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January 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere!
Waveform Fidelity Cables
Superb sound at affordable prices.
Review By Wayne Donnelly

 

Waveform Fidelity Cables  Paul Kaplan has been making superb power cables, interconnects and speaker cables for several years, then marketing them under the brand name of Kaplan Cables. This review is the first published consideration of the full complement of these remarkable cables, now re-christened as Waveform Fidelity. While I always like the simple nomenclature – to me a welcome difference from the often extravagantly titled competition, I suspect that the new brand name will be more attractive to many audiophiles. The new title is certainly earned by the performance of these wires.

I first experienced the GS II power cables when I was planning to review TweakGeek's excellent Stealth power conditioner. They sent me the power cable as their recommended power cord for that conditioner. Unfortunately, severe health issues struck me at that time, and I returned the Stealth conditioner because I knew I would not be able to do the review in a reasonable length of time. But I was so impressed by the performance of Paul Kaplan's power cable that I hung onto it, and subsequently purchased several more of them. I had been using power cables handmade by Jack Bybee. They were and are still great-sounding, but as I have discussed previously my Chicago Loop 12th floor apartment is a location I call "RFI Ground Zero." It is bombarded by microwave transmissions and surrounded within a mile by at least four TV transmission towers, and it has the most severe RFI problem I have ever encountered anywhere. The Bybee power cables were unshielded, and I could hear an unacceptable noise level and even intelligible radio chatter when I was listing to LPs or CDs. Paul Kaplan's GS II power cables turned out to be much quieter, impervious to RFI, and they also sounded terrific. So that was my introduction to those creations.

Subsequently, I asked Paul to send me his speaker cables and interconnects, which he was just beginning to market at that time. I liked them, finding them very musical, and they too seemed unaffected by RFI. At that time I had settled on JPS Aluminata interconnects, finding them the best-shielded interconnects and very much liking their well balanced, highly detailed and spatially remarkable presentation. They were of course very thick, heavy and inflexible, and not easy to manipulate, and they were very expensive.

Paul Kaplan's first interconnects were very attractive, with their light weight and flexibility – and of course their lower prices – but I found them slightly lacking by comparison to the JPS in high-frequency detail and "openness."  I characterized those first interconnects as a bit "midrangy."  So I decided at the time to return them and stick with the JPS. I had a similar reaction to the comparison of my then-reference JPS Superconductor 3 speaker cables versus Paul Kaplan's original iteration of his speaker cables.

Nevertheless, I stayed in touch with Paul Kaplan. He is an engaging and intelligent individual, and I found our conversations stimulating. We often disagreed, but the disagreements were beneficial in challenging my own notions about audio.

Earlier this year Paul mentioned that he had developed new iterations of his interconnects and speaker cables, as well as improving his already superb power cables. The temptation was too much to resist, so I asked him to let me hear the new versions. Now, a few months later, I have fallen in love with the newly christened Waveform Fidelity cable family, and my entire system is now uniformly connected with these remarkable wires. I feel that these are musically competitive with anything I have heard, and that at their relatively affordable price, they constitute one of the outstanding values to be found in this often overpriced and over gimmicked part of the audiophile marketplace. Let's take a look at the particulars of the Waveform Fidelity cable family.

 

Physical Description and Technical Highlights
These cables are not made from exotic materials – e.g., silver or copper-covered aluminum conductors. They are fabricated using high-purity copper conductors. Paul Kaplan pays particular attention to the connectors, in some cases rebuilding parts in order to accomplish his sonic goals for a particular design. To my mind these cables represent a triumph of solid engineering over gimmickry. For example, the RFI-free performance that so attracted me originally is attained without massive shielding. The interconnects are very well shielded, but nevertheless are less than a half-inch in diameter, and remarkably flexible and easy to use. I was surprised to learn that the GS III power cables are not shielded at all. They are twisted-pair designs in which the geometry of the twisted pair negates RFI. The new GS III speaker cables are similarly designed – unshielded, yet completely unaffected by RFI.

Another remarkable attribute of these cables is that they sound superb almost immediately after installation. I own a Dharma Cable Cooker, and I have written in the past that I was amazed that so many reviewers review cables without first thoroughly burning them in. Paul Kaplan insisted to me that at most his wires would need a couple of hours in a system to sound as they were intended. Back when I first tried the Kaplan cables I dutifully performed comparisons, evaluating cables that I had burned in on the Dharma according to the usual formula against identical cables that I simply installed into the system. The differences were minor, and if anything the Dharma-treated cables sounded a bit "overcooked" and needed a few days in the system to return to their best sound, especially in the areas of dynamics and soundscaping. The un-cooked cables sounded good almost from the start, and definitely better than the fully cable-cooked examples. I don't know how Paul Kaplan achieves this result, but it is another great benefit to listeners.

Paul also uses a proprietary "tuning" technology that he prefers not to discuss in detail. For the user, this feature is manifested simply by directionality. Many cables, of course, call for directionality, typically indicated by arrows on the cable pointing to the proper orientation. So there is no unusual burden on the user; simply pay attention to the proper direction of signal flow. These cables normally come in an attractive "graphite" color. But other colors can be requested. Paul also keeps beige sleeve material in stock.

 

A Few Points About Waveform Fidelity Cables
Waveform Fidelity CablesGS III Power Cords ($1595 for 5 foot + $200 per added foot)
Originally, the Kaplan power cords were tuned to specific applications with numeric ratings from 1 to 6. The most common numbers were "2" for preamps and most sources, and "4" for power amplifiers. That range of choices was confusing to me, and I suspect to other potential customers as well. Paul has now simplified matters. The new Waveform Fidelity GS III power cords are available as "Src" (roughly equivalent to the old "2") or "HC" (equivalent to the old "4", recommended for amplifiers and power conditioners). These power cords are available with 15 or 20 Ampere IECs as well as Neutrik Powercons.

GS III Speaker Cables ($2495 for 8 foot pair + $200 per added foot)
Paul Kaplan told me that he had listened for months to virtually every available speaker cable termination before settling on a specific combination: DH Labs' best banana plugs at the amplifier end and WBT NextGen copper spade lugs at the speaker end. Initially I was concerned about that, because the input terminals of my Analysis speakers are quite large. I asked Paul if he could reverse those terminations to put the spade lugs at the amplifier and the banana plugs at the speakers. Paul reluctantly agreed, but as he was waiting for parts to build my custom cables he sent me a pair with the recommended configuration to see if I could use them temporarily. It turned out well, because the WBT spades are large enough to accommodate my Analysis inputs, so I now have two pairs of these in my vertically bi-amp'ed system.

Interconnects ($1495 for 1 meter pair + $300 per added meter RCA or XLR)
Unlike many cable lines, the Waveform Fidelity interconnects price the balanced XLR version the same as the RCA-terminated version. The two versions use the same shielded but highly flexible cabling. With the selection of a new modified RCA connector that is sonically equal to the already modified Neutrik XLR, the two versions can be said to truly "speak with one voice."

 

Associated Equipment
I took about three weeks to connect my system fully with the Waveform Fidelity cables. I started with the new GS III power cords. There were already several of them in use, and I have already mentioned that I had replaced my old Bybee power cords; but I had acquired a JPS Aluminata power cord is which, which I was using from the wall to the input of my power conditioner. It has the same virtues as the JPS interconnects – notably, total RFI suppression – but also the same heavy weight and inflexibility. The new GS III power cable was sonically its equal in every way, and equally RFI-free, but was much easier to work with.

I next installed the interconnects. All but one of these were single-ended RCA: a phono cable from the output jacks of my VPI Aires 3 turntable to the inputs of my Ray Samuels XR-10b phono stage; from my Modwright/Denon 3910 all-format disc player and JoLida tubed tuner to my preamplifier. (This amazing preamp begins life as a modest JoLida Fusion, but has been modified extensively by Wells Audio with Bybee Music Rails and his best AC purifies, and fabulous NOS tubes. The result is the best-sounding preamplifier I have ever heard. It decisively outperforms my previous VTL TL 750 Series II, which I have now sold. I have not reviewed the new preamp because it is custom-modified rather than a standard offering, but it is a remarkable achievement.) RCA interconnects also connect the preamplifier to my two Wells Audio Innamorata power amplifiers, in a passive vertically bi-amp'ed configuration. (I reviewed this amplifier in our September issue; a follow-up review of the bi-amp'ed configuration appears in this issue.) One pair of XLR interconnects links the phono stage to the preamp.

Finally, after I had spent a while evaluating the interconnects, I added two pairs of the GS III speaker cables to my beloved Analysis Amphitryon planar/ribbon dipoles. At this point the entire system is connected with Waveform Fidelity cables.

 

Listening To Waveform Fidelity
Making critical judgments is complicated in this case because I have made many major changes in my system in recent months. My Denon/ModWright player has recently been upgraded with incredible new 6900 output tubes, as well as a NOS 5AR4 rectifier tube, and as a result this seven-year-old player is better than ever, and competitive with much more expensive digital gear. I recently upgraded my phono cartridge from the superb Dynavector XV-1s to the Steinmusic Aventurim 6 (review in process). The new preamp I described above has made a huge improvement in my sound, and my listing room has reached a new level of excellence with IPC room treatments (review in progress). And the change to a passively vertical bi-amp'ed system has been revelatory. Many of the comparisons to my former cabling were made prior to most of these changes, which has allowed me to isolate more reliably the sonic differences related to the cabling.

The major comparison here is the Waveform Fidelity interconnects versus the JPS Aluminatas. I have already mentioned the user-friendly lightness and flexibility of the Waveforms compared to the difficulties of using the heavy, inflexible JPS. But after listening carefully, I can say that the Waveform Fidelity interconnects are more to my liking sonically as well. The sound is beautifully balanced from bass to the upper registers – no edginess, nothing that distracts attention from the music. The system's imaging and soundscaping, which was already excellent with the JPS interconnects, is now even more precise in locating specific instruments within an orchestra or laying out a chamber group.

Switching over from the JPS Superconductor 3 speaker cables to the Waveform Fidelity GS III speaker cables simply extended the virtues I had already assigned to the new interconnects. The major change from this step was an improvement in spatial resolution: imaging became even more precise, and the soundscape became both wider and deeper. After my stroke in September 2012, when I came home I was confined to a wheelchair for quite a while. I had to have my speakers moved closer together to let me get past my left-channel loudspeaker into my office. That had originally narrowed the size of the soundscape. But now it is as wide as ever. This is perhaps the most surprising improvement I hear from the GS III speaker cables.

A few examples will illustrate this point. Two of my favorite orchestral recordings are the Mahler First Symphony with Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra on Channel Classics and the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances with Valery Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra on LS0 Live. The Mahler is recorded with a mid-to-rear-hall perspective, whereas the Rachmaninoff is much more close-up. Those different approaches are immediately evident now. The augmented Emerson Quartet playing the Tchaikovsky Souvenir of Florence and the string sextet's version of Schoenberg's Transfigured Night places the players firmly across the soundscape. (I heard this same program live last season, and now when I listen with eyes closed it's as if I have the best seat in the house!)

Unnatural recordings are ruthlessly exposed. The new Sony release of Lang Lang playing the Prokofiev and Bartok Third Piano Concertos gives us a piano so spotlighted that it practically drowns out the Berlin Philharmonic! Spotlighting the soloist is not unusual, unfortunately, but this is a particularly annoying example. A much better example of recording a concerto is Isabelle Faust playing the Bartok Violin Concertos with conductor Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra on harmonia mundi. These wonderfully intense performances locate the violin very plausibly against the orchestra – a very convincing recorded perspective. The GS III speaker cables make such differences more clearly audible than I was able to hear previously.

I can cite numerous other examples. The luminous vocal simplicity of Iris DeMent surrounded naturally by acoustic players on Sing the Delta. The great jazz singing and piano of Patricia Barber on The Cole Porter Mix. ON company information an endless series of recordings in different genres I feel time after time that is like experiencing a recording virtually for the first time.

 

Conclusion
Ultimately, the best thing I can say about the Waveform Fidelity cables is that I just don’t think about them when I am listening to music. During these last weeks I have had to remind myself that I'm supposed to be evaluating them for review purposes. With all of the other improvements I have made to my system this year, these cables are a crowning touch. I will be writing about some of the other things that have contributed to the improvement, but I believe that the Waveform Fidelity cables have allowed all those other improvements to be realized fully. I have already revealed the punchline here, but to restate it, I give these superb cables my highest recommendation.

 

Specifications
Type: Interconnect, speaker and power cables
Warranty: 5 years

Prices:
GS III interconnects $1495 for 1 meter pair +$300 per added meter
GS III speaker cables $2495 for 8 foot pair + $200 per added foot
GS III power cords $1595 for 5 foot + $200 per added foot

 

Company Information
Waveform Fidelity
933 President Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Voice: (718) 789-8224
E-mail: info@waveformfidelity.com
Website: www.WaveformFidelity.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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