Religion and politics are often considered impolite topics for civilized dinner conversation. When it comes to audio, you can add cables to that list. For some, the differences between cables are quite clear, while others claim they make no difference whatsoever. And don't expect this conflict to clear up anytime soon.
I tend to approach cables with a healthy dose of skepticism. I do believe they can make a difference, but as with any product where improvements are subtle and subjective, there is ample room for snake oil salesmen. So, I'll admit, I was a little guarded the first time I met Danacable's Dana Robbins at AXPONA back in April 2016. He offered a simple test. On the left was a HiFiMAN HE-560 with a stock cable. On the right was the same headphone with a Danacable Lazuli. Both were plugged in to the excellent Wells Audio Enigma amplifier playing the same song from the same source. A fairly straightforward A/B comparison.
Okay, time to apply the scientific method. First, I tried the stock HE560, which performed as expected – linear, with a little extra brightness, a strong performer overall at its price point, but prone to occasional bits of harshness. Control group: check. Time for the variable. I put on the HE560 attached to the DanaCable, expecting to hear a few subtle differences, if anything at all.
The differences were not subtle.
What I heard left me quite stunned. It is perhaps best described as the difference you would expect from a substantial amplifier upgrade. Almost like comparing my reference Cavalli Liquid Crimson ($2999) to the flagship Liquid Gold ($3999). Perhaps not night and day, yet most certainly a very noticeable upgrade within the grand scheme of things. Treble became substantially smoother. The midrange and bass became fuller. The soundscape is deeper and more precise, and so Danacable's Lazuli was the real deal.
I asked Dana how it was possible to get such noticeable differences from a cable. What was the science behind it? He explained cables cannot "improve" the sound, they can only hope to cause as little signal degradation as possible. As passive devices, cables have only three parameters that can affect the sound: capacitance, inductance and resistance.
Capacitance and inductance are a zero sum game, reducing one increases the other, and so once those are balanced out, decreasing resistance becomes the key to keeping the original waveform intact. With less resistance, the amplifier can more accurately start and stop the driver, preventing overhang and smearing in the waveform that distorts the intended sound.
The Danacable Lazuli (starting at $549) does this by using 600 individual strands of oxygen-free copper (OFC) to form a thick and seamless conduit for the signal to travel to and from the headphone. Its big brother, the Lazuli Reference (starting at $1199), provides even less resistance, with 1200 individual strands of OFC, to provide the highest level of accuracy for the world's very best headphones, including the HiFiMAN HE-1000 ($2999), Focal Utopia ($3999), Audeze LCD-4 ($3999) and JPS Labs Abyss AB-1266 ($5495) – with plans to add more in the future.
Now that we have the science out of the way, let's move on to the most important part, the sound.
Addition By Subtraction
In addition to the extra body and weight, the midrange gained a great sense of ease with the Danacable, which made many other cables seem harsh and shouty by comparison. Brass is delivered with smooth, relaxing ease, rather than blaring into your eardrums. Music simply flows from the headphone. On the HD800, which is often accused of being cold, harsh and analytical, the mids lost their sense of dryness and the tone became much more easygoing and true-to-life. If the goal of neutrality is to bring the reproduction of the recording as close as possible to the original performance, then this is as close to neutral as I have ever heard the HD800 sound.
Sub-bass and midbass come forth with ease and warmth, offering powerful rumble and impact. After listening to the Lazuli, switching to other cables makes the bass seem unnaturally restrained and thin. Plugging in the Lazuli Reference cable to the JPS Labs Abyss AB-1266 makes the bass seem even more speaker-like, with a great sense of tightness and musical engagement that makes you feel like you are inside the music, rather than simply listening to it.
Up top, treble performance is very detailed and well controlled. On the Sennheiser HD800 the well-known 6kHz treble spike was kept in strict check, far better than any other cable I've tried. That isn't to say that it disappeared altogether, but I was able to comfortably listen to the HD800 at much louder volumes than I would with the stock cable, or even my 8-strand Double Helix DIY cable. If I had to make one complaint, I would say that the overall thickness across the frequency spectrum made the treble seem a little less airy than some other cables, but this is more by virtue of contrast than technicality.
Across all three standard Lazuli Cables I tested (for Sennheiser, Mr. Speakers and Audeze) and the Lazuli Reference cable, I found these tonal changes to be quite consistent. There is a warmer tone that has quite a bit of body and weight, an easy and natural midrange, plus a delightful smooth treble. This change is, at least in part, due to the excellent attack and decay properties afforded by this especially low resistance of the cable. Transient attack seems to be absolutely spot-on, bringing a sharp sense of realism and focus to the music. Decay is similarly excellent, almost completely forgoing the harshness that comes with overshoots on the back-end of a inadequately damped waveform. This microscopic damping accuracy explains the aforementioned sense of "ease" I detected in the midrange earlier.
The levels of detail, clarity and inner resolution are strong, which is especially impressive given that they aren't being given a bump by artificially boosted treble. I found this to be especially apparent in vocal harmonies. On the chorus of Fleetwood Mac's classic "Gold Dust Woman", not only is each voice distinct (and far more so than with any other cable I have heard) but you can hear the inner tone of each voice with stunning clarity. The sonic imaging is equally impressive, as each singer occupies a distinct space in the soundstage.
The overall size of the soundscape is comparable to other cables I tried, showcasing similar width, slightly greater height and more layers of image depth overall.
Compared again to the Kimber Kable Axios, the Kimber seemed more detail-forward, though I found this was largely due to a decreased lower midrange presence on the Axios. In reality, the Lazuli was just as detailed. The Kimber also has a more airy treble, but the Danacable Lazuli was smoother and slightly more refined up top. There was not a clear winner between the two, although I found that I generally preferred the Danacable for most genres due to its fuller sound.
Quantifying The Value
Make no mistake about it, the Danacable Lazuli and Lazuli Reference represent some of the best of the best when it comes to cables, offering top-notch musicality and performance that is up to snuff with even more expensive cables like the excellent Kimber Kable Axios.
Perhaps even better is that they offer consistent and predictable positive sonic changes, so they can be prescriptively added to a system to give a greater sense of fullness and ease to the midrange, more robust bass, and smoother treble. For those looking to enhance any or all of those areas in their system, the Danacable Lazuli or Lazuli Reference will make a fantastic addition.
Products Used Within This
Manufacturer Reply Plus You Can Save $150 Off Lazuli Reference Cable
Each Danacable is handcrafted with the utmost care and is thoroughly tested before leaving our shop. Each comes with the 30-day money back guarantee because we only want delighted customers.
By popular demand, we will now offer as options Furutech connectors on our Lazuli Reference. Please check our website Danacables.com for details.
Also, to coincide with this review, we will offer $150 off our Lazuli Reference cable in the month of November 2016 to customers who mentioned this Enjoy the Music.com review when ordering (use the code ETM Nov 2016 on the website). This offer ends on November 30, 2016.
Dana Robbins and Vinh Vu
Lazuli Reference with 1/4" or four-pin connector, three meter length -