Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sound of mixed metals

Master of metals Franck Tchang.

After I spoke to Franck Tchang about his ASI Liveline cables during last year's KL International AV Show, I just had to test them. So I went to CMY at Damansara Utama and took home first a pair of XLR interconnects and later a power cord.


Franck Tchang's cables are unique as they are the only ones in the market made of several types of precious metals - we are not talking about plain old silver-plated copper wire - 'soldered' together with pure silver.


He uses five metals - copper, silver, gold, red gold and platinum connected in series. The sequence is different depending on the type of cable and he is the only one in the world who knows the right way to make them.


XLR Interconnects


These are supposed to be able to function as AES/EBU digital cables as well, but I tested them only as balanced analogue interconnects.


I switched between a pair of Audioquest Panther dbs and the ASI Liveline linking the (then) resident Benchmark DAC1 Pre to the resident Bryston 4B SST power amp.


The ASI Liveline XLR interconnects can also be used as AES/EBU digital cables.


Tonally the ASI Liveline interconnects sounded quite neutral with a well-defined sound stage, good separation of instruments and very stable images.


The Audioquest sounded fuller and deeper in the bass region, but was slightly less transparent, but bear in mind these are minor differences.


One thing I noted was that with the ASI Liveline interconnects, the singer was always thrust upfront as if he or she had taken a few steps forward from the band.


Power cord


When I got hold of the ASI Liveline power cord, I felt it was a bit thin for a power cable while the jacket was somewhat loose. It was also quite stiff.


While the build quality was not as good as a top-dollar power cord, the plugs were of audiophile standard sourced from Yarbo of Germany and the US plug had bare copper prongs.


I plugged the ASI Liveline power cord to the power amp and compared it with my DIY quad-braided power cord featuring silver-plated copper conductors, Teflon dielectric and Furutech gold-plated plugs. Then I used it on the DAC and compared it with the Siltech Classic Anniversary SPX 20 power cord and on the Melos SHA-1 headphone amp/preamp and compared it with the Kimber PK10 power cord.


The ASI Liveline power cord comes with Yarbo plugs.


After much plugging and unplugging, I reached the following conclusions:


It did not work well with the power amp and sounded very lean and edgy with slightly hard highs. It also restricted dynamics.


With the DAC, it sounded better than it did with the power amp but lost out to the Siltech in terms of smoothness while it was ahead in terms of detail.


With the preamp, the Kimber had a bassier and fuller sound while the ASI Liveline power cord sounded more detailed but leaner in comparison.


I felt Franck Tchang's interconnects performed better than his power cord and if you want to buy the power cord, my advice is to use it with either the DAC or preamp which are components that draw less current.



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