Review: Music Interface technologies Shotgun S2 Proline 1M Interconnect
M.I.T. SHOTGUN pro line S2 series III 1M.
Retail Price $897.00
Just so you know a bit about who I am and what I dig.... if you don't care, and I'll certainly not blame you simply skip ahead to the review... it's just a bit ahead... it's marked 'review'.
I have backgrounds in sales, as an electrician, also I’ve been an electronics technician, and musician. This makes me no more or no less an authority on anything audio or video. I am however avidly engrossed in obtaining a system that is well above the median. So as anyone who is severely affected by the love of musical involvement and spends a good bit their resources to accomplish that end, I feel a say so about a thing is simply a prerequisite item. I am retired currently and enjoy most any sort of music… apart from Rap, Hip hop, and heavy metal. I’m not too much into headache induced musical stylings, or screaming lyrics. However I will occasionally entertain some interlude of ‘Gangster Bluegrass” or “Heavy metal ambience”. I do listen daily to something. Usually my favorite genres are Jazz, blues, R&B, Folk, and Alternative. Lately classical music is gaining my attention with some vigor. Quality of the recording had been the hook for me until this past year. Things change. Content as well as quality both intrigue me these days.
I prefer a sound that is congruent, dynamic, richly layered and warmly portrayed. I enjoy a prominent bottom end that remains consistent with the music but yields sufficient impact and substance to support the tune. The midrange is certainly ‘the’ best part and needs be recreated with as much texture and presence as is possible without detail or resolution being subtractive. The top end has to be smart, and sweet. Not drawing attention to itself as a rule yet acting as the extension of the midrange. Air, ambience, sound staging and imaging are quite important. It is not necessary I be able to shake hands with the images. They need only be well set and viscerally rendered.
I suppose in all, if the presentation is involving and natural, I’ll be most happy. Other aspects are the icing. My little system provides much in the areas that I enjoy most. Warmth, involvement, richness in tone. It’s not a gig-a-buck set up, but does render music deftly and with very much a genuine romantic presence you might expect from only SET systems. It is also digitally oriented completely in regard to it’s sources. Given my visual challenge, vinyl just does not seem a prudent path for me.
I use primarily three CD’s as test CD’s during auditions. Provided there is sufficient time, I’ll incorporate far more. I am intimately familiar with a couple dozen or so and as they range in genre and artistic stylings, current editions and archival offerings, I believe when I am done with my listening efforts I remain quite certain as to my thoughts about a device. Sure enough of course to either spend my money or leave it in my pocket. Will Rodgers was noted as having said, “A sure fire way to double your money is to take it out of your pocket, fold it over, and then put it back.” The mere fact I post an overview of an item is simply me showing my gratitude for those who have been so helpful to me along my way to acquiring that which I have. I got it all by appealing to those who had gone before me. So in essence I am telling…. Not selling. I’ll take out an ad when it becomes the latter.
My goal here is to be descriptive enough to impart my experiences fully. To do it in such a way as to convey entirely the properties of a certain thing. To try accomplishing it in an honest and entertaining fashion so another may gain something from that incident.
I was first introduced to the MIT cables during my quest for a source interconnect a couple years ago. I tried several at the time including Cardas Neutral Ref, HT Magic, Shunyata Aries, and a MIT Magnum 3 series III. Using at the time a Cardas Neutrl Reference XLR, from my BAT VK5i to my BAT VK500 w/BAT pack. My choice of that mix was the Magnum 3 III in RCA form for the Cd to preamp bridge. I settled at that time for a Nordost Blue Heaven ribbon interconnect. I still have it. Although the M.I.T. Magnum 3 was my choice, I wasn’t able to afford it just then and did find one some months later from a fellow Agoner who had recently purchased it then decided to acquire a better fit for his system. Bad for him, good for me... and so it goes with finding the right match, or at least a very good one. I’ve been quite grateful for that turn of events ever since.
Well then, why investigate the Shotgun? For the very same reason as above. Looking for the ‘better’ link. The Cardas NR do quite a good job on the whole. They were the first good IC I got for the BAT to BAT connection and I used the Cardas IC’s for some time with good results. They are also solidly in the mix of good cables with an attractive price point to boot. That being said, ‘more’ seems to be a word I use pretty often. It’s attractive, and easy to spell. It also indicates betterment is just ahead. It never says how much better things will be, or what that degree of improvement will cost. Just a blinking light that says, “This way to greater pleasure!”
Rather than sink a substantial hunk of money simply on speculation I turned to the well known cable lender folks at The Cable Co. Asked a few questions got a few thoughts and went from there. Soon there was a box at the door. UPS never knocks at my door when delivering a package. I hate that. Unless a signature is required they scamper away as if on some clandestine black ops mission. Quiet. Stealthy. Thousands of bucks worth of stuff just laying there. Waiting for me to stumble over or step on and damage. Like it’s some macabre game of hide and seek. Sort of like Santy Claus or the tooth fairy. The difference being you know they are definitely coming. “When”, however, is a whole other bag of worms. They are apparently unaware of the indescribable anxiety with which I have so eagerly anticipated the arrival of ‘more’. …or do they? Likely not. They’re probably just shy.
In any case a choice of cables arrived. Inclusive in the box were a set of Cardas Golden Ref, and a pair of M.I.T. Shotgun 2’s. All XLR interconnects. The Cardas were the first one’s integrated into the system. Based upon previous experiences my anticipation level was quite high. Several days later my assessment of the Cardas wires was somewhat deflating. Not quite what I had in mind. So much for reading reviews, doing research, and ultimately just some guesswork, based upon some really intuitive and profound speculation. First hand on the spot performance is truly the key. Of that I am sorely convinced. The Golden Refs I’ll get into later on in another editorial. My disappointment was more a matter of preference than the Golden Cross’ spin on a performance. I do admit I love the Cardas midrange regardless. Both the Neutral Ref, and Golden Cross have the same gene pool, yet differ greatly apart from that singular area very much so. . . but let’s get on with the scatter gun’s recital.
The Shotguns were the current series III. Another category of cable is forthcoming from MIT very soon that will add to the shotgun, magnum, and oracle lines. So look for that if it hasn’t already hit the dealer shelves and peg boards. The series III has a box inline on the wires. One for each individual wire. One wire, one box. The switch on the box allows for more accurate system matching according to M.I.T. the ‘matching’ is attended to by adjusting for proper impedances. The switches allow for a closer or more accurate match to the downstream components input impedance through the three preset impedance ranges set by the user for their particular device. Frankly, I do believe that they are onto something with that box. There is definitely a difference when you move those switches about. The ‘matching’ boxes although somewhat bulky are very light in weight and as best I can tell do not put any inordinate strain on the connections. Of course if it appears a bother, one can simply suspend the boxes via sip ties fastened to the rack perhaps. There is likely some aftermarket accessory designed exactly for this instance. It doesn’t seem to affect my preamps inputs as my preamp is set above my CD player and on another rack entirely. (I keep rotating equipment on one rack and the power on another).
There are three spots total. LOW, MEDIUM, & HIGH. The positions refer to the input impedance of the secondarily connected item. That is also where the boxes need be set closest to as well. Once you’ve determined the input impedance of your component set the switch (RCA), or ‘switches’ (XLR), your ready to go. Easy, huh?
Finding out the facts…
Getting the info for the input impedance of my amp straight from the designer, Victor Komenko of Balanced Audio Technologies, I set the impedances. Firing it up and letting it run in for a couple days, or 24 hours of imtermittent use I figured I was ready. Well, not quite. Forgive me. I was ready but the M.I.T.s were lagging behind a touch. Most often the cables I have rented from the Cable Co. are run in already. There is only the necessity of a ‘loosening up’ stint. Seldom more than a day or three of intermittent use. I heat them up with a cable music channel most often during the days. Turn them off and then back on later for a touch more nocturnal exercise. So in all, the Shotgun’s were not quite, but almost ready for prime time. I suspect the M.I.T. units require some extended calisthenics. I sort of figured another barrage of berratement would not serve any purpose. Although a few choice words as to their lethargic progress were given them. They didn’t seem to mind the off colored address. It didn’t help either. Note to self; Don’t yell at cables because they are deaf.
I can’t help but check in how things are going during the loosening up process. Sorry. I know I should let them alone to do their thing in private and prohibit incidental judgements but my curiosity and anxiety get the better of me most often. With both sets of switches set to the HIGH points I was quite taken with the first glimpse of what was to come after about 20 hours of sweating and being massaged by the constant musings of the commercial free cable systems onslaught. Amazed in fact. The difference the M.I.T. Shotgun S2 made in my system was incredible. Every portion of the sound scape was made more of. More bottom end, more detail in the mids. More openness in the upper ranges. Bigger stage. Greater was it’s depth as well. Just more of everything. It didn’t occur to me straight away that the addition of another M.I.T. interconnect was exponentially enhancing the affectation of the sound. Unmistakably though something was happening. I wasn’t sure at that stage if it wa something happening “to the music”, or “for the music”. That came a day or so later. Remember I have a Mag 3 up ahead in the signal path on the CD player… and I began to ruminate.
Both the Shotgun, and Magnum exhibit what I refer to as a grip on the musical content. The sound staging of the various elements is set quite firmly into place. The instruments and vocalizations are neither migratory or shadowy. The stage represented is also of good proportion. Wide and tall, with good depth and rear of the stage info is not too hard to unearth. The Shotgun’s development of the music is a bit unlike the majority of what other cables do in this regard. M.I.T., by the way, calls it “that high end sound”. I’m not too sure exactly how they mean that but there it is right in front of you… “That High end sound” A mysterious moniker. Shouldn’t all cables close to a ‘dime’ or past it be exuding a “high end sound”? I suspect it is just something to hang your hat on. Sort of catchy, actually.
The Shotgun S2’s were the first really coherent cable I had tried so far in my little search for the new IC. Top to bottom the sounds just meshed in a statement of precision and dynamics . Not the last word in resolution overall and not so terribly silky smooth to the point of lackluster or uninvolvement. The Shotgun offer a happy medium of those two results. I was impressed. There was definitely more detail, and no grain or edge in the upper midrange or treble posts. For my concerns there was more than sufficient resolution and smoothing. Quite a first impression. They do allow you to become involved and drawn into the event. Homogenous, evenly balanced, other than the more impactful presence of the bass, and smooth overall in their performance. Very much the musical interface. The Shotguns do not have quite the warmth that some other cables possess in their midrange, but they are a most enjoyable cable with their performance in that area. The midrange remains on balance with the mid bass and above. It is not set forward of the various other elements and stays consistently in proportion to the recording. With their presentation they will provide you more than a fair amount of the original event landscape.
Had I not ever heard the MAG3 the Shotgun S2’s or S1s, (which were not auditioned), would likely have been the choice. That pesky word, ‘more’ began to seep in and ultimately scratch my curiosity bone, towards the end of my trial with the Shotgun S2’s. I did feel certain they were given enough time to break in, and were running optimally far in advance of that point. I tried to glean some greater insight into the characteristics of each iteration above the Shotgun S2 being auditioned either via threads here at Audiogone, and/or via dealers and even the manufacturer. All were reticent to provide what I deemed as satisfactory content to the advantages or limitations. The omnipresent and familiar appraisal was the ‘more’ bit. “Whatever you’re getting with the one you are using, you’ll get ‘more’ with a step up in the line or even ‘more’ more by going to another upscale category was the offering I got from the people at M.I.T. Huh? How much more? More everywhere? Sheeeesh. …and exactly what is “more more”? Don’t you just love definitive answers? I would have settled for a percentile. Such as, “The such and such is about 30% better in the yada yada realm, and the such and such X3 is about 50% better overall” …..Fine. I can deal with that sort of reply…. But ‘more more”… well, that’s simply beyond me. Should have taken calculous when I had the chance instead of shop class. I do appreciate the subjectivity of the whole synergistic thing. Which items with which interfaces. What do you listen to? Ad infinitum… So I do really understand a degree of reticence in descriptive analogies. Doubtless there is someone that will hold them accountable to what was transmitted at the onset though…. Or has, for that matter. I’m not a litigious person though.
In the grand scheme of uncertainty, and postulation, there’s about as definitive an explanation as one could ask for. Right? Certainly. See? I told you ‘more’ was a great word. It’s also a touch vague when you have hundreds and hundreds of dollars hanging in the balance. Add ‘not very reassuring’ to that connotation. Fair enough. It suits me. I’m used to taking shots in the dark from time to time. When it’s all said and done the bottom line, regardless the source of imformation or how incite fully delivered, it remains a test you must account yourself to. Always. We can only be pointed towards an end. The path we take is our own.
The M.I.T.’s maintain a tight grip upon the musical elements as I said previously. Very taut indeed. I’ll attribute that grip to good phase coherency and technology. They fashion a restrictive sort of sound. An emergence, more than a flow. A sound that seems pushed along rather than one which glides. This is not at all an unpleasant affair mind you just different than the sound I had become accustomed to as the rule. Pace, timing and tone are right there. I did not detect any bloat or thin sounding artifacts anywhere in the bandwidth. The top end is quite easy to take and has very good extension and detail. Vocals and other elements in the midrange do exhibit some inner detail… It’s very nearly as transparent a mid range as other cables I have had in my system with much higher asking prices. The Shotgun midrange is acquitted handily. More balanced a presentation on the whole of things though would be nice, and perhaps it is available in another representative from M.I.T.. Most definitely there is more bass, and bass presence. The prominence of midrange remains on par with the rest of the bandwidth and is not spot lit nor as warm as is the Neutral Refs
well-known mid. The Shotgun S2 possesses more prominent characteristics than many I’ve heard regardless the price. I keep harping on it but the bass response was prodigious. Tight. Well defined. Exciting. It possesses both texture and impact. It was a slam dunk to differentiate between a dog house bass and it’s electric cousin. I use a very old, and small 10” Velodyne sub with only a hundred watts of power in my system to enhance the base platform for the music I listen to regularly. Actually always. With the S2’s I had to turn the sub volume down to prevent the bottom end from sounding bloated and undefined. Once done, the bottom end response was incredibly pleasing. My listening room began to bounce with some very lively tunes. Maybe it was just me… but something was shaking for sure.
Untill just these past few months, near a year now, I’ve been all about the quality of the recording. That path has an inherent dilemma. It will exclude one from realizing the true beauty of the content of the music. The substance, that actual conveyance of thought and emotion through notes, timing, rythym, and very often, lyrics, is where the genuine wonderment of music resides. Quality of recording merely becomes an additive feature. So I’m branching out. Blazing new trails. Spanning new vistas. Following grand rainboes. Chasing…. Well, that’s enough globe trotting. I’m tired now and those dog gone new horizons are like really, really far apart! Let’s just say my love for music is growing. Thanks for American Express. It allows the collection to grow too. It’s waistline is approaching four digits. …sorry, I’m resting now. All them vistas take a lot out of a person.
O.K. I’m back. With content now at the forefront new vistas are beginning to open up. Sweet jumping jellyfish! I may just pass out if I see another… well, yeah, you know. It would seem the realization of both quality and content is pure heaven when those facets are simultaneously rendered. The apparent obstacle with dated recordings lies in how adept the recording was fashioned. Technology has progressed in leaps and bounds in just recent history. Reissues of archived masters have never been better than they are currently. It is important to acknowledge the fact one should beware though in any case of just what you are getting. Re-mastered or re-released does not intimate current quality. That brings me to the one issue that nagged me about the M.I.T. cables. AS easily revealing a cable as they are, and as evenly balanced from the mid bass on up as they show themselves to be, something was lacking. It wasn’t in their dynamics, goodness knows, no! They are quite proficient in that area. I was unable to figure out just what was missing for a good while. Then it came to me one night while playing my fav jazz vocalists and a newly arrived print of “Clarinet blue“ by principle artists bobby Gordon & Jim Mckenna. The lack was the absence of color in the notes themselves.
I use the word color to explain the fullness of the tone being reproduced as naturally and involvingly as is possible. A tone that carries within it body and emotion. Naturalness. A sweetness of the tone. Simply put ‘color’. Not a color unporportionally suited to the note, nothing artificial. Not thin or veiled. Firm, full and resonant to the harmonic. An ineffable quality. That melodious sound which paints a smile from cheek to cheek when you hear it.
Listening to the vocalists began me to become more critical in my listening posture. I shy away from a direct A/B sort of interview with gear. My entire system resides within the adjacent room to my listening room, so running back and forth is subtractive. I take notes. Bobby gordons’ clarinet had near everything one would casually hear. Tone, range, and the expertise with which it is wielded. Bobby begins a track on the CD titled “You Turned The tables On Me”, with a short intro he is aided by the upright bass and then drum. As Bobby moves on into the swing era tune, the breathy scaling he offers is quite a testament to the skill level he possesses. During that upward scale of joined notes I caught the absence of the reeds foremost nature. Just a slight loss in tonal texture. The ‘color’ was of limited hue. Not a dramatic issue at all. It did begin my greater concentration of how the finer essence of the notes were being transmitted, though. The game is afoot doctor Watson.
Time to split hairs…
The M.I.T.’s do quite the job of reproducing music in an involving fashion in spite of my aforementioned observation. Dynamic. Refined. Extended. A number of positive adjectives can be related to them indeed. The immense lower end presence and grand sound stage are in fact distracting enough, let alone the dynamic set to the presentation. Inner detail can well be an afterthought with the resolving offering the Shotgun affords a person. Don’t mistake the incidental issues though by being overwhelmed by the gang buster show. True. I’m picking here. For most people, myself included, the Shotgun S2 is more than a handful of musical mastery. Quite an involving conduit for great sound. It does far more “for the music”, than it does, “to the music”. The nagging lack I detected as are my preferences for music was the lack of color in the notes of instruments. It was less noticeable in Vocals and nonexistent on symbols and drums and most ‘beaten’ or slapped things… like congas, bongos, tax collectors… etc.
Another example I can serve is from a track on Illinois Jacquet’s “Jacquet’s Got It” CD. A studio effort Jean-Baptiste Jacquet arranged and conducted in the early eighties while serving as ‘artist in residence’ at Harvard University. The first cut is Ticletoe. A track that spotlights several band members along the way with brief solo performances. When the clarinetist slides into the fray, the S2’s handle the tone and transient accurately. You will hear well into the clarinet, the wood is easily caught. The extension and sustain are all present. The thing that’s missing is the Fully developed richness of the wailing solo as it takes the transitory lead. Don’t misunderstand me here, the Shotguns do a most professional job with the entire number. It’s not a dry rendition I assure you. Further, when Jacquet gets into the spotlight and begins to push along the tune, you can hear deeply into the bell of the sax. It’s in the decay that you find the tone loses it’s harmonic quality almost instantly. The reverberations of the resulting notes is ample and well appointed covering a good amount of space and dying out naturally. It also did not detract from the excitement of the number or the musicality of it whatsoever.
A supplementary subtractive instance, that is higher in the registry, that comes to mind is that of a vibraphone’s resonance. On another album entirely this one by Milt Jackson, “Explosive” On a track entitled “The Nearness Of You” the usual extended tone of Milt’s links was halted overtly. The exaggerated sustain that accompanies Milts usual fare isn’t up to par on this album yet with other cables the stunted sustain was not quite so inhibited. This did amend itself somewhat during the time I spent with it to be sure. The quckly descending attribute of the sustain became less prominent. It did not cease and desist that subtractive characteristic in total, however, but there were some improvements. Alas not enough to quell my disappointment 100%.
The inner detail approaches very quickly, developes tightly, and then dissipates rapidly. The traditional ‘hanging’ characteristic of the notes was absent. The romantic quality vibraphones convey usually was ameliorated almost entirely. Left in place was an accurate depiction of the strike more so than the sustain of the harmonic and it’s subsequent body. Milt Jackson’ vibes sounded off with more the impact than the ring vibes present. The sound came across as if the bars were not completely set right. I’d bet that was not the deal. The sound here was more akin to xylophone, than vibraphone. The sweet resonance just wasn’t there. This is of course a statement in degrees. With other vibraphone driven jazz band albums, this ws not nearly as pronounced, I use that CD and others to see how much more musical information is allowed to become evident and a part of the episode. Merely a meager test and consequently a minor flaw as the discovery of performance on a singular album was aberration, not rule. Award an OK for the obstacle course, not a medal..
Still in all the M.I.T. Shotgun S2 Proline cables seemed to restrict development of the tone entirely. The complete bloom of notes did not seem quite as well matured. The S2’s exhibited more so this anomaly than did the Magnum 3’s. (which I will relate to you subsequently in another accounting)
All the tones are there. Each one in it’s place and with a good to very good textured presentation. It is just a touch off. Hence my continued reference to the term “tight’ in describing tonal constructs. In other areas they will wow you. They do excel in a number of respects. Less sibilance, and additionally, less rich the notes. Which is not normally the case. One seldom has anything to do with the other. The Magnum however just does away with the edge of sibilance deftly enough to be quite disarming and relaxed, adding to the feeling a warmer midrange is being cast. The entire ensemble is delivered with authority and tact.
In relating the observed irregularities, I am really picking nits here. Truly splitting hairs. Some people may not notice this attribute whatsoever. It took me almost two weeks to do so myself. The sound isn’t a bleached out sound at all. They just missed the mark by scant inches in the supreme performance race. For the money versus performance aspect, the M.I.T. Shotgun series should be evaluated if you’re at all looking to improve your system. They have more versatility than the norm given the impedance matching aspect of the cables. Hence changes in system componentry may not indicate changes in cabling.
Enormous yet appropriate sound stageing. Deeply black back drops to the stage. Fantastic bottom end and an extended and refined top end. Quite good imaging that remains steadfast and well placed. There is almost an absence of air separating the players and instruments. Just a vacuous space buffers the images.
Very good overall. Firm Foundational setting for the sound scape. Very good to great resolution yet still portrayed in a most acceptable fashion. Deeply black background. Phase coherency was more than just good. Superior image placement. The only knock I can truly give is lack in the area of sweetness. Dynamic, palpable, harmonically balanced. Smooth. Involving. Just not the sweetness I’ve come to enjoy and expect in the mid range. As with clarinet, and sax notes, vibes, and with some vocals. The balance of the sonic picture they maintain allows for a very enjoyable and entertaining encounter with the music. One that is handed off to you with autority and decided ease.
Tastes are going to be the determining factor along with costs.. Some folks don’t like okra, some love it. I really enjoyed the Shotgun S2 in my system. They gave me much of what I want in a performance. In the mix of eight or nine interconnects I went through to get the ones I did, they were in the top three of the finalists. They were a tough item to pass on. Quite possibly one of, if not the best performance to price representations in the bunch I tried. Definitely worth an audition. Were it not my overactive compulsion for the ‘more’ business, or something else, akin to my penny pinching buying practices, this would be my account of my new reference interconnect. It truly is a worthwhile venture to gaining “That high end sound”.
BAT VK5i w/Matsushita 6DJ8’s, & Tung sol 5881’s
BAT VK500 w/BAT pk.
Sony SCD xa 777 es CD Player
M.I.T. Magnum 3 III RCA 1.5m (source IC)
Nordost Blue Heaven 2m (source IC)
Synergistic Resolution Ref X2 Active 1m XLR (MAIN ic)
Synergistic Signature 10 X2 Active bi wires
Synergistic Alpha Quadd series X Active on JR bass driver only.
Shunyata Python VX (CD)
VooDoo Black Dragon (UPC 200)
VooDoo Gold Dragon II ((X2 for amp)
Velodyne CHT 10 inch active sub. (preamp outputs VIA Cardas xlr/rca adapter).
PS Audio UPC 200
All devices draw power via dedicated 20A ckts.
Vibrapods & cones support sources,filter, and preamp.
After market spikes for JR’s.
Cardas, harmonic Tech, Synergistic, Nordost, shunyata, VooDoo, Soundstrings, etc.