I’ve reviewed the Danacable Lazuli for the Abyss and it was a significant upgrade from the stock cable. At the time I thought it was a tad warm and closed-in for my tastes but I thoroughly enjoyed the vocals and sweet sound signature. Since then I’ve yearned for that full and seductive midrange, which I’ve only heard from a Danacable. When Vinh from Danacable mentioned the new Lazuli Reference (which uses double the copper), I felt like I could predict what it would sound like on the Focal Utopia. My guess would be a tad warmer, a little bit more clarity and resolution, and a touch more shimmer up top. After comparing it with a few other high-end cables, it turns out to be a bit more complicated than just a few general descriptors.
Given the attention the Focal Utopia has garnered in recent times, I thought I would try out a few cables to find a pairing that would synergize best with the Chord DAVE (really wish I had a Liquid Tungsten in the chain). Typically when doing cable reviews, I usually have a definite preference and gravitate towards certain cables immediately. This wasn’t quite the case with the Utopia. I believe for the first time ever, the Headphone is so good and easy to drive that any cable would sound great with it. Heck, even upon initial listening the stock cable sounds pretty decent.
These are the challengers:
- Kimber Kable Axios
- Nordost Heimdall 2
- Double Helix Cables Prion4
- Danacable Lazuli Reference
I’ll preface this review by saying that all these cables are fantastic and it does come down to preference with these high-end cables. Each has its character and all them sound great on the Utopia…which is a rarity in this industry where synergy is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to find. Depending on the stage of your audio journey, you may prefer something more detailed now and something more cozy later, etc.
Kimber Kable Axios
- This is a really fun cable with lots of slam and energy. It also looks great.
- During my listening sessions I noticed that the treble might be a bit hot and splashy.
- It doesn’t quite have a natural tonality. Cymbals are a little tinny and just more treble glare in general. “Aggressive” comes to mind.
- If you multi-task while listening, you’d probably prefer this over the Nordost. It’s a quick, impactful, and provides an addictive texturing to the sound.
- The sound is definitely colored for musical enjoyment. A lot more meat to the bones vs the Nordost.
- Has more sparkle, slam, and shine than the Nordost by a large margin.
- If you have a warmer setup and prefer a more detailed and natural sound, the Prion4 is better.
- The Danacable sounds much more natural and coherent in comparison.
Nordost Heimdall 2
- Now this is an interesting cable. The sound was so unique I had to take a look at the actual cable. I didn’t realize most of it was made of teflon and there’s hardly any copper in it.
- This is the most accurate sounding cable of the bunch. Its tonality is on-point and it’s delicate but accurate.
- The Axios is definitely the more euphoric cable but I was drawn to the musicality, detail, and naturalness of the Nordost.
- The Nordost provides some staggering insight into the music. It’s just not as engaging as either the Kimber or Danacable due to its lack of low-end heft and leaner sound.
- I’ve actually never heard instruments sound this realistic on a cable. Period.
- It’s the most mellow as far as euphonic presentation. Really does lack the warmth to make it fun.
- It’s the tightest sound but the image is quite small compared to the other cables.
- Nordost is very fluid but isn’t as fun as the rest. It doesn’t have that lush atmospheric sound for live recordings.
- Nothing is exaggerated, just a clean, balanced, effortless, beautiful, and free-flowing sound.
- Instruments seem to take a backseat to vocals.
- Really needs more meat on the bones but this cable did garner a lot of my attention along with the Danacable due to it’s ridiculously natural tonality and resolution.
Double Helix Cables Prion 4
- This is my reference cable for most headphone listening and has provided me with valuable insight for most headphones I’ve reviewed.
- I love this cable because it’s pretty consistent in its character across all headphones. It’s very honest without being polite and it’s the most detailed cable of the bunch.
- As far as coherence, tonality, clarity, soundstage, energy, etc, the Prion4 shines. It’s a very fluid, expansive, and high resolution sound.
- The only thing it lacks a bit of textual warmth. I think this cable along with a tube output stage + Chord DAVE would be a heavenly combination. I’ll have to try more combinations in the future. A truly impressive headphone cable.
- It’s not as energetic as the Kimber but is much more tonally accurate.
- It has a more forward sound vs the Nordost, in a good way. It’s even more detailed than the Nordost and in many ways a bit more smooth and transparent. As mentioned, the Nordost has the most natural tone, especially for instruments, I’ve heard from any of these cables.
Danacable Lazuli Reference
- It doesn’t sound as accurate/realistic as the Nordost (none of them are, could be that teflon) but provides a very enjoyable tonality and low-end weight to make it immensely enjoyable.
- I preferred the Danacable over the Kimber in almost all cases. I felt like the Danacable did just enough of the right things to make music enjoyable.
- This cable has the largest image out of the entire cast. It’s quite nice when the kick drum hits and the crowd goes wild. You’re really immersed in a the music. It’s one of the primary reasons why I prefer this cable.
- More forward than the Nordost, which isn’t a bad thing.
- Lots of crunch, energy, textures, and just plain fun. This cable just immerses you into not only the music but the capabilities of the Utopia.
- Not as tight as the other cables but provides this tube-like, mellifluous sound. Really works well with the Chord DAVE. The Kimber gets close but comes off a bit aggressive at times.
- Kimber sounds a bit harsh in comparison. Danacable is much more fluid and natural as far as tonality and realism.
- Much better slam and weight of attack than the entire cast.
- Fantastic timbre and the most melodic cable out of the group. It’s what music’s all about.
- The Nordost has more of a novel sound that I would not attribute to being of the artist’s intent. It is addictive though and would go well with warmer/darker gear.
- The Danacable just seduces you into the music, not as refined as the Nordost but very musical.
- During my listening sessions, I really just wanted to go back to the Danacables any chance I could. It just provided an experience rather than an exam.
As far as pure musicality, the Danacable Lazuli Reference exhibits the best of all worlds. It wasn’t the tightest or the most detailed but it provides more than enough of it. It was to me, the most palpable, punchy, and overall the most musically enjoyable cable out of the cast. They are a bit thicker and heavier but it didn’t bother me. Are there times I wish it provided more clarity and delineation? Yes…but not at the expense of being harsh, overly analytical, or lifeless. Developing a cable that has the right balance of all the important attributes is extremely difficult to do and I believe the Lazuli Reference hits that sweet spot. You don’t think of those attributes because the music just flows out beautifully.
From my listening, the Danacable Lazuli Reference has enough resolution, low-end detail, body, slam, image size, spaciousness, textures, and energy to provide the listener with an amazing experience that is probably most aligned with what the artist intended the song to sound like. To my surprise, it even had enough shine up top. I can’t express how fun and open this headphone sounds while still maintaining a very accurate, natural, and balanced tonality. Perfect timbre on instruments and precise imaging. It has all the qualities of a high-end headphone cable.
For my Utopia listening…I’ve always gravitated towards the Danacable and I rarely felt the urge to pick up the other ones. It just feels like home with this cable. As a baby audiophile, I liked to chase shiny things. Something unique or novel sounding or something that allows me to put an X-ray onto the recording. I’ve now steered towards gear with more “artistic intent.” A piece of equipment that stays honest to the recording, regardless of genre, and still truly engages both the analytical and emotional parts of my mind. The Lazuli Reference is one such piece that does just that. The Danacable doesn’t require a huge commitment from the listener to fully enjoy the sound from the Utopia. The cable harmonizes so well with the Utopia that pointing out any faults would be blatant nitpicking and actually makes me felt a bit guilty. I rarely make these definitive statements but if you were to purchase this blind, I’m quite sure you won’t be returning it. That’s how good I believe this product is and the reason why I believe the Danacable Lazuli Reference is the best headphone cable you could buy for your Focal Utopia.