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Positive Feedback ISSUE 78
Leviathan Power Cord
as reviewed by Marshall Nack
Somehow it doesn't seem reasonable, let alone rational, to harbor hopes of re-creating at home the powerful wave-fronts set in motion by a large ensemble. To compare the quantity of air a group of musicians can activate to what two, four, six, even eight speaker drivers activate seems a pitiful mismatch. Personally, I accept that fact and don't dwell on it.
Among my circle of audio cognoscenti, macro-dynamics, the big crescendos, is acknowledged to present the widest credibility gap in home systems. (Followed closely by tone and timbre. But, hey, with these three, you're very nearly talking about the whole ball of wax.)
These new Stage III Leviathan power cords cut that gaping chasm in half.
the "Sea Monsters" Arrive
The email from the distributor contained this picture and brief description of Stage III Concepts' latest creation, the Leviathan power cord:
"Here you see the new Leviathan power cord next to the Kraken. The Leviathan is essentially constructed of three power cords with Kraken design; one dedicated power cord for each hot, neutral, and ground pin."
The Kraken mentioned is Stage III's previous monster power cord (MSRP is $8400 / 1.5 meter). I remember it with fondness. Retail on this new cord—$14,500 for 1.5 meter—makes me do a double take. I emailed the distributor back, "Yummy! Can't wait to juice the system with these snakes."
He replied, "Your brain might have a seizure."
It was inadequate preparation.
I did battle with a pair of "sea monsters," managing to subdue them after several minutes and latch them onto the IEC sockets of the Audionet MAX Monoblocks. For a while the battle could have gone either way. They are so fat and stiff they go where they want to, rather than where they need to. They don't make sharp angle turns and their weight precludes use on higher shelves.
I powered up the MAXs and immediately set about listening. Yes, I know, it would have been prudent to let them cook first. Even though they came straight from CES and had plenty of hours, cross-country travel always necessitates some settling time. Not to mention the twists and kinks I imposed for connecting them. But prudence succumbed to that form of lust peculiar to audiophiles.
The Very First Impression
What I can tell you up front is that, unlike some products that are touted for having no sound of their own, your system will not be the same after introducing a Leviathan—there is no escaping or denying what happens. Rather than getting out of the way, they make your system get up and go! This power cord juices the system like an amp upgrade.
I remember my reaction the last time I played The Blues And The Abstract Truth, a great Rudy Van Gelder LP from 1961 (Impluse! Mono A-5, original pressing). "This antique is a stunner. It sounds live," I thought.
Hah! What I thought was live is trumped by half again. Listen to that heft! The low-end has the tightest grip I've ever gotten from my YG Anat speakers. With the Leviathan in place, the instruments move into your room, detaching themselves from the mono mix clustered around center stage. In the introductory statement of the "Stolen Moments" theme, the members of this stellar band are like pieces of a puzzle. Each instrument's contour is clearly seen and you can make out how they assemble to form the whole. And, now that I can hear it properly, how cleverly it was scored! Oliver Nelson wasn't always in top form, but when in full stride he was a first rate composer/arranger.
Moving over to CD, I'm listening to the Suite from "The Bolt" (track 12 from Russian Ballet Suites, Pentatone SACD 5186 032), a colorful score from the pen of the 25-year-old Shostakovich. Alternating between cute and sarcastic, with soloists, duets, and full orchestra, this is fun stuff and great material to test (or show off) your system.
As with The Blues And The Abstract Truth, the stage forms at the plane of the speakers (where it usually does), and the instruments project into the room in sculptural 3-D, attaining a prominence just shy of spotlighting. And not just the soloist—it's like that across the board. When I had the Trinity Preamp in line, this prominence added excitement; with the more active and lively Audionet PRE G2 Preamp, it moved past that to spectacular. This kind of separation and projection is beyond what you might hear seated mid-hall at Carnegie. It sure is exciting, though, and it quickly became the new normal.
The bass drum rises as if from a subterranean region, a swelling wave-front that moves so much air it is felt physically. I didn't realize my YG Anat Studio speakers could put that out: I thought only the next up model with the extra sub cabinet had that capacity.
The Leviathan renders large groups larger, fleshing out string sections almost like additional players have walked onto the stage. Copious draughts of air bring the hall's atmosphere vividly into your sound room. Speaking of air, when a trombonist blows harder, the image of the instrument inflates in sync. Nice! Image size should be relational to SPL. Not for all instruments, though—the flute stays a point source regardless.
Many cables introduce an acoustic ambiance, an "image surround," along with the note. This "stuff" around the note could plausibly be originating from the instruments. The Leviathan will have none of it—it goes right to the core. There is no aura surrounding the note, it has been vacuumed away, and the result is pure and clean—Nothing But Signal. Which is accurate? I've been to some live venues that have it and others that don't, that sound like the Leviathan. Both are credible; different strokes for different folks.
Most importantly, the Leviathan does this clean up without slicing the knife too deeply and sucking the life out of the music. Nothing is missing. This is an example of how the Leviathan takes a different approach than my reference K-S Elation!. These two brands are communicating different aspects of the event.
The result is rock solid imaging with very precise delineation of details. There is less blending across the stage—you hear instruments as separate lines. Speed is outstanding. The transient is instantaneous, sometimes with sharp edges, other times not, but never with harshness. You will probably have to adjust your tonal balance and introduce more treble to accommodate the shift downwards.
Build Quality and Construction
Stage III sure knows how to fabricate a quality product. It's not just the girth, which invariably provokes dropped jaws and disbelief. It's the jewelry-grade visuals, the meticulous attention to every detail of construction and finish. Leviathans don't look like other PCs and, indeed, most of the parts are freshly conceived. I'm told it takes nearly 40 hours of hand labor to build one.
The Leviathan is essentially three Kraken power cords, individually damped and shielded for the hot, neutral and ground pin. Per the website:
The A.S.P. LEVIATHAN's conductor array is like no other in the industry, consisting of 3 wholly independent multi-conductor cables, capable of handling an incredible 80 amps of clean, unrestricted current.
Extreme mechanical damping in conjunction with impenetrable layers of proprietary shielding and conductor geometry completely eliminate the possibility of any induced microphonics from vibrations or airborne electromagnetic interferences.
The cable is wider in the middle and stepped down at the ends because the oversize gauge is too thick to fit into the termination plugs. (The conductors and shielding are the same throughout the length of the cable: the stepped-down section is only missing the granular mechanical damping/shielding layer.) Cryo-treatment is used wherever possible.
It's true what they say: wires should be considered a component in their own right. They can have that kind of impact. And it's true when reviewers claim, "Swapping in the xxx power cord was like upgrading my amplifier." I know because I just experienced it myself.
After the initial shock—assault is more like it—from the super-charged dynamics, there was awestruck incredulity as listening progressed with the "Sea Monsters" from Stage III Concepts harnessed to the Audionet MAX monoblocks.
There is no getting around the way the soundstage inflated to unreasonable size, given the dimensions of my listening room—something that I've noticed amp upgrades can do. The widest dynamic swings coupled with the room in a propulsive way and the bedrock of support under every instrument can be addictive. Yes, it can be a bit forward, like being in a front-row seat, depending on your associated components. Regardless, it is sure to promote increased listener involvement.
Stage III Concepts has done it again. The critical acclaim and consumer acceptance of the Kraken model provided the needed incentive to venture forth where few wire manufacturers dare to tread. The result is a product that multiplies the performance of the Kraken. You have to experience it for yourself. Try to arrange an audition to see what this level of cable engineering can do. Marshall Nack
Leviathan Power Cord
Stage III Concepts