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Product Review - UltraLink Discovery Audio Interconnect Cables - May, 1999

Brian Florian

Divider

"Dual balanced" Audio Interconnect Cable with Precision 6N OFHC Copper Conductors

Two-Conductor Twisted Pair Configuration with a Separate Aluminum-Mylar Shield

Gold-Plated RCA Plugs

MSRP: $39/Meter-Pair (USA), $39 Canadian

UltraLink:  http://www.ultralinkcables.com/home.html

Introduction

I have a love/hate disposition with cables. I love them in that there are only a few things in life more enjoyable than tweaking a hi-fi system with an exotic wire. I hate them in that the price can be quite high for a relatively small performance gain. Ask yourself: "Spend $600 on a pair of interconnects or upgrade my CD player to one costing $600 more than the one I've got". Fact is, if you're like me, you have a hard time deciding how much to spend, how much you can spend, and what is appropriate for your audio/video system. I can't answer those questions for you, but I do know a lot of people who can't or won't spend the mega buck or who's equipment and tastes just don't call for an "extreme" cable. If you have just purchased a home theater receiver and an outboard 5.1 decoder, or even if your receiver has DD and DTS built-in, purchasing lots of cables for all the sources and speakers is in your future. Enter UltraLink Discovery.

UltraLink is a Canadian company that offers, as most cable names do, an incredibly wide range of products including the esoteric multi-hundred dollar stuff. What I noticed about them is that they also offer products for under $50 (Canadian). The Discovery interconnect is the middle of their middle-class (in terms of price) line-up. They offer two models below it and three above it.

Build

The construction of the cable is not all that complex to the naked eye. Have a look at the stripped piece in the photo. Two insulated conductors of twisted copper strands and a third uninsulated (bare) wire are spiraled through the cable. Ultralink Discovery Cables DissectedThese are spaced with fibers, and surrounded by, first, a foil shield, then the outer jacket. Where you have to look closely is when the terminator gets put on. The bare wire is in constant contact with the shield and is soldered along with the drain/ground wire at the source-end only. Signal direction arrows on the jacket let you know which end is which. Simply install the cable such that the signal flows in the direction of the arrows (e.g., from your CD player to your preamplifier) and voila: the shield is grounded at the source-end only. The terminators are machined and feel quite solid. They go on (to the jacks) very tightly and thus make good contact. Because of their tightness, they are very tough to get out of the jack.

Sound

At this price it might be tempting to talk about what an esoteric cable might do that the Discovery doesn't. Rather, I'd like to relate what you can expect this cable to do as compared to throwaway RCAs (like those that come in a plastic bag with other accessories in a receiver's shipping container) and a $15 (Cnd) Radio Shack cable.

What I noticed right away had more to do with the quantity of sound rather than its quality. With the Discovery in place, I was listening with the volume knob lower than with the throwaways yet was getting the same level of sound. It's a simple yet effective demonstration of a better wire letting more signal, and thus more of the music, through, probably because of good impedance matching. On listening a little closer, what caught my ear next was the noise level. There is less background noise, thanks I'm supposing to the shielding. So, even though the loudest sounds in the orchestra may have been comparable in perception, the quiet, minute details of the background come through, resulting in a better "you are there" experience. On the whole, the response from low to high is more consistent, without noticeable rise or fall in either of the three main registers, something I did find with the other cables.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a religious experience when changing cables, you'd do best to look elsewhere (and to a deeper pocketbook). If on the other hand, if your budget is strained, or perhaps you already have better cable for your main system but the bedroom or kids' system could use a tweak, or there is a less used/less critical source in your chain, then consider the Discovery. With performance and build like this, at such a low price, no one should have to be content with mediocre cables.

Brian Florian


Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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