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Audio Illuminati

Price (when reviewed): 3500 PLN/2 m (incl. VAT)

Contact details: tel. +48 660 795 700


Provided for test by: AUDIO ILLUMINATI


translation Marek Dyba
images Audio Illuminati, „High Fidelity”

No 236

January 1, 2024


Audio Illuminati is a small Polish company specializing in development and production of power cables. In fact, it only makes one, the Power Reference One to be exact, now in the Mk II version we are testing. It was founded in 2016 by Mr. PIOTR KALICKI, an ICT security engineer by training.

HAT DIFFERES AN AUDIO MANUFACTURER from a DIY enthusiast selling his products to family and friends? There are several characteristics that distinguish these two types of business. The primary one is that the manufacturer runs a business, pays taxes, and his products must comply with safety standards. The second is repeatability - manufacturers' products tend to be much more repeatable than DIY products, which are always, to some extent, one-offs. Part of the requirements for professional products are boxes or some form of packaging. And finally, there is something that is not so apparent at first glance, which is the pursuit of recognition, i.e. media presence, dedicated website, etc.

Looking at these requirements and knowing the modus operandi of Mr. PIOTR KALICKI, one can say that Audio Illuminati cable is a product of a manufacturer. But it should be noted that his activity balances the line between DIY and business activity, where these two ways of presence in the audio industry blur. Indeed, cable manufacturing is a hobby for Mr. Piotr, not his main occupation. According to his website, he has offered various versions of the Power One cable, and even non-terminated sections of the cable. His new product, however, looks more polished and thoughtful in terms of its promotion, as it comes in a very cool, decently prepared box, and the product itself is repeatable.

Power Reference II

SIMILARLY AS BEFORE, first there was an email, in which the designer informed me that he had an idea for a new cable and would like to present it to me. As he wrote, the first and only product he offered under the Audio Illuminati brand "was well received by the market" and some 140 units were sold in Poland and around the world. However, as he adds, he muted his activities relatively quickly, sold out of material and "the audio adventure ended there." Or at least that's what he thought.

However, designers are a special group of people. They are always thinking about new solutions, building new products in their heads, coming up with ideas. So sooner or later Mr. Kalicki had to return to cable production. The idea for the new cable was to make it affordable and much more versatile than the previous one, about which the designer writes: "It was a good cable, but very defined, very specific, great in some respects, but questionable in others. It was not universal and worthy of a being recommended in every situation. And further:

I have an idea, in fact a finished product that I would like to offer. I would relaunch the Audio Illuminati brand for it and offer it as a product made by "an enthusiast for other enthusiasts". It would be one cable, one product. Almost top-of-the-line, top-shelf quality at a very reasonable, by current realities, price. I currently have my entire system wired with it and it "sings" to me like never before. I have access to great components from Japan and use them as the base for this cable.

This cable, 2 m long, was supposed to be flexible and WITHOUT active shielding. The manufacturer notes that despite this feature, it should not be "feared", although it should be placed 10-20 cm away from signal cables and tubes. The cable was said to be based on PC Triple-C copper with a very thick conductor cross-section and with a "proper" conductor insulator, he said. As he wrote: "It is to be a cable for any system, for any device, universal and objectively great."

I agreed to test it.


| A few simple words…

owner, designer

⸜ The owner of Audio Illuminati, Mr. PIOTR KALICKI

ON FEBRUARY 1st. 2017, the first test of my first product appeared in the pages of "High Fidelity" (more HERE →). It's been almost seven years since that review, and I'm back with my second product. Everything I said then about myself, the company and the business has not changed and is still relevant, but the first paragraph of that text deserves special emphasis:

Achieving above-average results, in my opinion, requires a rejection of generally accepted practices. Only a fresh perspective, without preconceptions and assumptions, increases the chance of creating something unique. This statement can be considered a credo, and a starting point when designing Audio Illuminati products.

It was so then, it is so now. I am constantly revising my beliefs, questioning and revising anew. I do this to get closer to the certainty that I am following the right path. For the purpose of this article, I have defined the basic yet critical characteristics of a high-end power cable. The Power Reference II meets, in my opinion, more than adequately each of these requirements:

1. The highest possible quality of the conductor.
2. Adequate length of conductor.
3. Sufficiently large conductor cross-section.
4. "Easy/fast" dielectric.
5. Gentle twisting of each conductor.

⸜ All the components that make up the Power Reference II cable

6. Minimization of vibration and natural resonance of each conductor
7. Minimization of vibration and natural resonance of the entire cable (main insulator and sleeve)
8. High quality connectors:
(a) connector material,
(b) coating of connectors,
(c) polishing of connectors,
(d) vibration damping in the plug (body),
(e) light and even pressure on the cable in the plug.
9. No shielding or sophisticated shielding placed FAR from the conductors.

All of the points will probably be familiar and relatively obvious to "High Fidelity" readers, although point eight requires comment, I think. There are elements of audio systems that I consider to be a necessary evil in terms of sound quality. The first is fuses, and the second is all kinds of shielding: equipment, tubes, cables, etc. This is a topic for a separate article, and limited space does not allow me to develop the thread. I will only write that if I could - I would not shield any of the audio components.

⸜ The designer’s listening system

In practice, for a great many reasons, it is impossible, so due to safety requirements or to minimize complaints and customer comments virtually everything is shielded. This is advantageous from the point of view of sales, ease of use or compatibility of audio system components with each other, but I believe that unfortunately it is a compromise in terms of sound quality.

Luckily, power cables, if certain specific conditions apply, can be unshielded. First of all, they must be physically distant (at least 10 cm) from other unshielded components in an audio system, such as signal cables, digital cables and, most importantly, electron tubes. PK


We tested the AC Audio Illuminati Power Reference One power cable in February 2017. Nearly seven years in a company's development is a lot of time, which is why, as the manufacturer writes, "the Power Reference II differs from the Power Reference One in... basically everything."

The Model One was based on a conductor from the US and required a series of operations and "relatively innovative solutions and techniques to bring out its beauty." Version II, on the other hand, uses a Japanese PC-Triple C copper conductor. This copper is produced by Fine Chemicals & Materials, which is part of the Furukawa corporation. We are familiar with this type of cable, primarily from Acoustic Revive; more → HERE, but also from Furutech; more → HERE «PL».

PC-Triple C uses a unique continuous forging and stretching technology designed to minimize grain boundaries that impede signal transmission. In a process similar to forging, in which the wire is repeatedly compressed (hammered), it reduces its volume by 70%. The strikes have the right angle and direction, chosen through experimentation. This is an unmistakable reference to Japanese sword forging traditions, which is why Acoustic Revive's ads feature an image of a katana blade. Mr. Kalicki writes:

The PC-Triple C conductor has suitable electrical properties, such as very low distortion and high conductivity. It achieves a wide dynamic range and a high signal-to-noise ratio. The cable features low noise and natural resonance.

The Power Reference II is delivered in a simple but extremely nice cardboard box. Its top panel is embossed with the company's logo and its advertising slogan in purple varnish: "True Musical Experience." Opening the box first, on its top panel, we read the designer's message, in which he explains his assumptions. The cable itself is housed in a linen bag, also modest, but pretty, so to speak, with the manufacturer's logo.

The lid closes magnetically, in which it resembles Sephora chain gift boxes and others of its kind. The whole thing is an eco-friendly product, as it is 92% recyclable. It's apparent that audio manufacturers already know that nothing will be the same after Jobs and Apple products, and it's worth the effort to make the product look like a gift.

The cable has a considerable cross-section, but is quite flexible. It uses a conductor with a diameter of ϕ 0.30 mm x 72 and a cross-sectional area of each of the three conductors of 5.4 mm2. The cable has a thin copper foil screen which IS NOT, as the manufacturer emphasizes, connected to the PE protective conductor. And also:

This is passive shielding, much less effective than active shielding, but translates into unparalleled better sound quality.

Therefore, the manufacturer recommends that the cable be placed at least 10 cm away from unshielded system components, such as signal cables, digital cables and electron tubes.

Both the cable jacket and the insulator of the individual conductors use polyethylene with an additional vibration-damping material. The cable's conductors are gently twisted relative to each other to minimize electromagnetic emissions, while the cable's filling is a "high-quality pure cotton," which serves the function of holding the conductors in place and damping unwanted vibrations.

⸜ PLUGS • I am not sure if you remember, but we actually got to know the Oyaide company through its plugs. Although in "High Fidelity" we tested (as the first magazine in Europe!) their interconnects and speaker cables, it was the company's plugs that made the brand known. And at that time it was one of the taboo topics, ridiculed by, as it turns out, ignorant people; more → HERE «PL». Today, many of the world's top companies use its products.

Therefore, no reasonable person who has done such a test at least once underestimates its impact on a given design. There are cables in which it is even a equivalent element to the cable itself. This is the case here as well. The Power Reference II uses one of the latest versions of Oyaide plugs, the AC-004 IEC model, imported straight from Japan, and the Shuko Elecaudio RS-34GP plug, manufactured by MPS Audio of Taiwan.

AC-004 is made of beryllium copper plated with platinum and palladium. This is a new version of the well-known and respected C-004 series plugs, available exclusively for the Japanese market, costing 46% more than the C-004 plug. The manufacturer believes that this model has comparable performance to the flagship Oyaide F1. They differ in nuances, and according to Mr. Kalicki, they are of the same class, although they accentuate different characteristics in the musical presentation.

The Elecaudio plug is made by MPS Audio. Its metal parts are made of phosphorobronze coated with a layer of silver and a very thick (3 microns) layer of gold. Its unique features are the body’s material and the extremely stable seating in the socket. It is intended to be twinned in these respects to the ETI Research Legato plug. A red dot is applied at one of the pins - it is worth ensuring that this is where the "hot" wire is connected.

The manufacturer adds that the cable is assembled by hand "with the utmost precision." The clamping force of each screw is adjusted with a torque screwdriver with a force of 1.0 Nm. The cable looks very nice, and considering the materials and components used in it, looking at how it is packaged, it is hard not to be surprised at its low price.


⸜ HOW WE LISTENED • The Audio Illuminati Power Reference II cable powered the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition player (№ 1/50) during the listening test, and was compared to my reference, the Siltech Triple Crown power cable. The test consisted of an A/B/A comparison, with known A and B, using short, two-minute samples.

Both cables were plugged into an Acoustic Revive RPT-4EU Absolute AC power strip, which in turn was fed by a 2.5-meter Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9500 AC cable. The Acrolink was connected to a Furutech NCF wall outlet, to which a separate power line with HPA's own fuse runs. This line is made from a 6-meter section of Oyaide Tunami Nigo cable.


⸜ GIL EVANS ORCHESTRA, Out Of The Cool, Impulse!/Verve Label Group UCGQ-9045, „Acoustic Sounds SACD Series 3”, SHM-SACD (1961/2023).
⸜ BILL EVANS TRIO, Waltz For Debby, Riverside Records/Craft Recordings/Universal Classics & Jazz UCGO-9057, „Bill Evans Remaster Series”, SHM-SACD (1961/2023).
⸜ PAT METHENY, What's It All About, Nonesuch/Warner Music [Japan] WPCR-14176, CD (2009).
⸜ PETER GABRIEL, So, Realworld/Virgin SAPGCD5, SACD/CD (1987 /2003).
⸜ JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, Electronica 1: The Time Machine, Columbia Records/Sony Records Int'l SICP, BSCD2 (2015).


THE OPENING GIL EVANS ORCHESTRA’S Out Of The Cool composition entitled La Nevada, by the band's leader, is familiar to Polish music lovers from Polish Radio Program III, where it was used as the jingle that started the Three Quarters Of Jazz program. Hosted, among others, by Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski, it was a "flying university" for me, where I came into contact for the first time with sounds that had previously irritated me and at best bored me.

That's why every time I hear this track in the new mastering version I look for those emotions. It's interesting, but they were provided to me not only by my reference system, but also by the same system with the inexpensive cable I tested. Its sound (I mean the changes made to the sound) appeared to be "wide", both in terms of stereo panorama, dynamic range and bandwidth extension. But right away, I also knew that this wasn't what was most important about it.

It is, I believe, the focus of the sound. This is not a cable that blows up the presentation. Rather, it disciplines it, rather assembles it into larger structures. Its bandwidth, although, as I say, wide, has something in it that causes our attention to be drawn to its center, to the midrange. When the leader's piano speaks up, right in front of us, it has a dark, low sound with the Audio Illuminati Power Reference II. But it's not a dark sound as such. The maracas that enter immediately afterwards, on the right, open up the presentation, opening up the space as well.

And even if, played in a moment exactly in the right channel, the hi-hat is dark, it is a darkness resulting not from the closing of the sound, but from a good demonstration of the fact that the tone of the microphone was set this way and that it was set close to the cymbals. By the way, the balancing between dark and light sound is an important quality of this cable. It is very dynamic, as shown by the brass section, laid out by the sound engineer in the panorama in front of us, and it is the dynamics that further open up the presentation.

How is this possible? - it seems to me that the point is that the tested cable is able to construct something that, out of many small elements that vary in intensity and pitch, builds a deep, multi-layered sound that can hardly be described as dark, or - even less so - bright. Because it's a "big" sound, without limitations, without compression or "softening" of the attack. And yet, despite this, we get the impression that the most important thing is happening in the midrange, that it is there that hides the spring that drives the song.

At the same time, the instruments are large in terms of volume. Maybe that's why the presentation is drawn, slightly - but still, toward us. This is a truly tangible sound, a close perspective. Without artificially "throwing" sounds in our direction, but in a very natural, good way, opening a window to the musical event in question right in front of us.

As it seems, it's all about the acoustics of the recordings. It is rendered by this cable extremely well, faithfully, nicely. That's why the concert, which was recorded on June 25th. 1961 at the Village Vanguard club by the BILL EVANS TRIO, and which - in the selection - was released under the Waltz for Debby title, impressed me so much. Anyway - it always does when I play it from the Analogue Productions edition on two 45 rpm LPs. But the version prepared this year by Craft Recordings and released in Japan on SHM-SACD is also excellent, and it's the one with which Illuminati showed its best.

The Polish power cable has not lost its vitality and excellent acoustics. Although the manufacturers placed the drums and double bass on the left and the piano on the right, the space that opens up in front of us is perfectly coherent. The Audio Illuminati Power Reference II emphasized it and additionally brought out something "extra" on the sides. Although it's a really inexpensive cable, its resolution is exceptionally good, and it's also what made the interior of the club seem so real to me, so within reach.

The same was true of PAT METHENY's guitar on What's It All About. This is a disc of solo recordings, and the guitar is not a "big" instrument. The producers decided to make it bigger by cranking up the low midrange and placing it in a large space, where bass-based room mods were more strongly emphasized. Audio Illuminati did a very good job of showing that this is an artistic interpretation of the guitar sound and that they slightly spread in phase the two microphones recording the guitar.

The effect of "spreading out," i.e. of sound coming from the the space outside speakers and from behind me, was smaller than with the reference cable, and there was not as much information about the instrument itself, its texture. The depth of the stage wasn't as great either. But that's not what surprised me, it was to be expected. What was interesting was that these differences were not as significant as one would expect. Probably because the tested cable retains something so that the sound does not break down into small elements, but is shown at one point as an event.


| Our albums

⸜ BILL EVANS TRIO Waltz For Debby
Riverside Records/Craft Recordings/Universal Classics & Jazz UCGO-9057

„Bill Evans Remaster Series”
SHM-SACD ⸜ 1961/2023

BILL EVANS TRIO’s Waltz For Debby is an album recorded live on June 25th. 1961 at the Village Vanguard club and released a year later by Riverside. It was the last night of the four that Evans' trio - with whom bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian played - spent at the club. It was also the last recording of the trio in general - just ten days after the concert LaFaro died in a car accident. We should add that one can find recordings made in the earlier days on the Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961) album, considered by many critics to be one of the best of its kind in jazz history.

For me, however, it is Waltz For Debby that is the masterpiece, both musically and sonically. The album was recorded by Roy DuNann, along with Rudy Van Gelder, one of the most interesting sound engineers in the jazz world. DuNann began his work at Capitol Records, before being hired by Lester Koenig to work at Contemporary Records. The sound engineer on Frank Sinatra's Songs For Young Lovers, Sonny Rollins' Way Out West and Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section albums was known for using innovative, for the time, recording methods.

The album has been released over the years by various publishers, of which three reissues are the most important to me: on vinyl, it's Analogue Productions' reissue on two 45 rpm discs, which was released as part of the numbered "Fantasy 45 Series," and in digital formats, the 1998 XRCD and, from 2022, again by Analogue Productions, a hybrid SACD disc. The Concord Craft Recordings version is the best of them.

It was made, so to speak, "on the occasion" of the vinyl reissue that Craft Recordings prepared as part of the "Craft OJC Series" for the LP release. The remaster was done in the analog domain by Kevin Gray at his Cohearent Audio. The SACD in question is a different case. As it reads, it is an SHM-SACD, that is, a single-layer disc, with a special polymer instead of plastic and a metal alloy instead of aluminum, whose signal was remastered in DSD from a 24/192 digital transfer, made at the same time as the LP reissue. Interestingly, the authors of this remaster are not stated.

Every time I sit down to listen to this album I get shivers down my spine. The realism of this recreation is incredible. It's a club recording, so in the background you can hear the clinking of glasses, cutlery, conversations, every now and then coughing. However, this gives an excellent background to the music, as it brings all the instruments together into a real whole. Although, after all, the drums are in the left channel, along with the double bass, and the leader's piano is in the right channel.


CURIOUS ABOUT HOW THE CABLE WOULD WORK with the heavily compressed material, I reached for PETER GABRIEL's So, remastered in 2005 and released on, pressed in Japan, SACD. Gabriel doesn't have much of a hand for good sound, although this artist's musical imagination is incredible. So is no exception - its sound is shallow, axis-focused and dynamically quite anemic.

The most important information is this: the tested cable does not emphasize brightness or harden the attack. Tony Levin's bass in Red Rain, a track particularly impaired in this regard, had no depth or clear texture, but its agility was retained. Illuminati didn't play as low as Siltech, and yet maintained the consistency of that instrument with the rest of the sound, which was not slimmed down. This was a very interesting effect, as everything here was internally aligned and harmonious - Gabriel is a master of large structures.


AND THIS IS WHY I "READ" the Power Reference II cable as a cable that builds large scale events, building them in a dense and midrange-focused way. Lang Lang's piano, brilliantly assembled with JEAN-MICHEL JARRE's electronics on Electronica 1: The Time Machine, was excellent. With this album, the bass was low and dense, and had excellent energy.

With it we will get a very well arranged, spatially and timbrally, presentation with it, which will surprise us with its high resolution - surprised when we know how much this cable costs. Much more expensive designs go deeper into the fabric of the tracks, but you'll need a really high-end system to notice this. A superbly built, very good-sounding power cable with an extremely versatile effect on sound. Really worth trying out.

THIS TEST HAS BEEN DESIGNED ACCORDING TO THE GUIDELINES adopted by the Association of International Audiophile Publications, an international audio press association concerned with ethical and professional standards in our industry, of which HIGH FIDELITY is a founding member. More about the association and its constituent titles → HERE.


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