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|Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Eastern Electric Minimax CD player with NOS Philips Miniwatt 6DJ8s, Pro-Ject 1 Xpression turntable w/Ortofon 540 Mk II cartridge
Preamp/Integrated: Manley Labs Stingray, Audio Zone AMP-1, JAS Audio Array 2.1 [in for review], Manley Labs Shrimp Preamplifier [in for review], Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage
Amp: Manley Labs Mahi monoblocks [in for review]
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand-filled Skylan stands), Zu Tone [in for review], REL Q108 MkII subwoofer
Cables: DH Labs Revelation interconnects, DH Labs Q-10 speaker cable, Auditorium23 speaker cable, Audience Maestro interconnects and speaker cable
Power Cables: Gut Wire Power Clef 2, Power Clef SE, C Clef, Audience powerChord, DH Labs Power Plus
Stands: Premier three-tier, filled with sand
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center w/Wattgate 381 outlets w/ Bybee Quantum Purifiers and ERS cloth, Blue Circle BC86 MkII Power Line Pillow
Sundry accessories: Grado SR-60 headphones, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Gingko Audio Cloud 11 platform, Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Isoclean fuses, Walker Audio SST contact enhancer, Walker Audio Ultra Vivid, GutWire Notepads and SoundPads, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatment.
Room size: 11' x 18' x 8', short wall setup, hardwood floors with large area rug
Review Components Retail: BPT L-10 $399/6', L-10 w/SuperShield $499; Audio Magic Noise Disruptor $225/$75 large/small; Skylan stands $227 for 24" custom stand; Eastern Electric Minimax CD Player $1,099; Firestone Battery Cute $170, Spitfire Dac $250, Fubar Dac $120, Big Joe Amp $200
|Today you get five reviews for the price of one! Several interesting goodies have landed upon my doorstep over the last couple of months and I thought I would revisit my Audio Candy piece from last winter. The timing is probably fortuitous as all of the following are affordable. This should be welcome while those post holiday bills come rolling in. Who wants to see a review of a $20,000 power amp right after the Xmas spending frenzy?
First is a follow-up to my review of BPT's Pure Power Center from back in August. Along with the PPC, Chris Hoff had sent me prototypes of a new power cable, the L-10. I was so impressed that I asked Chris to ship me more once he had finalized his design. Last fall, I received three six-foot lengths of unshielded L-10 power cable terminated with Oyaide P/C-046 gold and palladium plated brass connectors and three six-footers with Oyaide P/C-046 connectors plus BPT's proprietary SuperShield. After several weeks, Chris sent up a pair of his SC-7.5L speaker cables and two pairs of IC-SL interconnects. Experience has taught me that mixing and matching cables can imbalance a system as well as drive some folks nuts. That's not to say mixing and matching is wrong. It just can be a little tricky, time consuming and expensive. If at all possible, I try to audition cables as a complete system.
The L-10 features six 13-gauge conductors (two for each leg) twisted together in a tight spiral. Each conductor consists of fine oxygen-free copper Litz hairs each of which is individually coated in 5000V-rated dielectric film. According to BPT, this will eliminate strand interaction and provide frequency extension beyond 200kHz. The thicker SuperShield L-10 features three layers of shielding - braided carbon fiber, braided copper and copper foil. The Oyaide connectors and duplex outlets seem to be the AC accessory of choice at present. They're starting to pop up in more and more reviews. For further info on these superbly engineered connectors, go here. I've messed around with various outlets and connectors over the last several months. As much as I'd love to ridicule the notion of spending $100 on an outlet, plug or IEC, they do, in my opinion, exhibit quite obvious sonic impacts on system performance. I wish I could offer a technical explanation of how power cables and connectors can alter a system's performance. I can't. I can only offer what I hear. Now, if you're an AC agnostic and believe this is all rubbish, stop reading, stick with your stock cords and outlets and spend your money on records instead. Both models were extremely flexible and nicely finished in black mesh sleeving.
The SC-7.5L utilizes similar hair-thin high-purity copper strands of Litz, albeit configured in separate + and - runs. My samples were terminated in gold-plated spades and extremely flexible. Even though they were 7.5 gauge, I could easily roll them up and fit them in my pants pocket. They're 7.5 gauge. Shouldn't they be as thick as my arm? Not so fast, bucko. If you closely examine many audiophile cables, you'll discover that they are comprised of far more plastic than conductor. What's all that insulation for? While a nice big fat cable may look impressive, remember how all that plastic can induce smearing artifacts due to its energy-storing properties. I have found that mondo cables with lots of dielectric -- be it bog standard PVC or air-filled Teflon -- generally sound like they look: big, bloated, weighty and usually at the cost of speed, dynamics and resolution. Chris' cables use as little dielectric as possible, hence BPT's interconnects, speaker and power cables are all cut from the same sonic cloth. On their own, the SC-7.5L were quick, detailed dynamic performers yet also slightly velvety and smooth.
|See fellow moonie Ryan Clarin's piece for the full skinny on the IC-SL interconnects. All I'll say is that he's right on the money. These are among the better interconnects I have used and they just pip my DH Labs Revelation by exhibiting a slightly smoother, more open and dynamic character to music playback. Not a huge difference but clearly an audible one that may convince you to spend the extra $100. I experimented relentlessly with the L-10s in my growing arsenal of power cables until I promised myself I would never do another cable review for as long as I live.
I more or less noted the same sonic characteristics on whatever component I tried the L-10s on. That effect simply became more pronounced as I continued to add more BPT cables. Having said that, the biggest effect was from the wall outlet to my BPT Pure Power Center. If you can afford only one non-Belden cable, put it between the wall and your power strip or line conditioner. If you have neither, try your amp. Most folks suggest digital sources as the most beneficial but I disagree. In my system, aftermarket power cables have consistently offered greater benefits on amps than on any other component.
The unshielded L-10 was dynamic, detailed, open and fast as greased lightning. The highly regarded Audience powerChord touted for its speed and dynamics, was outsped by the L-10 by a nose. I noted a significant reduction in hash and grunge, greater in fact than with the powerChord. Instruments, voices and subtle nuances obscured by lesser cables were now more intelligible and defined. No portion of the frequency range was exaggerated or highlighted as seems the case with some cables when recordings can sound either too bright and edgy or too dark and bloated. Music playback was simply more enjoyable with the L-10 and adding more was always beneficial and never too much of a good thing. The shielded L-10 exhibited identical sonics with the added bonus of greater noise reduction plus a slightly warmer, smoother presentation without rolling off the highs. I have noted that unshielded cables, be they interconnects or power cables, generally sound more open, airy, dynamic and perhaps a little edgier while their shielded brethren major on warmth, smoothness, noise reduction but the highs tend to be unnaturally curtailed. Music can seem shut in or slightly compressed as if the ceiling and walls moved in a foot or two. Oddly, I didn't notice these characteristics as much with the L-10s. Overall, I preferred the shielded L-10 ever so slightly to the naked version as it was the best of both worlds in my system. The biggest surprise occurred when I tried the unshielded L-10 on my REL sub. It wasn't that I noted greater bass extension; it was the greater drive and bottom end definition. Every other power cable I tried including the powerChord and even the considerably more expensive GutWire Power Clef SE didn't quite have the same synergistic effect as the L-10 on my REL Q108 MkII. I have no idea why.
My Gut Wire Power Clef 2 and Power Clef SE cables are probably my overall favorite AC snakes to date: noise reduction, bass definition, dynamics, image density... you name it, they've got it. And I'll admit they do seem a little overly smooth and bloomy in my system but I like that. They just match my current system better than most power cables I have tried. However, on some components, they do not gel at all. For example, on my Audio Zone AMP-1 and the AMP-2 monos I reviewed a couple of years ago, the resulting effect was an almost total collapse of soundstaging and bass was sluggish and bloated with squashed dynamics. The chip amps, noted for their speed and dynamic bravado, seemed sapped of their light and life. On the other hand, both cables are terrific on my Stingray and Minimax CD player. With cables as well as anything else, your mileage may vary depending on what you hook them up to. Having said that, I did not find any non-copasetic matches with the L-10s.They are easily the most universal power cables I've experimented with to date.
Adding the BPT interconnects, speaker cables and L-10s, synergy did click in big time. All the traits I observed above were still there plus greater coherence. Sure, individual cables excelled but performance went up a further notch with everything fully BPT'd.
At $399 and $499 respectively, the L-10 and L-10 w/ SuperShield were excellent yet cost-effective performers that enhanced my listening pleasure. They worked fine with all components. They didn't impede dynamics nor did they exhibit any bloat. While I haven't heard all the highly regarded two and three-thousand dollar power cables out there, I didn't feel the itch to try any with the L-10s in my system. They work and they won't fry your wallet. Highly recommended.
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