"When you think of what some of these artists sacrificed to put this music across, what trends they pushed against, all those nights in the middle of nowhere, bringing it to the stage, what incredible misery and misfortune they too often encountered, just because they were burdened with a staggering talent and the courage to share it with the world, the least you can do besides buying their records is pay the respect due them by giving their music the best possible means to fill the air."
- Henry Rollins
"Those, however, who discover the unending ocean of beauty, insight, and intuitive knowledge which has been recorded in the form of music will desire even more precision and quality from their playback equipment. Not for the sake of the gear, but for the sake of a desired proximity to the recorded audio event–for its content is so vast and deep, the musical vocabulary so unending in its nuance and expressive touch, that a phone line scenario would be extremely limiting to the sublime information that ought to be communicable through music."
- Louis Motek
I dare say, even though we have yet to meet face to face, I feel I know Louis Motek. Certainly I am thoroughly familiar with his products and his determination, enough so as to enable me to speak more or less objectively regarding his brand, LessLoss Audio. He's a guy who will always go the extra mile, and, almost as if by default, seems always to think out of the proverbial box. I have deep respect towards people who, using their deep background, push the boundaries of the possible. It's within my own nature to passionately explore most anything going on in the high-end audio universe. You know it and feel it in your bones that passion cannot be imitated, nor faked, and so it is easy to sense when it is genuinely shared.
My listening priorities changed somewhat over the past several years, but especially in the past two. I suppose that with age, a certain wisdom follows, and a more intimate and at the same time global look into the musical universe ensues. Desiring to understand the musical world on a larger scale will, inevitably, sooner or later, lead one to such an understanding.
I had the pleasure of owning a few of the real 'über-ultra-high-end' audio products during that period, and they eventually changed my consciousness and I'd even say talent of perception of musical reproduction. And this, to a surprisingly high degree.
I always use non-amplified, live, acoustical music as a reference. And I've continued on this path, even more so even, with my recent deep dive into the world of classical music. Many audiophiles tend to look at classical music as a social status symbol. And in certain circles, it might very well be, thanks to a certain type of crowd (perhaps you've met the type), but nothing should hold you back in exploring the incredible world of timeless creations by classical composers and legendary performers. I've hit my 40's this year and my good friend and classical "tutor" ensured me that mileage is indeed needed to gain an even better grasp on some of its nuance and sublime intelligence, breadth of emotion and deeper meaning.
With years you start to seek out and cherish real moving performances, and rather than just admire the surface polish of most young contemporary 'athletes' (however technically savvy and brilliant, and strong and tireless) you begin to hanker for deeper interaction with the music. I suppose the widespread urge for the ubiquitous 'instant fix' has much to do with the world we're living in. We see this today in the form of so many stupendous performances ignited by obvious dreams of prominence, glamour and glory, with little or nothing to express respect to past heritage.
In the past few years, I started to gain a deeper respect toward the musical artists of last century. Of course, the big names were known to me before, and I loved their musicianship then as well. But when you delve deeper into the composers' personal struggles to paint their inner intuitive world into notes, structure and form, and out in the world the ability of some performer to convincingly convey the composer's deepest inner mindset, a real earthquake is experienced. I'm slowly starting to understand a few more people I normally would have kept distant regarding their musical tastes. The cultural aspect becomes prominent. It moves you beyond 'your own little self'...
The skill, the soulful expression, the uncompromising tutors of music lessons past, the fierce critics and lifelong struggle with the stresses of performing live, all gave birth to artists of such potency and accomplishment, that they can draw you into the music with their complete and effective vision. The effect is so strong because for some unknown reason, these visions matter, they actually change you and stay with you as a value which is sustained over time.
So what does all this have to do with power cables and LessLoss? A lot and everything!
When entering the upper echelon of ultra high-end audio, something unique happens within the reproduction of the music. Some call it a 'magical' experience, others the recreation of 'live' events with a real-life 'aura'.
Scientists are still on the quest of understanding human perception of music, and the way not only our brain, but our whole body reacts to music. Music, when experienced correctly, can have a sublime, even healing, effect. One of the few musicians who realised this in his later years is one of my favourite jazz artists: John Coltrane.
When we set up an ultra high-end audio system, everything starts to count. With components featuring the highest degree of performance, there is some inherent ability to let music flow in an unconstrained and "stressless" manner.
Most people, most audiophiles included, underestimate the possibility and power of pure musical reproduction. Interaction between the performer and listener become prominent, and direct. This is really close to what happens at a live event not only on the physical (acoustical), but on the emotional plane.
Am I trying to sell you a mushroom trip here, or to step into speculative philosophical territory? You be the final judge, yet few of the designers of very well-known ultra high-end audio products know this "secret," and how to implement it for such an immediate and palpable result. Luckily we can list some designers who do share this hard to find DNA of talent: products coming from the hands of people like Kondo San, Vladimir Lamm, Robert Koda, and Rumen Artraski are among the few that react somehow differently to the musical material being reproduced. Something 'right' happens, and it seems and feels that these audio designers 'know' something 'secret' that not all constructors do. What that is exactly, I'm not sure, but the resulting recreation of musical events are beyond what we usually experience from audio equipment. Can it be "perfect" audio engineering only? Experience as well? A sixth feeling for music? I'd say: all combined... and more!
In the past few years, I've become much more critical with regards to audio products which go over and beyond extreme pricing to reach unfathomable, even ridiculous sums. There are simply too many fake, half-finished and overpriced products available today. Many do little or nothing when it comes to actual audio performance.
And if this zoo were not bad enough, stepping into it further into the very beehive of high-end audio cables, things can become even more ridiculous. The audience, quite rightfully, becomes even more critical. This is the #1 topic that is guaranteed to at once create havoc wherever and whenever someone decides to place it on the table for discussion.
LESSLOSS DFPC REFERENCE
Now, to make a long introduction longer (I know, I'll get there – but this is important), note that the LessLoss DFPC Signature power cord already thoroughly established itself among cables several times its price. Not only because its technical elaboration is spot on (although it is still often misunderstood by those who skim through it), but because of its real world performance. The DFPC Signature is the cable with which I can demonstrate real and instant change in a most easy and direct demonstration. Even non-audiophiles can hear the obvious difference. There's no listener prepping or special training needed. An instant shift in performance change is perceived.
It took Louis Motek and his LessLoss team three years to come up with the new LessLoss DFPC Reference power cord. Do note, that this is not a simple successor to the Signature line, for example, the same story with new connectors, or some such nonsense. The LessLoss DFPC Reference power cord represents their ultimate power cable achievement, pooling all former knowledge and taking it further. Because my initial listening test ensured me of what it is capable of, I continued with a somewhat different testing and review approach. The introductory elaboration above is meant to set the tone to the level of performance we are talking about here. At the risk of appearing pathetic, I felt that my review itself owes it to the performance level of the new DFPC Reference to at least represent an attempt at doing it some justice.
Just as Louis Motek had predicted, the LessLoss DFPC Reference took a bit longer than usual to settle in. Before the first week had passed, what it first felt like was forward in nature, especially in the midrange. When things eventually started to calm down, this trait underwent a metamorphosis into what became one of the prominent features of the new DFPC Reference cable. I dare propose a name for this feature: “pure dynamic gain structure”.
PURE DYNAMIC GAIN STRUCTURE
Trying my best to convey the effect this power cable has on the sound, I propose that you think about “simple” pure dynamic gain structure as already characterized by its own natural complexity. Does that make sense? With power cords, this is among the most desirable features and is easily overlooked. Often times you can't even talk about it unless you have experienced it first. More likely, only 'blacker blackness' will have been experienced. The real ability to let through or even support the natural dynamic flow of the music, without the addition of any artificial energy twist, turn or modification, however small, is a true virtue of power handling products. The absence of this ability creates a mediocre, lifeless presentation that has little to do with what is expected from a high performance power cable. Such an invasive power cable deals with the system's balance in the wrong way, even if it might offer 'blacker blackness.'
I listen to the sublime reproduction of live acoustical musical events, for example Franz Schubert - Lieder with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore performing on vinyl from DGG. The sense of the atmosphere and Fischer-Dieskau's emotional intimacy demands a purity and balance of incoming electrical power. What at first looks like a simple recital is in fact an intricate performance that rivals many if not most vocalists of the genre. If you understand the German language, an even deeper connection and interaction happens. The childlike, feather-light ease of memories being recalled is almost Jung-like, in a way :).
The ability to not only recreate the feeling of being there, but the actual conveying of the lyrical potency from the performance itself, becomes materialized when the system is balanced with pure electrical power fluidity, transparency and stressless impact. Not many power cables are capable of being such a transparent medium. There are power cables in the $10k and above range that expertly deal with transparency, but lack the real instantaneous dynamic surge of power when needed. This is a complex demand of purity, that even a dynamic surge remain absolutely pure and balanced. It is a pleasant surprise that the LessLoss DFPC Reference power cord offers both transparency and dynamic potency impressively. We're talking here not about jumping one or two steps upwards, but a whole flight of stairs in one step.
Ultra high-end audio's "reconstruction" of performances depends on so many tiny structural nuances that it is mind blowing. With so many aspects of design to consider and with so many designers oblivious to the myriad aspects contributing to audio 'magic', they will often take to the hills when any such 'spiritual' terms are used or true results in this regard are demanded. The actual possible illusion of certain recorded musical events being not envisioned but in fact materialised is what separates the countless shiny offerings found on the market today from the very special ones which do indeed deliver the 'magic'.
As with the synergy resulting from the LessLoss DFPC Signature / LessLoss Firewall along with the Furutech eTP-609E in combination, the LessLoss DFPC Reference and the S.I.N. Audio PSD also excel when used jointly. The PSD's remarkable "see-through" nature and absence of power "speed limit" matches the DFPC Reference's traits in a good synergy.
Signature vs. Reference
Now the biggest question that might arise is what to do if you already own the LessLoss DFPC Signature. What is the difference that would make the new DFPC Reference special and worthy of possible upgrade. Or, for the non-owner looking to choose, how does the LessLoss DFPC power cable series stand quality-wise, and to what extent, when compared amongst themselves?
Above, I've suggested a new term regarding the subject of 'dynamic simplicity.' I would consider this a new feature of quality which has begun to evolve in true high-end audio. It is a paradox that the more successfully a solution brings us to the music, the less it actually imparts anything of its own in terms of a recognisable fingerprint, a tonal character, etc. This 'dynamic simplicity' becomes even more rare when we consider the leading edges, the dynamic impact, which carry most if not pretty much all of the subtlety of character and complexity we admire in musical reconstruction. To be clear, by 'dynamic simplicity,' I mean that we are dealing with the impact of power on the leading edge first, before even considering whether the result we appreciate is 'musical' or not. A solution can be 'dynamically simple' without being musical (this would be 'brainy' and unemotional), while others can be very musical but without adhering to 'dynamic simplicity' (this would be emotionally nice but intellectually unsound and lacking).
I have already exhausted the importance and obvious influence of power cords. There is no point in returning to the basic question of: "Do the last 2 meters really matter?" Besides, LessLoss provides the clearest and most accurate description of the reason on their website. [link: http://www.lessloss.com/dfpc-series-p-213.html]
Regarding 'pure dynamic gain structure,' we have to revisit and define how we view high-performance audio reproduction in the first place. For me the most important reference for evaluation of my feelings, both emotional and intellectual, are unaltered, live, acoustical music recordings. For example, Rostropovich's seminal and pure Bach recordings. Intimacy abounds: the interpretation perfectly mirrors the soul of Bach's compositions, in intimacy, closeness, and freedom of personality. Now, you might say that the audio reproduction of a single instrument is an easy task, but in fact the recreation of Cello (or Violin) is a complex task. Such intimacy transcends the realm of hi-fi and is the stuff of high-end audio.
With such a demanding task one needs the proper tools. The tools of the trade to start with are definitely the power cables. I am definitely not the first to say this. Without getting proper electricity which is capable of serving the A/C power without loosing dynamic potency or altering it in any deficient way, you can simply forget high-end performance of audio reproduction.
With the LessLoss DFPC Reference power cord, you'll enter the world of high-end power cables with enough authority to keep your mind at rest for a long time. For some, perhaps even for good. When you sample the often unimaginable true ultra high-end audio reproduction's ability to shift reality, you'll have a hard time returning to something with only mediocre, reserved performance.
The sound of the DFPC Reference compared to that of the DFPC Signature, while different, is related. As an analogy, while you remain observing the same fundamental landscape, I would compare the difference to viewing the horizon on the bright sunny day to that of a day with some partly cloudy skies. The Reference feels like a warmly emotional day that extends the view far beyond to the ends of the horizon. You can see the the hills and more detailed landscape with the Reference and everything feels like it is conveyed more realistically. The Signature will offer a satisfying exploration at eyesight while the Reference offers a luxurious view that evokes a more emotional impact.
With either of the cables, music doesn't lose its pace and energy, but with the Reference, it is just more palpable. The Reference, along with its 'dynamic simplicity,' opens up a bit more atmospheric insight. This helps in retrieving and reliving the genuineness of recorded acoustical spaces. This becomes more evident with classical music recordings. Natural reverb and decays have longer, more lifelike tails. One can more easily grasp anchor points that help intellectually construct a high performance listening experience, without questioning one's intuition. It's obvious when you hear it.
I'd go so far as to say that the DFPC Reference extends its role as a power cable to that of a vivid transducer. For example, the genuine pluck of stringed instruments is not as easy to recreate as you'd think. They require instant influx of energy which does not result in their filtration or equalisation in any way. Too many higher priced cables promise great performance, but simply fail even at primal/basic tasks. You can quickly categorise and evaluate the ability of any power cable with a crescendo. Here for example the LessLoss DFPC Signature conveys the rising energy with quite an amount of 'drama factor,' but DFPC Reference brings out the real life dramatic atmosphere. You can feel the emotional energy rising and more closely experience the performer's unique expertise and musicianship.
Little nuances of complexity on the Mridangam drum, Darbuka and tabla playing a constant rise from pianissimo to forte fortissimo, along with the musically virtuoso sparkling energy become clear only with high performance power cords. This is what sets the big boys apart from entry level cables. The real ability is the ability to shift the experience from sound being perceived to the plane of believability. For the upper plane of high end musical reproduction, for me, there must be interaction between the listener and the performer. Without that achievement, we're just talking about nice looking, cute power cables with their sexy rhodium plating, carbon fibre fashionable looks, and other aesthetic paraphernalia.
Louis Motek and the LessLoss team managed to bring both the DFPC Signature and Reference cables to the level where real Magic happens. Do not see the Signature as a lesser level power cable. As I wrote and praised in my review, its one heck of a performer. It can offer what's needed to draw you into a real sublime performance. The LessLoss Reference will add the authority of a higher order with everything even more in line. More right, more spot on and with more bloom that recalls a truly lifelike event.
SUMMING IT UP
I've often described how power cables make the most noticeable difference in high-end audio systems. While interconnects, speaker and digital cables offer a certain shift of performance, power cables give the most obvious impact. This is easy to prove and hear.
The new LessLoss DFPC Reference builds upon the established achievements of the DFPC Signature series with serious, undeniable impact. Inherited are the same basic advantages of the DFPC Signature while adding a new dimension of what I'd venture to call "dynamic simplicity." This type of performance allows originally recorded nuance to come through like never before.
So is it worth upgrading the DFPC Signature to the Reference level? Yes. It's an evolutional development based on the same natural foundation. You'll keep the strong established base of qualities found in the DFPC Signature, but you'll find these advanced to a yet higher performance level.
In my previous review of the DFPC Signature, I didn't award the cable with a dedicated title, and I always felt I should have done so. But this time I'm being assertive: the Mono & Highly Recommended Award goes to the LessLoss DFPC Reference power cable. Why? Because it clearly represents a new threshold for established performance norms and brings out a level of performance that you'll be hard pressed to find, either at this price range, or even at several multiples thereof.
Text/photos: Matej Isak
Matej Isak. Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine. All rights reserved. 2006-2014. www.monoandstereo.com. ..:: None of the original written text, pictures, that were taken by me, links or my original files can be re-printed or used in any way without prior permission! ::..