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Test
RCA Interconnect
Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo

Price: 7990 zł (1 m), 9900 zł (1,5 m)

Distribution: Eter Audio

Contact:
ul. Malborska 24, 30-646 Kraków
tel./fax: 0048 12 425 51 20/30
tel. kom.: 0048 507 011 858

e-mail: robert@nautilus.net.pl

WWW: Acrolink

Country of origin: Japonia

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photographs: Wojciech Pacuła, AcroJapan
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

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The brand Acrolink owned by AcroJapan Corporation is still a recent development. It entered the market a few years ago, offering at first expensive and very expensive cables, subsequently amended with slightly less expensive ones. Who knows, how long it would take for that company to reach first league (I mean the perception, and not the quality of the products) if AcroJapan would not make cables for Esoteric. The latter offers cables, which are exactly the same products as the Acrolink ones, having the same symbols, only branded Esoteric. And, as you could probably guess, those are from the most expensive, Mexcel line.

Mexcel is the top line of cables offered by the Japanese, characterized by the usage of copper wires with (real) purity 7N and some other elements, dielectrics and the number of used wires. Two years ago, a limited series of cables appeared in their offering, with 8N purity (!), designed to connect the turntable with the phonostage (8N-RPH/1.2 etc.). Interesting enough, this was not the Mexcel series, and was half as expensive, as the best 7N interconnects. This is interesting, because the purer the copper, the better should be the cable – at least that is dictated by the so called common sense.
Acrolink is a company basing on the knowledge of engineers and specialized technologies, it is the supplier of cabling to Japanese military aircraft, to medical device companies and in the past, for the US space shuttles, where AcroJapan Corporation cables connected computer modules (those were digital cables). So you can see, that in case of cables, material is one thing, and the other is geometry, amount, dielectrics, plugs and all the other elements, which are usually neglected, covered by the “magic” claims about purity, etc. And this is the reason, that a 8N cable can be cheaper than 7N, what is shown by the tested cable 8N-A2080III Evo.
This cable reached me quite unexpectedly, sent to me directly from Japan, by the company representative, Mr. Yoshi Hontai, with the information, that this is the newest product of the company, and that I am probably the first person in Europe, an probably in the world, to see it, to touch it and to listen to it. To exploit that, I decided to test it just after burning it in – to allow you, the readers of “High Fidelity” be among the exclusive circle of people to learn first about this product.

Like I say, the Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo is made from ultra-pure copper 8N (99,999999%). Its external diameter is the same as in the model 7N-DA6300 Mexcel, which I am using in my reference system for over a year, it just has a deep crimson color, reminding the color of another top Acrolink cable, the power cord 7N-PC9300 Mexcel, three pieces of which I use in my system (among the interconnects, the closes in terms of color is the 7N-A2500 Mexcel). When I add, that the Leben CS-300 XS (Custom Version) is powered by the 7N-PC7100 then it will turn out, that I have Acrolink in my blood, so to say.
But it is the first time, that I heard a 8N cable in my system. Earlier, a few times during the shows, I heard the mentioned turntable cable, but – I must say that – it never touched or enchanted me. I listened to it and forgot about it, without pain and remembrance.
Like I said, the 8N-A2080III Evo is an absolutely limited cable – only 500 pairs will be offered – 250 in Japan, and 250 outside it. When I got it and tested it, the price to pay for it was not known yet, either in Japan or Europe or USA, so I listened to it without prejudice, just comparing it to the best cables in my system.

As we can learn from the (scarce) materials coming with the cables, it has a pseudo-balanced construction, with two bundles for the “hot” and “cold” branches and a shield from a thick braid 7N copper.

In the specification we read:
Conductors: copper of the “stressfree” 8N type, with bundles made from 0.18mm diameter wires, each consisting of seven bundles of seven wires each (this results in 49 wires per branch), wound around a dielectric core.
Dielectric on the bundles: large molecule Polyolefin
Filler: hybrid Polyolefin (Polyolefin + Tungsten + amorphous metal damping vibration)
Shield: quadruple shielding – special set of materials absorbing EMI – tape + 7N copper + copper foil + UEW wire
External dielectric: polyurethane resistive to UV radiation
Cable diameter: 11mm
Resistance: 19mΩ/m
Capacitance: 59pF/m
Impedance: 75Ω/RCA; 110Ω/XLR

The cable is available in standard lengths 1m or 1.5m, as unbalanced RCA or balanced XLR. The plugs are made by Acrolink - the central pin is a tube made from phosphor copper, many times polished and covered by high quality rhodium, with a body made from epoxy resin coated glass fiber.

SOUND

During the test I used the following discs:

  • Stereo Sound Reference record. Jazz&Vocal, Stereo Sound, SSRR4, SACD/CD.
  • Depeche Mode, Hole To Feed/Fragile Tension, Mute Records, CDBONG42, MS CD.
  • Donald Byrd, The Bat Walk, Blue Note/Audio Wave, AWMXR-0009, XRCD24.
  • Jan Bokszczanin, Komeda-Inspirations, Zakłady Płytowe, ZP 140770-09, gold-CD.
  • Kate Bush, The Sensual World, EMI, CDP 7930 7 82, CD.
  • Miles Davis, Seven Steps To Heaven, Columbia/Analogue Productions, CAPJ 8851 SA, SACD/CD.
  • Norah Jones, …Featuring, Blue Note, 09868 2, CD.
  • Suzanne Vega, Close-Up. Vol 1, Love Songs, Amanuensis Productions/Cooking Vinyl, COOKCD521, CD.
  • Tool, 10,000 Days, Volcano Entertainment/Sony BMG Music Entertainment, 6819912, CD.

Japanese versions of the discs available on CD Japan.

I mentioned burning in the cable. This is something, that brings doubts even among those, who do not doubt the influence of cables on the sound, and in people who negate any influence of cables on the final effect it often induces fury. I am not addressing everybody, who thinks this is rubbish: please do not talk about things you did not touch, things you did not examine yourself. Making fun of things you do not know anything about discredits you for good. I encourage you – please arrange a listening session in a good system, in controlled conditions, conducted by someone who knows his ways around the topic, and you will be as surprised as I was. And burning in, or the so called “conditioning” of the cable by the current flowing inside is a physical effect and not magic. This is why it needs a classic approach – examination through observation.
And the sound of a system with the Acrolink subdued to such a process changes to a large extent. At first, the cable surprised me with an incredible amount of details and information. After some time, I thought, that there is too much of everything. But the sound was so incredibly clear, that we could not talk about brightening, or sharpening. There was just too much information, I was attacked by it, as if I would be subdued to sensory deprivation. In about two weeks this was amended by deep bass, then filling of the midrange and finally everything snapped into place.

After some time I went over to regular testing, meaning I compared the new Acrolink cable to the best interconnect known to me. It is so, that this is also an Acrolink, the model 7N-DA6300 Mexcel. The difference between those two cables is so evident, that it is instructive. On first sight those are similar constructions – a similar material for the conductors and isolation, the same plugs, the same external diameter, the same manufacturer. The cables only differ significantly in price. Please organize some comparative listening sessions, some “get acquainted” evenings (I mean to get acquainted to cables sounding differently), please invite “non-believers”, because on the example of those two Acrolink cables you can clearly hear something, most listeners to music do not know – that each element of the system is a part of a greater whole, and each, even minuscule element, has an influence on the final effect.
The differences between the 7N-DA6300 Mexcel and 8N-A2080III Evo are quite unambiguous and can be heard quite easily – it would be enough to listen to two, three well recorded discs and everything will be clear. I will tell you now, to avoid any misunderstandings: still the 7N-DA6300 Mexcel is the better cable, more neutral, better showing the differences in the system, better differentiating. But the 8N-A2080III Evo is a cable, that will sound nicer in many homes, which fits better in the situation found there. And there is something in its sound, that even the top Acrolink cannot match. About that in a moment.

The thing is, that the ‘6300’ is more resolved. This is not a big difference, and it does not cover the whole spectrum, but it can be heard well. Looking from “below” we know – it is about the small details, which give a slightly different picture of the reproduced music. The model 7N showed better, that some of the recordings on the disc Close-up. Vol 1 Suzanne Vega is clipped, as if someone wanted to blow up the voice of the vocalist, not watching the volume of the recording. I do not know, when it happened, was it during recording, or by mastering, but somebody screwed up. But the case is not unanimous here. On most, and really most, systems this will not be heard in such a clear way, as I described. This split second, when you can hear the delicate distortion, something like “rasping”, but really quickly over, most systems will smoothen out, leaving a big voice, located nicely between the loudspeakers. And to a certain extent (keeping the proportions – this is still a splendid system) so sounded the 8N. Its character is unanimously more pastel and smoother than that of the top cable. But it has a slightly lesser dynamics than the 7N, dynamics understood as the distance between the softest and loudest sound, and which translates on one hand into the so called ‘drive’, and on the other hand into the lack of limitation of the expression of the sound. And without this restraint, the Vega disc shows its worse side.

Interesting enough, when I listened to it with the 8N-A2080III Evo and I knew what to search for, the distortion I was talking about were there, just where I left them with the 7N-DA6300 Mexcel. I will tell even more – I heard them as good as before. But when it came to new elements, when I was not sure, then the 7N cable showed them quicker, better and surer. Because certainty is its immanent characteristic. I came to that with the 8N, but with bigger delay and without that absolute certainty as before. A good example of the last lesson was the newest disc of Norah Jones, the compilation disc …Featuring. A compilation is a bad description in this case, because while the disc was composed of recordings made in different years (2001 – 2010), using discs of different performers, differently reordered and mastered, yet it is her best – after the debut – disc, compared to her own discs, very secondary to the debut.
And this differentiation of the ways of recording was splendidly shown by the two cables, although each one in a different way. The 7N was more direct in his “tale”, and the 8N did not show everything at once, trying to show first everything that was common. And with that latter cable most of the recordings sounded in a more ordered way, showing the timbre from the better side.
Let us take for example the recording Little You…, where Jones accompanies the duo Belle and Sebastian. The main vocal is slightly brightened in the upper part, at the sibilants. With 8N everything was shown in a more creamy way than with the 7N, which showed the things as they are. Like I say – the 8N does not stifle anything, does not castrate anything from the music, but shows things differently, hiding the worse things below the better ones. Because the timbre is in general quite pastel. No, it does not lack dynamics, which wakes the recording to life, what was shown by the disc The Cat Walk Donald Byrd, recently reissued as XRCD24 by Audio Wave. But the 7N shows the instruments in a more three-dimensional way, better extracting it from the mix. In both cables everything is connected well with each other, bound together, there is no impression that any part of the sound spectrum is extracted, but with the 7N-DA6300 Mexcel we have the impression, that the holography is better, that the relief is more embossed.

Like I said, observing the differences between the top Acrolink cable, made from worse conductor, and the new, while much cheaper cable, where there is less conductor, is fascinating. And while – I’ll repeat – the 7N-DA6300 Mexcel is the better cable, the 8N-A2080III Evo has a few things, that the top cable hasn’t.
I mentioned the first one – this is the ability to immerse into a found context, the trouble-free entrance into every system. It resembles the situation I had while comparing the top power cables from this manufacturer – the older 7N-PC9100 Mexcel and newer 7N-PC9300 Mexcel. The newer version is unanimously better. But it does not tolerate weaker spots in the system, which it quickly finds and does not allow to forget about them. On the other hand, the older version is slightly softer, and it will sound better in most systems. Having the ‘9300’ we can built a system around it, while the ‘9100’ will fit into a system we already have without problems.
And I had the same with the two interconnects. Because the timbre of the 8N-A2080III Evo is slightly softer, the attack is slightly rounded, this will superbly fit the best, absolutely top system, which do not expect the “full truth”, because this “truth” will kill them. With all that the sound of this cable is extremely natural and vivid. In this aspect, it even tops the Acrolink flagship. It shows the reverb of the instruments and reverberations better. In direct comparison, the 7N-PC9100 Mexcel seems more raw, a bit untamed. Ultimately I would point to it as the one differentiating better, but this velvety smoothness of the 8N, incredible vividness and exceptional ability to sustain the sound until its very end make it – quite unexpectedly - the direct competitor of the best interconnect in the world, in my opinion. I will repeat – analyzing the elements of sound of the 8N-A2080III Evo alone, we could not tell, that the 7N-DA6300 Mexcel does almost everything better. But when we bring everything together, when we listen to the whole, then this opinion will not be as unanimous, as if it would be undermined by the suspicion, that everything can be done even better, as if the model 8N would show the direction, in which the company should go while preparing another top cable.

Manufacturer:

AcroJapan Corporation
21-9 Ichigayadaimachi Shinjuku-Ku Tokyo
Postal Code 162-0066
Japonia

Phone : 81-3-5369-2474
Fax : 81-3-5369-2475

Web: www.acrolink.jp

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