So anyone who’s read a bit in this blog knows that I prioritize and match when it comes to optimizing my signal path, whether it’s analog or digital. The first priority for me is the quality of the music (i.e. recordings) then shortly after that the quality at the opposite ends of the signal path which is the transducers, meaning the phono cartridge for analog (The formidable Denon 103 vs. 103R low output moving coil phono cartridges – is there really a difference?…) and the speakers (It’s all about reducing mass for the transducers), which are of course dependent upon room acoustics (Why do speakers need to be matched to room acoustics?…).
Following that comes the amplification of the signal path, and finally the interconnects used between the various stages to accomplish this. When I purchased my vintage Denon direct drive turntable (Denon DP-790W turntable review) the tonearm cable was an obvious candidate for replacement. Not only was it 40 years old but even when new it was of average quality at best by today’s standards.
In my discussion of interconnects (a couple good examples of fact vs. fiction in the high end audio world) you will note that I’ve found great sound quality from quality interconnects selling for under $50. And, I’m hard pressed to hear an improvement when spending more than that, even when listening to my reference recordings (What is a “reference recording”?). But… one look at this original Denon tonearm cable will tell you it was sub-par, even by those standards.
And thus began the quest to find a suitable replacement. Unfortunately, being firmly planted in the realm of modern high end audio due to the fact that I’m seeking an esoteric tonearm cable, I was lost in a quagmire of highly overpriced options (ranging from around $500 and up to $2k) claiming to, once again, defy the laws of physics and perform some sort of voodoo magic on any music played (Speaker Cables and The quest for some bang for the buck in interconnects and speaker cables).
Enter the DIY cable market. Yes, I could buy the materials and make the cables myself, but I figured there must be someone out there who is way better at it and doing just that for resale, and thus the eBay search began. Of course, this search was exasperated by the fact that my tonearm used a five pin DIN connection, circa 1970s. The first “homemade” set I purchased for around $60 used Belden cable and Cardas terminations (including the five pin DIN) so should have done the job nicely, but unfortunately they had untenable hum so back they went. I kept poking around on eBay to no avail until I started looking internationally and then… bingo, I found a couple options. So I pulled the trigger on the Canare tonearm cable shown below and couldn’t be happier.
Zero hum and noticeable sonic improvement immediately, even prior to burn in. These are simply gorgeous handmade cables that sound every bit as good as they look. You can see and feel the quality of the craftsmanship, and the attention to detail is suitably reflected in their sound quality.
Even when the package showed up, all the way from the UK, I could tell this guy was a meticulous craftsman by the packaging and hand written labelling.
Oh yeah, and the price?… Great value at $85 plus $6 priority shipping from England. And when I finally upgraded my turntable in Canada to a Denon direct drive, I purchased another one (custom length this time) to replace it’s original tonearm cable as well.