When DHL rang my bell, customs had resealed a small box with their nosy tape. Perhaps Sunny Diego origins had triggered narcotics suspicions? I'm told that our little town of Kilrush hosts five different drug dealers. When Covid kneecapped the pub biz, that trade apparently went after euros not spent on booze. There actually was swag inside my box; eye not nose candy by way of a nicely branded big cleaning cloth for reading or prescription specs. Since I don glare-filter glasses on my computer, I had just the place for Rob's cloth. His cable unspooled without kinky memories so draped in a relaxed straight line along my wooden floor board. I put a 120-track playlist on repeat, left the amp off then the room to run some warm welcoming voltage down the new wire.

Once I rejoined this room for a cable comparison—6m AudioArt AES/EBU vs 6m Sommer Cable BNC—the setup had slightly changed. Akiko Audio's Corelli had found a permanent place; and Vinnie Rossi's original L2 Signature preamp here fitted with Elrog ER50 direct-heated triodes reactivated. Now Cen.Grand's DAC ran in purist 'direct' mode to bypass its analog Muses on-a-chip resistor-ladder volume. The full signal path was Shanling M3 Ultra microSD USB transport on battery power ⇒ Soundaware D300Ref USB bridge on super-cap power ⇒ Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe ⇒ Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature ⇒ icOn 4th-order active 80Hz filter ⇒ high pass ⇒ Enleum AMP-23R ⇒ MonAcoustics SuperMon Mini ⇒ low pass ⇒ Dynaudio 18S sub. Power delivery was via Furutech GTO 2D NCF plus passive-parallel Akiko Audio Corelli conditioner. Equipment rack by HifiStay.

Once it was AudioArt audition time, I'd made one more system change not shown above: Wellfloat's Delta Extreme isolators from Japan. Two each sat beneath the monitor stands, two more under Dynaudio's subwoofer. Contrary to personal expectations, inserting these low-rider floatation devices with integral wire suspensions made a noticeable difference particularly under the sub which already isolated on Divine Kepler footers. The far costlier Japanese kit was the clearly more effective. It even telegraphed under the speaker stands where I didn't foresee any improvement potential. In short, resolution on a suspended floor had increased by more effectively cancelling structural gain's blurring action on the time/texture domain.

Back on today's cable, according to ETI Research who make Rob's chosen plugs, it took advances in CNC accuracy to perfect their XLR connector. Previous male pins often had too much mass to cause excess capacitance. Making their rhodium-plated silver-over-copper pins hollow but strong at just the right wall thickness changed that game. From the AES/EBU specs, we know that it connects via 3-pin XLR over a balanced cable of nominal 110Ω with a signal voltage of up to 7Vpp. By contrast, the S/PDIF spec is set for 0.6V max so ~1/10th the signal strength. If nothing else, AES/EBU promises a more robust signal which should be advantageous over longer distance independent of balanced transmission's inherent noise rejection.

XLR pin execution in overlay.

Remote in hand, both cable feeds live simultaneously off the Soundaware D300Ref, I switched DAC inputs at will. The upshot wasn't a decisive difference but still favored the AudioArt cable. Why? The tonality of the Sommer BNC was mildly brighter, thinner and drier. That made the AES/EBU version a hint more fruity, full and weighty. The qualifiers were slight, marginal, a tad or smidge so synonyms of their ilk. In my hardware context I'd not really sweat the offset. Being presented with a convenient option, I simply had a preference so exercised it. Or should that be exorcized? Would Sir care for the Colombian or Jamaican roast today? By that metric I instructed James my butler to leave the AudioArt in but pull the Sommer out. Short and sweet. I'll not dare make definitive statements on one format's superiority other than reiterate that in my occasional digital cable tussles thus far, the sequence of best to worst always was I²S where available, then AES/EBU, BNC, coax and Toslink. Today I²S over HDMI or RJ45 was out. Now AES/EBU once again occupied my familiar ranking. Was that because of a superior format, better cable or advantage of a particular implementation in the send or receive component? I haven't the foggiest. Going forward I only know this: whenever the choice presents again, I shall once more trust my anecdotal evidence to opt for balanced over standard S/PDIF coax or BNC. Sunny Diego indeed.