04 June, 2012

Review: Canare L-2T2S and Sommer tricone MkII

Talk Cable: DIY Cables, a Must for any Audiophile
Review: Canare L-2T2S and Sommer tricone MkII interconnect cables

For the longest time, my reference interconnect cables have been the various Gotham cables, and that is unlikely to change at all. However, from time to time, I do try out a few other makes. Before I go into my recent forays, let me say why I think DIY cables is a necessity.

Why DIY Cables? Simple, "Audiophile" cables from audio manufacturers are mostly scams. The most balanced cables I have heard have all been no-frills professional cables. Unfortunately, most are sold as bare cables and termination is required.

Design your own cable? No. Some people assemble their own cables from core conductors and add shielding etc. In my experience, most of these sound unbalanced. There is much to choose from professional cables that self-assembly is a waste of time.

So when I say DIY, it is limited to termination. 十個名牌音響線九個不平衡;十個自作音響線九個不能聼。

RCA connectors I use cheap connectors. My own inclinations on RCA connectors: the connector must be rust-proof, light and made of THIN metal (such as the imitation "Canare" sold in HK). Many expensive boutique connectors, such as WBT, use chunky metal, but they look more impressive more than they sound good. Think about it, why would you want to use an expensive cable composed of many fine strands of conductors, then attach a huge metal chunk at the end to connect to a tiny female RCA connector (usually cheap even on expensive gears, and made from thin metal) on the machine?

Solder The solder must flow easily and quickly. Use sparingly, just enough to do the job and no more. I use standard stuff (I still have the older tinned ones, which I prefer). There are people out there who swear by difficult-to-manage silver and other expensive solder formulas, but I'd urge you not to get anal about it. The whole thing about solder that is like no solder (that is totally transparent) is nonsense. If you believe that, you might as well use solder-less screw-on connectors (but not WBT; use cheap ones, like the very light aluminum ones, the "brand" of which I forgot, available in HK).  

Which cable model? Most professional cable companies make a large number of models. Picking and choosing can be rather bewildering. My philosophy, if you can term it that, is to try out the cheapest model. With the reputable manufacturers, they never disappoint. You can then move up the price point if you wish, but I find the more expensive does not at all equate the better. More conductors, more complex configurations/geometries, more shielding etc may bring about better RF rejection or measurements, but sonically there is no guarantee.

A Note of Caution There are plenty of so-called cable experts out there, who terminate for you for a substantial fee. They claim perfect soldering etc. Some of these people may have the skills, but they also inflate their own significance. You can also develop them on your own to save yourself a lot of money. and have some fun on the way. 除了專業音響工程店外,十個所謂HiFi音響線專賣店十個黑;其它十個賣HiFi線的九個騙。

Illustrated Guide to DIY Cables This profusely illustrated site for how to terminate a cable is simply great. I just discovered it and am happy the author and I have much in common when it comes to cables.

And now brief reviews of two cables.
Canare L-2T2S (official info)
I have always liked Japanese Canare cables. The cables are soft to touch (a good sign) and sound musical. This is unlike Japanese Mogami, which tends to be much leaner. Japanese Softone/ICL equipment comes with cheap Canare cables that sound surprisingly good. This L-2T2S model is very cheap (HK $ 16/m), and available by the foot or in bulk (like here).

This cable has a fully fleshed out midrange and finely balanced sound. It has neither the ultimate attributes nor serious deficiencies. It matches perfectly my Thorens TD-309 turntable. A great starter cable. When I have time, I may compare it to Gotham GAC-2. People who find Mogami too lean can try this out. Who says there is only one "Japanese sound"?!

Sommer tricone MkII (official info)
I have never heard Gotham (old stock or current products) I don't like, but that is not the case for German Sommer. I have heard Sommer cables several times and in general they seem to be lacking somewhat in rhythm and pace. A friend even lent me the very expensive (around US $200) Epilogue. It is not a bad cable, revealing and balanced, but one expects a little more musicality, particularly at the price. The cheapest of the line, the tricone MkII, is no exception, but for the ridiculously low price (HK $12/m) its performance is very good indeed and there is much less to complain about. Overall, I still prefer the Canare L-2T2S.

FYI, I also got a bit of much more expensive Galileo 238 plus (HK $38/m) to try, and shall report later. I am not the only one who suspects the cheaper Sommer models sound better than the more expensive ones.

Incidentally, I noticed that the word "highflex" on my tricone is in italics, whereas that on the website picture is not. I called 雅歌 and was informed that Sommer sometimes changes things without notice.

Where to get Canare and Sommer in HK
Most HK audiophiles get their Sommer and Canare from Apliu street, particularly 雅歌. The staff is very friendly, honest and helpful. They won't recommend anything unless you want them to; no hard sell here. Here are their details:


Acoustic Engineering Co Ltd 雅歌工程有限公司
G/F., 66 Yen Chow St., Sham Shui Po
Telephone: 2729 1022
Fax: 2725 6787
E-mail: acoustic01@biznetvigator.com

However, 雅歌 is only the retailer who gets their supplies from the distributor. For Sommer at least, 雅歌 gets their supply from Palonn 柏龍, who is listed in Sommer's official website as a Hong Kong distributor, although the same website also lists another two dealers for China, and both have HK addresses (one even has a "sommer hk" website). So, it is a little complicated. But unless you plan to buy a roll, Apliu Street and 雅歌 is still your best choice.

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