Over the last several years high-end headphone cable companies have become a normal part of any headphone show. Indeed, most high-end headphone companies now allow for replaceable cables so that enthusiasts can swap headphone cables much like a tube amp owner will roll tubes for sonic differences. There are a few of these cable companies that stand out for a number of reasons; build quality, materials used, etc. DanaCable is one that has established itself at the high end of the market. Founded in 2011 with their initial cable release at RMAF in 2012, Dana Robbins, Vinh Vu, and Norm Ginsburg strive to create a straightforward approach to quality cables by focusing on improving the three priorities (For DanaCable) of Resistance, Inductance and Capacitance. Their belief is that since a cable is a passive device it must do no harm to the signal and pass it along in as pure a delivery as possible. They utilize a patent-pending approach which reduces resistance and inductance to beyond the audible and the nearly measurable range.
In order to achieve better results, DanaCable uses significantly more strands of high-quality copper than you will see in most cables. The strands are then woven in a proprietary weave to further reduce capacitance. The connectors are made by Furutech ensuring a clean and tight connection between the headphones and your amplifier. I mentioned materials earlier, many cable companies are experimenting with newer conducting materials or unusual metal combinations to achieve breakthroughs in sound quality. DanaCable sticks with classic pure copper wire and a small proprietary amount of silver to smooth out the high’s and cut any edge that may be experienced. This is something that I have experienced with some other top of the line cable companies using either silver or gold in small quantities as a mellowing agent for their cables. In the case of DanaCable, I have to say they are succeeding in their approach as the presentation is always smooth with airy limitless highs.
For the last year, I have been enjoying the previously top of the line Lazuli Ultra cable ($1,995/2M USD) with my Focal Utopia headphones. I have a number of custom cables, but the combination of the Ultras and the Utopias was magic with great transparency and silky musical highs that made long listening sessions a pleasure. When I approached the DanaCable table at the 2018 RMAF Dana said he had a surprise for me. He brought out a small box containing the new Lazuli Nirvana cables. They were thicker than my already stout Ultra cables. Dana said they contained 33% more copper and utilized their newest weave resulting in only 2.5% of the capacitance of my Ultra cables. They were priced at $3,495/2M USD so the price went up along with their performance. Build quality was excellent as you would expect and after sitting down at the table for a listen to the cables, a pair of Utopias and a Wells Audio Headtrip II amplifier, I was impressed with how comfortable this thicker cable was. It was a very limber cable. My initial listening impressions were favorable but show conditions are fickle at best, so Dana agreed to ship the cables after the show.
Once the Nirvanas arrived I let them burn in for about two hundred hours or so (Thank you Roon and Qobuz!) before spending some time with them in critical listening. Initially, I started with my current Lazuli Ultra cables and let some Pink Floyd roll to set some listening baselines before swapping the Ultras out for the Nirvanas. My solid-state reference amp is the Simaudio Moon 430HAD which adds the DAC card using an ESS 9018 chip optimized by Moon. The 430HAD has a 4 pin XLR balanced out allowing me to listen in fully balanced mode. Tears for Fears Song’s from the Big Chair’s “Shout” (1985 Phonogram/Mercury) opens with triangle and other metallic percussive instruments which can easily hit with a harshness and an edge. The Lazuli Nirvanas allowed the metallic tone and striking power to shine through but in a way that was not off-putting or fatiguing. The pipe organ synthesizer notes floated calliope-like ever upward. Vocals were clear and centered, creating a focus in the midst of the orchestral swirl. It was a beautiful presentation for one of the best songs of 1985 and one that has remained popular for over three decades.
Stale Kleiberg is a Norwegian composer of chamber music. His Mezzotints (2015 2L) featuring piano solo “Ruf und Nachklang” performed by pianist Jorgen Larsen is a nine and a half minute gem that offers a full range of power and sound. The Lazuli Nirvana cables allowed the natural tones and timbre of the piano to be exposed. Throughout the composition, the listener could enjoy the piano’s musicality, very close to that of a live performance. It was as enjoyable as it was startling in its realism.
Quiet vocals and acoustic guitar demand the lowest noise floor and great transparency for proper presentation. “I See Fire” (2013 Water Tower/Decca) from the movie “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” sung by Ed Sheeran comes with single and massed vocals accompanied by guitars, acoustic bass, and percussion. The beginning is haunting and carries an air of timelessness and space. This is a great example of how the Lazuli Nirvana cables can add that last measure of space and transparency. As the music builds and more voices are added the song seems to grow larger like a mountain from the earth. It is an intoxicating performance that the Dana Cables place that final cherry on top. Just a bit more top end, just a bit more sense of scale. This is why you add top end cables to your system. It completes your gear in a beautiful way.
Cables are perhaps the most controversial component in a system. Some people say that any wire is sufficient. If it is all digital who cares if the ones and zeros are delivered in the right order? Well, I am not an objectivist who decrees measurements are everything, yet, for me, cables are not a starting point either. A great amp, great headphones, a quality DAC are, in my opinion, things to get right first. But when that search is done the right cable will finish things off like that proverbial cherry. Take your time, listen to several cables with a critical ear I am confident you will find yourself clicking on the “Add to Cart” button on the DanaCable.com web site, something you can do with the DanaCable Lazuli Nirvana risk-free for 30 days with a money back guarantee (less shipping). They are not a low-cost cable, but they deliver what you are seeking; That last measure of transparency, air, and clarity that we all chase, but seldom find. And as an added benefit, to add just a little spice and excitement to the proposition, there is an introductory sale price good through March 31st (2019) of only $2,999! You will also be able to hear this amazing cable at AXPONA in Room 1520 and Booth 8316 in the EarGear Room. Highly recommended.
Technical information can be found at:
Price: $3,495.00 for 2M USD
Associated Review Equipment:
Simaudio Moon 430HAD Headphone Amplifier/DAC
PS Audio DirectStream DSD DAC
PS Audio BHK Pre-Amp/Headphone Amplifier
Qobuz Hi-Rez Streaming Service www.qobuz.com
DanaCable Lazuli Ultra headphone cables
DanaCable Lazuli Nirvana headphone cables
Focal Utopia Headphones
AudioQuest MacKenzie and Water interconnects
AudioQuest Diamond USB cables
AudioQuest Nirvana 5000 power management system
AudioQuest NRG3 Power cables