Iconoclast Cable by Belden —Additional Thoughts
Dave McNair can't help but add his thoughts to Ken Redmond's review or "who get's what?"
Occasionally, more than one reviewer writing for the same publication is interested in the same gear. More rarely, two writers will intentionally receive the same component in order to involve more than one set of ears.
This situation was similar, but slightly different—like the sound of different brands of audio cables.
While reviewing Treehaus Audio speakers, Rich Pinto of Treehouse hipped me to a cable brand he likes and uses—Iconoclast Cables by Belden. I called Bob Howard from Iconoclast and arranged to get a set of their products to try.
This was before I was aware that Ken Redmond had also obtained a set of Iconoclast cables and planned a review. After reading Ken’s excellent piece, I not only wholeheartedly agree with his assessment, I figured I’d jot down some further notes to add to the mix. Special thanks to Bob Howard for patiently, expediently, and repeatedly sending various lines to try—and giving me lots of info on this excellent range of cables.
I’m always on the hunt for an affordable and high-performing cable to use at my studio. Unlike even the most complex of home systems, my mastering rig has so many connections the cost of a complete set of typical high-end cables would make tuition at a private university look cheap. So I have almost everything (line level) wired with Mogami 2549.
I’ve found during my cable library test methodology there are not many cables that beat the sound of Mogami 2549 and the ones that do are frighteningly expensive. Except for Iconoclast.
Bob sent me a sampler of different varieties within the Iconoclast line - Gen 1 and Gen 2 interconnects with a couple of different wire types - Oxygen Free Copper, Ohno Continuous Crystal, and subsequently, the most affordable option, Tough Pitch Copper. Also, Series 1 and 2 speaker wires are available in, OFC, TPC, and a silver-plated TPC (SPTPC). Ohno is not offered in the speaker cables lines.
In my hifi setup, I immediately noticed a change for the better with the Gen 2 speaker cables and eventually preferred the TPC or SPTPC as most suited to my tastes. Furthermore, I felt the interconnects in both RCA and XLR of the Series 2/OCC variety worked best.
At the studio, after several comparative listening sessions, I deemed Series 2 TPC to have the best price-to-performance ratio, so those are what I will be ordering. I’ll stick with Cardas Beyond Clear as the connection from my Pass XA-200.8s to the Acora SRC-2s.
For readers who are unaware, the studio wire is not just for playback; it's what the signal goes through if I use any analog processing like eq, de’essing, compression, or whatnot - so it’s actually heard by the final listener.
No, not THE Impressions, although one of their tunes, "Fool For You", describes my feeling about Iconoclast cables.
Talking about cable sound is about the silliest and least significant aspects concerning hifi system improvement. That’s my take on it. Still, that tiny bit of seasoning can enhance the listening experience if one is open to it. The higher the resolution of your system, the more you’ll notice wire differences.
I can easily move into Obsessive Sonic Mode in my home system (and the studio). I'm referring to that neurotic pastime among some audiophiles (and mastering engineers) when you explore all the micro-tweaks that can raise subjective performance a notch or two. At home, it’s for fun. At the studio, it’s to make my work sound better, so it's easier to justify. Whatever.
In times past, cables were not a thing for me. Maybe I wasn’t a total denier, but I had done enough testing to satisfy my curiosity. There were never any conclusive results that I couldn’t explain away with the fragile and subjective nature of our ear/brain system.
A few years ago, it was game on when I devised a cable test methodology where I could hear differences that I trusted myself to quantify.
The Iconoclast by Belden line of cables sonically exhibits a hard-to-define sense of rightness that I repeatedly noticed. I'll try and break down what makes something sound right to my ears.
I heard an increase in harmonic flavor and density along with a very true-to-source dynamic envelope. The Gen 2 TPC had the most of this flavor, with OFC and OCC being more refined and closer to the source. I can only describe the OCC variation as sounding expensive. Nothing out of place—accompanied by an elegant, silky-sounding top end.
I naturally seem to zero in on what any device (or cable) under test does to my perception of upper midrange and lower treble area transients. Using the Iconoclast cables resulted in lots of information and detail yet without any added edge or glare. That's my listening Holy Grail - detailed and smooth.
None of the cable variations editorialized the low-frequency extension or impact, as far as I could tell. Keep in mind I am describing incredibly minuscule differences. But if I’m mastering something and decide to go analog, these tiny differences add up. Inside my DA/AD conversion loop could frequently be 2 eq’s, a de’esser, and a compressor. That is ten connections per channel.
Speaker wire is a little more tricky for me. I know a well-built A/B box would be useful for comparison, but I’m not ready to go there. I switch speaker wires like anyone else but try to do that quickly. Living with one set for a while before switching is also helpful in garnering impressions. Yet, I can’t speak as authoritatively about speaker cables as I can regarding interconnect.
With that caveat, I will say I heard good things while using Iconoclast speaker wire. Was it markedly better than my reference Cardas Clear Beyond? I can’t say, although I’m sure it sounds different. The same goes for interconnect comparisons, but I will give a very slight nod to Iconoclast for pure engagement while at the same time feeling that Cardas is more neutral.
Fortunately for me, Iconoclast does not presently make digital or power cables. Thank God I didn’t have to test those…
Okay, one doesn't wrap up cable; it’s wound up. And some folks are wound up pretty tight about their thoughts on cables. Me, I try to be open.
If I think something sounds better (even cables) and it’s a good price-to-performance-ratio, I’m probably gonna throw down. While high-priced hifi cables are reaching new heights in the Ionosphere, there are still deals to be had.
From what I have used, Iconoclast more than owns this territory. But it's not simply a good bang for the buck. Don’t be surprised if it gives you more sonic satisfaction than other cables costing 2 or 3 times the price. And any cable can be ordered to an exact length with terminations to fit any need including right angle connectors - which is smart due to the cable's stiffness.
But the main thing is the sound quality. As I said, I’ll be buying lots of it for my mastering studio. It’s that good.
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