Review: Audio Magic Illusion Umbilical PC for ModWright Power cord
The Power cord which is the subject of this review was used to provide DC from a ModWright PS 9.0 power supply to a ModWright Sony HAPZ1 High Resolution Music Player. The review is based on a careful A/B comparison using the Audio Magic Illusion and ModWright Truth umbilicals. The Illusion has about 40 hours of burn in, while the Modwright Truth has many hundreds of hours.
Music selected for the review was as follows:
Dvorak: String Quartet Op. 96, movements 1 and 2 Vogler Quartet, CPO
Schutz: Die Seben Wort, SWV 478 Ars Nova Copenhagen, deCapo
Britten: Sinfonia de Requiem Op.20. Kalmar, Oregon Symphony. Pentatone
Appalachian Journey, Slumber My Darling, Alison Krauss et al, Sony
For the comparison, I warmed up the system for an hour, then began with a piece of music using one cord, shut down the source and replaced with the other cord, repeated the music for comparison, moved on to the next music selection, listened, replaced the cord for comparison, etc. until the music selections were depleted. Time required to change cords and restart the Sony was under one minute.
I selected the Vogler recording of the Op 96 quartet because it is probably my best string quartet recording with respect to spacial presentation of the 4 instruments. In particular, the two violins are very well separated spacially, in contrast to many other quartet recordings, where the two violins seem to be right on top of each other. I listened first using the Audio Magic Illusion. The four instruments were well localized spacially as expected. I took particular note about 5.5 minutes into the 1st movement of some especially lovely cello playing, accompanied by a beautiful violin trill. This section was so striking in its beauty that I backed the music up several times to listen carefully again. I also listened to the 2nd movement Lento, a slow movement which usually evokes a strong emotional response from me. I wanted to see if the two cords would distinguish themselves in ability to evoke that emotional response that makes this hobby worthwhile.
Having captured my thoughts on the music with the Illusion in place, I inserted the ModWright Truth Umbilical and repeated the Dvorak Quartet. I was immediately struck by a loss of resolution. There was a bit of a veil present, that seemed to mask certain nuances of the music. Attacks and decays seemed a bit murky with the Truth as compared to the Illusion. Significantly, that especially striking cello part accompanied by the violin trill at about 5:30 through the first movement passed without catching my attention. At about 7 minutes in, I backed the music up to 5:30 and listened carefully. The “bite” was gone from the cello, as was the detail in the violin trill. I did not notice a significant difference in my emotional response to the second movement Lento with the two cords. The Illusion's superior air, resolution, etc did not result in a significant difference in my emotional response to the music. Localization of the four instruments was still good with the Truth, but somewhat more nebulous than with the Illusion.
The Schutz piece was selected based on exquisite attacks and decays on the vocals. In particular, listening to Vater, Vater, vergib ihnen, the Illusion revealed a proper German pronunciation of the V in Vater. The Truth again suffered from enough loss of resolution that one did not get the feeling that one was listening to a native German speaker. The difference was akin to listening to a native German speaker face to face vs listening to one on the telephone. Also notable was the symphonia preceding the conclusion, which is (without benefit of consulting a score) a section in which the viola de gamba and natural horns predominate. Here the Illusion presented the horns with better timbre.
The Britten piece was selected because of its extremely dynamic opening. I can’t say that there was a dramatic difference in the Illusion and Truth with respect to dynamics per se, but again, the increase in resolution made this opening seem much more powerful. I did notice some beauty in the upper harmonics on the brass using the Truth that didn’t catch my attention with the Illusion. A second listening of this piece with the Illusion produced the same result. I would need to do more listening to determine if this result is peculiar to this recording, or more general. Based on my strong preference for the natural horns in the Schutz piece through the Illusion, I am inclined to think this may be recording dependent. For the Britten recording, while overall I preferred the Illusion, the Truth did manage some magic with the brass that seemed to be missing through the Illusion.
It is my normal practice to select a recording with a bit of an issue when doing an A/B comparison. Sometimes, this offers an interesting contrast. Sometimes, the problem is mitigated or disappears, sometimes, it becomes worse. Slumber My Darling is a very beautiful bit of vocal work by Alison Krauss, but to my ears, it sounds as if she is just a bit too close to the microphone. This impression was sustained in listening to the music through both cords. It was slightly more pronounced through the more revealing Illusion, but it was still pronounced with the Truth.
Based on my listening, I have a very strong preference for the Illusion Umbilical over the ModWright Truth Umbilical and recommend it without reservation as a substantial and cost effective upgrade for the ModWright Sony HAPZ1. The increased resolution of the Illusion pays dividends in detail, attacks and decays, perception of dynamics, localization of instruments in space, and air. I did not detect any timbral inaccuracy in either cord. I did notice a difference in presentation of upper harmonics in brass instruments, but this difference appeared to be recording dependent, so that I could not reliably choose one cord over the other with respect to this aspect of music reproduction. In this and many other respects, the qualitative difference, and the magnitude of the difference in the two cords, mimics the difference one might expect by rolling rectifier tubes. If you have a ModWright Sony HAPZ1, you really need to give the Illusion a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Pre amp: Coincident CSL
Amplification: Coincident Frankenstein 300B monoblocks
Speakers: Coincident Triumph Extreme II monitors with Coincident stands.
Power Treatment for preamp and source: Audio Magic Mini Ref II.
Power cords for the source, power treatment, and amplifiers were VH Audio AirSines. The power cord for the pre amp was a VooDoo Air Dragon. IC from the source to the preamp was a VH Audio Symmetry silver, and IC from the preamp to the amplifiers was a VH audio Spectrum AG. Speaker Cable was Coincident TRS Extreme.
ModWright Truth Umbilical