Acoustic Zen interconnects, AC, and speaker cables Page 2
The result of all this effort was well worth it. The SRII's sound was a near-ideal balance of superb low-level resolution, harmonic richness, speed, and dynamics. Bass was firm, deep, and defined, the midrange open, silky, and richly detailed. The top end was an especial strength, providing exceptional extension, scads of detail, and absolutely no etch or grain. Dynamics were subtle or explosive—whatever the music demanded was readily available.
Lee's pursuit of quiet has reaped rich rewards—the SRII gave me profound silence between instrumental spaces, worked equally well with tube and solid-state front-end components, and stood toe to toe in every aspect of overall performance with my (vastly more expensive) reference cables. Given the Zens' sound and quality of construction, I would not have been surprised had their price twice as high (footnote 1).
If the SRII represented a stunning bargain, the Satori Shotgun took the concept of value into another universe. A chunky, full "dual-mono" run of the Satori cable, the all-copper Shotgun has a total weight of 7 AWG—there's a lot of wire between amp terminals and speaker inputs. Prior to installing the Shotguns, I was biwiring my EgglestonWorks Andra IIs with two pairs of Nordost single-wire speaker cables costing $11,000. The Satori Shotgun is optimized for biwiring three- or four-way speaker systems. (AZ's Hologram speaker cable is optimized for biwiring two-way designs.) When I replaced the Nordost cables with one run of Satori Shotgun, I hoped that the falloff in performance would not be so acute that the listening would be a chore.
I needn't have worried. The Satori Shotgun sounded so similar to my reference that I was stunned. Deep, taut, articulate bass? Check. A harmonically rich but uncolored midrange? Double check. Smoothness, purity, and world-class extension on top? Triple check. At times it seemed as if there was just a dash of silvery mellowness at the top, but the Satori Shotgun never seemed to impede the retrieval of low-level detail on reverb trails, cymbal strokes, brushed snare drums, or the sheen of massed violins. The Satoris' dynamics provided everything I asked of them with any type of music. Speedy and responsive, they paired superbly with both the Calix Phoenix Grand Signature and the EgglestonWorks Andra, two mightily revealing speakers with clearly differing characters.
Like the interconnects and speaker cables, the copper-silver Gargantua II AC power cord is optimized for low resistance and loop inductance. It's also a big, stiff mutha that is a complete pig to muscle into place. It was also a joy to hear. Its huge gauge allows unimpeded flow of vital electricity, and its extensive shielding should present a high barrier to air- and powerline-borne grunge.
The Gargantuas let the Lamm M2.1 and Halcro dm58 power amplifiers show exceptional dynamic response against a background of utter, grainless quiet while allowing the distinctive sonic character of each amp to speak clearly. The Ayre D-1x DVD player I use for CD playback preferred the Gargantua II to any other AC cord I tried; with it, the Ayre's bass firmed up impressively. Although the Ayre is already one of the best-shielded components out there, with the Gargantua II backgrounds became even quieter, giving better low-level resolution. The Gargantua is not cheap, but its performance put it in the company of the best power cords on the market.
The character of all the Acoustic Zen cables—more precisely, their lack of character—was astonishingly consistent regardless of the components and speakers I used with them. Such consistency across differing components has always been a leading indicator of overall excellence and neutrality in cables. My only caveat is that they might not be the best choice for a system that already sounds bright or forward. The Zens hid nothing on top, and did not act as mellowing, euphonizing tone controls. They did not accentuate any band of frequencies, instead behaving in as linear and evenhanded a fashion as the finest cables I have used.
No one cable can be the very best for everyone; synergy will always be a consideration in getting the finest performance out of any system. What puts the Acoustic Zen cables among the best to be had is that their performance equals the best I have ever heard in my system at a small fraction of the price of wires providing similar performance. Here, at last, are reference-level cables that the average audiophile can realistically contemplate owning. Miss hearing the Acoustic Zen cables not only at the risk of your wallet, but of losing out on some of the finest musical enjoyment possible.
Footnote 1: Lee also sent along a set of AZ's Matrix Reference II interconnect. At $548 per XLR-terminated meter, the Matrix offered 85-90% of the performance of the SRII, yielding just a bit in ultimate top-octave air and resolution of inner-voice detail on orchestral music.