Review: Amadi Phil. Ref and Barb Masters Interconnect
After purchasing the Phil Ref. cables from Amadi and submitting my thoughts to Phil, I was asked if I'd like to listen to future offerings and submit my thoughts. This is what I have presented below. I have no financial interest in Amadi Cables and expressed to Phil that I would not compromise myself to his or any other vendor's benefit. I am obsessed with music and the reproduction of music in the home. I have other responsibilities, so when I purchase audio gear I look for the best performance for my hard-earned dollar. I post these reviews for those who search as I do for the same satisfaction!
It would be too easy if your cables were either grossly flawed or dramatically superior to what I already listen to in my system. I can say that your cables easily dismissed the Purist Audio Elementa cables I was using by being more open, revealing and detailed. Its as if one was speaking with their hands over their mouth and then removed them…such was the dramatic difference I heard. This was a prime example of not knowing what you have been missing until you’ve actually heard it. I’ve lived happily with the Elementa cables and was shocked to realize that despite the immense musicality offered by the Elementa cables, they were definitely outclassed.
Compared to my other cables, Nordost Blue Heaven, the differences/benefits were not so easily identifiable on quick audition. Unlike the easily discernible veil that was lifted from the music when the Amadi cables were substituted for the Purist Audio Elementa, it took a few days of intense listening comparisons to discern what the Amadi’s were bringing to the musical table. What the Amadi cables added to the strengths of the Nordost is the ability to let the finer nuances of the music be heard. The space around instruments are much more palatable, especially in the lower-midrange and bass regions. Also, the extreme highs had less grain than the Nordost. In all I would describe the Amadi cable as being a window to the music allowing fine details to enhance the musical spectrum while avoiding any unnatural sibilant artifacts. Female voice is especially captivating with Carmen Lundy, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Dee Dee Bridgewater never sounding better. One note, I could not compare the Amadi cables to my preamp to amplifier cable (Verastarr Silver Reference) due to my 3-meter length requirement.
For the asking price, I find the Amadi cables to be not only a tremendous bargain but a musical treasure just waiting to be discovered. They certainly exceeded my expectations. If afforded the opportunity, I would love to do a comparison with the Verastarr cables which are also excellent in their own right but not nearly the bargain of the Amadi cables.
Comparing the Phil. Ref to my previous Purist Audio and Nordost cables proved to be a valuable lesson in cost versus performance. The longer I live with them I better realize that the Amadi Phil Ref. cost WAY less and sound a LOT BETTER than my previous cables! For all intents in purposes, the improvements rendered by the Phil’s were of such a magnitude that I could happily live with them without the audiophile paranoia of whether I’m extracting the full potential of my system. What a wonderful feeling to listen to music for music’s sake…and what a pleasurable experience listening to the system has turned out to be since employing this superior cable....and for so little investment!
Enter then a different set of Amadi cables called Barb Masters (Barb). Unable to begin listening immediately, I made a quick visual comparison between it and the Phil. Ref. and everything about the cables from the locking Rca’s to the solidity of their feel and construction scream quality. The temptation was great not to start listening right away, however, I did insert them into the system and run signal through them for a week.
Finally, when I was able to devote serious listening time comparing my reference Phil Ref. to the “Barb” cables, I went straight for the jugular by beginning with my 24/192 digital transfer (VPI Scoutmaster/ZYX R100) of Analogue Productions 45rpm version of Oliver Nelson’s “Blues and the Abstract Truth (AIPJ5) – Stolen Moments”. What a revelation. If you knew me personally, you’d know I’m hard to impress, but the difference between listening to this track with the Phil Ref and the “Barb” transformed the system to a heightened level of intimacy and enjoyment never before heard. All who were present took immediate notice of the transformation from a very good sounding system to being brought into a studio like atmosphere. Oliver and company were in the room! The increase in focus, clarity, instrumental timbre, and spaciousness were off the chart, well above the standard set by the Phil. Ref! To make sure this wasn’t an anomaly, I moved on to the latest Robert Glasper Experiment offering, “Black Radio (Blue Note B0067Q04AM) – The Consequences of Jealousy.” This proved to be equally revealing. The bass on this track has so far proven to be deep and visceral and extremely satisfying. However, once I swapped out the Phil Ref. for the “Barbs”, I heard not only the visceral impact of the bass, but I could now discern a distinct separation of the bass drum beater hitting the bass drum skin in unison with the bass guitar! Wow, I've only been able to hear this through the VPI/ZYX(Black Radio is available on LP, too)! I learned while playing in a band that the bass drum and the bass guitar must share a symbiotic relationship if the rhythm section was to be fully exploited, and listening to this piece brought back those memories. It’s seldom one can hear such separation while at the same time remaining musical. I don’t like detail for details sake, but when such detail benefits the music, I'll take it!
For the finale of my formal listening session, I went to one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard, the soundtrack to the movie “Glory (Virgin B000000WH5 – Closing Credits).” I use this track solely for the purpose of hearing whether a systems resolving power can discern the lyrics. Though there was a clear improvement on the first stanza, I was not able to detect a clear improvement over the Phil Ref. on the second. Many have argued about these lyrics with no definitive answer, but it’s compelling in the least to be able to hear as much as I heard. I admit that this track also tests the resolving capabilities of the system as a whole and I can't rule out the possibility that some other component in my system may be the culprit of obscuring this detail. (The adolescent male falsetto voice is very hard to interpret…even in person!)
I listened to a myriad of music and genres and each selection proved to reveal a clear differences and ultimately a preference for the “Barb” cable. It never ceases to amaze my how something so simple as a cable swap can make such a huge impact on the enjoyment of a system. This new (at least to me) Amadi cable has again moved my system to a new level of resolving power and musicality that makes being a part of this hobby so enjoyable. I don’t know how much this cable costs, but I’m sure it’s another best-bang-for-the-buck-world-beater offering from Amadi. Is this an improvement over the Phil Ref.? I would have to say, absolutely! Does this make what I said about the Phil. Ref. obsolete? I would say not. For what Amadi is asking for the Phil. Ref., those on a tight budget can’t go wrong. If however, you would like release your system’s hidden potential without breaking the bank, give Amadi Cables a call and ask for these! You will be shocked by the improvement!
Now, if only Amadi had a dedicated phono, custom length rca (I still want to compare them to the Verastarr Silvers!), and speaker cables to complete the coup. (Hint, Hint!)
Mike June 2012
Conrad Johnson ET2 w/MC Phono (Telefunken 12ax7's)
Opera-Consonance Cyber 800 Mono Amps
Volent CL2 Loudspeakers/Totem Mani2 Stands
Shanling CD2.1 CD Player
VPI Scoutmaster II/ZYX R100H
Logitech Squeezebox Classic
Highwire Digital Interconnect (Classic to Shanling)
Verastar Silver Reference Cable (Pre - Pwr)
Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8 BiWire Loudspeaker Cables
Purist Audio Elementa Rev. B
Purist Audio Collossus Rev. A
Nordost Blue Heaven