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The overall perspective of the Panatela was slightly laid back or mid hall whereas MIT’s considerably more expensive Magnum M1.3 was more up close and visceral. While articulated with a nice sense of flow and momentum, bass was not as deep, weighty or powerful as the MIT. On the other hand I wouldn’t object if many listeners found the MIT a little too much of a good thing in some systems. When compared to the Magnum M1.3, leading edge attacks however were somewhat blunted and smoothed over. The harmonic structure and textural layers weren’t quite as resolved and palpable either.

If I seem a little critical of the Panatela, keep in mind that I’m comparing it to a cable that retails for over thrice and comes from a company with decades of research and millions spent on determining what makes a good audio cable. The fact I’m even comparing the two reflects the high regard I hold of the Panatela. It’s good enough to compare favorably to cables in the platinum seat section of perfectionist audio. Furthermore it complemented Mark’s power cords perfectly in that they contributed the balls, tonal richness and noise reduction while the Panatela added micro-detail and finesse. Definitely worth checking out.

Whilst reviewing the Robusto power cables Mark suggested I try CruzeFIRST Audio’s Maestro outlets which some folks claim to be a particularly fine match with Sablon Audio’s power cords. Shortly after firing an email to Fernando Cruz, I received four Maestro outlets to fully outfit my system. I put two in the wall outlets that feed my system, the other two in a DIY box I’ve used in the past for outlet comparisons. Basically it’s a quad-outlet box with a short run of 12/3 Romex wired to a Hubbell AC plug. No doubt the Romex and Hubbell add their own sonic signatures but at least every outlet I swap in is in the same boat. I now swapped out one of the Maestros for either a Wattgate 381 or commercial grade Leviton as are used throughout our home. By the way, outlet swapping is a truly mind-numbing experience. I don’t recommend it at all but then again, every dyed-in-the-wool audiophile knows that sweating the details is the key to obtaining that audio high. I performed all my switching and swapping when the wife and kids weren’t around to avoid even more ridicule and scorn than I am normally subjected to already.

The Maestro is based on several years of research and collaboration between CruzeFIRST Audio and Tripoint Audio who use Maestro outlets in their spectacularly expensive Spartan power line conditioner which retails for $35.000! The Maestro is a rather ordinary looking spec-grade 20-amp outlet constructed with a high-purity copper:brass alloy without plating. It is cryogenically treated with a professional microprocessor-controlled deep immersion process followed up with a rather sticky sweet-smelling coating that not only damps resonances and vibration but also reduces EMI/RFI. Details on this were not forthcoming other than that it is a proprietary formulation developed by CruzeFIRST Audio. Prior to shipping each outlet gets subjected to a two-week proprietary break-in process. Fernando then says to expect another 3-4 days of further run-in upon installation to reach optimum performance.

Like Mark Coles, Fernando embarked on considerable research of available aftermarket outlets. While he found many to offer very real sonic benefits, they  came at a cost of various sonic signatures that eventually compromised musical fidelity. According to Fernando, "after trying everything I could get my hands on and always liking certain things those outlets did yet always with a compromise, I decided to study and research the materials, processes and treatments involved along with their associated sonic characteristics. My first conclusion was that certain types of materials were more getting in the way than helping. We focused on plating, mass effectiveness, EMI/RFI rejection and mechanical distortion. When we set out to develop the outlet, we understood that the main objective was to be non-restrictive with regards to current flow and sonically non-bloating or editorializing (traits I’d heard with other materials). We address these shortcomings with our choice of materials in the Maestro outlet. The last piece of the puzzle was RFI and EMI rejection. This we developed in collaboration with Tripoint Audio who were key in performing testing and benchmarking. They too were looking for the best possible outlet to use in their Spartan flagship AC line conditioner."