Captivating, lyrical, and emotionally involving
Review sample supplied by Final Touch Audio
Ganymede XLR 1750 euro for 1 meter
Ganymede RCA 1850 euro for 1 meter
After my enthusiastic review of the Callisto USB cable, Goran of Final Touch Audio sent me two more cables for review: the Ganymede XLR interlink which is the subject of this review and the Elara power cable which I will review separately.
Like the Callisto USB cable, the Ganymede is hand-made by Zoran Zubcic in Belgrade, Serbia, while the distribution is handled by Goran Vukmanovic from Switzerland. For more information on how FTA got into the audio business, please read the Callisto review. Just like the Callisto, the Ganymede interlink is highly flexible and has a loose-fitting sleeve but rather than regular black, it has a beautiful brownish, gold-like color. Producing the Ganymede cable is extremely labor-intensive, about 4 to 5 working days, due to the special braiding of no less than 50 meters of special 26g tinned copper alloy wire for a finalized 1.9m cable. Final Touch Audio is all about balance and combining the best matching elements that contribute to forming the sound that Zoran is after. For example, the connectors that they use are silver-plated and the solder contains silver as well so as to offset the use of the copper-based conductors. The XLR connectors are not the usual Neutriks or no-name brand OEMs though, but rather specifically selected silver Wireworld versions, again chosen specifically to precisely balance out the sound.
As with the Callisto USB cable, it has been reported back by customers that the Ganymede interlink needs some proper running in before it sounds its best. When I received it, it had zero hours on it but still, I can’t say that I heard any obvious effects that point to the need for lots of running in. That is, normally, when cables don’t sound very good when new and need a lot of running in (apart from the potential psychoacoustic effects) these tend to be designs that use a lot of Teflon or similar stiff plastics such as PE that needs to settle after the cable has been maneuvered into position. These types of cables can sound strident and overly controlled at first and normally loosen up after an appropriate amount of running in. The opposite also happens, but far less often: that a cable sounds mellow at first and gains focus after some playing time. This I noticed, for instance, with the Fusion Audio Enchanter and Romance power cables and the old Cardas Hexlink Golden 5C interlinks and, to a much lesser extent, with current Cardas cables.
Listening with CH Precision and Wilson
Coming from the Cardas Clear, the Ganymede appeared different in character from the Callisto USB. Whereas the latter was wide-open and highly articulate from the first moment of music playback even when compared to other very open-sounding USB cables, the Ganymede interlink was very smooth, warm, and relaxed. Initially, the Ganymede made the music sound slower in pace and less articulate in the bass than with the Cardas but still, it was highly likable because it was also so nicely free-flowing and so positive and utterly lyrical.
The feeling of slower pace quickly vanishes, though. Already after a couple of tracks, I found that the feeling of stepping on the accelerator whilst having the handbrake on was gone. It was still very smooth and relaxed, yet it had all the transparency and definition that I could ask for. What’s more: going back to the Cardas after using the Ganymede for a couple of hours actually made it sound dry and less a-swinging, and constrained in terms of soundstage.
The Clear is a very neutral yet decidedly non-abrasive cable but it seems to achieve its even-handed performance at the cost of what I usually refer to as a “filtering” effect. It’s weird – the Cardas has great low-level resolution. It does not mask any detail yet it does sound slightly veiled. I first noticed this when using the CH Precision Balanced Link cable and more recently, when using the Vermouth Reference. These two cables’ lack of this “filtering” is accompanied by them being more astute and, consequently, also drier. And dryness is something that the Ganymede absolutely does not have.
Ganymede interlink and Callisto USB cable connected to the CH Precision C1 DAC
Especially during my initial comparisons, the Cardas Clear was faster and tighter and more articulate in the bass but the more I used the Ganymede, the more it came side by side with the Cardas in these fields. The focus and imaging are comparable between the two but the Ganymede definitely has much more of that room-filling aura. The Cardas is relatively smooth compared to lots of other cables itself but the Ganymede is much so much more dreamy and ethereal that it makes the Cardas seem matter-of-fact in comparison. Oftentimes, a smooth sounding cable doesn’t have the best transient behavior nor the best bass articulation. In this case, however, even if the bass is indeed slightly less staccato than with the Cardas, meaning that its articulation is ultimately less clear-cut, this is only evident in a direct comparison. During listening (after settling/running in) never did I have the idea that the music sounded slow or that the bass was ill-defined. So, even if the cable has a smooth and relaxed presentation, I really can’t say that the Ganymede is rounding off anything. Meanwhile, its low-level resolution, dynamics, and transient sharpness are simply all the way up there.
More running in?
It is said that cables that have already been run in, can actually “run out” again when they are not used for a prolonged time. I’m not sure if this is what happened but as a result of other review work that was taking place simultaneously, the Ganymede had been left unused for a week or two, before I picked up where I left off. When I reconnected it, I had the same feeling again as in the start, that it was a very pleasant and seductive cable that was nevertheless slightly too rounded and warm. But sure enough, a couple of tracks later, the cable was back in business and remained like that for the duration of this part of the review. So, does this cable simply require (much) more running in than I gave it or does it simply need to settle after having been uncurled and dressed into position? I suspect it’s the latter but I may never know. Nor do I care at this stage, really, because if a cable can sound this great after only a couple of hours of playing time, I have high hopes for its sound when it has been fully run in.
Listening with Ayon Spirit and Kroma Audio Carmen
You’d think that a relaxed and lush-sounding cable such as the Ganymede might work less well with an integrated tube amp in the shape of the Ayon Spirit III and Kroma Audio speakers that are so much more richly textured than the Wilsons but to my great surprise, it worked absolutely superbly! In line with my earlier experiences with the Wilsons, there was a short settling period after connecting during which, again, I found its bass too slow and not precise enough but within 15 minutes the cable pulled everything into focus and from that moment on it produced nothing but utterly seductive music in a way that makes you relax and sink into it.
A big part of this, I think, is that the cable combines extremely high transparency and resolution with the richest and most fluid delivery that I have heard since the Transparent Reference XL cables. Besides further enhancing the room-filling capabilities of the Carmens, the Ganymede also further enriched the rich midrange textures that the Carmens, as well as the Ayon, are so capable of. And while it is undeniably a smooth operator, it never lets the sound tip over to the overly lush side.
After the comparisons with the Cardas Clear, I pulled out some other cables in order to more fully position the Ganymede’s performance. First up was an old favorite: the, by now classic, Cardas Hexlink Golden 5C, in this case with T T L treatment which makes it more fluid than when stock. Even after T T L treatment, this cable has a very solid sound with big, beefy upper bass and a sonorous midrange that always made it work very well with the Magnepan MG3.6 and the Diva and Duetta Apogees. In the context of my current system, however, these cables are not merely classics, they really start to sound it, too. The Ganymede does not sound as solid and sonorous as the Hexlink but otherwise, it is like a breath of fresh air, especially in terms of resolution, refinement, and fluidity. Then, I tried another classic favorite: the Transparent Ultra XL. This cable type and I go way back and it has always been a stable performer, working well in pretty much any situation. Faster, more refined, more fluid and more open, it is certainly an improvement over the Hexlink in those areas and although it has a fluid and airy delivery, compared to the superbly free-flowing Ganymede, it is somehow a little dry and gray and not as lyrical. Leaving the past behind and moving straight to the here and now, up next was the CH Precision Balanced Link. Concrete, resolute and precise would be the words to quickly describe it. Indeed, the Ganymede does not have the super-articulate, ultra-tight bass of the Balanced Link but it also does not have any of the latter’s spatial constraint and overt dryness. Perhaps the CH is the more accurate of the two but that does not mean that it allows one to have more fun with the stereo system. To conclude the comparisons I’ll throw in a cable that I reviewed recently: the Vermouth Reference from Bali. With the Vermouth and the Ganymede we have two cables that are very much apart in terms of presentation. So much, in fact, that one really can’t compare the two, let alone pronounce which is the better one. The Vermouth is in the CH Precision camp but bolder and more colorful. It’s a bit as if the CH Precision Balanced Link has swallowed some of the Hexlink’s DNA, making for a direct-sounding yet colorful cable with a lot of slam. If the Vermouth is like a Wadia CD player or DAC or a Bryston amplifier, the Ganymede is like an Audio Research Ref7 CD player, Aqua DAC or Jeff Rowland amplifier.
With my reviewing hat on, I like the Vermouth, the Final Touch Audio, and the Cardas, and all for different reasons. Heck, I even keep the CH around as a super-neutral reference to be used when the situation calls for it. But every time that I listen to it, I notice that the Ganymede has certain tube-like qualities, such as lyricism and liquidity, that much more easily allow me to get lost in the music. Was I to still use Magnepans, Apogees or even Logans, then the balance might have been different but with my current Kroma speakers, as well as with the Wilsons before that, I have absolutely no shortage in the bass or dynamic slam departments. And so, I am happy to trade some ultimate bass articulation and slam in favor of all the other parameters.
Is it magic?
The more I listen to the Final Touch Audio Ganymede, the more I do not want to disconnect it. When I finally did and made the last comparison all the way near the end of this review, I noticed that it had apparently settled in or run in even more fully as it had now become very hard to find any areas in the Cardas’ performance where it bettered the Ganymede. And what’s more: the newcomer was every bit as refined, transparent and airy but without having even a hint of a veil. My brain still informs me that the Cardas Clear is slightly more articulate in the bass and has a little bit more attack in the midrange, but it is also more technical and, would you believe it, also less lyrical. When listening with my heart, as anyone who is not a reviewer should, the Ganymede simply provides the most captivating, lyrical, and emotionally involving performance. So there you have it. My new favorite XLR interlink is the Final Touch Audio Ganymede. Now, if I could only convince Goran to leave it here at HFA quarters…
Manufacturer: Final Touch Audio