I made SPD/IF digital cable (to be used between my transport and DAC) using VH Audio’s Pulsar mini-coax cable together with my second pair of Fine Silver Interconnect cables. Pulsar mini-coax utilizes a fine (28 AWG) single high-purity bare copper center conductor, surrounded by a solid FEP dielectric and it is cryogenically treated. A few months prior, I used Pulsar cable to connect SPDIF RCA socket and D/A board of my AudioNote Kits’ DAC 3.1 Signature. I never thought mere 4” hook up wire could make a difference but the improvements but it made significant improvements. So, my expectation was high.
For the plugs, I decided to use WBT’s NextGen 0110Cu RCA plugs because NextGens are the only RCA plugs with published impedance of 75 ohms. I chose 0110 because of its published frequency handling specification of up to 1GHz (by the way 0102 is up to 250 Mhz.) As to the material of the plug, I chose copper. Since the cable’s conductor was copper, I did not think there would be notable benefit in using more expensive silver plugs.
Due to very thin solid wire conductor and stiff Teflon sleeves, Pulsar cable was bit challenging to work with. I took me some tries and patience to get it right. Due to the small diameter of the cable, I used about half an inch of VH Audio Teflon tubing and heat shrink to create “collars” at the ends of the cable so that the plugs can be securely installed.
I am happy to report that this cable exceeded my expectations. Even before the cable was broken-in, improvements were quite remarkable. First thing I noticed was much greater sense of “air” and “space” around the instruments. Sound stage was much wider and sound imaging became clearer with greater sense of depth and placements. Significantly more amounts of detail can be heard including some sounds I was hearing for the first time from the CDs I had owned for years and played often. The best part was that the sound was natural with with the least amount of “digital harshness” I have ever heard from my system.
After about 4+ weeks, I decided to compare it against my old digital cables. The comparison confirmed to me that the Pulsar is the most transparent, revealing, natural and neutral sounding digital cable I have used in my system so far by a wide margin. With the Pulsar, it became much easier to differentiate sound quality of recordings. The great recordings will demonstrate to me how good of a sound that my system is capable of producing. Especially with a good live recording, it produced greater sense of being there. But if a CD is bright sounding or if the recording/mastering was mediocre or outright bad, I could clearly hear weaknesses. However, Pulsar had never rendered those CDs un-listenable or un-enjoyable. Overall, I find myself turning the volume much louder and enjoying listening to CDs more than ever before.
Having said the above, it is conceivable that there are many audiophiles may judge the Pulsar to be too revealing and detailed. During this 4 week+ period, I did feel the same way a few times. Each time I installed one of my old digital cables back in the system. Those were the cables that I used to think as being musical and warm sounding. Yes they did sound warm and musical but I could not over come the loss of musical information to the point that timbre of acoustic instruments did not sound as accurate as I would like them to be. Every time, after playing a few tracks, I put the Pulsar back.
My impressions seem to echo key points of other reviews on the Internet. Here are two examples:
“…very revealing without being forward, bright or shrill…” (http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/cables/messages/89433.html).
“The cable offers a very high resolution yet natural presentation of detail…,” and “This is the most transparent cable I’ve had the pleasure of using in my system, digital or otherwise” (http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/cables/messages/98574.html)
While not cheap, Pulsar may be the ultimate “budget” audiophile digital cable (SPDIF RCA to RCA) at the time of writing. Cost of materials for 1m pair is well under $200 (using pair of WBT -0110 Cu RCA plugs.) I would even venture to speculate that this might be one of the best digital cables out there regardless of price. It would certainly give run for the money to many of the extremely expensive digital cables out there. Highly recommended.