MasterBuilt Audio Reference Cables

A Fine Balance

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

Bloomin’ Loom
I had some concerns early on, as the MBAs’ longer than usual run-in period initially left me wanting, until their abilities in revealing inner detail, microdynamics, and overall bloom and body fully developed. But mature they did over the next month to five weeks. Once they’d developed, I was offered remarkably good bloom with copious musical body, a crucial attribute that I find shamefully absent from several other pricey entrants.

After that final maturation, one of the first attributes to capture my attention was the MBAs’ ability to reach deeply into the nether regions of the bass, extracting detail and nuance with exceptional pitch definition. They created a solid sense of both the impact and skin tone from the kickdrum in the opening of The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” from the live Hell Freezes Over album [Geffen].

Their ability to recover microdynamic inflection, as well as to present macrodynamic events with proper scaling and impact, was also quite impressive. They have an arresting ability to resolve low-level detail, revealing tremendously delicate nuance with impressive resolution, easily highlighting differences in recordings from microphone individualities to recording techniques to venue distinctions. Venue size becomes apparent, recording permitting, and the rear corners of the soundstage are well illuminated and easily distinguishable.

The MBAs’ overall liquidity of presentation allows them to regenerate music with a distinctly organic and natural quality, all from a velvety smooth, dark-black background. Combined with their undeniable broadband tonal balance, their rendering of timbre is remarkably truthful, as is their presentation of harmonic structure and rhythmic timing.

Stage dimensions and image specificity are represented very realistically, portrayed with proper size, engaging space, and very good focus. Their well-delineated soundstage is accurately shaped, with rock-solid, crisply focused image outlines that are fully dimensional—not flattened or 2-D in any sense. And they render an excellent representation of the air of and around instruments. A clear example of their abilities here was the spaciousness and layering of the laughing children from the opening of “School” from Supertramp’s Crime of the Century [Mobile Fidelity UHQR]. This delicate union of focus and air should not be taken as commonplace. It is an area where the MasterBuilt Reference series cables easily best many otherwise adequate cables that lean toward accentuating articulation over atmosphere, or vice versa.

Even in comparison to other cables considerably costlier, the MBA Reference loom yielded an exceptional musical combination of vibrant timbre, tonal truthfulness, rich harmonic bloom, and exceptionally engaging rhythmic vitality.

What I find most remarkable about them is that they successfully blend high degrees of detail, resolution, and articulation with enormous amounts of harmonic texture, instrumental bloom, and musicality, once they are properly run in. Many cables in this price range lean heavily toward either resolution on one side, or body and bloom on the other. The MBA Reference succeeds at delivering an amazing degree and balance of both, while also maintaining an outstanding sense of timing and rhythmic coherence.

The MBA Reference cables were exceptional performers over the long haul. Their strengths are their relaxed, full-bodied nature, their musical transparency and detail, and remarkably unhindered flow and rhythmic drive. While this loom may not have been quite up to the task of allowing the voice of the Gamut Flagship Zodiac loudspeakers ($150,000 per pair, review forthcoming) to emerge fully, with my reference VSA VR-55 Aktives ($60,000 per pair) replacing the MBAs with much more costly cables only slightly diminished their luster.

While these cables cannot be considered inexpensive, they are exceptionally well balanced, elite performers. Given the solid engineering and metallurgy behind their design and execution, a cable so carefully crafted and engineered should readily appeal to, and be a first choice of, music lovers searching for cables that place solid design above marketing strategies. Most enthusiastically recommended.

Specs & Pricing

Interconnects: RCA/XLR, $4000/1m
Digital: AES/USB, $2900/1.5m
Speaker cables: Spades/Bananas $5200/2.5m; bi-wire, $7600/2.5m
Power cables: $4000/1.5m

1040 Northgate St., Suite A
Riverside, CA 92507
(951) 682-0706