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Positive Feedback ISSUE 56
Absolute Interconnect and Speaker Cables from France
as reviewed by Michael Wechsberg
This review was a long time in coming, but worth the wait, as you will see. MPC Audio made contact with PFO more than a year ago about arranging a review of their French-made cables. I was not occupied at the time, so I volunteered to take a listen and awaited a package from France. First, however there was some e-mail traffic between MPC and our esteemed editor about which cables to send. My equipment cabling requirements are a bit unusual as I have an all-balanced system, and use speakers that require bi-wiring. In addition, one of the balanced interconnects needed to be at least 10 ft long because of how my equipment was arranged (since changed). A short time passed and I was asked in an email if I could accommodate a pair of 1m RCA interconnects, a 1m pair of balanced interconnects, and a pair of 2.5m speaker cables with a set of spades on one end and a pair of banana plugs at the other. My curiosity was very high so I said "bring 'em on" and I would work out a way to use these. I was almost surprised when a big box came a week later labeled with some exotic hand-lettering (European's script looks a bit odd to us here in the states). "French cables at last!" I said, and broke out a bottle of French Burgundy I found at Trader Joe's about 6 years ago.
MPC Audio has been making cables since 1997 in La Chapelle D'Angillon, a rural area in an historic region near the center of France. Descriptions on the Web make it sound like a pretty, bucolic region that might inspire fine music making as well as creative audio designing. Right now these cables are only available in a number of fine audio salons in France, or via the MPC Audio web site making it hard to listen to them before buying unless you are in France. MPC is looking for distributorship in the U.S. and other countries so hopefully our readership in the states will be able to sample these cables in the near future.
Not everyone agrees, but the French are quite good at high-end audio in my opinion. Some years ago I owned a Micromega Stage CD player made in France, and I have always admired the Triangle line of moderately priced speakers and the more expensive, but very fine, Cabasse speakers. These are just a few of the French manufacturers represented in the U.S., and I wish we had more. Alas, the currently weak dollar and even weaker economy is going to make it challenging for new audio sellers to gain traction here.
But, the MPC Audio cables are worth hearing if you can get your hands on them. Although I took French in high school, I couldn't make much out of their web site even with Google English translation. I did discern that MPC's motto is "Respect the Music," which is a high ideal indeed. Mario Ricci is the proprietor and chief designer for MPC, and advocates a sonic signature featuring tonal balance, the flow of information or pace, and a respect for silences. Based on what I heard he has achieved these goals in the Absolute cables, sitting at the top of his diverse line of analog and digital interconnects, speaker cables and power cables.
MPC sent me three cables in all. A one-meter set of balanced interconnects from their Presence line that is one step below the top, a one-meter RCA pair from the top Absolute line, and a 2.5 meter Absolute speaker cable. I can't say much about how the cables are constructed. They appear to be very well made with at least some hand manufacturing steps. All the cables are directional. The interconnects are quite flexible and surprisingly light for a ¾-inch diameter cable. The XLR-terminated cables use Neutrix connectors, but I couldn't discern a source for the other terminations other than to note they are gold plated and of excellent quality. All the cables are covered in a braided cloth jacket that is pretty rugged but looks like it could wear over time if the cables are handled often.
When I first started listening to the Presence cables, I thought I detected a signature I associated with silver-based cable designs. I emailed Monsieur Ricci and asked if his cables contained either silver, copper, or parts of both. Surprisingly he said that the 'what and how' is not something he wants everyone to know, so we will leave it at that.
As I mentioned, I started with the balanced Presence cables connected between my preamp and amp. These sounded smooth and rich, but with a definite sonic signature at the frequency extremes, so I decided they might need some break-in. During the break-in period M. Ricci advised these were sent along only as an aid in my reviewing process since I needed a balanced cable, but he wanted me to focus on the two Absolute cables that he is most proud of. I, therefore, discontinued listening to the Presence cables and took them out of my system. In their place I inserted the single-ended Absolute interconnect. My E.A.R. 890 amp accepts either balanced or single-ended cables with the flick of a small toggle switch on top of the chassis. It didn't take much of a break-in to determine the MPC Absolute is a superior interconnect.
The Absolute interconnects delivered an exceptionally clear and balanced sound. Unlike other interconnects I've sampled, the frequency extremes were in perfect balance with fulsome bass, and smooth and extended highs. I was especially impressed by the detail evident during low frequency passages with absolutely no harshness in the treble, even on some difficult recordings. Midrange timbres were close to perfect and varied directly according to the recordings I used. Voices were sweet and mellow when recorded that way, or they jumped up front, and in your face on other music with a more aggressive mix. In other words, the cables portrayed the recordings with superior transparency, and without altering the sonic picture. This is all you can ask from a set of interconnects, and in keeping with MPC's goal of tonal balance.
I also found these cables to be very dynamic with very good timing and pace. On upbeat numbers it was easy to become drawn into the music, and hard to keep still in the chair. Timing details prevailed, even during quieter music, so boredom was never a problem, even during extended passages. Check off another of the MPC sonic goals.
My listening notes mention that the cables sounded "quiet", that is, low level details were quite evident. This was particularly evident in some classical recordings where the interplay between instruments provided enjoyable moments, but extended to simpler tunes as well where, for example, tender touches on the guitar came out of the mix. I found the highs in particular to be very delicate and true, indicating good reproduction of upper harmonics. Hall sound was clearly heard on most recordings, especially during fade outs. I found background vocals and instruments to come across clearly, and with good detail. Several of my notes indicate I could hear everything going on in the background. I think these traits show the MPC's achieve their third goal of respect for silences.
The MPC interconnects provided an impressive, and wide sound stage. Images were solid, and players stayed put. Depth was also good, but not as layered as with other interconnects. That is, I could easily perceive depth in many recordings, but it was harder to distinguish the placement of instruments from the front of the stage to the back. I also felt the MPC interconnects were not as good as the best cables in presenting instruments with air around them like they sound in real life. They just lacked a little bit of that sparkling quality that makes it easy to forget you are listening to a recording instead of the real thing.
All of the comments above applied to the MPC Absolute interconnects used in conjunction with my standard Harmonic Technology bi-wire cables for the speakers. My next reviewing step was to substitute the MPC Absolute speaker cables. A set of Nordost jumpers were pressed into service so I could use these cables with my bi-wire speakers (Marten Miles II). Well, after listening through about six of the same recordings I used in evaluating the interconnects, I concluded that the sound of the combination of MPC interconnects and speaker cables was almost the same. In other words, the speaker cables were totally transparent to the sound of the interconnects. I heard the same balanced tonal palette, the same texture, timing, dynamic range, and imaging—all excellent. The MPC Absolute single ended interconnects and speaker cables seemed to make a very compatible combination.
I decided to try one last experiment. I took out the Absolute interconnects and replaced them with my reference Harmonic Technology MAGIC balanced interconnects between the preamp and amp. Now I heard just a bit more midrange definition, more transparent highs with that air I was looking for, and a better rendering of space and depth. My overall immersion in the music was slightly but significantly improved, and I felt the realism of the various recordings I tried was better and closer to what I hear when everything in the system is working at its best.
My conclusion from this is that the Absolute speaker cables are in fact really excellent. One would have to spend quite a lot more money to get better performance out of a pair of speaker cables. They may in fact be better than the interconnects. On the other hand, the improvements I heard in this last test might have more to do with using balanced cables compared to using single ended cables. Both the MPC interconnects and MPC speaker cables are superior audio components. They may be hard to find if you don't live in France but are worth seeking out. I hope the company is successful in finding a U. S. distributor because I believe American audiophiles will benefit from having access to these very fine cables. Bonne chance MPC! Michael Wechsberg
MPC Audio Absolute 1m
single ended interconnects
MPC Audio Absolute
2.5m speaker cables