Nor is this all. Soundstage separation also benefits. The soundstage seemed to expand laterally and to deepen. The sense of three-dimensionality, of an actual stage populated by musicians and instruments, is heightened. Suddenly a background chorus to Leonard Cohen on his CD Old Ideas isn’t simply floating murkily in the background but is its own distinct entity.
Or take John Eliot Gardiner’s recording of Bach’s “Advent” Cantatas for Arkiv. There is something profoundly moving about the ability to hear each chorus gently enter without intruding on the others. The anchoring of the instruments, the lack of any sense of drift, means that it becomes simplicity itself to track complex passages of music, something that also becomes abundantly clear on Andras Schiff’s marvelous recording on ECM of the Bach Partitas.
But the greatest merit of the Reference XL is its supernatural ability to help deliver a kind of clarity on digital playback that I have never previously experienced. The slightest swish of the cymbals, a foot tapping on a piano pedal, the mildest brush of the bow on a cello—nothing is effaced by these cables. There is a limpidity and tranquility, a sense of ease to the sound, that are hard to forget once you’ve heard them. Whether on jazz, classical, rock, or rap, the Reference XL/Vivaldi possesses the ability to vanish from the signal chain, imposing no audible coloration.
No doubt further advancement in digital playback looms. The high end bears more than a passing resemblance to an arms race in which various manufacturers constantly attempt to one-up each other. But for now, the combination of the dCS Vivaldi and Transparent Reference XL digital cables exceeds anything else I have heard. I could tell you that it took a lot of listening and chin-stroking to arrive at this conclusion. Fiddlesticks.
It didn’t take long at all to realize that these cables take digital performance to a glorious place. If you have a high-end digital rig, then auditioning Transparent Reference XL is not a good idea. It is a must.
SPECS & PRICING
Reference XL Digital Link (75 ohm): $3195 (one meter)
Reference XL Digital Link (110 ohm): $3595 (one meter) (longer lengths available at additional cost)
47 Industrial Park Road
Saco, ME 04072