Cardas Audio Clear Beyond XL Phono Cable
The story begins with my review of the House of Cardas Clear Beyond Phono Cables back in PF Issue 102, clearly then the best ever from the genius we fondly refer to as George Cardas. They equaled or exceeded the overall performance of anything I have tried at any price, ever. I was content.
Next, George Counnas, chief designer of Zesto, takes the Zesto Audio Line to AXPONA 2019 and wires up the works with Cardas, his new reference cable of choice. George Counnas's reference, not George Cardas's reference... follow so far? Anyway, Counnas is handed the new "secret" phono cable Cardas made for the AXPONA show, and was considering adding it to the line-up. With two cable legs instead of one, the XL Special Order appears to be an advanced shotgun version with special tweaks... 3D Printed Adapter... to make it just right. George Counnas contacts me with an update on AXPONA and mentions the new cable and his shock and awe over its added soundstage, depth, and clarity. I email Angela Cardas. I now have and report this remarkable audiophile gift to aficionados everywhere who want to maximize their precious cartridge choice with the state of the art in connectivity: Cardas Clear Ahead XL!
With a dramatic increase in sheer image focus, more power and slam, added snap, and no added noise of any kind, the XL quickly earned the mantle of the king of phono cables in my reference system. Its $4,500 cost for 1.5 meters now looked like a bargain. The XL built on the Clear Ahead in every parameter with the exception of quiet. Plus, the bass became more expansive and natural in ways that I had never expected to hear from LPs. The XL eliminated any final compression, coloration, and interface distortion, so that they seemed to not exist at all. Audiophile friends of mine kept remarking that the system had extraordinary ease and limitless power they did not remember hearing before. I agree.
With a stack of Test Pressings, lacquers, and new releases, I proceeded to challenge the XL.
The XL is great cable and just does not have any failings. It has no house sound or added anything. Nor does it subtract from the recording. I love the sense of limitlessness the Cardas Clear Beyond XL brings to phono. The Clear Beyond standard premium version has a lot of this, but the XL expands the entire soundstage in every direction including height. It frees the music and brings in the "blood and guts."
My original EMI and Mercury recordings had a greater sense of reality and a more tape-like presentation. In other words, these original classics got better with the XL, appearing less compressed. Keep in mind the Grado Epoch, at $12,000, is a masterpiece of a cartridge, and appeared to have more to offer with the XL... no surprise.
In addition to the bold strokes, subtle micro nuances are more obvious and alive. The midrange is loaded with timbral nuance, and the XL draws more attention to the tiniest of these. Triangles, castanets, wood blocks, and harp become image-perfect. Usually, their approximate position in space is all you hear. The XL conveys both the least and the most with outstanding control.
Finally, the XL imparts a sense of the performance, if your cartridge imparts that information, to a new exalted level of realism. The experience is communicated with riveting impact. The XL is much more than just wire. It is the missing link.
The Best Of The Best
By the way, I never did tell you why George Counnas chose Cardas cables for Zesto Audio demonstrations.
Per George (Counnas), he wins more Best of Show accolades wired with Cardas than any other brand.