Review: Revelation Audio Labs Prophecy Digital Link Interconnect
This cable requires that owners be patient with the amount of break-in required for it to sound its best – really patient. Right out of the packaging its rather lifeless and even transistory sounding. But as Revelation Audio Labs states, 100 hours minimum is required to break-in the cable. After 100 hours I found the cable was much better, but I was unprepared for what happened at around the 200 hour mark. I had to leave town for a few days and left the “brown noise” track from the Ayre test CD on the transport for a few days. When I got back and sat down to listen about 220 hours total had been logged.
What I experienced put one of those foolish kid grins on my face immediately as the first strains of Steely Dan’s “Two Against Nature” reached my listening seat. Suddenly this cable was doing space in a whole new way. The soundstage had expanded hugely, with images well to the sides appearing to separate from the speakers and move forward, with a much clearer sense of enveloping me. At the same time the back of the sound stage moved further back, giving me a much bigger window on the sound. And finally, the individual voices and instruments within the soundstage became more clearly defined and outlined in their own space. The previous cable, a PS Audio X-Stream Statement, had been good but the RAL cable took the musical presentation of my system to a whole new level, away from the mellow quality of the Statement to a much more articulate and realistic place.
I decided right then and there to haul out my usual suspects for review, CD’s that I have been relying on now for the last 9 months to test components and cables. Over the next few days the differences that I was able to discern between the PS Statement and RAL Prophecy cables are as follows. Note: I have used the same methodology and order of analysis as for previous reviews of the RAL Passage and Precept II cables.
o Not quote as full sounding as the Statement, but faster and overall more accurate. The Statement seemed “plump” in comparison, like an old world grandmother – all kindness and sweetness but sneaking a bit of saccharine on everything she fed you. It could be though that the Statement was simply not a good match for the Opera SP 3’s, which are a warmer sounding speaker. But I was not aware of how it slowed down the bass and glossed over detail until I had inserted the Prophecy.
o The different sonic qualities of bass guitars and the different styles of playing them were easier to discern, as well as changes between the way the bass was eq’d and placed in the mixes of successive songs on a CD.
o If bass and lower register sounds were in a recording, the Prophecy allowed them to became audible, even if they were far down in the mix. While it allowed more bottom end information to come through, the RAL cable never seemed to artificially enhance what was there.
o Ambience in the midrange increased noticeably, and this was apparent on reverb and subtle cues that help to define a sense of place. The acoustic or artificial space expanded, partly due to the fact that the midrange captured more of the texture of that space.
o Mids were not warm, nor bright or sterile, but came across as full and accurate. They seemed more “right” or real than with the Statement.
o The rich resonance of piano overtones was depicted more faithfully and the complexity of the harmonics in sustained piano chords or notes, along with the sound of the piano cavity itself, was more apparent.
o Voices were not as warm and unnaturally thick (which I realized the Statement was doing when I compared the two), but were more harmonically resonant and expressive.
o Horns had more natural bite in their attack along with the golden glow they should have.
o Overall the mids were clearer, smoother and more detailed than with the Statement cable – all of which contributed to greater ease and naturalness.
o Speed was the watchword of the RAL Prophecy in the highs it seemed. Cymbal crashes and the sound wave that follows were livelier.
o Electronic keyboards and very high-pitched synth notes benefited from the faster cable. At times keyboards seemed to float in the air, such as when a Leslie rotating speaker was used with an organ. Another time a “wash” of extremely high-pitched synth chords was delivered with an uncanny room filling quality.
o Steel strings on an acoustic guitar had more steel in them than with the Statement and more resonant ring, the guitar body’s overtones were more pronounced, and notes seemed to be localized in space more clearly.
o Little details such as breaths, faint sounds buried back in the mix like distant keyboards and effects, the sounds of fingers on guitar strings and buzzing frets, all became more audible. Its not as if the volume of these sounds increased in the mix, just that these tiny sounds now had a space of their own in which to exist.
o The soundstage became huge, huge, huge – but only after about 220 hours or more of solid, uninterrupted break-in. Once it had broken in, this cable delivered a holographic sense of space that was far beyond the Statement and that was capable of inducing goosebumps by its incredible depiction of space. The recording acoustic was simply gargantuan, but what really set it apart was the amount of inner separation, space and air around individual instruments and voices.
o Increased palpability – this cable allowed a real “reach out and touch it” quality to come through – both the obvious things in the centre of the soundstage (voices, solo instruments, etc) but also sound cues on the far outside edges of the “stage” – and everywhere in-between. On well-recorded music the increased palpability had me shaking my head in amazement.
o Little details buried in the mix became more apparent, as I have noted elsewhere in this review. A woodblock buried in the back of the soundstage was suddenly apparent – previously it had been invisible to the ear – and located precisely in space.
o Studio manipulation, such as the panning of instruments and effects around the soundstage, were much more clearly defined in space.
o Applause, crowd noises, cash registers, clinking glasses, etc. in Jazz at the Pawnshop became more lifelike and locked into space. The effect was to significantly enhance the sense that I was sitting in a small bar in Scandinavia enjoying a great jazz session.
o Overall, the level of image focus vs. the Statement, and the sense of each image existing in a precise point in space, was greatly enhanced by the Prophecy.
o Notes seemed to start and stop faster, and with less overhang in the bass, than with the Statement cable. I wouldn’t say the dynamics had become “explosive” but they certainly improved.
o The increased dynamics were noticeable on electric instruments (which I’m familiar with) and they seemed to “pop” more along the lines of what I have heard in studios. Acoustic and electric pianos notes had more of the attack they should … jazz guitar notes revealed more of the attack of the pick hitting the strings.
o Vocal inflections in a female jazz singer’s voice, the micro-dynamic vibrato that she used to add to the expression of the piece, became more audible and helped to make the entire story of the song more involving and engaging.
o Dynamics seemed more pronounced with the RAL cable at both ends of the spectrum – the Prophecy exhibited greater delicacy on the softer side of the loudness continuum than the Statement when the recording called for it, for instance the rich sustain of piano notes at the end of a piece.
Overall, the RAL Prophecy was faster, more spacious, more defined, more articulate and more engaging than the Statement. Having said that, given the tubes in my system and the tendency to slight warmth of the Opera speakers, the Prophecy was just right. In an all transistor set-up, and a system based on speakers that tended towards leanness, that might not be the case.
The key for me is that the RAL cable allows the individual qualities of each instrument, each track and the way its been mixed, and each CD’s production style to drive what my system reproduces. In other words, the differences between instruments and mixes are more readily apparent, which suggests to me that the cable is being much more faithful to what is actually on the disk and imposing very little of its own character.
When coupled with the incredible increase in soundstaging, specificity, holography, scale and top to bottom realism that the Prophecy offers, it’s a foregone conclusion that I have switched to the RAL cable. I know this sounds over the top, but the RAL cable has provided improvements to the coherency of the sonic picture provided by my system equivalent to a component upgrade, its impact has been that significant.
For the record, I don’t know Brad Vojtech, am not associated in any way with RAL, and in fact had not heard of Revelation Audio Labs until I found the company on Audiogon in late May, advertising for a power umbilical cable specifically designed for the Musical Fidelity X-PSU and X series components. Brad seems to be a sincere enthusiast, dedicated, someone honestly devoted to the craft and passionate about the art of trying to squeeze as much music as possible out of our various components. In the final analysis I have found the RAL cables to do a great job of serving that goal, and have decided to share my experiences with others in this series of reviews.
That first Passage cable has led me on a journey through the addition of other RAL cables to my system, all proffering synergistic benefits. Clearly there is a “house sound” with the Revelation Audio Labs products, one that matches my system, my ears and my tastes. So I feel compelled to continue my journey down “revelation road” by adding Brad’s interconnects to the mix. Once they have broken in I’ll post my results.
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 Passive Preamp (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)
Shanling, Revelation Audio Labs and stock power cords
Revelation Audio Labs Prophecy Digital Coaxial
PS Audio Plus interconnects
Kimber 8TC speaker cable
PS Audio Xstream Statement AES/EBU