REVIEW OF CLARUS CRIMSON POWER CORDS AND T-200 POWER MANAGER
I was recently given the opportunity to audition some of the new Clarus Cable products in my home system. For those of you who are not familiar with the name, Clarus is the brainchild of Joe Perfito, Chariman and CEO of Tributaries cable. I call Clarus the “high end division” of Tributaries because the Clarus line was designed and developed with the goal of competing with the very best, uber expensive cables on the market today. However, in keeping with Tributaries long standing reputation of producing cables that maximize price vs performance, the Clarus line will NOT require you to get a loan or mortgage your house to afford them!
I jumped at the opportunity to review the Clarus cables, primarily for two reasons. One, I have fond memories of my beginning audiophile system…Denon receiver, B&W speakers, Integra cd player and pioneer dvd player. My budget was small and my dealer recommended Tributaries cabling throughout the system to tie it all together. I loved that system. Sonically it was very satisfying. It was like my first crush on a girl and later my first kiss! At that time, at that place I was transcended to another world where I just knew I had the best looking girl in the world. No one could have told me differently. I loved her (and my audio system) reverently!
Secondly, I remember that as my finances improved and I moved up the levels from my first “budget” system to a more “expensive” budget system to being able to afford a true “mid-fi” system (that was such a big deal back then!), that the Tributaries cabling I purchased for my first system always seemed to fit into my latest system. It was never outclassed, nor was it ever the weak link, in my newer, more expensive systems. So, with that that memory firmly in mind, I was both curious and excited to see if Tributaries latest and greatest offerings could still produce that same synergy and magic that I remembered so vividly.
ENTER THE CRIMSON POWER CORDS
I now have what I consider to be a “reference level system” that will allow me to detect and decipher minute changes brought about by any changes to the system, whether they be upstream or downstream. While I’m constantly changing components in and out of my system (there are too many to name but I primarily use solid state separates and occasionally an integrated amplifier), the heart of my reference system is a pair of Focal 1038BE speakers. They are very detailed and transparent, with a very clear mid-band and well extended at both frequency extremes. They’re also lightning fast and very dynamic. Due to their high sensitivity (93db) they are easy to drive and therefore compatible with a wide range of components. Other than the fact that their frequency response is not “ruler flat”, I consider them to be an ideal speaker for reviewing components and cabling.
I was given the complete line up of Clarus Crimson products to review. The list includes the CCP-HC 6 ft power cord (for high current amplifiers), the smaller in diameter CCP power cord (for sources components, preamplifiers, etc), the CCB-010 1 meter balanced interconnect (2 pairs), a 1 meter pair of the same interconnect with rca connections, a 10-ft single ended pair of the Crimson speaker cables and the T-200 power manager.
I wanted to get a feel for how each Crimson cable affected the sound of the system. Therefore, I started by adding (and in some cases taking out and then re-inserting) each power cord one by one, so I could clearly identify the sonic attributes of each piece. First up was the CCP-HC power cord. I inserted it into my 200W x2, high current amplifier which has received excellent reviews and was favorably compared to the Mark Levinson 532H.
The effects were quite noticeable. The bass grew deeper and tighter. My immediate mental notes said “very nice”! The background became blacker and the music seemed to emerge from a “quieter place”. There was a “calming of the seas” type of effect, where the water (i.e music) no longer “crashed” against the rocks uncontrolled. Instead, there was more of an “ebb and flow”, the music rushing forward and carried forcefully by the current when called upon, but then receding softly, as if saving its remaining energy and gathering its breath to make another run if called upon.
Mind you, this was not a limiting of dynamics or a softening of transients. Nor did any of these changes occur at the expense of the frequency extremes. The music was every bit as dynamic and extended as it should be. Simply put, the ragged edges were gone, the music was more controlled and it flowed with more ease. There was also an unexpected improvement in the palpability of both the vocals and the music (more on this later).
Satisfied and so far pleased with the sound of the power cord on the amplifier, I inserted the CCP (designed for source components, dacs, etc) on my preamplifier. Immediately I heard the changes but this time they were not for the better! It was too much of a good thing. The mid-range became thicker and more congealed. The air and separation between instruments faded away. By no stretch of the imagination was it a bad sound, just the whole sonic landscape became too dense, like a cloud that’s full of water, waiting to release its rain. I took the power cord off the preamp. Thankfully, all returned to normal!
However, when I installed the same power cord on the cd player, ooh la la la la! I was mesmerized! I got an immediate increase in air, separation around instruments and soundstage height and width. But what really grabbed my attention was the additional “palpability” gained by both the vocals and the music. Stacy Kent’s voice moved from the 5th row to right in my lap! The entire music gained more presence as if it moved from the stage in to my listening room!
If I sound like I’m gushing with too much praise and euphoria over the effect of adding the CCP Power cord to the system then please forgive me. But one of the things I value most in my systems is “palpability” and life-sized images. When I hear it I get excited because to me that’s what makes music sound real. Some audiophiles go crazy over a wide and deep soundstage, others over dynamics and transparency, others love detail or ocean deep bass, etc. I love these things as well and they’re all important in trying to replicate the feel of a live event, which is what we all should aspire to reach with our systems. However, increased palpability is an attribute that I’m particularly delighted to hear and is always welcome in my system. The shocker for me was to get it from a non-boutique, affordable power cord. Normally, I only get more palpability and life -sized images in my system with the introduction of tubes.
I did observe that both of the Crimson power cords are voiced slightly to the warm side of neutral. They are full sounding. They are neither forward nor recessed. The sonic perspective is about row E. They allow the detail that your system is capable of delivering to flow through unimpeded. They don’t exaggerate or create additional detail by bringing it to the fore of the music. The same goes for dynamics. I did not find them to inhibit, impede or restrict the dynamics of the amplifier or sources in any way. Any filtering of the sound seems to only result in the elimination of unwanted noise creating blacker backgrounds.
I would also say that they slightly emphasize the mid-range (which is where the majority of the music lies) again WITHOUT de-emphasizing the treble or bass. Guitars that were recorded hot, zingy and extended remained so. Bright recordings still sounded bright. Female vocalists that have an edge to their upper register (i.e Dianne Reeves, Nikki Yanofsky, Janet Monheit) still sounded edgy in the upper registers of their voice. I think Clarus made a wise decision voicing them this way. The current trend in the audio industry it to design components that offer greater detail, transparency and resolution. The Clarus power cables fit well with any system whether bright, dark or neutral.
TRIBUTARIES T-200 POWER MANAGER
When Joe Perfito included the T-200 Power Manager as part of the gear he wanted me to review I was skeptical and quite frankly wondered why. Looking at the T-200 doesn’t inspire any great sense of awe or confidence in its ability to improve the sound of my audio gear, which is my primary goal. I mean, its got 13 AC power outlets, both switched and un-switched. It’s also got a nice, soft blue LED display that monitors and shows the incoming voltage and power consumption of components plugged into the unit. Admittedly, the build quality seems pretty good and the unit feels solid and sturdy. Of course, it goes without saying that it provides first rate power surge and brown-out protection for any component(s) plugged into it, including phones, satellite dishes, audio and video gear.
However, there are several competing products from the likes of Monster, Panamax, Furman, etc that basically offer the same features, level of protection and operate very similarly. There is nothing that standouts from ANY of the these products, in terms of features or performance, that would make me choose one over the other. Maybe price, but at $500 the T-200 sits decidedly in the middle of the pack. Not the most expensive nor the least expensive either. So, why would an audiophile or videophile choose the T-200 over a competing product that can be roughly had for the same price?
Here’s why. It’s called SYNERGY! The Clarus power cables, when connected to the T-200 power manager, took the system up another notch in terms of audio performance! The sound as a whole became more dynamic, more “live” sounding, more energized and gained tremendous PRAT (Pace, rhythm and timing). It seemed like all the other wonderful sonic qualities of the power cords were brought together and then “perfected” by the T-200. Similar to a good cake that only needs icing to become a great cake. To say that I was impressed by the addition of the T-200 to the system would be an understatement!
I must also make mention of the fact that the video performance of both my TV (plasma) and my blue-ray dvd player improved noticeably. The picture of my TV had better, richer colors and the depth of the picture increased. Clarity also received a small bump. Regarding dvd playback, standard definition dvd’s (which my player upscales to 1080p) looked much sharper and more colorful. Given the fact the majority of my dvd collection is still standard definition, I really appreciated the increase in picture quality.
SUMMING IT ALL UP
Look, I can understand if some of you reading this review feel that I may have gone a little overboard with my praise of the Clarus Cables and T-200 power manager. As I was writing this review I even stopped and asked myself the same question. Have I gone to far? Well, the answer is no, especially when you look at this review in it’s proper context. Are there better, more bally-hood power cords on the market today? Sure there are. Are there power conditioners out there that offer better audio performance than the T-200? Certainly.
But here’s the deal. The Clarus Crimsom Power cord/ T-200 combo is a case of the whole sounding better than the individual parts. There is real synergy here. Synergy is a very elusive thing that’s hard to find and even harder to both contain and package AFFORDABLY! You can spend multiples of what the Clarus power cords and T-200 cost and STILL not get the same synergy.
I would highly recommend that anyone looking to purchase Clarus Cables, either power cords, speaker cables or inter-connects (more on those in a separate review, they’re awesome) to purchase them as a package. That is only the way to unlock the full performance of these cables. Yes, they sound very good individually and you’ll be able to hear what they’re doing in your system. But together, in the right system and with the T-200, you can achieve outstanding results that belie their affordable price tag!
Yes, my old girlfriend is back, and she looks and sounds even better than I remember! Now, if only I could re-visit that first kiss…
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