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Anticables Reference Level Cables Review

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Reference Level 3 Power Cords staggered into my room

It’s not that the power cords staggered into my room, but that the introduction of the Anticables products to my system was staggered. I suspect the company is selling them well enough, as it took several weeks to produce the nine PCs required for the variety of my system builds. Yes, some rigs I build take nine power cords: two for the Small Green Computer sonicTransporter AP i7 4T and the SONORE Signature Rendu SE, my two-box digital source, one for the DAC, one for the Preamp, one or two for Power amps and two for the Legacy Audio XTREME XD Subwoofers. I could actually push it to eleven power cords if I were to set up the Kingsound King III electrostatic speakers, as they are supplemented with the VAC Royal Power Supplies (discussed in the King III review). But, in that case I can use the DAC direct into the Redgum Articulata Integrated Ampifier, or the DAC direct to a pair of amplifiers while using Roon’s volume control.

Nine power cords at $410 MSRP each is nothing to dismiss in terms of expense for an audio system; this is the 7-foot price, the 5-foot price is $330. That is a lot of coin, and I suggest that even though Anticables has a reputation historically of providing more affordable wires, the Reference Level 3 line is not in the bargain bin category. That is not to suggest they are overpriced. These power cords are a terrific bargain compared to much pricier offerings from companies like Wireworld, MIT Cables, and Silent Source, all of which I have reviewed.

The power cords arrived in individual vacuum-sealed packages, each one protected in a swath of bubble wrap and all in a sturdy shipping box. They were constructed with perfect consistency, with a softly sparkling dirty bronze metallic weave on the outer mesh jacket, which when braided makes them look rich. The plugs were solid and no outer jackets were unraveling, even after a fair bit of use.

Paul discusses the construction of these power cords: ‘Eight #17 gauge wire are used to build each of the three #8 gauge conductor runs. Power cords are a different animal when it comes to insulating. For safety purposes, our power cords are double insulated. First, each single #17 wire has the same one thousands of an inch thin red coating used on our copper speaker wires. Second, around each bundle of eight, there is the loose fitting plastic jacket that is visible to the eye. The second jacketing is needed for safety, and by keeping it loose fitting, minimizes the dielectric effect distortion it causes… The weave configuration helps increase inductance and decrease capacitance.’

The rest of the cables, interconnect and speaker, are not the most becoming in the marketplace. The thin red coating that characterizes Anticables dominates their appearance. The absence of the white spiral outer wire that affords a more interesting appearance to the interconnects makes the speaker cables comparatively homely. Only the power cords have a softer, braided jacket. These cables are not the first choice when it is very important for the system to literally be seen as having high-end aesthetics. I am not interested in arguing this with persons having toolbox tastes.

The other reservation I have with them is their stiffness, which causes every bend to be preserved permanently in their shape. I’m surprised we do not have OCD audiophiles freaking out about the bends, as though the cables will suffer “losses” due to them. They can look well used after only a few bends. Granted, most audiophiles do not set up dozens of systems as I do, and getting them to rest properly without too much damage to the perfect symmetry of the spiral they are upon delivery should not be too difficult.’

In terms of integrity of construction, the terminations were impressively tight. The copper spades were strong enough to not bend easily when inserting on amplifier posts. The oddity in regard to the XLR interconnects was the impossibility of inserting fully the female connectors into male sockets of components’ XLR inputs. The XLR Xhadow connectors seated tightly, but would not insert to the point of seating with the push button lock on the component’s outputs – not even close. This could be an issue in setups where the cables have some tension pulling on them. Once positioned at no time did they wiggle loose or the signal corrupt, and after a while I forgot about it.

The power cords up close

I had a comfortable period of several weeks to get adjusted to the power cords only, which was ideal for assessment. I compared them to the Clarity Cable Organic Power Cords I have used for years following their review. The Anticables Reference Level 3 Power Cords are incisive, clean and clear. They allow a high degree of information retrieval, especially when used in groups. They influenced both the Legacy XTREME XD Subwoofer and the King III electrostatic speakers in consistent fashion, lending both products precise and impactful performance.

I am especially pleased by the use of the copper in the prongs of the power cord plug, as I believe this gives the Level 3 a distinct advantage sonically. I recall the beneficial element of solid copper binding posts of the Eminent Technology LFT 8B speaker (see my review of the transition from Eminent Technology LFT8A to LFT8B speaker). I am unsure whether the copper prongs means they may be susceptible to adverse bending more so than other plugs, but I did not encounter any difficulties. The Anticables proprietary plugs held in the socket of the outlet with only average grip. Some power cords lock in like an alligator biting, while others slip out with shocking alarm. The Anticables power cords had medium grip and did not slip out at a slight brush of the hand or tender tug. They did pull out readily with a firmer tug on the cable. At the other end, the IEC plugs held firmly. They had above average tenacity and did not wiggle in the sockets of components.

An interesting aside pertains to the utilization of a single material construction employed with the power cords, while the speaker cables may employ a mixture of materials. According to Paul, ‘Our Level 3 power cord development was a 3 year process. In that time many things were learned. One of them was that mixing materials always did two things, reduced resolution and added colorations. This is why there is a conscience [sic] attempt for our power cords to be copper from end to end.’ This is a most curious observation, one that I will pay attention to in the future.

The power cords with their triple braided 8 AWG heft carry above average weight, but they also have the fortuitous combination of flexibility with adequate stiffness that allows precise positioning, even vertically. Their pliability with stiffness can be advantageous in systems where power cords must reach upward and hang from components. With the right twists an Anticables power cord can stand erect to connect with a component. With so many other heavier PCs the body of the cable pulls aggressively at the IEC plug, sometimes in a worrisome way. Various gimmicks and methods have been tried to alleviate the burden on the component’s IEC receptacle. I had no power cord positioning issues with the Reference Level 3, as the easily contoured flex that is applied to the cable is held in position – and that is marvelous!

The downside to persnickety owners is that once bent the aesthetics are impacted, because miniature ‘wrinkles’ or previous bends are visible despite the braided jacket. So what? The benefit of the friendly positioning and fine performance far outweigh that cosmetic detraction. Also, if positioning the cable in such a manner as to need a twist to the IEC plug, the triple braid may loosen up to a degree. This seemed in no way to affect performance, and once moved the braid could be wound tighter again. I consider such things of minor importance relative to the performance and quality of construction, both of which are superior.

As a group the Reference Level 3 Power Cords made a staggered appearance into the system. I introduced them in pairs, staring with the sonicTransporter and Signature Rendu SE source, then adding the DAC (and preamp when utilized) and power amplifier(s), followed by the Legacy XTREME XD Subwoofers, and finally the Royal Power Supplies from VAC (Valve Amplification Company).

Regardless of the combination of components in use, in every instance where additional Reference Level 3 Power Cords were added the fabric of the music grew more tightly woven, the imaging more dense, and the tonality more beautiful. There was also a tonal brightening of the system with each pair of PCs added, as though gently increasing the setting of a light controlled by a dimmer. This is a power cord that should bring a surprising change to any system that is lacking in aftermarket power cords. A caveat is that those who like a mishmashed, overly wooly sound would struggle with the benefits conferred by these power cords.

Yet, I can imagine one condition where the addition of Reference Level 3 Power Cords could bring an undesirable effect, that being nudging a system toward being too strident and tipped up in frequency emphasis. If the system already seems bright, etched, and strident, or the treble quite strong, then the additional Anticables power cords might seem to exacerbate the problem. I build neutral to slightly warm sounding systems from the midrange up, so added brightness in a smaller dose is not a problem. If you are fighting with sound that is too cool in tone and brash in the treble you will likely want to mix in a couple of the Reference Level 3 with some warmer cables elsewhere in the system.

With certain setups there did come a breaking point to the benefits of adding prodigious numbers of the Reference Level 3, and this came typically at six of the power cords. When I sensed a faux realism entering the stream of sound, I reached for a Clarity Cable Vortex Power Cord or two in a moderating move. As with so many cables there is often a slight variation with another superb brand that can yield one’s favorite result. Four of the Reference Level 3 with one or two Clarity Cable Vortex PCs was the ticket for my systems. As a curious side note, I tended to keep the Level 3 Power Cords on the Legacy Audio XTREME XD Subwoofers and the VAC Royal Power Supplies for the Kingsound King III electrostatic speakers regardless of the arrangement of power cords for the stack of components.

Cable manufacturers can become frustrated with me for recommending mixing with brands. In their ideal world I would recommend universally all their cables for all systems. In my experience, perhaps half of the time a full loom from one manufacturer is preferred. In addition, it is not possible to learn the innate sound of a cable company’s products except by using a consistent loom of their products. Reviews of partial systems of a cable company’s products are only marginally beneficial; this was one reason I elected to explore Anticables’ products despite my bias against higher gauge cabling. With that foundational principle in place, there seem to be many brands of cables where a few alternatives are needed to sweeten the sound to taste. I do not write reviews to please manufacturers, but to show our readers how to get the most from them. If readers follow these steps they will likely have success incorporating the Reference Level 3 PC regardless of the nature of their system.

6 Responses to Anticables Reference Level Cables Review

  1. ric Escalante says:

    Doug, I have tried with great success the IC Schroeder method and recommend that. I am interested in doubling the speaker cables. Since my amp has 4 ohm and 8 ohm speaker taps, would it be a problem to run two sets using those taps and doubling up on neutral, or would you run a splitter as you do on the IC’s. Thanks for you expertise. I understand there will be no liability other than my own.

  2. Ric,
    God’s Joy to you,

    Thank you for the endorsement of the Schroeder Method of IC Placement. Yes, it seems to be a special method. Just today I put up a system using two sets of double ICs, and it is stunning!

    That is an interesting question! I have never tried that! I also would not try it unless I spoke with the amplifier company and got a very clear answer as to what they thought about it.

    I have often used biwire thus: Both Negative leads on the – terminal and Either both on the 8 Ohm OR both on the 4 Ohm posts. That is usually a safe method. But, again, I would check with the amp maker, as there are so many different designs. Better safe than sorry…

    Your idea is interesting and I will probably check with some amp manufacturers about the suitability of the idea.

    Douglas Schroeder

  3. ric Escalante says:

    Thanks Doug, I think I will try your method first. Makes more sense as I prefer the sound of the 8 ohm tap. Your method of IC connection gets my “tweak of the year” vote, now if others would just use their ears and not their opinions!

  4. Ric,
    God’s Joy,
    I hope the exploration of the speaker cables is successful. I am now running two instances of Schroeder Method ICs and doubled speaker cables on a system for the first time. The experience is unparalleled with the PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn 1 Speaker. Nothing else ever touched the performance level with this horn hybrid. I’m in awe of what doubling ICs can do.

    Another option worth considering as experimental is to combine speaker cables from two different manufacturers, yet use the one 8 Ohm tap. I have done all kinds of swaps with such mixed sets, too on single and biwire speakers. But, I always start with homogenous sets to know where I’m headed.

    Douglas Schroeder

  5. ric Escalante says:

    Thanks Doug, I DID try the doubled speaker cables yesterday with older MIT M1 magnum and MH750 cables. My first impression was that the noise floor had dropped which seemingly allowed me to bump up the volume, the result being that bass (lower, mid) now has a richness (without bloat) that sound more real and very full, especially with strings (bass, cello etc.) Dynamics also increased, as well as a sense of presence. Soundstaging is full and rich and to my ears more real sounding. I am not hearing any negatives, other than cost of two sets, similar to the IC method, but then again it’s always about cost vs performance! I too wondered about different cables, since cables are last in the chain and seem to be used for fine tuning. For me, the Schroeder Method, should be implemented, period. The improvements are huge, are easy to do. I will be interested to hear how buyers of the Schroederized cables via Anti Cables respond. Well done!

  6. Bill says:

    I agree with you regarding the use of different power cords in a system. Amps are made different than phono stages or music streamers. I am offended by people who push using their brand or one brand throughout a system. There are too many excellent designs available for us to use. It is to our benefit to use what sounds best.

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