After the Mircacle Wraps that I reviewed so positively, Reference Tweaks have now issued a power cable. Naturally the proprietary TTL process is again a crucial part of the products. This time however there's no waiting time, nor a sleeve to apply: the cable as a whole has been treated and the connector metal parts have even been individually treated to provide instant maximum effect.
The standard Furutech Alpha 3 with Furutech FI20/FI-E35 connectors has been my reference for quite a while and it has been the default cable on the PS Audio PWD MKII and Meridian MS600. Another such Furutech cable has been the default testing cable for all many review components in the past year or so. However, the introduction of the Reference Tweaks Gold Label powercable has completely changed the game. Amazingly enough, compared to the Gold Label, the standard Furutech sounds a bit gray and dry, and lacks harmonic richness. Previously my digital antidote has been the Harmonic Technology Pro ACII. It makes for perfectly fluid, super-smooth treble, while delivering deep and voluptuous bass. Its only sin I always considered to be a slightly recessed midrange but hey, that was the price to pay for such luxuriousness. For many years I have happily used the Pro AC II on my Levinson 390S CD player. However, due to system changes, lately the 390S had been sounding less involving, especially when compared to some streamers such as the PS Audio PWD MKII, Linn Klimax DS/1 and the Meridian MD600/MS600 Sooloos combo.
Review sample kindly supplied by Reference Tweaks, manufacturer and distributor for the Netherlands.
Retail price 590 euro for 1 meter, with blue or black sleeve
Meridian MD600/MS600 Sooloos combo
Even when powered with the Gold Label power cable, the Meridian combo initially sounds less voluptuous than I remember it to be. That is until I realize that I had been listening to the Levinson CD player with the Gold Label cable for a couple of days, and that sweet sound proves hard to beat. Good though the Levinson sounded before, the Harmonic Technology Pro ACII powercable clearly has been holding it back because when fed with the Gold Label powercable, it had now leapfrogged right before the Meridian combo. To be sure, on the MS600, I swapped back to my previous Furutech Alpha 3 powercord with Furutech FI20/FI-E35 connectors that had been there from the moment that I bought them, and sure enough: the standard Furutech cable sounded remarkably gray, flat, uninvolving compared to the Gold Label. It really is ridiculous how a comparably better product can make another, previously unbeaten product sound so much worse. Maybe the standard Furutech cable had a little more "wood" to the midrange, some hardness that could make it sound slightly more acoustical. But this aspect also translates into some hardness and a forward character and is on balance not te be preferred.
PS Audio PWD MKII
The PWD sounds fuller and weightier than the Sooloos combo, even with a standard Furutech. Admittedly the PWD has superb bass, fullness of colour and already splendid soundstaging even with standard cables. But its treble is its problem area, lacking air and resolution. Changing to the Gold Label, another step forward is achieved. The presentation is more organic, more involving. Also the soundstage is more spaced out and more richly filled. Bass stays more or less the same but contrasts are better. By that I mean that the difference between soft sounds and loud sounds appears more distinct, as if having higher contrast ratios on video screens. Air is better too, in spite of my "common knowledge" that IeGO connectors sound less fluid than Furutech connectors. Yes, on the PWD too, the Gold label performs better than the standard Furutech cable with Furutech FI20/FI-E35 connectors.
A last test in the more humble cinema system confirmed what I already knew by now: the Gold Label powercable simply fits everywhere and consistently performs better than other cables. In this case it was tried on the Meridian 506.24 and on the Yamaha DSP-Z7. The latter formerly had a Siltech SPX10 powercord that lends the big amp more bass tightness and open treble, both aspects were a problem in the overdamped and small room. But since I use room EQ, this situation is much improved and it now turns out that the Siltech cable makes for a rather thin sound with a narrow soundstage. The Gold Label cable adds bass heft without going overboard and it massively increases the soundstage in all directions, which is all the more surprising given the small 3x3m room dimensions.
This cable is simply fantastic. It is evident from my comparisons: the TTL process massively improves the cable and connectors, and no matter which component I tried it on, the Gold Label was always the clear winner, comfortably sounding better than the Harmonic Technology Pro ACII, Siltech SPX10 and the Furutech Alpha 3. It's that I don't have any other reference-grade powercord in the system, but from memory I'd say that the Reference Tweaks Gold Label powercord is more musical, more harmonically complete and more goosebump-inducing than any other cables I have tested thus far. My Levinson CD player just won't please me as much anymore without one, and the same goes for the Meridian Sooloos combo, or for the Meridian 808.3, for that matter. In fact, I like it so much that I have decided to order two of them, and to make the Reference Tweaks Gold Label my new reference for power cables.
Update august 2012:
After the review I had to return the review samples and while waiting for the 2 cables I ordered (the TTL process takes 6 weeks*), I had gotten used to the sound of the Furutech Alpha 3 cables again, but wasn't very satisfied. The dissatisfaction grew and grew until I just no longer liked my sound anymore. I found my sound to be flat and lacking enthusiasm and excitement. It was way too polite. I tried everything that I could to restore the balance: moving and tilting the speakers, refirming all connections and bolts of the Spider racks, subwoofers and speaker terminations, both outside and inside the amplifiers. Naturally I also did some major swapping and repositioning of cables in the power extensionblocks, but nothing could bring back the sound as I wanted it. Sure, I could obtain more articulation but at the expense of musicality. I figured that something must have gone askew, perhaps with the Magnapans, or the Jeff Rowland model sixes. After all, the latter are more than 15 years old now and I was now fearing for their capacitors. At this stage I had received the Gold Label cables that I had ordered. First I tried one on the Meridian 818. Well blimey, there it was again: the royal, room-fillingh sound with that beautifully deep yet agile and colourful foundation. Positive, colourful and lively. Quickly I connected the second cable to the Levinson cd player and yes, this one also regained the sound that I loved and missed ever since the Gold Label cables were gone from the system. Like I said earlier: they are my personal reference and I don't think that I can live without them anymore. I cannot think of higher praise to give!
* currently Reference Tweaks are working on getting cables in stock so that orders can be delivered rightaway.
The Gold Label powercable is also available with black sleeve
After connecting the Reference Tweaks Gold Label I couldn't believe my ears. Every aspect improved immensely: deeper, more powerful bass, a gloriously rich midrange, and soundstage widened and deepened while partraying more air inbetween phantom images. Importantly, treble remained open and airy. Emotionally as well as technically, the Gold Label is simply superior to both Harmonic Pro ACII and standard Furutech Alpha 3. The interesting part is that inside the Gold label is the very same Alpha 3 powercable and what's more: it has IeGO connectors, while the standard Furutech has Furutech connectors. My experience has time and again pointed out that IeGO's are better dynamically and have better bass, but Furutechs have more refined and more fluid treble. Yet the Reference Tweaks Gold label had smoother treble than the standard Furutech cable with Furutech connectors. This, boys and girls, is the TTL process at work.
The Gold Label powercable comes in a cotton sleeve with 24k Gold imprint
The 808.3 is Meridian's Signature Reference CD player. It also has a Sooloos input card to transform the unit into an endpoint, or "source" in Meridian-speak. Combined with the MD600 storage unit, this is a state of the art streaming solution. Even though the 808.3 is equipped with a very powerful powersupply, still it is highly sensitive to powercables. Powered by the standard Furutech Alpha 3, the 808.3 sounds much gentler and refined than the MS600 but it seems somewhat overpolite. It also has less drive and leaner bass. Moving the Furutech cable more toward the first position of the extensionblock, in front of the Jeff Rowland Coherence and Levinsons makes the 808.3 more articulate, but also less luxurious and still I found the overall balance to be slightly off.
The Gold Label powercable is accompanied by laminated info sheets
The answer was once again the Gold Label powercord. Not only did it reinstate the luxuriousness, it also improved bass depth and slam, as well as to take away the slight restraint in midrange dynamics/transient sharpness. But also this introduced some hardness in the treble. Luckily, moving the cable back in the extensionblock, behind the Jeff Rowland Coherence and the Levinsons brought back all of the fluidity and creamyness in the treble. Needless to say I did the remainder of the 808.3 review using the Gold Label powercord. The more I listen, the more I like the 808.3, and actually would now place it side by side with the Levinson 390S. as long as both are powered by the Gold Label power cable. I would later buy the Meridian 818 and power it with a RT Gold Label powercable permanently, as can be seen in the rear panel picture above.
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