Resolution Audio Cantata Music Center
One of the absolute best digital front ends, Resolution Audio’s Cantata one-box CD player (actually, all-purpose music center with USB, Ethernet, and Toslink/AES/Coaxial digital inputs built in) has just been upgraded to the 3.0 model. It comes with an analogue input to take a line from an external phono stage — and sometime early in 2018 there will be an available built-in MC phono stage as an option.
Like the 2.0, its remarkable overall resolution may come as a pleasant shock to those coming to a Cantata for the first time and who may be used to the sound of traditionally warm and solicitous DACs. The air around instruments and voices is simply not thick: there is no humidity: there is none of the added harmonic enrichment some of us are accustomed to. On first hearing in my system and on my second best amplifier, the Blue Circle NSP (NSL unavailable at the moment), the 3.0 has a stronger and better defined low end, though the 2.0 was certainly no slouch in that regard. There is also an improved sense of spatial definition. I’ll follow up on these initial observations when my reference amp is back, but I’ll have to say, my NSP sounds dramatically better with the 3.0 — it’s as if it has cleared its throat! My overall first impression of the new unit is that as with the arrival of the Black Jack power cord, everything sounds better overall — and overall better is hard to itemize! Let’s just say for now that the 2.0’s high resolution is now less conspicuous and more natural sounding, which is what usually happens when true resolution goes up.
My first impression of the 2.0 when it arrived was that it gave my system(s) lips. The 3.0 reaffirms that impression. Music leaps out of the speakers in all of its natural detail. Instruments in the back row are as clear as the soloists up front: not unrealistically projected forward, just clearly located. Those who prize verisimilitude above all else and who already value the Cantata will love the 3.0.
As many of us have learned, the Cantata goes wonderfully well with all manner of electronics and speakers — in my house with Blue Circle, Audio Note, JM Reynaud, and Tocaro. It brings a change of audio climate. To give some of you a reference, it amplifies the effects that Crimson cable brings. Price of the 3.0 is $9500. Cantata 2.0’s are still available at $6500 and can be upgraded to 3.0’s by the factory without going through dealers for $3000, roughly the difference in price between a 2.0 and 3.0.
Bob I just received the Cantata 3.0 and Black Jack cord. Out of the box and with less than one hour of warm-up I very impressed with the upgrade! Bass is a lot more articulated, noise background is much lower allowing to pick up a lot more micro information: I can clearly hear the pedal/damper coming down on piano cords, harmonics on chords, I can hear the bow changing direction with string instruments. Huge progress with the spatial staging of large groups and orchestra as well. Can’t wait for the unit to go through break-in! Unfortunately I had to go back to work and let it enjoy Bach integral organ’s work Thanks, Nicolas V. Austin, Texas.
Resolution Audio Black Jack AC power cord
Most of us have wandered through the jungle of after-market power cords, learning at least something of the nature of the beast from the experience. Over the years I have been seduced by the lush, the rich ‘n’ romantic, the vividly transparent, the subtly seductive, and the testosterone enriched. What they all had in common was that, in addition to costing a lot of money, they changed the sound, which was, as you might expect, an unevenly mixed blessing. Anything that changes my system into something else wears out its welcome fast. And so, all of these cables eventually gave way to the plain and simple Volex cable at $5@, which unlike the competition does wonderfully nothing. Every cord I’ve had before the Volex cable changed the sound of my system, presumably to suit its designer’s taste. After all of these, the ultra-modest Volex felt like delivery from The Beast.
So it was with great reluctance that I accepted the invitation of Resolution Audio’s Steve Huntley to try out his own, hand-made Black Jack cord, designed expressly for the company’s Cantata. I have no idea what this cord sounds like on other components from RA or anyone else and am reluctant to find out because if it does for them what it does for the already superb Cantata, I’ll have to spend more money than I want to. What I hear from the Cantata with the Black Jack connected to it is mainly more full-blooded musical life and energy but without affectation. By which I mean that the Black Jack does not change the sound of the Cantata: it simply makes it a dramatically better version of what it already is. The cable adds greater body and increased energy to the Cantata’s exemplary clarity and speed. The Cantata is still fine without the Black Jack, but I can’t imagine now owning one without this pipeline to ‘the heart of the matter.’ It should probably come stock with the Cantata giving the unit an appropriately higher price. No Cantata owner should be without one.
By extension, I should also say that it has enhanced my opinions of all of my speakers connected to the Cantata, the Tocaro 40’s in particular. They are fascinating speakers without it, terrific with it. They have become positively sexy.
Five foot Black Jack, $895. Seven footer, $1245.