FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 18
M-Path line of cables
as reviewed by Karl Lozier
I heard about many new cable companies at CES three years ago, but heard the most buzz about the DiMarzio products. During my usual day at the convention center, I was talking to two national sales managers, and the discussion somehow turned to cables. When asked if I had heard the DiMarzio cables, I replied, "No. Why do you ask?" The response was that they were very good, and when people who make their livings managing audio companies make statements like that, they are usually meaningful. How sad that most audio reviewers blabber on with a great deal of hyperbole to say the same thing. I asked, "As they as good as Kimber's top models?" The reply was no, not quite as good as Kimber, but close.
The next day, as I, along with Frank Stuppel of internet sales fame, were entering T.H.E. Show's front door at the San Remo Hotel, I bumped into Sedrick Harris and Larry DiMarzio. We all introduced ourselves and exchanged cards, with DiMarzio apologizing for a last-minute card printing that had misspelled his name! Sedrick wound up becoming DiMarzio's first audio sales representative, Frank became—and still is—an internet promoter of DiMarzio's products, and now here I am, writing about his cables
DiMarzio is not exactly a newcomer to audio. He admits to being a closet audiophile, and I have heard from many sources that he and his company are top names in a musical niche field. They make an almost bewildering array of products having to do with amplified musical instruments, most notably guitars and their pickups. Larry assumed that he could start offering audio products without tying his company's success to the new line. From my perspective, that appears to be the case. All three of the products I will discuss here are the top models in their respective categories. All are very well made and visually impressive. All offer very good (or better) performance, with real value pricing in the seemingly ever-escalating audio world.
First up is the DiMarzio power cord, called the M-Path AC Cable, at the bargain price of $225. M-Path (a name that will be recognized by Star Trek fans) is a registered trademark of the DiMarzio Company. This classy-looking power cord is covered with a subtle blue and black weave. Internally, it has three 12-gauge OFHC copper conductors. My calculations indicate that three 12-gauge conductors contain more metal than a single 8-gauge conductor.
Sooner or later, the question should arise: What should a power cord do? Would an answer like "Not add or lose anything" suffice? If you think that sounds peculiar, I agree. What would your answer be? While you think about it, I will give you something else to think about. At some time in the past, you must have encountered a cheap radio that had instructions that advised you to straighten out the power cord and move it around a bit, as it was actually the antenna. When we plug in one of these costly power cords, how do we tell it not to behave like an antenna? Shielding or filtering should help, but some designs might filter too much and thereby affect the music. On the other hand, how much of a problem can this be if there is a hundred feet of unshielded wire in our homes feeding that old, cheaply made wall outlet? I know from personal experience that shielding a cable can and does affect sound quality, and can do so negatively. I have listened to the "same" cable shielded and unshielded—proof enough for me. I almost yearn for the good old days, when special power cords didn't exist.
(As an aside, I called the Kimber Kable Company a few years ago with a question. Ray Kimber answered the phone, and in the course of the conversation I congratulated him on his new power cord by saying that the shielding must be outstanding because the cord was the quietest and clearest I had ever heard. His reply was that it had no shielding, just a combination of materials and a braiding design that resisted interference! Oh well, just leave the cures to the audio engineers.)
Noise or RF interference (I am not even going to start on the issue of EM interference) is just the tip of a mini-iceberg of possible power cord problems. I will just say that the situation is not as simple as we originally thought. Although I have only mentioned a few of the problems that can affect power cords, the same problems (plus others) can and do affect interconnects and loudspeaker cables. I will not bring up the subject again when I discuss DiMarzio's interconnects and speaker cables, but keep it in mind. In those cases, the problems affect the musical signal directly. With a power cord, the signal is affected indirectly, but indirectly or not, the power cord can and does affect the music.
That has been a long (perhaps too long) preamble, so let me get to DiMarzio's M-Path AC Cables. Using them was straightforward and without quirks. Connection at the wall outlet was secure, though that is usually a property of the receptacle (one of a number of reasons to consider a top-quality outlet). A "hospital grade" outlet is not necessarily significant for audio purposes, but it does hold the prongs of anything plugged into it with great tenacity. Hospitals are not forgiving of accidental tugs disconnecting heart or oxygen machines! Listening quickly revealed the superiority of the M-Path cord over the stock power cords that are included with most audio components. Most of those are 16- or 18-gauge, though a few manufacturers make the effort to provide 14-gauge shielded cords. The DiMarzio cord had more clarity and detail. The sound was a bit brighter, and bass response much more solid and powerful. The M-Path sounded as if it were in the $300 to $400 price range, which easily qualifies it as a best buy.
Next up are DiMarzio's M-Path Interconnects, which feature 16-gauge OFHC copper conductors with gold-plated locking RCA terminations. XLR terminations are not available on this top model. DiMarzio's basic interconnects, which have silver-soldered terminations, are available with XLR connectors, but not the M-Paths, which feature solderless, ultrasonic-welded terminations. What is wrong with soldered connections? Quite a bit. While the problems are not subject to measurement at the moment, solder does not sound good, and is a poor electrical conductor to boot! That is true for silver solder simply because there is (surprise!) very little silver in silver solder. It is not an issue of cost—silver simply does not melt at the relatively low temperatures provided by typical soldering irons. Pressure is not a major factor in solderless ultrasonic welding, as I once thought. Isn the resulting juncture, the two metals appear to have literally melded. The juncture is theoretically as good as it can gets. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, it is labor intensive, and time is money.
The appearance and build quality of the M-Path Interconnects is fine. The pair is matched except for color, with red braid for the right channel and black for the left. Their sound quality is as good as can be expected in the $150 to $300 price range. Bass is solid and extended. The tonal balance is slightly on the bright side compared to my usual cables. The M-Paths avoided exaggeration, distortion, and edginess, though at times it seemed that small percussion instruments did not sound as clear, clean, or prominent as I remembered.
Last up are the outstanding jewels of the DiMarzio cable line, the Super M-Path Speaker Cables ($500 per 8-foot pair). They definitely go beyond very good performance, at a very reasonable price. Competitors will only be found at the four-figure level. They are constructed of two individually insulated bundles, making them 9-gauge. They are of reasonable size and are relatively flexible. I found them to have no particular flaws, and I really tried to discover some. They have a very strong and solid midrange that extends to both ends of the audio range, with particularly solid bass. Every time I listened to the Super M-Paths, I kept thinking of the word "direct" to describe their sound quality, but that probably describes the amplifier's sound quality when its signal is sent directly to the speakers without modification. That kind of performance is hard to beat at any price. The DiMarzio Super M-Path Speaker Cables with ultrasonic welded lugs are particularly highly rated, especially at the price. Karl Lozier
M-Path AC cable
M-Path speaker cable