Hands-On Review:Core One Creative CORE X2 Cables
Premium cables priced for the masses.
By Julius Peckham
I'm sure just about every musician is familiar with the situation. You arrive at the gig, set everything up just as it was in the rehearsal space (where everything sounded great), and when you turn everything on, there it is—an annoying hum or static coming through your speakers. Then you spend the next 15 minutes trying to find the source. The same thing might happen in your home recording setup. As you may or may not find out, it's not an external source that is aiding and abetting the dreaded hum but an internal one—shoddy cables.
There's a reason those cables were three-for-$10 in the bargain bin of your local music shop—inferior materials and design. Instead of continually buying inexpensive cables that only last a few months, isn't it smarter to invest a little more and get premium cables that offer a lifetime warranty? The folks at Core One Creative think so, and they've created the CORE X2 line of instrument, microphone, and speaker cables to prove that a clear, noise-free signal and solid construction doesn't need to cost you a small fortune.
Building a better cable
The engineering team at Core One Creative—with its 20+ years of experience in cable design—spent 16 months creating the CORE X2 cables. The goal was to create a line of premium cables that would preserve and deliver an accurate representation of tone across the frequency spectrum while keeping the price tag lower than other comparable cables. There are a number of elements that went into achieving this.
One of the most important points to address when building a solid cable is the connector. You could have the finest conductors and insulation, but without a good connector, it will be all for naught. CORE X2 instrument cables use 24k gold-plated, riveted connectors, which not only offer maximum durability but preserve the signal better than cables with a pressed-on connector. Ever look down during a solo to see that your connector's come apart and is hanging halfway down your cable? With a one-piece connector, this is no longer something to worry about.
CORE X2 mic cables utilize XLR connectors that resist corrosion and improve signal transfer. What this translates to for the end-user is a noticeably cleaner, more realistic reproduction of the signal, be it vocals, miked cabinets, or direct-out applications. The connector bodies are built for maximum durability using die-cast metal rather than plastic.
CORE X2 speaker cables utilize high-quality, precision-molded PVC Neutrik Speakon connectors that stand up to the most intense strains. Both the Speakon and XLR connectors are locking types, assuring a solid connection that won't come undone until you want them to. CORE X2 speaker cables are available in three configurations: with one-piece, riveted 1/4" connectors; a 1/4" on one end and Speakon connector on the other; and Speakon connectors on both ends.
From the inside out
Of course, connectors are not the only thing that goes into creating a high-end cable. What's on the inside is just as important. Let's take a look at how the instrument cables are constructed first.
Instrument cables most often carry a low-level, unbalanced signal from a guitar, bass, or keyboard. A wide frequency response is imperative since a bass or keyboard signal will have lower frequencies than a guitar. In order to achieve the widest frequency response, CORE X2 instrument cables use a multigauge center conductor made of 99.99% oxygen-free copper strands in a quad-balanced configuration that helps to keep the signal in and noise and interference out. The purity of the copper is significant because, as some listening tests have shown, impurities can actually act as barriers that can distort the signal. Carbon-impregnated dual-shielding further increases resistance to RF and electromagnetic interference—the enemies of good tone and a solid signal. An industrial-grade outer jacket keeps all these essential internal elements secure and maintains their integrity through the rigors that all cables face.
Many of the same design elements go into CORE X2 microphone cables. The major difference is that they utilize solid conductors. Solid conductors are more beneficial in a mic cable because a cleaner, more defined signal than an instrument provides is desired. This could be lost through greater distortion if the conductors were stranded. A wide frequency range is maintained while distortion and noise are kept out of the signal path.
CORE X2 speaker cables incorporate the same audiophile-grade materials of the instrument and mic cables. The 24-gauge solid conductors are in a balanced twisted-pair configuration to maximize the delivery of a high-wattage signal and keep the frequency response range as wide as possible. This results in an extremely accurate reproduction of the source signal, something that's especially important when mixing recordings, where a flat response from your monitors is the goal. However, these cables also handle the more colored, EQ'd signals that PA speakers are subjected to, so they're just as beneficial in a live setting as they are in a studio or home recording setup.
I'd like to share something personal with you—something I'm not very proud of. I've been buying cheap cables for years. I can't help it. Until I began researching for this review, I had no idea what went into making cables, and how skimping in just one area can make a huge difference in signal quality. I've judged cables simply by the way they looked or felt, without any clue that the sub-par materials on the inside would compromise my tone or the recordings I was making.
Now that I've spent some time using the CORE X2 cables in my live and home recording setups, I can safely say I won't be searching the bargain bin anymore. My mixer—an oldie but a goodie—was always blamed by the band for our muddy live sound. However, once we had replaced all the connections with CORE X2 cables, that old mixer was given a new lease on life. I had always doubted that the mixer itself was to blame, but it never occurred to me that the mishmash of different cables we were using was the culprit. Outfitting my home setup with CORE X2 cables really improved the brightness in my guitar and vocal tracks, and made a huge difference in the mixing process (even with my inexpensive monitors).
So while they may cost more than standard cables, keep in mind that the difference between the CORE X2s and standard cables is exponential. Cables that claim to perform better will only offer an incremental improvement at best. Most high-end cables cost so much because of the name on the package and clever marketing terms that mean very little. Core One Creative focused instead on incorporating audiophile-grade materials and solid construction into the CORE X2 line, at a price that anyone can handle.
Features & Specs:
|CORE X2 XLR Microphone Cables:||CORE X2 Instrument Cables:|
|CORE X2 1/4" Speaker Cables:||CORE X2 1/4"-Neutrik Speakon Speaker Cables|
|CORE X2 Neutrik Speakon Speaker Cables:|