DH Labs Digital Cables Review 
Home Theater Accessories AV Cables
Written by Andre Marc   
Thursday, 21 July 2011

DH Labs, out of Alachua, Florida, has been in the cable business for a number of years, slowly and steadily building a base of very loyal customers and dealers. They also have a catalog of great reviews that seem to have a common theme, which is attractive, great sounding cables, offered at very fair prices. I evaluated the silver Revelation interconnect in part 2 of my silver cable overview here. It has since become part of my reference system after I purchased a 1 meter pair.  I found the clarity, resolution, and overall coherence of the Revelation very impressive.

DH Labs also makes very impressive power cords and speaker cables, including the Q-10 Signature, which has been in production for over ten years. They have also recently added HDMI cables, and there are plans for a state of the art USB cable. The subjects of this review are suite of digital cables from DH Labs, including their D-75 and their Toslink optical. I was in an excellent position to evaluate these cables as I had several superb digital products in house for review, including the excellent Byrston BDA-1 DAC, the Squeezebox Touch, and the Olive O6HD music server (review forthcoming).

The principal driving force at DH labs is Darren Hovsepian, a soft spoken, no hype personality. Which is a true breath of fresh air from a cable manufacturer. High end cable designers are quite famous for outlandish, pseudo scientific claims, ridiculous marketing campaigns, and for products whose prices are difficult to justify. From my conversations with Hovsepian, it was obvious he believes in solid engineering, practical science, and offering good value, which leads to repeat customers.

The digital cables I received from DH Labs included a D-75 coaxial terminated with RCA plugs, another D-75 with BNC connectors, and a Deluxe Toslink optical cable. The build quality and appearance of all three cables is absolutely superb. The cables are also relatively flexible and easy work with. The price for a 1 meter D-75 with RCA is $75, with an additional $12.50 per BNC connector. The Deluxe Toslink is $45 for one meter.

D-75 BNC

According to DH Labs,  in the D-75, “a  solid, silver-coated center conductor is used to maintain the most uniform impedance. The use of a solid center conductor minimizes signal reflections, which are very important in digital data cables. This center conductor is encased in a very uniform closed cell foam Teflon dielectric, which has an extremely low dielectric constant of under 1.4. This provides the lowest dielectric absorption and loss, along with the most uniform attenuation vs frequency curve. Noise rejection is maximized by a 2 Layer shield. This dual shield provides 100% coverage for complete immunity to noise. The combination of a 100% aluminum Mylar shield and a heavy braid keeps ground resistance as low as possible. The braid is wound with carefully controlled tension in order to minimize a phenomenon called "VSWR spikes" (a common cause of signal reflections in high frequency cables).”

DH Labs says “the result of these efforts is a cable that can provide excellent performance to beyond 2 Gigahertz. The D-75 is available in bulk, or carefully terminated with our coaxial RCA connector, for minimum reflection and optimum signal transfer. For maximum performance, 75 ohm BNC connectors are available as an option.”

Hovsepian, and many others believe that BNC is preferable as it offers he lowest noise and highest bandwidth. It is considered  a “true 75 ohm” connection.” I was glad to hear this as my Naim CD5 XS offers one digital output, and it happens to be a BNC connector. The Byrston BDA-1 offers a BNC input, both the Squeezebox Touch and Olive 06HD offer both optical and RCA digital outputs. All of this considered, I had an excellent opportunity to put all three cables to good use.




Set Up & Listening:

I decided to first check out the BNC cable by hooking up my Naim CD player to the Bryston BDA-1.  As reported  in my BDA-1 review, the combination was stellar, and I believe the D-75 was a major contributing factor. The quiet backgrounds and immaculately outlined sonic images were easy to hear and the excellent balance the D-75 brought to the table obvious, as was its superiority over lesser cables i had tried previously. I was extremely pleased and wondered to myself what some mega buck digital cables from other companies could do better, and how they could  to justify their prices.

DH Labs Toslink cableI then spent some time with the D-75 terminated with phono plugs and the Deluxe Toslink. According to DH Labs, the Deluxe Toslink  “incorporates many performance-enhancing features. By combining a very high-speed transmission optical fiber capable of handling over 150 Mbps with a Precision Focus Cladding, special flexible PVC protective jacket and a state-of-the-art connector, ultimate performance is guaranteed. A 24K gold-plated Exact Fit Center Ferrule keeps the optical fiber perfectly centered within the connector housing, and the convex, precision polished tip assures maximum data transfer to the receiving diode. All of this adds up to an optical cable that can even handle demanding 24 bit / 96 Khz digital signals with ease.”

I plugged both cables in to the Squezebox Touch. I toggled between both the coaxial and Toslink inputs on the BDA-1 to compare, and hard a time picking a winner in the end. As noted above, a lot of engineering went into the Deluxe Toslink, and in years past, audiophiles have always considered optical sub optimal, but I think that has changed in a big way. The advantages of optical are that it is not susceptible to ground loop noise and generally immune to environmental noise. In a product like the Squeezebox Touch, with a wal wart switching power supply, this may be beneficial. After extensive listening,  I found myself preferring the coaxial about 60% of the time, but I don’t consider this a clear victory.  As I said, at times it was a dead heat. Credit must also be given to the BDA-1 which seems to do an excellent job eliminating jitter, which to my mind should minimize differences between really good cables.  

D-75

Conclusion:

The beautifully built, wonderful-sounding, and reasonably priced DH Labs digital cable products are an absolute no brainer way to upgrade your digital set up.  As I said above, DH Labs really puts the onus on some of their competitors to justify their pricing.   I found all three cables to be superb, and they will be a permanent part of  my set up going forward.  

Value is a concept that has made a roaring comeback recently, and many audio companies who have ignored that premise have suffered the consequences. From DH Labs own website: “The audio industry today is about maximum profit margins and is thus full of questions and problems regarding "point-of-origin." As engineers and life-long audiophiles, we prefer to take the high-road, with an emphasis on sourcing materials and manufacturing in the USA. While this philosophy certainly lowers our margins, it also allows us to make use of cutting edge technologies, far superior materials & more stringent manufacturing specifications.”

DH Labs has chosen to take the longer view, and since 1992 has been making great cables that compete with the more exotic brands that often rely on clever space ads, marketing catch phrases, and flashy packaging.   While others are free to pursue sex appeal and pay through the nose, I will stick with companies like DH Labs and others who design their products based on proven engineering principals.  The D-75 and Deluxe Toslink digital cables are worth every penny and more. Highly recommended without reservation.

For more information, visit DH Labs online.

Pricing


D-75 coaxial digital cable-1meter: $75

D-75 with BNC connectors-1 meter: $100 ($12.50 for each connector)

Deluxe Toslink optical digital cable-1 meter: $45

Review System 1

Cd Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X,
Server: Squeezebox Touch, Olive 06HD
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Preamp: Audio Research SP16
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables: DH Labs Revelation (IC), Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC),  Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Element Cable Element Cord, (AC)  Shunyata Venom (AC) Pangea AC-9 (AC) Audience powerChord e.(AC)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands,  Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Salamander rack

Review System 2

Cd Player: Marantz 5003,  audiolab 8200
Music Server: Squeezebox 3
DAC: CIA VDA-2 with VAC-1 Power Supply
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
Amplifier: Belles Soloist 5, Revox A722
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio, Pangea Audio (AC), RS Cables, Element Cable






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