New from Luxman, Premium Cables…

Luxman has just announced a new line of premium audio cables, the Flagship 15000 series.

There are three cables in the series, the JPR-15000 unbalanced, featuring RCA termination, the JPC-15000 balanced, with XLR termination, and the JPS-15000 speaker cable.

The interconnect cables feature 7-nines copper and high quality connectors, with the speaker cables featuring a higher current, larger diameter 7-nines copper conductors as well.

The 1.3m interconnects have an MSRP of $1,095, with the 3m speaker cables priced at $3,495, and are available now from your Luxman dealer. So whether you would like to keep your Luxman system “all Luxman,” or are just cable shopping, these are worthy of a listen. If the tonearm cable that came shipped with our PD-717 turntable is any indication of what to expect, these should be quite good.

Anthem’s STR Integrated Amplifier

It’s tough to get everything, but it’s a great feeling when you do.

Over the last few years, high performance integrated amplifiers keep increasing in popularity – and for good reason. Space is at a premium, and many music lovers just don’t want to buy a rack full of gear. As a master of justification, here’s my favorite reason to buy an Anthem STR: the cost of four mid-grade power cords from a legitimate cable company, and three sets of decent interconnects from the same will set you back more than the cost of an STR. And you still don’t have a damn stereo system! Yikes.

For $4,499 the STR gives you a great MM/MC phonostage, a high res DAC, fully functioning preamplifier, a 200 watt per channel power amplifier, and built in Anthem Room Correction (ARC), which is one of the best in the business. How awesome is that? One great power cord, a pair of speaker cables, your favorite turntable, should you be vinyl-inclined, a great pair of speakers and you’re rocking for under $10k. And should you up the budget a bit more to incorporate even better speakers, you’re rocking with the big boys.

So much fun, where to begin?

You’re either for or against room correction, depending on which doctrine you choose to follow. Purists can bypass ARC completely, choosing Anthem’s Analog Direct option. This will switch all ARC and bass management out of the system. However, you might want to consider just trying it, even if the idea of introducing something digital into the signal path makes you bristle. It’s great. Don’t tell your friends, don’t tell anyone that you’re secretly enjoying it. But it’s really good.

Those of you following the “I just want great sound, regardless of what it takes to get there” doctrine, follow me, this is easy. It was super easy for me, because Anthem’s always affable Rob Sample came over with his Windows laptop and set the Pro version of ARC up for me. There are three levels of ARC at your disposal, mobile (Android or iOS), automatic, and professional. ARC Mobile now works with both Android and iOS but you will need an external OTG USB adapter (not included) for Android phones. iOS devices don’t require the included mike, but you can connect the mike with a 3.5mm jack if you choose. Congratulations to Anthem for making this step.

The Pro version of ARC transformed my 13 x 15 foot listening room, sporting a pair of Raidho X-1s and a pair of REL T7i subwoofers beyond my ability to set them up, delivering a much cleaner midband, better low level detail, and smoother, more solid bass response. Impressive. Don’t shy away from ARC if you only have an iPhone, even the easy version gets you awfully close. I was impressed at just how well even the basic version of ARC works. This also made it incredibly easy to use with a number of other speakers at my disposal, and all delivered equally enticing results, to the point that I couldn’t imagine not using ARC.

You can store four separate speaker settings that you’ve run ARC on. You may not need this one, but it sure made this review easy! The STR allows you to run in single or stereo subwoofer mode, instructing ARC accordingly. Because the REL subs work as an extension of your main speakers, I just ran ARC with no sub in the mix with excellent results. However should you be running a MartinLogan, Paradigm, JL or other subwoofer that runs on a line level input, I suggest going right into the amplifier.

Finally, the STR has the best user manual ever. Especially for a device this complicated. No matter how much you resist reading owners manuals, I can’t stress reading this one highly enough, especially if you want to use your STR to the full extent of its capabilities.


Unlike a number of integrateds and preamplifiers, the STR offers separate MM and MC inputs, so in theory, you can use it with a pair of turntables, or a two-armed turntable – another example of forward thinking. The MM input offers 35db of gain with standard 47k loading and the MC 55db of gain with a 100 ohm load. This won’t accommodate every single MC out there, but it gives you more than enough choices.

The phono signal goes through the all analog RIAA filter and if you choose to use digital processing, it is then sampled and processed at 32bit/192khz resolution through the high quality, on-board ADC. For those that will freak out over their analog signal being digitized, merely select “no” in the “Convert Analog” menu option. Then it all stays analog. As all of the inputs are virtual, with up to 30 virtual inputs allowed, you can play with this to your hearts content, selecting between an MC analog and MC digital (or whatever you can think up) input to compare and contrast. Fun!

Having a pair of new Technics SL-1200s at my disposal, one sporting an Ortofon 2M Bronze and the other, a Hana SL MC, excellent performance was achieved with both inputs. The phonostage is quiet, dynamic, and dimensional. Pressed to making a comparison, it’s on par with anything external you’ll find in the $500 – $900 range. And remember, you don’t have to buy another pair of interconnects or a mains cable!!

As it is with a sports car, it is with an integrated amplifier. Balance is the key component. Anthem hasn’t made any sacrifices here, nor does any aspect of this amplifier feel like it was just added on, or thrown in to make it a “me-too” product.

Does digital equally well

The STRs built in DAC handles all files from standard CD resolution up to 24/192 via coax and 32/384 via usb, as well as DSD up to 5.6448mhz. Not being a DSD disciple, I really couldn’t test this part of the DAC, but the high resolution selections played, via Power Book Pro and Qobuz were fantastic. Two RCA S/PDIF inputs, optical, AES/EBU and USB inputs assure that you should be able to connect nearly anything digital with great success.

In addition to playing digital files via Mac Book, an older OPPO player was pulled into service to use strictly as a transport, via the RCA input. Again, this is a fantastic solution for those still having a collection of shiny discs that they would like to continue using. As with the phonostage, the DAC is not the last word in digital performance, but it is on par with everything else presented, making the STR such a great hub for your music, no matter how you need to play it.

Power equals versatility

There are a few integrateds out there that sound a little sweeter than the STR, but most of them are pretty wimpy. 30 watts per channel doesn’t get you far with speaker choices. The STR has a massive, class-AB 200 watt per channel power amplifier, with an enormous power supply and output stage to match.

With the MartinLogan Classic ESL 9s still here, these proved an incredible match for the STR, especially considering that at $6,495 a pair, they do not include built in room correction for the woofers. If you’ve got room for panels, this is a system that will give you such a huge helping of money no object sound, you’ll be amazed. Much more power hungry than the ESL 9s, my vintage Magnepan Tympani 1Ds also worked well with the STR, thanks to its beefy power amplifier stage. Regardless of speaker choice, there was always more than enough dynamic range on tap. At more reasonable levels, this extra power translates into effortless transients and great low level performance as well.

The details that round out the picture

Combining top class performance with incredible versatility is more than enough to justify the price asked for the STR, as well as all the rave reviews it’s been racking up from reviewers and end users all over the world.

But beyond this, nearly every function of the STR is customizable. Everything can be adjusted within the menus, and easily labeled so you can keep track. The individual levels of each input can also be set, so there are no surprises when switching from turntable to digital sources.

You will find the menus in the STR logical and straightforward. All menus can be accessed via the remote, which is tastefully stripped down. It has enough weight to feel substantial, yet is not so overcrowded with buttons as to cause an ADD related panic attack. Well done Anthem for not giving us a kids meal remote with such a nice product.

The friendliest integrated ever

Even if you never head down the analog path, the STR is incredibly versatile. If I were nitpicking, it would be really handy if they did include a streamer component – that’s the only thing keeping it from being 100% perfect. Our Naim Atom is a Roon Ready component and in a house and studio environment that gets all its music served thusly, it’s nice to have all components exist within one music data infrastructure. In all fairness, this wouldn’t stop me from purchasing an STR.

If you want an integrated amplifier that delivers major audiophile performance, sounds great, and offers major flexibility, this is the one you want. Designed and built in Canada, Anthem components have a long reputation for being rock solid, so if you do all the firmware updates, you just might be handing this one down to your kids.

And if your love of all things audiophile grow beyond the on- board capabilities of the DAC and phonostage, the STR alone without those two sections is still a value way beyond it’s $4,499 price tag, so should the upgrade bug hit you, this would certainly be the last component I’d replace in the chain. Even when driving speakers in the $20k-$30k range, the STR is not outclassed.

The Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier



Analog Sources           Technics SL-1200G, Technics SL-1200GR

Digital Sources                        OPPO 205 and MacBook Pro, Tidal and Qobuz OS

Speakers                     Pure Audio Project Horn15, Raidho X-1 w/2-REL t7i, MartinLogan ESL 9, Magnepan Tympani 1D, Quad 2812, Acoustat 1+1, Focal Sopra no.3, Klipsch Forte III

Cable                           Cardas Clear

Power                          PS Audio P20

White Lightning Speaker Cable by Nordost

Let’s just assume for a minute, you are of the mindset that premium cable makes a significant difference in how your system can sound. For today, if you aren’t with us, just move on. Your day will go easier, and no need to raise your blood pressure over this subject. Still with me?

It can be easy to lose sight of the cable option when bombarded by the cost of some of the mega items. Sure, Nordost’s Odin II speaker cables are crazy, insane money to a lot of us. So is a new Porsche 911GT2 RS. Even if you love the brand, a $300k 911 is probably out of reach. So if you head to your Porsche dealer and plunk down $55k on a new, basic Boxster, you’re still reaping the benefits of this high technology company every time you turn the key.

It’s the same way at Nordost. If you readjust your thinking and look at their top cable as their platform for technological advancement, you won’t freak out. Forget about that for now. And with my Darth Vader helmet/voice synthesizer on, I’m telling you that you probably don’t need a set of Odin 2 speaker cables just yet.

Hit by lightning
White Lightning, that is. About 400 bucks will get you a 2m pair of White Lightning speaker cables that are nice and flat like the Nordost Valhalla cables. These modestly priced speaker cables take full advantage of Nordost’s core technological prowess. The solid core, 4 9s copper conductors are sliver plated and covered with silver plating, utilizing Nordost’s “Mechanically tuned spacing” to keep said conductors at a constant width.  Terminated with any combination of spade or banana, they should work with anything in your system.

Considering the level of resolution these cables bring, I’d love to experience them with solid pin ends to try with a few of the vintage recievers in my collection. However, in the context of our vintage conrad-johnson PV12 and MV50 amplification chain, the Nordost cable performs brilliantly, as it does in the middle of our evaluation of the First Watt SIT-3 power amplifier.

Just as so many audio enthusiasts fall victim of using speakers that are too large for the listening room, and not getting the desired result, this happens all to often with cable. A disproportionate amount of the total system cost is spent on wire, and when the cables don’t transform the system into something it’s not capable of, the only conclusion is that cables suck.

A great place to hang your hat

Working with a few system options ranging from a few thousand dollars all the way up to about $20k, the White Lightning speaker cables perform very well. While they did not take me to a higher plane of existence, they do deliver a wonderfully clean window to the amplifier/speaker interface everywhere I used them. No discernable tonal alterations were present, with dynamics and soundstaging all great. One combination in particular that benefitted the best was the PrimaLuna ProLogue One and Klipsch Forte IIIs, with the Pure Audio Project Trio 15 Horns as alternate speakers.

For those not familiar, both of these speakers are incredibly efficient (101db/1watt, and 96db/1 watt, respectively) and tend to magnify anomalies in the high frequency range. The result with the White Lightning cables was dramatically better than anything else I’ve used that is comparably priced and could live happily ever after with these cables in that system.

Think clear

I’ve never really experienced or understood the claims of many internet pundits as to cables being “tone controls” to anywhere the extent described. What I have experienced is a level of clarity more often than not. A “good” cable to me, reveals more musical information, without damage to the electrical signal, or a disruption of tonal balance.

This is what I experienced with the Nordost White Lightning speaker cables. A marked jump in clarity, without a tipped up high frequency response, and a lack of graininess that often accompanies silver coated copper cables.

Tracking through a number of piano heavy pieces, really proved magical with the White Lightning cables, and a number of times, I thought the lack of resolution in the system was the amplification, it just proved to be the cables. I’d compare it to the difference you hear in good digital vs. mediocre digital. That kind of thing.

A great update

I’ve talked to so many audiophiles across the world that are looking for a modestly priced upgrade to their system. I can’t suggest the Nordost White Lightning speaker cables highly enough. If you’ve been to a Nordost dealer event, or hifi show demo, they put a pretty compelling argument for their cable that’s easy to hear.

And thanks to a wide dealer network, your chances to get your hands on a pair for a quick demo is very high. Test drive if you can, and that should seal the deal. I’m happy to give these one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2018.

The Nordost White Lightning Speaker Cables

$400/pair, 8 foot length, RCA or banana


Analog Source VPI Cliffwood table and Cliffwood Phono

Digital Source OPPO 205

Amplifier PASS INT-60, PSAudio Sprout 100, Conrad-johson PV12/MV50

Speakers Klipsch Forte III, JBL L-100, Focal Sopra no.3, Pure Audio Project Trio 15 Horn

Nordost Purple Flare USB

I’m an implementation junkie. I confess loving products that are well executed.

With so many garage builders entering the cable industry, with shoddily produced goods packaged like they came from a scout troop bake sale or estate sale, Nordost produces cable that feels great in your hands. And thanks to their extensive dealer network, they stand behind their products 110%. Having been in business for decades, should something ever happen to a Nordost product, it will be taken care of.

Cable is about sound, or actually a lack of it. The better the cable, the more the music gets through without harm, distortion or other complication. Other than Ethernet cable, there’s nothing the naysayers like to naysay more than USB cables. Yes, yes, yes, they are just bits. It shouldn’t matter what you use to transmit digital data. An $8 Best Buy cable sounds just as good as a $239 cable from a high-end manufacturer and we’re all just biased or brainwashed.

But it doesn’t

For years I’ve made fun of hifi reviewers mentioning how much their significant others like the sound of a pair of speakers or an amplifier. This time it’s me committing the unmentionable, self-indulgent sin. However, I do present a slightly different spin on this one. My wife, Pamela has jumped into the high end game with her Headphone Artsmagazine, and though a newcomer to the audio world, has spent a tremendous amount of time listening to a variety of different gear. She’s absorbed a lot, and has become fairly opinionated on what she likes and does not like.

Ever the trooper, she recently accompanied me to one of Nordost’s events being held by our friends at Audio/Vision San Francisco. Nordost’s Michael Marko always puts on a great demo and this one was good as ever. He starts with a basic USB DAC setup, and this time we were listening to music through a PrimaLuna HD integrated, an amplifier we are both intimately familiar with and a pair of small YG acoustics speakers.

Serving up tunes via a MacBook Pro running Roon and Tidal, the difference between the generic USB and Purple Flare is dramatic, one you don’t need to strain to hear. When Marko switches again to the equally purple, but $600 Frey 2 USB, an even more dramatic change in clarity occurs.

There have been numerous discussions on the web, as well as at hifi shows, by the worlds top cable designers as to why a well-designed USB presents a more coherent audio signal. It’s not just 1s and 0s. But this is another argument for another day. Leave this one for a long night, Google, and your favorite adult beverage.

Sometimes a cable is the best change

Regardless of what your system consists of, if you’re serving up tunes via laptop or other USB connected device, a premium USB cable between it and your DAC provides a nice, incremental upgrade. There’s nothing like a system refresh.

We tried both – using both a Mac Mini running Tidal and Roon, delivering digital signal to a Gryphon Kalliope DAC and an Aurender D100 server, via its USB audio output. Both benefitted from the Purple Flare, with the same result over a generic USB cable. We both noticed the same effects in three different areas

Background depth/noise level

When auditioning fairly sparse tracks, like the acoustic guitars featured in the jazz classic, Friday Night in San Francisco, you can instantly hear more space between the soloists, along with smoother, more defined decay after their fingers hit the strings. All classical selections ditto – a deeper, more quiet background makes for a greater feel of ambiance. And, you hear the difference more going back to the generic cable after you’ve listened to the good stuff. It’s unmistakable. Even our non audiophile friends that we subject to this kind of madness from time to time couldn’t define the effect in audiophile terms, but all made the same comment that “the music sounded more relaxing” with the Nordost cable in place. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Larger soundstage

This was another area that the non audiophiles picked up right away. The sound field painted by the system swelled in size in all three dimensions with the Purple Flare as the conduit. Stevie Nick’s voice in Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”feels almost buried in the mix with the generic cable, yet with the PF substituted, she now has a space of her own and comes out front and center. Great recordings feel larger and densely packed recordings open up more and are less fatiguing to listen to. Even my favorite live recording (and arguably one of the worst sounding records, ever) KISS-Alive! perks up when delivered via the PF. I wanted the best and I got it.

Grain reduction

Dealing with digital files can lead to a somewhat harsh and grainy experience. Again, going back to acoustic and sparse vocal tracks shows this off more quickly. Tracking through a lot of Blue Note jazz titles, piano and drums are cleaner, and reproduced with much less digital glare. Again, this translates to a more natural, less fatiguing sound. Even when we just used the PS Audio SPROUT 2 as our source, ($599 for those that aren’t familiar with this little marvel) and a pair of vintage JBL speakers, the effect of the PF is still right there.

Take one home and try it

As I’ve mentioned in past Nordost reviews, because they offer a wide sales network, you should be able to go to your Nordost dealer and get a convincing demo pretty quickly. You won’t have to strain to hear the difference with this one. I could ramble on and on, citing track after track. Get in the drivers seat and listen for yourself. The only advice I can give is to not audition the Frey 2, you might find yourself spending even more money on cable. Ha.

The Nordost Purple Flare USB


The Cardas Clear Beyond XL Power Cable

Never resting on their laurels, the Cardas team in Bandon, Oregon continues their quest to build the perfect power cord. The effort has resulted in their new flagship, the Clear Beyond XL.

After many years using Running Springs Audio Mongoose power cords – a Cardas-modified version of the Golden Reference – as my go-to power cords it takes little listening to determine the Clear Beyond XL offers a different sonic signature. XL takes its predecessors’ prowess to a new level. While Cardas’s classic “Golden” product line was designed purposely to take the sting out of some edgy-sounding components, the Clear line leans in the direction of maximum revelation. Their new power cord seeks to enable an open, transparent sound coupled with a silent background to help unearth low-level details in recordings.

On the outside, this cord offers some serious bling. The new Cardas E-5 connectors featuring solid copper plated with rhodium over silver, and a bluecover surrounding the internal conductors offers attractive looks. However, what’sinsidecounts most. According to Cardas, the XL continues its tradition of golden-ratio based, multi-conductor designs. The XL – as the name implies – scales up their Clear Beyond power cord with wider gauge wire [RJ1] to maximize current transfer. Near the wall plug end, Cardas built in a customized filter said to reduce electrical noise and maximize current delivery. Despite its hefty conductors, the XL is surprisingly flexible.

Since Cardas created the cord for high current delivery, during testing it found its temporary home connected to a Conrad-Johnson ART 150, the most power-thirsty component in my reference system. While I cannot speak for the cord’s impact on every component out there, it did make a significant difference in my system. Not only was there a bump up in resolution and refinement, but also the perceived soundstageextended outward left, right, front, and back. After a few days of listening to favorite tracks with the Clear Beyond XL in place, swapping in the older Mongoose power cord left me wanting for the XL’s return.

The Cardas Clear Beyond XL is easy to covet, and it does not come cheap. Prices start at about $2,000 for a half-meter version and increase from there depending on length and termination type. For some music fans, that financial commitment equates to an entire audio system. If you seek to get the most from a $500 amplifier – no – the XL will not magically convert that amp into a $10,000 component. That price-performance imbalance is akin to investing $2,000 in brand-new rims and tires on a $500 car. In a case like this, a more economical power cord option in the Cardas product lineup would offer a better match. Alternately, if you want to get the absolute best performance from a reference-level component and have the budget to splurge on the Cardas Clear Beyond XL power cord, you may find it a blessing in a blue sheath.

Cardas cables come with a limited lifetime warranty, and re-termination services if needed to convert between 15 to 20 amp-style connectors should your future power cord needs dictate it. If you seek more ways to justify a Cardas Clear Beyond XL purchase, think of it as a long-term partner for your amplifier or another high-current component. While other gear may come and go, this power cord will be a marvelous system anchor for many years to come. Head to your local Cardas dealer and decide for yourself if the XL’s benefits make it irresistible. You have very little to lose from trying Cardas’s tried-and-true products, and plenty to gain.

Additional listening – Jeff Dorgay

Having used Cardas products for years now, even before my career as an audio writer began, I’ve always been enthused with this company. Their cables have always provided solid value, sonic improvement in keeping with the price points, and above all, fantastic customer service.

Four figure power cords are a new territory for Cardas, and of course there is always plenty of controversy surrounding expensive wire. As Rob pointed out, the obvious choice for a massive power cable is in an area of highest current draw. The Beyond XL power cords did make an improvement in clarity, with reduced background noise and a larger soundfield rendered.

This effect was achieved with several huge power amplifiers on hand from Pass Labs, Audio Research and Simaudio. It also worked well in tandem with the PS Audio P20 power reconditioner, where mine now abides.

As Cardas’ Brian Von Bork points out, and I’ve confirmed, the improvement that the Clear Beyond XL offers is not limited to high current applications. The filtration technology incorporated in the conductors and ground leg will help your preamp, phonostage and DAC give it’s best performance as well. Even with a component possessing a massive power supply like the Pass XS Pre, there’s a major jump in clarity between “Cardas in” and “Cardas out.” Ditto for my dCS Rossini player.

Premium cable always seems to elicit an incendiary response from the masses. Fortunately, nothing is easier to evaluate than a cable. Plug it in, listen for a difference. If the delta makes sense to you, the only thing that remains are budgetary considerations. However, in comparison to some of the much more expensive power cords we’ve heard, in the context of the world’s finest audio components, the Clear Beyond XL delivers the goods.

If improved power delivery is on your wish list, we suggest stopping by your Cardas dealer and taking one for a test drive. See if you like it as much as we do. Highly recommended.

Cardas Clear Beyond XL Power Cord

MSRP: Starting at $2,000