I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Lloyd Walker at the 2014 CES. Along with several other colleagues, we enjoyed a wonderful Japanese dinner and had a chance to relax and talk about many things Hi-End and the state it’s in. Many pleasurable hours elapsed and the discussion turned to tweaking. Was it real or just a gimmick to make money. Walker suggested that I try a few of his tweaks and judge for myself.
Walker is one of the industry leaders in turntable design. His ‘tables are legendary — I wish I could afford one. So, when he suggested that I try one of his tweaks, I jumped at the chance.
Walker Audio Silver Jumper Cables
A package arrived and I opened it to find two pair of delicate looking silver jumper cables. Jumper cables connect the modules of a two-piece speaker system. I am used to thick, heavy cables that feel and look serious, not a thin strand of silver with soldered spade lugs. Was he kidding with these?
After letting the jumpers burn-in for the recommended 20 hours it was apparent that they had a different sonic character then my current jumpers from Fidelity Waveform. There was an increase in air and separation. Additionally, they seemed to have greater high frequency extension. A perfect example of this was in the Atlantic CD of the Modern Jazz Quartet, ‘Fontessa’. Milt Jackson’s vibraphone had a more ‘metallic’ sound with full solidity, giving it a more lifelike sound. Connie Kay’s cymbal work on the title cut, had the full metal sheen that this listener felt within. There was more air and sparkle to the cymbal hits than I’d heard before. In general, I’d say there was more definition and transparency created by the Walker jumpers.
On the other hand, while the bass reproduction was more than very good with the Walkers, my reference Waveform Fidelity excelled in this area. There was just more of it. Depending on your preference, one could choose the more defined bass of the Walkers or the bigger, fuller-bodied, bass of the Waveform Fidelity. In my room, the Walkers will not be going anywhere.
Reference Plus High Definition Links
My system uses Hephaestus digital amplifiers and I was cautioned by a colleague/speaker designer, about using these Links with my digital amplifiers. Digital amplifiers operate in frequency ranges that potentially could interfere with and have a deleterious effect on the amps. So, before I tried them, I contacted Joey White of Hephaestus Audio and his response was as follows:
Interesting product! I tried digging up some more info on the internals, but couldn’t find much. I’m curious if it’s a capacitor or some combination of components? Mike’s concerns are legitimate in that an external passive network could interfere with the ~400kHz carrier frequency typical of class-D amplifiers.
However, I don’t anticipate any negative effects on the Hephaestus amplifiers. This is particularly true given that the Links are installed at the loudspeaker end of the speaker cable. This provides some high frequency isolation between the amplifier and the Link, due to the inductance of the speaker cable (e.g. 1uH of inductance at 400kHz gives 2.5ohms of impedance).
Hope this helps. I look forward to reading your review of the Links!
I then contacted Walker Audio and got this response:
Lloyd wants you to know that the HDL (High Definition Links) is centered at 1.5 MgHz and will not affect your amp.
I now felt confident in proceeding with the review. Before connecting the Links to my speaker terminals, I returned my reference jumpers to the speakers in order to determine what the Links characteristics were without the Walker jumpers affecting the presentation.
The links attach to the left and right speaker terminals. Again, the thin silver wires with the soldered on spades looked fragile. I did have some difficulty fastening the spade lugs of the Links to the speaker terminals due to the fact that the spade lugs of the speaker cables also fastened at the same speaker terminals. It is recommended that a burn-in period of around 20 hours should be completed before they reach their performance level, which, of course, I followed.
Listening to my reference Frank Sinatra’s Sings for Only the Lonely CD gave me a clear picture of what was going on. The image size had significantly increased and Sinatra seemed to have gained weight. His voice was rounder, more full and sweeter, with a halo of air around him. At the same time, the sound stage increased in size. If I had to give a one word review it would be ‘bigger’. Ironically, the larger, bigger, images did not have the same density and sounded a little more diffuse. The sound became more romantic, almost as if I had changed to a traditional sounding tube amplifier. If your system is sounding a little hard or etched try these Links. I think they will work well for you.
Out of curiosity, I wondered what the result would be using the Walker jumpers and links together. Once again I changed to the Walker jumpers and the squeezed in the spades of the Links. With the speaker cables, I now had three sets of spade lugs at the speaker terminals. This was a little cumbersome to deal with but manageable. The combination proved very interesting. The soundstage kept its size but the images became more solid and lost some of that softness and gained in substance and solidity. Sinatra was more present and alive with the combination than before. One never knows how different pieces in the audio chain will interact with each other but it in this case it seems that the interaction between the two proved beneficial to the sound and I would definitely recommend them to you.
The Walker Audio Silver Jumper Cables and Reference Plus High Definition Links
Manufactured by Walker Audio
1139 Thrush Ln
Audubon, PA 19403
Price: Walker Audio Silver Jumper Cables ($420/pair.). Walker Audio Reference Plus High Definition Links, ($725/pair.).
Source: Manufacturer loan
Amplifiers: Hephaestos Audio Harpocratus Monoblocks
Speakers: Alta Audio FRM-2
Phono Preamplifier: AVID Pulsare updated to II
Digital: MSB DATA CD IV Transport
Preamplifier/Processor: The DEQX HDP-4 w/USB option board
Analogue: Avid SEQUEL SP/SME IV arm; Cartridge: Shelter 7000
Speaker Cables: Acoustic Zen’s Absolute, Kaplan GS Mk III
Power Cords: Waveform Fidelity GS Mk II
Interconnects: Antipodes Audio KOKIRI, KOMAKO and REFERENCE, Acoustic Zen’s Absolute Copper, Morrow Audio MA-7
Accessories: Redpoint BLAKHOLE’s, Herbie’s Audio Lab Tenderfeet, Soundcare products, Acme Audio Labs wall outlets
Power Conditioning: Waveform Fidelity