Monday, May 30, 2011

Acrolink Power Cords - A relook into conductor purity

Quick Comparison Table


Model               Price     Gauge        Conductors       Shielding        EMI absorbing cord

7N-P4020III    $90/m    Medium     0.26mm x 37    Copper tape  Yes

6N-P4030        $160/m  Large        0.26mm x 100   None            Yes

7N-P4030II     $200/m   Large       0.26mm x 100   Copper tape  Yes



For purposes of a fair comparison, all cords mentioned were terminated with Oyaide P-004/C-004 connectors, which are the matching plugs for the Oyaide R-1 AC outlet used.

7N-P4020III

The smallest cable of the lot (by gauge), the 7N-P4020III is supremely flexible and a cinch to strip and terminate.

It is considerably more detailed than the 6N-P4030 with better “look-through” and high frequency extension. Both transient and ambience definition is improved.

In the lower frequencies, it appears to be less weighty than the 6N-P4030. Closer comparisons actually reveal that the 7N-P4020III has deeper and tighter bass. However, the 6N-P4030 has a fuller mid-bass. Overall, the 7N-P4020III sounds tight and grippy, but with little bass bloom. It low frequency reproduction reminds me of the a Class-D amplifier, as opposed to a tube amplifier.

This cable fares well on background “blackness”, dynamics and separation. I would consider it to be a worthy upgrade in most systems and given its affordable cost, it is excellent value compared to the rest of the cables here.

Well after this comparison was done, I swapped the AC plugs for the Oyaide P/C-046 which in my view is a much better match for this cable, with a slighter fuller and more forgiving balance.

6N-P4030

The 6N-P4030 is moderately easy to strip but tricky to terminate due to the large gauge of its conductors. To prevent undue strain on the clamping terminals of the Oyaide plugs, it would be best to strip a bit more of the cables than recommended and divide the raw copper strands into two equal bundles, i.e. resembling a two prong fork.

Formerly, my favourite cable (for source equipment), the 6N-P4030 has always impressed me with its refined midrange and high frequencies and its delicate reproduction of ambience and air. It has several weaknesses though. One is that the sheer amount of high frequency information makes the cable sound subjectively bright. Secondly, the equal emphasis on both the transient of the note and the decay may make some systems sound a bit slow. Lastly, it sounds very natural and gentle, and sometimes the force and dynamics of a recording are somewhat diminished.

Comparisons to the 7N siblings illustrate these shortcomings. The 7N cables sound more dynamic with deep extended bass and seemingly faster transients. Lengthy comparisons show that the 6N cable has less control and separation under heavy mixes with a slight loss of refinement.


7N-P4030II

The 7N-P4030III handles exactly like the 6N-P4030 in terms of flexibility and ease of termination.

Sonically, it combines the best of the two preceding cables. It has the mid-bass bloom lacking in the 7N-4020III while retaining its dynamics, separation, detail and speed. Subjectively the 7N cables have more background “blackness”, perhaps due to the copper tape shield. Overall, this cable sounds focused, while maintaining composure and refinement.

In terms of music, notes on the 6N-P4030 are always soft, gentle and very natural. The 7N-P4030II could be said to be more hi-fi like with a more defined and projected leading edge. The difference in presentation is unlikely to polarize fans of Acrolink cables and the basic DNA and house sound is still there.

To use a food analogy, the 7N-P4030II is like Cantonese soup from a top restaurant, flavoursome, yet crisp, clear and clean. The 6N-P4030 is more like good consommé. Always refined, flavoursome and clear, but with slightly less contrast.

Moving up the pyramid

How do these cables compare with higher end models such as the 6N-PC6100, 7N-PC7100 Mexcel, or heaven forbid the 7N-PC7500 and 7N-PC9500 ? My separate review on the PC7500 and PC9500 may be worth a look.

The PC-6100 has a quieter background and more solid bass. Otherwise, I think the 7N-P4030II has an edge over it in terms of staging, high frequency extension and detail. The PC-7100 is a clear step above these cables, combining the strengths of both, and with added detail and refinement. However, unless you are getting a good price on the PC7100, it is well worth the extra cost to go for the latest PC7500 or PC9500.

2 comments:

Woei Lee Ng said...

If I were to ask for your advice, would the 7N-4030II be suitable for high current amplifiers or is it more suitable for source equipment?

Eric T said...

Hi Woei Lee,

The 7N-4030II is suitable for both source equipment and high current draw amplifiers. It works fine with my tube monoblocks.