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Impressions: PS Audio xStream Transcendent RCA

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I picked up these interconnects from Audiogon several weeks ago as a trial run to explore some other silver IC options. (Wasn't sure if I was going to keep them.)

Now the main reason I strayed from my Signal Cable ICs (Silver Res Analog) is because I finally got tired of the Eichmann bullet connectors (royal PITA to deal with) and wanted to get some ICs that used a different RCA connector. These ICs use a WBT-style locking connector.

That said, these ICs are awesome. I got them on the strength of a recommendation here by Jon L, ownership by another Head-Fier, and a positive review on 10audio.com. (No feelings about PS Audio, I know there are plenty of people in the audiophile community who have a few things against the company.) I'll start with the cons though:

- Partially inflexible. Argh. You can easily bend them, but they're not "loose" flexible like my Signal Cable ICs are. In other words, they don't shake around much when you hold them up in the air.
- They're pretty thick. Kind of annoying to me. I like how thin the Signal Cables are. Of course this is most of the cause of their partial inflexibility.
- The locking connectors are also pretty annoying to deal with, as they don't turn very smoothly, and there are lots of spirals so lots of turning is needed.

Those cons aside, the biggest praise I can give these cables is that the improvement in sound is practically on the scale of an amp or source upgrade. As soon as I stuck these on between my Gilmore Lite and Arcam CD33, that was my immediate thought - I felt as if I had a brand new amp or source! I was bowled over, and for the first time I really felt like I was truly hearing both the Arcam and the GL. These also definitely burned in - I'd gotten them in new still-shrinkwrapped condition so I started at 0 hours (initially impressive), and then burned them in for 200 hours to find out what would happen. While they did start out impressing me, they got even better - transients sped up (initially it was kinda slow), and the bass cleared up too. Initially not completely clear, but it developed into a hard-hitting, wham-arific bass. The tactility and slam definitely improved from the initial state. And soundstage opened up too - initially a bit small, but as time passed it expanded and became very 3D.

All my previous conceptions of the Signal Cable ICs really just went out the window. I used to think they were great cables. Now I just think of them as great values. The PS Audio absolutely lives up to its name, it's transcendent over the Signal Cable - the soundstage opened up with even more depth and width, an entire veil over the mid-bass and lower bass was removed making everything sound so much more realistic, and attack/transients are SO much clearer I can't believe I got by with the Signal Cables. Percussion strikes are actually complete now. Treble too is much cleaner, much faster, and extension so much more audible.

For $350 new, these are some really great ICs, and I have to echo the positive comments and reviews. The SQ is amazing, and $350 isn't too bad of a price, and yes they do sound very silver. Physically though, I don't like them, and that's the only reason I won't be sticking with these much longer.
post #2 of 23
Dang, now it's going to be even harder to find these used!


Good thing I already bought 3 pairs of these

I still struggle to reconciliate what I hear from these cables and what I *believed" about cable design. There are several things about Transcendent design that I (thought) knew to be politically incorrect:

Use of relatively large conductors: 18 AWG solid core silver per leg! Everybody and their cousin is touting the low AWG, low skin effect thang these days. Heck, I've tried making DIY IC's using 18 AWG solid core silver, and it never sounded anything like this.

Triple shielded. I hate shielding. I still do, but somehow the triple shield seems to work for Transcendent.

It's made by PS Audio. Yes, they've made some bombs of cable in the past. Did they just get very lucky this time, or is there some new brilliant designer at PS Audio?
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Extra shielding should be good though, right? I thought that helps reject EMI.

3 pairs? Did you wire your entire system with them?
post #4 of 23
Thanks for your review Asr. Thorough, succinct and well written as always. They look very interesting indeed.

I wonder how they would work in a system that is naturally on the dry/bright side? Also, how much space is need behind the interconnects?
post #5 of 23
hmm... what do some audiophiles have against PS Audio?
post #6 of 23
IMO, you should take everyone's opinion about a certain company with a pinch of salt. Lots of companies (eg RSA, Meier, SinglePower, LaRocco, Grado, Nordost, Rudistor, etc) have their own group of "haters". All I can say is let your ears do the talking.
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by milkpowder View Post
Thanks for your review Asr. Thorough, succinct and well written as always. They look very interesting indeed.

I wonder how they would work in a system that is naturally on the dry/bright side? Also, how much space is need behind the interconnects?
I'm one of the few who actually likes so-called dry/bright sound so someone else will have to field that question. They coil easily, you just need to force-bend them is all, they don't naturally do it as more flexible cables would, so space shouldn't be too much of a concern.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VicAjax View Post
hmm... what do some audiophiles have against PS Audio?
You should hang out at other audio forums to find out, that's all I'll say.
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by milkpowder View Post
I wonder how they would work in a system that is naturally on the dry/bright side? Also, how much space is need behind the interconnects?
You mean like a badly-matched HE60 system? The thing to be careful about Transcendents is that you may now hear things about your system that you probably didn't want to know about

For example, if you were using a colored tube, say something with extra zing and brightness to compensate for a "warm" interconnect, putting in Transcendents will let you hear everything that tube is doing.

Having said that, I use a single run of Transcendents between DAC and amp with HE60 and K1000, both of which aren't exactly warm and forgiving 'phones, with great success and transparency. In fact, I feel like I'm finally hearing everything that's on the recording.
post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post
You should hang out at other audio forums to find out, that's all I'll say.
i have and i do! all i've seen are the usual Class D skeptics... but then again, i've only really paid attention to the stuff about their amps (being a new owner of one, myself).

although, i do recall markl's disgust with their power cords... but i wouldn't really consider that hatred of the company.
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post
I'm one of the few who actually likes so-called dry/bright sound so someone else will have to field that question. They coil easily, you just need to force-bend them is all, they don't naturally do it as more flexible cables would, so space shouldn't be too much of a concern.
Thanks. I'm a fan of fast, bright and detailed headphones/sound too (hence my love for the R10, K1000, ER4 and HE60), but dryness is a big no-no.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon L View Post
You mean like a badly-matched HE60 system? The thing to be careful about Transcendents is that you may now hear things about your system that you probably didn't want to know about

For example, if you were using a colored tube, say something with extra zing and brightness to compensate for a "warm" interconnect, putting in Transcendents will let you hear everything that tube is doing.

Having said that, I use a single run of Transcendents between DAC and amp with HE60 and K1000, both of which aren't exactly warm and forgiving 'phones, with great success and transparency. In fact, I feel like I'm finally hearing everything that's on the recording.
Haha. Yes. Not so much any specific component's fault, but the general brightness of both the HE60 and the Azur 740c just doesn't seem to be the perfect match (more than acceptable nonetheless and certainly enjoyable ). I was just thinking about changing my interconnects to see if the sound can be tuned further (ie a slightly fuller midrange at no expense of clarity or detail).

The Signal Cable Silver Resolution were considered, but I am ready for something a tad more pricey $300-400 bucks. I wonder if there are other interconnects you guys have tried in that range which would be worthy of a recommendation? I was thinking on the lines of Nordost Blue Heaven/Red Dawn, Audioquest Columbia, VdH First Ultimate, Chord Chorus 2, etc...
post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by milkpowder View Post
..dryness is a big no-no.


.. I was just thinking about changing my interconnects to see if the sound can be tuned further (ie a slightly fuller midrange at no expense of clarity or detail).
I'm not sure if ASR's "dry" means your definition of "dry." I have a feeling you're thinking of dryness in harmonics, and "wet" overtones, whereas ASR may be talking about dry, taught, non-boomy bass quality. Just my guess.

As far as interconnects, I would suggest you look for a used Magnan Vi interconnect next time it shows up on Agon. Its sound is what you describe; I used to own a few pairs, and I'm not sure why I sold them b/c they were rich, fast, warm, yet incredibly resolved and airy... I think it's made of thin bronze (!) ribbons

SoundStage! Equipment Review - Magnan Type Vi Interconnects and Reference Speaker Cables (11/2003)
post #12 of 23
I'll look into the Magnans. There are a couple F on Agon atm. Looks like they don't keep their value very well

I picked out an error in the PS Audio marketing literature:
Quote:
Another interesting feature of silver is how it oxidizes, relative to copper. When exposed to air, both copper and silver “tarnish” (oxidize) and the resulting material is known as copper or silver oxide. Copper oxide is non-conductive while silver oxide is a very good electrical conductor. This oxidized layer sits on the surface of the conductor and, in copper, causes time smear due to the skin effect we discussed earlier. In silver, there is less of this effect because the oxidized layer is conductive.
Silver does not form oxides in normal atmospheric conditions. It forms silver sulphide instead. How can they get something as simple as this wrong?
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
Well to me "dry" just means crystal clarity of every single sound on the recording. I don't like added mid-range enhancement to try and add body or fullness - ergh. Hence the reason I prefer silver cables. The only points in the chain where I want mid-range coloration are at either the source or headphones.

As for $300-$400 cables, aside from these I also found the PureSilverSound Quartet. They look like a smashing value. HGA also makes the Silver Lace (in your price range) and DNA (above your price range).

And then there are silver cables from much bigger companies like the Kimber Silver Streak, LAT Synchestra, and a few others I don't recall. With even more silver cables in the $500-$1K range, it's like suddenly the market explodes there.
post #14 of 23
HGA cables look incredible for their price!
post #15 of 23
I just bought a pair of the trancendent's based on your review so if they suck its your fault! J/K

Seriously though my other choice were Siltech G5 SQ-28 mk2. I saw an ad for $225 for the .5 m used but if you have more a budget you might be able to get the SQ-88 used. The other cable I would try are DH Labs Revelation. I thought their Air Matrix was really nice for the price, I can imagine their all silver effort would be real nice.
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