Now that I’ve reviewed the Aavik U-280 integrated amplifier/DAC, the Aavik S-280 digital streamer and the Børresen Z1 Cryo loudspeakers, there’s still so much more to say about the products from Audio Group Denmark. I’m talking mostly about Ansuz, the cable and accessories division of Audio Group Denmark, but that almost seems perverse to suggest these are mere accessories to the amps and speakers coming out of Aalborg, Denmark. They’re a very important piece of the puzzle.
Lars Kristensen, who founded Audio Group Denmark with Michael Børresen, told me that it all starts with Ansuz, that all of the other products stem from the R&D done on the Ansuz side of the building. All of the Aavik electronics and Børresen speakers wouldn’t be possible without the important research first conducted under the Ansuz name.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
Here’s the hard part about isolating each of the many Ansuz products I reviewed and talking about what this particular gadget did to the overall sound of my hi-fi system. From the first three reviews I hope you derived the common theme at Audio Group Denmark, that the name of the game is inductance and the removal thereof, because lowering the noise floor is probably the best single objective you can have while designing precision electronics that will perform at this high level.
Each of these devices lower inductance through various means: cryogenic treatments, minimal use of aluminum and iron to reduce eddy currents, and implementation of Audio Group Denmark’s Tesla coil and analog dithering technologies. Ansuz cabling offers one more advance in the fight against noise, and that’s the double inverted helix coil.
As Ansuz Acoustics explains, “Double inverted helix coils radically reduce the sonic noise effects of induction and provide more energy to the music presented on a more expanded and holistic soundstage.” When I visited the factory in Aalborg, that helix was one of the first things Lars discussed with me. It’s a simple and elegant design, wrapping two coils around the cabling in opposite directions, but it requires some complex machinery and skilled employees to accomplish it.
But this core design feature is so essential to the Ansuz story–the very first room I visited was filled to the ceiling with boxes and bins full of cabling double wrapped in these curious orange wires.
As with Aavik and Børresen, each Ansuz product line is vast. As you move from the still-affordable entry level products to the crazy-expensive flagships, you’ll find that same linear progression of materials and technologies, a more-is-better approach since the effect is cumulative. Double inverted helix coils are added, as are the company’s active Tesla coils, anti-aerial resonance devices and more.
Let’s start with the speaker cables. I used the Ansuz Speakz C2 speaker cables, which retail for $9,200 per two meter pair, and 35% additional for each additional meter. My pair was three meters long, which makes the C2s the first five-figure pair of speaker cables I’ve used in my own system.
These are elegant and well-made cables, not at all bulky (the monstrously thick Ansuz cables are out there, however), with anodized aluminum cylindrical enclosures that house those aforementioned technologies. As I mentioned, it’s hard to single what one cable contributed to the entire Audio Group Denmark system, but in the Ansuz Speakz C2’s case I used them with the Burmester 101 integrated amplifier and Burmester B18 speakers and they were by far my favorites among my several cable looms.
What I was able to isolate with the Ansuz Speakz C2s was a sense of enormous clarity and a profound lowering of the noise floor. That’s what I heard over and over during this Audio Group Denmark review period, but when I switched to the Burmester gear I was afraid that the noise floor would be elevated in comparison. With the C2s, the Burmester system was still incredibly quiet with those huge black backgrounds that still leave me sighing in appreciation.
I’ll be honest–the Burmester gear is superb and quiet on its own. But when I substituted another pair of speaker cables, some of the low-level detail in recordings seemed to duck out back for a quick smoke break. This is possibly the first time I used a pair of speaker cables that prompted me to think, “I must have these.”
Ansuz Mainz8 C3 Power Distribution and C2 Power Cords
The Ansuz Mainz8 C3 Power Distribution box, at $5,500, is probably the most expensive power management product I’ve had in for review. You’d never know that from the outside of the unit–the case is made from the same composite shell as Aavik components, and the C3 is neither large nor heavy. It’s just a black box, almost identical to every other Mainz8 power distribution box, starting with the Mainz8 X which costs just $1,300.
The Ansuz Mainz8 C3 is near the middle of the Mainz8 line. At the top you’ll find a trio of new D-TC models–the D-TC3 at $26,000, the D-TC3 Supreme at $44,000, and the D-TC Gold Signature, which sells for a cool $64,000. (As I mentioned before, when Audio Group Denmark names something “gold,” that’s because there’s some gold in it.) It was a last minute decision to include the Mainz8 C3–it’s a brand new model, and a unit was available in the US at the time, and after my Aalborg tour I was hoping I’d get one of these impressive devices.
When I visited the factory in Aalborg last August, my first round of A/B comparisons focused on power cords and distribution boxes. I learned a few things that day–that you can audibly change the sound of your hi-fi system by merely replacing that first power cord that plugs into the wall, that a four-meter power cord sounds better than a two-meter power cord, and that the Ansuz Mainz8 power distribution boxes provide a clear-cut answer to an important question: can power conditioners and power distributors make a difference in your system?
Honestly, if I could buy just one product from Audio Group Denmark’s catalog it would be a Mainz8 power distribution box. (The Ansuz Speakz C2s would be a very close second.) I’d also throw in the Mainz power cords because it quickly becomes apparent, in use, that the combination removes an incredible amount of noise and distortion from the system. I used the Mainz C2 power cords, at $4,300 each for the first meter, but the entry-level Mainz X2 is just $960.
So, what’s in the big black box?
First of all, you have to think of every Ansuz product as another platform, another opportunity to add noise reduction technologies. But Audio Group Denmark has discovered the answer to that persistent call of the audio skeptics, “The current traveled miles to get to your house, how can it get better in the last few feet?” The whole concept of filters in the audio chain should be enough to quell those complaints, and a power conditioner usually regulates current in a way that evens out the spikes.
But the Ansuz Mainz8 is power distribution, not power conditioning–there isn’t even a power switch on the box. If it’s plugged in, it’s working. Inside the Mainz8, however, is a machine designed to deliver clean power:
“The Ansuz Mainz8 power distributors have been designed with the goal of providing a very clean power supply to all Hi-Fi components of your audio system. This is mainly achieved by applying Ansuz’s groundbreaking advancements in noise reduction and resonance control. Equipped with Ansuz’s most advanced audio technologies, Mainz8 power distributors provide the lowest grounding impedance, which ensures that almost no noise is transferred from the power distributor to the individual power cables that feed the hi-fi components.”
The Ansus Mainz8 accomplishes this through that composite box material, which eliminates the mechanical resonances introduced by aluminum. The C3 also features a star electrical grounding system inside, which eliminated the need for any of the other grounding devices I’ve been using over the last year. With the C3 in the system, added grounding devices simply made little or no difference. All your grounding needs are covered with the Mainz8–at least in my system.
Ansuz describes it thusly:
“Ansuz Star ground technology prevents this disturbing noise from ’bleeding’ into the electronics of all audio components connected to the power distributor. Ansuz Star Ground technology is built around a precisely defined area within the power distributor (star point) boasting the lowest possible grounding impedance. It ensures that no voltage is transferred from the power distributor to the power cables of the individual audio components. Since this star point has the best ground impedance, all sockets in the power distributor are grounded from here. The system can be further optimized by the use of Ansuz Mainz Power cables. They complement the power distributor with a strong grounding conductor as well as various shielding and noise suppressing technologies.”
If that isn’t enough, the Ansuz Mainz8 C3 power distributor also employs the active Tesla coils and the analog dither technology. It does many of the things a power management box is supposed to do, but it’s yet another point along the signal journey where noise suppression is applied.
Ansuz PowerSwitch D2 Ethernet Switch and Digitalz D2 ethernet cables
You can refer back to my review of the Aavik S-280 digital streamer for more details on how the PowerSwitch D2 ethernet switch ($6,600) and the Digitalz D2 ethernet cables ($9,900 for the first meter, add 25% for each additional meter) improved the sound. Suffice it to say that I’ve never had more fun streaming from Qobuz until late in the night.
As I mentioned in that review, however, ethernet switches are a strange new species of high-end audio beast that has half the audiophile population saying it’s unnecessary and the other half saying, “Come back once you’ve tried a good one.” I knew very little about ethernet switches before the Ansuz PowerSwitch D2, and after my first experience with it I can honestly say it was an important link to the digital chain. Again, it’s hard to parse out what the D2 is accomplishing in the entire system–at least until I tried it with the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition, which is an “all-in-one” headphone amp that includes a DAC and a streamer.
I’ll discuss more of the PowerSwitch’s influence on the Naim Uniti performance in that review, but I’ll summarize by saying that the Focal Celestee went from a competent and sophisticated headphone to something much closer to the Focal Clear MG, which really rings all my bells. I heard deeper into the recordings, and the noise floor–something much more obvious with cans than with speakers–dropped significantly.
Darkz S2t Resonance Control
I went into some depth on the Ansuz Darkz resonance control devices when I reviewed the Aavik U-280 integrated amplifier/DAC, but I have to bring them up one more time because the Darkz, in many ways, are the easiest way to discover what Audio Group Denmark products can do for your audio system.
These are isolation feet, beautifully made and also very expensive when you go whole hog and try the more esoteric versions that contain zirconium and hafnium because they have been bombarded with these materials in the particle accelerator at the nearby University of Aalborg. The Darkz also play an important role with the PowerSwitch and the Mainz8.
Plus, the Darkz are gorgeous. So shiny and beautiful!
Each piece of the Ansuz puzzle works, to put it succinctly. Every single cable, every single footer, and every single component is a platform, an opportunity for Audio Group Denmark to add technology that lowers the noise floor and allows more music to reach the listener’s ears. There’s nothing mystical about how these products accomplish this–the science is there and behind everything they do.
It helps that the core design of these components–the Aavik U-280 integrated amplifier/DAC, Aavik S-280 digital streamer, Borresen Z1 Cryo loudspeakers–is already solid enough to warrant a rave review from me. But the technology is also scalable, allowing you to subtract noise according to your budget. At some point I added up all the Audio Group Denmark components and wound up somewhere north of $135K for the lot. While I can’t afford anywhere near that amount, I’ve always been the type of audiophile who slowly upgrades over time and many times I’ve looked at my system and thought to myself, “I could never afford my system if I had to go out and buy it in one big chunk.”
The Ansuz cables and accessories and isolation devices are perfect for that slow, steady and deliberate audiophile strategy of making changes over time, as finances allow. That allows you to appreciate what each product brings to the table. If you try a product and it doesn’t work, return it and try something else. This hobby is mostly about taking this journey and learning important lessons, and Lars Kristensen and Michael Børresen know this.
Of all the Ansuz products I tried, a few did stand out–mostly because they provided substantial and easily detected leaps in performance. First up would be that formidable Ansuz Mainz8 C3 power distribution box and those Speakz C2 cables, which provided a sure foundation for every other device that was installed in the system.
The Ansuz Darkz resonance control footers are also extremely fun when it comes to quick, easily observed differences–you’ll be performing A/B comparisons late into the evening. I’ll be honest for a second and admit that I find most isolation devices–footers, bases, platforms–to be a little underwhelming when it comes to hearing big improvements. The Darkz, however, do not disappoint–if you’re using expensive isolation devices from other companies, I dare you to take the Pepsi challenge.
Now comes the hard part, sending all this Aavik, Ansuz and Børresen gear back to Audio Group Denmark. I’ve been spoiled over the last few months, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the coming months with more conventional gear. What these products have done is scramble my brain when it comes to deciding what type of audiophile I am. I’ve always thought I’d ride off into the sunset with tube amplifiers and a killer turntable, but now you’re going to have trouble keeping me on the farm after I’ve been to Aalborg.
It’s weird, thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow. Maybe I’ll move to Denmark, because it really is an amazing country. It’s the kind of country where an audio company can find the resources to fund all types of research, assisted by access to a particle accelerator, a cryogenic chamber, and some of the best engineering minds in Europe to produce one effective high-performance audio product after another.
If you’re one of those jaded audio people who is always skeptical about new technologies and approaches, don’t head to the internet discussion forums to register your doubts in a public manner. Do the work. Stop reading reviews and check Ansuz out for yourself.
This review of cables is a nonsense =
Double inverted helix coils radically reduce the sonic noise effects of induction and provide more energy to the music presented on a more expanded and holistic soundstage.”
This means nothing, apart from trying to get you to spend a large amount of monies with no scientific basis
So, the whole “twisted pair” thing in network cables is rubbish, too. Right on. Have fun with that lamp wire.