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|Reviewer: Jan Petter Egidius
Source: Muse Electronics Model 10 CD/DVD player
Preamplifier: Manley Labs Shrimp
Power amplifier: Muse Electronics Model 200
Loudspeakers: Peak-Consult In Cognito monitor
Cables: Argento Serenity speaker and signal, Stereovox digital cable [on loan]
Power cords: Transparent
Component support: Finite-Elemente Pagode Signature
Sundry accessories: Finite-Elemente Cerapucs under all electronics and under the rack, Duende Criatura tube rings, Dedicated Audio Cable Towers [on review]
AC: 2 dedicated lines
Room: Dedicated listening room, 6 meters long x 4,5 meters wide
Review component retail: $99 for set of 4
|The Straight Tower of Cable
Daniel Harmon of Dedicated Audio in Phoenix/Arizona recently contacted Srajan with a review quest for his Cable Tower creation and all of us on staff got a note about this prospective assignment. Feeling somewhat more open-minded about tweaks now than earlier, I thought I should try 'em and volunteered.
You see, I have to confess something. Until about 10 months ago, I was sceptical about most of the tweaks and accessories that were supposed to bring me closer to sonic nirvana. This counter heresy changed over the last few months with my introduction to the products of Finite-Elemente. First I acquired the Pagode Signature rack, soon to be followed by their Ceraballs and Cerapucs. They blended very nicely into my system and with my cosmetic preferences. Systematically addressing resonance attenuation was a major upgrade though by no means cheap.
Introducing new tweaks into a system can be both good and bad. On the positive side, you can get more details, better soundstaging and imaging. On the negative side, the music can lose some of its organic flair and life. It can all become too correct and a bit lifeless. Unlike many believe, you cannot buy your way to sonic happiness in high-end audio without considering system matching at every stage. Tweaking doesn't necessarily mean better performance after every upgrade. Some so-called upgrades might expose or highlight flaws previously masked to require additional corrections.
The main idea behind the Cable Tower is than none of your cables should be in contact with carpeting as this can degrade the sound of the system with static interference. Floor-borne resonances can interact with cables even on wooden, stone or concrete floors so suspending one's cables might be a good idea. Of course everyone knows this - except I didn't.
|A description of some strange but high-tech looking gadgets
The towers came in 2 packages of 4 because Daniel thought that I needed 8 for my system. As you can see, they are black and shiny, with one hole in the middle and another detent on the top to secure a second cable with a non-conductive retention ring. Clever. They are made of machined Acrylic due to purportedly superior dielectric constants than the porcelain used in some competing design. I of course cannot verify that. The Cable Towers will accept cables of up to 1.4" or 37mm diameter. They stand 4.5"/ 11.5cm tall and are 3.5"/ 9cm wide. The design is patent-pending.
Thanks to their four-point design, they proved quite stable at least in my room. Dedicated Audio supplied further technical information regarding measurements made for them by engineers and additional sales arguments based on scientific theories but to be honest, those didn't tell me anything useful. I am not a scientist or engineer. What matters to me is the sound and whether these devices would deliver the goods in my system.
|So did they - deliver?
In one word, yes. Earlier I had read about audiophiles cutting up tennis balls in half, putting them under their cables and claiming that they got improvements. More of this, less of that, always all good. I did not think highly of such claims. I always figured them outcomes of psychology and severe audiophilia nervosa, not real acoustics. Now the time has come to admit that it was -- again -- my own scepticism and doubt that got the better (worse?) of me.
I won't bore you with examples of how the Cable Towers performed with different kinds of music. I simply viewed this assignment as determining one and only one thing: Would they improve the sound or not? My carpet is synthetic and I suspect that the build-up of static electricity is quite high. I shall explain why. When I walk from the sweet spot over to the rack, especially during the winter when the air is drier, I get a little electrical shock whenever I touch the metal chassis of my Manley Labs preamp.
What did I hear? I got the best results in the top octaves. I heard more detail when I raised all my cables off the floor. The dynamics also increased but not much. The noise floor seemed lowered a bit and the sound opened up to a certain extent. I have to confess that I did not hear any differences in soundstage and depth. And believe me, I tried.
My Argento speaker cables and Transparent Reference power cables fitted just fine onto the Cable Tower even when I tried to use one of the towers for both speaker cables plus the power cable. These lifters were that stable, at least on my carpet. The lower noise floor, better dynamics and treble improvements convinced me that these little fellows work but of course, the towers did not cause any wholesale transformation in my system. Neither did they introduce any negatives at all. All changes were welcome and positive. I could not experiment with thes towers on wooden floors as I cannot carry my system around the house. I have enough domestic (hifi) troubles as it is!
Is this were your hard-earned money should be spent?
Difficult question really. If you have a budget system, I would recommend that you save more money and buy better cables for your first upgrade. Then progress to equipment supports and resonance devices. Your money is better spent that way. But if you are already in the enviable position of possessing a high-quality system, I can easily recommend the addition of the Cable Towers. I earlier hinted at the upgrades I achieved with resonance control devices. In my system, those (the Pagode Signature and Ceraball/Cerapuc add-ons) far outweighed what the Cable Towers brought to the table. With the German items, everything got better. The soundstage deepened, imaging gained accuracy, the low end firmed up and the sound in general cleaned up significantly all around.
|It's not at all fair of course to compare these products although they all are considered tweaks. The Cable Tower belongs properly into the "when almost anything else has been tried already" category - after cables, mains, equipment support and anti-vibration devices have been added. That said, the Towers contributed to my system in a small way to help create an even better sound than I enjoyed before. And that's what's important. One cannot expect more for what in my case adds up to a mere $200 for 8 pieces.|
|And yes, I'm voting with my wallet - these aren't going back to the US. For the modest price asked, I can highly recommend them to owners of high-resolution systems. But remember that you don't, in my opinion, have any use for items like these if your system is not of very high quality already. The improvements are rather subtle. However, the reaction becomes "Oh yeah!" when you're fine-tuning an already fine system. This is a $100 upgrade after all. Good upgrade solutions don't get much cheaper. Your money's well spent on these Cable Towers - and they look cool to boot and can tidy up the usual viper's nest of cable chaos.