I’m more disposed toward reviews of complete cable systems than individual cables, but Nicholas Ripley’s review of Allnic’s clever Zero Loss Technology in the ZL-3000 power cord piqued my interest, so it’s time to try out the flagship.
To recap, Allnic’s ‘Zero Loss Technology’ system was designed to minimise or eliminate signal losses by functionally by-passing three regions where active cable resistances might muster — connection, contact and wire. To overcome resistance issues in connection, many companies deploy a cold-welding system, but Allnic goes in the other direction; welding at 1000°C between terminations and conductor. That way, Allnic can eliminate solder joints or screw-in terminals, which is especially useful in power cord terminations. It also uses a Four Surface Contact IEC receptacle instead of the line contact clips commonly found inside IEC plugs. Both terminations feature beryllium copper, with rubber insulation between the wires for safety at high temperatures (useful in the unlikely event that the cable is in an unprotected open-short state).
In the cable itself, Allnic uses large gauge nickel-plated oxygen-free copper conductors set in a double-shield of aluminium and nickel-plated alloy and copper mesh rather than conventional screens and shields for the power cords. This was chosen because while copper or silver are fine electrical shields, they are still influenced by magnetic fields; this three-metal shield is less magnetically prone.
Allnic presents the ZL-5000 in the way all good cables should be packaged; kind of like a gift, but not in an overtly ostentatious way. The box is a hefty slip-case with a warranty card and the cable in its own black velvet bag. The cable itself is relatively thick, although by audio-anaconda standards, not so much, and there are no flattened carbon-fibre ducks, 1980s hard drives, or designer soda cans set into the cable. Perhaps this is why although the cable represents the top of Allnic Audio’s power cable range, and has all the trimmings of super-exotic wire, the price is not in the “you can get a new BMW for that much!” level, even if its performance certainly does reach the top tier.
What first strikes you about the Allnic Audio ZL-5000 power cords is just how well-balanced they are. These are impressive performers by dint of being extremely expressive and subtle, but without having any obvious tweaks to the performance of the equipment. If you are rebuilding your system from the cables outward, and doing that step-by-step instead of a single, substantial investment, it’s usually best to start from the amplifier or even preamplifier outward. This is because they are the nerve-centre of every system, and some of the most demanding in power delivery terms. In addition, preamplifiers are the hardest nut to crack in audio, and if a cable gets it right here, it gets usually gets it right throughout. I used the ZL-5000 from the amps on out.
The ZL-5000 maintains a very deft touch on the music, with a strong accent on detail resolution, but not at the expense of warmth or musicality. What I found particularly attractive was the way it could help unmask subtle microdynamic cues in the musical performance, ones that usually lurk at or just below the sonic waterline. Here, quiet finger squeaks can be clearly picked out over the acoustic guitar onslaught of Rodrigo y Gabriella’s ‘Diablo Rojo’ from their eponymous album [ATO]. This recording also highlights the impressive amount of detail these cables deliver (more accurately, the impressive amount of background hash they remove allowing all that detail to shine through). And yet, for all this immediacy and detail, these aren’t overly bright or forward and ‘shiny’ sounding power cables. They are neutral and natural sounding; normally functions that take time to reveal themselves to listeners, especially in the context of a power setting. Here they shine out, but without being overly flashy. That makes them ideal for playing good jazz (of course... Everyone Loves Bill Evans, and almost every system loves to play his music because it sounds so good), but more importantly the ZL-5000 brings that even-handed naturalness to less than natural-sounding music. I played ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ by John Grant (from the album of the same name, Bella Union records) and the lo-fi electronica (all buzzes and bleeps) were given the same honest treatment. There’s almost nothing on the track (Grant’s voice aside) that isn’t electronic or heavily treated so there is no ‘absolute sound’ baseline to check against, but the recording ‘seemed’ more like the real deal than often heard at this price.