Review: Transparent Audio Cable Ref + mm2 ICs + SC Interconnect

Category: Cables


I have just completed a full system upgrade to TA ref +mm2 cables (new 2008 tech): SC + ICs

Wow. The overall leap from ultra and ref cables with the original mm tech to the mm2 tech is substantial. With all mm2 tech in my system, the overall change of presentation is very substantial. Musical interpretation or nuance that was previously missing is now there at which to marvel (when the performance and recording is at a high level) .

Depth, clarity, and speed in the bass seems always noted as the strongest characteristics of the upper levels of TA cables. However, the micro dynamics, nuance, timbre clarity, clear overtones, and palpable presence in the mids and highs are truly engaging , allowing musical expression to flow with an ease not heard in the ref level model with the orig tech.Top to bottom coherence is much more fully realized and balanced.

The ref+mm2 cannot be discussed in terms of a basic “upgrade” to the orig tech model. The improvements are too significant. The ref+mm2 cables comfortably present within the sound-world of the refXL & refMM models. The Ref + orig mm tech never presented in this top tier league. (the networks of the orig tech Ref model were not “component specific”, they are now.) IMO , the ref+mm2 equals or excels beyond the very expensive TA Ref XL (orig tech) in many areas. The Ref+mm2, will not (I assume) match the RefMM (orig tech), but for those of us who cannot afford that price of admission, the Ref+mm2 brings overall presentation of musicality to a very high level of excellence in the right system. (everyone’s system and needs differ).

Of the unexpected outcomes of the move to all ref+mm2 cables, I now find that I am listening to all recordings at slightly louder volume levels on my preamp ! I conclude that the reduction of grain and slightly smeared transients, veiled and masked overtones (it’s all relative, of course), allows for a less obstructed access to nuance, tangibility & the glorious physicality of the performance. Ie an increase in the volume of high quality sound of the music, not the sound of presentation debris. Of course, the much quieter/blacker backgrounds resulting from the mm2 tech is part of this result.

Now I wonder how much my cdp is holding back the recorded performance ? It is probably the weakest link, along with the rack and power supply…

Wishing everyone wonderful musical experiences. Cheers.

fyi - i have already posted an overly wordy review of the TA ultra +mm2 IC on this site. i chose to move all my system cables to the TA Ref +mm2 level after that audition process.

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TA cables, orig mm tech : ultra, ref, refXL models
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re: above:
where i mention the "orig tech", i mean the TA "original mm" technology of the last 7+ years, NOT the very old "XL" technology (rectangle network boxes) which pre-dated the "mm" technology ( eliptical shaped network boxes) .

TA model levels from mid to highest :
super, ultra, ref, refXL, refmm2, opusmm2
TA has added the "2" to the refmm and opusmm this year to maintain consistency of confusion, no doubt.

I enjoyed reading both your reviews on TA MM2 Ultra and Reference cables admiring your ability to articulate their impact on your system. Well done! I too have been testing out Ref MM2 ic and sc having Ref w/MM ic and sc in my system comprising of B&W 800D, Mac MC501 amps, Levinson 390S cdp, and Pass P preamp with somewhat different results. I had upgraded my cable from older Ultra to Reference late last year enjoying the richness, detail and more lifelike tonal balance Reference brought to my system. I had been driving the 501s directly from the Levinson 390S but sought to bring back my Pass P for a little more warmth and the use of multiple sources. So it was with great interest that I read your review with Ultra MM2 and proceeded to borrow one Ref MM2 ic and sc to test their qualities and see if my system would benefit from upgrading my cables and add another Ref MM2 for the Pass.

I did not have the opportunity of keeping them in my system for the last month but had them initially for a week followed by three 3 day weekends. My conclusion IMHO was that there is a lone penalty among a whole load of improvements that MM2 clearly demonstrates. I feel that I am loosing that quality of richness that my old Reference brought to my system. Granted that MM2 totally outclassed MM1 in all the ways you have so artfully stated but does that richness return after 400 hours? Richness may not be the exact term I am referring to but perhaps it can be called weight. There is IMHO a certain amount of thinness in MM2 and for chorals, individual voices are lost in the very smooth presentation of MM2. Is this the result of my system which would require a VTL 7.5 to correct? Thanks for listening.
hi benpup -
from my experience with brand new TA ref ICs and SC with the mm2 tech, it takes a full 200 hours for the cables to run in. less hours, they do sound lean and at times thin, as can many components during the first few hundred hours. i doubt i have a full 400 hours on them now. when i auditioned the ref orig tech vs ref+mm2, i initially found that in large orchestral works, the orig tech had a quality of "fullness" vs a leaner presentation with the new mm2, but i am now convinced that the "fullness" of the orig mm tech is in part the aural experience that includes a good deal of sonic "debris", such as subtle transient smearing, etc. i felt more sound "mass" with the mm1 at the same volume level on the preamp compared to the mm2 tech when listening to the same music. meatloaf vs steak. meatloaf is richer but...
however, now that i have lived with the mm2 another 150+ hours, my ears dont hear a lack of richness, but rather greater nuance and micro changes. the sound may be slightly leaner [i dont have the mm1 on hand to do another a/b), but it has much greater character and presence. i never found indiv voices lost in a smooth presentation with the mm2, as you did. staging increased in depth;in my system placement of indiv voices became more easily located.

re: weight in presentation: if the mm2 you auditioned were fully run in, and you find the mm2 to be an advantage in all areas except weight/fullness, firstly determine if indeed the presentation you are now fully used to hearing from your system is actually a realistic fullness. get thee to some live choral concerts in a few different halls. may on audiogon have far more knowledge of audio reproduction than i, but i think any number of aspects of your system can be changed to add wt.fullness -- if the mm2 cables are right for you in every other aspect. i have been seeking to add top end weight in my system without the significant cost of moving to an x01-d2 cdp this year since i am keeping my wilson w/p 8s. changing the stock tubes in my vtl preamp to amperex bugleboys made a significant difference , mostly in the mid range and somewhat at the top end. this week i just placed a PAD 20th anniv contego PC on my cdp. it is just about run in. wow, a significant improvement overall including increased wt at the upper mid and top end without any loss of speed. i have auditioned several PCs for the cdp. the change in presentation varied greatly between many well known brands such as TA, nordost, shunyata, PAD. i think no single component (cables are components) can bring everything to the table when it is inserted into a unique system.

did you audition the ref+mm2 SC bi-wired? i am under the impression that B&W nautilus series run best bi-wired.

re: vtl 7.5 mk 2 preamp . i do not know what changes it would bring to your system vs the pass P you have, but the 7.5 mk2 is an exceptional preamp, few would disagree. it has tubes, so there is some added flexibility to overall presentation. something to consider, or the 6.5 single box version.

i would firstly determine if the wt/fullness you have enjoyed with the mm1 cables is more lifelike overall than the presentation with the mm2 ... what gets you closer to the musical experience you desire?
Hi Soundisntmusic,

Thank you for your many thoughts and suggestions as they have given me much to consider this weekend with the same MM2 cables I have had in my system. I will also have an Ultra MM2 to insert at alternate locations: cdp to pre, pre to amps to see how Ultra MM2 compares with Reference MM2. My current speaker is a single wire standard version of Reference w/MM1 using TA Ref jumpers from the mid/treble posts to the bass terminals. The previous cable was an Ultra Bi-wire sc and you have made me rethink of the possibility of getting TA to upgrade my Ref to RefMM2 in a bi-wire if their new MM2 tech can be applied to a full bi-wire version. Having all three sets of cable in the MM2 tech will give me a better idea of how my system will react to MM2 without the Ref MM1 in the chain.

The power cables in my system are all standard though they all go through a TA PIR unit which I have found to remove a layer of haze yielding greater low level detail. Once I make my mind up on the new MM2 cables, this weekend I hope, the power cables might produce the the finishing touch to my system.

A change in preamps might be down the road but if I can succeed without that investment, upgrading all my cables to Ref MM2 plus adding one more will be far cheaper.

Again, thank you for your thoughts and insight. You have been very helpful.
hi benpup,
re: your B&W800D SC. i have no clue which would be better : ultra biwired vs TA ref single wired (both mm1 tech) but in many aspecs i think the ultra+mm2 biwire would be better than the ref+mm1 single wired. keep in mind: B&W designed this line of speakers to present best bi-wired (i have N803s for my tv, the do sound better biwired than single +jumps, but this was only noticeable when the speakers were placed in my main system listed on audiogon, not on my ad hoc arcam/anthem tv system).email B&W england directly for their opinion. they are always very helpful.

as to IC placement, i believe that if you have to make a choice, put the highest quality IC on your source. (equal quality if poss on your speakers). the lesser IC for on the preamp/amp. this seems to be the conventional wisdom, but there are many variables that come into play.

Power cord placement: you can search this site for a huge variety of opinions. i am a neophyte here. i have been auditioning PCs for under 1 year. in my system, power cord placement made the largest positive impact when on my cdp, not the power condition. 2nd is the preamp (again, not the power conditioner). i have found PCs to be very component specific in how they impact the overall presentation. many on this site beleive that the PC has a more significant role than ICs. I have not enough experience to make a fully informed comment about this, but i do realize that PCs do play a very significant role. they should be considered an intregral part of the system, just as an IC, though this places another set of variables into the mix to consider. I have found the entire education facinating and frustrating and very trying on my patience. live concerts in a good hall are so much more rewarding! why oh why did i move from manhattan?! cheers.
All cables no matter the cost are system depended and really the room and finally what one likes ones system to sound like that bring that listener enjoyment.

One of the best designs out there and you never see them for resale a lot is Lossloss. They interconnects and speaker wire is unmatched, speed, weight, transparent, detail and natural. I like the TA also but Lossloss like always is rethinking wires.