I was going to title this post “A Swedish Surprise” but presumed it was something salacious. Thank you Urban Dictionary.
I was firmly in the camp of spending no more than $10 on an ethernet cable. After my review of the fantastic sounding SOtM dCBL-CAT7 ethernet cable, I wanted to survey a few more quality cables, preferably at a lower price point. All cables in this review were either purchased or borrowed from the community (Thanks guys!)
Along with a few cables in the $250-$600 range, a friend of mine mentioned the Swedish-made Supra CAT8 cable. A sub-$50 cable that’s apparently very popular in the Computer Audiophile community. Being an open-minded audiophile, I thought “It probably won’t compete but sure why not.” 😛
The first thing I noticed about the Supra ethernet cable was the tag with a golden string. There’s a handwritten name/ID of the person who soldered the cable. For some cables they’ve even included batch numbers so that they could backtrace time, parts, and personnel. Although I think it’d be difficult to screw up the soldering on this type of cable, I never knew this level of quality assurance was applied to ethernet cables. I think it’s a nice touch and speaks volumes on the length Supra takes to ensure the best craftsmanship.
The cable itself feels almost like any other generic CAT7 cable. Perhaps a bit stiffer.
One other thing you’ll notice is the distinct and innocuous color of the cable.
This is a conscious choice, offering a distinctive brand image, very typical Scandinavian Swedish and guides your awareness from the clean, sensible appearance to the astonishing performance that awaits beneath. We wish that our customers enjoy a sensational feeling that comes from knowing the true nature of performance under the surface, with a resemblance of the clean and calm Nordic water and ice.
Beautiful ain’t it? It’s also flame retardant so if your tubes ever catch fire and burns down your house, your ethernet cable will be safe.
I’m just going to cut to the chase with this one. This cable has a very coherent and smooth sound while still being full-bodied and euphoric. Besides sounding a little flat vs some of the other cables…I have zero complaints. The tuning of this cable was obviously done with a lot of Tender, Love, & Care (TLC). It’s rich, musical, natural, and pleasantly addictive. It provides just the right amount of tonal density to instruments and voices while maintaining a very liquid and detailed sound. It actually reminded me of the time I first heard the Meze 99 Classics. It’s not perfect but you have to admit it sounds pretty damn good.
Even during my sessions with much pricier cables, I’ve gravitated back to the Supra CAT8. Each cable had its signature but the Supra CAT8 just pulls me into the music. I had to do a few triple takes as I just couldn’t believe I’ve consistently preferred the $45 cable over the rest (excluding the SOtM dCBL-CAT7).
From my experience, 70% of the time, I would have to say price does correlated with performance. However, it’s quite a mixed bag with ethernet cables. In regards to the Supra CAT8, some of you will very likely prefer more resolution, refinement, soundstage, and treble energy that you’ll get from the other cables. I’ll go much more in depth about the specific sonic traits of each of these cables in an upcoming SOtM iSO-CAT6 review, but for now, I would highly recommend hearing this cable for yourself.
How much did I like the Supra CAT8 cables? Well, I bought a DIY kit to rewire my entire entertainment center. Hard to believe, but the difference was apparent with my 11.1 surround sound system.
I’ve also challenged a few naysayers in my circle. I had them replace the generic cable from the modem to the router with this Supra CAT8 cable and had them listen to their favorite songs on Spotify/Tidal. The difference was undeniable and now they understand that not all audiophile purchase decisions are irrational. 🙂 Even your mom could hear the difference. So for those who stream most of your music, you’ll get a pleasant and audible upgrade in your sound quality. Just make sure you have one of these cables at every part of your chain.
Bottomline, if the SOtM dCBL-CAT7 is beyond your budget, get the Supra CAT8 cable. I went from nearly dismissing this cable entirely to embracing it in my systems. The dCBL-CAT7 is vastly superior but diminishing returns goes into overdrive ($45 vs $500). The Supra CAT8 ethernet cable is not only a good value but I personally preferred it over cables many times its price. I would say it ties with SOtM dCBL-CAT6 cable depending on whether you want a smoother, fuller sound (Supra) or a more detailed, neutral, and clean sound (SOtM). Both are much flatter sounding versus the dCBL-CAT7 but you’ll get incredible value and fantastic musicality.
Comes to show, you can’t judge a cable by its color. It’s a win for the audiophile community because you don’t have to spend boatloads of money to get great sound. If you’re still using a generic cable, the Supra CAT8 ethernet cable is a low-risk, no-brainer. As far as audiophile-grade components, it’s an extreme rarity as far as price/performance is concerned. I really can’t praise this cable enough.
Here’s what Supra Cables had to say post-review:
While writing, we thought we’d add some info to our cable/-s and to the debate in general. Our driving force is to try to avoid any tuning at all. Any device or cable adding a specific, repeatedly detectable signature is not correct, because it will mask the true signature, i.e. the recording. What is correct is to keep as much of the modern household radiation and fields outside as possible. What is also correct is to acknowledge the well defined Ethernet standards for cable design to maintain maximal signal integrity. What is benign is to have a huge bandwidth headroom, allowing re-sending bit packages and always keep read buffer full. What is also worth mentioning is that there are some brands and models of routers and switches that provides metal housing for sufficient shielding and a quality standard named QoS (Quality of Service) that substantially improves signal integrity and reduces jitter. Now, noise does not affect binary code, does it?… Well we’ve done enough real world tests to identify what you’ve just established in this review; cables really do matter. Keep the signal clean and strong, and the DAC will thank you by converting the bit stream to real music with no signature other then the intended on the recording. If you have any questions to us, you’re most welcome to send a message on our Facebook page “Supra Cables”
UPDATE: A kind message from one of my readers (Thanks Pete!):
Hi, I read your review of the Supra Cat8 Ethernet somewhat skeptically but at the price it seemed worth a try. I initally started with a 0.5M run from my Fios converter to my router. Based on what I heard, I ordered a custom 6M run for router to MacBook Pro. In short, I hear EXACTLY what you described in your review of this cable. The Supra Cat8 has what sounds like PERFECT timbre, is exceptionally smooth and rich with a really good bass foundation and decent detail/imaging. It is not the last word in high frequency energy or transparency but is still far better than the generic CAT6 I was originally using. It made a surprising difference in my digital system (Macbook Pro, PS Audio PWD II mainly with Tidal or JRiver). Dare I say it, it makes digital sound a little more like analogue. Digital still falls beneath vinyl in my system but it is pretty enjoyable at this point. Anyway, you nailed the sound of the Supra Cat8, thanks for the heads up! Now I suppose I should consider replacing my DIY generic data only USB cable?