In the newest issue of the British magazine “Hi-Fi+” Roy Gregory, the editor in chief, tests the power cable Odin from the company Nordost (One Step Beyond…, December 2008/January 2009, Issue 62, s. 90-93). This is an incredibly expensive cable, costs 7250 pounds for 1.5 meters. The conclusion of the test is clear: a good composed cable system can cost as much as the rest of the components, because it moves their sound forward in such extent, that spending the same amount on the components would not be able to do so. Surprised? Is the man mad? Bought? If you did experiment with cables, you can answer ‘no’ to all those questions. Even for me, the comparison of the Odin and the less expensive Valhalla was not an easy read. Not that this is bad writing – Roy is one of my favorite writers – one, who knows what he is writing about, and what he is writing. And this is not common. It is about that, that if I would not have dealt with expensive power cables, and I would not have heard the differences they make in the sound, Roy’s test would have been odd for me, as if I would be reading about something veiled, not fully clear. And this is understandable. It is hard just to believe, that a short piece of cable can change anything, the more when we have kilometers of wire in our walls, and many more on the way to the powerhouse. But – it works!
Maybe you do remember the test of the power cable Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100? If not, then I recommend reading it HERE. This is a phenomenal, incredibly expensive cable. I never heard a better one in my life. Of course I have not listened to every cable in the world, including the mentioned Nordosta Odin, but for me this is the absolute master. Correction – was. It was, because a new cable appeared, the twice as expensive (!) model Mexcel 7N-PC9100, to be manufactured in a 400 pieces batch only. It differs from my cable (I own two 7N-PC7100) in color – this is braided deep red and black – but in other aspects seems to be very similar. Until now, no further information about its technology are known, so the only thing we could do is listen to it, and make our opinions based on that. The listening session was made, as usual, at Janusz’s place in the Ancient Audio system with Sonus Faber loudspeakers. This was important, because the host bought four of the ‘7100’ cables for his system – three for the player (transport and 2xDAC) and one to place between the power socket (the most expensive one from Oyaide, with a carbon fiber front) to the power strip from Fadel. We have noticed, that the exchange of the cables in the amplifiers also makes an improvement, so for the most important listening sessions I bring my ‘7100’ and we have the complete system cabled with it (6 pcs).
Our – meaning Janusz and mine – attitude was quite skeptical. We knew what our Acrolink can do, and even the twice as high price of the contestant did not impress us much. Subconsciously, at least I think so, we would have liked it better, not having to change anything in that matter, as we are talking about insane money… But the reality grew over us. The new cable is clearly better than the older one. Instead of moving that, what the ‘7100’ does in an almost perfect way, the ‘9100’ keeps all of that, but moves to a new, much better level, but not exactly vertically above the older version, but as if it would enter another dimension. With that one cable plugged in the CD transport (!) the sound was transformed to something completely new. The change was not subtle, but it could be compared to exchanging one of the elements in the system. The surprise was equally big to all of us – those who ‘believe’ in cables, and those who treat those as fairy tales. I do not think, that this reportage can convince anyone, but maybe just becomes the impulse, to start searching shops, where such a comparison can be done – it is enough to have a fair system and cabling, to hear the difference.
Like I mentioned, Janusz is the proud owner of four ‘7100’ cables. His reaction to the new cable was out of the ordinary.
But I had just the opportunity, to listen for three days to the newest Acrolink product, the power cable Mexcel 7N-PC9100. Its price, would bear respect, even when we would talk about an amplifier or player, but a power cable… Now, here starts the problem. How to talk about that? Or maybe not talk at all, but only listen?
As I am the owner of four power cables from the series ‘7100’, when I learned, that there is an opportunity to test the twice as expensive cable of that company, I was eager, but without any special emotions. My relative calmness came from the fact, that I do not have any complains to those cables in my system, furthermore I have compared them with most cables available on the Polish market in the given price range (3500-8000zl), and I chose the ‘7100’ without hesitation. No other cable in my system (this is an important remark, as there is no ideal cable, that would sound fine in every system, without exception) could even approach the Acrolink in terms of cleanness, space, detail, openness, dynamics, and most importantly – lack of signature, so characteristic for example in the LE-10 Limited from XLO.
So how we can describe the properties of that cable? Those can be summarized in a few very important observations:
After two days of listening, when it became clear, that the musical spectacle should look just like that, I was requested to compare it with Nordost Valhalla. I will not hide, that I was very worried, because the equipment accompanying the Valhalla was in the 10000zl per unit price range, and my experience to date suggested, that in such systems – “budget hi-end”, also cables that are on the budget side of the hi-end fit best, and ‘9100’ is for sure not among them. But it turned out, that I was very wrong.
Then I understood the phenomenon of the Acrolink ‘9100’. When direct comparison with the ‘7100’ showed its class (well – it puts twice the amount on the price tag), although some characteristics were common, then comparing it to the Valhalla, especially when looking at the hype, the Nordost power cable has in the audiophile world, was like – excuse me for the comparison – comparing a Mercedes Benz to a small Fiat. Both cars have one thing in common: the one and the other can be used for getting from one place to another, if nothing unexpected happens. But this is mostly the only thing they have in common. Those cables were separated by a world of difference, in all aspects of the musical transmission. This not, that we can say the ‘9100’ is better. This would only be a part of the truth. Its just, that after plugging in the Acrolink we have a beautiful musical spectacle, incredible depth of timbres, emotions, etc. Compared to that, the Nordost is like an anorectic, thin, weak, grey, lifeless, with no fill, let go musicality. It was senseless to compare. This is a pity – I remember I liked this cable some time ago. And if it were not for the Acrolink, I probably still would like it. But this is just how it is in the audio world: long bonds do not hold the pressure of time. This is the price we have to pay for the progress and every step on the way to the ideal.
Somebody could say, that this is twice the money, and that it must be that way, because of that fact. Maybe, maybe not… How many times we hear, or we say them ourselves, opinions about false relationships of price and quality. Because this is true, everybody must admit that, the price is not always a warrant for quality. On the other hand, high quality is most of the time – sadly – only available for a high price. Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 is a very good example of that. I really recommend to listen to it, if only for educational purposes. And if you can afford it, then there is no other choice.
Well, I returned to my cables, they confirm their value every time, but longing for the ‘9100’ remains. Maybe, someday…”
We and Janusz
The emotional reaction of Janusz on the Acrolink cable is fully justified. If I would have to write a test of this cable, it would look something like the above. But I did not think like that from the start, it was necessary to listen to many discs, discuss them, return to the already listened to, and only this allowed to state, that although the ‘7100’ is the best power cable I know, then the ‘9100’ is something outside those categories. I also cannot accept, that there is nothing better, and nothing better will ever appear, but now it is like it is. And it is so, that every time we have to learn something new to go a step further. There are no shortcuts. In audio, but not only there, also in literature it goes exactly the same way, to know where a “wall” is, we have to bounce against it. Listening to something better than our previous standard, we notice the problems, cracks – drawbacks we were not aware of before. Because we were pressed on a glass, separating us from the music, this “second reality”. When the glass gets further away, we see, that it was not fully clean, that its structure is not perfect, etc. That happened with the cables I am writing about.
First a few sentences from the other attendees. We started with the disc Nice’N’Easy Frank Sinatra, just re-issued by Mobile Fidelity (Capitol/Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 790, gold-CD).
Did you see a few patterns returning in the above quotes? It was clear, that with newer material the assets of the ‘9100’ are more and more visible. A second constant was – the longer you listen to this cable, the more you appreciate what it does. The effect was, that we were ‘bought’ after listening to five discs. The return to some of the pieces heard earlier was the return to another world. The sound of Rollins and Sinatra discs was hoarser with the ‘7100’. More detailed but not more resolved by any means. The same was with the vocals of Sara K – not fully well recorded, and even the K2 technology did not help, and which was visibly sharper with the ‘7100’. This of course compared with the more expensive cable, and not competition. But we had to bounce off our habits and expectations to appreciate that. With new discs, with full frequency band, the difference will be audible immediately, and clear for every music-lover. But we need to ‘break’ that, what grew inside us. The best way of checking, if the ‘new’ thing is better than the ‘old’, is to go back to the cheaper (worse) product, and see if we miss something. There is no return with the Acrolink. Maybe I did not show, how fierce we discussed during the first few discs, because at first I thought – and not only I – that the ‘9100’ smoothens the sound too much. But I can attribute this only to the lack of experience. With the new Acrolink it is not about improving what the ‘7100’ gives – it is about changing the paradigm, going from hi-fi to real music. I know, that this is just a temporary state, and will not last forever, but at least we have defined it, what cannot be said about many other listening sessions.
Finally a few words about other things we were busy with that evening. First of all was the premiere of the CD-2 player from Ayon. I tested both other players from that manufacturer (CD-1 HERE, CD-3 HERE), so I know those quite well. But the CD-2 seems to be a new chapter. It is significantly better than the two older models. Due to the built-in preamplifier (analog volume control), so we could compare it directly to the Lektorem Grand SE Ancient Audio. This is of course not the same league, the lack of resolution and incredible three-dimensionality was noticeable immediately, but in the price range Ayon belongs, everything will look differently. This is an incredibly well balanced device, with splendid timbre and detail. I already arranged testing.
Two further things relate to discs, and show, that Japanese pressings are not always the best ones. The first, shocking comparison, concerned the disc Nirvana Herbie Mann & Bill Evans Trio. We listened to the newest version SHM-CD, 24-bits re-master, with one of the first issues, if not the first, pressed in Germany (Atlantic/Warner Music Japan, WPCR-13182, CD vs Atlantic/Koch Records). It turned out, that the Japanese version is much worse – muffled, it seems that the stereo channels are switched, etc. We did not want to listen to this version, it was so bad. So I dissuade it. We finished with comparing the newest version of the album Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, from a box issued on the 50th anniversary of the original issue. Not only is it beautiful, also the CD sounded better than the gold-CD version and the Master Sound mini-LP one. You will receive a description of this issue in the music section of our magazine, so I will not tell more now.
CDs FROM JAPAN
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