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Having tried expensive boutique cables before, I approached Carver Professional's ZEROpoint high-definition cables with suspicion. On the other hand,

Having tried expensive boutique cables before, I approached Carver Professional’s ZEROpoint high-definition cables with suspicion. On the other hand, as I have often said, it only takes one cheap cable to mess up a million-dollar sound system or recording.

Unlike cables that are simply oxygen-free, ZEROpoint cables use the patented Ohno continuous casting method to draw pure copper into a single unidirectional crystal structure, a construction method that cannot be fully appreciated until you open up the cable. The cable has a double shield, using a copper outer braid and an inner Mylar foil shield with a drain wire. The shield is telescoped to the source end, indicated on the instrument cable by purple heat-shrink labeled “Input.” Two oversized 18-gauge conductors are wrapped in cross-linked polyethylene to minimize dielectric absorption, and an extra PVC layer under the shields absorbs noise. Like the mic cable, the ¼-inch instrument version uses two conductors, with the shield unused for the signal path.

Why pay extra for a product? Because it sounds better. The ZEROpoint mic cable offered a slight, but noticeable, improvement to the sound of an inexpensive dynamic mic. It was more obvious with a condenser mic, and it seems the more expensive the mic, the greater the difference. The ZEROpoint instrument cables yielded similar results, opening up the sound of Highlander, Baggs and Fishman acoustic guitar pickups, a Fender Strat and sounding especially surprising on a Precision Bass. The audio benefits from an openness, a transparency and clarity in the highs, and a tighter focus in the lows. Most pro engineers or musicians would pay hundreds of dollars to get this effect in a processor. The musicians invited to the critical listening session were blown away that a cable could make this much difference.

ZEROpoint cables are available in lengths from one to 50 feet, with XLRs or rugged gold-plated brass ¼-inch plugs (straight and right angle). The 20-foot version lists for $96, and they all come with a lifetime warranty and a hook-and-loop cable wrap. They are also sold as the Fender Pro Tone instrument cables in 3, 12 and 18-foot lengths, and ZEROpoint cable is also available in bulk on 200-foot spools.

Carver Professional;; 503/978-3344.