A close look at the Pangea AC-9 power cord.
by Sean Fowler on April 13 '10
Roughly three weeks ago, I was bored and found myself rummaging through the Audio Advisor website to see what their latest situation was. I didn’t know it at the time, but my curiosity would end up costing me a bit of cashola. It all started when my eye caught a glimpse of some new power cords from a company that I’ve never heard of. Pangea Audio. Normally my rabid audiophile nervosa is able to resist the allure of pretty cables, but these were really pretty cables with a real affordable price tag. So after performing a quick information hunt via: Google, followed by a not so quick hunt for my wallet, I ended up making the purchase. And so here I am, three weeks later, sharing my story of the Pangea AC-9 power cord.
Before I begin, it is important to know that I’ve only owned roughly half a dozen or so power cords. Consequently, my reference point may not be as vast as other audiophiles. It is also important to note that I am one of those guys who feel that cables, particularly power cables, should be the last item that you should invest in while piecing together a high performance system. Because my system has been caught in a perpetual cycle of change since I’ve gotten into this hobby, I’ve largely ignored the controversial power cord market. Still, throughout my tenure as a bona fide audio nut, I’ve owned a few from SoundString, Choseal, Signal Cable, Zu Cable, and a few others that I honestly cannot remember.
The thing is, I never once ended up keeping any of these aftermarket power cords. No matter what gear I used them on, I always found myself gravitating right back towards the stock Belden cord. Why? Even though most of the aforementioned cables retained great build quality and imbued positive attributes into the sound, I felt that the tonality of the Belden cords was always more convincing. This would make some sense, as most manufacturers use standard Belden power cords while voicing their electronics. This may (possibly?) explain why this self admitted tone whore has given every aftermarket power cord that has entered these doors das boot. So when my eyes spotted the Pangea AC-9’s at $39.99 for a 0.5 cord and $49.99 for a 1.0M cord from a well known seller that offers a flexible 30 day return policy, I couldn’t resist the bait. I had to give these cables a listen, even if I expected them to make an about face back to Audio Advisor.
Enter the Pangea AC-9
There is something to be said for first impressions, and the Pangea AC-9 doesn’t disappoint. Ok, so you won’t receive the cable in an exotic wood shipping container, nor will the nylon braiding be woven to absolute perfection (eg: without a few frays), but what the hell do you expect from a cable at this price point anyway? When I pay my money for a product, I want to know that my investment is going mostly towards the product, and not fancy packaging or knit-picking cosmetics. That is exactly how it is with the Pangea AC-9. You get a box, a well engineered garden hose sized cable, and a twisty tie. Simple.
Straight out of the box, it’s hard not to be impressed by the cables size and heft. Not that cables of this proportion and build are particularly new, but to have a cable that communicates this kind of confidence at the baseline of $40 is quite uncommon. Still, good looks and solid build won’t mean a thing of the sound sucks. Ultimately, it’s raw performance that serves as the great equalizer. So how does the AC-9 sound?
Bluntly put, this cable isn’t going anywhere. While I’ve never been one to wax poetic on cables, much less power cords, there is no doubt in my mind that the Pangea AC-9’s (and most likely the AC-14’s) are worth every bit of their price tag. The performance I have attained from this affordable cable has yielded extremely positive results across a wide variety of components ranging from the exceptional (and affordable) Vista Audio i34 tube integrated ($980) to the exceptional yet not so affordable Karan Acoustic KA I-180 solid state integrated ($10,500). In fact, this is the first time that I’ve encountered an affordable power cable that, to my ears, is able to outperform a stock Belden cable in every way, to include tonality.
That said, because the performance of cables often vary so wildly from system to system, I won’t be spending much time writing a comprehensive review of the AC-9’s performance. After all, with cables, it should be as simple as “Well, does it sound better or not?” So instead, I will merely write down a summary of what I experienced with the AC-9’s in my system.
In a nutshell, the AC-9’s presentation errs slightly to the ‘warm’ side of the audio spectrum. This is most noticeable in the midrange section. When I install the AC-9 onto any one of my amplifiers, I immediately notice an increase in acoustic density, or to put it in non-audiophile speak, everything sounds larger, more solid, and more life-like. There is an increase in body and a rich tone that gives the music a very ‘human’ touch.
This slight warmth carries right into the upper bass. The AC-9’s make it easier to feel a drum strike, a synthesized beat, a metal power chord, or anything that requires lots of energy at that particular range. I also noticed that the low bass rumbles with greater authority with the AC-9’s in place. As a whole, the AC-9’s made my system sound noticeably more visceral.
The cool thing is that this character is not so thick that it compromises transparency and resolution. Some of the other cables I’ve owned did this to the point to where their color became more distracting than pleasant. So far, I’ve yet to experience this with the affordable Pangea’s. They still sound very articulate and coherent from top to bottom. At this point, I am struggling to narrow down the AC-9’s most salient attribute. Is it the lack of back-round noise? Or, is it the amazingly smooth treble that is easy on the ears, yet extremely detailed and articulate?
As I listen to the AC-9, I struggle to think of a time when I heard any other affordable power cord deliver such a natural presentation without committing some kind of damning caveat. Hmmm… Nope. I still got nothin’. All in all, I really like the AC-9’s and can find no real fault with them. OK, so that’s not entirely true. Here is a list of things that people may find prohibitive about the cable:
First and foremost, this is one thick cable. Unless you can run the AC-9 in a straight line from your wall to your amp, I would advise getting a long cable so that you will be able to connect it comfortably to your gear. While it’s relatively flexible for its size, it’s still a monster and could put an unhealthy amount of strain on your wall socket or electronic IEC’s if not secured properly.
Second of all, this cable takes awhile to break in. At first, it may come off as a bit over saturated and opaque in its presentation. Give it time, and it’ll open right up.
Third, our friends in Europe are currently unable to purchase this cable, although that may change over the next few months. Also, at this exact point in time, there are no two prong cables, although that too should be changed in the near future.
Lastly, the price will be going up by May 1st, 2010. This is mostly due to the increase in cost of raw copper. However, a little birdie told me that the price increase won’t push either the AC-14 or AC-9 out of the value category. We’ll see in a month or so…
When you add the AC-9’s great looks, great build quality, solid cable topology, great price, great sound, and backing by a highly reputable retailer with a 30 day trial period, I can find no reason why an audiophile looking to try out a power cord should pass up on the Pangea AC-9. The AC-9 is a perfect example of the adage that you don’t always have to pay a lot to get a lot. While I cannot comment on how the AC-9’s compare to cables of uber exotic pedgiree, the results I get from this Pangea cord is unquestionably solid. Moreover, their attractive pricing makes it easy for both audio newbies and experienced veterans alike to take their wares for a test drive.
What more can I say? I bought the AC-9's outright (no “reviewer discount”, dun dun dun), I am keeping them, I am voluntarily writing about them, and hopefully this will be the very first and last time that I ever write about a freaking power cord. Recommendations don’t get much higher than that.
3427 Kraft SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49512