Mark Hampton is a genius in the field of audio cables. It only took me a few minutes to find out what Mark was all about in the cable world. He is about making it sound as good as he can, the least expensive way that he can. I slipped in a pair of the Live interconnects into my system (replacing my Transparent Audio Ultra) and the Ultras never made it back into my system. I was astounded. Having auditioned the best that Transparent had to offer in my system, the Z-cable beat it hands down. I have listened to alot of systems and cables and have always felt something was missing in my own system. The Z-cable was the answer. These cables (to include the Passion speaker cables) fully integrated my system and was the synergy I needed. The bass was astounding and he midrange just sang. After replacing all of my cables (all were Transparent Audio Ultra to include power cables and speaker cables), I just put the Transparents up for sale. It was the best thing I have ever done to upgrade my system. For such a small investment, my stereo could easily match those costing twice as much (and believe me, I have heard them)
Thanks for you introduction to the audio world Mark. You are truely an asset to the two channel fraternity
I was hesitating to post a review here. What can the 32nd reviewer say that has not been said yet? Not much really. Probably I can summerize by saying that all the positive things that the others said about the Zcable Live 5 are true.
I bought this cable about 6 months ago, and I was surprized how much better it was that any other cable I had tried. When you compare two cable you may prefer the clarity that one offers, but you prefer the other for its bass. You may like the sound of a piano through one, but you would use the other for vocals. In the case of Live 5, there isn’t a single instrument, genre of music or a sonic quality that I would prefer on any other cable.
I have always been a cable fan, but I had never thought that a cable can make that large a difference compared to already good cables. In fact, it is so good that it makes you wonder if Zcable company’s order books are full for the coming several years and you may not be able to get a second pair. Also makes you wonder how many other companies can sell any cable at all. Obviously people buying those have not heard the Live 5. I can strongly recommend the Live 5 to anybody looking for interconnects for $500-$1000. There is a 30 day money back policy on the cables if you don’t like them, but I doubt that anybody has ever sent a pair back.
I am saving up for a second pair...
You will seriously think about changing all your cables to Zcable, and changing cables cost money...
Just for the record, my equipment:
Accuphase DP-75V CD player
Accuphase C-275 preamp
Accuphase A-50 amp
PMC FB1 speakers with fully rebuilt crossover and internal wiring
Interconnects: Zcable Live 5, Aural Symphonics AS-One Gen 5
Speaker cable: Wire World Eclipse III and Audioquest Bedrock (internal)
Harmonix Studio Master, AET GAIA, DIVAS, S/A Lab power cables
Daruma Final 3 II and Superspike insulators, etc.
This review is for the ZCable Live Ref 1 interconnect, the mega buck version of ZCable's popular Live v.5. For those with revealing systems, where the perceived differences between cables are audibly huge, then try this cable. Try it early in your search and save yourself a lot of time. The ZCable Live Ref 1 is the only cable I have heard that gets detail extraction, dynamics, tonal balance and noise floor right, all at the same time. I searched 8 months to find a cable that is capable of passing on the magic from my Walker Reference phono stage without screwing up the sound. I know what the Walker is capable of because I've heard it at Lloyd's place sourced from his own Proscenium Gold turntable and a $10,000 cartridge - some seriously refined magic occurs in Lloyd's living room on a regular basis. He uses Omega Mikro ribbon interconnect, a bit too tweaky and fragile for my real world system which has to contend with omnipresent familial hazards. I listened to many cost no object cables reported to be contenders, including Nordost Valhalla, Stereovox, Synergistic DR Squared Active X, Nirvana SX Ltd., Kimber KCAG. They were all good, but they each did something different to the sound. At this price point the compromise was too great for me to live with and I sent them all back. Enter the Live Ref 1. The balance and extension grabs the room right out of the box. They didn't sound stuffy, or anemic, or rolled off. Very low noise floor immediately apparent, as were dynamics and a sense of transient speed. Promising, I thought, given some break-in time. Was that ever an understatement. After breaking in for 200-300 hours, the midrange and treble integrated better, the front to back soundstage really developed and the bass snap, resonance and pitch resolution came in last. To my ear at least, they don't do any thing wrong. Perhaps I'll notice something with time, but these cables are so far beyond the competition I'm not sure it would even matter. Initially, I was just considering a single pair for my analog source. Then I tried a second pair on my Wadia 27ix DAC. Dang! These things even made the digital sound better - and they did it without rolling off the high end. The best cable I'd found for digital previously was the Transparent Reference XL which has a filter network for blocking high frequency PCM quantization noise. With the Live Ref 1's, I was still aware of listining to PCM digital, but the experience was much more involving and complete. These cables come with Ultra Z Sleeves, a MU metal casing that both sheilds from RF and improves propogation speed of the signal. Very cool. A shield that does not have to be grounded and therefore does not raise IC capacitance. The sleeves are a must have, and can also be used on non-ZCable wire. The change they make is not subtle. The owner, Mark Hampton, is a true technical expert who willingly talks as long as it takes to answer your questions. He takes the time to understand what you are looking for and helps you to find answers. A true gentleman and exceedingly helpful. Mark offers a money back 30 day guarantee, as he puts it "even if you don't like the color." His cables are so good, I'll bet he hasn't gotten many back. I've had people ask me how these compare to the Live v. 5. Frankly, I don't know - havn't heard the v.5. I learned a long time ago that gradually stepping up through a high end audio product line costs more money in the long run. If the designer's hear a difference, then ultimately most customers will too, that's how it works. I told Mark about my system and asked for his recommendation. He recommended the mega buck stuff - go figure. I can't take them out, not even yet to swap out the upgraded Z Sleeves he sent. They are that good. Thanks Mark! Good Luck. Superb Product.
This cable is superb: it does nothing to detract from the purity of the music nor does it add anything to it. Furthermore, it is backed up by Mark Hampton who is as committed to the contentment of his customers as he is to the quality of his products.
Last fall my system consisted of Coincident Total Victory speakers, Bryston 7B-SST monoblocks, Placette Active Line Stage, Sony XA777ES cd-sacd player heavily modded by EVS, (original)Hydra line conditioner with Elrod Statement power cord, 4 Elrod Signature power cords, Acoustic Zen Hologram speaker wires, ZCable live v.4 ics, maple platforms and other ioslation, FIM wall outlet, and Walker Audio Vivid and black pen cd treatment. I know this was not the best system on the planet, but I considered it a very good and highly resolving one, and I greatly enjoyed listening to music on it (mostly pop and rock from the past 4 decades, some jazz and world music, especially lots of drums and percussion, and Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and a few other reggae artists.
Although I considered myself extremely fortunate to have such a great-sounding system, of course I was not completely satisfied. )Even if I could snap my fingers and have the actual musicians of any cd perform in my room, I am sure I would find something that could be better.) (: Having read a couple of very positive things about ZCable's ZSleeves, I decided to give Mark Hampton a call to solicit his opinion as to whether upgrading to the Live v.5 ics, or adding ZSleeves to the v.4s, would give me the most bang for the buck. Little did I know what I was getting into! Mark informed me that he would soon be coming out with a much better (albeit much more expensive) ic, the Ref1, that would give me substantially greater improvement than the options I was considering.
I had no intention of spending that much money, but after thinking the matter over, I decided--given the 30-home trial--to see just how much of a change the Ref1 ics would make in my system. To justify the price increase, they would have to make a truly major improvent in my system.
They did. I was amazed by the additional transparency and detail, and knew I would be frustrated if I had to remove them from my system.
Little did I know that this was only the beginning. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that if I am going to make an upgrade in my system, I want to get the best I can possibly afford, rather than regretting that I did not do this at the outset, and instead have to sell what I have before purchasing the upgrade that I wish I would have gotten in the first place.
So after Mark sent me 2 Ultra ZSleeves for the ics, and there was a very noticable additional improvement, I had to order two more Ultras for each of my speaker cables, and another pair for the power supply cord for the Placette. And of course I just had to try ZCable's new, and best power cord, the Cyclones, on my monoblocks. Again, there was such a significant improvement that I ordered two more, for my source and line stage. I continued to be amazed by still more improvement!
Finally (and I do hope that this is indeed it for a while--is there no end to this madness?!--upon Mark's suggestion I tried the relatively new B.P.T. 3.5 line conditioner (of course with my fifth Cyclone power cord), and my system was taken to yet another level.
About a decade ago, when I first started all of this, I had a receiver, radio-shack quality and priced cables, an equipment rack that was very wobbly, etc. I knew virtually nothing about this hobby, and all of the things that can improve sound and enhance music enjoyment. Since then, I have made perhaps twenty different upgrades that have resulted in either very noticeable, or downright huge, improvements in my system. But by last October, I simply assumed that my system was probably pretty close to as good as it was going to get.
I had no idea at that time that 6 months later I would be enjoying nothing less than a HUGE increase in transparency, body, presence, micro-detail, etc. Because I made quite a few changes in a fairly short period of time, it is somewhat difficult to sort out, or specify, just how much of the total improvement is due to one upgrade vs. another. But the improvements in each of these changes were very discernible indeed, and when I pull out a cd that I had not listened to since before last October, the improvement is simply shocking. I was already immensely enjoying listening to music on my system before I made all of these latest upgrades, but now my pleasure is substantially greater yet.
As with most other things, there is a great deal of subjectivity in what makes for great sound. I am describing, of course, only what I heard in my system in my room with the music that I like to play. And I would never have considered spending this kind of money if I did not have the option of returing all of these products if they did not make the kinds of improvements I have described.
I have not tried a large number of cords and cables, but have little desire to look futher. There is so much hyperbole in audio reviewing, but for me, the improvements I have recently gotten are, indeed, stunning.