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.
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