Cardas Audio can draw upon a number of major ‘hits’ in its time, but arguably none quite as successful as its Golden Cross and Golden Reference lines. These have been, for many people, thehigh-end cable lines. Even with the launch of Clear, and Clear Beyond (that should, at least in price terms, eclipse Golden Cross and Golden Reference), these long-standing cables stood at the apex of price vs. performance for many. But, enough was enough, and Cardas has finally replaced them with the new Clear Reflection line.
‘Replaced’ is possibly too strong a term. It’s more like gene-splicing. Cardas took what is patently good from Clear, and did the same to the Golden Cross and Reference, to come up with Clear Reflection. The name implies this, according to Cardas: Clear (as in “part of the Clear line”) and Reflection (as in “a ‘reflection’ of the past”). That all being said, the core of Golden Reference – its Matched Propogation Conductor system – was already in place in Clear cables. However, the move to Clear grade also means the cold-welded pressure-crimped loudspeaker connections, high-quality phono plugs and exceptional quality XLR plugs and sockets, these last taken directly from Clear proper.
Cardas is almost unique among cable makers in that it draws its own copper for its cables, so Cardas Copper is not simply a line, it comes from its own small foundry. These two 25.5 AWG conductors (in the interconnects) and dozen 11.5 AWG crossfield conductors in the speaker cable are then held in a PFA dielecric (air filled in the case of the speaker cables). Both are shielded and used in a Litz construction, the conductors laid in a Golden Ratio of the sort Euclid would nod in agreement with.
In the new Clear universe, Clear Reflection sits between Clear Light and Clear, making it second top in the interconnect line and below Clear Beyond and Clear in loudspeaker cables. The loudspeaker cables can be bi-wired or even tri-wired internally on application, the only Clear cable apart from Beyond that allows such a thing. Reflection is easily identifiable from other products in the Clear line, from Sky right up to Clear and Beyond; where all the others are finished in anything from Royal Blue to Pale Blue, Clear Reflection is finished in black Alcryn, and where Clear uses a black bead to help separate the conductors in the speaker cable, Reflection uses copper-anodised aluminium beads, which look fantastic; more like rose gold than copper in the right light.
Cardas has now produced its forged billet spade lugs in ¼” and 9mm sizes. If you are using anything with a Cardas connector (for example, Avalon, Ayre, conrad-johnson, or Jeff Rowland) go with the ¼” plug. For everything else, especially anything made in Europe, go with the 9mm spades instead.
Clear takes an age to condition, and Clear Reflection is no exception. Rather than go through that process personally, I used a Blue Horizons cable burn in box and left them the cables to their own devices for a week.
Reflection is an excellent cable (both as interconnect and loudspeaker cable), in a way providing a synthesis of the warmth and luxuriousness of Golden Reference with the detail and transparency of Clear. This makes it very different from the rest of the Clear line, which is all about the detail, and less about the full sound, but perhaps possibly more in line with Cardas of old.
This is a cable that abides by the old Hippocratic Oath; first, do no harm. It’s a benign sounding cable in all the right ways. Music doesn’t push itself at you, it envelops you in this expansive, expressive field that has perfect balance and poise. This helps to draw you into the music, especially tracks like ‘Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home’ by Mogwai [Young Team, Chemikal Underground], where the intensity is piled on slowly and unrelentingly. Clear Reflection gives those jangly indie guitars and cymbal sounds a taut precision, but also gives that bass an intensity, without ever sounding lush or overblown. Consequently as it all builds to a crescendo, the musical onslaught more washes over you than tries to blow you out of your seat. This is entirely right and proper for Mogwai.
The big question is ‘Reflection… better than Clear?’ In truth, I’m undecided. I’ve lived with Clear as part of my portfolio of reference cables for several years now, so I’ve very used to its performance, and in many ways it’s superior. It has better, deeper bass, it’s more dynamic sounding, it has that sense of space and rootedness, and sounds rise out of a more silent background than Reflection. But, these are fractional differences, not ‘wow!’ improvements. What’s more, Clear Reflection is a ‘faster’ sounding cable with a fuller midrange. I’m going to have to use the word now, but Clear is ‘clearer’ and possibly more ‘European’ sounding than the rich vocal tones of Reflection as a result, but I found myself enjoying the sound from Clear Reflection more. Perhaps it doesn’t throw the window quite as wide open as Clear, perhaps Clear’s, er, clarity will help it bring out more in absolute top-end systems, but I just can’t help finding it demanding next to Reflection, with its extra body and its more ‘approachable’ sound. I suspect many of those aforementioned audiophiles who thought the pinnacle of audio cable was Golden Cross and Golden Reference might agree. Ultimately though, Clear is better.
The great thing about Cardas Clear Reflection is it brings Golden Reference up to date. But perhaps more importantly, Clear Reflection brings with it all those people who love what Golden Reference did, and aren’t quite ‘there’ with Clear yet, but who would want more pace and leading edge detail to their sound. If Clear Reflection is anything like the success Golden Reference was – and I’d be very surprised if it weren’t – it will be a firm fixture in many good audio systems for years.
Cardas Clear Reflection
Interconnect cable: £949/1m RCA (as tested)
Loudspeaker cable: £2,599/3m pair (as tested)
Available in 4mm banana, ¼”, and 9mm spade, single or bi-wire
Manufactured by Cardas Audio