described as an unqualified bargain. Unimpressive to look at (they look like TV twin-lead wire), they have been my standard for inexpensive interconnects for a long time, even trouncing some cables costing over ten times as much. Compared to the DNM/Reson interconnects, the Dual Connect DC-I100s sounded rolled off at the high end, a bit closed in, and lacking in detail. On "The Panther," the highs from the DNM/Reson interconnects were more extended than those of the Dual Connect interconnects. The $399-per-meter pair Crystal Cable Piccolo interconnects also had a more extended high-frequency performance; however, they are slightly lighter in the bass frequencies than the Dual Connect interconnects. They actually made a nice match for the Dual Connect speaker cables and their very robust bass performance.

The competition among audio cables is fierce, especially in the over-$1000 price range of the Dual Connect interconnects and speaker cables. You may decide that a full set of Dual Connect cables suits you just fine. I, on the other hand, am enthusiastic about the DC-S200 speaker cables but would counsel you to play the field some before settling on the DC-I100 interconnects.

Wrapping up

Reviewing cables can be frustrating. The sound you attribute to them can depend to a large or small degree on the system in which they’re used. For this reason, I use a variety of equipment when I review cables to be sure that what I describe is not due to an incompatibility or synergistic match between a particular component and cable. In this review, I used different speakers and different amps to be sure I had a good picture of the cables’ sound. The sound I heard was consistent with all the equipment.

Used together, the Dual Connect cables had some distinct strengths no matter the equipment with which I paired them. Their remarkable soundstaging abilities depicted the depth of a recording like no other cables I’ve heard. Dynamics were also handled effortlessly. Individually, the DC-S200 speaker cables were neutral and detailed, with extended, powerful bass and flat, non-peaky high frequencies. The DC-I100 interconnects were less neutral, favoring a sumptuous, mellow sound that, if not totally accurate, erred on the side of making music tonally gorgeous. With some speakers, like my Second ReTHMs, their laid-back high frequencies somewhat counterbalanced the speakers’ energetic treble. With speakers like my Opera M12s, which have a smoother but more extended treble response, the interconnects’ lack of high-frequency energy deprived the music of a bit of sparkle and overtone.

Deciding on which cables to purchase is both a matter of personal preference and their sonic fit in the system they will be used. I’m not a big fan of using cables as tone controls, so, with the electronics and speakers I have here, I would pass on the Dual Connect DC-I100 interconnects. However, the DC-S200 speaker cables are well worth consideration, because they did indeed connect me more directly to my music. And evaluating high-end audio doesn't get any simpler than that.

...Vade Forrester
vade@soundstage.com

Dual Connect DC-I100 Interconnects and DC-S200 Speaker Cables
Prices: Interconnects, $1090 per meter pair; speaker cables, $1685 per two-meter pair.
Warranty: Lifetime.

Danish Audio ConnecT A/S
Skannerupvej 14
DK-6980 Tim, Denmark
Fax: +45 97333248

E-mail: dual-connect@dact.com
Website: www.dual-connect.com

US distributor:
Electrum Audio
3579 E. Foothill Blvd. # 181
Pasadena, CA 91107
Phone: (626) 221-5176
Fax: (626) 355-2318

E-mail: info@electrumaudio.com
Website: www.electrumaudio.com

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