Saturday, October 26, 2013

Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7500 and 7N-PC9500 power cords

I was at the local dealer's showroom looking at a new shipment of power cords from Acrolink of Japan. The dealer had a large smile on his face as his enthused over the virtues of the new Mexcel range.

I cautiously asked about the pricing, and the dealer nonchalantly rattled of some mind boggling numbers. Either audiophiles have become very rich over the years, or the dealer had serious mis-estimates about the state of affairs of my bank account.

He invited me to listen to the 7N-PC7500 which was currently being run-in, and had on hand the much older model, the 7N-PC 7100. He disconnected the 7500 and hooked up the 7100 for a quick listen - smart move. Mentally, I was hoping that both cables would sound the same. I already had the PC7100 at home, and spending even more money was not at the top of my wish list.

I listened to a few familiar tracks through the wonderful setup for the day, the beautiful Vivid Giya G3s powered by amplification from Technical Brain, and fronted by a digital source from Accustic Arts.

"Hate it, hate it, hate it.....crap, No!  I love it, love it, love it" - resistance was futile. I had fallen in love with the system in front of me. I mentally ran through the cost of the system in front of me, and luckily, my mental calculator ran out of digits. My wallet was safe - at least from the electronics in front of me.

The dealer switched the cables, and like a Cheshire cat, his grin became wider and wider, until his body slowly faded and disappeared into the background, leaving nothing but his grin. OK, that never happened - after his grin, he went back into his personal office to leave me alone with the system.

To cut the long story short - I bought the cables on the spot. At that point of time, the PC9500 had not yet been released. I would later go back to buy those too some months later, the result of some egging on from a particularly mischevious individual from Poland (Marcin, this is your fault !)

Carbon fibre plugs with blades made from Beryllium copper and double plated

The PC9500 on the left, and PC7500 on the left. Both have similar diameters
To be very frank, the comparison between the 7100 and 7500 was absolutely crushing (apologies to all other 7100 owners out there). The 7500 had far greater incisiveness, drive and dynamics. The human mind is an interesting thing. The 7100 was already highly regarded and regarded by some as the best thing since sliced bread (with the exception of the 9100 of course). Then two generations later, the 7500 convinced the audiophile's mind that the 7100 was actually broken all along.

The 7100 in comparison sounds grey - music is presented in many pastel shades of a watercolour painting. The 7500 is oil on canvas - bright, vivid and bold strokes, but never to the point of looking like garish technicolour.

Physically, both the 7500 and 9500 are of similar gauge and flexibility. Relative stiffness requires fairly large turning radiuses. This could cause issues with tight setups and lightweight equipment. Acrolink has also dropped the beautiful wooden box that accompanied it's older models in favour of a more eco friendly cardboard box. I had grown rather fond of the wooden display box very much and will miss it, but compromises have to be made to save some trees.

Sonics wise, the 7500 and 9500 sound more alike than different. The notable gains moving from the 7500 to the 9500 are a greater sense of immediacy, incisiveness and low end authority. However, I am not convinced that the 9500 is the perfect power cord for all. My Calyx Femto preferred the 7500 to the 9500, while the converse was true for my Conrad Johnson preamp.

Before moving on to the sonics of the dynamic duo here, I would like to take some time to address the pricing of these cables and the general trend of the industry. These cables are not cheap. Here in Singapore, they go for a discounted price of about USD 3,000 and USD 4,200 each. Power cables in this price range would have been mostly unheard of 10 years ago. Today, these figures may not even raise an eyebrow. There is an active discussion ongoing in the local forum at the moment on power cords that carry price tags close to USD 10,000. In some cases, they are being paired in systems where the single power cord outprices the cost of some of the equipment.

The value proposition is a personal one - and best left to the purchaser. On one hand, I question the wisdom of spending a disproportionate amount of one's budget on cabling. On the other hand, I know better than to dismiss the importance of cabling. My own experience is that as you move up the ladder, the importance of carefully matching cabling (which is not always related to price tag) increases.

The 7500 is a cable with good drive and dynamics. Unlike some of the lower end Acrolink offerings, which have slightly polite bass and a subjectively "slower" sound, the 7500 is tight, fast and tuneful. It combines the traditional Acrolink strengths - extended and refined highs and supreme control over staging, imaging and separation with considerable energy, intensity and drive.

The 9500 goes even lower, with slightly more slam. The extra money also earns you even more quietness and control - staging and imaging are even more precise than the 7500. The 9500 has a slightly snappier sound to it. Ride cymbals still crash and fade gracefully with the 7500. The 9500 has slightly more emphasis and a warmer tone of the initial strike. This degree of extra energy present in the 9500 is most obvious in percussion instruments including the piano, where the hammer strikes and soundboard resonance are more vibrant and dynamic.

You can comfortably tick off all the other boxes regardless of which model you choose :- resolution, staging, imaging, presence, dynamics, etc - you get it all. These are very serious power cords for equally serious money.

I feel a bit guilty waxing lyrically about something so expensive, but I really like these power cords ! I highly recommend that you have a listen to them if you are looking for power cords in that price range. 


Marcin_gps said...

Sorry, mate ;) I have a bigger problem now as I tried a 2nd 9500 on amp and I have no other choice, but to keep it. I was skeptical after my far from ideal experiences with 7300 on amp. Unfortunately 9500 turned out to be the ultimate power cord not only for digital equipment... :D

Eric Teh said...

Oh no Marcin ! BTW, do let me know how the 6300II turns out.

Unknown said...
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Eric Teh said...

Hi Martin.

No, I do not consider the 9500 to be a warmer cable. The 7500 is already outstanding in terms of detail. Moving up to the 9500 gives you extra extension in the bass, improved dynamics, and a bigger sense of energy in transients etc.



Unknown said...
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Eric Teh said...

Hi Martin,

My own view is that it boils down to matching. While I appreciate the strengths of the 9500 and improvements over the 7500, I felt it was too much for the Calyx Femto.

The Femto DAC has a very gentle and slightly laidback sound. I felt the 9500 made the Femto too forceful, changing its character too much. If your MA-2 could do with some extra energy and dynamics, I think the 9500 should suit.

Hope you are able to get a loan on the 9500 from the dealer to try. If you do try, let us know how it works out.



Unknown said...

Hi Eric,
Unfortunately my local dealer does not have the 9500 on stock so I am unable to try them. I have only managed to make a direct comparison between the PC 7500 and the new Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord . The Valhalla 2 is miles ahead of the old Valhalla to be honest. In comparison with the PC 7500, the Valhalla 2 delivered a more airy presentation, with better tonally differentiated treble and slightly deeper soundstage. On the other hand , it simply lacks the visceral punch on the bottom octaves of the 7500. The Acrolink sound is more full in general. If you have the opportunity to compare certainly do so to see the effect in your system.