Back To Black

By any standards, that’s a remarkable performance, setting the Wadax Reference set up alongside the best disc replay systems I’ve had the pleasure of using. As I noted in the system review, it can’t match the absolute humanity and intimacy of the best record replay or the super stable spatial definition of the best optical disc (short of glass CD), but its sense of presence and musical purpose constitute its own musical super powers, powers that are unleashed once you add the Reference DC cables to the DAC and the Reference Power Supply to the Server. It’s not so much that the sound of the Wadax is more life-like – more that it’s more like life!

But what of the Reference DC cable between the Power Supply and Server? In sonic respects, the impact is similar to that on the DAC, especially in terms of overall clarity, leading edge precision and the placement of notes, sudden dynamic response and presence, but – and it’s a big but – the affect is rather different. Nor is it as simple as half the cable, half the sound? This is a question of overall quality rather than the simple quantitative uplift delivered with the DAC. In the context of the Server, the Reference DC cable certainly delivers more – but it also alters the balance of the sound, something that some systems (or files) can accommodate better than others. In one sense, the problem here is that the Power Supply has already done such a stonkingly good job or organising and filling out the Server’s sound, that in musical (as opposed to sonic) terms, the added resolution, textural and dynamic niceties that come with the Reference DC cable fit more into the ‘nice to have’ than the ‘must have’ category. Add to that the fact that the standard lead also does an excellent job and makes for a highly enjoyable and engaging performance and you’ve got the classic cost/benefit trade-off. Listening to Anne-Sophie Mutter play the Sibelius Violin Concerto (with the Staatskapelle Dresden on the album Back To The Future) the Reference DC lead adds clarity and bite, jump and dynamic impact, making for a much more immediate and incisive sound, but it’s a sound that also demands more of the system and its set up.

The added dynamic snap, attack and transparency really work for the Sibelius, with its angular lines and reliance on articulation, from both the player and the supporting orchestra. Adding the reference DC cable draws finer lines and sharper corners. But move on to the jagged, strident style of the Lutoslawski Partita, for Violin, Orchestra and Obligato Piano that features on the same album, and those same clearly defined edges can start to cut… In this situation, that added clarity and slightly spot-lit sound can become altogether too much of a good thing. Likewise, in a system situation that exhibits any tendency to brightness, or playing files that suffer from hardness or glare. The Reference DC lead offers obvious sonic advantages, but it is also potentially unforgiving of flaws in partnering equipment, system set up or source material.