POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 17
CyberLight P2A and Wave interconnects - part 2
as reviewed by Robert H. Levi
I spent considerable time with the single-ended Wave and P2A CyberLight interconnects, enjoying them in the front end of my Avalon system and throughout my passive Paradigm/SET system. What I heard was not only superb, alive, and faithful to the source, but new, different, and historic. I loved the fact that NO break-in was required for this cable, and the way Harmonic Technology built all of the fiber optic modules within the first few inches of the interconnect. Although you must hook up each pair to a battery pack, they are amazingly user friendly.
The day the balanced P2As arrived, along with the updated battery pack, I felt like Neil Armstrong as I hooked up the worlds first balanced, metal-less, photon fiber interconnects between my Pass X-1 preamplifier and E.A.R. 890 amplifier. No metal wire was to be seen or heard in the signal path between my Sony ModWright SACD player and the amplifier, except what was within the components. The Cyber Battery Pack was now the Mark 2 version, with a handy on/off switch, so no more unplugging the interconnects to charge the battery charge. As I switched the system on, I muttered "One small step for audiophile man, one giant leap for hi-fi!" I slipped the new Mercury Suppe SACD into the player and settled in for the main event.
I once read a review of one of the first great equalizers. The reviewer managed to equalize his system for flat response, but did not like the results—too accurate, he said. Would I like the 100-percent-neutral sound of the CyberLight cables throughout my system? Hell yes. Were my components up to the task? Absolutely. Would I miss the warm, fluffy colorations I got from my Kimber and Soundstring cables, the incisive crispness of Acoustic Zen, or the characteristics of the other cables I use? Maybe. Was I bothered by the conversion of electrons to photons and back to electrons within the space of 1.5 meters? Not a bit. Like the single-ended CyberLights, the balanced CyberLights are the biggest advance in connectivity in our hobby to date. They are up there with the world's best interconnects, and just may BE the world's best interconnects.
I had always suspected that the performance of today's audio gear, with extended frequency response and low distortion, was limited by the interconnects that link the components together, and the CyberLights confirmed this. For the first time ever, I'm hearing my components in stark relief. Good to excellent discs are even better than I thought. The ModWright Sony sounds like it is transmitting a microphone feed to the amplifier! Sweet sounding discs still sound sweet, and powerful recordings still sound powerful, times ten. The definition is astounding and the sense of aliveness is without peer. My Magnum Dynalab 108 tuner sounds like I have a live microphone feed from NPR. I've heard similar clarity in other high-end cables, but there were always problems. Frequencies were often emphasized or rolled off. Quiet was sacrificed, or depth shortened. Then there were the colorations that always marred the sonic picture, or painted the musical scene through rose-colored glasses. Neutrality could be achieved, but only at the expense of threadbare or cool sound. Plus, all metal cables seem to have a fine grain that reduces clarity to some degree, but which is often blamed on the gear or the recording.
After listening extensively to the CyberLights, I have not been able to discern any discernible colorations, and no sonic nasties. I hesitate to call them perfect, but I have no other cables to which I can point as an adequate reference. The CyberLights do not roll off or emphasize any frequency. They are supremely quiet, and their soundstage depth is as good as it gets. They even appear to help your amplifier work better—I'm not sure why, but clipping seems to be reduced. Conventional wire must transmit grunge that eats up amplifier power. The CyberLights simply don't create artifacts that upset your amplification, and the effect is not subtle.
There's more. The CyberLights break ground loops. They are immune from EMI and RFI. A 200-meter length of CyberLight appears to be less deleterious than a one-meter length of conventional high-end wire. I tried a three-meter length of CyberLight in a passive system, and it yielded much better sound than a one-meter length of my best wire. CyberLight sounds like it has no sound. If you own top-flight electronics, you will be astounded, I assure you.
I played around with a cable cocktail. By combining the truly colorless CyberLights with other brands of cable, the colorations of the combination became extremely predictable. I tried numerous cable combinations, with fun results. Cables are equalizers of sorts, and you can use them to mediate flaws in recordings, gear, or your room, in subtle, clever ways.
The CyberLights do not sound cool. In both of my systems, clarity and purity did not mean cool or sterile sound. Many speakers, particularly electrostatics and horns, tend to be on the cool side. Some point source radiators are rolled off on the bottom and tend to be a bit bright. They are designed around certain cables that have innate warming effects, so that the combination sounds musically correct. You may just not have your speakers set up properly. I do not think it prudent to assume that purity will lead to musicality. The cable cocktail is your answer, with the CyberLights positioned between front end components and your usual brand between preamplifier and amplifier. I listened this way until I got the balanced CyberLights on board, with marvelous results, but the Avalons and Paradigms improved in all parameters with the CyberLights in the complete circuit. If you have already tamed the room, bought the finest gear, set up your loudspeakers for best performance, and acquired the best recordings, then forget the cable cocktail. CyberLight straight up is the way to go.
Since Harmonic Technology does not make CyberLight speaker cables, I still have Kimber Silver Select cables connecting my amplifier to my Avalon Eidolons. It performs well, and it does not seem to get in the way sonically. It should, as it cost a hefty $4000. Needless to say, I am delighted with it, and recommend it as a great match with the CyberLight cables. The low interaction of the Kimber tells me that you can safely use many brands of speaker wire with the CyberLight interconnects. I suggest you try silver formulations, as they appear to be sympathetic with the CyberLights, but with the CyberLights performing all interconnection duties, the improvement in your system's performance will be dramatically obvious regardless of your speaker cable.
The CyberLights are wonderful, but expensive at $1500 for a 1.5-meter pair plus $400 for the battery pack (which runs three pairs), though I'd be hard pressed to give an interconnect recommendation that competes with the CyberLights for less than $3000 per meter. If you can afford only one pair, put it in the front end, between your best components. On the other hand, a pair between preamplifier and amplifier improves everything. My tuner is connected to my preamplifier with Kimber Select, but was mightily improved by putting CyberLights between my amplifier and preamplifier. I was stunned at the added delicacy, quiet, and verisimilitude. My phono stage, connected with Kimber Select to my Pass preamplifier, also got a boost in clarity and definition from the CyberLights.
I did have one small problem with the CyberLights: though they are quite flexible, the conversion modules at each end are several inches long, and you will need a full seven inches behind your preamplifier or component. You must also be careful when disconnecting the CyberLights. Never pull on the jackets. Lastly, turn them on from the battery pack before you turn on your amplifier. They make modest pops and other unusual sounds as they fire up. I don't think these sounds can cause damage, but I turn the CyberLights on first and off last, just in case. They do not seem to be affected by vibration or static electricity, so cable lifters appear to be unnecessary.
The purity of authentic neutrality is hard to describe. Just listen to the soprano solo in the most recent Carmina SACD from Telarc. The purity and natural texture of the voice is undeniable. The recording venue shimmers in space, in a way that makes you believe you are listening to a direct-to-disc feed. Your ears are caressed in mellifluous tonality that sounds so real. The CyberLights are truly unlike any cables that have gone before. By the way, the balanced CyberLights are sonically identical to the single-ended ones, and they are truly balanced, with three fiber paths enclosed in each cable.
Having the CyberLights in the entire circuit creates a sonic environment that is new to home audio. The sound is so much more relaxed, less hyped and hi-fi. It's a stunning effect, and it is dramatic in its enhancement of the musical experience. It's sort of like getting the VTA of a great cartridge just right, only much, much more so. They are also the best cables I've yet tried in my passive setup, where they are more detailed and dynamic than any other cable I have in house.
After using them for a while, I took them out and ran my previous favorites, the Kimber KCTG ($950 per meter). When I again replaced them with the CyberLights , I was shocked by the added detail and pacing. Even the finest low-capacitance pure silver Kimber interconnects sounded thin and dimensionless compared to the CyberLights. I suspect that the CyberLights have no sonic equal, at any price, with a passive preamplifier. I suspect that they buffer passive preamps, and help them maximum purity and power.
Before my system was completely wired in CyberLight, I thought that the interconnects caused a slight increase in volume, but I now find that they mimic the volume levels of other cables. Their clarity and total lack of noise will also lead you to listen at lower levels, which is a good thing. Kimber Select is a bit rolled off in the bass, and the CyberLights corrected this, so there might be a slight increase in bass power if the CyberLights replace cables that have this problem. I once thought that my Avalons might be a bit rolled off in the bass, but I guess not.
Even after many, many hours of listening, I failed to drain a battery pack. It appears to go more than fifty hours before needing to be recharged, which it does quite quickly when you turn it off. It has useful status lights and a power switch, and you leave it plugged in all the time. The cables come with individual wall warts that reduce their performance by 30 to 40 percent. They are strictly for emergencies I think.
Are you building a state-of-the-art system? Do you already have huge bucks invested in top gear and speakers? Do you want to maximize your investment and hear what your system really sounds like? Whether you need single-ended or balanced interconnects, you owe it to yourself to try Harmonic Technologies' CyberLight interconnects. They are the 21st century's connectivity solution. I am confident that only extremely expensive cables can compete with the CyberLights, which makes them sort of a bargain. They may be expensive, but they are the first of their kind, and sound spectacular. Their see-through clarity, lack of identifiable coloration, full-bodied dynamics, and awesome definition and level of quiet are unsurpassed. I can't imagine what's next from Jim Wang at Harmonic Technologies. Meanwhile, the CyberLights are the stuff of audiophile dreams. They have become my new interconnect reference, and have forever changed the way I listen to recorded music. Robert H. Levi
P2A or Wave interconnects
Cyber Power Pack