I had difficulty in any ranking between the Panatela, JCAT Reference and Light Harmonic LightSpeed. All are far superior to any other USB cables I have tried and they were more similar than different on sound quality and musicality. All three provided a lower noise floor which allowed for greater resolution of low-level detail and nuance. Having said that, the aptly named LightSpeed was the most open and dynamic yet also the most unforgiving, with the JCAT offering a good deal of the excitement of the LightSpeed presented in a more relaxed warmish manner. The Panatela sat right in the middle, perhaps leaning ever so slightly towards the LightSpeed in balance. Hard to say for sure as the recent addition of Uptone Audio’s USB Regen and Audioquest’s Jitterbug have dramatically narrowed the differences I hear between high-end USB cables. Incidentally, if you stream music via Ethernet either from NAS or online music service such as Tidal and don’t require a hundred feet of the stuff, I heartily recommend Mark’s Ethernet cable reviewed here. It is surprisingly effective.

After wiring up my system with the new Reserva cabling, I refrained from making any conscious judgment and let them run in for a few weeks before listening more critically, taking notes and such. The Panatela Reserva cables ticked off a number of boxes on my audio checklist such as a realistic portrayal of tonal colors, a good sense of flow and timing without aberrant temporal distortion or dynamic compression. The Reserva stayed out of the way and simply let the music breathe and flow and delivered all the sonic and musical nuance I could ask for. I heard clarity without brightness, decent amounts of color and texture and warmth without bloat or smearing. Every piece of music I played had the drive and forward motion I expect to hear but not always get as was the case recently as I skulked about the rooms and halls at this year’s TAVES show just north of Toronto. It’s surprising how many systems don’t get this right.

Tonal balance was spot on. No part of the spectrum raised its hand to shout out, "Yoo-hoo, look at me, would ya!" It was all very natural and easy-flowing good times. I never once felt a need for more bass, richer mids or a more extended top end. The annoying sonic warts often heard in questionably handled recordings weren’t shot out at me as if by cannon. Duane Allman’s incendiary solo on Wilson Pickett’s "Hey Jude" (from Duane Allman’s Skydog 16/44.1 FLAC rip) didn’t sound anywhere as irritating as I have often heard it. It’s a bit of a stinker sonically but the Reserva cables didn’t obscure the fire and brilliance of Allman’s guitar playing. Apparently that solo so thrilled Eric Clapton, he tracked down Allman, they hit it off and subsequently recorded one of Rock‘nRoll’s quintessential guitar albums, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
If you get off on hearing deep into a recording’s soundstage if it has one, I could hear exactly what each section of the orchestra was doing in Andris Nelson’s excellent recording of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony (DG 24/96 FLAC download). I got goose bumps hearing the reverberations of the percussion bounce off the walls of Boston’s Symphony Hall. This is one of the best-sounding orchestral recordings I have heard from the yellow label and a far cry from their all too common hazy, thin-as-piss-on-a-plate sonic creations.
In comparison to the Panatela cables, I got a bit more subtle dynamic variation with the Reservas which better captured the interplay between the guitars of Duane Allman and Dickie Betts on the awesome At Fillmore East (16/44.1 FLAC rip from a Japanese SHM-CD)– a desert island album if there ever was one. The deep earthy growl of Berry Oakley’s bass intro on "Whipping Post" took me by surprise. It was pure grade A whup-ass good. The atmosphere and sense of live occasion at the Fillmore East was intoxicating.