Phono Cable Hoedown
by Marshall Nack
Whether mediated by an auspicious orientation of the astral entities—or just my good fortune—this survey fell into place seemingly on its own. Facilitated by the arrival of the V.Y.G.E.R. Baltic M turntable and its ease of swapping them, phono cables began to show up at my door. As I reported in my review , the Baltic M table with SME 312 arm and the new and sensational Shelter 9000 cartridge is slightly warmish, but otherwise uncolored and quite accurate. Thus, it provides a cooperative operations platform on which to go prospecting for phono cable differences large and small. (And all you have to do is slide the cables' DIN plug into the receptacle on the back of the arm tube column, unlike with my Linn LP12, for example, which has to be put on a special jig to get at its underbelly—an evening's task and a pain in the neck.)
Van den Hul MC D-501
We begin with the Van den Hul MC D-501 phono cable because it comes packaged with the SME 312 arm, which in turn comes with the Baltic M table. It is made to order at SME's request—you can't buy it on your own. I imagine it would retail for around $500, if available.
It sounds like a Van den Hul cable. By that I mean it is well-integrated, coherent, with good body, and a tonal center a little high in the midrange (the lower mids are under-represented). It has a silvery kind of buff smoothness, which tends to subdue inner voices—some mental effort is required to pull them up out of the mix.
The VdH doesn't stop to smell the roses while traipsing through the garden. While it produces reasonably developed timbre—enough to be satisfying—you won't get much in the way of nuance or subtleties. It's not the most insightful cable.
Space is only partially developed. Two dimensions are good, width and height, but depth is somewhat flat. Image separation is sub-par and caused congestion. The cable does better with loud passages. Its dynamics are forceful enough, especially paired with the Baltic M, but the treble could be shrill at times.
Overall, it's a good sounding entry-level cable, but it was obvious the Baltic M's potential went unfulfilled. Still, I enjoyed music with it: the VdH's voice was in the right place.
Appearance & Construction
Black, skinny and very flexible, the Van den Hul MC D-501 has a silver-colored SME right-angle DIN at the arm end and similar silver-colored SME RCA plugs at the other. The left and right conductors are physically separate and there are two grounds: a long one from the DIN end and a short one from the combined RCAs. Each conductor side has 19 runs of 0.1 mm oxygen-free, halogen-free, silver-coated copper. The whole is decently put together out of what appear to be low-cost, but audiophile grade, parts.
Purist Venustas phono cable $1775
First I noticed it in the attack. Is it slower, dragging the beat maybe? Then I heard it in the decay. N...