Cables are huge in overall tone color for both digital and analog recording. When I was in the midst of putting together this studio three years ago, I had a conversation with a respected gear head who honestly felt there was no difference between Belden/Mogami/Canare, etc. A whole world of cable has opened up to me and I want to share the essence of that search. There are actually over 50 hi- fi cable makers that serve the audiophile market and they can all be seen (if you really want to be overwhelmed) at Here are two that I've been using.

Cardas Audio is an Oregon company with great service and friendly folks. For mic cables I highly recommend their newest and cheapest cable, the 2x24M, an amazing microphone cable at a reasonable price of $64 for 20 ft. These have Rhodium connectors and copper wire made in-house. Why is this cable worthy of a mic line upgrade? The midrange is huge; the low end is tight yet full and the highs are smooth all the way up. This cannot be underestimated since after the source and the mic (and placement) the mic cable is next in line. Mogami is "clean" but thin on the bottom, and Canare Quad has a big floppy bottom and sibilant highs, by comparison. The midrange of the 2x24M is amazing and you'll feel like you've never heard mids or lows in any of you other cables, once you hear it.

Next is Acoustic Zen, my personal favorite. Owned by cellist/engineer Robert Lee of San Marcos, CA, this brand is the most musical to my ear. They cost more money than the Cardas 2x24M, yet for critical analog lines like 2 mix to tape or monitor outs this one is highly recommended. I use the Matrix Reference XLR (a copper cable) to connect my Dynaudio monitors/sub. They also have a Silver Matrix version of these for more money. We are all used to the sound of copper and need the full mids it provides. For most people silver is too light in the mids for mixing. The Matrix Reference is going to blow you away with its openness and musicality. Well worth the price for critical lines, this cable has music pouring out of it. Acoustic Zen digital cables are truly amazing and I always go with their silver. The XLR version is called MC2 running $132/m. The S/PDIF version is simply called Silver Coax. The Silver Coax is not currently on their site yet they will make it for studios at $75 for a 1 m length. The tone of these silver cables is as close to "no cable" as I have heard, and the price is reasonable, considering we are talking about a new level. Again comparing to familiar brands Apogee/ Hosa/Canare digital, these silvers are like turning on the light. Bigger image, better sound all the way around and musical. Fortunately, Acoustic Zen will also deal to professional studios at a discount.

Now if you think all cables are the same you're probably laughing in hearty denial by now. And if you are on a really tight budget you will likely not be interested in such stuff, and rightly so. Yet if you have a sense that cables are as different as mics, pres and compressors, and you have the insanity to investigate, get some Cardas 2x24M mic lines and some Acoustic Zen copper Matrix Reference or Silver digital lines. You will hear blankets removed from the low end and sibilant sizzlers smoothed away from the top, yet the full mids on good cable are the thing that impresses me most. I spent $500 to replace mic lines with Cardas and $1500 on Matrix Reference copper and silver digital lines from Acoustic Zen, and this made everything in my studio sound full and open. You could make grand strides spending even less.


Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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