Not happy with the sound of your system? Wondering whether a new amplifier or speaker might perk you up when you listen to music? Perhaps the ideal upgrade lies elsewhere.
On these pages we offer tests of three products: a filter for the electricity going to your power amplifier, a high end power cable, and a new version of a pure silver interconnect cable. Can they help? Read for yourself, and then try one out. You will, of course, want to read the full reviews, in issue No. 58...though in fact one of the reviews is complete. Read on.
The Foundation Research LC2
Some readers think we're joking when we talk about the "$3 power cords" that come even with expensive audio gear. We're not. That's the retail price, and in Canadian dollars yet. These cables are awful. Dispose of them with regard to the environment, please.
Special audio power cords do exist (we'll get to one shortly), but for your power amplifier you might want to replace the cord with the device shown above.
If it looks familiar it may be because we reviewed its cousin, the Foundation Research LC1, in UHF No. 54. We were so enthusiastic we added two of them to our Omega reference system, which had been running unfiltered.
The LC1 isn't meant to feed large amounts of power, however. Our LC1's went on the preamplifier and the digital-to-analog converter. This larger one, the LC2, is meant for power amplifiers. We were eager to try it on the YBA1 amplifier in our Alpha system, because it was still running unfiltered.
For this comparison, we selected two of the CD's used in this test series, namely Comes Love from the new Opus 3 Test 5 disc (CD20000), and the Song of the Nightingale from Romanza (Auvidis V4818). We listened first with the amplifier running from...yes, a $3 cord, and then we substituted the LC2.
The effect was dramatic!
Gutwire G-Clef power cord
The LC2 filter, as you've noticed, replaces the power cord on an amplifier. But what if you just want a better power cord? We know the difference that can make. We previously reviewed such cords as the Wireworld Aurora and the XLO 10 (UHF No. 53). And a number of our readers have greatly improved their sound by simply making up their own power cords fitted with better connectors.
The Gutwire G-Clef is a Canadian-made cable, with heavily-shielded wire and premium connectors. The AC plug is the famous hospital grade type from Hubbell, and the IEC 320 is from Furutech in Japan. If we tell you that the IEC connector by itself sells for C$100, you'll understand why the price tag on the complete cable is not for the impoverished. The G-Clef costs $380 (equivalent to $260 US).
An unusual feature you may notice is a small wire coming off the output end of the cable with a small alligator clip on it. That's the ground wire...if you don't connect it to the chassis of the unit you are powering, the G-Clef is ungrounded.
IMPORTANT ON-LINE UPDATE: Gutwire has pointed out that the role of the clip wire (which is not spelled out in any of the literature we've seen) is not what we assumed. The G-Clef is fully grounded, in fact, with several grounded shields. The wire with the clip, which you can see in the photo, is connected to the outermost ground. The rationale: some parasitic radio-frequency signals can ride along that shield, and the clip can be attached to whichever component is best able to drain it off to ground.
But on to the test...
Pierre Gabriel ML-1 interconnect
Yes, we've already tested this fine solid silver wire (UHF No. 56), and we were sufficiently impressed to add it to our Audiophile Store listings. Now the company has done a modification.
In the old version, the two silver conductors ran through a silver-plated copper shield (connected at only one end so it didn't carry signal). In the new cable, each of the two conductors has its own shield. A serial number is added to the cable for good measure. The price is unchanged, despite the extra metal and the second outer jacket.
In our last test, we had only one pair of ML-1 cables, which we placed between our CD player and our preamplifier. This time we had two, one of them 2.5 meters long, so that we could also place them between our preamp and power amp.
For this comparison we used two of the discs selected for the test series: the Scherzo from Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 (Reference Recordings RR-81CD) and (once again) The Song of the Nightingale. We began with just one ML-1, placed between our Copland preamplifier and our YBA power amplifier.
On the Bruckner the difference was slight, though we all noticed one. Gerard found the strings a little silkier and less rough, and the brass possibly improved (possibly because of the better connectors on the ML-1, he said). Albert thought there might be more bottom end. Reine wondered whether the clarity had actually decreased, but added that it might be her imagination.
It was with the second piece that the difference truly manifested itself. Though the tonal balance was essentially unchanged, everything flowed a little more smoothly. There was noticeably less graininess in the voice of María Bayo, and especially that of Placido Domingo. "There isn't more bass after all," decided Albert, "but there's more detail in the bass." The singing was a bit more warm and expressive.
However this is an expensive cable -- C$1150 for a one meter length -- and that's a lot. Would adding a second Pierre Gabriel cable make even more of a difference? We installed the 2.5 meter ML-1 between our CD player and our preamplifier , replacing the Wireworld Equinox. We had asked for the long cable because there is a bit of distance between the amp and preamp in our Alpha reference system. The longer cable would have cost C$2275.
The cumulative improvement was not so subtle, and this time there wasn't much doubt about the difference. The opening of the Bruckner was marked by a clearer sense of space, with the strings both smoother and clearer. The very brash brass was still bright but not so hard (Albert was especially grateful for the amelioration). The crescendo by the full orchestra was also clearer, its elements better detached from one another. The fast orchestral passages seemed lighter and more nimble, as though the musicians were better rested.
And the zarzuela piece was also improved, in much the same way the first cable had improved it: more warmth and expression from the two singers, and a clearer, silkier texture to the orchestra. We could hear Bayo breathe this time, despite her distance from the microphones, and we could even make out the upper harmonics of the bell.
A good cable, this, and it even looks the part. It has its place only in an expensive system, but there may come a time when this is the best upgrade you can make.
(Editor's note: After the magazine went to press, we decided to acquire an ML-1 for our reference CD player.)
PARTIAL TEXT: The Microgroove Laundry, Antique Sound Lab AQ1003, Passion I-11, Rogue 88, Jadis Orchestra Reference, Linar 250, Four Headphone Amps, Filters and Cables
FULL TEXT: Watching DVD on a Computer, Passion Kit I-10 Amplifier, State of the Art
[READING ROOM] [BUY THIS ISSUE] [HOME PAGE]