Perfect Path Solutions Total Contact Mega Review
Spoiler Alert: Total Contact is, for the right person, the greatest bargain in audio tweaks ever. Nothing else comes even close. If- and this is a big if- you are the right sort of person.
This stuff is so good I keep wanting to put it more places and listen to it rather than write about the amazing results. My only real regret so far is not having tried it sooner. Yes I did read all the positive comments. Which I found hard to believe. It is after all “just another contact enhancer”. So let me clear that one up first, in order that others not fall for that one.
Everyone knows, or should know, the importance of cleaning contacts. If you don’t, you can prove it to yourself in like 5 minutes with a little alcohol and a clean cloth. If you don’t notice improved detail and extension stop reading, you need another hobby. That’s what I learned, back around 1990. Then over the next 30 years I must have done this with a dozen to maybe 20 different cleaners and conditioners. All this experience taught me they are all pretty much the same. Which they are. TC however is NOT. So the first part of “for the right person” is being open to the fact technology advances and occasionally really new and transformational technology does come along.
The next thing that kept me skeptical was the combination of cost and quantity. $300 is a lot for just 1.5ml. Yet I just called TC the greatest bargain tweak ever. Something to keep in mind while reading this review: everything mentioned here has been done with only 0.6ml. Less than half, and already enough impact to qualify as the all time greatest tweak. Easily.
Not that this was readily apparent. Not by any means. Like most, my first impression was applying Total Contact to speaker cable spades, RCAs, and power cords. Following directions only a very thin layer was applied, to only the male parts, and to only the areas contact is made. The last 1/3 of the RCA tip, for example. Eager to hear if TC was really as good as everyone says it wasn’t even applied everywhere. Just speakers, RCAs, and power cords. Even so, the improvement from just this minimal amount was greater than any contact enhancer I’ve tried, and by a large margin.
I’m used to these things improving detail and extension, removing a layer of grain or glare, and revealing a bit of inner detail. Some of them like Quicksilver also seem to improve dynamics a bit, although it may just be the noise floor dropping makes it seem that way. Whatever, its not a big improvement. Not like this. TC is deeper, more dimensional, and with an improvement that seems to go beyond the normal meaning of things like detail and dynamics.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. This is just the easy low hanging fruit. What most people will do. It gets better.
There’s a double meaning there. It gets better with time- and it also gets better with more.
Next were all the tube pins, including inside my Herron phono stage. Koetsu cartridge pins, and turntable motor controller. Fuse holders. This second stage application basically covered every system connection accessible to normal users willing to remove a cover. Before doing this second stage it was easily noticeable that the sound had improved in the few days since the first initial application. The sound by the time this second stage was done was far, far beyond anything else like this ever.
It was at this point I finally looked close to see how much was left: 1.5 ml! Obviously this was not all done with zero. It must have been filled to 1.51ml or something and I just wasn’t paying enough attention. I sure would from now on!
But this raises another interesting point about TC. It comes with little plastic mixing cups. But the stuff goes so far I couldn’t imagine ever using them. What I do, carefully squeeze until just the tiniest little dome of TC forms at the end of the syringe. Only a smidge of this goes on the brush. This speck gets dabbed around wherever its going. Finally the dabs get brushed out nice and uniformly thin. TC is highly conductive. Do NOT get it where you don’t want it. Do not leave globs anywhere. A headlamp comes in real handy for getting it nice and smooth and thin. Also an artists brush. I bought a natural hair 1/8” shader.
Next up: the panel. This was done, similar to the system, in stages. Stage 3 involved partially pulling the main breaker enough to coat the copper bus bars. Then: all the breaker/bus bar contact points, ends of all wires going into breakers, ends of all wires going into ground, ends of all wires going into neutral, and the ground and neutral bus bars were coated with TC providing a thin continuous coating across all connections on these bus bars. This used about 0.2ml.
My system runs 220v to a Swiss Audio Consulting silver step down transformer just below the room, leaving only a short 5 ft at 110v to the room. This transformer is a roughly 7” cube. It lives in a 2” thick MDF box in the crawl space under the house. Between the box and the 4 ga wire and being under the house its been,…. 20 years at least since I had a look in there. Its a hassle, okay? But by now I know for sure this will be worth the trouble.
The transformer comes out and into the shop. The bolts holding the plates come out and get treated. The plates get a thin coat all around the outside. The terminals and wires all get cleaned and coated. The whole thing goes back together. The wire connecting it to the dedicated ground gets treated. The ground rod gets cleaned and treated.
Back in the listening room my Frankenstein Medusa power conditioner gets opened up. The Tesla MPC power transformers get treated. All the wires connecting to the various audiophile outlets. Now finally we are up to where I am now, with still 0.6ml left to go!
How does it sound? Freaking insane. My Teaser post the other day was written after a couple amazing tracks. We can however do a whole lot better than that. Not all audiophiles will be able to afford this measurement tool. But for those who can it can be highly revealing. You may not always care for the readings it generates. They must however at all times be respected! I am of course referring to The Wife.
The Wife does not spend much time listening to music. The Wife would rather watch movies. Preferably while surrounded with numerous plates and cups to snack and sip from in a near constant display of kinetic motion aka nervous energy. The Wife readings are highly variable, ranging from, “what did you get now?” And “how much?” to “it sounds completely different” which happens a lot and requires visual confirmation- with smile good, frown bad. In other words The Wife readings are often nonverbal. When The Wife stops eating, leans forward, and just sits there in rapt attention, ice cream melting in her lap, that’s when you know The Wife meter is pegged.
Which actually happened a few nights ago. BEFORE Panel Stage 3. BEFORE the transformers. BEFORE all this stuff even has had time to mature. Which matters because yes it does indeed improve with time.
What’s it like right now? Glad you asked.
Where to start? Presentation of the characteristic tone and harmonic structure of individual instruments is remarkable. Many of the tracks on Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints are an aural tapestry of many different unusual percussion instruments. With lesser systems it can all sound like one. With mine before TC I could hear quite a few. Now with TC not only is each individual instrument clear, its easy to hear its not just a percussion there’s also a tone with real body along with it, and its in its own acoustical space, and it doesn’t even sound the same each time. I mean you can tell when its hit a little harder or differently. Amazing.
Dynamics. Its possible to go quite a while thinking everything is pretty normal. Until some solo explodes out of nowhere and you have to keep telling yourself its the same 50 watt amp, it only sounds like 500. Some things like a soaring Santana guitar note have such crystalline clarity its almost searing, except for the edge that would be there with anything else so high energy. How this happens- the combination of extreme hard edge without the hard edge part- is beyond me.
Presence. You know how you instinctively know the difference between something in your room vibrating vs something like cymbals on the recording making the same sound? TC, you got me. I actually thought it was something in my room. It wasn’t. Damn.
Resolution. Many recordings sound really good and clear, until it gets loud and more and more voices and instruments come in and it reaches a point where it all sort of congeals. Its like, you can tell they’re all there, just not as individually distinct as when they were playing one by one. Well, now it is almost comical how easy it is to follow anything and everything all the time no matter how many or how loud. Used to think this was recording quality. In part it is. My Hot Stampers stand out impressive as ever. The real surprise is how many totally average records now sound crazy good.
Can’t stress this enough. There’s plenty of stuff out there that people will say provides greater detail and resolution. Almost always the next thing after that is how they know this because the edgy ear graters really grate the ears, or its liquid but not so liquid the screechy bad isn’t still grating, or whatever. With TC I have yet to find the record that doesn’t just plain sound way better. Bruce Springsteen, Exhibit A in the Museum of Great Music Badly Recorded, the Ghost of Tom Joad is now an incredibly compelling experience. Unbelievable.
I could go on. And on. Words. Don’t do it justice.
Bear in mind, Total Contact is by all accounts one of those things that gets quite a bit better over the first month or two. Word is, significantly. This right now is at most three weeks since the first little bit applied to part of my system, to less than three days since the most recent application to transformers.
Still, this stuff is so good I just didn’t want to wait. Even as it stands right now, having used only about half the tube and most of that with less than a week to burn in, the improvement from application of Total Contact is roughly comparable to the improvements I’ve gotten from going to a Herron phono stage, Synergistic CTS speaker cable, Atmosphere interconnect, or Koetsu cartridge. Those were all multi-thousand dollar upgrades. This is with half a $300 tube of TC.
Those things however are all simply bought and connected. TC is quite a bit more hands-on labor intensive. A lot of people simply will not be comfortable using this where it will do the most good. Or may not be creative enough to think of all the places it can be used. Or have the initiative and desire to try and see. Which is why the long review. Its not a question of is this a great tweak. It is an awesome tweak! Its a question of are you the right sort of person to appreciate and use and get the most out of it?
If you are, then Total Contact is the greatest bargain in audio tweaks, ever.