Not long ago, I was chatting with George—not George Cardas, but with George Counnas, genius creator of Zesto Audio's celebrated electronics. I asked him if he had read my review of the Cardas Clear Beyond XL power cords. I predict a synergy between the two, like the BIA 120 and the XL and more. To my surprise, George said he uses five of them! The Clear Beyond line of Cardas Cables is his reference wire for all Zesto Audio demonstrations. I asked him if the Cardas Clear Beyond phono cables would yield the same extraordinary performance and be flexible to use. I am tired of expensive unwieldy wire. He recommended I try it, though he uses a Benz MC and I use the Grado Epoch MI cartridge.
Reference phono setup for this review is as follows:
- Grado Epoch phono cartridge
- EAT Forte S turntable with EAT 12 inch tonearm
- EAT Heavy Platter Weight, 900 Grams
- Straight DIN connector to RCA
- E.A.R. 912 Preamplifier with switchable dual phono RCA inputs
Cardas kindly sent me a two meter Clear Beyond phono cable and after installing it between the turntable and preamp the fun began; a half hour of break-in was all that was necessary and the cable's unique structure and complexity did not make it inflexible. The Cardas wire performed just like its name: Clear Beyond.
Compared to my three phono cable references with DIN connectors, the Cardas is truly special, and in two ways outperformed my cost-no-object references:
- Musical colors were more saturated enhancing realism.
- Definition at all frequencies was extraordinary with rounded imaging, less phase distortion, and powerful dynamics.
Though my other cable references seemed snappier, they failed to communicate real energy, and sounded thinner by comparison. I am talking more than subtleties here, as this design takes the listener one significant step closer to the qualities inherent in a state of the art cartridge.
For complete construction information and technical specifications of the Cardas Clear Beyond phono cable, go HERE.
With my reference LPs stacked by my listening position, I played through symphonies, concertos, operas, solo vocals, jazz instrumentals—even Simon and Garfunkle—and I toe-tapped and conducted to my heart's content. You never know what you are missing, and now I know. Each LP had its own special recorded nature and vibe. I heard more goodness when present, and more realism than I truly thought vinyl was capable of communicating. All I changed was a single cable; that is the best part. The Cardas Clear Beyond phono cable is like the XL power cord, a break-through design moving the state-of-the-art a step closer to replicating reality. John Grado's Epoch MI cartridge captures space and realism beyond any MC I have heard to date. The Cardas Clear Beyond phono cable reveals this more fully in my system.
Quiet is king in phono cables. The tiny noises and occasional hum in my various other phono cable references vanished in the Cardas Clear Beyond phono cable design. It is the most silent cable that I’ve tried at all volumes with the Epoch cartridge. Once installed and the ground attached to the E.A.R. 912, I never felt the need to jiggle the position of the wire, or do the wire dance, to reduce the noise floor. This is really important, folks, at this exalted level of performance.
One other note. The price for a one-meter length of this top Cardas Clear Beyond phono cable is half the cost of one of my other references. "Made in America" has its advantages, particularly if you live here!
I must report on the reactions of the audiophiles present when I exchanged my references for the Cardas Clear Beyond phono cable, keeping the volume unchanged, of course.
Their first reaction: all thought the reference LP sounded louder with the Cardas. So did I. My sound pressure meter was not good enough to measure this accurately, so critical listening was our only choice.
Second reaction: the Cardas soundstage was bigger and fuller, with enhanced center fill.
Third reaction: solo instruments were better defined and were more texturally nuanced with the Cardas employed. Could the Cardas be less resistive to signal flow and have lower phase distortion than even the less complex cables featured by its competitors? Is this where the famous Cardas design matures after years of development to reach its mellifluous performance peak? Upon careful listening, I could be convinced that the answer to all three questions is yes.
If you order a DIN connector, be sure to specify if you need a pin in the male connector. I did not, but managed to overcome my error with significant effort.
On the other hand, this is really flexible wire so you may not need to purchase as much of this phono cable as other expensive flagship designs.
Image courtesy of Cardas Audio
The Cardas Clear Beyond phono cables impress me to the max. I have never heard better at any price point with my top cartridge: the Grado Epoch MI at $12,000. With performance that is beyond criticism, its price, though certainly expensive, is very competitive with most flagship models from other top brands. That said, I had nothing in my reference cable arsenal that could maximize the Epoch to this level of perfection. The Cardas Clear Beyond phono cables stands alone in my experience with the Epoch, a match made in heaven. Needing no extended break-in, they are set it and forget it. Obviously well-shielded and grounded to the max, they are also the quietest phono cables I have ever used, period.
The Cardas Clear Beyond phono cables earn my highest recommendation for audiophiles who want the very best. Congratulations to George Cardas and team...you have done it again!
Clear Beyond phono cables
Retail price: one meter at $1850; two meters at $2,410
Add $60 for R-DIN, No added charge for straight DIN or RCA terminations
Cardas Audio, Ltd.
480 11th St SE
Bandon, Oregon 97411
All photographs by Bob Levi, except as noted.