ONLINE - ISSUE 22
Audio Ramblings - Seasonings?! I don't need no
Want to add some flavor or seasoning to your system. Spice it up a bit! A tad dry or washed out? Add more color! Not sweet enough for ya? Sprinkle a little sugar on top! Want some more air to fill in the space? I got ya' covered.
Alan Kafton (audioexcellence az) sent us a pair of 1-meter Acrolink 6N copper power cables terminated with the Oyaide P/C-037 male and female AC plugs. These plugs are the rhodium-over-silver versions and present the listener with a touch of speed and clarity versus the other Oyaide options. Options!? Yes, options. You can also get direct gold and palladium-over-gold male and female AC plugs allowing one to add a different flavoring to the sound as preferred by the listener or the system's character. That is the three versions will offer a different sonic perspective from each other—which one will work best for you, only you can decide, but this allows the listener to tune their system to a degree without changing anything all that dramatically—the cable stays the same. Cool. However, with three variations the combinations are endless. Well not endless, but you can mix and match, if need be, creating a cable that best fits your preferences.
These cables also benefit from a double cryo treatment (done by Cryogenics International—see an interview with Charles Beresford here) and being cooked on the CableCooker™ for a defined period of time. Meaning that these are not simply "stock" cables. No stock stuff for us! We get our stuff …especial.
The cable, through Alan, offers the end user upgrades that result in real sonic improvements (Acrolink cables and Oyaide products are distributed in the US by the Lotus Group). Not that a stock cable would not sound quite as good, but the effects of cryoing and then CableCooking™ creates a "finished" cable that sounds very, very good. Muy especial!
How good? Well comparing the $365 (for the first meter) Acrolinks to my $900 JPS Kapotvators the differences were too close to call. That is, both cables sounded so similar to each other, that make any differences a moot point. If you want me to be the consummate audio weenie, then the Acrolinks offered a bit more warmth and ease (say, sweeter "if you will"—don't you just hate that term if you will when used by newscasters. I mean, what if I won't?!) to the music then the 3x the price and ever so slightly more viscerally exciting Kaptovators, when feeding the AC to the Audio Magic Transcendence. This is the only place I tried them, so my observations are rather limited and should not be construed that the benefits as noted will be apparent universally on all components and among all listeners in the known plane of existence. Other than that, compared to generic Belden cables, the two cables offered improvements in all areas—extension, slam, clarity, soundstage, musicality, presence, palpability, yadda, yadda, yadda. The differences I heard seemed to reflect what one hears with copper versus that from the mixture of copper and aluminum, or whatever Joe is using in his cables. Sort of like very good copper versus very good silver—both quite nice, but with a slight "flavor" respective of their metallurgy. What this means is that at $365 and change, the Acrolinks from Alan are an audio steal. They offer the end user a very high value with incredible musicality only equaled (for me at least) by the way more pricey JPS cables. You could easily out-fit a whole system, mix and match the AC plugs for optimum sonics, and be the envy of your neighborhood. What, not all the people on your street are into audio?! Sheesh, man what is their problem?
Oh, did I mention that they look nice, are well built resulting in minimal fuss and worry, and should last a lifetime? No? They look nice, are well built resulting in minimal fuss and worry, and should last a lifetime. Expect to see more comments on these cables in PFO—Danny Kaey has them as does Victor Chavira.
Okay, on to something much pricier, yet equally able to season things for a bit more flavor: the Audio Magic Transcendence power line conditioner ($4999). While it is not something all that simple, it is certainly an elegant design. What you get is a power line conditioner based on the magic of Audio Magic that allows one to "tailor" their conditioning by switching in a series of capacitor types and values. Jerry Ramsey of Audio Magic has designed the Transcendence—and to a lesser degree, the other PLCs in his line—with three switches assigned to each outlet. What these switches do is "feed" the AC (in parallel to the actual "main" filters) to various capacitors assigned to each switch adding an extra degree of filtering or, as with the Acrolink/Oyaide AC cables, flavoring to the AC and hence the component plugged into that outlet. Cool.
From the Audio Magic site, "Now, for the first time, you can custom-match your filtered power to the component being filtered by simply hitting a series of switches on the front panel [either 2 or 3 switches per bank (amplifier, preamp, digital) depending on model.] Thus optimizing your new conditioner for the best synergy between components: your system will have better dynamics, detail, staging, transparency, and—most importantly—musicality. Additionally, "The Transcendence uses dual Magnum super filters, specially designed duplex's, three totally isolated circuits, cryo treated with MST treatment, 10 ga. silver conductors, two 20 amp breakers, two detachable power cords (not included) as well as premium and ultra premium parts." It also has spike and surge protection in case Spike or Surge break into your house.
With 5 outlets, the Transcendence has 15 switches on its face making for a daunting task in finding the right combination of "filtering" for each component and ultimately, your system. Fortunately as configured, each outlet's settings do not affect the other outlets and their settings. Okay, but it would seem that as one finds the right setting for one component, its "new" sonics would influence the system's synergy, so that you would now need to change the settings for the other components, causing the user to then change the first, then the second, then the third …and back again! Jerry, you created a monster!
Well, yes and no.
Yes, it is a monster conditioner both in size and by what it does [keep in mind that this is two PLCs in one chassis requiring two AC cords—one for the analog side (amp/low level side) and one for the digital side]. We have always appreciated Jerry's products for the simple reason that they make our system sound the way we want it to sound—fast, clean, upfront, visceral from top to bottom, while still musical and not over the top. What the Transcendence builds upon the Audio Magic sound of PLCs. That is, if you have heard the earlier incarnations of the Eclipse, XXX, etc., the Transcendence is simply an evolution or extension of that "sound"—but by a magnitude of 10-fold. Way better. Way quieter. Way more out of the way. Simply, way more music and information. Scary good.
Scary?! I don't want scary! I want music. You got it, relax. The Transcendence is quite amazing in how it allows one to hear what is on the disc or in the gooves. Bad sounds bad. Good sounds good. Great sounds great. This is not the PLC to make all your discs sound good, and in the end, sound the same—that, it will not do. We have heard others with that ability and if that is where we wanted to go—well been there, done that. This is the PLC that imparts little of its own character into the signal—unless of course you pursue that with the Filter Matching option. You can by the way, leave them all switched out (off).The Transcendence still "filters" the AC through the main filters, so you loose nadda.
When we first got the Transcendence, we sat down and played a number of discs we were quite familiar with through the previous Audio Magic PLC set-up (two Eclipses, one for analog and one for digital). You know the routine, establish some degree of a standard and then do the old A/B thing. Well we popped in the Transcendence and went back to the first disc. It was our intent to play them all over again, but it took all of 15 seconds of the first disc for us to say crap this is really good, forget about the rest. We both heard what we needed to hear—bigger, bolder, cleaner, more resolution, fun, fun, fun! Not subtle. Sold. (I would be remiss if I failed to note that all of the switches were set to "on" meaning that the Transcendence was in full-on mode.)
Bring on the Filter Matching - let's season that dog!
No, it is not that hard to find the "correct" settings for each outlet. For us, the differences are audible, but not instantly discernable. That is, we have found that when adding or subtracting filtering by switching in or out one of the three switches it takes a few days to appreciate the effects—which are certainly different. Which is better on any one component, or combination of components, (1 on and 2 and 3 off; 1 and 2 on, 3 off; 1 off and 2 and 3 on; 1 and 3 on and 2 off; 1 and 2 off and 3 on; none on; all on… yikes!) is more an issue of taste or preference, than any combination being an absolute "best." Want more solidity or "mass" to the music: turn them all on. Want more speed and openness: only switch one or two (in some combination) on. Without a doubt, another Transcendence owner will find that magical setting and discover eternal bliss. We're not there yet. Working on it, though right now we have found a combination of settings that do sound pretty good. Will we keep it there? Naw, you gotta be kidding. Like wine, why drink only one Merlot when there are so many different reds that can bring you pleasure? Different pleasure. Play around. Have fun. Season to your aural taste bud's desire!
Along with the new Transcendence from Audio Magic are the new mega Clairvoyant Special Edition statement cables. I say mega, as at 4-inches wide (the actual silver ribbon is a mere 3-inches in width) these have to be the biggest cables around. Not "a-round", but "a-wide"—these are flat silver ribbons and will set you back $5000 a meter! Jerry, you are insane! Why the atmospheric price?! Well, the manufacture of the ribbon (Jerry buys direct from the people who actually do the drawing of the pure silver ribbons—no second or third party suppliers for Jerry) requires over an hour to draw one foot. Let' see …1-meter of interconnects is like 12 feet or so …that means it takes 12 hours to draw the one interconnect I have here. Jerry sets the specifications and tolerances along with the purity of the silver used—meaning that they are completely custom-made for him by the manufacturer. No off the shelf silver ribbon for the Special Edition cables (though the rest of the Audio Magic line is made from stocked silver ribbons, Jerry only uses their top-of-the-line stuff—like in the regular Clairvoyant 4D cables we currently use and own).
Like the rest of the Audio Magic top-o-the-line stuff, no dielectric (just the outer covering) is used along with silver bullet plugs. This is all hand made …yeah now one can see where the costs come from in making this special edition. The cables also receive a double-cryo treatment and a special MST treatment. MST? Yeah, MST. It stands for Molecular Stabilization Treatment and is a military secret. This is an exclusive to Audio Magic as no one else has access to it, and word has it that the differences between non-MST and MST are so easily discerned by listeners that, well …Jerry has this done to all his stuff. Add it all up and the cable is expensive to produce (3-6 weeks). End result being a $5000 a meter cable.
So what do you get over the regular Clairvoyant at $2500 a meter? Are they twice as good or is this the law of diminishing returns? You can read my review of the Clairvoyant 4D here, but no, they are not twice as good. The law of diminishing returns does kick in, though there are differences that make these two cables, well "different". It should be noted that all that silver does not make them sound like clichéd silver—bright, lean, and hard. Non of the Audio Magic stuff has that sound, it all tends to be sweet, rich, warm, detailed, fast and open, as extended at either end as anything out there, with a very slamming deep and articulate bottom end. Music (when recorded that way) has a very wide and deep 4-dimensional soundstage (height, width, depth, and timing) that is quite beguiling. Love how our music sounds through these cables. Switch-out the regular Clairvoyants for the Special Edition and one builds on the traits as noted above. But one tends to gain even more in terms of resolution and neutrality. This, though, may not be what you ordered. We are now hearing "a leanness" to our system previously not experienced, though that may be more an issue of "settling-in" the new Cary SACD 306 player. When used with the older Cary 306-200 player the differences heard related more to the Special Edition cables having a "tube-like" presence. The cables were still more neutral (and offered more of what the regular cables possessed) when compared to the regular 4Ds, but like I said, with a quality reminiscent of the best from tubes. Air, space, refinement …you know, that sense of musicality that tubes bring to the table. Unfortunately, this trait is not presenting itself to the same degree with the new Cary306—go figure!
The cables do require a decent settling-in as we experienced the ups and down of cable break-in for the first 400 hours or so. I have over 700 hours on them now (along with many days on the CableCooker™), and they appear to be quite stable sonically. No changes, just audio magic.
I would consider this to be a "preliminary report" on the Special Editions, and not an affirmation that these are the best of the best. They certainly are the best from Audio Magic, but we need a lot more time with the Cary to decide what is really going on. Even so, give 'em a try!
Now where is that oregeno?