Do SC-Carbokab 225 and EMC-QUAD-EGB1 improve sound recordings?

When I reviewed SOMMER CABLE’s Epilogue, one of the best XLR (balanced; microphone) cables for studio monitors you can buy, I read a press release about two of their other cables. This is the review of the SC-Carbokab 225 and the SC-EMC-QUAD high-end cables covered by that press release.

In 2018, classical music engineer/producer Da-Hong Seetoo, who has worked for Deutsche Grammophon and earned several Grammy Awards for his work, recorded the Emerson String Quartet performing works by Robert Schumann.

Seetoo used SOMMER CABLE’s EMC-QUAD cable for the four omnidirectional Sennheiser MKH-800 microphones on each of the two violins, viola, and cello. In addition, he used two of their Carbokab 225 cables for an M-S configuration — one for his Sennheiser MKH-30 figure-eight bi-directional mic as the side mic and another one for his Sennheiser MKH-8020 omni condenser as the centre mic.

A classical music devotee myself, I was intrigued and decided to try them out myself with the DPA Microphones 4015A’s I had on loan. There were three reasons for my interest:

  • Seetoo had praised the cables into audio recording Nirwana, saying his new recording with those cables was much healthier sounding — clear, robust, and with no distortion. He praised their insensitivity to RF noise from cell phones and their significantly better sound overall.
  • The METAlliance certification organisation stated the cables improved the transients and the imaging was better than other high-quality cables.
  • The SC-Carbokab 225 features a conductor smoothing of compressed carbon that is directly applied to the concentrically stranded wires. It is said to offer the same electrical benefits as solid wire, yet staying flexible and guaranteeing consistent, excellent transmission with a linear sound image over long distances of up to 200 meters.

Two other reasons in the back of my head were that the shielded EMC-QUAD retails at around the same price as VOVOX’s unshielded Sonorus direct, and my environment is littered with equipment that spits out EMI and RFI in all directions.

Tests

I went on testing the two cables by pitting them against others with the two DPA Microphones’s 4015A cardioid mics, two Deity S-Mic 2 shotgun mics and an sE Electronics V7 dynamic mic. The cables I used to find differences in sound included a Planet Waves American Stage cable, a Mogami Gold Studio and a Gold Stage, a cheap Italian Inco cable, and the VOVOX Sonorus direct.

To test the shielding, I held an old Nokia mobile phone against the area where the cable goes into the Neutrik plug’s boot. The Planet Waves, VOVOX Sonorus direct, Mogami Gold Stage and Inco cables did not pass that test. The Mogami Gold Studio, EMC-QUAD and Carbokab 225 did.

Subjective experiences

The SOMMER cables are shielded, but that doesn’t imply you will hear a difference in sound quality that make these two cables stand out as the METAlliance and Seetoo claim. To verify their claim, I first listened to recordings made with the 4015A microphones. Those microphones are the best money can buy and, I reasoned, they would allow me to spot the difference between the cables.

There were huge differences when I compared the same voice recording with a Planet Waves and an EMC-QUAD or Carbokab 225. There were smaller differences — but still discernible — in clarity and in sibilance being less ear piercing — when comparing the Mogami Gold Studio to the SOMMER cables.

In a mood of silliness, I decided to listen to the same recording made with a Deity/Mogami and a Deity/EMC-QUAD/Carbokab combination.

That was an eye opener if ever there was one. I still can’t believe a cable can make a microphone sound that much better. My Deity’s sound was closer to the DPA microphone sound I like so much with the SOMMER cables. With the Mogami Gold Studio, the difference between the Deity’s and the DPA microphones in the highs and the quietness of the mics was outspoken. With either SOMMER cable, the Deity’s highs were less aggressive, the mics quieter, with more detail and a more balanced sound. Interesting was that the improvement was the most outspoken with the Carbokab 225.

Conclusion

Although the SC-Carbokab 225 and the SC-EMC-QUAD cables aren’t cheap, they are worth every cent. In fact, if you use a microphone like the Deity S-Mic 2, these cables improve the sound you can get out of them. The Deity S-Mic 2 is a good microphone, sounding close to a Sennheiser MKH-416, but either one of the tested cables make the difference much harder to hear.

If you buy the SC-Carbokab 225, make sure you buy the version with the Neutrik NC-FXX plugs. They’re the absolute top (code CBB1–0600-SW).

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