Alpha-Core Micro-Purl & TQ2 interconnect, Python MI2 speaker cable
So it came as a pleasant surprise to learn that Alpha-Core's new cables truly are reasonably priced: $78 for a 1-meter pair of Micro-Purl interconnects in copper, $127 for the upscale, silver-conductor version, and just $287 for an 8' biwire set of Python MI2 speaker cables, custom-terminated with super-trick rhodium-plated banana plugs on one end and solid silver spades on the other.
Flat Conductors, Round Cables
All of the cables in my review setMicro-Purl and TQ2 interconnects, and Python M12 speaker cablesfeature Alpha-Core's new "round" construction. The conductors are actually the flat, ribbon designs that Alpha-Core is known for, but in the new line, the conductors are suspended in a round-section sheath made of a clear, flexible polymer (footnote 1). The conductors are also twisted along their length, or "purled," to further reduce their susceptibility to EM and RFI.
Where the various models differ is in their size and conductor material. The Micro-Purls use a 0.25"-diameter outer sheath enclosing a stack of three 0.078"-wide by 0.010"-thick conductors: "two signal carriers on either side of a common ground plane, separated by layers of micro-thin dielectric." This results in a cross-sectional area equivalent to a round AWG 26 conductor. The Micro-Purls have copper or silver conductors, depending on the model.
The Triode Quartz 2 (TQ2) interconnects use silver conductors only, and are somewhat larger. The conductors are 0.125" by 0.005" thick, equivalent to AWG 21, and the polymer sheath is 0.32" in diameter. All of the interconnects used 24-karat gold-plated RCA plugs, but solid silver plugs and balanced configurations are available.
The Python MI2 speaker cable is a similar configuration, but consists of four ribbon conductors, all separated by the same "micro-thin dielectric" used in the interconnects. The conductors are solid copper, 0.31" by 0.012", for an effective cross-sectional area equivalent to AWG 10 in a single-wire configuration, AWG 13 biwired. The 0.44" outer sheath is made of polyester terepthalate. My pair was set up in a biwire configuration, terminated with Alpha-Core's solid silver spades on the amplifier end and their rhodium-plated silver banana plugs on the speaker end. As with the interconnects, the speaker cables can be had in larger configurations, and/or with solid silver conductors
System & Setup
I used the Alpha-Core wires in my standard system and configuration. The 1m Micro-Purl cables were used between a Wadia 861 CD player and my VAC CPA 1 Mk.III preamplifier. The larger, TC2 interconnects ran from the VAC to a pair of Classé CAM 350 monoblocks, which in turn fed Magnepan MG3.6/R speakers through an 8' run of the Python MI2 speaker cables. I also did a bit of listening and some A/B comparisons with the Wadia feeding the amplifiers directly. Prior to installation, all cables were burned in for at least a week using the Duo-Tech cable burn-in device; after installation, I allowed them to settle into the system for a few days before doing any critical listening.
Use and Listening
For the most part, the Alpha-Core cables shared a common sound: powerful, slightly forward, a touch cool, and having great extension and power at the frequency extremes. One of Alpha-Core's design goals is lowering inductance to minimize high-frequency rolloff, and that characteristic was certainly evident (footnote 2). I often test components' high-end performance by how well they reproduce the brushed cymbals on "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes," from Ernestine Andersen's Never Make Your Move Too Soon (CD, Concord Jazz CCD-4147). The first thing I noticed with the Alpha-Cores in my system was that the cymbal was more prominent than I was used tolouder, larger, and slightly more forward in the soundstage. It was vivid and solid, and had a good mix of metallic bite and bell-like ring. Plus, the circular motions of Frank Gant's brush against the cymbal were clearly defined by the dynamic shadings and location cues.
The Alpha-Cores were also impressive on the bottom end. The infamous subwayer, undergroundon the Martinon/LSO recording of Shostakovich's The Age of Gold Suite (RCA Living Stereo/Classic LSC-2322) was a distinct, deep rumble, and its comings and goings were easy to track. Such bottom-end percussion instruments as bass drums and timpani were clean and powerful, and always had a great sense of pace and pitch. As I ran through several of my favorite Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson jazz LPs, I noticed that Brown's bass was always tuneful, clean, and tight, but just a bit exaggerateda little more powerful than with my reference Nirvana and Synergistic wires.
Parallels, Lee Konitz's wonderful new jazz disc (Chesky JD213), really showed off the Alpha-Cores. There were clean, tight, bouncy bass lines on the bottom, and on top, a crisp, clear cymbal. And in the midrange, Konitz's and Mark Turner's saxes were articulate and powerfulbold, vivid images that had a good balance of dynamics, definition, and coherence.
Detail, particularly from the mezzo- to the macroscale, was reproduced very well. The columns of air moving through the saxes were clearly audible, with a wonderful, reedy honk that seemed to rip the airjust the way a sax does live. Background noisescoughs and scraping chairs, and offstage conversations like the laughing and joking in the studio on "Tanquerey," from Johnnie Johnson's Johnnie B. Bad (Elektra/Nonesuch 61149-2)were crystal-clear. Across the board, this level of detail was slightly more apparent with the Alpha-Cores than with my other cables.
Footnote 1: Jonathan Scull reviewed the Alpha-Core MI AgII speaker cable in the March 1996 Stereophile (Vol.19 No.3).
Footnote 2: Alpha-Core's Micro-Purl interconnect is specified as having inductance and capacitance values of 27nH/ft and 50pF/ft, respectively. For reference, Nordost's Blue Heaven, a similarly priced low-inductance, low-capacitance interconnect, has corresponding specified values of 100nH/ft and 5pF/ft.