Letter from NYC (34) 2014 (6): Belden, Canare
Brief Review: Belden 1694A and Canare L-5CFB 75 ohm cables
Brief Review: Belkin PureAV Coaxial Digital Cable, Part II
Review: Ensemble Dirondo and Dichrono HiDac, Part IV
Revised Dec 26, 2014 (Part C added, see last part of article)
Revised June 18, 2014 (Part B added, see second half of article)
This article continues my saga of testing out digital cables for my Ensemble (last installment here).
After the surprisingly good result I got from my Belkin coaxial I was eager to test out 2 cables I had bought a long time ago. Opting for BNC connection, I finally got some BNC connectors and assembled them. But not without encountering some headaches.
Caution on BNC connectors: there are so many types. Aside from the rarer solder-on and screw-on types, most are crimp-on types of various diameter and construction, designed to fit various RG type cables. The Belden and Canare under discussion are both RG-6 types. I made the error of buying RG-59 connectors (Parts Express), and they prove not a good fit and I had to improvise the assembly. So, make sure you get the right RG type connector.
pic: Canare L-5CFB
Canare L-5CFB (official pdf)
Belden 1694A (official pdf)
Both are stiff RG-6 types, and the diameter is a little too big for the cable to thread through the RG59 connectors that I got.
The Belden 1694A has a long history and is a well proven favorite of professionals and DIYers alike. I got it in the USA, where it typically retails for less than $1/ft. After some hard work I finally improvised the assembly with my misfit RG-59 connectors.
The Canare L-5CFB is perhaps somewhat lesser known, but I have always had good sound from this company's offerings (see the 2T2S interconnect). I actually got this in HK, from the great people at 雅
So both cables were assembled without solder.
Sonic Characteristics (Belden vs Canare vs Belkin)
- Even not run-in, I was shocked by the Belden 1694A's superb transparency, easily a notch or two above the Canare L-5CFB and the Belkin PureAV (coaxial). This is easily the best link the Ensemble setup has enjoyed.
- The Belden 1694A's transparency comes at no cost that I can detect. It is superbly musical, with utterly natural treble, a huge soundstage, excellent dynamics and rhythm.
- Although lacking the last degree of transparency, the Canare L-5CFB is very musical and natural sounding, possibly an even better match with a DAC that is on the bright side. I also wonder if my screw-on connector is of lesser quality (nickel type, not as polished) or if it requires more run-in. I have left it connected and will be watchful.
- In many ways the Belkin coaxial is still excellent and resemble the Canare L-5CFB, but now I can confirm my previous minor reservations (..."Belkin's treble lacks just the ultimate in extension and air; the mid-bass is just a tad too full on certain material and the midrange is slightly recessed...").
- If forced to compare, the Belden 1694A comes out on top; the Canare L-5CFB second, and the Belkin PureAV a very closed third. But the Belkin can save you the hassle of DIY. In conclusion, all three are incredible bargains.
After the article was posted, I was delighted to have heard from an old friend, gbronn/GaryB, who contributed the very useful info below:
There are several sources for pre-made cables using Belden 1694a or Canare L-5CFB so people can avoid having to add their own connectors. One place that is very popular is Blue Jeans Cable.
I've bought 1694a from them and it's reasonably good but only if you are using BNC connectors on both ends. When I mixed BNC on one end and RCA on the other I thought it was pretty bad. I've heard others report that mixed BNC and RCA is always bad and that if you can't do BNC on both ends then RCA on both ends is better than mixed. But I haven't tried this myself.
Markertek also sells premade cables using Belden 1694a, Canare L-5CF and others that I like. Search for BNC to BNC video cables. Here a direct links for Belden 1694a and Canare L-5CF cables
My favorite cable these days is RG179, which is a very thin 75ohm coax. Markertek sells a premade version with high quality Trompeter BNC connectors.
It's worth playing with the length of digital cables as well. Try a 15ft or 25ft cable. You'll be surprised to find that long cables often sound better. The thin RG179 is good for this since it's easier to coil up and hide, unlike bulkier cables.
Recently, during a visit to my friend WSS (here) I got the feeling something is not optimal with his digital setup. Later, I made a Belden 1694A cable for him and also lent him my trusted Kimber D-60. He invited a bunch of friends to the shootout (I was not present) and all declared Belden the winner over even the mighty Kimber, not to mention the resident AN UK digital cable.