CHeLA is Chris’ attempt to replicate the performance of his DIY speaker cables made with CAT 5 computer network cable in a more user friendly and easy to assemble form. I did notice that CAT 5 based DIY speaker cables looks very similar to the speaker cables used by Bob Katz for his mastering studio monitors (please refer to photos in his book Mastering Audio 2nd ed.) Since Chris’ CAT5 speaker cable recipe were posted in the web much earlier than the publication date of Bob’s book, it is not hard to assume that Bob used Chris’ recipe to make his speaker cables or we can always say that great minds think the same.
Given the relatively high price this cable, it took me a considerable amount of time to build up a faith by reading whatever I can find about CHeLA to make decision to buy this cable. I have also spent many hours of auditioning different types and brands of speaker cables to find if there are speaker cables in this price range that I may like. I was becoming quite obsessed in search for the right set of cables for my newly acquired SAP Quartettes at the time.
The assembly was not difficult but very tedious. There were stripping 40 strands of small gauge Teflon insulated wires on each side of the cable so I had to strip 160 times! For the termination, I used Eichmann Banana plugs. Although WBTs seems to Chris’ choice, Eichmanns were much cheaper.
When I installed the completed cables and turned the music on, my anxiety about the sonic performance of this cable was met with the relief. Even without broken-in, there was nothing I dislike about this cable. It just sounded right. As they broke in, they sounded even better. The most notable attribute about this cable is the naturalness and neutrality. It does not seem to have a sound of it’s own. CHeLA seems to lift layers of veils and the makes the sound much clearer but never bright. It is highly resolving as I can hear more details but never sounds analytical. The frequency response seems to be well extended but flat, no particular emphasis was introduced by the cable. Difference in recording became clearly distinguishable yet never makes bad sounding recording unlistenable. Over time, I realized that any changes or flaws in the upstream become clearly audible.
Overall, I am extremely happy with this cable. One caveat, as this cable does not seems to “mask” or “color” the sound, CHeLA may not be the right choice for those looking for a cable to “tune/compensate” the sound as most of us audiophiles (including me) often do (and I do not see anything wrong with that.)
Due to my recent move, I was in a need to get a longer speaker cables than CHeLA that I have. Since the price of CHeLA increased quite a bit with the introduction of the new OCC copper version, I decided to try VH Audio’s 18 AWG UniCrystal OCC Copper Hookup wire with AirLok insultation. I made pair of speaker cables by twisting two hook-up wires, covered with expandable cable sleeves and terminated with Audio Note UK’s silver plated copper banana plugs. It worked wonders in my system. CHeLA had better sound stage depth but other than that I did not lose much sonic performance and if anything, I feel gained a bit more clarity and details out of my system without becoming bright or harsh.