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Black Rhodium Charleston DCT++ CS loudspeaker cables

Black Rhodium Charleston DCT++ CS loudspeaker cables

Black Rhodium’s head honcho, Graham Nalty, has been making audio cables seemingly forever. I still have a pair of his interconnects (Silver Pink, if I recall correctly) from his Sonic Link days… and that’s at least 30 years ago. But, despite those decades at the craft bench, Black Rhodium has never been one of those brands you associated with esoteric prices; esoteric materials in the manufacture of cables and terminations… sure. High-end approaches to aspects of design like cryogenic treatment of conductors… absolutely. But, swimming in the gold-leave strewn waters of the high-end cable world? It’s just not Graham Nalty’s style.

So, when Black Rhodium released its Charleston loudspeaker cable, the £4,800 price for a 3m pair caused a bit of a sharp intake of breath. A seasoned railway enthusiast, was Nalty planning on buying his own train? In fact, Charleston – full name ‘Charleston DCT++ CS’ – remains resolutely down-to-earth in true Black Rhodium style. It’s simply a difficult cable to build and treat, and that means it ends up being ‘spendy’… although by true top-end standards, Charleston barely makes it to the middle tier in price terms.

Those letters after Charleston’s name are not simply there as ballast. They stand for ‘ultra, ultra deep cryogenic treatment to the silver-plated copper strands’ In addition, Black Rhodium’s never-ending search for the ideal material for each use has led to the use of rhodium-plated connectors throughout, a fully vibration-damped screen along its entire length and large RFI-busting ferrite rings in its construction.

Charleston is also stated to be rooted in science, as the press release states that ‘all cables obey the laws of physics.’ While this is good to know (I don’t want my interconnects to open up a portal to some kind of eldritch Lovecraftean nightmare universe… for now), Black Rhodium’s take here is that the molecular structure of different metals imposes an effect on the sound of a system, and both impurities in the metal itself and the dielectric can deleteriously affect the performance of a good system. The choice of materials and the use of cryogenic treatment helps the electrons to flow!

This ‘led by the science’ drive by Black Rhodium results in the cryogenic treatment of Charleston’s silver-plated copper conductors, but it also means the braided screen has been ‘vibration damped’ along its whole length, the speaker plugs themselves have been carefully coated (given the company name, the fact they are rhodium-coated shoudn’t come as too big a surprise) and are available as either locking banana plugs or spade lugs, or any combination of the same. The cables also feature ferrite rings, held in place with colour-coded heatshrink to denote channel (remember: red on the right, what’s left is ‘left’).

I used Charleston with a variety of integrated and power amplifiers, but most notably with the excellent Audio Research Reference 160S stereo power amplifier and (latterly) the Primare I35 Prisma as a more down-to-earth – if somewhat cable-oriented, given the cables cost as much as the amp –system. Loudspeakers were either the recently discontinued WIlson Duette Series 2 or the excellent Audiovector R1 Arreté stand-mount loudspeakers. In each case, Charleston did itself proud and did so consistently, which bespeaks of quality.

Charleston’s specifications, though impressive in their own right, do not prepare you for the performance these speaker cables can muster. Naturally – given the dance-inspired name – they impart an excellent sense of rhythm to the sound, but the overarching impression is that of a detailed, precise and expressive performance, one that draws out the dynamic range in any system that would be commensurate with cables of the Charleston’s quality (and price point). The abiding sense of accuracy and balance to the sound is also evident from the first note played through the system.

There is a fine sense of precision to the overall performance of Charleston. Sounds are well presented in a three-dimensional space with excellent solidity. They rise out of a stillness that the Black Rhodium cable seems to impart over the sound. This contrasts well with some of the more overtly bright and forward sounding cables that can prove initially attractive, and yet, the cable is not so dark and brooding that it turns music into a dirge.

The overarching tales are ones of detail and rhythm, though. The depth and richness of the presentation is one thing, but it is underpinned by a solid core of detail and rhythm.  As you delve deeper into the performance of Charleston (it’s complex enough to make that process like peeling an onion, revealing layer upon layer of extra information), you become made aware just how good the cable is at the everyday stuff of music, in most part because it deals with the harder stuff so well. It gives bass a freedom to play at powerful levels, yet is neither overblown nor too restrained. Similarly, the midrange is extremely clear and the treble clean, detailed and extended.

Oddly given the name, the rhythmic qualities of the cable are more ‘majestic’ and ‘precise’ than they are ‘danceable’. In other words, Charleston is exceptionally good at coping with the more complex rhythmic structures and difficult tempo of even the most ‘gnarly’ piece of music – the multiple time signatures of that most audiophile of jazz albums (Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet on Coumbia) are given full attention here… making toe-tapping almost impossible given tracks in 9/8 and 5/4 time. A number of cables do not have the same ‘temporal clarity’ as Charleston and you can ‘stutter-tap’ your foot through the album. The fact it becomes more difficult here is a good thing… honest!

Returning to good, beaty 4/4 time and Black Rhodium’s Charleston aces it, and its deep bass detail helps define and underpin basslines and drumbeats. That’s when the dynamic range hits, too. In short, yes Charleston does live up to its dance-oriented name… but only when the music is inviting you to dance. In other words, this loudspeaker cable is one hell of a good communicator of detail!


Price and Contact details

  • Price: £4,795/3m pair

Manufacturer: Black Rhodium

URL: black-rhodium.co.uk

Tel: +44(0)1332 342233

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