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Positive Feedback ISSUE46
Awards for 2009: Addendum
[All photographs and processing by Robinson, unless otherwise noted.]
In the midst of getting my Brutus Awards for 2009 out the door on deadline… all 40 pages of the text plus photographs… I left out several components that were on a list that I had mislaid. Apologies to the two firms that were involved, Wave Kinetics and Evolution Acoustics… this happens sometimes.
Now to fix it.
The Wave Kinetics A10-U8 Component Control System under the Playback Designs MPS-5 SACD/CD player.
This new firm is a partnership of Matt Schuster and Jonathan Tinn. Two of their products were submitted recently to me for review: The A10-U8 Component Control System, and the 2NS Loudspeaker Interface System. Truth is, I've listened to a fair number of isolation feet, pods, spacers, etc., and have heard various results, my responses ranging from "Hey, that's good!" to "Uhhhhhhhhh…………. don't think so." As a matter of fact, if Jonathan hadn't been so enthusiastic about these products, I don't know that I would have given them a listen.
But he and Matt Schuster, the lead designer of Wave Kinetics, were willing to drop by, do the schlepping, and run some measurement tests…would I mind?
Guess not… sure, why not?
Matt Schuster (left) of Wave Kinetics with his 2NS Loudspeaker Interface System; in the background, Jonathan Tinn readies the darTZeel NHB-18NS preamp and Playback Designs MPS-5 SACD/CD player for the next tune.
The Wave Kinetics 2NS Loudspeaker Interface System… a noticeable improvement over spikes alone, and robust too… the MMTwo loudspeaker is heavy.
Short story version: Matt and Jonathan come over. We listen to the Playback Designs MPS-5 with the Critical Mass Systems isolation feet on the CMS Grandmaster Black. OK. Then we quickly put the Wave Kinetics A10-U8 (cute name!) under the MPS-5, cue up the same SACD, same song… Norah Jones? Don't remember… hit play, and… wow! Wassup with that?!
Immediately detectable improvement in imaging; instruments and vocals shift slightly in the soundstage, and become more rounded, more three-dimensional.
Heck, this is the Playback Designs MPS-5! The best I've heard for SACD playback! And the CMS stand is no slouch, nor the isolation feet thereof. Color me bemused… gotta have a set of these. (This is how the disease progresses, no?)
Sorry, they had to take these prototypes back with them, but they'd return ASAP with final production models, and also with their loudspeaker interfaces.
A measuring session with the Wave Kinetics field testing gear… a Sony PCM recorder, Analysis Plus cable, and a Sound Devices battery-powered mic preamp. The next hour saw an awful lot of pulse generation and impulse measurements….
But they kept their promise. Within a week they were back, with final versions of the A10-U8 and the 2NS Loudspeaker Interface System. They installed them, and then ran some more measurement runs. According to Matt Schuster, these before-and-after tests of the A10-U8 under the MPS-5 and the 2NS under the MMTwo's did demonstrate that there were measureable improvements in performance in my listening room, but I cannot substantiate that report since I didn't see hard copy of the results and didn't have them evaluated. But as far as the ears go, I could definitely hear that good things were happening; I know my listening room very well.
Measurement mic used by Wave Kinetics for its field tests in my listening room: a THE Audio TM-3 omni-directional.
Once the tests were out of the way, we were able to install the A10-U8's, and get the 2NS Loudspeaker Interface System installed. This last is no minor task; the Evolution Acoustics MMTwo loudspeakers tip the balance beam at about 475 pounds. It's definitely a two-man job to get this done without getting killed. (Newspaper headline: "Man found crushed to death under behemoth loudspeaker". Ugly.)
But once the installation was complete, and we sat down to listen once more… well, good grief! As I've already mentioned, my ears were in operation. It was clear that not only were the previously mentioned improvements wrought by the A10-U8 confirmed, but the 2NS had also improved the bass of the immense MMTwos by slightly tightening it, and bringing out the leading edge of bass notes, particularly if plucked. This consequently improved the harmonic structure of the entire musical spectrum, no matter what recording or source I listened to. Nice!
After listening to this for several weeks… LPs via the new Continuum Criterion/Copperhead/Ortofon A-90, and SACDs and CDs via the MPS-5… I'm sold. These Wave Kinetics devices are the real thing, and have made a very definite improvement in the sound here in PFO River City. And they'll fit in a small bag! For more information on these products, check out http://www.wavekinetics.com. Pricing or sales inquiries can be directed to Jonathan Tinn at 503.221.0465, or via email to email@example.com).
Meanwhile, here's a pair of 2009 PFO Brutus Awards for Wave Kinetics!
Evolution Acoustics - The Link 50 Ohm BNC cable, PC2one Power Cable, and DRSC Loudspeaker Cable
Three final products from Evolution Acoustics are all cable products. I've spent months with them, and had enough time to see how they stacked up in the (never-ending) cable pantheon that audiophiles are blessed with.
The Link is the product that will likely be least familiar to fine audio aficionados. It's a pair of 50 Ohm, highly shielded, incredibly engineered BNC cable constructed to carry analog signals from the Playback Designs MPS-5 to preamps like the darTZeel NHB-18NS which have the necessary input ports to accept the signal. Evolution Acoustics intends this to be their "statement" product for 50 Ohm BNC. I'd been listening to the MPS-5/NHB-18NS combination for quite a while with the standard level 50 Ohm BNC cable that Blue Light Audio provided. I've certainly had no complaints; the quality of the music I've heard has been excellent.
But then I was given an opportunity to do a handful of days with the The Link. This pair of BNC's is engineered to the max. In contrast to the standard BNC pair, The Link cable is thick, somewhat rigid, and very heavily constructed. All that I have been told is that there is a fair amount of exotic material and exorbitant manufacturing processes involved in the construction of this cable. No photographs allowed yet, which is why you don't see them here, and why you'll have to contact Evolution Acoustics if you're interested in learning more.
As to the sound: well, there's no argument there. The Link simply mopped the floor with the standard BNC cable that had been supplied by Evolution Acoustics previously. More everything: transparency, spaciousness, delineation of detail, delicacy of quiet passages, dynamic punch, imaging, soundstaging… everything was better. Listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn's Texas Flood and Couldn't Stand the Weather on SACD via the MPS-5 and through The Link BNC (yes, with the Wave Kinetics A10-U8's and the 2NS in place) was a true—and humbling—revelation of how much more there! was there on these SACDs. Stevie Ray was floating… floating!... in space, right there. Every note was clean as a whistle, with the imaging somewhat more round, more tightly dialed in. And I've listened to these SACDs many times over the years, through various playback chains.
But this was the best yet.
I don't have a price on The Link… I'm sure that some portion of your anatomy will be demanded…but regardless of price, The Link is an extraordinary accomplishment. See the contact information below; you'll have to talk to Blue Light Audio to learn more about current pricing and availability of The Link.
Meanwhile, a 2009 Brutus Award for The Link!
The Evolution Acoustics PC2one Power Conditioning Power Cord… protective shrink wrap still in place.
The second and third cables are the PC2one Power Cable and the DRSC Loudspeaker cables. I've had these in place for several months, which has given me an extended listen to them with many discs and LPs. I think that I have a pretty good feel for their audio qualities now.
The PC2one cable has an integrated power conditioning network located right on the cable. This is a rather hefty box with snap-on connectors for the associated power cables. I'm using one of these on the darTZeel NHB-108 Rev B amp, one on power supply to the darTZeel NHB-18NS preamp, and one on the Playback Designs MPS-5 SACD/CD player. I have some pretty high standards for power cables, since I've had some good ones over time. The JENA Labs ONE (2008 version) and the Silent Source power cables are pretty hard to beat; how would the PC2one fare?
I wasn't sure that to expect, but frankly, the results have been impressive. The substitution of the PC2one power cables did not lead to an audio meltdown; instead, I found their presentation to be top-notch. No significant change in soundstaging or imaging; no noticeable change in dynamic range…this is particularly important with power cables. The PC2one has perhaps a touch less warmth than the 2008 version of the JENA Labs ONE, but how you feel about that will depend on the system that you're using it in, and your tonal preferences. One man's ceiling is another man's floor; one man's "a touch less warmth" is another's "more neutral."
A bevy of Evolution Acoustics cables: two DRSC Loudspeaker cables to the left, then the delivery end of a PC2one Power Cord, and another DRSC Loudspeaker cable to the right.
The DRSC Loudspeaker Cables also proved to be excellent performers in the system. They are a rather large, rather stiff cable, with a large cross section. Audiophiles with cramped quarters or very tight turns to negotiate from amp to speakers may find the DRSC's a bit of a challenge, but that was no problem in my room. The construction and finish of the cables is excellent… no problems with perceived value here.
Sonically, the DRSC cables hew to towards the middle of the tonal road. They are more neutral than the JENA Labs cables that I have been using for years now, being more like the Silent Source loudspeaker cables than either JENA Labs or even warmer cables like the Cardas Golden Cross, for example. The DRSC excel in articulation, detail, and demonstrate superior transparency. I like the sense of roundness that they provide to each note and to the imaging of performers on superior recordings, and they certainly do synergize wonderfully with the Evolution Acoustics MMTwo's, which are a very full-range loudspeaker. Then again, that's no surprise, since they are produced by the same company, and they were made to work together. It reminds me of Linn speakers and cables: for many years now, Linn has designed cables and interconnects that bring out the best in their speakers…a very rational practice, if you think about it.
As the months have passed by, I found myself liking the DRSC cables a great deal. They are delivering the goods in this system, and doing so without giving me fatigue (graininess or an overly lean presentation will do this to me every time) or slowly driving me out of the room. That would be the kiss of death, and the cables would just have to hit the road, Jack! They are neither warm nor romantic like the Cardas Cross, nor do they have the kind of quickness and zingy detail that silver cables can have, sometimes to excess. The fact that I haven't pulled the Evolution Acoustics cables out of my system and tossed them into a box for return (which I've been known to do with underperformers)…that they're still here, doing their duty and keeping my toe a-tapping months later…is a sign of a Brutus Award in the works when it comes to year's end.
So noted, and so given to the PC2one Power Cord and the DRSC Loudspeaker Cables!
[For more information on the Evolution Acoustics cable lines, including current pricing and availability, contact Jonathan Tinn of Blue Light Audio at 503.221.0465, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.]