Review: Revelation Audio Labs Paradise Interconnect
Approximately 6 months ago I embarked on a cable odyssey quite unintentionally, sparked by the experimental purchase of a Revelation Audio Labs Passage power umbilical cable. Frankly, I was curious to see how much of a difference that inexpensive cable might make over the stock one supplied with a Musical Fidelity X-PSU power supply. After a lengthy break-in of 250 hours I was amazed at the result, and posted my findings in a review on this site.
The ensuing months have seen me replace the majority of my cables with other RAL models in an experiment designed to discover whether a synergistic result can be obtained by adding more cables from the same manufacturer, and to probe how good each of the cable offerings is and how much better my system can become. To that end I have posted separate reviews here based on my experiences with the Prophecy digital interconnect followed by the Precept II power cord.
About three months ago I added 3 RAL Paradise interconnects to the system and, after allowing a lengthy time for break-in and evaluation of each, plus after an extraordinarily busy Fall and Christmas, I felt that it was time to post my findings on the interconnects.
In terms of methodology I have always followed the same path. Only one new cable has ever been added at any time and no other component changes were made. Each new cable was broken in for a minimum of 250 hours continuous use (aided by the fact that I was on lengthy business trips for substantial periods of time during which the system could play non-stop 24/7). Once a cable was broken in I would spend a week of intermittent listening using test and reference recordings to assess what had changed and what in the system sounded different. Usually a period of weeks would go by while I adjusted to the sound of the new cable both in casual listening (inside and outside the room – I have a very open plan house that allows the sound to drift from room to room) as well as analytical sessions from a dedicated “sweet spot” listening chair. Then I would add the next interconnect and repeat the process.
One of the driving factors in my quest has also been to keep cable costs to the low to medium level. I can’t afford the big buck cables that are on the market, nor am I sure that they will yield superior results – given the level of my gear – over more modest offerings. I also can’t justify a $1,500 cable to connect a similarly priced pre-amp or other component. I’m decidedly in the mid to lower end of the high end, and have had to work within budget parameters that reflect the relatively modest funds I am able to apply to my system.
However, one of the ways I have found to control costs is to run cables that are as short as possible. Brad at RAL has been instrumental in this regard, working with me to provide shorter lengths wherever possible in order to minimize costs (he’s also articulate, knowledgeable and seems to be a true old world type of craftsman – which I respect). Each of the RAL cables I have purchased (umbilicals, digital, interconnect) is .5 meter in length with the exception of a single 1 meter Paradise interconnect. Similarly, the Precept II is not RAL’s standard 2 meter length (which would be too long for my application) but is instead 1 meter.
In addition to cutting costs this has provided me with a very compact system and, as a by-product, ensured that I’m using as little wire as possible (save for the speaker cables, which unfortunately I can’t do anything about). The short cable runs may also have something to do with my positive results.
For those who are interested, details of my equipment and a list of all of my cable connections follow at the end of this review.
Caveat and personal note: I am adding my findings to this forum solely to share my experiences and hopefully assist others in their quest to improve the sound of recorded music in their homes. I am not an expert reviewer but I have spent about 20 years in this hobby with a fairly wide variety of equipment. I also have spent a fair amount of time in studios in recording sessions as well as attending quite a number of live performances. I also can’t say that I have truly auditioned significant numbers of cables in arriving at my findings. Cables that have graced my system have included Tara Labs, Monster, Signal, PS Audio X-Stream Statement and Plus, Audioquest, Vampire, Soundwaves and a few others.
So this is simply a recounting of one guy’s experiences with the RAL cables in a very specific system. I have benefited greatly from the information on this forum. Hopefully my meager contribution will provide insight to other Audiogoners on their quests to find audio’s holy grail.
For the purposes of this review I am going to discuss the system with all three Paradise interconnects in place. While I evaluated each as I added it, the effects truly were synergistic and the sound of a single cable was only enhanced by the addition of successive interconnects. Besides, it would take far too much time to report on the changes wrought by the addition of each of the three cables.
So after the preamble, what is the sound of Paradise?
Silence. There is a blackness that others refer to that these cables have in spades. My system’s noise floor has dropped in a clearly audible way, allowing sounds buried back in the mix the space to be heard. There is a wealth of detail that simply was masked previously – both musical and in terms of ambience.
This enhanced level of resolution partly stems from greater clarity. Its as if a layer of congestion or thickness in the sound has been eliminated. Its not due to a reduction in the mids, as these are glorious (where they exist on the recording). Its just that the entire presentation has been cleaned up in a way that allows the brilliant presence of voices and instruments to shine.
Bass is tighter, more tuneful and articulate than it had been – essentially faster. I have noticed a slight reduction in overall bass prominence or energy, but the payoff has been a greater ability to discern the actual notes being plucked, for example, on an acoustic bass. Also, deeper notes that were previously partly formed as “low end” are now being delivered as clearly defined notes. Frankly I’m (happily) surprised that my system has the articulation at the lowest levels that it now exhibits. Additionally, the difference between bass (and the mids) from recording to recording is much more apparent than it was, suggesting that the Paradise interconnects are doing a more truthful job of conveying what was on the record. They just sound so … solid.
Highs are more extended, liquid and effortless. As I have noted in my review of the other RAL cables, reverb and hall decay are more obvious with these interconnects in the system. And sibilance, while not completely banished from my system (yet) has been reduced one more step. In one recording I used for auditioning there is a triangle that is struck. Not only was the attack much more pronounced, but the natural decay of the envelope of sound around the triangle as it fades away was a revelation for me in my system.
Midrange is glorious in its naturalness. That’s perhaps the best way to describe the change – everything simply sounds more natural. Piano overtones and the body of the instrument of both piano and acoustic guitar are conveyed with ease. Male and female voices are presented in a “reach out and touch” palpability. I have been struck on more than a few occasions by the sense that the musicians are performing in my home directly in front of me. Well-recorded vocals have sufficient “bite” while retaining a sense of the chest cavity.
The soundstage presentation is huge. There is more depth and width, but images on certain recordings also spookily appear in front of the speakers and on the extreme sides of the listening chair. I am sure that the soundstage will expand even more when I upgrade the CD transport and amp. I’d like to hear more air or space between individual instruments notwithstanding the excellent focus. Imaging is excellent – although I can’t say that it is significantly better than it was. Its just that the space in which the musical event is taking place is bigger – taller, deeper and wider.
The overall dynamic range has been enhanced, and not in the way I would have expected. Its not that sounds on the louder end of the spectrum have become louder, its that the softer sounds have become gentler, while still being audible, and cleaner. There has been an increase in the dynamics at the p and pp end of the scale, I’m guessing through a reduction in smearing. Because of that, when a big transient comes along it really “pops” in a way that can be quite startling, again enhancing the sense of reality.
In simple terms, since the addition of the Paradise interconnects, my system has crossed a threshold to become significantly more engaging and involving – much more capable of placing me and the musicians in, if not exactly the same physical place, certainly the same emotional space. Its hard to articulate but the system now allows me to share a musical work with the performers as opposed to being outside the performance looking in. Simply put I have been thrilled by jazz, pop and classical performances on CD’s that I know well in a way that I have not experienced before, both when in the dedicated listening chair but also, surprisingly, when I’m elsewhere in the house and the music just drifts in. At those times I don’t hear soundstaging and imaging, but the entire musical presentation just sounds so much more “there”, more like real instruments being played by real musicians, and real voices interpreting real lyrics – all in my home.
Organic wholeness is probably the single best description of what these three Paradise cables have contributed to my system. Music now seems to be a tapestry woven into a single cloth. Since adding the cables it seems an artificial construct to talk about the different frequency ranges, soundstaging etc. as I have been doing in this review because music simply seems to emanate from free space in front of me with power, scale, dynamics - and emotion. Its really a question of coherency, resolution, articulation and palpability and for me, and in my system, these interconnect cables deliver the goods in spades.
Having gone this far I am going to take a break from the cable upgrade path due to the cost to move into the higher echelon RAL cables. I am keenly interested in trying the Precept power cable and also the Testament speaker cables. However, given their respective costs, especially for two 15 foot runs of Testament for my system, I’m going to instead upgrade my transport to a CEC TL51x and investigate a possible amplifier replacement. At this stage I believe I will realize a bigger bang for my buck by replacing those units. Once those purchases are complete I may be in a position to investigate the pricier (for me) RAL cables.
How the system is lashed together:
PS Audio X-Stream Plus from PS Audio Power Port to PS UPC 200
Precept II power cable from UPC 200 to Musical Fidelity X-PSU Power Supply.
Passage power umbilical cable from X-PSU to Musical Fidelity d/a converter.
Passage power umbilical cable from X-PSU to Musical Fidelity X-10D tube buffer
Prophecy digital cable from Pioneer PD 65 (used as a transport) to MF d/a converter
Paradise interconnect from MF d/a converter to MF X-10D tube buffer.
Paradise interconnect from MF X-10D to Placette passive linestage
Paradise interconnect from Placette to modified New York Audio Labs Moscode 300 power amp.
Speaker cable is 15 ft. runs of Kimber Cable 8TC to Opera SP3 speakers
PS Power Port
PS UPC 200
Pioneer Elite PD65 used as a transport (on a Cambridge Audio isolation base)
Musical Fidelity X-PSU, X-DAC, X-10 (all v3)
Placette Audio Passive Line Stage (3 input version)
NYAL Moscode 300 (mod by Gasworks) on the floor on a Cambridge isolation base
Opera SP3 Speakers
Lovan Stand (each shelf on its own points)
Tara Labs, Monster, Signal, PS Audio X-Stream Statement and Plus, Audioquest, Vampire, Soundwaves