REVIEW: Acoustic Zen WOW's
Mar 25, 2002 at 2:18 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 19

Owen Meany

New Head-Fier
Oct 22, 2001
In a more perfect world I’d settling in to compose a review of the mid-level Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference and the MC2 Digital cable, yet fate happened my way. The loaners, from a busy dealer, had succumbed to a bout of out-of-this-setup-into-that-setup. As such, the terminations had become nearly completely separated from the cable. Which went unnoticed until all the way home and in my rig…of course. As I preferred to audition the digital and interconnects as a set I returned them both requesting the dealer give me a call when he gets a replacement MC2 broken in. As a concession I was offered an audition of the newer, entry level, not even on their website yet, Acoustic Zen WOW’s. I already had the affordable Silver Photon Digital doing permanent duty, so I took him up on it. And I am glad I did.
Right of the bat something about these cable said WOW, most notably are the RCA terminations. Ergonomics and audio have met. The outer screw mechanisms are hourglass shaped with a polished chrome finish. The same shape we might find annoying in the form of over engineered toothbrushes or the gripping end of the latest ink pen design technology. Yet, on these cables, complimented with the underlying gold plated actual connection surface, it looks very attractive. And in-between the connectors, the outer jacket is made of a weaved almost translucent Teflon material. As noted these cable are not even on their website so I am forced to forgo much technical analysis on the material. To be sure, they pass ever-important cool looking test
Secondly, these cables are a wee bit more flexible then the beefier Matrix Reference and even a wee bit lighter then the same aforementioned Matrix. As an aside, when I connected the Matrix Reference I found myself rearranging my transport/DAC to accommodate the physical limitations of the cable; a minor quibble in the nobler pursuit of truer audio but a quibble nonetheless. Why are the WOW’s lighter more flexible? I am not sure but, again, I must defer to the lack of current information available. If this product were on the AZ website at this time I could paraphrase the design philosophies and construction techniques which in turn would offer up a reasonable explanation. Regardless this lighter weight, more pliable cable, nested into my set up nicely, no need to rearrange or even batten down lighter weight components. So on to the sound.
The obvious answer to the question: “How do they sound?” should be “WOW”, right? Sorry, I won’t give it away that easy.
I have to admit that I had high expectations for the AZ Reference Matrix and was looking forward to some quality time with them. So a “lesser” interconnect must be a let down, right? Wrong, the WOW’s were not in anyway a let down.
The first disc I dropped in has been my reference CD for about 4 years, Stacy Kent’s Love is the Tender Trap. These cables captured more of Ms. Kent’s demeanor and emotion then I have ever experienced. I most often listen to one track in particular, Comes Love. With the WOW’s I could all but see her big smile….scratch that, I could all but hear her big smile. The emotion of the recording was so effectively translated by the WOW’s that he music took on a whole new dimension, one where emotion and attitude owned part of the stage with the music. In the past, my experience has been that subtle emotional cues are only sometimes picked up and conveyed to the listener. Hence the listener is not drawn in to the music as effectively. This cable shifted my paradigm. How’d they do that? It is my impression that the information that the WOW’s bring the table is the “right” information. No, I am not talking about accuracy or transparency (but they are that). They have knack for bringing out the musical elements that complete the whole musical event. Not just the notes. You get more an interpretation of the sheet music. Fundamentally, the notes are all there and order they just have a bit more life added. If you subscribe the “cable as tone controls theory”, then you know that some cable are best to bring out all the detail you could possible want, some for extended bass and others for warmth or brutal honesty. The WOW’s seem to excel in “tuning” a life into a set-up by attaching a personality to the face, if you will. Another example, on Jimmy Scotts, Holding Back the Years, the title track is presented with just enough detail without over blowing it. Mr. Scott has a slight slur, which I have never heard before and if I heard it in more detail it could be a distraction instead of an emotional cue. But the slur is there and acceptable. Not embellished, just there. To my ears nuisances such as that are compelling evidence of a real performer in front of me.
This “less is more” concept seems to work very well for the WOW’s when detail is at issue. But, at the same time, across the rest of the soundstage less is not necessarily more. In the lower frequencies the interconnects deliver a controlled bottom, maybe not all there is, but what is there is good, taught and clean. The deep controlled voice all through Greg Brown’s Covenant is completely convincing and vibrant without any marked limitations. This is not to say they reach the deepest of deepest octaves only that the bass is well extended and certainly consistent with other cables I have heard in this price range. Satisfactory but not awe inspiring.
The middle band range is smooth. Every vocal track I listened to was articulate and, as I stated previously, full of emotion. Here is a caveat, I am using tubes for this evaluation. Tubes, as we all should know by now, have a certain romance with the middle band frequency range. More often then not tubes produce a rich, smooth seductive presentation. And this has been most certainly true for me, but with the WOW’s there is an unmistakable hint of graininess. It is ever so slight and I am apt to applaud its presence. Such an unassuming detail sets up a convincing emotional presentation. It is almost an engineered flaw, no voice is perfect so why should what we hear be? Excelling in presentation as whole are the Wow’s strength. And is not distracting in the least bit.
These interconnects are really good. They are really enjoyable to listen to and I am waiting with baited breath to get the Reference Matrix in the house. Over the whole frequency range the WOW’s were honest with out any perceptive colorations. Yet, they were not so transparent to exploit shortcomings in other areas of the signal path. Sometimes the true test can be how do they handle bad recordings. So I dropped one in, an old Best of the Staple Singers, it was wonderful and fun. From beginning to end I listened with minimal fatigue. I dare say there are plenty of cables out there that would glaringly point out the poor recording. Thereby relegating the disc to the back of the line for an eternity. The WOW’s just found the good stuff.
Here is the tricky part. I have gone on about how the WOW’s convey the “right” and the “right amount” of information for the listener. The conundrum is that this is the same concept that keeps them from being truly exceptional cables. They do so well at conveying the musical message that I want to be pulled further into the music. I feel teased. “Less may be more” but I in the end, I wanted to experience more. Another way to say it is that the WOW’s do the music justice in all respects and it is my opinion that they do nothing wrong, they just seem to hold back a bit. Something in what I heard made me want to reach out. Made me want to get more then an earful of what the WOW’s offer. Yet, the price of admission may just be the twice as costly Matrix Reference. The WOW’s are right on the cusp, ready to explode with what ever is fed them, but they can’t. They are, after all, only $248 interconnects. Highly recommended.

My Set up: Rega Planet>> AZ Silver Photon>>PT P1A>>PT P3A>>???>>EarMax>>Senn HD600
Mar 25, 2002 at 2:43 PM Post #2 of 19
Thanks for the impressions, I have been very impressed with any AZ cable I have tried, nice to see the prices coming back down to earth.

I see you are using the AZ silver photon digital cable, I have one in my collection and think it is the best under $100 cable I have heard..........but you must try the AZ Mc2 cable, it is in another league altogether, you can often buy these used at Audiogon for @$200
Mar 25, 2002 at 5:34 PM Post #3 of 19
After this taste of the AZ line...I am really wanting to give the MC2/Matrix a listen...

I am concerned about impedence matching...I am not sure the RCA MC2 is a "true" 75ohm...

Any thoughts, jb
Mar 26, 2002 at 5:40 PM Post #5 of 19
Well, the word is that Robert is responding to demand and is delveloping a "Silver Lighting" which will be a MC2 but at a "true" 75ohm..which is essentially the same but for it is being built with 2 conductors in leu of 3...I have one on the way and I am very much looking forward to giving it a listen...I will keep you posted..

Mar 27, 2002 at 1:09 PM Post #6 of 19
In my system the $99 AZ Silver Photon was preferred to the popular $250 HT Cyber Platinum cable and several other more expensive digital cables, the AZ Mc2 however was in another class
and slightly superior in all respects.........I really haven't had any desire to try another cable since, I am pretty sure it would cost a small fortune to better this cable.
Mar 30, 2002 at 3:21 PM Post #7 of 19
Just put in the Matrix Reference....might be exactly what I have been looking for....I'll keep you up posted....

I still have the Photon..the mod'ed MC2 will be here in a week or two, it has to be custome made...

Apr 2, 2002 at 3:46 PM Post #8 of 19

but you must try the AZ Mc2 cable, it is in another league altogether, you can often buy these used at Audiogon for @$200

I just purchased one and it should be here by Thursday. I'll let you know what I think.
Apr 2, 2002 at 4:54 PM Post #9 of 19
I have a mod'ed MC2 to a "true" 75ohm on the way, too...

Right now I am demo/reviewing the top of the line digital from Marigo($695) will be interesting to compare..also sitting near by is a JM75 ($100) will be a fun round up...

Apr 4, 2002 at 2:48 AM Post #10 of 19

Originally posted by Owen Meany
Just put in the Matrix Reference....might be exactly what I have been looking for....I'll keep you up posted....


I'm looking forward to your comments. The Matrix is one of about four ICs that I am looking at right now to complete my system.
Apr 4, 2002 at 3:42 AM Post #11 of 19
They're settling in nicely...I am still waiting on the MC2 to arrive but with the Marigo they are rich in detail. I am really looking forward to the AZ "package" and assessing the differences between the Marigo and the MC2, not to mention the JM75 that I have on hand (which I have yet to put on line).

What other cable are you looking into?

Apr 4, 2002 at 3:13 PM Post #12 of 19
This is the short list :

AZ Matrix
AZ Silver Ref
Silver Audio Appaissionata

I need to wait a few weeks as my LW-1 passive preamp breaks in. This is for a speaker system that imo, has the potential for a very nice midrange response. Since the LW-1 passive pre and Cardas N-Ref speaker cables are tilted towards transparency, I thought the Matrix IC might be able to strike a good balance. Right now I seem to have plenty of detail and air in the upper range.

The new cable will replace a Silver Audio 4.0 (amp>preamp) which will be moved to cdp>preamp.
Apr 5, 2002 at 6:36 PM Post #15 of 19
Here is a new review of AZ Mc2 digital cable:

Reviewer thought his search for digital cable was over, he had $1,000 custom Audio Magic silver cable, then he tried read the results, he,he,he

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