Black Rhodium Charleston loudspeaker cable
Following Bristol 2023, I was contacted by Black Rhodium’s Graham Nalty to listen to his state-of-the-art Revelation range of cables. We chatted and settled on the Charleston cables to review with a ‘Best Ever’ Moor Amps Angel 6 power amplifier and the Kudos Titans, recent recipient of an Editor’s Pick.
The Black Rhodium product range is Opus, Minuet, Calypso, Operetta and Revelation, in ascending order of price and quality. Within the Revelation range, there are Polka, Bolero, Charleston and Flamenco loudspeaker cables.
Nalty, who owns Black Rhodium, is science-led and has written extensively about cable design and how all cables are affected by the basic Laws of Physics. The objective of cable design is to minimise all types of distortion, mainly mechanical and electrical, that can influence the sound quality of a loudspeaker cable. Charleston is the culmination of many proprietary Black Rhodium engineering techniques to remove these distortions that have been researched by Nalty and his team over several decades.
Firstly, the Charleston cable uses Deep Cryogenically Treated (DCT) silver-plated copper-stranded conductors. The DCT process takes the raw cable down to -190°C for a period of time before returning it to room temp slowly. Nalty says in his research*:
…this process expands the dynamic range of the cable, refines the higher frequencies, lowers the noise floor, and articulates the bass, amongst other benefits.
How can this be? DCT, claims Nalty, removes manufacturing stresses that are imparted when the cable is cooled from its molten state in the initial forming process.
….as the materials cool, the atoms are bonded more closely together, removing any distortion in atomic structure.
Silver plating over a copper conductor is a cost-effective way of increasing the sound quality delivered by the copper-stranded cable. Since higher frequencies are known to travel on the outside shell of a cable the silver plating offers a higher quality transmission path at an optimised price point.
The Charleston loudspeaker cables are terminated with 4mm Black Rhodium Locking rhodium plated plugs, that split 4 ways. These are some of the best plugs I have encountered. The effect of the locking plug is to offer a cleaner & closer connection with no mechanical movement. Rhodium itself, on the connectors, offers a harder and more robust longer-term solution; it ‘wears better’ according to Nalty.
The cables themselves are very heavy so it feels like the locking plug is rather essential. There are, additionally, small rubber O rings on each of the plugs to apparently damp mechanical noise too at either end of the cable.
Other design points in these Charleston cables include a braided screen with vibration damping along its whole length. The two braided channels are twisted together to reduce an aerial effect that can be generated between parallel 2-channel cables that can lead to distortion. Further, the twisted cables are matched in a pair with the positive and negative taken from the cable run in order and arranged to oppose each other directionally.
There are large colour-coded (red-black) ferrite collars on each channel. Ferrite cores are used to suppress electromagnetic emissions by blocking high-frequency noise and allowing low-frequencies through. The cables are assembled by hand in England.
* All Cables Obey the Laws of Physics, Graham Nalty MA
These cables are notably heavy and exude pure quality. The standout feature of the cables, out of the huge box, is the loudspeaker plugs. They are solid, heavy and have a really lovely feel. As noted above the black sheathed cables are twisted together and thus have a high degree of visibility if that is an issue.
The hand-built, aesthetic feel is along the full length and the ferrite collars leave you in no doubt as to the polarity of the signal. There are two plastic collars at either end stopping the twist from unwinding. They also indicate the cable direction, and which end of the cable is the ‘loudspeaker end’ or the ‘amplifier end’, which is helpful.
The review sample is a Charleston 5m pair and they are priced at £7,500 online.
Most of the listening has been with the Moor Amps Angel 6 power amplifier supported by the matching Angel preamplifier with Tellurium Q XLR Ultra Black II cables between them. Mainly I’ve been using a Michell GyroDec, mounted on a weighty bespoke and spiked plinth, with a Rega Phono stage into the preamplifier.
I’m also using an iFi Pro iDSD as a DAC (only) and I’m using a USB B input from my DELL XPS laptop. I have an Atlas Mavros USB A-B cable with their GRUN independent earthing system to manage excess electromagnetic and radio frequency noise. Because I am not using the streaming platform in the iFi Pro iDSD I have the Chord Company GroundARAY in the Ethernet slot to reduce HF noise. I’m also using the Chord Electronics 2Go/2Yu combination as a streaming transport, BNC into the iFi DAC. Super clean.
This review system is outstanding at the moment, the Michell GyroDec has taken my listening in a new direction. I’m really enjoying my own belated vinyl rebirth and my Record Store Day experience this year was filled with anticipation.
You may have seen in the Titan review I have a REL Carbon Special subwoofer here at HF&MS but it is not in use for this review for obvious reasons.
The Charleston cable is very heavy and very thick and, in my view, needs the expanding plugs just to keep them in place. The cables are not very discrete, which is either a bad thing if you’re trying to hide them from an enquiring fiscal partner, or a good thing if you are trying to show off!
I’ve run in the Charleston cable over an extended period (several days) with, ironically, an Atlas Burn-In Disc.
Charleston in General
For the best part of this year, I have been playing music in the above configuration with the Titans and my “Reference” Tellurium Q Ultra Black II loudspeaker cables. Nothing is imparted or taken away by this cable in my view. So much so, I bought the cable on the spot, in July 2021. Let’s just play some music.
It is likely I should be swapping out, for equivalence, the Tellurium Q Silver, or Black Diamond cables. Nonetheless, I do have a heightened sense of pace in listening to back-to-back plays of Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold (Vinyl, Vertigo). The album is fantastically dynamic, particularly with Private Investigations with the dramatic guitar interventions. The second side of this album is even more dynamic than the first, in my view. This system, in any event, is extremely revealing.
Switching to digital, I have prepared a bespoke playlist to listen for bass response, rhythm, midrange, etc. There is nothing better for enquiring about bass in this system than Newton Faulkner’s Teardrop (Qobuz, 16-bit, 44.1kHz). Here the cables offer the extended bass and the control I expect from the Moor Amps power amplifier/loudspeaker combination.
Next, it is time to listen for resolution with Sonny Rollins’ God Bless the Child (Qobuz, 16-bit, 44.1kHz). Here the double bass reflections are crystal clear, just beautiful. Rollins’ tenor saxophone has breath, reed, and depth. The brushed snare is particularly vibrant.
What about pace and rhythm? It is always a good time for Miles Kane’s Don’t Forget Who You Are (Qobuz, 16-bit, 44.1kHz), here there is energy and vibrancy fully translated from this piece of music. Similarly, switching to New Order’s The Perfect Kiss (Qobuz, 24-bit, 96kHz) the presentation is lively, relentless and, well, Perfect.
Here’s the Musical Interlude Playlist.
There is absolutely nothing to find fault with here…
These are clearly fabulous cables and the science-based approach offers a huge amount of confidence to this reviewer. There is absolutely nothing to find fault with here, from construction to aesthetics to the best connectors I have encountered. As Black Rhodium says in bullet point #2 in their 11 Essential Tips to take before you buy cables, ‘prepare a budget’. These cables, though expensive in the real world, are as good as it is possible to lay your hands on.
If this is your budget and you’re in stratospheric loudspeaker and amplifier levels, these Charleston loudspeaker cables demand an audition. Graham and his team have been nothing but a joy to work with and I cannot commend these cables enough.
Attention to detail
Reassured on innovation and research
Solid physical appearance
A more competitive price
But, you get what you pay for
Full details are on the company’s site.
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