For some time now I have been tweaking my 2 channel system to try and get the most from it. By adding items such as Mapleshade brass footers under all the gear, and upgrading to Pangea power cords on the Wadia, DAC, SACD, pre, and power conditioner, the sound was very good. At least to me. Each item made a noticeable improvement. However, as we all know, there is always improvements to be had.
What I am trying to do is get the maximum performance from my current electronics and speakers before I start thinking about replacing any of that gear. After doing the previous tweaks I was ready to think about the ICs. I upgraded the speaker wire within the last year, along with the digital IC between the Wadia and DAC. However, I was still using the Kimber Kable Hero XLR ICs I purchased when I first bought the gear. I guess the pre and the first amp are around 2-3 years old now. Time flies!
Anyway, the analog ICs seemed like a good candidate to upgrade, so the question was what vendor to buy. There seems to be quite a large selection of cable vendors out there. That indicates there really is something positive occurring with cables, but the problem is I do not have the money to experiment with every brand to find what works the best.
However, thanks to reading CP, and doing other research, I decided to at least start with MIT, since they always seem to get good press. The problem with MIT is they have so many models at various prices it was semi-difficult to decide at what point I wanted to bankrupt myself. After some mental gymnastics I went with the Shotgun S1.3 balanced IC. Since I needed 3 sets (SACD to pre, DAC to pre, pre to amps) the 1.3 seemed to be high enough up the cable chain to be an improvement, but only caused a few days of anguish after deciding to spend the money. From a price perspective, they fit in good with the other gear.
Well, after installing them last night, my buyer’s remorse is fading, and I am happier and happier. Right from the beginning they were better than the Heros, and an improvement in bass was readily apparent. I mostly listen to classical, and I was surprised at the new sounds I was hearing at the low end. I also noticed an improvement in bass when I did the speaker cable upgrade earlier, but this was an even better improvement.
The biggest improvement I am now hearing is the sound stage has become wider, and more detailed. One thing I always noticed with the KK Heros was that while the sound was clear and detailed, the soundstage was mostly defined between the speakers. It opened up on some CDs, but by and large was clearly between the speakers. I always attributed that to the recording of the CD, but not anymore.
While listening last night, the sound stage literally opened up before me. It was so cool I was laughing with pleasure. I could not believe it. Right before me it expanded! While the music is still centered between the speakers, the sound expanded out and now includes the speakers. I couldn’t believe it. The Heros were constricting the sound stage.
Once again, at least for me, I have heard how cables make a difference.
If the bass improvement was the only thing resulting from the Shotguns I probably would have felt my money was wasted. However, the ever widening sound stage has made the purchase justifiable. In fact, I think I am going to get the matching S1.3 speaker cable. If it works together with the ICs and adds another improvement to the sound it will be a worthwhile investment, but at the moment the Omega Mikro Planar 1 speaker cable is doing great with these ICs.
Two thumbs up for MIT Shotgun S1.3 balanced ICs.
Of course, no review is worthwhile without the negative side, and these MITs do have a downside (other than price). My only dislike so far is the boxes containing the passive electronics. While certainly necessary, the way the cables came together all the boxes are directly behind the preamp. This prevented me from being able to push the rack closer to the wall. As I was moving the rack back in place I saw the preamp moving forward out the front. So, I ended up with the rack a few inches further into the room. Not a big deal, but something.
The other drawback to the boxes is they put a strain on the XLR connections since they are hanging in the air. My temporary work around was to try and provide a strain relief by using the twist-its I have saved over the year, and attached the MITs to other cables. Unfortunately, the only cables available to use were the power cables! This provides some strain relief, but I need to come up with a better solution. Hopefully, the insulation in the Pangea power cable, and the XLR design minimize any interference. It certainly sounds okay.
iPod Classic – Apple lossless files
CIAudio VDC9 power supply upgrade for Wadia
Mapleshade digital IC
Sony XA5400ES SACD/CD
Cambridge-Audio 840E pre-amp
Cambridge-Audio 840W amp – 2 amps in bridged mono @ 800W/ch into 4 ohms
Panamax M5300-EX power conditioner
PSB Synchrony One tower speakers, 4 ohm
MIT S1.3 Shotgun, balanced
Omega-Mikro Planar 1 speaker cable
Pangea AC9 on power conditioner
Pangea AC14SE on Wadia, SACD, DAC, and pre
Mapleshade brass footers under all gear
Mapleshade 4” maple speaker platform with carpet piercing brass feet.