Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cable Comparison: High Fidelity Cables CT-1 and Synergistic Research Element Tungsten

Synergistic Research Element Tungsten
High Fidelity Cables CT-1
 VS. 

High Fidelity Cables have had a lot of buzz circulating about them for awhile now, and with good reason. They have a strong pedigree (Rick Schultz, the owner and former owner of Virtual Dynamics), and are a top performing cable in their price range. Their CT-1 interconnect is their lowest priced offering, and the cable that got the buzz going.

Synergistic Research is no stranger to the cable market. They have a long history of award winning cable designs, and incorporate some very unique methodologies in achieving their results. The Element Tungsten Interconnect is the second from the top of their Element series cables. It offers a unique metallurgy, active shielding, and their proprietary quantum tunneling process.

System
For this session, we ran without a preamp. This meant we only needed one set of interconnects, connecting them directly to the amplifiers. The Lumin is quite capable of driving the amplifiers without a preamp, and having such a short signal path allowed us to more easily distinguish the differences between interconnects.




  • Lumin Network Music Player
  • Acoustic Imagery Atsah Amplifiers
  • Vivid Audio B-1 loudspeakers - Very revealing loudspeakers. Their shortcoming, if any, would be limited extreme LF. They are flat in their response to about 40hz, but can let you know if there is substantial content down into the 30hz range.
  • Bybee Stealth Power Conditioner
  • Synergistic Research Element CTS Speaker Cable
  • Stillpoints ESS Rack
  • Stein Music Harmonizer Platinum System
  • Kaplan GS MK II Power Cables
Cables
  • High Fidelity Cables CT-1 - $1600 for one meter
  • Synergistic Research Element Tungsten $2000 for one meter
Music - a selection of DSD and other high resolution recordings. Below is a sampling of tracks we listened to.
Dead Can Dance - The Carnival is over
Porcupine Tree - Buy New Soul
Diana Krall - Temptation
Seal - Color  (Acoustic)

More Similarities Than Differences
Let me just start by saying both the High Fidelity Cables CT-1 and Synergistic Research Element Tungsten are excellent cables, and very similar in many regards. In fact they are more similar than they are different. Both have exceptional low level resolution, can throw a holographic soundstage and have excellent frequency extension from top to bottom. The differences lie in the very fine details.

Where the CT-1 Stands Out
One word, dynamics. The CT-1 had more dynamic "pop" and impact. drums had more impact, and leading edge strings had more bite. At times, this could come across as a more forward upper mid/lower treble than the Synergistic Tungsten, especially on classical instruments like the cello or violin. This could give the impression of a tiny bit more steeliness to strings than what I consider normal. If your system consists of solid state gear or has metal dome drivers, this may be too much of a good thing with the CT-1. If you have a tube component in  your system, or less forward loudspeakers, this may be a terrific match.

Where the Element Tungsten Stands Out
Vocals had a touch more body to them with the Tungsten. The drivers in the B-1's seemed to integrate better as well. Mostly due to the fact that the Tungsten was less forward in that upper mid/lower treble region.  Everything was smooth and very listenable, yet still super resolving and 3D. Dynamics were not as lively as with the High Fidelity CT-1. But bass seemed a tiny (I mean tiny) bit better defined.

Conclusion
If dynamics are your thing, or if you had a tube based audio system, you will probably lean towards the CT-1, if you have a solid state system all the way through, or perhaps your speakers have a metal or ceramic dome, you may want to sacrifice a little dynamics for a smoother overall presentation. Mind you, these are the results I obtained in MY system. Before making a purchasing decision of this sized you should definitely try both cables in your own system to make the final decision.