Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Acoustic Zen Hologram II Speaker Cables

(Picture from official web site of Acoustic Zen)

Bought pre-owned from Audiogon, my new set of snakes arrived last month. After going through a overland trip from Florida to Oregon before being shipped by air to Singapore, these snakes are more well traveled than I am.

The AZ Hologram is a big thick cable finished in a handsome purple cover with light reflective mesh (so that it can remind me of its presence in my fairly dark listening room ?). My pair is finished in PCOCC gold plated copper spades on both ends with the speaker end split for bi-wiring.

The AZ is fairly flexible and despite its bulk, is quite tame and refrains from trying to pull equipment or speakers down from their perches. Wish I could say the same for the horrendously heavy PAD cables I have lying around somewhere.

Given its very heavy gauge, I was expecting the AZ to have a thick and heavy sound with bone crushing bass …… not. After a brief run-in, listening tests show that this cable is actually quite balanced but with a few strange characteristics that took me by surprise.

The first thing you notice is a perceived “drop” in loudness. The second is the rather distant presentation, almost as if you have been moved back from the front row to the mid section of the concert hall.

After some adjustment of the ears, you realize that the cable is extremely quiet. The apparent reduction in volume is a result of the bass which is tight but not particularly extended, and the high frequencies that are all there, but do not jump out at you. Extended listening reveals that the cable is very detailed with excellent low level resolution and microdetail. This is all very apparent due to a lack of grunge, sibilance and glare in the high frequencies. This enables the cable to sound smooth and non-fatiguing without throwing away detail.

Bass lines are neither thunderous nor weighty. In fact, the bass is extremely tight, but does not appear to go down deep. Coupled with the very refined high frequencies, this makes for an extremely refined and civilized cable that is well balanced from the bottom end to the top end.

Maybe as a result of its distant presentation, soundstage depth is incredible and deeper than anything else I have ever tried.

In comparison to the Goertz AG-1 cable that preceded the AZ, the AZ has very defined and clearly delineated image spaces. The Goertz has what local audiophiles term as “big-mouth” sound … ask a Cai Qin fan and he will know exactly how this sounds like. The Goertz has an extremely detailed feel to it, and much like the Acrolink cables I covered in an earlier post, the Goertz takes a health dose of artistic licence to texture the tone of instruments and the human voice. In contrast, the AZ is truthful and reflects the picture as it is.

The AZ is such a clean and balanced cable, that you wonder what the fuss is about. After taking the time to know it better, you realize that it communicates loads of detail in a coherent and balanced manner, without sounding harsh or introducing glare. All in all, this is a worth contender for systems that can showcase this cable (price wise, its definitely destined for entry level high end systems at the minimum).

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