Jun 022010

When the opportunity arose to formally review the Mark Grant G1000HD (High Definition) interconnect cables, I jumped at the chance but I was also keenly aware of a great deal of the opinion that surrounds these cables both on-line and recently in print.

Now a good audio reviewer should have both an open mind and ears but being human means that I had formed some slight bias towards these cables despite never hearing them and being honest I must say that I was overall somewhat sceptical of the claims being made for them but also equally sceptical of a recent in print review. I felt that the truth about the G1000HD probably lay to the middle ground, rather than at the two extremes being presented. So when the opportunity arose to try them for myself I firmly decided to throw any and all previous thoughts/opinions out and approach them with a fresh open mind, something I do for all reviews I do. You may well ask why then mention your negative bias ?…well read on for the answer to your question.

Mark Grant the company is Mark and his wife Tracey Grant and they have been trading since 2004,  6 years to date. They pride themselves on all products only being  made with the highest quality materials and construction techniques.

The G1000HD cable is a relatively new item in the Mark Grant cables portfolio that took a year to develop. The G1000HD is a coaxial cable made with a high quality copper core and two layers of copper braided shielding and every part of the cable’s construction is chosen for high quality, rather than low manufacturing price.

Here are a few more details about the G1000HD cables taken from his website…..

“This is a high purity copper cable, not silver or silver plated copper. The cable has been produced to my own design to an extremely high tolerance.

The central conductor is a single solid core of high purity copper, this is surrounded by low density gas injected dielectric insulation and a dual layer shielding system consisting of two layers of dense coverage high purity copper and a very flexible clear sheathing.

The connectors are Canare phono RCA (Canare part number RCAP-C53). They are crimped so no solder is used. This is one of the reasons the cable performs so well.”

Mark Grant does not suggest any particular burn in period for his cables. So after a period of about 30 hours or so of use I was still concerned that this might not be enough. As it turns out this will get you part of the way but ultimately based on my experience during this review I feel that an additional 30 hours is required. After 60 hours use I could hear no more major changes in sound so after satisfying my self that burn in was no longer a factor I began to consider which items I have in my equipment arsenal to use for the review.

Now you may feel that this should be your normal reference system and indeed for the most part the system I used in this review was but after listening casually to my normal reference system with the G1000 HD cables hooked up I felt it wise and prudent to see if the cables had any kind of sonic signature.  So during the running in period but towards the end of that period, I started trying them with a number of different items and it became clear that these cables do indeed have a very slight sound of their own. These cables lean ever so slightly to the warmer side of neutral. This slight characteristic was consistent across all the system configurations that I tried.

My normal reference set up of Moon Andromeda CD player,  Meridian G02 pre-amplifier and Music Reference RM200 mk1 power-amplifier (see above), all of which are normally connect via their balanced ins and outs proved to be not totally suitable.

The cables in for review are fitted with RCA connectors  so I was able to use high quality Neutrick RCA to XLR adaptors for connection to the RM 200 amplifier as it does not have RCA inputs but only XLR. While I was aware that there might cause a drop in performance switching to this form of hook up, I was not quite prepared for how much of a factor this almost became, but more about that a bit later on.

The system I settled down to listen to the cables with was an all solid state affair. I decided to change the Music Reference power amplifier to a Meridian G56 (after a bit of reviewing was done) as I wanted to remove the quality loss factor XLR adaptors might bring to the review. The Meridian G56 power amplifier (thanks to Kevin for the loan once again) matches the Meridian G02 pre-amplifier very well (as you might expect) and as it has RCA and XLR inputs the issue of XLR adaptors was banished.

I also tried a valve output equipped CD player (in for review too and being run in during the G1000HD review) which turned out not to be a good match, as it’s sound characteristic and that of the G1000HD led to an overly warm presentation.

So the final review system comprised a Moon Andromeda CD player, Meridian G02 pre-amplifier, G56 powrer amplifier and Anthony Gallo Ref3.1s as this offered me the best balanced system in which to conduct the review.

The components were all housed on Clear light Audio Aspekt racks with String Concept isolation platforms beneath the Meridian items and power supplied via Audience AU 24 mains cables, with the exception of the Moon Andromeda which was feed power via an Analysis Plus Power Oval 2.  Signal transfer cabling used as both comparison and reference through out the review period was my normal Atlas Mavros RCA to RCA, XLR to XLR interconnect cables and matching Mavros speaker cable.

I used a lot of music through out this review period, including the new Katie Melua album The House, Afterlife-Afterlife Lounge, numerous Cafe del Mar CDs but the main music used for comparisons were my usual references, Nitin Sawhney-Beyond Skin and the Dali Demo CD. I feel it is vitally important to use the same music during a review, in order to make hearing differences easy and what better way than to use music you know exceptionally well.

Before discussing my main findings, I hinted earlier at an issue regarding balanced connection and this is worth mentioning at this point of the review. After spending some time casually listening to the Mark Grant cables I decided to do a quick comparison with my normal Atlas Mavros cables, in the main to see how much of a difference there might be tonally so I reconnected them to the Moon Andromeda CD player and sat back to listen to the same track I had just been listening to via the G1000HD’s, which had been Tides by Nitin Sawhney; off his best album in my opinion Beyond Skin.

The difference I heard was gob smacking and very much in favour of the Atlas Mavros. Any questions of tonality were swept aside by the large difference in sound quality but the question that immediately came to mind was what exactly was I  hearing ? Was it the difference between the two cables or the difference between single ended connection and balanced connection. More importantly was the true nature of these balanced designs being used, being compromised via RCA hook up ?

The only way to resolve these questions was to hook up an RCA to RCA version of the Atlas Marvos interconnect cable, which I did tout sweet. The result showed me that the equipment I had chosen to use for the review sounded much better hooked up via XLR cables rather than via RCA cables. So the massive difference I had heard was down to technology and not an actual difference between the cables; I had suspected as much but I had try to be certain.  For those who own true balanced designs, you really need to hook all the components up via XLR cabling, otherwise I fear you are not going to hear exactly what the system is capable of.

At this stage Mark Grant does not have an XLR version of the G1000HD cable in his product portfolio but he hopes to launch one in the not to distant future and I hope to be able to review it for Adventures in High Fidelity Audio when it is available.

Now aware of the differences that hook up via RCA compared to XLR made in the sound of the system you might think I would change the components round in favour of components not quite so critical of how they are hooked up and I would have, except that the level of performance with the cables I was using was still very good; so I stuck with them and I am glad I did.

I began the review proper with listening to Nitin Sawhney’s-Beyond Skin album with the Atlas Mavros RCA cable hooked up between the Moon Andromeda CD player and the Meridian pre-amplifier and a Mark Grant cable between the pre-amplifier and power-amplifier (I would have used a second Atlas cable but I do not own another one with RCA connectors) and the sound was as I knew it would be open, detailed with excellent soundstaging and bass. All the elements of the recording was present and reproduced as I had heard it many times before. I listened to the tracks The Pilgrim and Tides several times before replacing the Atlas cable with a Mark Grant G1000 HD cable, all volume levels were kept the same at this stage.

The first most obvious differences were with the size of the soundstage and the loudness of the music. With the G1000HD’s the soundstage was slightly wider than with the Atlas and the sound was very slightly louder. After a few swaps back and forth between the two cables a drop of 1 on the pre-amplifier’s volume control allowed equalization between the two.

The overall sound of the system with the G1000HD was ever so slightly warmer than with the Atlas Mavros but the surprising thing was that the G1000HD cable made the Mavros sound slightly harmonically lean. Another area where the Mark Grant’s were slightly better, was in the bass. The lower frequencies through to the upper bass was ever so slightly more articulate and textured than with the Atlas cable.

Using the track Tides by Nitin Sawhney illustrates the above points well. The music comprises double bass, piano and percussion and these instruments sit on top of swirling sea sounds, as waves break and crash on some eastern shoreline. First up was the Atlas cable and the sound was well focused with articulate bass and beautifully delicate percussion work, every strike and shimmer of cymbals decaying into the back ground sea scape was reproduce excellently; with the double bass playing underpinning the piano. Everything sounded as I remembered it from many listening sessions before, both for pleasure and during reviews. Replacing the Mavros cable for Mark Grant’s G1000HD cable painted a similar picture but the bass gained a bit more weight, without sacrificing any detail, in fact if anything it had now gained some body and the instrument now sounded more real and better defined in the soundscape; which due to the sea sounds is a bit cluttered. The Piano had also gained both harmonically, by being slightly richer and the handling of the underlying decay after key strikes was also better than with the Atlas interconnect cable.

After comparing the tracks again the only area where the Mavros was better was in reproducing the air around percussion strikes and the trailing decay after them. Soundstaging was similar except for the aforementioned slightly larger one the Mark Grant cable had in terms of side to side width. The soundstages painted by both cables hanging just in front of the speakers. Both cables sounded coherent from bass to mid to treble, none of the frequencies were overly obvious. The Atlas cable was slightly leaner from top to bottom and the Mark Grant’s slightly richer bottom to top. Neither cable pushed the soundstage out to be too forward or in-your-lap.

I then listened to Hugh Masakela’s magical track Stimela (The Coal Train) and this stunning live recording showed up exactly the same differences between the two cables, as the Nintin Sawhney track Tides had. With the Atlas Mavros Hugh’s vocals just lacked a bit of the weight, texture and richness that you would expect from an African, which the G1000HD’s gave with ease. The percussion and the bite of brass instruments on this track had a bit more openness with the Atlas but in every other part of the musical frequencies the Mark Grant cable was just ever so slightly more natural.

Now I have used the words “ever so slightly” a lot during this review and some might see this as damning with faint praise. In many ways the two cables had a similar sound to each other, except in the areas of openness and air where the Atlas Mavros cable had the edge over the G1000 HD cable but only by a slim margin (there I go again). However I am not damning with faint praise by using these words because there is a significant difference in retail price between these two cables. For the Mark Grant cable to perform in the context of my system in a similar and in some ways better way to an Atlas Mavros cable is an achievement indeed; even if it sold for similar money but it doesn’t ! The Atlas Mavros cable is 10 times the price of the Mark Grant G1000 HD interconnect cable.

Even if you put the Mark Grant cable in a fancy box, it comes in a plain plastic bag or if it was sold via dealers rather than directly from Mark Grant; you would still have an interconnect that offers amazingly good performance for more money but still less than what an Atlas Mavros or similar cable costs.

Now its important here to take stock a bit. I am not saying that the G1000HD cable will be the best cable ever for the least amount of money. I can’t because I have not tried every cable available on the market, either in my system or your system but on its showing here (in the context of the review system) it has managed to do that I feel. As system synergy is always a factor in all things audio you will have to try these cables in your set up to see if they do for your system what they have done for mine.

As Mark Grant gives a 30 day money back offer if you don’t like the cables he will take them back with just the extra cost of returning them to him, so there is nothing to loose and potentially much to gain. However please burn them in fully, before judging it to be a negative and sending them back prematurely. Cable burn in does make a difference in my experience.

Talking of synergy I have read of some very odd experiences users have had with the G1000HD on line, it has been called bright, thin and in your face by some. Now how it could be like that I can’t really imagine, as it has always added a wee touch of warmth or richness to what I used it with and trust me here, the Meridian gear I was using can sound a bit forward and thin if used with a bright sounding cable but it didn’t during this review. So as with all things audio there are no absolute absolutes. So trying the G1000HD will be required for you to be sure of synergy with your system but what is there to lose ? bar the cost of posting it back….nothing.

So overall what do we have here ? Well what we have is, with the caveat of “if it suits your system”, is a rare thing in audio, an item that punches so far above its price point as to be a genuine stone cold bargain. It has been a long time since I have come across such a thing and it has been both a pleasure and a revelation to do so during this review.

I therefore award the very first AIHFA Amazing Value Award to the Mark Grant G1000 HD 1m interconnect cable.


Source of Review Product Loan…… Mark Grant Cables (Manufacturer)

Mark Grant G1000HD precision audio cable – Stereo Pair. Retail price for a 1m stereo pair is £75 http://markgrantcables.co.uk/

© Text and Photos Copyright 2010 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio. Except album sleeves and the studio photos of Mark Grant G1000HD cables. Copyright resides with those owners.

Product Photography by Hamish Gill Photography, F8Creates

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

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