Enerr Transcenda Ultimate
I have long got bored by the discussions on whether or not the power cords actually work. Maybe it's because, unlike some of their participants, I have experienced all or almost all the stages of this adventure. Just like many audiophiles, I have started as a skeptic. It cannot be done in any other way, since one gains expertise in this field through time-consuming experiments and listening sessions, not sudden enlightenment or the purchase of the most expensive accessories on the market. To hear the difference, one has to reach for hi-end products. Buying a cord that is more expensive than the appliance it's connected to seems ridiculous, yet, the system does not sound the same way it used to, and the thought of improving the sound returns like a boomerang. Over the years, I have tested many cables and conditioners. I have participated in many listening sessions and different sorts of experiments. I have compared standard 'computer' cables to hi-end wires worth thousands of dollars. That is why I am not particularly interested in purely theoretical discussions. Been there, done that, have a t-shirt. I prefer to check power accessories in practice. And that is what I'm going to do now.
Even though the main characters of this test are two power cords, I would also like to treat this review as an update on my reference system. The power accessories are usually the most aggrieved ones since I always lack time to describe them. One of the elements of my setup is Enerr One 6S DCB power strip, which I only mention by name, with a Transcenda series cable set. They substantially improved the sound. Not only in one field but rather in every aspect simultaneously. Although from time to time I tested other power strips and cords, I considered this matter closed until the founder and the main designer of the Enerr products convinced me to try their flagship Transcenda Ultimate and Transcenda Ultimate Source power cables. I suspected that if I plugged them into my system, they would stay there and I would not even have a chance to take photos of them. That is why this time the power cables went straight to the photoshoot, whereas I decided to learn something more about them.
Design and functionality
When the flagship Enerr power cords arrived at our editorial office, we also received the 1ARC Arrow 2 phono preamplifier and the Ultrasone Edition Eleven headphones. If there were no labels on the parcels, I might as well unpack the headphones or the phono stage while looking for the cables. Out of one big massive cardboard, I took two small but heavy wires. I have already got used to thick and stiff cables. Several times I even had the "pleasure" to test cables that required moving the equipment or the whole rack. For a long time, I have not encountered power cables weighing as much as a decent converter or a headphone amplifier. And I am not talking only about the confection, because I dealt with massive, metal plugs in, for instance, Cardas Clear Beyond Power XL cables before. It is quite the opposite here. If the plugs increase the weight, it is only to a small extent. What really makes Transcenda Ultimate and Transcenda Ultimate Source so heavy is the conductors used inside and the electrostatic stabilization system based on a material named Star Dust Compound.
Taking the cables out of the package, I heard a sound similar to pouring sand. At first, I thought that the Custom Design stands, have somehow become unsealed. Yet, after a while, I clearly felt that the center of gravity of the cables moved towards the plug I was holding below. Unbelievable. The usage of the dulling loose material forced the large diameter of the power cables, which is nothing new for me since other Transcenda series cables are as thick as a fire hose, but light and easy to plug in. When it comes to the Ultimate and Ultimate Source, it is way harder to do. One can kill somebody with this equipment. Literally. Both cables are not only heavy but also manufactured in such a way that the extra weight does not cause any harm to them, and the mysterious powder neither gets into the conductors nor spills out. Moreover, every piece is made so that after putting the plugs in, it cannot be unsealed. The construction is absolutely airtight. Maybe not as in the Tara Labs The Zero Gold cables, but still it's very interesting and odd. I have not asked how many hours it takes to manufacture one cable, but I assume it is a lot.
Transcenda Ultimate and Ultimate Source look like very refined wires, whose secret is not a magic powder, but a combination of various other elements. The number one element here is copper. Nothing else conducts electricity here. From start to finish. Just take a look at the plugs and you'll understand that neither gold nor silver nor rhodium was allowed here. The producer claims that sticking to one material translates to the lack of sonic signature manipulation, and thus, a clean, dynamic, and natural sound. The conductors are made of 6N OFC copper, confectioned by the ETP copper plugs (cathode copper characterized by high thermal and electrical conductivity). However, while the Transcenda Ultimate is simply the best power cable in Enerr's catalog, the Ultimate Source model is, in my opinion, even more interesting. As the name suggests, it is a different version of the Transcenda Ultimate, equipped with the same technical solutions but designed to power sources - players, streamers, converters, phono stages, etc.
I guess that all these "details" will be considered irrelevant in comparison to the electromagnetic stabilization system, which distinguishes the flagship Enerr cables from the rest. Let us start from the technical basics, then. Star Dust Compound is the marketing name of a substance that was chosen throughout the tests and whose real name and chemical composition remain a mystery since the company prefers not to publicize such information. The whole concept is not completely new as Shunyata has been using powdered filling for a long time, whereas the Swedish company Entreq offers cable protection in the form of leather bands with Velcro straps. If nothing escapes my notice, Enerr is the first company that decided to integrate such a solution with their cables. You can "believe it" or not, but if nobody questions Shunyata's solutions, then why should not we trust the company that has implemented a similar system in an even more interesting way.
Yet, I still do not quite understand why this magical filling was given such a name. Star Dust Compound... Apparently, the producer is asking for trouble by taking a dig at the skeptics, who think that the cables may even be made of stardust yet they still will not work. Some probably like that Enerr's engineers do not take their job too seriously, but I would rather stick to the solutions proven by other cable companies. Each technology is described in their catalogs as "Material X" or "Delta Composite". You know, something found in the military projects, stolen from a medical equipment factory or, what the hell, bought directly from NASA... The producers, who do not want to reveal the real name or the chemical composition of a material, refer to something that music lovers associate with science and technology, not to a joke about cables made of stardust. One can also niggle over the packaging. The cardboards look very ecological, but for such massive wires, they're just not durable enough.
A big advantage of Transcenda wires is implementing a clear division of duties. One cable is supposed to power amplifiers, whereas the other is designed for sources. It is quite rare, even for hi-end power cords. Their manufacturers usually offer a whole range of models differing in quality and price without telling us what their main purpose is. Here, our task is easier. Many audiophiles will say: "oh, somebody finally thought about it", and they will be absolutely right. Cons? Obviously, the price. $2,149 for a cable is quite a lot. Yet, to maintain a certain perspective, it is worth mentioning that the price of these cables is still far from the most expensive power cords available on the market. And I am not even talking about the extremes such as Nordost Odin 2 worth $16,999 or Tara Labs The Grand Master Evolution AC for $16,795, but rather about the abovementioned Cardas Clear Beyond Power XL valued at $2,480. Owners of very expensive systems with massive speakers and monoblocks will surely be pleased with the fact that the extra charge for an additional length is purely symbolic.
If someone asks what influence may power cords have on the sound of the stereo equipment, I put it bluntly that if in your opinion the cable doesn't make any difference, unplug it and throw it out of the window. The system will most definitely sound the same. Will it not? Well, we go back to square one, then. If we have proof that the power cords play a certain role in this whole chain, it would be safer to assume that they may acquit themselves better or worse of this task. As for the skeptics, I always ask them the same question: where does the electricity, which in the end propels the coils in the speaker, come from? Well... From the amplifier. Alright, but where does the amplifier get it from? And here we are - it's the electricity from the power socket, which has been formed to be a 'bigger' copy of the signal coming from the source. We are talking of course about the simplest scheme, whereas some hi-end systems consist of several or a dozen or so of the appliances - streamers, DACs, phono stages, preamplifiers, power amplifiers... Each of these devices needs fuel - electricity - to perform its job. Those who already got a grasp of how much influence the power supply has on the sound quality of the hi-fi system treat cables, power strips, and conditioners very seriously. It's not a matter of faith, but experience and our auditory sensitivity. We can believe or not something that we cannot touch, see, or check. But with power accessories, we do not need to see what is going on with the electrons inside. We just need to trust our ears and see that if we take care of a decent power supply, the system sounds better.
At some point in the battle with power strips and cables, one can fall into a trap, because hardly ever does everything meliorate after plugging in a new cable or conditioner. It happens, yet most frequently, it's a "quid pro quo" game. It may be the reason why some audiophiles get into the swing of it and eventually buy and test dozens of cables in different combinations. I have many friends who spent much more time sorting out the power supply for their systems than choosing the speakers, amplifier, and source. Even buying the interconnect and speaker cables was relatively easy for them, but they changed power cords so often as if they were possessed. It can be logically explained, though. When the manufacturer releases a cable that improves sound clarity and dynamics, we focus on the positives, not on deficits in other fields. Our system takes one or even two steps forward in one aspect, but if it takes even a half step back in another, such change is not necessarily worth it. At first, everything is alright. We hear more or get access to what we wanted, but over time, we start to notice what we have lost. Power supply accessories are for many audiophiles a device to dot the i's and cross the t's, to give the finishing touch. Yet still, it is sometimes incredibly difficult to obtain what we want. We know it is within reach because one cable improved the sound, the other - the definition, another - soundstage. But how to get it in one package? It turns out it's an extremely complicated task.
The Enerr equipment has always had something to help solve this puzzle. The scheme was usually completely different, characteristic for the hi-end accessories. During the first listening, all we can notice is that something has definitely improved. But what exactly? It is hard to pinpoint one specific feature since the company places importance on their accessories to slightly raise the bar in every aspect of the performance. Dynamics? A little bit. Clarity? More or less better. Soundstage? Yes, definitely. The depth and control of the bass? Yes, sometimes nonsignificantly but noticeably. In some areas, almost nothing changes. Based on my experience, the Enerr equipment neither interferes with the tone quality, its temperature nor the overall tonal balance. The key thing here is that we do not take a step back in any area. By analyzing individual categories of the relatively objective assessment, we conclude that either we stayed with what we had, or there has been smaller or bigger progress.
I knew everything about these cables right after the first listening. Since it was the next stage of my adventure with Enerr power supply, I knew what to expect. Yet, I was not aware of the scale of the phenomenon. I thought that in comparison to the already used by me set (Transcenda Light with the player and Transcenda Ultra with the amplifier) the differences would rather be subtle. But no. Honestly, only now did I hear what should be called the ultimate form of the company's philosophy. The sound once again maintained its natural character, but it also opened up and reached a higher level in so many areas that at first, I did not know what to pay attention to. The sound was the resultant of temper and coloration of all other elements of the system. The situation is tricky because the overall character of the sound did not change, but its quality most definitely did. What exactly has improved? First and foremost, the soundstage. The contours have sharpened. The sources ceased to float "somewhere in front of me" maintaining their positions and providing my ears with very readable coordinates. The directions, sizes, distances, radiuses - all these pieces of information have acquired mathematical precision. Not only am I talking about the vocals and instruments on the front line, but also, or maybe most of all, about a whole lot of seemingly less important sounds that have been upgraded from something audible yet undefined to normal, significant, and accurately reproduced elements of the musical spectacle. Long story short, I felt like I changed the glasses and noticed not only that trees had leaves but also that each of the leaves had blades and innervation.
As for the remaining aspects of the performance, the bass is worth noticing. It doesn't become thicker or thinner after plugging in the Transcenda Ultimate cables. Its range has changed though, whereas the speed and the reverbs control have slightly improved. As if someone unblocked an additional and hitherto hidden potential of woofers and let them venture wherever they want. In comparison to what has happened to the soundstage, the difference was smaller but still noticeable. The sound definitely gained fluency and analog character. The speed and clarity marginally improved as well. Interestingly, it mostly concerned the midrange. The high frequencies smoothed out, but it was probably a derivative of the music background becoming deep and velvety black. Analyzing such changes, I inevitably returned to the soundstage issue, but I guess it does not come as a surprise. Insofar as this and that was improved without turning the world upside down in the rest of the areas, with space, things went much further.
I was mostly glad because once again, after the change from the cheaper Enerr cables to the flagship ones, I could not hear the element which plummeted even in the slightest. Again, we either break even or are in the black. When it comes to extending the bass, the clarity of the midrange, the precision of the highest frequencies, and also the consistency and fluency of the sound, it was a small improvement, but as for the soundstage, it was a huge one. Regarding the rest, by which I mostly mean the coloring and the tonal balance, nothing has changed. Enerr perfectly knows the difference between the things that can be improved, taken to a higher level, and the things that should remain untouched and pointed in the direction of maximum neutrality and transparency. Therefore, we avoid the aforementioned trap of constant joggling of the power cables and thinking whether the sound actually improved or just changed.
As always in such cases, the question concerns the scale of the phenomenon. Here, everything will obviously depend on certain conditions and powered equipment. Some will say that the progress is minute and not worth paying so much for. It is a matter of perspective, though. In the 100 meters run, 0.1s will not make much difference for me, because after 50 meters I would most probably trip over my own feet. But for the professionals, it is the difference worth coming to the training for months. In the final run during the Olympic games, a tenth of a second may verify the order on the podium or even set the new world record. Transcenda Ultimate and Ultimate Source are cables for those who want to take part in such a run. Not for or against someone but for themselves, for the pure pleasure of rediscovering their favorite records.
Obviously, the purchase of such cables for a budget system will not make sense, but if we are talking about hi-end speakers, it certainly will. To exemplify, if by plugging the Enerr flagship power cords in the system consisting of Auralic Aries G2.1 transport, Hegel H590 amplifiers, Focal Sopra N°2 speakers, Albedo Monolith Reference interconnect and speaker cable and Enerr Zero Power Box conditioner we obtain 15-20% of the sound quality improvement, then it turns out that buying such cables is - yes, I know it may sound a bit crazy - a bargain. If you try them for fun and you do not focus on the sound analysis, then be prepared for a shock after unplugging them. There is no coming back. For me, Transcenda Ultimate Source turned out to be the star of the show. Transcenda Ultimate is a very universal, hi-end cable, whereas Transcenda Ultimate Source can take listening to a whole new level. Nevertheless, these cables work best as a set. That is how they are made. And I decided to stick to this combination.
Build quality and technical parameters
Transcenda Ultimate and Ultimate Source are Enerr's flagship power cords. Their designers focused on one material - copper. It is adequately machined, shaped, twisted, and insulated in each cable. There is no other metal in the "audio track", such as silver, gold, platinum, or rhodium. The conductors used in making these power cables are made of 6N OFC copper, confectioned with the ETP copper plugs. The manufacturer claims that using only one material equals the lack of manipulation of the sound signature, which means as clear, dynamic, and natural performance as possible. Another key element is Hepta Helical Litz geometry meaning the bundles of separately insulated wires twisted like DNA. The only difference is that instead of two, there are seven main wires. Each bundle consists of separately insulated conductors arranged around a dielectric made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). For the electrostatic and mechanical stabilization of the cables, Enerr used the Star Dust Compound. This solution is based on the use of a special, mysterious powder, whose real name and chemical composition is, of course, not revealed by the manufacturer. All we know is that this conductive substance is based on coal. In the photos, Star Dust Compound looks like some weird, shimmery, grey-greenish sugar. Using this material as a protective coat for the cables is apparently very labor-consuming. It's easy to imagine that the process of assembling it is much more difficult than with ordinary copper or aluminum screenings. Once produced, the cables cannot be unsealed. The difference between Ultimate and Ultimate Source models comes down to the total wire cross-section of the conductors. As for the former, it is 15.2 mm², whereas for the latter is 11 mm². As the manufacturer informs, in some cases, the sources powered by Transcenda Ultimate sound too massive. That is why Enerr decided to decrease the total wire cross-section while maintaining the geometry of the wires and, therefore, make the sound quicker and more transparent. The name of the model suggests that it is supposed to power streamers, DACs, phono stages, and other devices needing less electricity, but when it comes to the electrical aspect, the cable is a normal power cord, which works just fine with integrated amplifiers or power amplifiers. It's worth mentioning that the reviewed power cords are made in Zielona Góra, Poland, in Enerr's own facility, and they are assembled on machines designed and constructed by Polish engineers.
Audiovector QR5, Auralic Vega G1, Cambridge Audio CP2, Clearaudio Concept, Cardas Clear Reflection, Albedo Geo, Enerr One 6S DCB, Enerr Transcenda Light, Enerr Transcenda Ultra, Norstone Esse.
At the audiophile electronics shows, you can often hear the comments that relatively affordable equipment sounds remarkable because the accompanying cables, power strips, stands, and anti-vibration platforms cost over a dozen or several dozen of thousands of dollars. Sometimes it's the equivalent of the cost of the source, amplifier, and speakers. At first, it seems irrational. But would the system sound better if we spent all that money on these three main elements of it and connect them using the cheapest wires from a supermarket? If you haven't had a chance to find out, please carry out a little investigation on your own. The answer has already surprised many audiophiles. So if the exhibitors and dealers use this "trick", why shouldn't we repeat this procedure at home? Personally, I follow one simple rule - if the product I review does not give me any sound improvement, I send it back without any regrets, and I do not care what others think about it, but if the improvement is substantial, I do not care whether we talk about a tube amplifier or a power cord made of stardust. The goal has been achieved. After three days of listening, I have already known I wouldn't send Enerr's cables back. Because I stopped fooling myself I would quit this game and stop being an audiophile. If you have reached the stage where hi-end power cords can change a lot - and I mean a lot - you should definitely try these.
Geometry: Triple Constant Twist, Solid Hepta Helical Litz
Conductor: OFC 6N Copper
Plugs: ETP Copper
Total conductor gauge: 15,2 mm² (Transcenda Ultimate), 11 mm² (Transcenda Ultimate Source)
Price: $2,149/1,5 m