Cardas Audio Clear Reflection Interconnect and Speaker Cable

Fluid and Coherent

Equipment report
Loudspeaker cables,
Cardas Audio Clear Reflection
Cardas Audio Clear Reflection Interconnect and Speaker Cable

In addition, Clear Reflection speaker cable apparently employs a modified geometry that was implemented in the Golden Reference, but CR has the same forged, rhodium-plated copper connectors used in the flagship Clear Beyond model. CR is “shotgun” bi-wireable, like Golden Reference was. (Clear Beyond is the only other Clear model that is also bi-wireable.) CR has a black jacket—like the Golden Reference had—with a copper-colored stress-relief bead (at the “Y” breakout for the + and – terminations), whereas the rest of the Clear line has a light blue jacket with black beads. CR interconnect apparently uses a conductor geometry similar to Clear’s, but employs fewer bundles of cable, though CR IC also uses the same connectors as the top Clear.

Right from the beginning Clear Reflection struck me as both coherent and fluid. Coherent because everything sounded organized and clean, without much interstitial noise or “splashiness,” if you will. And fluid because all types of music seemed to simply emanate with a wonderful sense of ease and immediacy, without any sort of subliminal tension. It was as if my inner dialog were, “Ah, this is nice. Just relax and enjoy the music.” I arrived at these impressions by means of the following audition process: 1) Switching the interconnect between the sources and the preamp and listening for a while; 2) switching the link between the preamp and power amp and listening some more; and 3) changing the speaker cable. I did this a couple of times in my own system and also repeated the process in an audio buddy’s system, a meticulously set-up and beautiful-sounding system. I also swapped my normal reference cables (Shunyata ZiTron Anaconda) to CR, and back again few times. Over the course of two months of listening, nothing altered this baseline “coherent and fluid” impression. The combination of coherence and fluidity allowed the music to take on a calm, non-electronic quality and a sense of “proper balance.” When I considered the unforced blend of drum head-and-body sounds, of acoustical guitar strings and body, or of a singer’s throat and chest, on a recording like Doug MacLeod’s There’s a Time [RR], it struck me that the CR’s coherence was responsible for many of those musical elements sounding believably proportioned. This coherent quality drew my attention to the musical progression in the songs rather than to an analytical breakdown of the particular sonic minutiae in the mix.

I also noted a light lower midrange emphasis in tonal balance—at least in direct comparison to my reference cables and to my friend’s Siltech cables. (Further comparisons are addressed below.) This more “low-weighted” quality helped lend a pleasant touch of warmth to the presentation—just as George Cardas set out to do. Mind you, the level of warmth in relationship to the aforementioned commendable levels of apparent speed, dynamic range, and overall resolution, was not the overriding quality I heard in the CR, nor was this warmth quotient as high as my recollections of the pre-Clear Golden Reference sound, but it still offered a beautiful blend of lovely timbre with image specificity and resolution.

We’ve already discussed the warmth factor, so let me address resolution next. The CR’s kind of clarity tends more towards allowing the greater whole to come through rather than spotlighting those aspects of the sound that might immediately suggest high resolution in an audiophile sense. For example, there was a winning balance between the sounds of the whole orchestra and the individual instruments throughout Miraculous Metamorphoses [RR]. CR’s resolution was also good enough to give me the distinct impression that the first piece on Miraculous, Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, was most likely recorded with different microphone placements and/or with different eq than the other works on the same release. (The Hindemith has much more of a front-of-the-hall perspective than either the Prokofiev Love for Three Oranges Suite or the Bartók Miraculous Mandarin Suite, with their more mid-hall perspective typical of Reference Recordings.)

As a corollary to resolution, I consider CR’s soundstaging and imaging performance to be strong points. The proportions of an overall soundscape are portrayed credibly, with commendable width, height, and depth—as well as depth layering. Individual images are rendered precisely and clearly but without exaggeration. Images also have heft and depth, rather than appearing like ethereal two-dimensional cutouts. Some other cables tend to spotlight aspects of the tonal spectrum. Not so with CR; everything “sings” with a unified voice.

So what we have here are a positive set of sonic qualities in a well-made cable at a very reasonable price—considering its performance and the current market. Can Clear Reflection compete with more expensive cables?

I compared CR to Shunyata Research ZiTron Anaconda interconnect/cable ($2250/1m, $4327/2.5m) in my own system and to Siltech Classic Anniversary 770i interconnect ($2700/1m) and the now discontinued LS-188 Classic Mk2 speaker cable (~$5200/2.5m when still available)—both without Siltech’s SATT treatment—in a friend’s system. This puts Clear Reflection ($1150/$2800) within a few hundred dollars of half the price of the other two cable sets.