One sign of the growing maturity of the high-end headphone marketplace is the number of cable manufacturers now offering specialised headphone signal cable sets. One such manufacturer is the Cary, North Carolina-based firm Moon Audio, makers of Dragon audio cables (take care, though, not to confuse Moon Audio with the legendary Canadian audio electronics manufacturer Moon by Simaudio; they are two separate entities). Moon Audio enjoys a very strong, international reputation as a versatile, world-class, online retailer of high-end headphones and associated products, but for this very reason it can be easy to overlook the company’s superb, specialty Dragon audio cables, offered both for full-size audio systems and for headphone rigs.
Our review subject here is a set of Moon Audio’s top tier Black Dragon Premium Focal Utopia V2 headphone cables, which feature precision-made LEMO-type headphone connectors to fit the specific requirements of the Utopia. The Black Dragon Premium V2 cables start at $395, with pricing dependent upon the length of the cable ordered and upon the buyer’s choice of single-ended or balanced amplifier connectors. For both single-ended and balanced-type cables Moon uses Furutech Top Line-series connectors, claiming that they are, “quite simply the best made”.
Black Dragon Premium Focal Utopia V2 cables use four 21.5AWG Teflon-insulated, stranded conductors featuring single crystal UP-OCC copper at ‘7N’ or ‘seven nines’ (99.99998%) purity. Moon says, “each conductor is made up of a special varying size stranding geometry”, where “copper stranding is mixed with Kevlar stranding” to increase the cables’ physical strength and resistance to flex-induced failures. The copper/Kevlar strands are surrounded by cotton, followed by a layer of Teflon tape. Finally, the cables receive a layer of shielding and a sturdy polyethylene outer jacket for added durability. Cable wires are soldered to their respective connectors via a high quality, high yield silver solder.
As it happens, Moon Audio makes two top-tier cables for Focal’s Utopia: the Black Dragon Premium Focal Utopia V2 cables on test here, and the slightly more expensive Silver Dragon Premium Focal Utopia V3 cables (with prices starting from $455). As the name suggests, the Silver Dragon cables use silver conductors rather than the high-purity copper conductors used in the Black Dragons. Moon Audio President Drew Baird encouraged us to try the Black Dragon model, which Moon Audio claims is “warmer in nature than the Silver Dragon Premium Focal Utopia V3”, yet emphatically “is not a laid back, lush, or dark sounding cable”. Instead, Moon claims the Black Dragon Premium V2 “is extremely smooth sounding with great low end and wonderful voicing,” with the ability to gently help make Focal’s hyper-revealing Utopia sound “a little less analytical and little more natural…”
For my tests, I used both the Questyle CMA600i fully balanced headphone amp/DAC and Moon Audio’s own valve-powered Inspire IHA-1 headphone amp/preamp as my listening platforms, using a set of Focal Utopia headphones as a reference transducer as I compared cables. Looking to assess performance at the highest levels, I played a battery of 24/96 and 24/192 high resolution recordings, switching back and forth between the Black Dragon premium V2 cables and the already excellent standard cables supplied with the Utopia. Here is what my listening tests revealed.