DR Acoustics CLASSE’ DELTA Cables and Antigone AC Conditioner by Dave Thomas
The Importance of Synergy
Anyone who has read my reviews knows I have a special place in my heart (and reference system) for CLASSE’ Audio electronics. Rarely in high-end audio does a company produce consistently well-designed, aesthetically pleasing, and fabulous sounding equipment. Most importantly, considering its competition, it is reasonably priced. Among the other things that I have come to appreciate about this company are the little things such as the brilliant packaging, substantial remote control, and high-quality power cords. It is the last of those things that is the reason for this review.
When CLASSE’ released the latest version of its DELTA series products, the MONO and STEREO amplifiers came supplied with new power cords, specially designed by DR Acoustics. Needless to say, I had to know more about this company and see what other products they made. Much to my surprise, DR Acoustics, a Montreal-based company, not only produces a full suite of seriously high-end cables but also a stunning power conditioner called the Antigone (more later). I reached out to former CLASSE’ Brand Executive, Dave Nauber, to see what he knew of this company and its products. He immediately put me in touch with the man behind the company, Daniel Robidoux.
Robidoux is a telecommunications engineer who specializes in Digital Signal Processing (DSP). Early in his career, he worked on such things as Sega’s first video games and the 56K modem. He eventually got started building cables just as a hobby before realizing that he could build better-performing cables than previously. Soon he had developed a complete line of cables that eventually became the foundation of DR Acoustics.
I asked Robidoux (via email) to explain how the relationship with CLASSE’ began. He told me that while speaking with technical support at CLASSE’ one day, the engineer knew about DR Acoustics and asked to try them out. Eight years and much debate later, the CLASSE’s development team finally heard the difference and decided to use DR Acoustics cables in their lab. When the DELTA PRE was released, Nauber asked him to develop a power cable to mate with the DELTA MONO and STEREO amps. Despite working under the limitations of staying within a price point for CLASSE’, and after 19 prototypes, finally, the CLASSE’ PowerMate power cord was born.
Externally, the PowerMate is a very good-looking high-end power cord. It has an attractive black nylon jacket covering multiple strands of 99.99% Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) wires. The main technology used in the CLASSE’ cable designs is something called Multi Tunneling Architecture (MTA), whereby the cable strands carry different segments of power and then recombine it at the end of the cable and sends it to the component. The cables are terminated with high-quality Furutech plugs to match those used in DELTA components. It is believed that the design of these cords makes them immune to temperature increases that can impede the flow of current. All DR Acoustics DELTA cables have what looks to be a moveable damper attached to them that bears the CLASSE’ name and cable model. So, how do these power cords contribute to the system’s sound? Keep reading.
The DELTA XLR interconnects come in the same black nylon jacket over Teflon shielding and multiple strands of ultra-pure silver and copper wires. They’re constructed using multiple-sized conductors and electromagnetic noise-canceling technology, all in a balanced architecture to ensure a true balanced signal. They are terminated with high-quality Furutech rhodium XLR connectors.
The DELTA RCA interconnects use 100% Pure silver monofilament, high-quality Furutech Rhodium RCA connectors, and the same electromagnetic noise-canceling technology as the XLR cables. And like the XLR’s, they come wrapped in a black nylon jacket and labeled damper. Both cables are very flexible and are extremely low capacitance designs.
I was also sent a DELTA XLR Digital cable that features a solid conductor covered with braided shielding. This mesh shielding makes the DELTA digital cable insensitive to electromagnetic disturbance and offers an excellent signal-to-noise ratio. They are designed to match 50-Ohm, 75-Ohm, and 110-Ohm impedances. Like the analog XLR interconnect, they are jacketed in black nylon mesh and use high-quality Furutech connectors to match the connectors on the DELTA PRE and MONOs.
An additional cable that Robidoux built for me was a phono cable that was terminated with RCAs at the tonearm end and XLRs at the phonostage end. This phono cable became an essential cable as halfway through my listening sessions; my DELTA PRE had to be serviced. I could only listen to vinyl via my trusty Clearaudio Smart Phono.
Historically, if there’s a source prone to noise, it’s the phono section. Using this DR cable afforded me the quietest phono operation I’ve ever experienced. As I was listening to vinyl, I found myself pulling out a few favorites that I hadn’t heard in a while, especially from my girl Esperanza Spaulding. Though she is highly regarded for her musicianship on the upright bass, Spaulding’s vocals are what draw me in. On her best album (IMHO), Chamber Music Society [Heads Up], she has a couple of songs that showcase her brilliant vocals: “Really Very Small” and “Inutil Paisagem.” Really Very Small is a brilliant piece of Afro-Cuban improvisation that she completely owns. The DR Acoustics cable brilliantly renders the piano and string section that plays behind her and does a spectacular job of portraying Spaulding’s dynamic voice. At the opposite end of the dynamics of that song are the Accapella delicacies of “Inutil Paisagem,” a duet she performs with the one woman whose vocals are even more subtle, Gretchen Parlato. The way the system renders this performance is amazing. This song is loaded with subtle details using only their soft voices and rhythmic hand claps as instruments. As I mentioned about the other interconnects, this cable excels at the subtleties and nuance. That’s where the magic in analog recordings rests.
The speaker cables bear the same resemblance as the other DELTA cables (i.e., black nylon jackets and Furutech connectors). They also feature the Multi Tunneling Architecture used in the power cords. This design allows signal to travel inside the cable via multiple strands of 99.99% pure copper wire. Each wire carries a portion of the signal. At the end of the cable, the wires recombine to distribute the signal to the component. Like the other DELTA cables, the speaker cables use high-quality Furutech spade or banana connectors.
According to Robidoux, all of the DR Acoustics CLASSE’ cables go through extensive design and experimentation before he arrives at a product that he’s happy with. “We may build five or six prototypes and spend a lot of time listening to them before we’re done. Of course, for Classe’, I had the luxury of having the exact part number of every single connector on the PRE. Therefore, matching the connectors was trivial. As you will notice, the DR cables’ click’ very well once inserted to your system. That is very important. I would like to believe that cables are just cables and should work on every machine. I hate to say it, but that is not true.”
Let’s Start Listening
As mentioned earlier, a PowerMate power cord was supplied with my DELTA MONO amps. I noted in my review of the MONOs just how powerful they sounded, and this cord is a part of the reason why. Before my DELTA PRE went down, I spent a great deal of time listening to CDs using my CLASSE’ CDT 300 transport, connected to the DELTA PRE’s AES/EBU digital input. After giving the cables about 72 hours of break-in by running the Music Choice Smooth Jazz cable channel through them over a full weekend (the speaker cables benefitted from this most). I started my listening sessions using some of my favorite Naim Audio recordings engineered by Chicago-based high-end dealer Ken Christiansen of Pro Musica. The first disc I played was Christiansen’s own privately recorded (though never released) performance of fellow Chicagoan Kurt Elling singing “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me.” This track not only shows off his fantastic vocal range, but my system was able to replicate the sheer size of the venue in my listening room. The Rockford Symphony Orchestra, who also benefited from the shot of audio-testosterone that the PowerMate power cords provide, supports Elling on this disc, which was recorded live at the Coronado Theater in Rockford, IL. Greater authority is infused in the low end, and a greater focus on percussion instruments is achieved.
I next added all of the DR CLASSE’ DELTA interconnects and moved on to another Naim disc. This time it was Antonio Forcione, and Sabina Sciubba’s “Meet Me In London.” The duo put an interesting spin on the Dave Brubeck classic, Take Five. Forcione lays down a great up-tempo rhythm track on acoustic guitar, and Sciubba keeps pace with vocals that are both jazzy and beautifully rendered with the CLASSE’ DELTA cables. The cool thing about these cables’ impact on the performance is their ability to place the performers in realistic spaces. I’ve seen this duo live and know how they set themselves on stage with Sciubba out front. With the DELTAs in place, the power and precision of her voice and the percussive sound of Forcione popping the body of his guitar and licking its strings is spectacular.
Finally, I added the DELTA speaker cables to complete the system and grabbed yet another Naim disc, pianist Fred Simon’s “Remember The River.” The installation of the PowerMate and interconnects made such a profound impact on my system that the expectations for the speaker cables were high. To be honest, I didn’t quite get the emotional lift from the speaker cables that I got from the others, but I think that had more to do with the fact that speaker cables probably have a little less to accomplish. The PowerMates provide more capabilities to the entire system, and the interconnects are asked to articulate what is on the recording accurately. So the speaker cables are simply asked to continue the transference of the signal provided and get out of the way of the music. So I gauge the performance of speaker cables on how well they do this without adding any brightness or heaviness to the bass or any other type of artifact. In other words, to be neutral and faithful to the performer’s ideal. The DR CLASSE’ DELTA speaker cables are certainly neutral. The track, “Folk Songs Of the Cold War,” is wonderfully rendered through these cables. The speaker cables did nothing to take away from what the power cords and interconnects had provided. I got the same level of resolution and musicality from my previous reference, Entreq Audio Apollo cables. Coincidentally, the Entreq cables are significantly more expensive.
During an email exchange with Robidoux, I mentioned that I was making some changes to my system after my DELTA PRE went down. I was mainly focused on replacing the PRE with my long-time reference linestage/DAC, the Vitus Audio RD100. Robidoux suggested adding something else to my system while I was at it, the DR Acoustics Antigone 2.0 Power Management System.
According to their website, “Antigone uses three separate patented Quartz/Bitumen emulsion Filters that contribute to eliminating electromechanical noise and EMI and RFI. The filter system does not have electronic parts, like capacitors or inductors. The result is a non-current limiting power processor. The filter system is so efficient in that it provides a real signal-to-noise ratio improvement to your equipment. Antigone provides users more than just power distribution. It is also equipped with industry-leading quality outlet and uses five Rhodium plated Furutech NCF receptacles, ensuring an optimal power transfer to the connected component. Its aluminum chassis is CNC machined to receive the power receptacle with minimal mechanical friction. The new MQCI system, developed by DR Acoustics, uses carbon fiber, ultra-rigid cylinders filled with quartz to eliminate electromagnetic and electromechanic noise.
To further support the concept of vibration control, Antigone’s ASSISTS (Assembly Sub System Integrated Trapeze Support) specially developed decouplers ensure no remaining vibrations can be transferred to the casing or to the rest of the subsystem. Each of Antigone’s electric phases is treated individually, allowing a more direct control of each of the electromagnetic fields generated inside the MQCI. All of Antigone’s internal wiring is cryogenic and assembled by hand in a point-to-point configuration.”
The next couple of tunes I played benefitted from the boost in solidity and presence that the Antigone provided. “Stormy Monday” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” from Eva Cassidy’s Live At Blues Alley are tracks that call on a system to be truthful in its presentation because of the way they render both the power of Cassidy’s hard-driving blues/rock band and her gentle vocal style. Both cuts were handled flawlessly with the DR Acoustics Antigone and CLASSE’ cables in my system.
But be advised these are honest cables and will not add any euphony to your recordings, and poorly recorded discs will sound that way. Believe me; I’ve been trying for years to find a balanced system that I can play my 80’s vintage Genesis/Phil Collins discs on, and no system, no matter how advanced, can keep those pigs from sounding like anything else but pigs. Great music but horrible recordings (darned drum machines).
I believe there is something to be said for system synergy. I have many audiophile friends whose systems are comprised of components from many different manufacturers from all corners of the world. But I believe there is something special that can be derived from components that are designed to be coupled specifically with familiar components. For that reason, I’ll be adding some of these DR Acoustics cables to my system permanently. And after hearing these CLASSE’ electronics paired with the B&W 801 D4 speakers at the most recent AXPONA, you better believe I’m going to start plotting to get my hands on a pair of those beauties, as well.
DR Acoustics is to be commended for providing audiophiles, particularly CLASSE’ DELTA equipment owners, with a line of thoughtfully designed, well-built, and thankfully, modestly priced products. Among other comparable but higher priced cables, they are an excellent value. To say that a cable outperforms others, costing much more, is kind of a cliché, but in this case, there simply is no other way to put it. You will be hard pressed to find cables that are made better or sound better than these cables at any price, except for maybe one of the other designs by this company. They may be their own competition. Highly recommended.
CLASSE’ DELTA PowerMate Power Cords
· Price: $795 USD
CLASSE’ DELTA XLR Interconnect Cables
· Price: $2,995 USD
CLASSE’ DELTA RCA Interconnects Cables
· Price: $2,995 USD
CLASSE’ DELTA Digital Interconnect Cables
· Price: $1,795 USD
CLASSE’ DELTA Speaker Cables
· Price: $2,995 USD
Antigone Power Management System
· Patented Noise reduction technology
· Price: $5,995 USD
All DR Acoustics cable products use Furutech connectors.
Dave’s Associated Equipment
Analog Front End
Small Audio Manufacture Aldebaran Turntable
Small Audio Manufacture Calista II Tonearm
Air Tight PC7 Phono Cartridge
Digital Front End
Classe CDT-300 Transport
Vitus Audio RD-101 DAC/Linestage
Roon Streaming Platform
Apple Music Streaming Service
Classe’ Audio Delta PRE
Classe’ Audio Delta Mono
Bricasti M5 Network Player
Clearaudio Smart Phono
Tekton Double Impact Loudspeakers
Audeze LCD-X Electrostatic Headphones
Avanti Audio Vivace Cables
Entreq Audio Apollo Cables
AudioQuest OptiLink optical cable
AudioQuest Forest coaxial digital cable
Salamander Design Synergy Model 345 AV Cabinet
Isoclean 60A3 II Power Conditioner
Entreq AC Wraps
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