Review: Revelation Audio Passage - Musical Fidelity X-PSU Power cord
I’ll admit I was a skeptic. About 7 weeks ago I bought the Musical Fidelity “triple threat” X-PSU (v3), X-DAC (v3) and X-10 (v3) and spent about 3 weeks of burn-in time, during which they changed significantly for the better. I love this DAC - and the X-10 is a must. But that’s a separate review.
So, in this context I happened to be trolling through Audiogon for the first time and saw the Revelation Audio ad for the Passage Cryo Silver Reference power cable. I was intrigued and, after a few emails to Brad Vojtech at RA (a genuinely nice guy), decided to give it a try by ordering just one cable as a test. At only $139 and a 30 day in-home trial with no shipping charges (you can send it back via freight collect if you don’t like it) I figured what do I have to lose. In this crazy high end audio world that’s a very small price to pay for any improvement. And, as good as the MF triple threat combo is, the provided umbilical power cables for use between the PSU and other X series components did strike me as lower quality and a little on the cheap side.
In due time (a week to the west coast of Canada) the Passage cable arrived and, as Brad suggested, I inserted it between the X-PSU and X - DAC. The result was an immediate and very obvious improvement in many areas that audiophiles love, but with a somewhat light character. Mindful of the minimum 100 hrs of burn-in time recommended I put the CD player on repeat 24/7 and left the system volume low.
Each day I stopped for a few minutes and listened to what another 24 hours had wrought. As time progressed the bass, which had increased in articulation as soon as I inserted the cable, became fuller, as did the midrange, and the soundstage started to gel. Burn-in is a must for this cable.
After 8 days (yes, I really did wait for 200 hours) I sat down for a serious listening session. Here’s what I heard, quantified as best as I can in my system/room and to my ears (using 8 test CD’s that combine classical, acoustic jazz, choral, pop/rock):
• Bottom end:
o Better articulation of things such as the plucked string of a bass (acoustic or electric) and the note that follows
o Much easier to follow the bass line within an ensemble
o Enhanced lower fundamentals that give you the sense of space, particularly a large church with choir
o Increased clarity and purity of tone that made things simply sound more musically “right”
o A sense of ease and effortlessness and overall greater resolution that enhanced the palpability of vocals (both male and female), piano, acoustic guitars, etc.
o A reduction of some (but not all) of the sibilance that seems to be inherent on certain CD’s – immediately obvious as soon as I added the cable
o Like with the mids, cleaner and purer highs were noticeably apparent on things such as cymbals, synths, the snap and the actual “snares” of a snare drum. With the cymbals and snares things such as brushed cymbals/drums truly came alive. There was also an increased sense with cymbals of both the strike as well as the shimmer/ring that follows, as well as that sound expanding into space (as happens live)
o Better resolution of reverb and general acoustic cues re: ambience and space
o This was one of the obvious immediate improvements – a wider and deeper place (either artificial studio or real acoustic environment) in which the musical event takes place
o At the same time the spaces between instruments/people, which were suggested loosely with the stock cable, increased dramatically and became more tangible
o A much enhanced sense of three dimensionality, both of the overall space as well as each musical source within that space
o More layers and enhanced sense of collections of instruments/voices arrayed in a rows/groups in a space (classical or choral vocal)
• Image Focus:
o The placement of each instrument/voice in space was much more specifically localized – focus improved
o Specificity of instruments deep in the soundstage was enhanced – it was much easier to hear low level sounds in the back part of the “stage”, especially the back corners
o Images seemed more solidly locked into place and more coherent
Without writing volumes (as there’s more to come), that’s a reasonable synopsis of the effect of inserting a single Passage cable between the Musical Fidelity PSU And X-DAC in my system. In simple terms I experienced an overall increase in the musicality and “life” of the system in the most surprising (to me) way.
A humorous note as an aside, but that demonstrates the increased resolution … One night I put on Sade’s “Love Deluxe” as an overnight burn-in CD. My home is multi-level and very open plan and in the am I was one floor below my system as it played at low volume on a particularly rainy day. Suddenly a regular “tap”, pause, “tap”, pause, “tap” intruded on my consciousness, sounding for all the world like the sound of a rhythmic drip of water hitting the hardwood floor. With a sinking feeling (I had just experienced a roof leak and knew exactly what that sound was) I came upstairs looking for the source. As soon as I entered the living room I realized (to my great relief) exactly what it was – a small percussion part that had simply never been apparent before on the Sade CD. I listened for a few moments and marveled at the incredible enhancement of every aspect of the music, especially all the small synth/percussion things that were previously buried.
So after my experiences with the first cable I obviously had to try a second Passage. It duly arrived a week after ordering and was inserted in the system between the PSU and X-10. Now all of my power supply umbilical cords feeding the DAC were Revelation Audio Labs. And this is where my understanding of how electrical power works gets seriously “messed with”. Because as much of a difference as the cable between the PSU and X-DAC made, the addition of the cable between the PSU and X-10 made a greater, even shocking, improvement to the system. I just don’t understand how replacing one .5 meter power supply umbilical cable can make such a dramatic difference.
I followed the same methodology as above re: 24/7 burn-in, but this time couldn’t wait more than the requisite 100 hours before a serious evaluation session (same 8 CD’s as before). That was a few nights ago, a loooong night into the wee hours. As I write, the system continues to fill my adjacent room with glorious music.
I’ll attempt to capture the differences the second cable made. The X-10, being a tube buffer, improved in all of the key sonic areas that one would expect of a major upgrade in tube gear, and a few you wouldn’t:
• Bottom end:
o The first cable allowed me to hear the plucked string of a bass – this one gave me much more sense of the whole note and the instrument it came from
o The bass line became both a much more distinct and separately articulated entity, as well as better integrated in the overall fabric of the music
o Deep bass notes were much more apparent – in a way that I didn’t think my system was cable of. It simply went deeper and with way more authority, allowing me to hear bass notes that were not as audible previously.
o On well produced pop/rock the bass rocked and it was incredibly easy to hear the distinction between a synth bass vs. and electric bass
o Bass guitar and bass drum, while tonally distinct, locked together in the tightest way (partly a function of increased dynamics too)
o Overall bass tonality seriously improved
o That reviewer term “palpable presence” manifest itself here (best way I can think to describe it) – the entire midrange spectrum was much more “there” than before, especially vocals, sax, etc.
o I heard much more of the body of the instrument or voice – the sound of the wooden guitar body, the resonant cavity of a piano and of the male voice were all much more apparent
o Music was warmer and more natural – but in no way “woody”. Perhaps its best to say the midrange had an increased sense of illumination and life – I don’t know how to articulate this better, it just seemed more real
o Brass sounded much more “golden” and simply glorious. I can now hear much more cleanly the specific timbres of alto/tenor/soprano sax, trumpet and trombone, whether foreground or buried in the back of a mix/orchestra
o As with the previous Passage cable, a reduction of more (but still not all) of the sibilance on certain CD’s
o Reverb tails and overall ambience were again more apparent, enhancing the sense of the real/studio-faked space
o Cymbals developed much more sheen (crash) and you could hear the individual rivets of a ride cymbal much better
o Bells had much more presence as well as a fuller sound – not only the initial strike but the soft envelope of the decay
o Everything sounded “rounder”, more complete, more whole, more fleshed out
o The soundstage expanded in the most amazing way. Not only did it become deeper and wider (yet again), but it also expanded well in front of the speakers and seemed to envelope the listener/room. I have never heard this before in my system and it thrilled me completely. It enhanced the sense that, not only were the musicians in the room with me, but that I was virtually transported to the room in which the recording took place.
o Depth and width grew to well outside the walls of my room – the sheer volume of acoustic spaces was vivid and exciting
o Every CD became much more holographic and I was literally immersed in the music
o Spaces between sources increased yet again as did the layering of sounds within a space
• Image Focus:
o Images were much more defined in a seemingly natural space and were bigger and more tightly delineated.
o Image specificity deep in the soundstage was enhanced even more – things were much more naturally (there’s that word again) real
o Images seemed more solidly locked into place and more coherent – each image seemed to be more individualized and more “whole”
o There seemed to be an ‘envelope of air’ around each instrument
• Dynamics and “bloom”:
o Music seemed “sharper” and faster – pace and rhythm improved greatly on both rock/classical
o The snap of drums and other percussive sounds was enhanced in a much more real and natural way – far greater “jump” factor
o As an example a crash cymbal, when hit, starts with an explosion of sound in a very specific location (the cymbal) and then expands outward to fill the surrounding space – I can hear this for the first time
o The dynamic scale of music, from softest to loudest sounds, increased significantly
o Musical crescendos in naturally recorded spaces (classical, jazz) bloomed in the most amazing way, expanding to truly fill the space in the dynamic sense (this is the first time I have heard this effect in my system)
I think you get the idea. I have re-read this review a few times because I’m trying to ensure that this is a reasoned overview and not a “rave” job. But I have to tell you that the differences the 2 Passage cables made to the MF “triple threat” PSU/X-DAC/X-10 in my system was on the level of changing to much better components – and for only $139 x 2. I am confounded and astounded. And for what its worth, I have never written a letter to an audio manufacturer praising a product before but I did write to Brad, and then decided to post this letter on A-gon.
Anyone who uses a Musical Fidelity X-PSU to power their other X components really owes it to him/her self to listen to the differences this “little cable” will make in their systems. I won’t suggest that my experiences will be the same as anyone else’s, but I feel confident stating that you will never hear what the “triple threat” MF system is capable of without testing this cable. The difference it has made in my system has been dramatic and sublime, and led to a significantly more satisfying, natural and engaging musical experience that is infinitely more thrilling.
I will be candid in admitting that I am shocked, as the Passage cable has provided an increase in enjoyment and involvement far beyond what I expected from a mere cable (a power supply umbilical cable no less!), and beyond what I thought the MF gear was capable of. Its an amazing product and an amazing upgrade bargain for Musical Fidelity owners in my opinion. In an industry rife with purple prose of the highest order regarding the "stunning benefits" delivered by this or that exotic component/cable, Revelation Audio’s slogan "Revealing the organic truth in music" sums up exactly what my experience with the Passage cables has been - its a completely true description of their impact in my system.
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)
Counterpoint SA 3000
NYAL Moscode 300 mod by Gasworks (on a Cambridge Audio isolation base)
Opera SP3 Speakers
Lovan Stand (each shelf on its own points)
Shanling, Signal and stock power cords
PS Audio Statement Digital Coaxial
PS Audio Plus interconnects
Kimber 8TC speaker cable
Stock Musical Fidelity Umbilical Power Cords (provided with the X-PSU)