BUS RIDE IMPRESSION: Cavalli Liquid Carbon

So as I resume the review of the loaners from Lyle Estipona, I realized that my week will be filled with his toys (Yes buddy, you got me all worked up for the week. Not complaining though, lol.) as I just finished doing the review for his Sony NW-WM1A yesterday (that one was fun, trust me; it got my juices working) and this time, I will try to tackle the Cavalli Liquid Carbon.

I know, this isn’t exactly the newest desktop/transportable amp in the market. Fact is, what I have right now is the first version, which means there already is a successor and even so, the second version is already headed to its end of life. So why bother doing a review for something you can’t get off the market brand new anymore? Simple: because it is interesting.

I pretty much had my share of amplifiers in the past and I must say, they differ in the way I liked them. This may be an argument for some, as people will have their own preferences and anything against the preferences naturally becomes a ground for saying how good or bad the amplifier is. For me, I would normally think as to which can/IEM/earbud it will have great synergy with. Of course there still are some that are so bad you will wonder why they were even invented.

In the case of the Liquid Carbon, or as I will lovingly call it in this edition the LC, it initially was a question for me as to why one would want an amp that totes balanced XLR HP output if it wasn’t even that powerful. That was my initial reaction, but as I go through letting myself immerse with the amp did I realize the beauty of the LC. Mind you, it has some tricks up its sleeves, so read on as I break down its merits.

Build

Cavalli opted to go for a minimalist black finish on the amplifier with the company’s logo on top. However, what’s really interesting is the fact that as small as the housing is, Cavalli was able to squeeze in quite a number of input and output options.

On the front panel you will find 3 input options, 2 of which I am sure will tickle the fancy of a lot of audio fanatics: 4-pin XLR and Kobikon apart from the traditional 6.3mm TRS output. It also has the gain option in case you would wish better power. One thing I noticed with the gain is how well it pumped the lower and higher end of the frequencies when set to high. Of course, you will also see the power button at the left side of the front panel.

cavali_lc_front

At the rear panel, you will get to see an impressive input options: RCA, 3.5mm TRS and 3-pin XLR. At the right most part of the rear panel is the outlet for the power plug.

cavalli_lc_rear

I must say, for something priced so low you can’t get any better with the options the LC has to offer.  I tried the XLR connection with my Asus Xonar Essence One and the pairing worked magnificently. I will go and tackle that later on.

Overall, build is quite done well, with a minor quirk that you must really be careful with the finish of the housing as it seems to be a scratch magnet. But then again, it will be all up to how you will take care of your precious toys.

Sound

I paired the LC directly with my Onkyo DP-X1 (set to line output) and also with my Xonar Essence One and I must say, the general signature of the LC is more of a transparent feel with a very slight bump on the low end while polishing off the high ends. Extensions are carefully done to the point of making the sound smooth and clean. This is evident upon using a Fostex T50RP Mk3 as I find the can a bit bright.

Let’s go through this and try the LC with some of my choice tracks:

Every Breath You Take (The Police, Synchronicity)

As mentioned earlier, what usually was a brighter tone for the T50RP became somewhat toned down on the highs region without losing that yummy sparkles that I always loved with the can. Lows also became healthier while Gordon Sumner’s vocals are still clearly and has that hint of forwardness. Andy Summers’ guitars has that crispiness that most would definitely like; clear, concise, accurate but not overbearing. Stewart Copeland’s drum flicks are definitely tight but subtle, emanating such extensions that is very pleasing on the sub bass.

Tonight, Tonight (Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness)

I particularly liked the strings section of the track, having that clear yet concise tone that perfectly harmonized with the drums. More so when the guitar’s clean tone plucks came into picture. Billy Corgan’s voice definitely edged the track out, working in such good harmony with the instruments. Imaging is excellent; in spite of the huge number of accompaniments playing you will still be able to discern which is which without being too distant to feel lack of coherence.

Skin O’ My Teeth (Megadeth, Countdown To Extinction)

Nick Menza is a genius! His drum rolls at the beginning of the track was truly mind blowing given the layering offered by LC. Dave Mustaine’s vocals complemented his and Marty Friedman’s guitars so well you can help but jam along the track as you listen. Of all the 3 tracks I tried with the LC paired with T50RP, this is the one I enjoyed the most. It is a matter of dropping the analytics and trying to just enjoy and immerse yourself with what you hear. Definitely a recommendation if you just simply want to let your mind be blown with the track. Man, you will definitely break apart with Friedman’s shredding.

Wrap-up

While Cavalli’s other offers tend to be on a more expensive side, Liquid Carbon is definitely a must for those who would want to have a taste of Cavalli’s signature tuning without ripping your wallet apart. I was not entirely a believer initially given what seemingly was a less than average power compared to other amplifiers within the price range, but then again it should be enough with most especially given the balanced connection. If I get a chance to get one, I will in a heartbeat.

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