When it comes to gnomic discussions about cables, Ansuz gets close to winning the prize. Normally, when it comes to discussions about cables, there isn’t great deal to talk about, but what there is usually settles on the materials used in the conductors, the dielectric, the type of plugs used. Within these fairly limited parameters, things get a bit florid. You might start with ‘copper in a PTFE shield’ but by the end of the proceedings, it’s the finest filigree ductile cuprum, lovingly strand-casted by artisans then wrapped in the most sheer gauze of pure fluropolymer of tetrofluroethylene.
Ansuz doesn’t do that. Its X-Series – the brand’s entry-level cabling “is made of twisted, shielded, silver-plated copper solid-cores in mechanically stable Teflon insulation.” That is all you get from the brand. OK, so beyond this there are discussions about electrical and mechanical grounding and how important it is for an audio system. This includes discussions about why such things are important and upgrade paths to show just what can be done and just what can be made better, but even these discussions border on the descriptive, and are disturbingly free from hyperbole and gushing prose.
However, a lot of the technolgies used inside Ansuz cables that act on electrical grounding apply further up the price list. X-Series cables don’t have acronyms like DGC (Direct Ground Connector) or ‘AARC’ (Ansuz Advanced Resonance Control) because these are more complicated systems applied specifically to the more up-market cables in the Ansuz line-up. While X-Series is designed from scratch taking electrical grounding into consideration, it remains, ultimately, a series of ‘twisted, shielded, silver-plated solid cores in a mechanically stable Teflon insulation.’
We got a fairly standard complete front-to-back system of X-Series cables, comprising a single-wired set of Speakz X loudspeaker cables, two sets of metre-long Signalz X RCA-RCA interconnect cables, a single 2m BNC-BNC Digitalz digital interconnect cable, and three 2m Mainz X power cords. These were fitted with EU plugs, because the package also included a Mainz8 X.TC distribution box (currently only available with EU power sockets, and a 4m Mainz X power cord complete with UK three pin power connector. This not only represents a good complete starter system, but the recommended cable lengths by Ansuz.
The Mainz8 X is a star-earthed distribution block with – as the name suggests – eight power sockets. It is available in two versions: the Mainz8 X and the Mainz8 X.TC. The ‘TC’ part of the name relates to the use of Tesla Coils inside the steel framed MDF chassis. Most people’s experience with Tesla Coils revolves around their production of a high-voltage, low-current, high-frequency AC current, which makes for excellent light-shows in a Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory manner. However, at less showy voltages, Tesla Coils also work to influence an electromagnetic field, which is very much at the core of what Ansuz is all about.
The cable system arrived burned in by Ansuz, I used it in a number of systems, most notably however with the Hegel Mohican CD player and the matching H90 integrated amplifier. In loudspeaker terms, I used it with a number of designs, but had great success with the Monitor Audio Silver 300. I also used it more contemporaneously (both the H90 and Silver 300 are now back with their respective companies) with the Chartwell LS6/f and the excellent Primare I35 integrated amplifier tested in this issue. Because the Speakz X cables were sent with banana plugs at both ends, they were unable to be used with my benchmark Wilson Duette Series II loudspeakers, but the spread of good and appropriately priced products gives a fine indication of what X-Series can do.
Unlike more esoteric cables in the Ansuz range, these both give up their goodies almost immediately, and then unveiled the real pearls over time. The instant hit is one of extremely good detail and coherence, with an agile, taut bass and a lot of top-end expression. The longer-term performance is one of far greater midrange clarity.
The usual ‘lowers the noise floor’ cliché does apply here, although not quite so markedly as happened with previous encounters with Ansuz cables. However, those ‘previous encounters’ were with cables that cost two orders of magnitude more than X-Series, so relatively speaking a lesser lowering of noise is understandable under the circumstances. In absolute terms, however, it does set the system in a darker place, and that comes through from the outset. Darker is good: it’s more ‘uncannily natural’ than ‘murder ballads’.
More than that, though, the X-Series had a uniformity to it that proved extremely attractive and coherent. There was a lot of detail on tap, and this gave the cable just the right amount of high-frequency energy without the accompanying zing and brashness. This was particularly noticeable when playing my standard issue ‘Chameleon’ by Trentemøller [The Last Resort, Poker Flat]. The track is ostensibly about deep bass (I use it to test ports, to see if they choke up when the music becomes very deep and very fast-paced), but has a lot of sharp high-frequency sounds (like sampled glass smashing). A lot of very good cables can sometimes fall over this, as those jangly sounds can dominate the sound, especially when played through smaller speakers. The uniformity makes this far more intelligible and, in the process, malevolent.
As the days and weeks progressed, X-Series had a secret up its sleeve. It gave the already intelligible midrange a lift. Not an increase at a given frequency, but an overall increase in clarity and articulation in that all important section. This was a mild improvement, but an improvement all the same. I suspect this came down to the distrbution block, which seems to take some time to take effect.
A good component works to make the music sound harmonious. A good cable family strives to make the whole audio system work in harmony. That is the case with X-Series. It’s more about bringing a consistency to the sound, so that your system has fewer ‘off’ days, so that everything just sings a little bit closer in tune, and makes all the components seem that bit closer. Starting with the power and distribution, X-Series draws your system together.
In outright musical example terms, this ‘tying the system together’ is hard to pin down. It doesn’t affect a particular aspect of the sound, but instead works on the whole. Music played through an X-Series wired system tends to be a lot more clear, a little bit more forward, slightly more detailed and a lot more coherent. Music is tied to this process, but in an almost tangential way: ‘Royals’ by Lorde [Pure Heroine, Universal] is a good example of what happens here. There is a slight emphasis on vocals and the presence region, but otherwise the tonal and timbral qualities of the sound remain effectively unchanged, but there’s a sense of intimacy and focus to the sound, and a coherence that makes the lyric ‘pop’. There is also an element of the music being tied together that doesn’t usually manifest, but works really well here; the rhythmic qualities of the sound. Normally, cables only seem to alter rhythm in all the wrong ways; making the sound seem sluggish in places. A few turn this on its head and make music sound super-fast, with excellent leading edge definition. The Ansuz X-Series toes a middle path, possibly closer to the supernaturally fast then the slothful. However, what Ansuz X-Series does so well is let you hang onto a beat better. Try listening to a piece of music, and muting the sound for a few seconds. Ansuz X-Series lets you keep time!
Ultimately, I think Ansuz X-Series is doing what all good cables are supposed to do; align the system without getting in the way.
I decided to ‘do a Yoko’ and split up the band! It was time to experiment with the Ansuz X-Series to place it in context and then see how it compares to rival designs priced around, above, and below the cables. Swapping out a lone power cord wasn’t a good idea, sonically. It acted like two rights making a wrong, and that whole noise-floor advantage just went away. The closest I got to levelling that particular playing field was inserting a single Crystal Cable cord. Swapping out all the power chain was more equalising, although once again this only seemed to work well with Crystal or Nordost cables, and models from Cardas and Transparent didn’t play well with the rest of the system.
Moving over to the interconnects (having reinserted the Ansuz power cords), this was slightly more robust, allowing changes quite far from the Ansuz ethos without messing up the sound of the system, while the speaker cables were somewhere between the power cords and the interconnects in terms of robustness in the face of cable changes. From this, I suspect that if you are approaching cables piecemeal, the power cords are the first port of call, and the interconnects are probably the best individual link in the whole chain.
Finally (because I can) I swapped out the first length of power cord for one of Ansuz D2 models (at almost 15x more expensive) and the difference was extreme. Whether it was 15x as extreme might depend on the system you use (the one D2 cost more than the whole system) and the depth of your pocket, but it certainly made for a humbling experience in terms of performance upgrades.
The only downside to the X-Series is if people don’t now how to contextualise. X-Series works very well with good equipment that would benefit from a €400 interconnect (for example). That means not using Ansuz X-Series to prop up a clapped-out, dirt-cheap product from long ago, and it also means not using it as a cheapskate way to hook up extremely high-end equipment. Using it with good equipment that is in the same price ball-park, on the other hand, allows Ansuz X-Series to shine in context, and there’s always a chance you’ll want to upgrade some time later.
The top-of-the-tree cables always get the praise (and the flak) because they offer cost-no-object performance for cost-no-object systems. The trouble is, so many times in audio, if you see the cost… you’ll object! The best isn’t easy to do, but it is a lot harder to climb down from the mountain top and make something that works, and works well in context. That is exactly what X-Series does. It brings a lot of the sound of top Ansuz cable to the distinctly attainable level. What it sacrifices in the process is often no real sacrifice because it will be used in the context of good – but also attainably-priced – audio electronics. That, in a very real way, is a lot harder to do, because there are often more ideosyncrasies in more attainably expensive equipment. X-Series is extremely well balanced for its market.
Price and contact details
Mainz X power cable: €600/1m.
Mainz 8 X.TC Distribution box: €1,500
Signalz X RCA interconnect: €400/1m
Digitalz X BNC interconnect: €240/1m
Speakz X loudspeaker cable: €1,200/2m
Manufactured by: Ansuz Acoustics
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