Author Topic: Neutral Cable Reference I Road Tour  (Read 1174 times)

watchdog

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Neutral Cable Reference I Road Tour
« on: January 20, 2017, 12:47:54 PM »
Neutral Cable of Italy has allowed me to arrange for a road tour of their flagship USB cable, the Reference I.

This is a 7N solid silver Teflon insulated cable and retails for EUR 500 (0.8m) or EUR 600 (1.2m).

http://www.neutralcable.it/en/digital-cables#ad-image-0

I'll let the participants talk about their system and findings on this cable as the tour progresses. The cable has been passed to the first participant and we look forward to his findings.

Participants

1. benlzy
2. onepunch
3. shadowmoses
« Last Edit: January 20, 2017, 12:49:33 PM by watchdog »

benlzy

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Re: Neutral Cable Reference I Road Tour
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2017, 06:23:33 PM »
First of all, I'd like to thank Watchdog for organising this tour and allowing me to spend a couple of weeks with Neutral Reference I USB cable.

The setup used for this evaluation consists of a SOtM sMS-200 (powered by the UltraCap LPS-1 from UpTone Audio) feeding the JOB INTegrated. Speakers are a pair of Aurum Cantus V3M. The size of my listening room is approximately 3m x 3.4m, but due to layout, my speakers are placed along the long side of the room. Listening distance is approximately 1.6m away (relatively near field). Music is played via a usb powered hdd attached directly to the sMS-200.

Impressions:
The built of the Neutral USB is excellent. The construction is sturdy and solid and despite having a solid core, was quite flexible and easy to route. The bright bumblebee yellow is also extremely eye-catching and certainly commanded one's gaze!

Having a name such as 'Neutral" is a little misleading as I do not find the Neutral USB to be neutral sounding (having a flat and reference-like sound). Au contraire, it was vivid and lively, yet retaining a smooth and silky signature. Vocal image is rather big and very slightly more forward sounding, which gives vocals intimacy. The smoothness of the vocals also made me forget that it's a silver cable in its core as there was no brightness/harshness at all. It also never sounded clinical, dry or lean, traits that often get associated with silver cables.   

Apart from having an outstanding midrange, bass is also good. My speakers do not extend that low so I cannot accurately determine how low the Neutral USB extends, but it seemed to me that there was slightly more energy in the mid bass portion, making the bass slightly rounder and more 'fun' to listen to. Despite the slight bloom, bass was still punchy. However, due to my inadequate room treatment, the bloom at 60hz and 100hz is very noticeable and in my setup, worked against the Neutral USB instead of for it. YMMV.

The top end extension for the Neutral USB never gets sharp and is quite refined. My speakers have ribbon tweeters and incorrect pairing will easily result in ear-splitting treble, which I had in the past. I have since avoided silver cables like the plague, but the Neutral USB really showed that good silver cables aren't the bright, scary monsters that I thought they were. I would love it more if the treble was a tad sweeter and slightly more extended.

Soundstage width on the Neutral USB was wide and expansive, though I would prefer a little more depth. Again, this is personal preference as my listening distance is quite short, so cables that added depth are greatly appreciated.

Despite its smooth and lush signature, the Neutral USB is very transparent and has very good resolution. Background is pitch black and details come forth effortlessly. However, it did get slightly congested during complicated passages. Attack and transients were also not fast as I thought it would be (another silver characteristic assumption), and leading edges were slightly rounded. If you're looking for an explosive, fast and dynamic USB cable, this would not be the cable for you.

In conclusion, I feel that the Neutral USB is a pretty well balanced cable and very easy to listen to. A worthy contender if you're looking for a USB cable with intimate vocals and a smooth and silky tone, without too much warmness. It also made me more open to trying other high quality silver cables.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2017, 06:25:29 PM by benlzy »

OnePunch

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Re: Neutral Cable Reference I Road Tour
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2017, 08:27:46 PM »
Thanks to watchdog for the opportunity of trying this Neutral Cable Reference.

Setup use:
Spendor D7, with Hegel DAC and Yamaha AS2100 Amp.  Source is computer using JCAT USB card.  USB cable that I have JCAT reference, Curious and Acoustic Revive single head.

Impression:
This cable has a very nice build, with the yellow color.  Definitely looks better than my others cable.  Despite it is solid silver, it is quite a flexible cable and of course doesnt mean you can abuse it, a normal care routing still apply.

This cable has vivid sounding, flesh out tone, details and still retain the control and smoothness aspect.  It has a good bass bloom, very nice mid range and top extension that never sounds harsh.  I enjoyed it lot on instruments and jazz as it sounds effortless on those genre.  Sound stage has a nice width, depth and height.  One will be happy to own this cable.

In comparison to rest of other cable that I have:
JCAT reference:  Neutral has a slight more forward presentation, with a more slight vivid sounding tone and nice bass bloom.  JCAT has more neutral presentation compare to Neutral cable (despite the name) and JCAT has a slight more bite.  As you can see,, i used a lot of slight here.

Acoustic Revive USB (single head): AR less details, more laid back and sweeter.

Curious USB cable (based on memory):  This cable is all about fun, it has more forward presentation than Neutral, more bass as far as I remembered.  Same kind amount of details.  Neutral has better refinement on the sounds hence effortless.  Neutral feels like in between of Curious and Jcat reference, with a slight towards JCAT.

This is very lovely cable, I am surprise pure silver can sounds like this.  For those who is looking at USB cable, this is one the cable that you will need to look out, as it is well balanced cable in term musicality and hifi technical aspect likes detail, soundstage etc.

Cheers

nexzar

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Re: Neutral Cable Reference I Road Tour
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2017, 12:27:10 AM »
Thank you watchdog and Neutral Cable for making this review possible!

The setup:
Speakers: Goldenear Triton One; Power Amp: Cary Audio SA200.2; Preamp/DAC: Totaldac D1 Dual; Source: Melco N1A; Conditioner: Plixir Elite 3000; Power Cables: Synergistic Research Black (wall to conditioner), TWL Obsession (to source), Sablon Corona Reserva (to preamp/DAC), Zonotone Shupreme (to power amp), DH Labs Red Wave (wall to speakers); IC: Audience Au24-SX XLR, JCat Reference USB; Speakers Cable: Audience Au24-SX speakers cables

Impressions and Comparison:
Neutral Cable Reference I USB is well constructed and fairly flexible. I am comparing it to the JCat Reference USB Cable in my setup.

First impression was that the Neutral Cable sounded vivid, clear, detailed and had a quiet background. These qualities are to be expected from a TOTL USB cable. It was overall a bit louder than the JCat Ref. Therefore, to be fair, I used a sound meter to help adjust the volume to the same loudness for the comparison.

The Neutral Ref had good details. Upon hearing the first time, it was as if the background details were louder than those on the JCat Ref. Subsequent listening showed that the Neutral Ref presents details in the background of the music in a more forward manner. The Neutral Ref's presentation on the whole was slightly more forward than the JCat Ref.

The high frequencies of the Neutral Ref was smooth and extended, never harsh or overly bright. Music with trumpets, xylophones, violins etc was nice to listen to. However, it had less bite in the high frequency than the JCat Ref. The mid range and vocal range were smooth and the instruments and vocals were natural sounding to my ears. The separation of the instruments and vocals were good but I find the JCat to be slightly better. The Neutral Ref did have a deeper bass than the JCat Ref, but the bass was not as tight.

Very often, setup matching and personal music preference greatly influence the listener's perception of which equipment or cable helps to produce a more preferred music. Whenever possible do audition the equipment or cables in your own setup to really hear what it can do. Therefore, if you are looking for a TOTL USB cable, the Neutral Ref is definitely one to be be added into your "to audition" list.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2017, 07:54:02 PM by nexzar »