When spending a tiny bit extra is worth it: Coluber Cable

There’s something happening and I like it. More pro sound companies are making consumer and even high end products. When it comes to cables it’s easy to see the appeal. The pro stuff is lots cheaper. But what if it turns out the pro cables are better, too?

Buy this…

I can see the word Mogami forming on your lips, but no. No matter how many people talk about it, Mogami is simply not all that. But, there’s a new cable on the block and their stuff is excellent. The company is Coluber Cable.

Coluber came to my attention while I was evaluating the superb new EL DAC II+ from JDS Labs. As you can see, JDS does their DAC’s balanced-out via 1/4 inch TRS plugs. My guess is they do this because it takes up less real estate on the relatively small rear panel of the DAC.

So, I needed a pair of very short cables with a TRS connector on one end and a male XLR on the other. No problem, says Coluber! They made the cables for me, custom, for a price that was little more than the cost of the rather dreary WJSTN cables from Amazon. Hey WJSTN, might be time to head back to the marketing squad and come up with a better name! The simple fact is Coluber offers a cable (and connectors) of fantastic quality yet with customization options that extend all the way to color (yes, I like to being able to identify my cables easily).

How does each cable sound? The WJSTN, while arguably passable in a pinch, was possessed of a slightly threadbare midrange and a tizzy top end that spoiled things. Worst of all, the XLRs on the WJSTN are poorly dimensioned and fit overly tight. Unlike many connectors there are actual dimensional specifications for XLRs. Sadly, WJSTN isn’t following the spec. By comparison, the Coluber sounds silky smooth and is very quiet, just like a balanced cable should be, and they fit perfectly on both the TRS and XLR end.

I’m already preparing my next order with Coluber. My only wish is that Coluber would make a speaker cable of similar quality. But, even if they never do, I’ll keep coming back. Coluber’s products are simply too good to ignore.

…not this.
When spending a tiny bit extra is worth it: Coluber Cable

Bower & Wilkins P7 Headphone Review

I really thought my long term reference headphones were safe from the new kid on the block, the Bowers & Wilkins P7. Sometimes safety is an illusion.
I was prepared to be impressed by the P7, don’t get me wrong. The truth is I’ve never heard a B&W product that wasn’t impressive. But, headphones can be very tricky. Those little drivers are just so dang close to the ears. Plus, you’re literally wearing an entire speaker system on your head.
Face it. There’s a lot that can go wrong. It’s easy to build headphones that sound impressive, but it’s very difficult to create headphones that sound musical. Impressive is easy because headphones always enjoy two advantages. First, the amount of air the transducers have to move is very small. Second, that small air space is defined by the designers of the headphones who know if the resulting product will be an open, closed or in-ear design. Contrast this with the designer of a speaker system who has no idea about the size, shape or construction of the room where the system will be used. All of this makes it easy to build headphones that sound impressive.
The problem is that it’s music that we’re after. And, because the system is on our heads, comfort. At first, the P7 reminded me the sport seats in a BMW M3. They felt snug and a little constricting. After a while they became more comfortable as the leather ear cups broke in. I do wish the cable were longer (without the extension), that it didn’t have controls wired into it, and was based soley on a quarter inch TRS connector (or something even better…hint). Indeed, reviewers are always wanting more and better. It’s a universal constant.
The musical presentation of the P7 is exceptionally tidy. They are stunningly and totally neutral from top to bottom and this can create an initial impression that they’re slightly airless. They’re not. They are dazzlingly revealing of source material which makes them as musical as any headphone I’ve ever heard. They are part reviewer’s reference and part trusted friend to music lovers. Let’s get down to some examples. “I feel like going home” is an old Charlie Rich song (yes, Charlie Rich). The song got new life and a superb treatment by Brendan Croker on the 1990cult-favorite, Missing…Presumed Having a Good Time. It is a classic country song with the vocal front and center. The P7 conveys the fullness of Croker’s strong yet plaintive voice and retrieves every detail of Mark Knopfler’s superb guitar accompaniment. Songs like these that are not too densely produced and feature a voice and a single guitar yet have a powerful bass line can sound congested. The P7 let the track breathe effortlessly; with the lingering sound of both voice and guitar so clearly and delicately captured. The bass is tight, pitch-perfect and wonderfully extended.
Again, simply dazzling.
Recreation of acoustic space is always a challenge for headphone simply because there’s so little space inside the ear pieces. Of course, acoustic space is actually a product of the recording process and it’s something that is not always there to be retrieved. Many times analog recordings of days gone by captured more of that space and sometimes the magic survived the transfer to CD. That is surely the case with Celedonio Romero’s sublime version of “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” from his CD An Evening of Guitar Music. This hard-to-find Delos CD was recorded in analog in 1986. The last days of analog lead to some very good CD transfers. The analog recordists knew the room was a part of the music and so they made sure the listener could experience it. Acoustic space is fragile and easy lost. The P7s convey that sense of space perfectly and it can be heard in the transients that come with the plucking of the strings and the sustained, woody resonance of the guitar. As an aside, I always advise listeners to choose one recording that features a solo stringed instrument as their first evaluation tool. Choose music you love and that’s recorded sensibly and learn its sound and magic. There’s no better way to check for essential musicality and essential musicality is what the Bowers & Wilkins P7 are all about. 

I confess I had my doubts B&W could hit the ball out of the park especially at such a modest price point, but they have. Ever the audiophile, I can’t help but wonder if they have their sights on something even more ambitious, that perhaps the P7 is a kind of warning shot for something even better? While I await for that inspiration to take hold at B&W, I’ll be enjoying my P7s. It’s quite hard for me to imagine headphones I would enjoy more than the P7 but I still hope Bowers & Wilkins is busy working on it.
Bower & Wilkins P7 Headphone Review