Sablon Audio Reserva experience. Affordable S.O.T.A.

Jan 20, 2013
336
1
18
London, UK
#1
Many variations of power cords on the market appear to promote their luxury coverings, metallurgic connector prowess or simply promote or celebrate a companies high end profile. I'll resist naming companies that produce cords, and interconnects too, that in my opinion are stratospherically priced to gain kudos with the Audiophile Elite.

I realise that many W.B.F. readers may be able to afford these and have commensurate systems to lavish these cords and cables on, however, if we take a step back and realise there are many audiophiles out there struggling with their purchases having to 'go without' or needing to sell something first before affording an upgrade. I'd put myself among these audiophiles who have perhaps a system above the norm and over the years, and in many cases over many years, achieved a decent sounding system but occasionally wanting to improve the sound with judicious use of changes to their power cords, interconnects or perhaps a proven mains tweak.

It was with this aim that I finally succumbed to Sablon Audio Corona Reserva power cords after 12 years with my stalwart VH Audio AirSine cords. How I came about these was by being initially exposed to Sablon Audio Panatella Interconnects via glowing reviews on the internet where the reviewers musical preferences and sound criteria coincided with mine. Further enquiries revealed that Sablon Audio was a company run by Mark Coles and based in the UK and so I eagerly procured a demo cable to compare to my Kimber Select.

Wow! Immediately upon insertion this cable revealed the Kimber to be slow and harmonically deficient probably due to a thickness of sound as though it was rounding off transients and plumping up the midrange. I had to purchase one so sold my Kimber Select 1030 and never looked back. It wasn't long after installing the I.C.s that I chose to sell my Kimber Monocle XL speaker cable to purchase Panatella speaker cables. Thankfully the sale of the Kimber covered the cost of the Sablon due to shorter lengths now required in my dedicated music room. ..(Sometimes we get lucky.)

I run Avantgarde Duo Omega and Mark Coles kindly made a pigtail jumper set to accompany the main set. Apparently this was very tricky having to get two cables into one spade at the midrange end. This was the icing on the cake. I now enjoy greater precision, emotional connection and better dynamics completely across the frequency range than with the Kimber cables. There does indeed appear to be a synergy when using ICs and speaker cables from one brand clearly evident with the Sablons. There is a natural holistic sound to these cables. Nothing is forced and no particular frequency range dominates.

I thought I was done with upgrading for a while having been very happy with the AirSine power cords on my amps and CD player for many years and revelling in their luxurious sound. Some would say DARK sound but there is no getting away from them sounding BIG and BOLD, perhaps the Gold Furutech connectors contributing to their presentation of a deep and cavernous soundstage. My only reservation was the slightly compressed feeling when playing classical orchestral music. Less so with the addition of the Sablon ICs. Was this because of my low power SETs not having sufficient muscle or just a limitation of the Avantgarde Duo subs slowing and thickening the bass?

After many months I could no longer resist Mark Coles' offer to try a Corona Reserva power cord on my Audio Aero CD player. Knowing I could not really afford to replace the whole loom of PCs in the system I wanted to try a single cord to establish a future upgrade path though the feeling I might succumb to another round of upgraditis was a little daunting.

Well, It arrived, all looking handsome with the Oyaide C-004/P-004 and a 'reserved' look with an olive/gold-ish covering. For those believing in burn-in, it was 'cooked' on a Audioharma Cable Cooker for a few days. Count me in as a believer!

Here's where It gets interesting. I didn't like it! Why, I'm not sure. It sounded very thin and a little bright, a far cry from my AirSine, but decided to leave it playing for a few days. Improvements were there but ultimately I couldn't live without the warmth and golden glow, some would say molasses thick, presentation in the system wrought by the AirSines. Well that was an interesting exercise and both Mark Coles and I couldn't really fathom out what was going on and surmised that a combination of AirSines on the amps and Corona Reserva on the CD player was just one of those unexpected incompatibilities. Where the Oyaide Palladium plugs causing the thinness. Did the PC need more burn-in? I must point out that my system uses all US plugs even though I'm in the UK. , the distribution box (Furutech GTX-D (G)) was new and wired directly to a dedicated panel. (With hindsight it appears the combination of new sockets AND new cable threw the system adrift by a wide margin).

Anyway, some weeks passed and I asked to borrow two Corona Reservas after hearing what a whole pile of them brought to Spirit of Music's system. I thought, let's try them on my mono block power amps, a home made, direct coupled, single ended design nicknamed Supanova45. Mark Coles was amenable to lending me a pair for a week or so. No pressure to purchase, "just try them and tell me what you think" .

I could not believe what I was hearing after installing these two 'cooked' Corona Reservas onto my amps and this was still with an AirSine on the AA. A greater clarity and deeper soundstage with new sounds revealed within songs I've known for years. This was what I'd been looking for, a combination of the warmth of the vocals with the transparency of the soundstage. I just had to have them but in order to afford them, even though they are in my opinion a bargain and much more affordable than many hi-end cords, I had to sell something for funds. Luckily I trawled through my boxes of old gear, components and duplicate gold CDs and eBay came to the rescue. I could now pay for the two Reservas and live happily ever after, NOT! What if I now replaced the AirSine on the Audio Aero? Would there be a repeat of my disappointment and that perceived incompatibility?

A third Reserva arrived later that week and the moment came to try it out. My reaction was similar, though not equal to, my initial reaction in hearing a slightly bright balance with a slight thinning to the presentation, bearing in mind I'm used to that golden glow, only now with added clarity. I kept it on for a week and it settled down losing the bright edge to it, possibly due to the Palladium connectors needing longer break-in than the wire itself. I now had even greater resolution, a much wider soundstage and the depth was present but without the dark, hooded quality, and with slightly greater forward presentation too. This combination was most startling on classical fare, previously a little congested, now stunningly layered. The effect of being closer to the music and the reality of voices is so addictive. High power modern pop sounds dense, driving and studio compression artefacts appear reduced.

One evening I was missing the molasses like golden glow and the LARGER than life vocal presentation so thought to swap the Corona Reserva out and put back the AirSine onto the AA. That golden glow to vocals returned with very exaggerated depth of soundstage making it all mysterious, dark and cavernous. The front half of the soundstage transparent enough and projected well but the rear was now so far back it was unnatural. Another artefact most evident on classical was that pervasive congestion. Not a tribute I'd normally reserve for the AirSine but in this system, too heavy and dense. I found it hard to believe that I'd lived without the transparency the new cords brought to my system, being so infatuated with this velvety, mysterious sound. This was a case of resolution trumping excessive warmth. The Sablon Reserva power trio had now grabbed my attention and wasn't letting go. I now no longer miss the unnatural warmth having it replaced with accuracy, tonality, and vitality. A holistic sound. Think spring with warm sunshine and not winter in front of a smokey fire.

The last year also saw the move from dedicated Mac Mini using Audirvana + to Auralic Aries with external HD. This removed the computer from the music room and its associated noise from screen and powered 'whirring' Hard Drive. Call me impressed by the Aries performance. It's a wonderful, easy to use and musical device which gets better with improvements to connecting cables and improved power supply. Initially I used my legacy Acoustic Revive split USB cable with a KingRex UPower battery supply to send data to the dac in the Audio Aero player. To keep the Sablon theme going I replaced the AR with a Reserva USB. This brought the SQ from CD rips much closer to CDs played from the Esoteric drive within the La Fontaine. Music was much more organic sounding losing a slight digital sheen that the Aries/AR USB appeared to overlay onto the music. The addition of a UpTone Audio Regen appeared to increase resolution however I think this is dependent on the resolution of the digital files. Great for CD rips but a little too clinical for Hi Res files.

The Sablon Audio Corona Reserva are now permanent additions to my system. I've still to change the two AirSines on the Duo subwoofers, due for Xmas, to bring the speed and clarity in line with the horns. Plus, the Panatela speaker cables are now in Reserva spec. and with a little luck will be my birthday present.

To sum this all up there is no doubt these are truly great, affordable power cords, ICs, and speaker cables and able to compete with many of the top tier, read that as extortionate, audiophile cables out there.

I also have to admit to being blind to my systems faults but maybe it's a phase we go through, perhaps preferring one type of presentation over another depending on our music choices or just they way we evolve over time with our hearing. You could also say that there is always a danger of going down a rabbit hole of sound without the criticism of others to bring us back.

Thanks to Mark Coles, Spirit of Music, Jeff Medwin et al. for your contributions to my many evenings of musical pleasure.

Update: I just see the Sablon range have received a Brutus award from Positive Feedback and reviewed by Bill Malcom. A well deserved accolade in my opinion.

Blue58
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,257
16
38
E. England
#2
Hi Barry, thanx for the name check.
I can indeed back up Barry's system impvts' comments. On hearing his Duos sans Sablon for the first time some 12 months ago, I was bowled over by his involving horn sound, and have really grown to love the AG signature. At this point I would have put his sound well ahead of mine. My voyage of discovery of Mark's Sablon Gran Reservas started at this point, and each addition bridged the gap significantly. When I completed the loom w/Reservas spkr cables, a really special synergy clicked in my sound, and for the first time Barry was truly enthusiastic about my sound. At this point, despite the Duos still having the edge on dynamics and air, my fully-Reserva's Zus for the first time IMHO had the edge in SQ, the tonal density Zus are famed for just being more involving than the Duos. This was noticeable as a slightly diffident nature that meant the Duos s/stage was somewhat distant, and focus wasn't as good as my Zus. This was mainly a spkr issue, but the Sablon's had so maxxed out what the Zus are king at, that the Duos fell a tad short in comparison.
In the last 3 months, my system has been down as I've been awaiting my balanced transformer to be fitted w/Furutech US sockets to accept the Reservas PC's w/Rhodium US plugs. And in this time, I've been auditioning Barry's system w/increasing amounts of Reservas in his loom. And guess what? Yes, impvts are being wrought all 'round, esp in terms of tightening dynamics, and esp for me, a bringing fwd of the s/stage from the previously borderline diffuse one, to one much more urgent and involving. The Duos are opening up a bit of a lead on my Reserva'd Zus.
Round 3 - my system back up and running, w/the US plugs and sockets fully integrated, full Reservas loom unadulterated by getting rid of the plug adaptors, and my sound has a major upstick.
Round 4 - hearing Barry's system w/the final Reservas in place, to his Duos' pwrd subs.
And hence an interesting final comparison will be made w/my US sockets/plugs settling in. This is actually quite critical for me, since I am very seriously considering the switch to AG horns, and hearing how well the Duos do w/the Reservas fills me w/a lot of confidence the move could be very advantageous.
 

LL21

Active Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,550
2
38
#4
Great review and big fan of Mark's work. Own 2 Gran Reservas and they are not going anywhere!
 
Feb 16, 2013
139
0
16
Brazil
#5
I had many known and very expensive power cables. Purist, KS Elation and Emotion, Less Loss, Shunyata, Stealth, etc.

Now I have 5 Sablon Reserva and they are for a large margin the best power cables I ever had in my system.
 
May 30, 2010
13,970
43
48
Portugal
#6
Are Sablon Audio cables CE certificated? Can we get them in Europe with Shucko connectors?
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,857
47
48
London
#7
He can provide you with any connectors and customisation - schuko, US, even UK, if you want to be exotic in Portugal :D
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,257
16
38
E. England
#8
Have been thinking quite a bit about how I can contribute most to this thread. This is the result.
Just over two years ago, I was in deep discussion w/Lloyd LL21 re Entreq grounding that we had just discovered, getting stellar results. I was just about to install a new balanced power transformer, the Westwick 8kVA unit, that I've used to this day together w/Entreq Silver Tellus and Apollos. Lloyd put me onto Mark Coles of Sablon, and an amazing journey began, in some ways as fascinating as the other major system changes I've made which have got me the point that I'm at right now, deriving real enjoyment from my system.

So two years ago, Mark sends me a single Quantum Gran Corona QGC power cord w/GOLD plug. I plugged it into my preamp of the time (Hovland HP200). Wowza! An amazing expansion in the sound, vibrant and energetic. More than any other cable change I'd ever made, by a long chalk (I've upgraded cables over the years to Hovland, Acoustic Zen, Argento, Audience, Zu Event, and have auditioned/heard Nordost, Russ Andrews, Kimber, so have reasonable comparison points).
However, the sound was just too lush, w/energy a little uncontrolled esp in the bass. Mark then replaced this PC w/a similar one, now sporting a RHODIUM plug. The impvts were maintained, but energy/lushness much better controlled, and this step change proved to be totally worth it as I continued replacing Zu Event PCs w/QGCs to preamp, power amp, cdp, phono, Zu sub amps. At thios point i had a direct comparison to Entreq Challenger PCs, but Sablon had the edge, esp in my favoured area of tonal density (Entreq no slouches, and had Sablon not existed, Entreq would be my cables of choice).
My journey continued w/Panatella i/c's. Interestingly again, there was the odd dead end (Bybee terminations didn't work for me, sounding a little clinical/matter of fact, and Mark's beta grounding cables didn't gel as well as the Entreq Apollos - proving I was not a fawning fanboy, but someone who still maintained my critical faculties despite true respect for Mark's cables).
At this point, Barry/Blue58 homed into view, and we swapped a few visits, we me loving his AG Duo Omegas horns presentation, he a little less convinced by my presentation LOL! It's a good thing we've become good friends, or I'd be badmouthing him now LOL!
When I then completed the Panatella loom w/spkr cables, removing the last vestiges of Zu events (and the pesky, lossy SpeakOn terminations I was using), a real window opened, and Barry really noticed the synergy, as did I, the sound taking a big step fwd into a true balance of detail/air/texture, never heard before.
Ok, so I was one happy camper 6 months ago w/a full Sablon loom.
Then Mark announced ideas on his current range of Gran Reservas, and extended me the privilege of being a trusted beta tester. I ran thru a few variations, finding some warmer than others, some more clinical. Barry too was a beta tester, and I believed we settled on different final choices. Mark then split the difference, and picked the one for production that was midway btwn our tonal choices (of course w/input from a panel of testers, not just us).
In the last few months I've fasttracked upgrading my previous line to the current Gran Reservas line, and blow me down, the impvts are NOT subtle. I've talked about this w/Mark, and he has summed it up nicely, saying the Reservas lower the noise flr. I think this sounds right, the lowered noise flr allowing swathes of NATURAL detail to emerge - no hard edged hyper delineation that I always heard from Nordost and Kimber, and not the borderline boring neutrality of the Audience Au24. Dynamics and excitement way ahead of my previous fave, the Zu Events, and shimmer/texture in advance of the previous faves, the Hovlands, Argentos and Acoustic Zens.
There again was the odd wobble, synergy btwn PCs, i/c's and spkr cbls a little harder to get right than the prev line. And the final step has been replacing all my UK plugs on the PCs w/Rhodium US plugs, and Furutech US sockets on my balanced power transformer. The only step beyond will be dedicated lines at a later date.

But gosh, the effort has been 200% worth it. There is an amazing fusion of natural, unforced detail, effervescent but controlled bass energy, a superb balance of power and delicacy, that does the audiophile trick of making you concentrate on the music and let the message of the musicians come thru loud and clear, w/out forensic analysis, or unnatural warmth/lushness.

I cannot praise the Gran Reservas highly enough. Bill's PF review is spot on, and any self-respecting audiophile NEEDS to audition Mark's loom before they try ANYTHING else, at any price. I do believe most people will truly struggle to hear better than this.
Additionally, Mark is a true gentleman, proud of his family of cables, never dismissive of other brands. A modern day hifi artisan.
 
May 30, 2010
13,970
43
48
Portugal
#9
(...) I cannot praise the Gran Reservas highly enough. Bill's PF review is spot on, and any self-respecting audiophile NEEDS to audition Mark's loom before they try ANYTHING else, at any price. I do believe most people will truly struggle to hear better than this.
Additionally, Mark is a true gentleman, proud of his family of cables, never dismissive of other brands. A modern day hifi artisan.
You refer to Gran Reserva and Gran Corona - I can only find Corona and Panatela cables at the site. What does the Gran stand for?

Do you have an idea of the capacitance per meter or foot of the XLR IC's?

BTW, the cables are shipped from UK or US?
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,257
16
38
E. England
#10
Micro, I may have the "Gran-" prefix wrong. That may have been a pre-release moniker.
All Reservas, Corona for the P/Cs, Panatella for the I/Cs and S/Cs
Priced in $s, shipped from UK.
Can't help you re tech specs, just email Mark.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,257
16
38
E. England
#11
Spaz, Mark's cables are REALLY something, manage a tricky highwire act in audio, that of natural detail and natural warmth. Few cables get this as spot on I believe.
Re internals, I'll talk to Mark, but I'm loathe to mod too much.
My remaining expt in cabling is to run 6-8 dedicated lines to Furutech US duplexes after my move, need to budget for Corona Reservas, or stick w/more affordable Belden, eg. Depends how long these lines are going to be.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,257
16
38
E. England
#12
My post amended, just Reservas (delete prefix Gran-), Corona Reservas are the power cords, Panatella Reservas are the interconnects and spkr cables.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,257
16
38
E. England
#13
Spaz, I needed a tin hat too, when I threw my UK-US plug adaptors up in the air w/the shock of hearing just how good Reservas PC's w/US plugs sounded au naturel. Not subtle, is not good enough as a description.
I always find it educational when a positive change shines thru when you least expect it. So my GF comes over for the weekend, and she gives me THAT look when I tell her how much I've spent again. Yep, it's party time as I get her to sit in the hot seat. This time I thought I'd throw on some good 'ol fashioned non a'fool material. On cd. Brutally recorded. Depeche Mode "Personal Jesus" and "Enjoy The Silence", and Keane "Atlantic". I had no confidence previously impenetrable recordings would really be better.
Depeche has always been a torture test, brilliant music and a struggle on a good system, but I'll be blowed down if the band sounded evocative, warm and textured. Irana even commented on for the first time really enjoying the boys on my system, w/extra dimensionality, extra detail enhancing rather than distracting. Keane always sounded ok, but we both agreed the emotion of the song really shone thru.
That's what it's all about I guess, feeling the music, not just hearing it. Both in spades w/the Reservas.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,257
16
38
E. England
#14
Well, Mark is one for a bit of modding, so all in good time.
My next area of OCD is fuses, w/Audio Horizon highly recommended. Then, dedicated lines, and possibly some more Entreq, Poseidon or Olympus Tellus. May not be needed if the quietness of my new neighbourhood translates into less adulterated power. However, new room first.
I've learnt in this game not to make too many changes at the same time, so going to let the recent US sockets/plugs upgrades settle for a while, and then venture on.

No doubt that going US plugs on the Reservas is not subtle, just removes layers btwn the listener and the music. It's all about the message, not just the notes.
 
Jan 20, 2013
336
1
18
London, UK
#15
Just a couple of pics. Of my new Panatela Reserva speaker cables. I asked Mark to use WBT nextgen Ag bananas on the speaker ends because the binding posts are recessed and already have spades for the pigtail set on the duos.
Spades will allow me to bypass the binding posts on the amps by bringing the OPT wires outside the amp and clamping directly onto the spade. A worthwhile improvement I'm told by Mark.
image.jpg
And a couple of shots of the Corona Reserva PC, Panatela Reserva IC and Panatela Reserva USB just to complete the loom. image.jpg image.jpeg image.jpeg
 
May 30, 2010
13,970
43
48
Portugal
#16
Does anyone know if the cable used in (RCA) cables is the same as used in balanced (XLR) cables? I always use long ICs between preamplifier and power amplifier and would like to know if it is possible to ask the manufacturer to convert cables between RCA or XLR.
 
May 30, 2010
13,970
43
48
Portugal
#17
Spaz, Mark's cables are REALLY something, manage a tricky highwire act in audio, that of natural detail and natural warmth. Few cables get this as spot on I believe.
Re internals, I'll talk to Mark, but I'm loathe to mod too much.
My remaining expt in cabling is to run 6-8 dedicated lines to Furutech US duplexes after my move, need to budget for Corona Reservas, or stick w/more affordable Belden, eg. Depends how long these lines are going to be.
Are you saying that US power connectors sound better than the Shucko or UK ones?
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
8,857
47
48
London
#18
Are you saying that US power connectors sound better than the Shucko or UK ones?
UK have a fuse and a poorer connection. U.S. And UK sound better. U.S has better resale value and sells quickly on the gon
 
May 30, 2010
13,970
43
48
Portugal
#19
UK have a fuse and a poorer connection. U.S. And UK sound better. U.S has better resale value and sells quickly on the gon
The question is that we are not supposed to use US power connectors in EC. Usually they are not officially rated for 230/240V and are not CE certified.
 

spiritofmusic

Member Sponsor
Jun 13, 2013
6,257
16
38
E. England
#20
Micro, we're not really meant to be using balanced pwr either.
I'll take my chances.
Esp w/US plugs on the Reservas being far superior to UK ones.
 

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