Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Wyred4Sound STP-SE MkII, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; Bakoon AMP-12R; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE Up NC500MB monos; LinnenberG Audio Allegro monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, Titan Audio Eros cords between wall and conditioners and on the amps
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review components retail: Mu-7R RCA or XLR interconnect $2'300/pr/1m, ZL-3000 speaker cable $2'500/pr/3m, ZL-5000 speaker cable $3'800/pr/3m, ZL-3000 power cord $1'400/1.8m, ZL-5000 power cord $2'000/1.8m

Allnic Audio's Kang Su Park is a well-respected South Korean vacuum tube designer. To his name and under his belt are many amps, preamps, DACs and phono stages. Yet today's review is about cables. "So," you think dismissively, "active cables with valves then?" Not. Mr. Park is a serious engineer, not a jester. His ZL for zero-loss cable line is simply an attempt to apply solid engineering to prevailing signal-transmission challenges. To reduce contact resistance between a conductor and its termination, he eliminates solder and hot-welds at 3'000A/1000°C [right]. This creates a molecular merger and single material at the transition point. With it he claims conductivity far superior to even the best boutique solder. To eliminate not just electrical but magnetic noise for his digital and analog interconnects, he runs mu-metal shielding*, the same nickel alloy which traditionally shields noise-critical transformers like phono stepups. To improve contact pressure, he uses special heat-treated Beryllium-copper sleeves, double-bladed spades and pins with six pressure slits. He believes those contacts improve grip over traditional bronze, pure copper or phosphor-copper variants. Finally there's his mysterious MRCT aka midrange control technology. To combat a midrange-centric perspective, Kang Su's recipe addresses the frequency extremes with a strategic combination of thick gauge (better bass), low capacitance (better treble) and specific plating for a particular impedance (midrange). These then are the core design parameters which he applies to his RCA and XLR interconnects, speaker cables and power cords. Presently the latter are available only with EU/Schuko and US plugs. For those who think that cable design and engineering aren't bed fellows and magnetism and mu-metal not even in the same building, this article by nuclear physicist cum audiophile Dick Olsher is required reading; preferably bedside.

* "Test data show that mu-metal shielding reduces electromagnetic noise to less than 1/30th of what a braided copper shield allows to be down -30dB by comparison."

When Allnic's global distributor for this product contacted us about this review, I asked for a complete loom. In my experience, only a front-to-back wire harness guarantees 100% results. Mixing and matching cables is a recipe for haphazard at best partly successful outcomes. Whilst our Irish location did ask for two UK power plugs on the critical wall junctions of the source and amp stacks, we agreed that using some Swiss-made UK-to-universal adaptors would be preferable to a competitor's UK-terminated cords. It wouldn't be ideal but better than the mix-match-hope-for-the-best alternative. If their man in Canada flinched when informed that our setup requires one 6-metre interconnect, he didn't let on during our phone call. A loom it would be. Yes it's harder on a manufacturer particularly where non-standard lengths are involved; but it's also rather more telling and unlike mutt setups, repeatable by a customer. Of course calling any cable harness 'zero loss' is quite chewy. Until we have room-temperature super conductors, calling it less loss like the Lithuanians of LessLoss do seems far more realistic. But then the ZL moniker certainly indicates Kang Su's ambitions and earnestness. So I was curious how they'd translate at the ears. That the goods would arrive posh presentation not Gangnam style was presaged by the photo on the left. Of course I did so not expect an extra deep custom box for that 6-metre pair. With cables, I'm perfectly content with plebeian cardboard boxes. Why pay extra for fancy packaging that ends up in the storage room, garage or—sacrilege but not everyone is a hoarder—the trash bin?