Audio Cables: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
Are all audio cables created equal? We would argue that they are not. This guide covers everything you'll need to know about audio cables and to determine if high-end audio cables are ultimately worth it. From materials to sound signatures, we'll also give you insight to how we make our award-winning Dragon Audio Cables and see first hand what they can do for you. Here at Moon Audio, we're only concerned with making your music sound its very best, and audio cables that use premium materials is one of the easiest ways to acheive that.
Every headphone, cable, and music player have their own intrinsic sound qualities. Some emphasize the higher treble ranges while others strengthen the bass frequencies. This overall sound profile is called a sound signature and understanding the basic categories will help you pair your cables and devices to fine-tune your listening experience.
Sound Signatures describe how high and low sounds are emphasized (or not emphasized). The range from highs to lows includes: Bright, Analytical, Neutral, Warm, and Dark. V-shaped has lower mid frequencies.
The frequency spectrum helps to determine the sound signature. Different levels in sound in Hertz, or Hz, are measured on a spectrum and the properties of the materials in the cable and/or headphones can influence the frequency response of your music. Let’s look at some graphs to better understand how this is visualized.
A neutral sound signature is just how you would imagine. Frequencies are not emphasized in any range, and the sound is reproduced as faithfully as possible. Reference headphones are tuned for a neutral sound signature, making them an ideal choice for mastering and studio work. Neutral signatures do not add any coloration to the audio, leaving the music as it was recorded. You may also hear this described as balanced or flat.
Analytical sound signatures are still very neutral and balanced but have a slight emphasis on the higher treble range. Details in instrumentation are a little clearer and more complex. Beryllium drivers and silver conductors lean toward more analytical sound signatures.
Bright audio boosts the higher ranges even more. While some may enjoy the sharpened treble, the human ear is more sensitive to these higher audio frequencies and long listening sessions quickly lead to fatigue. You may also hear this described as forward-sounding, but it’s typically less extreme.
The counterpart to analytical, warm signatures apply a slight boost to the lower audio ranges. Bottom-end instruments like the bass guitar and cello sound more expansive with added depth, making it a good fit for rock and blues. Copper conductors lend themselves to a warmer sound signature. You may also hear this described as smooth or musical.
Dark sound signatures give a bigger boost to the bottom end frequencies. Lows and rich and intricate but highs sound recessed and rolled off, as if hidden. Like bright sound signatures, dark audio is a bit too extreme for most listeners.
V-shaped sound signatures give a slight boost to both the upper and lower frequencies, leaving a slight dip in the mid-range. This signature makes the audio sound louder and reduces ambient noise, which can make it sound a bit unnatural. Nevertheless, the coloration makes it naturally appealing to the human ear. You may also hear this described as U-shaped when the mid-range dip is less pronounced.
Sound Signatures in the Wild
Every piece of gear in your sound system has a sound signature. Your DAC, the amp, your pair of speakers or headphones; they all have their own material properties that can affect the coloration or resonance of your music, altering the way it sounds from the original. Although it’s not necessarily a bad thing, the trick is choosing gear that is going to best match the type of music you listen to.
"What kind of music do you listen to?"
The variations are endless: Beryllium drivers are forward sounding, planar magnetic drivers tend to sound more resolute than neodymium cone drivers, often resulting in a dip in lower frequencies by comparison, open back headphones have a larger soundstage than closed back, tube is going to sound warmer than solid state, and on and on. Even to the experienced ear, pairing your gear by sound signature can be tricky unless you know what to listen for.
Usually the output is the most important part in influencing the sound signature of your music, being speakers and headphones. What most people don’t realize is that the materials in cables can bring out the best or the worst of your sound output, depending on how they are matched.
Handcrafted Audio Cables (the Art and Science of What We Do)
The Dragon Cable Experience. What does that even mean? I’m going to try my best to give you the facts and not sugar coat you with tales of fidelity fairy dust.
“It doesn’t take exhaustive listening sessions to understand why Moon Audio cabling has already achieved near-cult-like status.” – Neil Gader, The Absolute Sound
At Moon Audio, we use the best raw materials in our cables to unveil your music. We believe that the materials matter. Your cable should have the same care and craftsmanship that manufacturers put into their audio cables. Why is the cable always an afterthought, when it’s just as important as the rest of your system? It is ultimately the connection to your music. The fact remains that cabling is often considered the last priority to that of the main product and a means to cut down the overall production costs. It’s as simple as that.
Generally, stock cables are manufactured with subpar materials, metals with impurities, poor geometries, and an overabundance of layers to make them look and feel like a fire hose. Inconsistency and lack of quality control in stock cables can lead to poor sound quality and a veiled sound vs what the musician intended for you to hear and feel from the music. Dragon cables are handcrafted daily by our engineers in Cary, NC to the highest standards and made to order according to your specific connection .
At Moon Audio, we create a custom cable for you using the highest quality UP-OCC silver or copper conductors that can be manufactured. We have one of the largest collections of connection options available and we can create hundreds of combinations depending on your specific gear and needs.
UP-OCC: What Is It?
We use what is called UP-OCC. This stands for Ultra Pure Ohno Continuous casting and it's a process developed by Dr. Ohno of Japan. Conventional methods of extruding copper often result in multiple and fractionated crystalline structures. Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) has a distinctive effect on your audio quality that some might find lacking, as it tends to "sterilize" the audio for most. The OCC process uses a heated mold for extruding, whereas other processes involve a cooled mold. The cooling process in OCC takes place separately, resulting in larger crystal sizes and increased purity. So, from a materials perspective, the OCC process is far superior to OFC.
Correcting Bad Sound
Materials matter. Remember that? Copper and Silver conductors can craft the signature and affect the overall tone of your music. If your headphones are too forward sounding for the kind of music you like to listen to, don’t worry – pairing them with a Black Dragon cable will bring out more warmth and create a music presentation which should counter-balance the troublesome higher frequencies of your headphones.
On the other side, if your headphones are very warm sounding, then pairing them with a Silver Dragon cable will bring out more details and tighten up the lower frequency ranges. There is always a perfect cable pairing depending on what you want out of your gear or music.
Moon Audio Connections - A Connector for Every Need
One thing that sets Moon Audio apart from other cable manufacturers is that we create custom solutions for you. Our office is stocked with hundreds of high-quality connectors that are available by custom order. Most cable manufacturers have their set generic connection types and lengths, without giving the consumer the option of customizing it for their specific gear. Moon Audio cables are custom ordered and hand made to your exact specifications, providing a cable tailored to your audio system.
Need a custom cable solution? Look no further. Please Contact Us with your cable needs!