Wasatch Cable Works—A Follow-Up Report
|Wasatch Cable Works—A Follow-Up Report|
|13 June 2001|
RCA interconnect model RCA-105U. Price: $450 per meter pair
Balanced interconnect model XLR-205U. Price: $450 per meter pair
RCA interconnect model RCA-108U, Ultama. Price: $1200 per meter pair
Speaker wire model LC-510. Price: $130 per 8’ pair
Speaker wire model LC-580, Ebony. Price: $1500 per 8’ pair
Speaker wire model LC-604U, Ultama. Price: $4000 per 8’ pair
In a January 2001 posting on Stereotimes.com, Clement Perry reviewed new cables and speaker wires from the Wasatch Cable Works of Utah. His comments piqued my interest in these products so I asked him if he thought a follow-up evaluation of those pieces in my own system would be appropriate. He agreed to this and so unfolds the following story.
Scott Devenport at Wasatch was most cordial and quite helpful in facilitating this undertaking, sending me the speaker wires and interconnects that Perry had used, plus some others. Scott noted that the company had just finalized production of a yet more advanced design which they called the Ultama series and he included those as well. Within a few days the box arrived and the evaluation process began.
For the sake of context, my main sound system consists of a Linn LP12 turntable with all of its upgrades (Lingo, Cirkus, Trampoline) plus a Naim Aro tonearm sporting a Spectral MC IIB cartridge; an Audio Research Corporation Reference I Line Stage along with an ARC PH3SE phono stage; a Naim CD2 player; a Magnum Dynalab Etude FM tuner; a Nestorovic System 12 Mk.IIA speaker system with the satellites powered by Nestorovic NA-1 tubed monoblock amps and the subwoofers powered by Eagle 400 monoblock amps from Electron Kinetics Corp.; and, wiring that includes older Cardas Hexlink, some MIT, some van den Hul First, and several pieces of custom made flat-ribbon cables/wires. The listening room is 14’x23’x8’ and has dedicated power circuits (digital and analog components are handled separately), has surface acoustic treatments and all of it sits on a concrete slab. My listening tastes are fairly diverse although serious classical music on a large scale is a priority along with pipe organ repertoire, followed by choral music and small scale straight-ahead jazz, some classic rock and a bit of folk music.
I installed the Ultama speaker wires first and then decided to evaluate each piece of the Wasatch line in sequence. Note that I did not replace all of my own cables and wires at once since I wanted to get a sense of each item unto itself…I am glad that I chose this approach. The XLR-205U balanced interconnects next entered the equation followed by the Ultama interconnect between the Naim CD player and Ref 1 Line Stage. Over time the alternative Wasatch pieces were substituted and comparisons made. After proper burn-in for all of the appropriate component connections, I collected my usual array of listening materials (including LPs, CDs, FM and DATs), started critical listening and ultimately drew conclusions.
The first thing to note is that Clement Perry’s earlier observations were readily confirmed. Namely, the modestly priced Wasatch wires and cables do a solid job of conveying the music. There is a clear, smooth and coherent quality to the sound and those pieces are able to deliver a strong sense of the musician’s intent when compared to my existing wires and interconnects. HOWEVER…when the Ultama interconnects and speaker wires were critically evaluated (relative to the Ebony and other Wasatch products) the step up in clarity, neutrality and effortlessness was remarkable. The ease of presentation was more than obvious across the broadest musical spectrum, including Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Evans and all of the classical pieces from the "greats".
The Ultama cables and wires created an intimate and convincing rendition of the music in all of the ways that high-end audio is meant to convey. Full orchestra and pipe organ came across with authority, excellent ambience and convincing spatial dimensionality. Most interestingly, in addition to benefits in width and depth, the Ultama products gave a sense to the stage presentation that I shall call, for the lack of better terminology, increased height; this was never previously perceivable on my own system. Observing that kind of sonic "tallness" is quite natural in feeling, but I had only encountered it before on a system at a friend’s home where tall line-source speakers like the Infinity IRS and big Pipedreams were in use. I really don’t know how to explain the phenomenon, but it is a musical bonus I just prefer to experience and not fuss over intellectually. Yes, the tonal balance, including harmonics and overtone structure, were presented quite effectively along with proper transient attack and decay plus all of the other goodies we expect at this level. Not too bright, not too dark…just right! Clearly this ease of presentation, the naturalness of both small- and large-scale music and the freedom from any hyper-detailed edginess have done much to enhance the enjoyment of my music collection.
My best sense of how good these Ultama products really are derives from using master DAT tapes, which I have generated as an amateur taper. For a few years now, I have had the pleasure of recording a diverse range of acoustic music from local professional and amateur musicians who perform concerts, recitals, or seek to be recorded for their own demo purposes. I normally use a Tascam DA-P1 DAT machine, Earthworks QTC1 omni mics, plus fancy custom-made battery packs for both a dedicated phantom mic power supply and the DA-P1 itself. Learning how to position microphones and setting optimal recording levels in this "purist" context has been evolutionary and instructive, to say the least. More importantly, however, is the fact that I sit in the audience very close to the microphones during each performance and have a strong sense of how the music sounds during the concert. This means that when I get home and listen back to the tape on my main sound system it is fairly easy to assess the "live vs. recorded" sound and the overall feeling of the musicians’ intent via this convenient endproduct. [Incidentally, the DAT tapes are usually carefully transferred to CD-R using a Mac G4 equipped with a DigiDesign 001 running ProTools LE 5.1 software, and then into a Sony CRX 145 Spressa Firewire CD burner.] In general, this live recording pursuit, as an extension of my audiophilic avocation, has done much for helping me to be a more critical listener. Additionally, the "purist" two mic approach, as I use it, is intentionally free of compression, equalization and other standard effects typically found on commercial recordings. This method has really provided much insight into how good reproduced music can indeed sound, given half a chance. I can unequivocally say that currently, via the Wasatch stuff, my own recordings have never sounded as alive, engaging or emotionally rewarding. The outstanding neutrality, openness and clarity of the Ultama cables and speaker wires have been a significant revelation in letting the music flow at my home.
I certainly feel confident about the serious effort and commitment to excellence at Wasatch Cable Works. This company espouses a philosophy that makes sense and, on top of it all, they implement it using copper wire that is manufactured (in-house) into user-friendly products which look good and are physically easy to deal with. A visit to their website will convey lots of information as well as their pricing structure. So, in closing, if your wallet can handle it, I highly recommend the Ultama cables and speaker wire. They have the definition, refinement, neutrality and coherence that one should expect from top-drawer products, and it is achieved without spotlighting any one feature at the expense of another. In one sentence, the Ultamas perform with the kind of magic that really allows you to sit back and enjoy both the SOUND and the MUSIC. For those on a more restricted budget, do not overlook the Ebony speaker wires and the related medium-level interconnects from Wasatch…they are competent contenders in the broad field of high quality wire choices on the market today. Cheers and happy listening.
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