Review: TARA Labs RSC Master Gen II Interconnect
This review is for the TARA Labs Master Gen II RCA interconnects. I am a product owner of these cables & have had them in my system since Summer 2000. I bought these cables when I was first assembling my modest system. My system has grown & increased in its sonic ability but I have retained the Master Gen IIs. I think about upgrading them all the time (mostly a feeling of “what is out there that I’m missing out on?”) but each time I hear the sonic signature of these cables, I decide to leave them in place. Presently they are connected between my CDP & preamp. I cannot remember exactly how I stumbled upon TARA Labs but I can say that I’m glad I did!
Appearance & Construction:
As many of you know, TARA stands for The Absolute Reference Audio. These cables are pretty stiff & cannot handle a very small bend radius – 4” is the absolute minimum recommended by the manuf. The outer jacket is gray in colour & the terminations are TARA’s own locking gold-plated RCA connectors with “TARA Labs” inscribed. Appearance-wise they look very much like WBTs. There is white plastic sheath at each end & the direction of signal flow is clearly marked on this sheath. There is a thin wire about 3 inches long that comes out from the source-end RCA connectors. One of these wires has a female connection & the other a male. Once the interconnect is inserted into the source electronics back panel, the user is to connect these 2 wires together. What this basically does is that it creates the same ground potential for both the L & R channels i.e. it creates a common-mode ground voltage. The ground voltage is, of course, obtained from the preamp. However, if there is any disturbance on the ground voltage (called “ground bounce”) this disturbance is seen by both L & R channels so it appears as a common-mode potential to which the electronics has a high attenuation factor.
I believe that TARA’s ISM products take this concept many notches higher w/ their Analog Floating Ground Station & ISM On-board features.
The Master Gen II is constructed from RSC (rectangular solid core) conductors, each conductor is insulated w/ TARA’s proprietary Aero-PE. Several of these thin gauge RSC conductors are helixed around an air tube.
See the Inmate system section on AudioAsylum.
The listening portion is 17’X19’ with a 9’ ceiling. Speakers are toed in just slightly – I haven’t calculated this in degrees but the rear edge of the speaker is 50” from the side wall & the front edge is 52” from the same side wall.
Listening Report/My opinions of its sonic signature:
Over the last 2 ½ years I have logged a lot of hours on my system & have listening to a tremendous amount of music using these cables. Thus, I will not even try to list album names, track names, etc. Suffice it to say that I have listened to classic rock, modern Jazz, classic Jazz & blues. The most important thing for me was how I discovered the true worth of these cables as I took the sonic performance higher with each electonics upgrade I made.
I first had these interconnects in my modest system which consisted of my H/K CDP hooked to my H/K integrated amp (which I still own!). The manufacture provided pre-out/power-in jumper was replaced by TARA’s “The Missing Link”. The speakers have always the B&W DM604S2 connected w/ TARA Labs Prism biwire. The sound of this cable gratifying – clean, articulated, air & space around the instruments, good bass reproduction but nothing to call attention to. I had to use the “loudness” button on H/K to get good bass at low volumes (no surprise here! That’s why H/K put that bass boost control on the front panel!). These cables had replaced the cheap & free interconnects that came w/ the H/K CDP. The use of the TARA was stunning to say the least! I lived with this combination for a while & then acquired a Van den Hul The First linear structured carbon interconnect. Replacing the Mas. Gen II with the VdH The First was, at first, a much better exchange, I thought. The VdH cables brought the music to life straight out of the box. No break-in time for carbon fibers! Over time I discovered that the VdH cables had a rolled of top end, which provided smooth highs. This, I later noticed, was articifical. The tendency was to control an overly bright system. Maybe my system was bright but I had gotten used to it until the VdH cables changed the sonic signature. Putting the Mas. Gen II back in there brought back the high freq. extension & articulation of the highs. This was more to my liking. Then, I got an opportunity to obtain a used CAT SL1 Sig Mk 3 preamplifier. I had no idea just how “kick-butt” this pre was going to be until I hooked it up. I removed the H/K had the pre-out & power-in jumper, which allowed me to plug in the CAT output directly into the H/K power in. When I heard the 1st track of music, I realized 2 things: the H/K pre sucked! & the Mas. Gen II was an absolutely gorgeous interconnect! It seemed that what I though was good became very, very good – more articulation/details in the high freq, much much better bass quantity + better defined bass that seemed to control the speaker, more air & space around instruments. I swapped out these w/ the VdH The First & the DH Labs BL1 Series II on a trial basis. The Master Gen II bettered both these by a long shot. Music was more natural & had better transient response w/ the TARA. To quote a phrase from another review – the TARA had better “braking horsepower”. Along the way I had yet another opportunity to acquire a used Symphonic Line RG4 Mk 3 mono block amp. This was a “holy mother of crap!” revelation (to quote Art Dudley) when the power amps were mated to the CAT pre. The Mas. Gen II cables now shine as brightly as the North Star illuminating music into my room like never before. If you can believe it – even more articulation/details in the high freq, even better defined bass, even more air & space around instruments, no sense of high freq. rolloff, precise imaging, wide & tall soundstage, superb tonal balance & superb timbre – saxophone sound like saxophone & the clarinet like a clarinet. The Mas Gen II remains connected from H/K CDP to pre & I’m delighted to hear it each time I play music. Recently, I swapped the TARA for a Groneberg TS Premium interconnect. These 2 cables are very close in their sonic signature with the slight upper-hand going to the TARA in the high freq. extension & details. In my system the Groneberg fares much better between pre & power.
Product Weakness: a bit stiff so diff. to manipulate if not enough space behind rack.
Product Strengths: excellent timbre, tonal balance, soundstage, bass, high freq. extension & imaging.
Van den Hul The First,
DH Labs BL1 Series II,
Groneberg TS Premium.