Stereophile post on our room at T.H.E. Show, CES 2009

Wes Phillips had some very nice things to say about our Audio Note U.K. room [with Nordost ODIN and Acrolink powercords, HRS M3 isolation bases and Nimbus Couplers] at:

Ongaku Means Ecstasy

We thank Wes and J.A. for visiting our room and posting their impressions and are, of course, pleased, especially Neli [! :-)] who staffed the room by herself for the entire show.

Have to say, this being the first time I recollect seeing these two in action, they really seem to enjoy being audiophiles and playing music. Not all [aka few] show reporters are like this, many coming off as if it is all a lot of hard work [which it is].

[Not sure how I come off . To Constantine Soo (Dagogo), I think I come off as someone who gets in the way of his trying to listen a lot ;-)))]

Funny thing [or not] while Neli was trying, and trying, and trying some more to find a CD in the folder, I mentioned something like maybe putting CDs at random in the folder wasn’t such a good idea [actually, what I said was probably a lot less coherent], expecting good ole wifey to come back with a witty, if not outright scathing, rejoinder and lighten up the situation a little bit. You know, at least something like ‘ASShole’ with that big smile of hers [no, she doesn’t always smile when she says this :-)]. But noooooo. So I now wonder if this playfully antagonistic dialog technique between Neli and I is such a good method to lighten up somewhat awkward situations after all. 😉

And yes, we are still preoccupied with all the optimizations that we did not get time to implement with this particular system . Some other time we’ll write about how we tried [and failed, but we got more ideas] to maintain the coherence and lack of strain and harshness, while at the same time opening up the sound-stage and increasing the separation to suit Florian [who has agreed to write for the magazine] – and of course this was Sunday night… AFTER the show when we didn’t have to worry about ‘getting back to what sounded pretty good before’ if we really messed things up].

Anyway, everybody should congratulate Neli. Congratulations Neli!

Interconnect Shootout: Nordost Valhalla Neutrix vrs. Valhalla WBT vrs. Audio Note Sogon vrs. Acrolink 7N-DA6100

The setup
The test consists of swapping out various interconnects between the outboard crossover of the Marten Coltrane Supreme loudspeakers and the Audio Kegon amps that handle the frequencies above 100Hz. Picutred you can see the gray Audio Note Sogon interconnect in place.

The Acrolinks
The Acrolinks.

The Acrolink interconnect up close
The Acrolink interconnect up close. These connectors are massive, and I believe this the only connector they come with. Very substantial and secure fitting things they are.

The Valhallas
These are the two Nordost Valhalla interconnects side by side.

Part of this test was for us to see… hear… the difference between these two connectors. Was it all just hype?

The Valhallas

The Valhallas with the new WBT connectors
We are not so sure about these connectors. They seem to pick up ground loops like nobody’s business. It is possible, and quite frequently the case, that:

* they are on too tight or too loose, in which case they either appear to be broken (aka no sound comes out) or

* they generate a large ground hum because they are not grounded at all (the area of contact on the target connecting post is dirty? or perhaps they are just too loose), or

* they pick up a small ground loop hum because they are only partially grounded (perhaps the connector is so thin that it needs its own shileding….?)

The WBTs up close
The WBTs up close

The Valhallas with the old Neutrix connectors
We love these old connectors. You put them on, they stay on. They feel secure. They don’t wear out after many, many uses.

The Audio Note Sogon interconnect
The Audio Note Sogon interconnect

The Audio Note Sogon interconnect
The Audio Note Sogon interconnect

The Shootout.

From one extreme to the other:

*** The Acrolink 7N-DA6100 – $4995 ***

Very clean. the cleanist sounding of this bunch (but not as clean as the Jorma Design Prime, at $2K more!). Very detailed and lovely air. Midrange is clean with perhaps a little too quick on the top of the note attack and on the decay. Bass is good.

*** The Nordost Valhalla with the WBT connectors – $4000 ***

Rounder than the Acrolink, more body. Also more veiled than the acrolink. Smoother because of it but there was also a whisp of a feeling of the music struggling to get out.

*** TheNordost Valhalla with the old Neutrix ***

The midrange frequencies are more laid back, a little more veiled. A little less midi- and micro dynamics in the midrange as well, compared with the WBT solution.

How subtle is the difference? In my mind I keep thinking 10% – whatever that means. I think it means that if the WBT was 100% better than it would be twice as good. In the midrange. In terms of these attributes.

In this test we did not get the dreaded ground loop hum with the WBT and we did prefer the WBT solution. The slight increase in resolution and slightly more presense in the midrange – was nice, and appreciated

*** The Audio Note Sogon – $2725 ***

The midrange was quite similar to the Vahalla in terms of detail and resolution, but with more color and subtle harmonic content. The bass was a little muddier than the other cables but a little more natural. The highs not as prestine as the Acrolink, and similar to the Valhalla in quantity but a little more natural in quality – i.e. not so much going for the ability to spotlight each detail in the treble, which I know many people like (including us, sometimes 🙂 ), but instead makes the details more integrated into the overall sound stream.

For this system, in its current state of break in (its making good progeess, finally) with the all Audio Note front end, we left the Sogon in place. It made the system much more musical to listen to, at least at this time.

There is a 5 meter Valhalla interconnect (Neutrix) between the linestage and the amps.

Swapping this out for, say, Sogon, or Acrolink even, would *probably* make the sounds of the various setups with these various cables more reflective of the underlying strengths and weakness of these cables.

[Is this always true? That a system cabled throughout with just one kind of cable will always highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of that cable? I know many manufacturers and dealers say you MUST use just their cable for your whole system to get best results. And I can agree with this if their cable is way better than what is currently in the system.

But what about using various cables as ‘spice’? I know that the word ‘tone control’ is a pejorative thse days, but until we get the perfect wire, all cables, including the lauded Belkin power cords, will be tone controls, like it or not. And so, taking this reality into account, I propose we must carefully, and consciously, spice our system with various cables lest we get something that tastes salty, …or like poop 😉 ]

Audio Federation welcomes Acrolink to their Product Lines

[… talking about ourselves in the 3rd person unfamiliar… now we must be ready for politics or rap-stardom. Whoo hoo!]

Box with Acrolink 7N-PC7100 power cable
Box with Acrolink 7N-PC7100 power cable

We auditioned the Box with Acrolink 7N-PC7100 power cable awhile back and were really impressed.

There are not too many times these days when we can listen to something for the first time, broken or unbroken in, and be impressed. Hmmmm….’course we talk about all those times here, so maybes y’all don’t know how many times we are duly UNimpressed…

These power cords, and what we have heard of the Acrolink line, is in my mind somewhat similar to the sound of the Nordost Valhalla. But more distinctive.

[Neli says: “I’m not sure they’re more ‘distinctive’ than Valhalla … Valhalla power cords are quite distinctive. The Acrolink are distinctive, differently from the Valhalla, not sure I can right now put my finger on it — it’s been a while since I heard them back to back, I guess I’d say that the Acrolink is even more resolute.”]

[Mike snorts and retorts: ” I meant it in the sense that the Valhalla sound is more like the sound of most other cables – better than most, in our opinion of course, but closer to the pack… not as… ‘distinctive’ :-)]

Acrolink 7N-PC7100 power cord
Box with Acrolink 7N-PC7100 power cable

The sound:

The 7N-PC7100 powercord, $2895/2 meters) is very detailed, more so than the Valhalla power cord, with more HARMONIC resolution (not so much ‘body’ as variety of colors) in the mids. Notes are less rounded in the mids as well, but there is so much resolution it is hard to notice.

The 7N-DA6100 interconnect $4995/1 meter) is also very detailed, a little less body than the Valhalla, not as round, but cleaner, clearer sounding, and better resolution in the upper frequencies.

At least that is my impression of the ‘Acrolink sound’ – I expect these two descriptions to converge over time because of The Remarkably Similar Sound Within ‘Most’ Manufacturer’s Particular Product Lines [more later, later meaning soon. No, really.].

Acrolink 7N-PC7100 power cord
Closeup Acrolink 7N-PC7100 power cable breaking in.

The Acrolink build qaulity is second to none, and the cables are bendable :-), and do not use WBT connectors (which may be a good thing or bad thing, depending on where you are coming from).

Anyway, another arrow in our quiver… !