Power Cord shootout: Acrolink, LessLoss, & TelWire
I have been enjoying two week vacation as every audiophool should, driving myself crazy listening to different cables in my system. For the sake of the evaluation the critical stuff is:
KEF Reference 205/2's
Modwright Transporter (W/ High Wycombe GZ37 Rectifier and RCA Cleartop 6CG7 Signal Tubes)
Modwright LS 36.5 (W/ Mullard Fat Base 5AR4 Rectifier and 6H30 DR Signal Tubes)
KCI Silkworm IC's (amazing! but that is for a different review)
Cardas Golden Reference PC's (W/ Furutech F11 connectors) on pre-amp and amp
Running Springs Audio Danielle
All cords were tested as a source cord on my Modwright Transporter.
The LessLoss has been my current cable for about 8 months and both cables were given at least a 300 hour burn-in before being given any critical listening. Also, it should be noted that the Acrolink is the 4030 PC custom ordered with the Oyiade 004 plugs. The TelWire uses the 004's as well, and the LessLoss the Oyiade P79's.
I use a lot of different material when listening to the cords to really try and gain the most complete understanding of the cord that I can. Here is a sampling of some of the track I use:
1. Just like a Star by Corinne Bailey Rae used to check vocal reproduction and bass depth and weight.
2. Miami Gato by Medeski, Martin, & Wood used primarily for piano and drum reproduction as well as spacing and attack of instruments.
3. Another Brick in the Wall Pt.2 by Pink Floyd used to check guitar reproduction but also when the chorus kicks in and both Roger Waters is singing and the group of kids there is an incredible spacing and 3-D soundstage and image that can be created.
4. The Island-Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel The Drowning by The Decemberists this is a very tough track because it contains a full band with tons of ambient sounds as well as just Collin and an acoustic guitar so it runs a full range of a system.
5. Karma Police by Radiohead used for the intro of acoustic guitar and piano and also to convey the emotion of Thom's voice. Also this is not a greatly recorded album so it helps to hear how the cord does on the more average recording.
Acrolink 4030 with 004 plugs
This is a very good cord for the money and will likely work well in a lot of systems. I am not going to have too much to say though as it was outclassed by both the LessLoss and the TelWire in my system. It is excellent with drums and bass and has a truly rock solid bottom end. If you feel you are needing just a bit more bass extension and authority in your system this is likely an excellent cord for you. However, these pluses came at the sacrifice of vocal reproduction. The Corrine Bailey Rae track has so many nuances and subtleties to her voice but the Acrolink removed all of this. It was very flat with vocals. Also this cord was much more straight ahead than the other two. By that I mean it was much more of a linear 2 dimensional sound, rather than the spacious 3 dimensional sound that I enjoy. The Pink Floyd track should have Roger Waters voice on a different plane that the child choir and it just did not exist. I now felt ready to place the LessLoss back into my system.
This cord had gained a lot of notoriety in the last year or so, and for good reason. The LessLoss is an excellent power cord. Upon inserting the LessLoss back into my system all vocals that I had missed while listening to the Acrolink were instantly restored. It was nice to have them back Also when listening to the MMW track and the Decemberists track it still retained excellent reproduction of piano, acoustic guitar, and drums. Perhaps the biggest strongsuit of this cord to me is it's retrieval of microdetails. I always feel like when listening to this cord that I hear little details in my music that I have not noticed before. This happens with some frequency. My one con with this cord is that I feel like it occasionally gets a bit congested with multiple instruments being played at once. At the Climax of the MMW track the piano, drums, and bass and all being played at a feverish pace. And I begin to lose the detail and separation of each individual instrument and feel like they are ever so slightly being smeared together. Keep in mind that this is very slight, but it is audible to me. And now it was time for the cord I really new the least about.
In the world of monstrous and stiff power cords, the TelWire is the antithesis of this. It is almost a joke how flexible this cord it; it feels almost like a beefed up piece of string. It comes from the less is more philosophy of using pure OHNO cast Copper, the Oyaide 004 plugs, and obviously a few proprietary tweaks. This cord was a last minute addition as I did not think an audition of it would be possible. I knew a bit about it from a few friends who have liked it very much as well as some positive press it had received on AudiogoN. Luckily Chris just happened to have a cord I could borrow for a bit. Lucky indeed
The TelWire cord is an absolute home run for a source cord Upon first placing it into my system that was an instant ease of listening that I had not felt before. It was as if a bit of edge had been removed that I did not even though it was there. I liken this feeling to stepping outside in the Spring after the Winter and taking what feels like the first breath of fresh air you have experienced in a great while. A bit of an over exaggeration, but you get the idea This cord was an extremely quite backround and is completely tonally balanced from top to bottom. I felt like there was an air on the top end and instruments extended further in to space then before. I went first to that MMW track where I felt that bit of problems with the LessLoss and it sounded very different now. I could clearly hear each instrument not only in detail but also what felt like their proper spacing. I had the sensation of feeling like I understood where each member was placed within the studio while recording the track. Obviously I have no idea whether there is a shred of truth to that statement, but it was still a nice feeling It really gave a holographic feel to the soundstage.
I do want to inject a bit of realism however. I don't want to give the impression that this cord is the end all be all and without fault. For everything in this hobby is a give and take and thus why you have to work to create the best recipe for your system and your listening tastes. For the first while listening to this cord I had a sensation I had lost a bit of the leading edge attack that the LessLoss has. I felt there was a bit more authority with the LessLoss and that the TelWire was perhaps ever so slightly soft. So, I went back to the LessLoss for a bit. However, what I discovered was that while I was initially taken with that attack, I would begin to get a bit of listening fatigue that I never experienced with the TelWire. That relaxed effortlessness seemed to now be gone and things felt a bit forced. So, I went back to the TelWire. This time I listened to the cord about 3 db higher than I had been listening previously. All the ease of listening I had first enjoyed was back, but now I had also gained the detail and attack I felt I was giving up. Perhaps it is due to the different structures of the cords? Perhaps it is just the ease of the TelWire and thus can be turned louder? Not sure... but increasing the volume with the TelWire gave me what I thought I gave up with the LessLoss plus all it's added attributes. The TelWire is so natural and balanced that I feel it is an easy recommendation for any system not looking to shape the sound in any particular way, but just convey the best of what is there.