Review of Michael Wolff Carbon Ribbon Source power

This is a review of the recently released Michael Wolff Carbon Ribbon Source power cord, which uses carbon fiber shielding and some form of carbon ribbon conductors. I am skeptical of power cord claims, but I was attracted to trying out this one because of the extensive use of carbon components. This is a seriously good power cord, at least in my setup described below. I would characterize it, after some 70 hours of break-in, as fast, providing excellent resolution and detail and producing precise images with a focused soundstage. Its most interesting quality, though, is that it just has a very rich harmonic texture that helps my other components to produce a rich, but detailed and balanced sound. In sum, it produces a sound that I would describe as so real that it is “spooky.”

I am not a power cord hound, and I do not have a lot of patience in switching among these components. As a result, I am not one with extensive experience in auditioning power cords. I was curious, though, about how the Carbon Ribbon Source compared with an expensive high-end cord; I recently had this opportunity due to a visit from two audiophile colleagues who brought some different power cords and interconnects to compare. The power cord comparison was with the new Shunyata Anaconda vX power cord, which is a thick, but flexible, cord that rattles (“magic dust”?), more like a rattlesnake than an anaconda, when it is moved.

The power cords were used only on the digital front-end, specifically, on an Electrocompaniet EMC-1 UP CD player. The EMC-1 UP feeds a VAC Renaissance Signature Mk II preamplifier through Stealth PGS-3D balanced interconnects, which in turn drives a VAC Renaissance Signature 70/70 amplifier through Stealth PGS-3D single-ended interconnects. The EMC-1 and the VAC pre-amp (and its separate power supply) are placed on a Sistrum SP-5 equipment stand, and the VAC amp sits atop a separate Sistrum SP-101 amp stand. The VAC amp drives a pair of Alon Circe speakers which are on Sistrum SP-004 speaker stands. The Circes are tri-wired with Stealth Ultimate Ribbon speaker cables (silver ribbon) in a custom bi-wire configuration to drive the middle and high frequencies, and with Stealth Premier (litz copper) speaker cables to drive the low frequencies. Needless to say, I am a fan of Sistrum, Stealth and VAC products, but that’s a different story.

The power is supplied by a 30-amp dedicated line through a Topaz 10 kVA EI-type transformer (a 325 lb beast that sits in my basement) that is hard-wired to provide a balanced 60-0-60 output with a technical ground. This is then fed into a Tice Power Block Signature 3B power conditioner placed on top of a homemade MDF platform that sits on four 1” brass cones on the floor. The room is 28’ x 21.5’ with sloping ceilings in the front and back (no right angle corners); the maximum height is 9’ 10”, and the minimum height is 6’ 1”. The speakers (measured from center of woofer cone) are placed approximately 7’ 3” apart and approximately 9’ 2” from the rear wall. Also, two 16” ASC tube traps and two homemade (a la Jon Risch) absorption panels are deployed.

So, how did the Anaconda vX and the Carbon Ribbon Source power cords compare? Which is “better” and why? Well, unfortunately, there is no conclusive answer because it depends on (i) the type of music to which you listen, (ii) your system and (iii) your individual tastes. Both power cords are excellent. They both have a similar speed and ability to handle fast transients. The Anaconda vX appears to have slightly more detail and resolution than the Carbon Ribbon Source. For example, the sound of the piano – a very difficult sound to reproduce accurately – was more accurately reproduced in my system with a very realistic timbre using the Anaconda vX. The piano sounds excellent on the Carbon Ribbon Source, but the Anaconda vX just absolutely nails it. However, once you move away from the piano to vocals, acoustic, jazz or rock ‘n roll, the Anaconda vX sounded somewhat lean in comparison to the Carbon Ribbon Source.

The Carbon Ribbon Source has a richer harmonic texture, with greater bass extension, than the Anaconda vX, which makes listening to acoustic and vocal pieces as well as dynamic jazz pieces, more enjoyable. For example, on “Prologue,” the first track of Dave Grusin’s West Side Story (N2K-10021), the very dynamic performance was more musical and more enjoyable on the Carbon Ribbon Source because the soundstage was more coherent and the slightly lesser amount of detail made the overall presentation less edgy. There was plenty of detail and resolution, but the presentation sounded richer, more balanced and more coherent on the Carbon Ribbon Source. I think the Anaconda vX, with its greater detail, may have overemphasized the cymbals and horns and presented a soundstage that was unnaturally wide and somewhat confusing. (This could well be due to the already wide-soundstaging abilities of the EMC-1 UP and the open-baffle-designed Alon Circe speakers.)

I would like to have compared these power cords playing orchestral and choral music, but we spent some of our time spinning LPs and playing around with interconnects, so I cannot tell you how they would have fared. This would be an interesting comparison as it would pit the Anaconda vX’s relative advantage of greater detail and resolution against the Carbon Ribbon Source’s relative advantage of richer harmonic texture. All I can tell you is that orchestral and choral music on the Carbon Ribbon Source has a sound that is rich and detailed and with excellent imaging and soundstaging. I sure wish that I had compared this with the Anaconda vX when I had the chance.

It has occurred to me – and this is sheer speculation on my part – that on a higher resolution system, the richer harmonic texture of the Carbon Ribbon Source might outweigh the benefits of the Anaconda; on a lower resolution system, the greater detail and resolution of the Anaconda might outweigh the benefits of the Carbon Ribbon Source. This is so system dependent and taste dependent that it is very hard to make any sort of general statement regarding these two products. Suffice it to say that both the Carbon Ribbon Source and the Anaconda vX were excellent power cords on the Electrocompaniet EMC-1 UP. Each appeared to have a specific relative benefit over the other; it’s more a matter of your tastes and your system as to which you prefer. I preferred the Carbon Ribbon Source on all of the music to which we listened other than piano music.
Danlib, did you try the cord on your Sony SCD or just on the DAC?
Currently trying one out myself on the transport. Also plan to try it on my Enkianthus DAC later.


As you stated I bought one for the Dac....I'm now burning in a second Carbon Source on my SCD-1 Transport/SACD Player.

I'll post results in a few days!

Have the Carbon Ribbon Source on my MF a308cr cd, and am very happy with it. Also am pleased with the Gain Squared (modified with 20 amp connection) on my TriVista Int. amp.
I had recently auditioned the carbon ribbon source. I found that Michael is correct. On initial break in it is not very pleasing. After a few weeks it opened up a little. I did not know if it was what i was looking for in my set up. But right before I was getting ready to ship it back I though to my self that I should try it in my other system. WOW I could not believe it. It was a whole new world of music came out at me. I am very satisfied with this product. I hope anyone who gets to audition this cable takes the time to let it properly break in before making rash decisions like I almost did.. Thank you Michael and God Bless you...
Danlib 1, sorry for the confusion. My reply was not about this thread or the review, but rather Psychicanimal's remarks about Westside Story.