The Three (Cable) Musketeers
...or what you can expect for modest outlays
MIT Terminator 5 interconnect cable
Graham Slee interconnect cable
Van den Hul D102 mkIII Hybrid interconnect cable
MIT, - USA
Graham Slee Projects, - UK
Van den Hul, - Holland
MIT Terminator 5, app Euro/$ 55
Graham Slee, app. Euro/$ 30 inc. shipping in Europe
Van den Hul 352 with Neutrik, app. Euro/$ 120
(Note: Cable prices vary rather much on different markets, and some are not available everywhere, so make sure how it goes on your home market)
Reviewer: Dejan V. Veselinovic
Reviewed: September, 2001
Most of the TNT Forum brigade will probably have made their own cables as per any one of TNT projects - but not everybody is into making cables. Some people actually prefer to buy them, would you believe. It's for those who would rather buy than make that this test was performed.
No particular selection criteria were applied, these three were simply taken as a bunch because they were readily available.
MIT Terminator.5 - This is a cable for which the manufacturer claims two essential properties. One is a much more even top to bottom energy transfer (i.e. greater linearity), and the other is relative immunity as compared to classic cables to RF and other airborne interference. Looking at their literature, I saw not one place where the manufacturers claims any special materials.
The cables are 1m (app. 3.3 ft) long, including the equalizer bulge. They are directional and clearly marked regarding how they should be connected, but as a general rule, the bulges go towards the unit the signal is flowing to. Quality of construction is good to very good, but nothing to write home about. RCA Cinch connectors are gold plated and grip fairly well.
Graham Slee - Mr Slee is no novice on TNT, and hopefully, elsewhere too. His offer is but one model strong, modestly called Cable 1. It uses OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) 80 strand cable, however not with single, but with a double shielding. One shielding, the inner one, uses conductive carbon fibre. The cable is said to have a capacitance of 120 pF per meter, and to be suitable for equipment with an output impedance of 1.3 kiloohms or less.
These are in fact two cables, externally joined in the middle. They are 5-6 mm thick, yet are quite supple and will not break easily. Both are terminated with color coded, gold plated RCA Cinch jacks of very good quality. Their grip is positive, and there's no chance of them coming off unless yanked off.
Van den Hul D102 Mk.3 - This cable is locally available custom cut to desired length. I purchased mine at a very short 0.5 meter length, and had them terminated with Neutrik RCA jacks. This is composite material cable, which should surprise none but those who are not acquainted with Professor van den Hul, who teaches metallurgy in Holland and who is one of composite materials pioneers. Beside the OFC copper, we also have conductive carbon fibre in the mix, but exactly how, VDH is not saying.
This is a rather hard cable, despite its short length, and will not yield or bend easily. However, the Neutrik RCA Cinch jacks need to be unscrewed for mounting, and then screwed again for good grip. Once tightened, they will provide as much grip as is reasonably possible. It goes without saying the quality of gold plating, fit and finish is excellent - but also expensive.
MIT Terminator 5. There is something to be said about MIT's claim of better than usual energy transfer, as this cable, their cheapest, does offer an excellent balance top to bottom. However, in my view, it also shows many faults. Most notable ones are a subjective lack of bass depth (it may be clean and clear, but doesn't seem to go very deep down), a dulled treble range, but most of all, a definite loss of ambient detail. This is rather striking in low level listening, as fine musical nuances seem lost, and the music comes across as rather flat and lifeless. Sort of like listening to public address system, the volume is there, but there's no finesse.
Graham Slee Cable 1. This cable put in a rather surprising performance. Because of its price, I didn't expect too much of it, but in fact got quite a ride nevertheless. It came after the MIT, and the change was most obvious. Soundtracks came alive, detail was restored to a high degree, and most important to me, the passion was indeed there.
Fine nuances could be heard, something I don't expect to happen at this price, but obviously, surprises do happen occasionally. It would be unreasonable to expect it all, and Cable 1 does show up one larger fault - it lacks the bass energy and gravitas. It reminded me of a quality bookshelf speaker - great as far as it goes, but due to size constraints, don't expect the bottom two octaves to be really great.
VDH D102 MK 3. Well, this one has it all - top, middle and bottom, and bottom in its case is very, very deep. Hardly surprising, given its price, fit and finish, but then, it hasn't been just once that I had something expensive around which simply didn't measure up to some of its significantly cheaper competitors.
But this cable can deliver almost anything that is in the program material, leaving my KA-i180 to deliver it to the speakers. The point here is, this cable can transfer the emotion in and behind the music, the fire in the music which is all too often lacking elsewhere.
MIT Terminator 5. Pushing the volume up always brings out an extra layer of detail, and the MIT was no exception. Unfortunately, even so, this cable ended up sound dead, lifeless, with about as much passion as a wet rag. It's still very linear, but still very dead. I expected greater volumes to improve its standing, but this was hoping in vain.
Graham Slee Cable 1. It's rather nice to notice that this cable kept its basic composure even at very high volume levels. It simply retained its basic character, only delivered larger signals. The music still came across as lively, with emotion, and I never bothered wondering why was I listening to this. However, it still lacked the bottom octave bass extension, and still made me feel I was listening to a very good bookshelf miniature speaker. But there's no denying listening was really fun and well worth my while.
Van den Hul D102 MK 3. If you need subtle nuances, this cable will deliver. If you need complexity and massive sound stages, this cable will deliver. If you want blood, thunder and brimstone, this cable will deliver. In fact, this cable's greatest virtue is that it delivers whatever there is to deliver, and if it's not there, then it probably wasn't there in the original material. It's rewarding to listen to at low levels, but at high levels, it's downright stupendous. More than that. High volumes sound supremely clean and clear, just loud - not easy to do.
MIT Terminator 5. I expect this cable would measure very well, and I wouldn't deny its technical merits. But musically, and despite its linearity, it's just as dead as those junk cables you get with most mass produced CD players. And to my mind, it's nonsense to pay so much for undeniably better linearity with such gross lack of emotion and detail. My advice to you is to forget it.
Graham Slee Cable 1. I admit to being somewhat surprised by this inexpensive product, though it's not the only one which pulls off some neat tricks at around this price point. Yet it was a highly entertaining, very worthwhile competitor, its only shortcoming being some lack of bass gravitas. It is, in fact, a very, very British sounding cable, to my mind at least - clear, well defined, detailed, with good perspective, but with a lack of US of A bass extension. This may or may not be important to you, and after all, bass extension is also a rather subjective term, which in addition to that also depends on your overall system sound. I have no doubt it will be a revelation to first time buyers moving up the scale from generically supplied interconnects, but also to owners of some well known cables which cost them rather more.
Van den Hul D102 MK 3. As supplied, at about one half the length of the other cables, this cable had an advantage over the other two. The Neutrik RCA jacks put the rest to shame, but do so at a healthy price premium. Even at its relative half length, this cable is more than twice the price of the MIT and almost four times the price of Cable 1, a fact which cannot be ignored. Fortunately, it makes good by being very open and revealing, allowing the best of the music to come through - while expected, this is not always so with equally priced or even more expensive cables from other sources. Its only relative failing is the stiffness of the cable and its somewhat elevated price, but if audio is important to you, this is about as good as they come, for really better you'll have to pay several times its price.
So, in short - MIT Terminator 5 is way overpriced for the sound it offers, Graham Slee Cable 1 has by far the best price/performance ratio and a satisfying sound overall, and Van den Hul D102 MK 3 is the best of the lot, but at a price well exceeding the other two.
© Copyright 2001 Dejan Veselinovic - http://www.tnt-audio.com
HTML - Scott Faller