MeiCord Opal Network Cable Review

Posted on 30th April, 2020

MeiCord Opal Network Cable Review

Jay Garrett does some networking with this premium-priced, audiophile-quality Cat.6 Ethernet cable…

MeiCord

Opal Cat.6 Network Cable

£70 for a metre

MeiCord Opal review

It wasn't until the nineteen eighties that audiophiles really began to believe that audio connecting cables made a difference to the sound of a system – and as people auditioned ever more types, so the claim became less controversial. Nowadays, the great debate resides in the world of digital interconnects, where “bits are bits” and there's a plethora of super-cheap Chinese-sourced coaxial, USB and Ethernet cables to be had. As ever though, things aren't that simple…

As we increasingly turn to network-attached hi-fi products like streamers and NAS drives, Ethernet cables are becoming more important. The type of categorisation used for this type of cable is based on how much they surpass certain critical levels of crosstalk and RL (Return Loss). Cat.5 cables need to tick the required boxes at 100MHz, whereas Cat.6 designs must meet more stringent criteria at 250MHz. Despite this, it's now known that some Cat.6 cables fail even to meet Cat.5 requirements when tested. The MeiCord Opal you see here is measured against the American TIA component standard and comes complete with a measurement report, including near-end crosstalk (NEXT) and RL in dB graphs.

MeiCord Opal review

At £70 for a 1m length, some might think it expensive – but at least we know it does the job for which it was designed. Furthermore, an extra £10 buys you the 3m version, which looks a whole lot better value should you need the extra length. Another point to consider is that the Ethernet link between router and streamer is central to the working of any serious networked hi-fi system; most are happy to pay this sort of money for an RCA analogue interconnect of the same length, so why skimp on the digital link?

MeiCord Opal Networking Cable Review

Build quality is excellent with this German-made product. The partly hand-assembled MeiCord Opal is an unshielded Cat.6 design constructed from AWG 24/7 wire conductors. These are in twisted pairs and terminated using high-quality Krone snag-free connectors. Available in lengths from 0.25 metres to 20 meters, its substantial jacket makes the cable a little less flexible than other such offerings. Still, at least this will stop you from forcing it into uncomfortable angles.

SOUND QUALITY

My network system starts at a Netgear Nighthawk X8 modem/router and, using the aggregated ports, a tweaked QNAP NAS that's also my Roon Core. Additionally, there is streaming kit from both Naim and Chord Electronics in the chain. For the purposes of this review, I hooked this up to my router with the MeiCord Opal.

MeiCord Opal review

In my system, there was no “bolt-of-lightning” moment of revelation when moving to the MeiCord. However, further listening began to reveal the subtle but real improvement I was hearing in overall clarity and definition. Indeed, it was only when replacing my own cheapo network cables back in the chain that I truly realised what I'd been hearing with the MeiCord in situ. It was clear that it was releasing slightly better dynamics from my virtual music library. Kate Bush's Sat in Your Lap seemed to have more get-up-and-go, as I tracked Kate's search for wisdom.

The music had a more authoritative feel, with a little more weight coming from tracks like Jack Garratt's Better. The thumping bass drum, distorted synths and driving rhythm of this dancefloor filler seemed even more lively with the Opal in the chain. At the same time, Yo-Yo Ma's rendition of Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009: Bourrée 1 & II was carried with a slightly more crisp and balanced feel, with a clear improvement in dynamics. That virtuous bow work was both more expressive and more explicit.

THE VERDICT

StereoNET Silver Applause AwardOverall then, in my system, the MeiCord Opal brought a nuanced but tangible improvement in performance of my digital audio front end. I appreciated the refinement in definition and dynamics, and even the music's timing seemed subtly better. For this reason, I think this is a worthwhile upgrade. It's not inexpensive but is a high-quality product that still manages to be cheaper than some of the more grandiose Ethernet cables on the market. I have no hesitation recommending it if you have a decent network music player heading up your hi-fi system and want to match the quality of your connection to the quality of your front end components.

The MeiCord Opal is available now in a variety of lengths at MCRU.

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Jay Garrett

StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

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Posted in: Hi-Fi Technology Accessories Cables Applause Awards 2020
Tags: meicord  mcru 

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