Audio Ramblings and the Matrix Cables from Black Cat Cable
04-22-2019 | By Dave Clark | Issue 103
Okay, so let’s cut to the chase, the Black Cat Matrix line of cables (specifically the 3202 interconnects, 3232 speaker cables, and the DIGIT USB) are exemplary. Stunningly good for the price. Competitive with cables I have here that cost several times the 3202 interconnect’s $699.95 per meter, 3232 speaker cable’s $649.95 per 1.5 meters, and the DIGIT USB’s at $749.95 per meter.
Like, what the hell?! How does Chris get this sound, this performance, this level of musicality for such—the world of high-end audio—a seriously affordable price? The scary thing is that these are the not the least expensive cables Chris offers—he does have cables costing way less—so how good are those at a few hundred? Plus, as good as these are, I would be hard pressed to want to go further up the Black Cat ladder (he does offer cables that are several thousand dollars)! I mean, those would have to be insanely good!
Alright, so I spilled the beans here. Yeah, these are a new benchmark for me in terms of what I want, what I like to hear with our music in our room with our system (and Carol too), what I can get, and what I can afford. Yes, I said afford. See we have zero interest in reviewing really expensive audio related items (components and the like) as we cannot afford them, even at Industry accommodation. Let’s make it something two retired Public Education educators can buy… something that the vast majority of our readers can buy. Realistic audio.
At under $1k, the Black Cat line is rather affordable. Of course, the term “affordable” means what to who? Well, for us, as I said, it means we can buy them. For someone making 6 figures, they are affordable, but then so would be cables costing several times that price. Anyhow, while I might be way off the point here… hopefully you get my drift.
So, the Black Cat cables are great but jeez man… could you say something that might give us a wee bit more in terms of what you heard? How your music sounded with the cables in your system?
And so sure… but please consider this as a blanket statement of sorts for all of the cables here: the interconnects, speaker, and USB as they are all cut from the same cloth… sound wise that is.
With any of the cables in the system, the music opens up. There is more space and clarity to the music, to the individuality of the instruments or sounds. Think light, think brighter. Not brighter in terms of being bright or titled up, but brighter in terms of light. Light that delineates the edges and space of the instruments and sounds. Light in the sense of hearing more. These are clearly the most palpable cables I have had here …ever.
Smooth and refined. Balanced and dynamic. Extended and clean. Bass is quite startling solid and there. Bam… rumble. Extended and very well defined. No bloat or smear… texture is there in spades as well.
Think of how objects are expanded out from the original object to show the parts. The cables pretty much do that. They take a denser soundscape and open it up, letting one perceive more in terms of what is there. As I said, increased definition and delineation of the space and images. Of the instruments and sounds. You feel like you are hearing more. More music. More light. Can’t beat that!
My other reference cables tend to offer a denser perspective of the sound… more “all-together thereness-ess” in a whole… as opposed to the Black Cat’s expanded view. And for sure, my other reference cables tend to be a bit darker, and perhaps a bit warmer or richer—fuller perhaps to that of the ever so leaner Black Cat. Not a bad thing. Not a wrong thing. Just a different thing.
I never noticed that till we went back and forth. Yeah, the other cables are bit fuller than the Black Cats, but then we lost something along the way. Where did that presence and information go? Less light… less “I can hear more stuff!” Well not so much more stuff… just that the stuff is more apparently there and tangible. Yeah, maybe that is what it is… more tangible and tactile in terms of us being engaged. Out into the room… expanded and space.
Are they hyped? I don’t feel so. Nor do I feel that the other cables are muffled or lacking in some ways. Am thinking it is really more about presentation and perspective, though, I dunno… perhaps not. Perhaps it is how they are made that allows the music to get across with greater clarity and whatnot. Of course, it really does not matter in the end. Either you like them or you don’t. Either cable A works for you or it doesn’t, and Cable B or C is all that matters. Different systems, music… wants, needs, expectations of what is there.
Yeah, I really love what the Black Cat do with our music… pace, rhythm, space… reach out and touch me. Dynamic and fast as all get out. Not least bit fatiguing, just way fun. But for sure different than what we are used to hearing.
So how does Chris do this? From his site on the cable’s construction:
This is a multilayered cable that begins with a 6mm core of pure cotton rope sourced from Japan. This is central to the cable as a means of creating a core that is mechanically damped. Around the core is a braid of 32 bare, pure copper strands at 30 AWG each (summing to 15AWG), then an interstitial layer of braided multifilament nylon, a secondary layer of 32 braided copper wires – same as the interior layer of wire – and finally an overall braided jacket of nylon.
A Matrix-32 outer shell forms the signal layer. Comprised of 32 individually-enameled pure copper strands braided into a very fine tube of counter-rotating helices around a thin-walled PTFE (“Teflon”) tube. A thin, bare-copper Airwave™ conductor, Nami-processed to ensure that it remains substantially suspended in the air, is run down the center of the PTFE tube.
This is a very different take on the ordinary/mundane USB architecture that you’ll find even in some of the most expensive luxury-level USB cables available. In this instance, it provides twin 45-ohm highly precise micro-coaxial cables with real silver-plated copper-foil shielding (NOT metallized plastic mylar!) for the data lines, run within a PTFE (Teflon) tube. Power and Ground are run in a separate layer in counter-rotating helices using my Matrix-32 Interpole™ system, and then an overall jacket is woven around the whole form.
What one gets is a “smaller” diameter cable, in appearance, that still offers a big sound. There is a lot going on inside these cables, they just don’t come in giant tubes. Very flexible, easy to run, and beautifully finished from end to end. The packaging is quite nice, and, in many ways, the overall presentation exudes the fine craftsmanship and beauty found in the best components from Japan… where Chris used to live for a number of years. This exquisite craftsmanship shows the love and attention Chris puts into each cable as he makes these one at a time, per order, here in the States.
It all works. I love these and what they do with our music. I can’t recommend these highly enough. A solid audition to those who are looking for the best, but cannot afford the multi-thousand-dollar options. A true reference cable for under $5k.
Okay, so earlier I said that needing to hear what Chris has to offer with his more expensive cables is not needed… well, now I wonder what he can do with those above these… till then, I we have a winner.
Artists we played during this review…
The Notwist , Aeroc , Miser, The Cure, Lambchop , Boris Divider , Billie Eilish, Arovane, Massive Attack, UNKLE , Andy Stott , Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and so on and so on…