Masterbuilt Ultras and Bocchino XLRs

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,200
62
48
Far Hills, NJ
#1
When I first heard Masterbuilt cables, it was in a system that I was very familiar with, namely at the home of our fearless leader, Steve. I have heard Steve’s system in many incarnations over the years, but there was an allure with a full loom of MB ultra that I found compelling. It’s always hard to know what benefits are attributable to what piece, but nonetheless, I started acquiring some MB cables one piece at a time. I began with the Ultra speaker cables and their superiority over my previous MIT 90.2’s was significant and quite pleasing. (At the time I was using Spectral 400 monoblocs and while there is certainly a school of thought that says you should drive Spectral amps with MIT cables, I think that’s a lot of nonsense. But let’s defer deeper conversation of that topic for now, other than to say that the MB Ultras speaker cable with the Spectrals sounded darn good!)

Next up was the MB USB cables on my Meitner DA2 and I’m afraid I was not as pleased. I felt it was less than satisfactory, giving a slightly fat sound to the bottom end and nothing as natural or well defined in the mids and highs as my reference Stealth Select-T USB. Conversations with Leif Swanson cautioned me to withhold judgement since he suggested that the USB cable could not be adequately judged unless I was running a full loom of MB cables.

So, after some trepidation, I sold my multiple runs of MIT SHD interconnects and bought some MB Ultra interconnects; 1 pair for the Meitner DAC and/or ASR phono to VTL pre; and the pocketbook killer, a 9m run from VTL pre to the amps (was Spectral 400, now Soulution 511 monos). Here’s where things became difficult for me as the sound initially did not exactly have me jumping out of my skin. To make a long story somewhat short, I suspected the reason for my consternation may have been because I ordered the Ultras with their standard rhodium Furutech connectors. This went against my better judgement but on the other hand, I heard these cables at Steve’s and they sounded quite good. To cut to the chase, I now think that this was because Steve’s system was a complete Lamm system and it is now my opinion that is the reason I had no strong objections to anything I heard there using an all MB loom. In fact, it sounded excellent. But that certainly was not the case in my hybrid system.

I then took the unusual step of sending my MB Ultra ICs back for retermination with Furutech gold XLRs in lieu of the rhodium interconnects. Even though it was only for source equipment, the change was dramatic. Finally, I was getting to at least partially hear the magic of the MB cable interconnect minus the top end liabilities I had with the rhodium connectors. That change prompted the next obvious step. I then sent back my long 9m interconnects for retermination as well. But this time, rather than opt for the Furutech gold XLRs, I used Carmine Bocchino’s amazing “BAXLR” connectors. (See Gian and Tang’s posts re the Kuro cables that also use the Bocchinos.). It didn’t take but a few hours after re-installing them to generate a huge smile. Finally, I was able to achieve what I had hoped for with MB interconnects whose sound was, in my opinion, deeply marred by the rhodium interconnects. After living with both the gold plated and silver plated Bocchinos for several weeks, I can’t say enough good things about either, but particularly the Bocchinos. To begin, the criticism against many silver -plated products is that the plating is generally nominal; usually 2-3 uM. Carmine feels strongly that for silver plating-over-copper to be superior sonically, it has to be plated with to a thickness of at least 9 uM, as his are. I haven’t heard other silver plated XLRs, but there is no question in my mind that his are sonically excellent and it’s easy to say the best I have heard. (but that’s kind of a dumb remark as I’ve only heard them on MB Ultras so I have no comparator cables by which to judge). Sonically, they can be characterized by providing not only immediacy and transparency, but body and in particular, great palpability that I found very satisfying because it brings me a step closer to the real thing (Ok, maybe a half step, or a quarter step, but it’s definitely something closer!)

Allow me to provide 2 examples of what I hear with these in comparison to what I hear with rhodium connectors. The first is the sound of cymbals. The cymbal is generally thought of as an instrument that elicits a lot of high frequency sounds, but in fact, it is a very rich instrument with fundamentals that can extend to the lower treble and upper midrange. A good jazz ride cymbal has two distinctive sounds. The first one is obvious. It is the sound of the stick hitting the cymbal. But the second one is the “wash” as drummers describe it. It is the sound of the cymbal resonance after the strike. It is among the hardest sounds to reproduce on a good stereo. The sound of cymbals, more than any other instrument, is why I cannot listen to rhodium receptacles or cables. The cymbal strike is often well done but it is the cymbal wash that disappoints. It is in reality a rich sound with resonance and air. The Bocchinos and to a large degree, gold connectors, get the timbre right as well as the air. Rhodium conveys the timbre incorrectly to my ears, and the “air” is poorly conveyed as a plastic colored sheen that makes me grimace. Two good examples are in the albums Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section and Art Blakey’s Caravan. If you think the ride cymbals on these albums sound correct with rhodium interconnects, that’s fine. But for me, they are just not as believable as the real thing as the MBs that use gold or Bocchino XLRs. Example number 2 is easy and very basic. Solo piano. The 45 rpm Direct Disc of Ikuyo Kamiya’s Appassionata Sonata by Beethoven recording (RCA-RDCE-4) is great example, but so many other great piano recordings are readily available for the comparison. The sparkle of notes of the treble register is what rhodium simply gets wrong, and again to my ears, Furutech Gold or Bocchino Silver connectors allow the MB ultra to provide unequalled midrange timbre, superb definition and a tremendous natural sound that extends all the way upwards to the range that rhodium cannot equal. I admit I am biased as I have a 1922 Steinway in my music room and all I can say is that when listening to a reproduced piano, the Bocchino/gold connectors convey a sound that far more mimics of the sound of a piano in real life compared to rhodium connectors. Want a 3rd example? Try the sound of the celeste in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies on RCA’s Royal Ballet (arguably the best RCA Living Stereo release- why can’t they make records like this anymore? But I digress…) Speaking of diversions, here’s another as long as we’re on the subject of the Sugar Plum Fairies.


As far as the bottom octave, all 3 metal connectors do quite an excellent job, but I would give the Bocchino’s a slight edge in extension and again, palpability – the feeling that the instrument is more “in the room” than the other connectors.

As far as I know, I am the only person thus far to test Furutech rhodium, Furutech gold, and Bocchino silver XLR connectors on MB Ultra interconnects. The results are unambiguous, at least for me. I would frankly, never order these cables with rhodium connectors. I don’t consider them bad, rather, I consider them unlistenable however I must add the caveat I mentioned earlier pertaining to the sound of these cables in Steve’s system where they are being used with excellent tube gear and perhaps in that setting, they might be satisfying to many. As we know, in audio it’s all a matter of compatibility and personal taste. Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. “You pays your money and takes your choice” is the old saying I learned from Paul Heath and it is nowhere truer than it is in gear selection including cables. No need to write and tell me I have a case of cranio-rectal inversion just because I don’t like the sound of rhodium connectors on MB Ultra interconnects. I already know that! But my conclusion nonetheless remains firm. If you want to hear the MB Ultra at its finest, which is to say its drop-dead gorgeous and glorious best, you really should listen to them with Carmine Bocchino’s BAXLR connectors.

http://www.bocchtech.com/bocchinoaudio/baxlr.htm

Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty I am rhodium free at last.”

One word of caution- make sure your gear can accommodate the BAXLR’s as they’re monsters, and you should check the width of the space you have between connectors to make sure they’ll work. I’m not sure I need any more interconnects (thank goodness) but if I did the Ultras with Bocchinos would be at the top of my very short list.

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Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,575
317
83
Beverly Hills, CA
#2
Thank you, Marty, for this very interesting and important report! I am glad you are finally at peace with your Masterbuilt Ultra interconnects!

As I am on the verge of ordering some Masterbuilt Ultra speaker cables and Ultra interconnects I somehow will have to make a decision on the XLR connectors.

Marty, did the Masterbuilt people balk at having to attach the Bocchinos, or are they connector agnostic and happy to indulge custom customer connector requests?

Did you send the Bocchinos to Masterbuilt or did Masterbuilt acquire the BAXLR connectors themselves?

How would you suggest someone go about choosing between the gold Furutechs and the silver Bocchinos?

Is there anything you are able to report about your comparisons between the MB Ultra interconnects with gold Furutechs or silver Bocchinos and other interconnects you may have in your cable inventory?

Perhaps Leif can tell us if you are the first person to have asked Masterbuilt to use Bocchino XLRs, or if others have also requested Bocchinos?
 
Last edited:

Tango

VIP/Donor
Mar 12, 2017
2,210
506
113
Bangkok
#3
My interconnect cables have some gold, some silver Bocchino RCAs while the speaker cables spades are in gold Bocchinos. Soundwise, I cant tell if how much goodness comes from the Bocchinos since they came in one piece with the cables. What I can say is they take a lot of space between the red and white and also between different inputs. So make sure recepticles at your equipments have enough space in between. The Bocchinos RCAs and Spades themself are almost 5 inches long with the width of 1.25". You could run into some more pratical issue when you use them with phono cables. Personally I like the RCAs that come with the 3012R phono cable best. The rca plugs are very tight fit, easy to plug in and out ( I do a lot of ins and outs.) and no shortfalls in sound.

39AE0B84-F26E-4941-9445-36BF8494A82F.jpeg
25E5A0A3-BCEC-432D-8834-744FEE9D9C36.jpeg

Kind regards,
Tang
 
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Uk Paul

Member Sponsor
Sep 27, 2012
352
21
18
UK
#4
Marty / Ron,

Having had considerable experience with both Furutech gold and Rhodium, and all of Carmine Bocchino's connectors for 10 years, BAXLR R9, RCA B2 & B24, I am not surprised at your finding the transparency, air, detail, texture, etc to be exemplary. With the Furutech, which were reasonable sellers for me, I preferred to remove the Rhodium plating on the RCA pin, and expose their very good copper, but the Bocchino's are as is said, Superlative. Granted, there is a substantial cost differential, which reflects their market placement of course. Fitting Bocchino's is relatively painless also, and presents no difficulty. The main obstacle for me from a commercial viewpoint is their size, which some baulk at, and the fact that they are a very good fit to the socket that this part must be of suitable quality to support them, though I have not seen any issues in 10 years..
 

Uk Paul

Member Sponsor
Sep 27, 2012
352
21
18
UK
#5
[QUOTE="Ron Resnick, post: 545585, member: 6496"

How would you suggest someone go about choosing between the gold Furutechs and the silver Bocchinos?[/QUOTE]
Often, it is cost Ron.
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,200
62
48
Far Hills, NJ
#6
Thank you, Marty, for this very interesting and important report! I am glad you are finally at peace with your Masterbuilt Ultra interconnects!

As I am on the verge of ordering some Masterbuilt Ultra speaker cables and Ultra interconnects I somehow will have to make a decision on the XLR connectors.

Marty, did the Masterbuilt people balk at having to attach the Bocchinos, or are they connector agnostic and happy to indulge custom customer connector requests?

Did you send the Bocchinos to Masterbuilt or did Masterbuilt acquire the BAXLR connectors themselves?

How would you suggest someone go about choosing between the gold Furutechs and the silver Bocchinos?

Is there anything you are able to report about your comparisons between the MB Ultra interconnects with gold Furutechs or silver Bocchinos and other interconnects you may have in your cable inventory?

Perhaps Leif can tell us if you are the first person to have asked Masterbuilt to use Bocchino XLRs, or if others have also requested Bocchinos?
Ron,
Masterbuilt is relatively connector agnostic, as you say. They have a preference (obviously rhodium) but they were willing to make my cables with whatever connectors I wanted including Furutech, Oyaide and I imagine anything else as long as the connectors can accommodate the width of their cable. I sourced the Bocchino's directly from Carmen in Australia, but I imagine that as an OEM, they would have no problem getting those as well. I know I was somewhat of a thorn in Leif's side but to his credit, he really cared about my satisfaction with the MB's and was very gracious when I began changing connectors to achieve the sound I desired. The turnaround took about a month as MB is quite busy, so its best to schedule re-termination in advance to find a good window. New cables are of course another story, but as most of us know, this is artisinal craftsmanship and manufacture with low volume, so production takes time and requires patience for delivery. The Bocchino's are a bit more costly than the Furutech golds, but these are relatively trivial differences in the grand scheme of things. I could easily live with Furutech golds if the Bocchino's were somehow no longer available.
Marty
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,200
62
48
Far Hills, NJ
#7
My interconnect cables have some gold, some silver Bocchino RCAs while the speaker cables spades are in gold Bocchinos. Soundwise, I cant tell if how much goodness comes from the Bocchinos since they came in one piece with the cables. What I can say is they take a lot of space between the red and white and also between different inputs. So make sure recepticles at your equipments have enough space in between. The Bocchinos RCAs and Spades themself are almost 5 inches long with the width of 1.25". You could run into some more pratical issue when you use them with phono cables. Personally I like the RCAs that come with the 3012R phono cable best. The rca plugs are very tight fit, easy to plug in and out ( I do a lot of ins and outs.) and no shortfalls in sound.

View attachment 46616
View attachment 46617

Kind regards,
Tang
Tang,
Those speaker cable spades sure look like silver rather than gold. Or is it just a weird looking photo?
I always found it interesting that although Masterbuilt prefers their interconnect connectors to be rhodium plated, they make their Ultra speaker cable spades with gold plating. Once again, no rules. Only preferences.
Marty
 

Tango

VIP/Donor
Mar 12, 2017
2,210
506
113
Bangkok
#8
Tang,
Those speaker cable spades sure look like silver rather than gold. Or is it just a weird looking photo?
I always found it interesting that although Masterbuilt prefers their interconnect connectors to be rhodium plated, they make their Ultra speaker cable spades with gold plating. Once again, no rules. Only preferences.
Marty
Right. How goofy I was. :p
It looks silver. Embarassing. Maybe you could think it is white gold to make me feel less of a fool. ;)

Tang
 
Likes: bonzo75

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
9,613
365
83
London
#9
Right. How goofy I was. :p
It looks silver. Embarassing. Maybe you could think it is white gold to make me feel less of a fool. ;)

Tang
We don't mind thinking it is white gold in this case Tang, but we can't stop you from making new posts
 

bazelio

Active Member
Sep 27, 2016
460
39
28
California
#10
When I demoed MB Ultra RCA interconnect, they had the gold Furutech. It's an amazing sounding interconnect. Normally I'd favor the Carbon Fibre version of the Furutech plugs, though. Aside from looking better, they actually do sound a bit different. These are only available in rhodium, and might let through the last bit of natural sounding treble shimmer that the Ultras did lack. But the Ultras did so much else so well that I'm not sure I'd really miss it, even if seeing $40 connectors on $18000 interconnect is a tough pill to swallow.
 
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KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,214
169
63
Marina del Rey, CA
#11
Conversations with Leif Swanson cautioned me to withhold judgement since he suggested that the USB cable could not be adequately judged unless I was running a full loom of MB cables.
I have no idea why this would be the case. Any reason you think?

You have a lot of patience, Marty, for the minutiae that many of use don't have the guts to try! Thank you.
 

Uk Paul

Member Sponsor
Sep 27, 2012
352
21
18
UK
#12

bazelio

Active Member
Sep 27, 2016
460
39
28
California
#13
Seriously?? 18k? Oh.. gulp..
Look on the bright side: Each additional 0.5m is only $2000. Although that does say something about materials cost vs MSRP. But we are of course firmly in luxury goods territory and any expectation of MSRP being proportional to materials cost is unrealistic.
 

DaveC

Industry Expert
Nov 16, 2014
2,347
130
63
#14
I then took the unusual step of sending my MB Ultra ICs back for retermination with Furutech gold XLRs in lieu of the rhodium interconnects. Even though it was only for source equipment, the change was dramatic. Finally, I was getting to at least partially hear the magic of the MB cable interconnect minus the top end liabilities I had with the rhodium connectors.

I know you're not a fan of rhodium plating, but the truth is the base material and the quality of the plating make a massive difference.

The standard connectors you had replaced are NOT Furutech. The objections you have to the sound of the plugs have NOTHING to do with Furutech plugs or how they might sound.
 

DaveC

Industry Expert
Nov 16, 2014
2,347
130
63
#15
I have no idea why this would be the case. Any reason you think?

You have a lot of patience, Marty, for the minutiae that many of use don't have the guts to try! Thank you.

I'm pretty sure he'd say you won't be able to hear everything the USB cable is doing without their accompanying cables. These is some truth to that imo.
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#16
The Ultra is indeed pricey and it took me 2-3 years to finally have a complete Ultra loom in my system. I look at it however that these cables are "lifers"in my system and will never be sold even though they have the stock rhodium connections (which BTW the MB engineers use because they feel it is the most neutral for the interconnects :) but use gold for the speaker cable terminations. IIRC there was 7-8 years of R&D on the MB cable and once the 4 versions were released as best I know there have been few if any changes in the cable. This is why I also like the cable so much as most cable companies release new and upgraded versions every 3-6 months. Not so with Master Built as they feel that what they have is their very best at all 4 price points
 

gian60

Well-Known Member
Apr 17, 2016
1,372
117
63
#19
Hi Marty,
i tried at home Kuro cable,rica and xlr,same cable with Bocchino and with Furutech and Acustic Revive

The difference is dramatic,with Bocchino the sound is much more free,transparent ,natural and dynamic,and the sound come out of the speaker very easily.
Kuro tell that all connector are like a bottleneck against Bocchino,even if Bocchino cost much more,and i am happy also you listen the difference

For top xlr cable Kuro use Bocchino gold plated and also rca gold plated

He ask Bocchino to do for him rca in copper 7N plated platinum and will do a cable for me,i put the photo of the connector
Ciao
Gianluigi
 

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