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A.R.T. Super SE cable system Review

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Super SE Power Cords. This was a very tough comparison for me. I only have one Isoclean Super Focus. On the other hand, I had two A.R.T. Super SE Power Cords, and it is clear that use of multiple Super SE’s is very synergistic. (In fact, using all the Super SE’s – interconnects, power cords JD speaker cables – together was very synergistic. More on this later.) As a result, I could only compare a single Super Se with a single Super Focus. Since I run monoblock amps, this would not lend itself to comparison. Consequently, I alternately used the Super SE and the Isoclean Super Focus on my DAC and then on my preamp. In both cases I had a distinct preference for the Isoclean. Super Focus, which created a smoother tonal palette without loss of any dynamics. The Super SE had more body, and though the Super Focus initially seemed more “neutral”, closer listening led me to the conclusion that it sounded a tad sterile compared to the A.R.T. Super SE.

The comparison with the Lessloss DFPC was also complicated. The Lessloss power cords’ effects are maximized when they are used with the Lessloss Firewall power conditioners, so using other manufacturers’ power cords with the Firewalls can create some questionable comparisons. Consequently, the reader must take into account that the results may be biased because the Lessloss Firewalls were in each test system. In this comparison I used both A.R.T. Super SE’s to feed either the Pass Labs XS 300 monoblocks, the Electrocompaniet Nada monoblocks, or the Electrocompaniet Nemo monoblocks. When used with the Pass amps the Super SE’s were powering the entire frequency range. When used with the Electrocompaniet amps the Super SE’s powered the either the Nada’s handling the midrange and treble, or the Nemo’s handling the bass range.

In my system the Lessloss DFPCs are neutral and produce a very clean but organic sound, without any sense of artificial softening, etching, tonal imbalance or any other characteristic that calls attention to them. I believe that the clean sound is due in no small part to the extremely low noise level that comes through these cables. The Super SE’s were also extremely quiet, though by employing a very different technology. The Super SE’s exhibited a bit more body and weight, but were also a bit slower, erring more on the side of weight than on the side of speed. In particular, I thought the Super SE worked better with the Nada, which is a slightly “faster” amp than the others. I preferred the Lessloss with the XS 300, and could not really choose between the two when they were used with the Nemo monoblocks. I have to emphasize that the differences were small, and I found it very difficult to express a preference, especially in light of the fact that the cords all ran from Lessloss Firewalls to their respective components. All I can say is that I’ve been an ardent admirer of the Lessloss PCs, and the Super SE is clearly a top power cord.

Super SE Speaker Cables. The interconnect comparisons were straightforward, but like the power cords, the speaker cable comparisons were complicated by various factors that made them more difficult to evaluate. Let me explain. Most of the time I biamp my speakers, and thus need to use 2 pairs of speaker cables. In addition, my Vivid Audio Giya G1 speakers’ terminals are recessed in and under the rear of each speaker and have a smallish opening for the speaker cables. This is no problem for my Silver Signatures, but can be a significant issue for stiffer speaker cables with larger diameters. That proved to be the case with the A.R.T. Super SE speaker cables. I simply could not fit both pairs of speaker cable through the Vivid’s opening (A.R.T. Sent me two pairs because I told them I am biamping), so I eliminated the most direct comparison of biamping with both the Super SE and the Silver Signature. I also could not use the Z-Sleeves with the Super SE, though this actually proved to be a great way to show how good the Super SE is at shielding against stray signals in the air.

I did most of my reference system listening with the Pass Labs XS 300 amps driving the Vivid G-1s. As a second reference point, I also installed the extra pair of Super SE cables in a secondary listening room that featured Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 speakers, Electrocompaniet Nada amps and Pass Labs XP-20 preamp.

The Super SE speaker cables clearly bested my Silver Signatures in direct head-to-head comparison. They had greater body and nuance and nearly equal speed and PRAT. Even when I added the Z-sleeves to the Silent Source the Super SE speaker cables demonstrated their superior shielding and produced an extremely clean but full-bodied sound. When I added the Walker Audio Eliminators to the mix when using the Silver Signatures the sound became much closer, but I still preferred the A.R.T. Super SE’s.

When I used the Super SE cables in my secondary listening room that featured Sonus Faber Venere 3.0 speakers, Electrocompaniet Nada amps and Pass Labs XP-20 preamp I was comparing the Super SE’s to an old $500 bi wire cable from Audioquest. I expected an improvement, but I was totally surprised at the extent of the improvement. Absolutely everything improved in a really obvious way – treble extension and smoothness, bass extension and control, midrange body and articulation as well as dimensionality and soundstaging. This was another good reality check because, after all, we’re dealing cables that are more expensive than most peoples’ complete stereo systems. It was comforting to prove that we’re not totally insane.

Synergistic Effects. It is important to describe how use of all of the A.R.T. Cables reinforced all of the strong points of each of the cables. In one configuration I used all of the A.R.T. cables (including the excellent jumper cables) except for one pair of speaker cables with the Electrocompaniet Nada monoblocks, so that the preamp sent its signal to the Nada’s via Super Se interconnects, the Super SE power cords powered each monoblocks and the Super SE speaker cables and jumpers drove the Vivid G-1s. Now I could hear the full extent of the SE’s ability to powerfully present the music with excellent body, power, speed and nuance. A.R.T. Emphasizes that use of their cables together has a synergy that has a cumulative effect. I can verify that that is true, in spades. If you can afford them, employing a complete complement of the SE’s will let you enjoy the SE’s qualities to the fullest.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the Audio Reference Technologies cables are very, very good products in a highly competitive segment of the uber cable business. They had an excellent ability to deliver tight, yet meaty and nuanced bass. The highs were extended and never shrill (unless the music actually demanded it), and the midrange had a warm sheen that melded extremely well with each set of amps and speakers I used. It was totally impossible not to like what they did for the music. If you are choosing between very high end cables like these your ultimate decision will depend on your personal taste and the size of your pocketbook, but rest assured that you’ll be getting cables that are among the best available.

One Response to A.R.T. Super SE cable system Review


  1. Nev Dixon says:

    I’m assuming that these were not “sighted” comparisons, i.e. that you were unaware of which particular cables were connected at the time.

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