Product Review (April 2004) - Ethereal
Premium Home Theater Cables

Ethereal Home Theater, a division of Metra Electronics Corporation, has introduced a new line of A/V cables designed to provide consumers with high performance interconnects at a reasonable cost. Their product line features everything from speaker cables to high-definition video interconnects. We had the opportunity to put some of their cables to the test and use them in our home theater system. A variety of interconnects were provided that included composite video, s-video, and component video cables. Both Toslink and coaxial digital cables were also included in the mix. To top it off, we also had their 15-pin to 5-BNC and 15-pin to 3-RCA cables on hand for testing. All of the electrical contacts used on the cables feature gold-plated conductors for long term reliability and low contact resistance. Something unique to Ethereal cables we noticed is the black braid material used on the outer cable jacket. Also, each cable has a unique color band that makes it easy to recognize in the sea of home theater cables present in most systems.


Speaker Cables
We connected our front channel speakers with the EP-SWP3 (pair) and EP-SWC3 cables. The EP-SWP3 comes with a pair of cables for the left and right channels, while the EP-SWC3 is a single cable for the center channel. The design of the cables use a single jacket that contains heavy 12 gauge, high strand count conductors. Each wire is pre-terminated with 24K gold-plated banana jacks coded red and black with easy to grip backshells. The plugs offered excellent contact friction with the binding posts found on our M&K S150THX front channel speakers. The design worked particularly well with our M&K speakers, which are rated at a 4 ohm nominal impedance. In actuality, the M&K S150THX speakers present a much lower impedance at some frequencies and having a cable design that offers very low resistance, proved to be beneficial in our setup. The EP-SWP3 and EP-SWC3 cables are available in lengths of 2m, 3m, 4m, 5m and 10m.


Composite & S-Video Cables
Designated with a yellow band, the V-Series composite cable is built around a sturdy connector with gold-plating to ensure a long-term reliable connection. While composite cables appear simple, the reality is they must not only carry luminance information, but also a modulated chroma signal to produce a single composite signal. As a result, composite signals can easily be degraded due to poor line impedance and shielding resulting in color separation artifacts. The V-Series cable design was impressive with great performance from our source material. We connected our Sony DVP-NS900V DVD player as a source and looked at material on our
Mitsubishi PD-5010 50" High-Definition Plasma Display. Although we never recommend using composite video, there are some cases where one has no choice. Standard VCRs and even Laserdisc players get their signals from a composite source and in both cases the V-Series performed well. The V-Series looked as good as any high-priced cable we've seen in this type of application. The V-Series cables are available in lengths of 0.5m, 1m, 2m, 3m and 4m.

The S-Series s-video cable also uses a yellow band identifying it as a video interconnect. The gold contacts reassured us that the connection will offer long-term reliability. Unfortunately s-video connectors in general are known to be a problem for many consumers. However, they are here to stay and it's certainly good to know that cables such as the Ethereal S-Series can maximize video performance. The S-Series cables are available in lengths of 0.5m, 1m, 2m, 3m and 4m.

Component Video Cables
The set of component video cables we received (CV2) was marked with the familiar red, green and blue designation bands, which represent the R-Y, Y and B-Y component video signals. Once again using our Sony DVP-NS900V progressive scan DVD player, we connected the component video signals to our
Mitsubishi PD-5010. The construction of these video cables looked very similar to the composite video cable with gold-plated contacts and small fingers inside of the RCA housing that grabs the RCA jack that mates to it. There's nothing worse than plugging in an RCA connector only to find that it doesn't grab the receptacle well. The design of these connectors ensures that the contact is solid. Video performance was excellent with the CV-Series cables rendering accurate colors with sharp video and no ringing. We were pleased with the video produced with the CV-Series. The CV-Series cables are available in lengths of 0.5m, 1m, 2m, 3m and 4m.

Digital Cables
Ethereal also offers both Toslink (T-Series) and coaxial digital (D-Series) cables for audio. Both of these connector backshells are designated with a lavender color band to distinguish them from the other cables. The Toslink connector is contained in a sturdy housing with an easy to grab backshell. Unlike many Toslink connectors, the T-Series are easy to insert and remove from digital components. We connected the T2 cable from our Marantz MV8300 D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR to our Parasound AVC-2500U Processor. We popped in the recent release of Moulin Rouge on D-VHS and were blown away with the DTS Digital Surround offered on this latest release. We never experienced any dropouts or problems using this cable. The T-Series cables are available in lengths of 0.5m, 1m, 2m, 3m and 4m.

Like the other RCA connectors used in Ethereal cables, the D-Series use a similar design with gold-plated contacts and a well designed housing for excellent performance and low-contact resistance. Controlling impedance is particularly important with high speed edges seen in digital audio signals and the D-Series delivers the performance one would expect from a quality cable design. We ran the coaxial digital output from the Sony DVP-NS900V to our Parasound processor and the results were superb. Whether we played standard two-channel audio, DTS, or Dolby Digital, the sound quality was excellent with no dropouts. We would have liked to try a longer cable for this application (ours was only 2 meters long), but didn't have one on hand. The D-Series cables are available in lengths of 0.5m, 1m, 2m, 3m and 4m.

15-Pin to 3-RCA
The HD3R-Series cables are designed for high bandwidth signals with a 15-pin VGA connector on one end and a set of three RCA connectors on the other end. The RCA connectors used on this cable look different than the RCA connectors used on the other Ethereal cables. Rather than metal backshells, these gold-plated RCA connectors used molded plastic. However, this didn't appear to impact performance in our tests. The 15-pin VGA connector on the other end of the cable also used gold-plated contacts.

Many displays and projectors have a 15-pin input connector that's configurable for either component or RGB inputs. In the case of component video, this cable is ideal for such applications. There are also products that use the 15-pin connector to output both RGB and component-based video as in the case of our Home Theater PC fitted with an Macro Image Technology MDP-100 HDTV tuner. We used this HTPC as a source of high-definition video to feed our display during our tests. The picture was very detailed with the HD3R-4 installed and there were no signs of any degradation. The HD3R-Series cables are available in lengths of 0.5m, 1m, 2m, 3m and 4m.

15-Pin to 5-BNC
Finally, we connected the HD5B-Series cable fitted with a 15-pin VGA style connector on one side and a set of five BNC connectors on the other side. This cable was by far our favorite for more than one reason. First of all, we like BNC connectors on interconnects. They offer a secure twist-lock connection and you never have to worry about them working their way out. Secondly, the HD5B-Series cable carries video in its purest form with the RGB/HV connections. Separate horizontal and vertical sync signals are carried on two separate coaxial wires, while the RGB video signals are carried on individual red, green and blue coaxial cables. We
tested this cable with the Mitsubishi PD-5010 50" High-Definition Plasma Display. Our source material came from our Samsung SIR-T165 set-top box. Our local high-definition broadcasts offer superb video. For example, NBC's Law and Order produce an excellent picture and image quality was outstanding with this cable. Our review cable was only 4 meters, but I would expect similar results with the longer 10 meter version as well. The HD5B-Series cables are available in lengths of 0.5m, 1m, 2m, 3m, 4m and 10m.

Conclusion
Spending a lot of money on cables is certainly easy to do with the vast amount of costly cables available to home theater enthusiast. The goal is to create a system that performs well for years to come without breaking the bank. Ethereal has a wide variety of cables that satisfy this requirement. The construction and design of their cables offer consumers a quality product with a solution to the overwhelming task of wiring all the components needed for today's home entertainment systems. While there are many new cable companies to choose from, one must beware of overpriced cables that offer little performance benefits. We found the Ethereal cables have an excellent amount of performance for the dollar, especially when compared to many of the cables currently being offered by well-known companies.

- Kevin Nakano


Review System

Projector: Marantz VP-12S2 High-Definition DLP™ Projector
Screen:
Stewart Filmscreen 100" Luxus Deluxe FireHawk Screenwall
Display:
Mitsubishi PD-5010 50" High-Definition Plasma Display

Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 TripoleŽ Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Mitsubishi HD-5000 Receiver
D-VHS VCR #1: Marantz MV8300 D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
D-VHS VCR #2: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
Laserdisc Player: Pioneer CLD-D704 CD/VCD/LD Player
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
DVI Cable #1: Monster Cable M Series M500DVI DVI-D Cable
DVI Cable #2: Accell Corporation Gold Series DVI-D Cable
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Video Signal Analyzer: Sencore VSA794 NTSC Video Signal Analyzer
Color Analyzer #1: Sencore CP5000 Multi-Display Color Analyzer

Color Analyzer #2: GretageMacbeth Eye-One Pro with Milori ColorFacts Software


Review - At a Glance

Ethereal - Home Theater Cables

Cable Prices (MSRP):
Model D2: Digital Coaxial Audio Cable (2M)

$37.50

Model T2: Digital Optical Audio Cable (2M)

$37.50

Model S2: S-Video Cable (2M)

$29.81

Model V2: Composite Video Cable (2M)

$29.81

Model CV4: Component Video Cable (4M)

$84.42

Model HD3R4: VGA-to-5 RCA Video Cable (4M)

$46.99

Model HD5B4: VGA-to-5 BNC Video Cable (4M)

$66.60

Model SWP3: Speaker Cables, Pair (3M)

$78.46

Model SWC3: Speaker Cables, Center (3M)

$43.53

Several other cables are available from Ethereal.
Check the website for more information.


Company Information
Ethereal Home Theater
Metra Electronics
460 Walker Street
Holly Hill, FL 32117-2699
Sales (866) 839-9187
Fax (386) 252-9399
Email: davidw@etherealhometheater.com

Tech. Support (866) 839-9187 #203
Email: brentm@etherealhometheater.com

URL: www.etherealhometheater.com

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