Jeez, this thing is heavy. Schlepping the box upstairs, I stopped to catch my breath and wondered what they're made from.
Thus I embarked on my latest audio adventure. Medusa Speaker Cable from Stage III Concepts, along with a set of Medusa jumper cables, replaced a double run of Kubala•Sosna Elation! speaker wire. That pits $20,300 Medusa (MSRP $18,500/2m + $1800 jumper cables) vs. $14,400 Elation! ($7200/2m x 2, because my YG Anat speakers are bi-wired). The Stage III distributor felt confident I would be favorably impressed.
Solid and Beautiful
The advance word on this new Medusa Speaker Cable was that it incorporated all of the innovations in the Kraken and Leviathan power cords and even shared their voicing. If that was true, I knew I was in for a treat. I had reviewed Stage IIIs latest power cords and I can tell you they are at the top of the game: those power cords are solid and beautiful. I was skeptical—I needed to hear it for myself.
I put the Medusa cable and jumpers in and, yes, it's true. The sound was indeed in line with the Kraken power cable. If you own one of those you know the kind of voice we're talking about. At first the treble was challenged, but this righted itself after a couple of hours. I was surprised the treble had no issues since the jumpers were new. (The main cable had plenty of hours on it.)
Speaking of the treble, it is pure, smooth, and totally without grain. The midrange likewise—clean and grain-free. Just as with those power cords, the Medusa's tone is very saturated and full, with a big and extremely powerful low-end. A little plump on the bottom, but firm and thrusting—that profile is gonna make many listeners happy! Your presentation will gain weight and slam, same as with those Stage III PCs. I needed to lighten up the tonal palette to compensate for the extra low-end.
Ruminations on Accepted Audio Wisdom
Hearing the Medusa caused me to question certain long-held assumptions.
Brain Teaser #1: We know power cables can impact dynamic responsiveness big time. That makes sense because the first thing a component sees is the AC from the wall and it can be a most limiting factor. OK, no problem with that—you probably have experienced it firsthand.
But, how do speaker cables impact dynamics? Hmm. Signal cables affect things like timbre and tone, but dynamics? Yet, there's no denying a change occurred when this new Stage III Medusa cable went in. These wires have emphatic attacks and a jump factor.
I reached out to the Stage III distributor, who explained there is an inverse relationship between RFI and dynamic range, such that reducing the one grows the other. As noise is removed, softer sounds which had been masked begin to surface and dynamic range is extended on the low side of the scale. Clearing out RFI drops the noise floor and the subliminal becomes liminal. This relationship between RFI noise and dynamic range is not well known. It was news to me—hell, I didn't think I had any noise. Chalk that up to another case of "you don't know what you have 'til it's gone."
That's why Stage III pays so much attention to cable shielding. All of the products in the new line have similar shielding that is among the most elaborate in the industry. But there can be problems with heavy shielding. It tends to clamp down on openness. The products of those few cable companies that use beefy shields typically sound closed in. Stage III claims to be the only one to come up with a solution that clobbers RFI while retaining openness.
Brain Teaser #2: Some things in life are finite—like real estate. My listening location is my 12' W x 8' H x 32' L living room, what many consider a mid-size space. I am allocated the front third for gear. (Should audio accoutrements cross that threshold, Lynn is entitled to extract concessions.) The implication of those room measurements is limited width and depth. In truth, it'll never be convincing of a bonafide performance venue.
So, on first listening on the morning after installation, why does the soundstage appear so expansive? The same instruments are playing the same tune. But they are bigger, more massive. Each takes up more space. Yet they are not cramped, there is plenty of room around them, enough for you to visually enter the soundstage and do a walk-around.
Both of these Brain Teasers were present when I auditioned those Stage PCs. Here is what I said in the power cord review:
The Leviathan renders large groups larger, fleshing out string sections almost like additional players have walked onto the stage.
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.
The illusion sure has morphed. Something big and fundamental has changed with the introduction of the Medusa.
I've come to expect the finest audio jewelry from Stage III and the Medusa is cosmetically right in line. Extravagantly over-built, every part of the cable's assembly is Stage III's own design and it is all handmade, in-house.
From the website:
Special attention has been paid to mechanical damping… The A.S.P. MEDUSA is the only available speaker cable using ferrite, silica and high density alloy granules to provide an almost perfect combination of shielding and mechanical, anti-resonance damping. The combined granulated materials make the cables extremely heavy, so equipment height and placement must be taken into consideration.
The physical weight of the cable is a real concern. The Medusa may be slightly larger in diameter than my K•S Elation! speaker wire, about the same as the Kraken power cord, but a 2m run weighs a whopping 24 lbs. The binding posts on my YG Anat speakers are 3 feet up from the floor. Would they hold onto the spades? I have to confess the prospect of attaching them made me more than a little jittery.
The spades are made of jewelry-grade solid silver and designed to accommodate any binding post on the market. They were a bit tight for the YG binding posts and wouldn't go more than a third of the way on. That made me more anxious. The distributor said tighten 'em down: the malleable silver will deform under the pressure of the binding post clamp; then tighten 'em down some more. He assured me the bond would hold.
I installed them late one evening after I powered down. The next morning I confirmed they were intact. They were good. (I re-checked again the second day, too.) The connection held. Alternately, he said the spades would snap into place if enough force was used. I applied reasonable pressure but didn't achieve snap, so I left them the way they were. Another option is to use a screwdriver to expand the gap between the silver prongs of the spades.
The Medusa is claimed to be the only speaker cable design employing vacuum dielectric. Each channel has eight, cryo-treated, slow-extruded silver/palladium, AeroStrandUltra™ ribbon conductors (7AWG total). They are directional. The end with the Stage III logo is the source side. The end with the Medusa label goes to the speaker. The jumpers are the same: the Stage III logo is on the source end.
Until now, I've only auditioned Stage III Concepts power cord products. The latest models—the Kraken and the Leviathan—are outstanding, at the top of the game in the category.
The Medusa Speaker Cable is the first signal wire in the revised product line. When the distributor told me it had the same voicing as those power cords, frankly, I was skeptical. First listen proved me wrong. The Medusa is a worthy companion to the Kraken and Leviathan.
Stage III has hit another home run. It should be clear by now that the Medusa Speaker Cable from Stage III gets my top recommendation. (There's more to come. The recently released Gorgon Interconnect is now in house. Spoiler alert: the Gorgon sports nearly the same voicing. Stay tuned.)
Medusa Speaker Cable
$18,500 2 meter
Medusa Speaker Jumpers
Stage III Concepts
Parker, CO 80134