MasterBuilt Audio Reference Cables

A Fine Balance

Equipment report
AC power cords,
Loudspeaker cables,
MasterBuilt Audio Reference
MasterBuilt Audio Reference Cables

MBA acknowledges using helical and twisted cable geometry, based on engineering theory as well as extensive listening trials. The level of twists is also critical to the rejection of noise, as MBA only uses shielding when necessary to protect from EMI and RFI, such as in its power cords and digital cables. Most of the cables don’t use shielding to minimize its impact on the signal.

Proprietary fluoropolymers are used in all MBA cables to eliminate signal “ghosting,” and the extrusion of the insulation onto the conductor is done in a way that prevents the conductor from being oxidized by the process. MBA also employs a proprietary method of dampening inside the cable bundle to minimize the effects of vibration on the individual conductors.

Finally, MBA uses Furutech for many terminations and connectors in the Reference line like the FI-50 carbon-fiber plug-case on power cords. However, it uses OEM terminations from Viablue of Germany, as well. And that, dear readers, is pretty much all the company is willing to share.

So, in recap, these cables were developed over several decades of research into metallurgy, electrical field effects, and the chemistry of dielectric materials, and are based on years of research and A/B/X testing by scientists and the engineers of Von Schweikert Audio. As such, they feel confident in stating that MasterBuilt Audio cables offer less distortion and coloration than any other competing cable at any price.

Full Loom Risin’
Leaving my reference cable loom in play and only swapping out a pair of interconnects here (or a set of loudspeaker cables or even a power cord or two there) simply would not give me an accurate or complete picture of the sound of the cables under evaluation. In essence, that would be akin to seasoning the sound, like a cook adding salt to a stew or spice to a pie before baking; while it may please one’s (sonic) palate, it is not an authentic representation of the actual “flavor.” As such, I replaced every cable in my system with an equivalent length and type of MasterBuilt Audio Reference. The full loom included four single-ended interconnects, one USB cable, one pair of bi-wire speaker cables, and nine AC cables. The retail price of the loom in this configuration was $70,775.

All cables take time to season and settle, but the MasterBuilt Reference cables seemed to require a longer run-in time than I’ve come to expect, even when using my cable cooker. As a reviewer who must routinely substitute cables and other components, I’ve invested in a cable burn-in device. The unit I own, the AudioDharma Cable Cooker 2.5 EFS, runs a continuous square-wave frequency sweep of about 1 VAC for interconnects and 22 VAC for speaker and power cables, oscillating from 0Hz (DC) to ≈ 40kHz, and back. Several days on this device is more effective than many weeks or even months of routine play. And in my estimation, it affords more effectual, not just more expedient, results that are unattainable by simply dropping the cables in place and playing your favorite burn-in material.

Yet even after being cycled through my cooker for what I have found to be the optimum period for most cables, the MBA References still took weeks after installation to offer their best. To be fair, I could have tossed them back on the cooker for another 12–18 hours, but I really wanted to hear them, so into my system they went. (Because such a cook-in device may require an expenditure that you don’t feel compelled to make, be certain to speak with your dealer about auditioning fully run-in cables in your system, as it makes a significant difference, particularly with this loom.)