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Magic Reference AC power cord
as reviewed by Robert H. Levi
"Superb" and "powerful" are the most accurate words to describe the stunning sound wrought from my E.A.R. 890 tube amplifier by this power cord from Harmonic Technology. Joining a handful of the world's top power cords, the Magic Reference shuns "hi-fi" sound and yields layer upon layer of musical color, coupled with jaw-dropping dynamics. It clearly bested my reference cable. Power cables are now as important as interconnects in virtually all systems, particularly reference, cost-no-object setups. Want proof? Just try this pure silver tour de force in your system and get out of the way!
Made of six-nines silver, with Harmonic Technology's patented low molecular structure (like their top interconnects), and double shielded for low RFI/EMI, these are some of the most robustly built cables around. Only the Virtual Dynamics Master power cord is stiffer. I'd recommend minimum lengths of six feet, for added flexibility. The Magic Reference is gorgeously finished, and truly looks like it's worth its $1800 price tag. This product was actually the first of the Magic Reference series, and is a part of a great heritage culminating in the new, nearly unequaled CyberLight interconnects 9see the reviews here, here, and here). I ran them for the recommended 72 hours before listening, and tried them on three systems, with both solid state and tube amplification.
The first place I tried the Magic Reference was in my Power World Power Wing line conditioner (see review). My entire system is plugged into the Power Wing, so it stood to reason that the benefits of the Magic Reference power cord would stand out clearly. The Kimber Palladian has always been my favorite here. When I substituted the Magic Reference, I couldn't believe my ears! I heard quite a bit more definition at all frequencies, and more dynamic drive, and I've never heard the Kimbers bested in either of these parameters. The improvements benefited all components, even my tuner and reel-to-reel tape deck. When I went over to a friend's house to try the Magic Reference in his system, the line conditioner was again the first place that we installed it. We replaced a Shunyata Anaconda Alpha ($2000) with the Magic Reference, and surprise! The Magic Reference was superior in his power conditioner, too. Definition and musicality improved about as much as it had in my system. We also heard more smoothness, and more realistic musical color, though dynamic slam was quite similar with the two cords.
I highly recommend this power cord as an ideal cable for your power conditioner, regardless of make, for its evenness of tone, extraordinary definition, and dynamic authority. Distortion seems lower, and backgrounds are as black as any power cord can make them. The manufacturer had hinted to me that the Magic Reference would benefit power conditioners as much or more than any other part of the chain, and I agree. As for the rest of your system, it's hard to say. In top systems, the predictability of power cord performance—at any price—is iffy. You will probably end up with a power-cord cocktail before you are done. I know only one audiophile who is completely committed to one brand of power cord in his system.
My next test was with the E.A.R. amplifier. I did not expect to hear as much improvement with a Magic Reference on the amp as I heard with one on the power conditioner. I was wrong. The Magic Reference proved to be a Kimber-killer here, too. The Palladian sounded dull and vague by comparison. With the Magic Reference, the 890 sounded fuller and more powerful. The power cord seemed to add 50 watts to its output! With Magic Reference cords on my amp and line conditioner, my system sounded much more real. I was astounded. Piano and horns were more master-tape-like and solid. Strings were more textured. The midbass opened up, and had a more realistic punch. I loved the atmospheric ambience and deep soundstage. E.A.R. should supply this power cord with this amp! I then tried the Magic Reference with my Cary SET amp. Same story. The Magic Reference was a clear winner with both amps. Based on the fact that I tested it on both pentode and triode designs, I think the Magic Reference is a safe recommendation for superior sound on any high-end tube design.
My next swap was with the ModWright Sony 999, on which I compared the Harmonic Technology to the Kimber Palladian and the Tara RSC Air One. The comparisons were so close that I could go with any of them, though the Magic was a bit more focused and detailed than the other two. If I had an additional Magic Reference, I'd put it on the ModWright Sony, but this super-high-end cord may be overkill on low-current gear. When we compared the Magic Reference to the Virtual Dynamic Master ($2000) that my friend uses on his ModWright Sony SCD777ES, the top VD cord sounded warmer, but equally detailed. This surprised me, but I don't know why it should. His system is quite different from mine, and his ModWright mod is different and somewhat older than mine. I think that there is not one power cord or interconnect that works perfectly with all source components, all the time.
The Magic Reference sounded excellent but not revolutionary with my friend's Innersound iPower 330 amplifier. The major improvements wrought by the Magic Reference with his line conditioner did not increase when another was installed on his amp. The only way I can interpret this is to say that the Innersound (as heard in this system) is a vivid, though somewhat bright amp that likes a laid-back-sounding power cord. The Magic Reference cable, which is spot-on neutral and alive, may be a better match with Levinson, McIntosh, Theta, or CJ solid state amps, which sound more like tube units.
Back in my system, the Magic Reference sounded better than the Palladian or the Tara RSC Air One with my solid-state Pass X-1 preamp. Preamps are funny beasts, and you may not need a super power cord there to maximize sound quality. I loved the Magic Reference with the Pass unit, and it gave a very heady boost to my E.A.R. 324 solid state phono stage.
The biggest improvement I hear with this power cord is added clarity and definition. Its smoothness and sweetness of tone is truly spot-on. The Magic Reference has an elegant, sophisticated sound and soundstage presentation that seems to improve a component's ability to make music. Maybe it's the silver, which is a better conductor than copper. Maybe it's the extra shielding. The plugs are solid and fit very securely, which could also play a part. The fit and finish of the Magic Reference is superior to many exotic power cables on the market.
The Harmonic Technology Magic Reference Power Cord is a top-drawer design. It beat my reference Kimber Palladians in definition, wherever I tried it! It must be considered by audiophiles who want the very best. It is an unparalleled achievement, and the best in my experience when used with tube power amplifiers and high-end power conditioners. I had wonderful results with solid-state preamps as well. The Magic Reference should be tried in each application, to ascertain whether its open, alive sound and huge dynamics are suitable. I'll bet that the Magic Reference will work wonders wherever you try one. It is a required building block for a stellar, no-holds-barred system, and gets my top recommendation! Robert H. Levi
CDs and SACDs used in this evaluation:
Getz/Gilberto, Verve SACD (3145895952)
Magic Reference AC cord