These days there are specialty cables for everything, and the mobile audiophile has to wonder if it is all in the interest of better, more accurate sound. Certainly there are cables that make an audible difference, and sometimes an audible improvement. But there are also cables that seem unnecessary especially if you are on a budget. For this first listen, note that the Moon Audio LOD cables belong in the former group: i.e., they make a difference you can really hear.
Moon Audio has produced a cable for the iPod and iPhone that goes beyond normal cable benefits, though. This one effectively makes significant changes in the analog circuitry involved in the traditional iPod/iPhone-to-headphone-amp signal path. Recognizing that this statement might seem a bit misleading, allow me to explain.
Most iPod-to-amp cables are designed to plug in to the headphone outputs of the iPod, but not so the Moon Audio Silver Dragon iPod LOD (Line Out Dock) cables. No sir, those cables plug into the big multi-pin connector at the base of the iPod, and they deliberately bypass the iPod’s earphone/headphone amplifier circuits altogether. Thus, you get what traditional audiophiles would call a “line out” connection. This means, of course, that you have to use an external amplifier (not a bad idea anyway) when using the LOD cable. It also should mean better sound, because you don’t have all that extra and unnecessary iPod circuitry adding distortion. After all, why run audio signals through two amps if you don’t have to? But sound should also be better in the sense that with the LOD cable you will, more or less by definition, be using a higher quality amplifier.
Moon Audio offers two versions of its LOD cables: the Silver Dragon LOD cable, Version 3 ($95 for a 6-inch model), and the Silver Dragon IEM LOD cable, Version 3 ($65 for a 6-inch model). Moon Audio builds cable to order, so you can—for a reasonable fee—have your LOD cables made up in just about any practical length you’d like.
Silver Dragon LOD
In simple terms, the Silver Dragon LOD cable is intended for higher-end applications (often in desktop audio contexts), and therefore uses exotic, ultra high-quality signal wires that are optimized for sound quality, but that are consequently quite thick and stiff. Moon Audio offers this description of the LOD cable configuration:
• “The cable uses 4 x 99.99998% UP-OCC silver 24AWG Teflon insulated stranded conductors. We have improved the conductors’ properties over the previous Version 2 cable. These conductors are free from impurities and have virtually no crystal boundaries. The conductors have almost no distortion compared to ordinary silver conductors.”
• “Each conductor is made up of a special varying sized stranded geometry. The silver strandings are mixed with Kevlar standings to reinforce the conductor, making it stronger overall and less prone to failure due to the harsh constant flexing of a portable system. The conductors are then surrounded by cotton and a thin layer of Teflon tape.”
• “(The Silver Dragon LOD cable) is protected by a 100% coverage silver plated copper shield and placed in a polyethylene jacket for further protection.”
• “To improve (the cable’s) flexibility we are no longer using a Techflex jacketing as we did with our previous versions.”
• “A variety of connection options are available for your downstream connection. Such as the mini plug, RCA, XLR and a whole host of others. We custom build these in house to your connection specification.”
• “The cable can be used in either a single ended or balanced design. The wire is soldered to a connectors using high quality Cardas silver solder.”
Silver Dragon IEM LOD
The Silver Dragon IEM (in-ear monitor) LOD cable, in turn, also uses very high quality though admittedly less exotic signal wires that offer, by design, a good compromise between improved sound quality and excellent physical flexibility. In short, the IEM LOD cable is intended for applications where users will want to strap their iPods to a companion portable headphone amp and will therefore need a signal cable that can accommodate a sharp, 180-degree bend in order to plug into the amp (see accompanying photo). Moon Audio highlights the following construction details the define the IEM LOD cable:
• “The cable uses 2 x 99.99998% UP-OCC silver 26AWG insulated stranded conductors as the central positive leg of the cables. Each central conductor is surrounded by an externally wrapped negative conductor. By using a coaxial design, we where able to create great flexibility and a small footprint. The conductors’ purity is the same as its big brother’s. And thus these conductors are free from impurities and have virtually no crystal boundaries as well. The conductors have almost no distortion compared to ordinary silver conductors.”
• “The center conductors are made up of a special varying sized stranded geometry.”