Acoustic Zen's Gargantua Power Cord and Hologram speaker wire
Happy Holidays y'all. Santa came early this year when a package arrived containing a new set of speaker cables and power cord from the workshop of Robert Lee, Acoustic Zen's chief designer. Many of my colleagues and audiophile friends have already discovered Lee's products and the good word is out. As such, the opportunity to review some of his latest endeavors brought a gleam to my eye.
A little background about Robert Lee is in order before I begin. Lee started Acoustic Zen after doing groundbreaking work as the chief designer for Harmonic Technology, developing and using Single Crystal Copper Technology. After several years and many design iterations, he was ready to bring forth new designs for his own company, Acoustic Zen Technologies.
My present reference system boasts several of Lee's recent designs: three Krakatoa power cords, a pair of balanced Silver Reference interconnects, the MC2=Zen digital interconnect, and a pair of Satori speaker cables. I was extremely happy with the sound they achieved and wondered if the new components would improve matters. A flip of a coin decided the Gargantua was first into the fray.
After two full days of burn in, the Gargantua was ready for evaluation. Since I only had one Gargantua with which to play, I tried it first on my modified SONY DVP 7000 transport, and then on my Sunfire Theater Grand Processor II/DAC, and finally on my InnerSound ESL amplifier. All components benefited from its addition, but using it with the power amplifier maximized the acoustic well-being for my system. It would seem once again Lee has created something quite extraordinary. Just when I thought his cables couldn't make my system any better, they did. The soundstage deepened, becoming more quiet and spacious - the sense of intimacy with voices was truly illuminating. Inner detail was better resolved and separation of instruments also improved. All of this with a slight improvement of dynamics as well as a relaxation in the presentation. Happily, the power cord added a sense of ease to the music without smoothing or obscuring detail.
Breaking down performance by examining frequency response doesn't tell anywhere near the whole story but it is sometimes quite instructive to use as an additional tool when communicating performance parameters to the reader. It was immediately apparent that the lower frequencies seemed to have greater impact and definition. There was more low-end information coming from my system than I had previously experienced. String basses and cellos had more texture, more palpability. The timbre of tubas and trombones also improved. These qualities gave the music a more solid foundation; the same effect one hears from a full orchestra from row K.
The midrange did not suffer at all from this bass improvement. As many audiophiles know, too much low-end information can sometimes muddy the midrange waters. Great care was taken in this design to allow the midrange to come through not only gloriously unscathed, but in a most musical and truthful way.
We've all experienced those hi-fi nasties, crashing cymbals that chase you out of the room or trumpets like nails on blackboards. Cut the treble. Roll off the top. Do something! How we attain real world treble response often defines our approach to high-end choices in equipment. We strive to achieve full spectrum sound reproduction and this must include accurate treble. The Gargantua goes a long way in achieving this goal. Cymbals were fully extended, keeping their sheen, shimmer, and texture without being harsh or grating.
This quality and purity does not come cheap. The Gargantua retails for US$1500.00, and some will find it a very extravagant purchase. Yet, it blended so effortlessly and performed so brilliantly in my system, I give it a most heartfelt recommendation. Treat yourselves to an audition in your reference system. The passionate audiophile in you may never want to live without it.
A short time later, the listening glow from the Gargantua had subsided (not really!). The time had come to remove the Satori speaker cables and install the Lee designed Hologram cables for burn in and evaluation. The Holograms come typically for bi-wired installation, however, at no extra cost, Acoustic Zen will send them to you in single wire termination - the termination of necessity for my TMS Adiabat 8.5s.
I am an ardent admirer of Lee's Satori loudspeaker cables, and at US$598.00 for an 8-foot pair, they are a true high-end bargain. The splendid Satoris are certainly not your everyday speaker cables. Suffice it to say they have been my reference for quite some time and have taken the place of many other fine cables it's been my pleasure to examine. With cables selling in the multi thousands, its nice to know that the Robert Lees of the design world are out there drying up the many pools of spilt snake oil.
Now that I've got that off my chest, let's proceed with the Holograms. I burned them in for about a week of non-stop playing of both music and the XLO burn in CD before any critical listening. I feel that this amount of burn in is both sufficient and necessary for most cables to show their true character (there may be further improvement in time, but the basic qualities should be established).
If the Satoris were to be given an 'A', the Holograms should receive an 'A+'. They take the special nature of the Satoris and improve upon them. Detail, transparency, spatial cues, and frequency extension all were bettered. A general impression of greater clarity and naturalness was heard. The comparison and the gentle differences may be likened to photography -- when a photographer uses two different films from the same manufacturer to shoot a picture, one film may have smaller, finer grain than the other, yet both show accurate color and contrast with clarity and definition. However, the photograph with finer grain film can stand closer scrutiny. The closer one looks, the more one sees into the finer grain film. Details become a little clearer and image resolution increases. The image gets us a little closer to the natural object or event we are photographing. Same goes for the Holograms when examined closely with the Satoris. The Satoris will give you an excellent sonic picture of the musical event but the Holograms, with the 'finer grain', make that picture even clearer. The difference in cost is US$400.00. Are they worth the extra outlay? I think so. Audition at your peril. Like the Gargantua power cord, they, too, may never leave your home. Keep listening.
Digital Front End -- Sony DVP7000 (modified)/transport, Sunfire Theater Grand Processor II/DAC
Amplification -- InnerSound ESL amplifier
Loudspeakers -- TMS ADIABAT 8.5 speakers (modified) discontinued
Cabling -- Acoustic Zen Cables: Silver Reference interconnects (XLR), Matrix Reference Interconnects (XLR), Krakatoa power cords, MC2= ZEN digital cable
Accessories -- Black Diamond Racing Cones, Vibrapods, Monster HTS 2000 power strip
Reference Recordings RR-96CD Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances Oue/Minnesota Orchestra
Pablo OJCCD-744-2 Clark Terry/Freddie Hubbard/Dizzy Gillespie/Oscar Peterson: The Alternate Blues
Telarc CD-83373 Ray Brown: Some of My Best Friends The Piano Players
Capital 72434 94756 2 5 Frank Sinatra: Sinatra Sing for Only the Lonely
Telarc CD-80042 Moussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition Maazel/The Cleveland Orchestra
Gargantua power cord -- 7 AWG, 6N Zero Crystal Copper + Silver, US$1,488.00 US - 6 ft length
Hologram speaker wire -- 8 AWG, 6N Zero Crystal Copper, Single US$948.00,US Biwire US$998.00,US - 8 ft. pair
Manufactured by Acoustic Zen Technologies
800 Los Vallecitos Blvd., Suite P, San Marcos, CA. 92069 760 471 4899
Tel: (760) 471-4899 Fax: (760) 510-9188
web: http://www.acousticzen.com, e-mail: InfoZen@AcousticZen.com
Source of review sample: Manufacturer loan
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