The “MAC” Daddy Of Cables ?
One day my friendly postman left a parcel at my front door from Mac Cables (My Audio Cables). At the time, looking at the box didn’t seem so intimidating, but after opening it and discovering three pairs of interconnects, two power cords, and a set of speaker cables, all from the same company but all different models with all different construction and materials and therefore all different sound qualites, I thought this would be a daunting task, but hey, this is Stereomojo! Upward and onward!
Here is an inventory of the cables I received:
1) 3’ pair UltraSilver+ Sound Pipes IC $179
2) 6’ pair UltraSilver+ Sound Pipes IC $254
3) 3’ pair Palladium Sound Pipes IC $429
4) Two 6’ HC Sound Pipes PC $189 ea.
5) 8’ CuQ10 Sound Pipes SC $349 pr.
My Audio Cables was founded by Steve Hallick as an alternative to the high price cables, but not cutting costs with inferior materials.
From their website:
“MAC wire is selected
through many hours of R&D
Selection criteria: How they sound
NOT what they cost!”
Mac’s website says their cables require 100 hrs of burn in but the paperwork I received with the cables says they will need 50 hrs. to start to sound ok and 200 hrs. to settle in right.
As is our policy, I asked the designer Steve Hallick some questions about his products:
MB: “What are your design goals for your cables?”
SH: “Keeping things as simple as possible. Over-engineering tends to complicate
MB: “When you first started designing your cables, did you have another brand as
a model for your sound?”
SH: “I have a system with Siltech Classics that is mind blowing.”
MB: “In the price range that you sell your cables, who do you consider your major
SH: “I consider everyone my competitor. I do not make my cables to address a
Particular price point, Mac is the real deal. Mac does not make ‘cheap’ cables,
We compete with everyone. Mac makes cables that other manufacturers make
Female Vocals, Orchestral, Male Vocals, pop and Jazz
1) Kari Bremnes – My Heart Is Pounding Like A Hammer
2) Katie Melua – Piece By Piece
3) Andre’ Previn – Stars Fell On Alabama (Old Friends – Telarc)
4) Vienna Teng – Eric’s Song
5) 1st Pirates Of The Caribbean soundtrack – Barbossa is Hungry
6) Brian Bromberg – Freedom Jazz Dance
7) Amos Lee – Dreamin’
8) Art Pepper – Over the Rainbow
Power cord - Nice looking, appears to be of quality build, very flexible. The connectors fit very tight for a great connection.
Interconnects - Nice looking, very flexible, construction also appears to be of good quality but make sure you grab by the connectors as the cables appear to be a little delicate.
When I first connected the interconnects, there was a tight fit on my preamp but loose fit on the power amp and dac and after a lot of changing cables in and out the fit on the preamp has become loose. Perhaps it might be better to opt for an upgraded connector.
The interconnects are not directional but one end is marked so you can keep the connection consistent when swapping cables.
Speaker cable - Heavy, nice construction, nothing to set them apart appearance wise. While not super stiff, they are not in the same ballpark as the interconnects and power cords as far as flexibility.
To begin, I think it is very important that I lay down what I consider important (Marvin’s Law) when I listen to music on a stereo system.
In no particular order:
After the above three, I then get into soundstage, imaging, detail, dynamics, frequency extension, build quality and perhaps even eye candy appeal. If a component is seriously off in one or more of the “BIG THREE”, the product probably will not do well in a review from me.
As always with any review (even ours), please take this review for what it is and use your own ears.
Remember, this is based on my system in my room and my ears and preferences.
With so many options and variables, I decided to start with the Mac power cords. The first change was to swap the Mac onto my Usher R-1.5 power amp. The connections were tight at both the amp and wall ends. The first thing I noticed was that the pace of the music slowed and as this violates one of my three laws. There was also a muffling of the upper bass/lower midrange that bothered me because it robbed the midrange of some detail. I was about ready to put the power cables to the side and move on.
Tonality was very good when there was little bass in the music material.
The soundstage was a little recessed and not as big as what I am used to. Imagery was good. Dynamics were not as good as my reference cords. The sound, while smooth, was lacking life which I think is caused by the pace issue.
So back in went the reference cord and on to trying the Mac on the Belles pre. Everything as noted when the Mac was on the Usher remained the same, except the pace was normal, the upper bass/lower midrange muffled sound was gone. The only negative was now I was missing low end bass extension. Demo cuts used were:Kari Bremnes, Vienna Teng, Pirates soundtrack, Brian Bromberg and Amos Lee.
I contacted Steve about what I heard and he thought maybe they needed some more burn in. They did improve some with extra burn in, but the pace and muffled issues still remained to an extent. So back to reference power cords.
I then proceeded to replace the Straley speaker cables ($250.00 for an 8 foot pr) with the Mac CuQ10’s ($349 8' pr). The bass was rock solid with good pace and I liked the attack. There seemed to be more bass extension than the Straleys, but upon further listening the Mac had more bass output, but the Straley’s went just as low with tighter bass. Because of this greater bass output, some details in the midrange were masked. The frequency range was balanced, but as I said, slightly tilted towards the lower frequencies. The highs seemed a little recessed compared to the midrange.
Demo cuts used:Kari Bremnes, Katie Melua, Pirates soundtrack, Brian Bromberg, Art Pepper
With the power and speakers cables out of the way, back to trying the interconnects in the reference system.
Subbing in the Mac UltraSliver+ ($179) between the Ack and Belles, the background was not as dark as the Audio Arts ($84.95). The pace was good as was the bass, but I would prefer for it to be a little tighter. Female/male vocals were well balanced and natural sounding overall, sometimes leaning towards a little shrillness. The dynamics seem a little “controlled”, which robs some of the emotion from the music. Tone was right on. Demo cuts used: Vienna Teng, Pirates soundtrack, Amos Lee, Art Pepper
nserting the Mac Palladium IC's ($429) between dac and preamp, the emotion is back! Pace is there with great clean tight bass. There is a better 3D soundstage, the soundstage just opens up. The sound is balanced and there is no shrillness in the upper registers. The dynamics are much improved but pehaps a little dimenished on piano recordings. The Palladiums are very musical, giving me the impression that I could listen all day. From here on, I decided to keep the Palladiums on the source. Demo cuts used: Vienna Teng, Pirates soundtrack, Amos Lee, Art Pepper
Putting the UltraSilvers+ between preamp and power amp, shrillness is gone but I think this is due to the fact that the Audio Art ic-3’s are a little rolled off in the highs. Dynamics are much better but still not on par with mythe Grovers ($140 pr). Some details do not come through such as the piano pedals on demo cut #4. The pedal sounds are there but not as pronounced.
Leaving the UltraSilver+ between the pre and amp, I put the UltraSilver+ also between dac and pre. The shrillness was re-introduced and the reduced dynamics were apparent. This particularly shows up on piano.
Putting in the Palladiums, I had the same improvements as when I put them into the reference system. Makes me wonder what the sound would be if I had all Palladiums in the system.
The Mac Attack
This is the full Mac attack as I placed Palladuims between the dac and pre, UltraSilver+ between pre and power amp, Mac power and speaker cables. I decided not to try the Mac UltraSilvers between the dac and pre because of the shrillness and dynamics issues.
The first thing I noticed was that the tempo was a little slow which just grates on me. After doing a few changes I narrowed the cause down to the power cords, so I put my reference power cords back in.
The sound with this combination is very relaxing and balanced, but I still can’t help but wonder how much more enjoyable the sound would be with all Palladium interconnects.
The soundstage is wide with good depth. Instruments are spread across the stage with the proper amount of air surrounding them coming from a quiet background. I would like to get back to the balanced/relaxed sound. Listening to the Andre Previn demo cut just made me imagine sitting there in my chair with a good bottle of wine, no shrillness here. Tonality on female/male vocals and instruments were very natural with good pace on transients and overall tempo made for a great listen. The only slight negative was the speaker cables with their frequency being tilted toward the lower end for a little bass heaviness. Demo cuts used: All
As Mac offers a thirty day trial period, I will repeat, “these recommendations are for my system and ears". You may come to totally different conclusions.
I would not use the Mac HC power cords in my system because of the slowing of tempo and the slight muffling of the upper bass and lower midrange. I would not use the UltraSilver+ in my system because of the shrillness and limit on dynamics, especially connected to the source. It did do better between the preamp and amp, and never in both locations. I’m going to stick with my reference cables.
I could live with the Mac CuQ10 speaker cables, but because of the slight emphasis in the bass region, these will probably be preferred by bass rockers or if you feel your system is a little lean sounding.
I like these Palladiums a lot. The best way to describe my feelings is through word association; Musical, Balanced, Tuneful, Three dimensional, Enjoyable
Steve Hallick 516-557-9172