by Martin Appel
Robert Lee has been designing and building cables for over 25 years and is credited with the first use of single crystal metals in his designs. He’s always been at the forefront of cable design and even though he’s been receiving accolades for his latest speaker, the Crescendo, he still is best known for his cables. When I visited Lee at CES I was truly impressed at the quality of the sound coming from his room. He confessed that an important contributing factor was his new cable design, the Absolute Copper 75. I immediately requested cables for review and eagerly awaited their arrival.
I’ve had many Acoustic Zen (AZ) cables in my system over the years and have a high regard for the designs. AZ’s latest and very sexy looking cable has a metal jacket with a shimmering iridescent silver/gold finish. All that glitters. Because of the jacket, the cable is a little stiffer than previous designs. All Lee would say about the design was that he used a coaxial geometry with double shielding of 20 AWG flat ribbon zero crystal copper with air and Teflon tubing for insulation.
My MSB CD transport has multiple inputs allowing me to switch easily and remotely between my reference, the Antipodes Audio Kokiri digital cable with XLR terminations and the new AZ (with RCA terminations). Different terminations are not ideal in AB comparisons, but it should not prevent one from discerning the intrinsic nature of each cable, especially with such short distances involved. As a general rule, at least a hundred hours of continuous burn-in [the word ‘continuous’ is very important and often missed by audiophiles - Ed] is required prior to any serious evaluation of a cable’s characteristics. A series of CDs plus an XLO burn-in disc were used for that purpose.
On first hearing, I realized was how similar in sound these cables were. This was going to be difficult. Trying to find differences of significance, however, proved almost impossible. After many hours of listening, note taking and sharing numerous sessions with friends and colleagues. I came to the following conclusions about the Acoustic Zen Absolute 75: timbres, soundstage, imaging, and focus were all excellent. Detail was handled without edge or hardness. Dynamics were there in spades. The performances were portrayed with accuracy and musicality. I was truly enjoying the listening – yet, the job remained very difficult in finding the differences between both these very well designed cables [I experienced Marty’s dilemma last weekend in New York City with the cable switching -- both cables were superb -- Ed].
Ultimately, I would say the AZ had the slightest of edges when it came to initial attack and ultimate extension in the frequency extremes. Images were very well defined and solid. This was perceivable but repertoire dependent. The Antipodes Kokiri possessed a sense of fullness that resulted in an ever so slightly warmer presentation. The AZ was not cool or analytical, but it possibly was a hair more transparent.
It seems that both manufacturers have created excellent cables with ever so slightly different voices. I had previously awarded an Audiophilia Star for the Antipodes cable. Could I do any less for the Acoustic Zen? The end result? I going to end up with two reference cables. Robert Lee, you’ve done it again.
[It is with great pleasure we award the Audiophilia Star Component Award to the Acoustic Zen Absolute Digital 75 Digital Cable. Congratulations! - Ed]
The Acoustic Zen Absolute Digital 75 Digital Cable
Manufactured by Acoustic Zen
16736 West Bernardino Drive
San Diego, CA 92127
Price: $498.00USD/ 1m
Source: Manufacturer loan
Amplifiers: Hephaestus HMA-1000 Monoblocks
Speakers: Levy Acoustics
Preamplifier: MUSIC FIRST CLASSIC v2
Phono Preamplifier: AVID Pulsare updated to II
CD source: MSB DATA CD IV Transport w/ Processor/DAC: DEQX HDP-3Analogue source: Avid SEQUEL SP/SME IV arm/Cartridge: Shelter 7000
Speaker cables: Acoustic Zen’s Absolute, Wasatch’s Ultama
Power Cords: Kaplan GS Mk II
Interconnects: Antipodes Audio KOKIRI, KOMAKO and REFERENCE, Acoustic Zen’s Absolute
Accessories: REDPOINT BLAKHOLE’s, Herbie’s Audio Lab Tenderfeet, Soundcare products, Acme Audio Labs wall outlets
Power Conditioning: Kaplan Alchemist
Reference Recordings RR-96CD and HR-96 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
Gut Strings Records: Randy Napoleon: The Jukebox Crowd GSR008