The Acoustic Zen Gargantua Power Cord and Hologram Speaker Cables

The Acoustic Zen Gargantua Power Cord and
Hologram Speaker Cables

Martin Appel

17 April 2002


Six ft. length – $1488.00

Single $948.00, Biwire $998.00 – 8 ft. pair

Acoustic Zen
800 Los Vallecitos Blvd. Suite P
San Marcos, CA 92069
Tel: 760.471.4899
Fax: 760.510.9188

Spring arrived early this year when a package from the workshop of Robert Lee, chief designer at Acoustic Zen, containing a new set of speaker cables and power cord arrived. Many of my colleagues (see Mike Silverton’s and Jim Merrod’s glowing reviews) and audio buds have already discovered Robert’s amazing products and getting an opportunity to review some of his latest endeavors brought a gleam to my eye.

I had been already enjoying the fruits of his labors as I have employed three Krakatoa power cords, a pair of balanced Silver Reference interconnects, the MC2=Zen digital interconnect and a pair of Satori speaker cables. I was extremely happy with the sound I had achieved and wondered what was I doing messing with it. Well curiosity got the best of me. Having knowledge of Robert Lee’s previous accomplishments, along with that never ending quest for the “Holy Grail” of sonic ecstasy just out of reach, forced me (yeah, you really had to twist my arm) to begin examining these new additions.

As a reviewer, it was necessary to decide which product I would introduce first into the system in order to isolate the performance characteristics of each individually. I flipped a coin and the Gargantua power cord came up first.


After trying it on my Sony DVP7000 transport and my Sunfire processor, I ended up using it plugged into my InnerSound ESL amplifier. I felt that this provided me the best result even though each change held sonic benefits. When I spoke with Robert about the Gargantua, he said that using one in your system would make a major change. Replacing all the power cords with the Gargantua could be incredible. He is clearly consumed with sonic perfection and wants you to share his vision. For this review I only had one available.

After two full days of burn in, the Gargantua was ready for evaluation. I replaced the already acclaimed Krakatoa with the Gargantua (don’t you just love these names) on my Innersound ESL amplifier and sat back. Well to make a long story short, it seems Mr. Lee has once again created something quite extraordinary. Just when you thought it couldn’t get much better — it did. The soundstage deepened, becoming more quiet and spacious and creating a sense of intimacy with voices that was truly illuminating. Inner detail was better resolved and separation of instruments also improved. All of this happened with a slight improvement of dynamics as well as a relaxation in the presentation that was more natural. It seemed to add a certain sense of ease to the music without smoothing or obscuring detail. In fact quite the opposite happened. There was more “there” there.

Breaking down performance by using frequency response doesn’t tell nearly the whole story but it is sometimes quite instructive as an additional tool for the reviewer to use in communicating performance parameters to the reader. It was immediately apparent that the lower frequencies seemed to have greater impact and definition. There was more low-end information coming from my system then I’ve ever heard before. String basses and cellos had more texture, more feel, more palpability. Tubas and trombones also benefited. This was giving the music more of that solid foundation one feels when one is attending a live performance of a full symphony orchestra.

The sensitive midrange did not suffer at all from this bass improvement. As we have learned, too much low-end information can sometimes muddy up the midrange waters. Great care was taken in this design to allow the midrange to come through not only gloriously unscathed, but even more musical than ever. What I mean by musical is not soft and syrupy but with the texture, detail and timbre that live voices and instruments present us with. As I stated earlier, the music flowed with an ease and delicacy that bordered on magical. Is this too much?

We’ve all experienced those hi-fi nasties, crashing cymbals that chase you out of the room or trumpets like nails on blackboards. Cut the treble. Roll off the top. Do something! How we attain real world treble response often defines our approach to high-end choices in equipment and how we avoid that dreaded listener. We strive to achieve full spectrum sound reproduction and this must include accurate treble. The Gargantua goes a long way in achieving this goal. Cymbals were fully extended, keeping their sheen, shimmer and texture without being harsh or grating. Get the picture?

Now $1,500.00 for a power cord may sound just a tad extravagant, but the way it performed in my system made me shake my head and laugh with joy. How can I tell my wife I just have to have this product? I better get ready to duck!


Now that the post listening glow had worn off (not really), the time had come to remove the Satori speaker cables and install the Hologram cables for burn in and evaluation. First let me say that the Holograms come typically for bi-wired installation but, at no extra cost, Acoustic Zen will send them to you in single wire termination. That is how I requested them since my speakers can only be single wired.

First, let me say that I feel that the Satori loudspeaker cables, at $598.00 for an 8-foot pair, are truly one of the best bargains in all of high-end audio. One doesn’t come across speaker cables this good everyday. Suffice it to say that they have been my reference for quite sometime and have taken the place of many other fine cables it’s been my pleasure to examine. When I go into some high-end stores who are selling $11,000.00 speaker cables, my mind cannot comprehend what is going on out there. We are in the world of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Every industry has its snake oil sales people and one of the greatest in all history, P. T. Barnum, said that there’s a sucker born every minute. Well I’m here to say that Robert Lee is the antithesis of these personalities.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s proceed with the Holograms. I burned them in for about a week of non-stop playing of both music and the XLO burn in CD before any critical listening. I feel that this amount of burn in is both sufficient and necessary for most cables to show their true character. There may be some further improvement in time, but the basic qualities will have been established.

If the Satori were to be given an ‘A’, the Holograms should receive an ‘A+’. They take every characteristic that I like about the Satori and improve upon them. Detail, transparency, spatial cues and frequency extension all improve. A general impression of greater clarity and (that word again) naturalness is perceived. It’s like in photography when a photographer uses two different films from the same manufacturer to shoot a picture. One film has smaller, finer grain than the other. Both photos show accurate color and contrast with clarity and definition but the finer grain film can stand up to closer scrutiny. The closer one looks, the more one sees into the finer grain film. Details become a little clearer and image resolution increases. The image gets us a little closer to the natural object or event we are photographing.

This is exactly what happens with the Hologram speaker cables. The Satori gives you an excellent sonic picture of the musical event but the Hologram, with the ‘finer grain’, makes that picture even clearer. The difference in cost is $400.00 so for the audiophile on a budget, the Satori, is more than well worth the price. If one can afford that extra $400.00, don’t hesitate to treat yourself. You’ll be getting something that will truly elevate your system and not cost you $11,000.00! Keep listening.

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