Friday, 20 July 2018

Taking a closer look at what we have around us.

We've picked up some cables around the studio and decided to look further into the details of how they would work with different instruments, in general we patched them up with Keyboards, Bass guitars and Electric guitars for a quick comparison. 

   1.    Klotz Titanium -Germany
   2.    Lava (Retro Coil) - USA
   3.    Lava (ELC) - USA
   4.    Vovox - Switzerland

At first glance

These cables look robust for serious audio work. The cables are of thick construction, so we can be confident that they have ample conductor volume to minimise losses and noise pickup while recording. The jackets also feel durable and robust which ensures that these cables will remain physically unharmed for many years. 

Klotz Titanium
The connector heads are also well constructed and provide good contact with the majority of inputs out there. The Klotz and the Vovox use Neutrik connectors. The Lavas use connectors from G&H Industries. Experienced purchasers of audio cables know that these manufacturers  of connectors are some of the best there is in terms of quality and reliability.

Each cable has its own interesting feature. The Lava Retro Coil is already visually distinct from the others. The real sweet feature is that the retro coil is  the most flexible among the others, providing a lot of mobility for the player should they be using it for guitar and bass. The way it is coiled also allows it to be stretchable, allowing less clutter should the player not require a lot of distance from the amp of interface. 

The standard Lava and Klotz are the most visually discrete among the group, with a basic smooth jacket which gives it a standard industrial look which serves its purpose. The Vovox cable uses a woven jacket and has a braided groove along its length, making it aesthetically pleasing.

How does it sound?

All of these cables originally were designated as a guitar cable due to its length of about 3 meters but this cable is versatile enough for a multitude of instruments. 

First, we tested it with a 4 string bass guitar with passive pickup. We used an impedance of 1Mega ohms, which is the standard for most pickups to drive. 

Next, we tested the cables with a digital piano (namely the Motif ES8). We used a standard line input connection with 10 kilo ohms. 

A recording was taken using the keyboard samples which included a kick drum (low frequencies), wind chimes (high frequencies), and a standard grand piano sample, playing a few bars.

Vovox Link
The kick and windchimes samples also help determine the transient response of the cables.

The Vovox had a distinct sound on the kick, giving it a tight feeling and a recording that can cut through a bare mix easily. Highly effective for rock genres if that is the sound the user is after. The windchimes give a shiny, yet clear sound in the recording, which shows that the treble performance for this cable is excellent. The piano track sounded even across the spectrum, especially in the middle notes.

Lava Retro Coil
The Lavas also had a tight sound on the kick like the Vovox. the windchimes were even across the spectrum but exhibited a darker tone, emulating a slight high shelf on the track. This may be due to the coiling of the retro cable, which might give it a minute inductance. This sound is reflective of some British amp tones, which is highly desirable in the right circumstance. The piano also sounded even in the recording, with a small difference in the brightness (and as mentioned due to the simulated inductance of the retro coil).

Klotz Titanium had the slightly more pronounced low end on the kick, with some punchiness. It is hard to tell whether the cable has a more extended frequency response, or that there is a peak on the low spectrum. The windchimes also exhibited a clear yet darker tone, like the lavas. Once again, the piano also had an even sound to it, making it an excellent recording cable.

The next test was to directly record an electric guitar, as these cables were designed to do. However, an increase of the noise floor was noticed on the monitors. This is due to the guitar being tracked from a standard line impedance input (10kohms). A recommended suggestion to solve this problem will be to use a higher impedance input (especially for guitars with passive pickups) which is nominally rated at 1 Megaohms. This is due to the guitar being a high impedance source, which creates losses during amplification. 

All of the cables had no noticeable difference on the guitar. It was well defined with a smooth midrange across all cables. As mentioned again the only limiting factor was the input impedance of the preamp, increasing the noise floor due to higher gain required. Vovox seemed to have a faster transient response, which translates to better control of articulations while playing. 

Overall, the cables sounded well balanced across the octaves. It was a combination of a dark undertone with a smooth midrange. These cables are ideal for a wide range of instruments. 
Lava ELC tested seems to have a focused mids, providing a healthy transmission from the strat pickup. Klotz sounded solid on the bass region and seems to be the loudest of the lot in the same gain stage, Voxox has a more neutral feel, unhyped but easy to the ears. 


Test: Frequency sweep
Interface: Audiobox iTwo
Instrument used: Logic Pro tone generator

Process: Frequency sweep 20 to 20k for 20seconds

Vovox, line input 10kohms

Lava retro coil, line input 10kohms

Lava ELC cable, line input 10kohms

Klotz Titanium, line input 10kohms

Interesting observations: The Lava cables have a slight resonance peak in the higher registers than the Vovox and Klotz Cable. This should be negligible for most instruments as there is a natural low pass in that range anyway.

The high pass at the low end is generally negligible as this was a worst case response of a sine wave sweep. The cable should work fine at a lower frequency provided your devices do not clip on the inputs. 

So, in summary:

These cables are reliable both in the studio and on stage. Their sound quality enables them to be used on a wide range of instruments. The Klotz Titanium works best for the bass guitar among the lot. 

Clockwise from top left: 
Lava retro coil, Lava ELC, Vovox, Klotz Titanium

Price (on average for 3M cable length with connectors)

Klotz Titanium: 79 USD
Vovox: 94 Euros
Lava: 65 USD

Reviewed and prepared by Shaun Chow, Alex Tan

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