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Review: Tara Labs RSC Vector Series Audio and Video Cables

Review: Tara Labs RSC A/V Cables

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Ashland, Oregon audio and video cable manufacturer TARA LABS has a simple slogan, “The Cable Technology Leader.” Recently, I had a chance to put their reputation to the test by using their Rectangular Solid Core (RSC) audio and video cables at my home.

www.taralabs.com

Admittedly, I was a little skeptical regarding the difference I would notice in a high-end audio/video cable compared to my cheaper component video and RCA audio cables. After all, I’ve seen high-end cables in electronics stores and at CES but when the audio and video is being played out of high-end components anyway how much difference can you tell without using measuring equipment?

Evaluation

It didn’t take long for me to hear and see the difference when in the comfort of my home. I immediately saw a cleaner, crisper image with the video. Still, it was nothing like my experience with the audio stream. This is where the RSC cables really shine.

Listening to the television was like switching from standard definition digital video to high definition. I heard sounds I never heard before in songs and commercials. It was like moving from an outdated computer to a newer model.

The more I listened and watched the more I got used to the better video and audio. It was like I forgot how much less my cheaper cables gave me. This was a good thing.

The cables were protected by a very strong plastic cover that curved instead of bending. It was tough to get them connected in a tight space but I felt comfortable with the durability of the design.

Overview of the RSC Vector Series Audio Cables

The RSC Vector Series is a high-performance fiber optic audio cable that utilizes ‘common mode rejection’, which according to Tara Labs owner and designer Matthew Bond “a way of positioning conductors relative to one another that actually rejects RF and Electromagnetic Interference, the stray energy that modulates the signal and causes distortion.”

The RSC cables are unshielded. Tara Labs says they aren’t like traditional cables “that use two conductors laid side by side.” Instead, they “are designed to cross over and around one another at specific angles.”

According to Bond, there are two benefits:

  1. Cables are more flexible
  2. Audio sounds more open and multi-dimensional that shielded cables

Bonds says, “(This presents a) minimal parallel attraction between conductors result(ing) in very low capacitance, the gold standard of cable performance. Cables with higher capacitance tend to “roll off,” or lose, high-frequencies in the audio band, resulting in sound that is muddy, two-dimensional, or flat.”

RSC Video Cables

I had a chance to interview Matthew Bond regarding the characteristics of their video cables. Here are some excerpts:

Me: How important are cables to the viewing/recording experience?

Him: TV/Video cables are all Characteristic Impedance Cables. That is, they are ALL 75 ohm Impedance. For the best performance, accuracy to that impedance, and low loss over the length of the cable, are important considerations in the cable’s design.

Me: What is Tara Labs doing to ensure the best transition from analog to digital?

Him: “Analog Video cables should not be confused with analog audio cables, which do not require a 75 ohm characteristic impedance. The need for this impedance is because the wavelength of the video (or digital) frequencies is shorter than the cable, and therefore miss-match can cause reflections. Audio wavelengths are much longer (many miles) than the cable, and thus cannot cause mismatch reflection.”

Me: How does Tara Labs work with television manufacturers and cable/satellite providers in developing the best wiring solutions with consumers in mind?

Him: “TARA Labs constantly researches the current and future trends in audio, video, and digital technologies and designs cables that match these trends. These are tested and evaluated both technically and in real world situations.”

Me: My understanding is that DVI and HDMI are the only 'true' digital wires available right now. Can a person watch digital cable with component, RF, composite, S-Video? Also, with respect to high definition, can a true HD feed pass through RF/coaxial and still achieve HD resolution?

Him: “Digital cable/satellite transmission currently requires a set top box, which in most cases (cable) can also receive analog signals. The set top boxes can output digital signals, using DVI or HDMI."

"This is not the only way to receive digital as digital coaxial cables can also carry the same format. However, a single digital coaxial cable will carry the digital equivalent of composite video. DVI and HDMI carry the digital equivalent of RGB. The set top boxes also generally can output analog video (and audio), and the video can be sent using composite, S-Video, or preferably Component."

"Although the analog signals are still High Definition, in practice they will be equivalent to DVD quality, whereas Digital HD can far exceed this level.”

Me How can a digital signal pass through an analog cable and still retain its digital properties?

Him: "Cable and satellite providers can transmit their signals in digital through coaxial cables. The set top box converts to the various outputs. Digital has not always been sent via Fiber Optic cables.

"Your question about passing digital through analog cables was answered in question one: As long as low loss 75 ohm cables are used then it is a digital cable. You are confusing “analog audio” with “coaxial” cables."

"What is important is the transmission frequency, not whether it is digital or analog. Higher frequencies require 75 ohm cables…The advantage of Fiber optic cables becomes apparent over long distances.”

For more technical information on the cables, please visit Tara Labs Web site.

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