Acoustic Zen is best known for its high-end loudspeakers like the vaunted Crescendo 2, warmly reviewed by Dick Olsher in Issue 229. It’s no wonder that a statement product like that could easily overshadow the fine lineup of cabling which the company also offers. However, ignoring Acoustic Zen’s wire would be a big mistake.
Its Copper Series interconnect isn’t the most expensive in the line—in fact by today’s standards it’s mid-priced. Construction is robust, and terminations are excellent. It’s also fairly stiff due to its braided jacketing. The Absolute Copper uses zero-crystal ribbon copper conductors in a flexible twist array. Insulation is top-notch, utilizing hollow-core-foam Teflon tubing, not polyethylene, “that is symmetrically configured to Acoustic Zen’s patented Constant Air Twist geometry.” Teflon is widely considered to be second only to an air dielectric. Acoustic Zen’s Absolute Copper can be ordered in any length (1 meter and up) with standard RCA or XLR terminations.
As I listened to Norah Jones’ lead vocal and overdubbed harmonies during “Wish I Could” from Not Too Late [Blue Note], I found the Copper’s smooth sonic performance satisfyingly close (perhaps uncomfortably so) to the best cables I had on hand, including my reference Synergistic Tesla CTS and Wireworld Platinum Eclipse Series 7, as well as the recently arrived Kimber KS6068. In comparison to these elite wires AZ Copper was very detailed but just a bit cooler in personality. Yet, it’s a cable that doesn’t put a foot wrong in terms of midrange tonal balance. It images well and locks in a rigid soundstage, and for the most part simply gets out the way of the music. The all-important sibilance range was seemingly unforced, but came up just shy of the rounder, sweeter voicing that is consonant with acoustic music and my reference wires. Its overall tonal neutrality and macro-dynamic energy, however, were right on par with these top wires.
The Zen has superb low bass, a bit richer and plummier than some but addictively so. It was a trait that could be instantly appreciated during cellist Pieter Wispelwey’s reading of
Bruch’s Kol Nidre [Channel Classics]. There was a wonderfully immersive character to the soundstage, a nice combination of depth and dimensionality. At moments there was a slight sense of top-end edge from the cello, but this was minor. More importantly, on cello Absolute Copper found the balance between mellow and melancholy, resonance and throatiness, the near-human voice that makes it such a difficult instrument to convincingly reproduce.
During the Rutter Requiem Copper easily captured the scope and inner detail of the large chorale, the intensely colorful vocal groupings of baritones and tenors, while keeping its finger on the pulse of the accompanying harp and cello—elements that are easily buried beneath the sound of the large chorus and intermittent rumblings of the pipe organ.
As I listened to solo piano performances of Evgeny Kissin and Valentina Lisitsa the Copper provided a wealth of soundstage information and placement cues whereby even the position and angle of the instrument began to materialize in the mind’s eye. In Lisitsa’s performance of the Thalberg Grande fantaisie [Naxos] the Copper’s character was a bit more forward—detailed and quick but not entirely capable of capturing some of the softer tactile elements of the performance, the gradations of touch upon the keys, if you will.
On an absolute level, Acoustic Zen Copper misses tiny morsels of low-level resolution and articulation. And its modest forwardness provides a little less depth information on something like the soprano solo that introduces Rutter’s Lux Aeterna. However, in their proper perspective such small flaws in no way impinge on the near-irresistible musicality these wires represent.
All told, the Acoustic Zen Absolute Copper is a cable so satisfying that it may very well give you pause about spending more. It certainly would give me pause. There are few serious audio rigs that would not strongly benefit from Absolute Copper’s expressive musicality and real-world affordability. A cable that belongs on every audiophile’s “must-audition” short list.
16736 West Bernardo Drive
San Diego, CA 92127
Price: $1600, 1m