Saturday, April 27, 2019

Acrolink 8N-PC8100 Performante Power Cable

Introduction

Just worked yourself to the bone saving your precious pennies for the flagship Acrolink power cable, the 7N-PC9700 ? The bad news is that Acrolink has launched a limited edition power cable, the 8N-PC8100 Performante Cable. I certainly didn't see this coming, especially so soon after the launch of the 7N-PC9700 ! Such is life, and we can only see whether this new model (limited to only 99 pieces in the world !)  will dethrone the incumbent King of the castle.

Description

Acrolink has somehow managed to retrieve enough stressfree 8N copper material from it's secret vault to launch this limited edition series (the current lineup uses 7N DUCC conductors). Technically, the PC8100 is closer to the PC6700, with both using 50 strands of 0.37 mm diameter copper conductors for neutral and live conductors, as well as polyolefin, tungsten and amorphous powder as filler (the PC9700 included carbon powder). The shield is different, with the use of copper foil tape and silver plated copper braid, instead of carbon tape and enameled copper braid on the PC9700.




Visually and handling wise, the PC8100 and PC9700 are similar, with identical plugs, and flexibility (or lack thereof).







To be continued ...

Sunday, April 21, 2019

SB Acoustics Ara Beryllium Speaker Kit

Introduction

Welcome to Part II of the SB Acoustics Ara Speaker Kit review. This article covers the assembly process of the speaker kit, an upgrade to the Beryllium tweeter, and our very first episode of "Pimp my Speaker" !

Description

A short walk back to the initial article of the SB Acoustics Ara Speaker Kit review would be useful to understand the speaker in depth. For now, let's have a look at the assembly and tweaking process.

Assembly of the speaker kit is quite easy for anyone with some DIY experience. I would not however recommend it for first timers as decent soldering experience is required, and the speaker driver units are quite expensive - one slip of your screwdriver is all it takes to destroy them.

Assembly

My kit came with fully assembled cabinets and crossover boards. The crossover board is wired with their leads terminated in push-on clips for the drivers, and tinned leads for the binding posts. 

The most tedious part of the assembly would be the cutting of the fiberfill pads to size, and pushing / gluing everything into place. The crossover board can be a bit tricky to install though, as you need a short stubby cross head screwdriver to attach the board to the base of the cabinet. In my case, one of the cabinets did not have any pre-drilled guide holes and I had to hammer the screws into the cabinet to make my own guide holes.

The rest of the hook-up process is quite idiot-proof. The push on clips are sized to match the terminals of the speaker drive units, so you can't install them in reversed polarity. I also liked the fact that the holes for the binding post plate and both drivers had metal thread inserts - no more stripped MDF, and you can torque the bolts with confidence (but not gorilla strength please !). The length of the supplied cables were generous and you do not need to be a contortionist or Octopus to attach the wires to either the binding post or the speaker drivers. The binding post leads do need to be soldered though - the only time your soldering iron will get any action. A glue gun is also required to seal the guide holes where the crossover board wires connect to the binding posts, or you could use your imagination to seal them in any other way you deem fit.

Pimp My Speaker

Good Audiophiles like to milk every ounce of performance out of their gear and DIY equipment are a great way to express and showcase your creativity and talent. I installed the crossover board on top of the speaker, and extended the leads using Belden wire and terminals blocks. The speakers were given about 10 hours of run-in time in between each stage of modification unless otherwise indicated.  



Part 1 - Replace the sandcast resistors with Ohmite and Mills resistors

Nothing fancy used here - just wirewound Ohmite and Mills MRA-12 resistors. The latter have non-inductive windings. Despite their specified tolerances, all of the resistors measured very closely, within +/- 0.1 ohms of their stated values.  

The stock resistors are "thoughtfully" glued into place. Brute force is required here to detach the resistors from the board. 

There is a slight but noticeable improvement here, with an uplift in clarity and reduction in grain. 



Part 2 - Replace the plastic capacitors with Auricap XO film capacitors

The stock Jantzen Cross Caps supplied are quite decent, but the Auricaps are well worth the expense. The Auricaps improve clarity and lend an extra level of dimensionality and detail to the speakers. In comparison, the Jantzen sound flatter and drier. 

Stock crossover board in the middle of surgery

All complete except for the wires


Part 3 - Replace the speaker drive unit leads with Neotech OCC cables, and the binding posts with Furutech.

I used 20 AWG Neotech Pure Silver solid core OCC wire for the tweeters, and 16 AWG multi strand copper OCC cable for the woofers. I am not really found of push on terminals, and soldered the cables directly to the drive unit terminals.

The initial impressions were quite negative, with the speaker losing both drive and vitality. These cables use Teflon insulation, which have a reputation for long run-in time -  I put in 48 hours of run-in here. Post run-in, the cabling provided a higher level of refinement and micro-detail. The stock wiring has a more forward and incisive sound, but in terms of layering and staging, the Neotech is noticeably better. The Furutech FP-803B(G) binding posts just happened to be lying around - the stock posts would do just fine.  

I would rate the capacitor upgrade as the most effective, followed by the internal wiring upgrade. The resistors and binding posts could be left alone, unless you are the sort that leaves no stone unturned. Actually even with the stock crossover board, the performance level is already very high. 

Comparisons

The Beryllium tweeter is well worth the upgrade in my opinion. In my earlier article, I pointed at a slight discontinuity between the two drive units, and a prominence to the tweeter that called a bit of attention to itself. There were no such issues with my personal build (the version I heard used the silk dome crossover board with some modifications). I would only recommend the fabric dome version if budget is tight, or you have a dislike for extended high-frequencies.

If you felt that the base level kit was great value, this premium version will have the competition running scared - it's that good ! 







Monday, February 25, 2019

Furutech DSS 4.1 Speaker Bulk Cable

Introduction


Furutech's newly released DSS 4.1 speaker bulk cable is probably the most high-end bulk speaker cable available on the market at this point of time. This model uses a combination of DUCC Ultra Crystallized High Purity Copper (from Mitsubishi Materials Industries) and Alpha-OCC conductors (from Furutech).

Cable geometry is interesting - each conductor bundle consists of a nano crystal formula core (NCF is a proprietary formula developed by Furutech that generates negative ions to eliminate static, and converts thermal energy into far infrared), surrounded with three concentric layers of copper arranged in counter-cyclical windings. The inner and middle layers utilise OCC conductors, while the last layer consists of DUCC conductors. The resultant cable is a heavy and thick cable that is 19 mm in diameter with 11 AWG conductors. The cable is double shielded with foil and copper braid, and finished with a tasteful fabric cover. A diagram of the geometry can be found at Furutech's website

Optional high quality metal cable splitters can be purchased from Furutech to give these cables a finished look that would look the part in any setup. My sample cable was terminated in Furutech gold plated banana plugs by the local distributor for Furutech - Project Perfection.


Good and well-behaved snake !
I spoke nicely to this snake. It sat tamely on the floor, with reasonable bend radius. However, it's weight will cause some problems with light bookshelf speakers or amplifiers - be forewarned !

Sound Quality

As I sat down to listen to my system, the snake quietly made it's way over to my listening chair and tightly coiled itself around me. It had an iron grip on bass notes and an authority that really caught your attention. There was also some emphasis on the midbass, which gave the DSS a powerful yet full and wet bass quality.

Midrange had a similarly warm tone with deep staging and a smooth liquid quality. Voices had a subtly full rendition with very little trace of sibilance. You could argue that a bit of inner detail is traded-off here for flattery, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

High frequencies were another strong point of the DSS. Detail was reproduced in a clean and extended manner, with plenty of air and shimmer with very tight control over transients - no splash or mess here. Coupled with the outstanding low frequency performance, this was one of those rare cables that did both frequency extremes well with no compromise between the two.

I also liked the the very low noise floor of this cable. Low level details were reproduced with great expressiveness and an absence of grain. Placement of instruments and voices were also outstanding with very precise layering both laterally and depth wise, and very good space around instruments. 

Compared against the competition, the DSS acquitted itself well - in fact, it could run with the best. I felt that with the exception of midrange performance (which I view more as an artistic choice), the DSS could be considered as best in class. Given that the DSS does not carry an exorbitant price tag, you have an absolute winner !

Conclusion

Consider me suitably impressed. Do give it a try - you will not be disappointed ! - Highly Recommended

Furutech DSS 4.1 Speaker Bulk Cable
Price on Application

Project Perfection Pte Ltd
7 Senoko Loop, Singapore 758146
Tel: +65 6756 6522