Acoustic Zen Sartori - my experience
So, I’m no longer a big fan of long winded reviews and I don’t even want to write a review, I’m just going to post my personal experience with these AZ Sartori. To post a review, I feel like you need to be some sort of an expert with that particular unit and I don’t claim to be an expert in anything audio.
I was a cable non-believer forever. FOREVER. No amount of poking, prodding, or name calling on this forum and on others would have me believe otherwise. Then one day, I heard Audioquest OAKS in my system... and it changed my belief system. Later on, I saved my pennies and landed Audioquest’s best speaker wire, current model AQ WEL Signature. My piece de resistance, so to speak.
When I got them, it came in a bag that was labeled Acoustic Zen. It also detailed the model of the wire, length, terminations. Mine were Sartori, 6 ft, spades, full range wiring.
The wire is pretty hefty, I tried to look at the internals through a peek inside the termination end near the heat shrink, it looks like 2 wires within an expandable and pliable white matrix. Not sure what that is.
The spades are pretty thin, appears to be gold plated, but appears to be strong... no bend to them.
The wire was pretty malleable, moreso than the AQ Tree series wires. There was this mesh over the cylindrical jacket. Not sure if that’s just cosmetic or what.... but I think it adds a little flare to the speaker cable.
So how I listened to them:
I have 3 wires in my system. My stock 12g OFC wire that I made myself years and years ago when I still had Martin Logan Summits... and I have my friend’s Audioquest Oak and my own Audioquest WEL.
I plugged in the Sartoris into my system and I would a/b it against all 3 wires. I listened to a few songs on each one. My Boulder 2060 has the ability to biwire.... so it made it easy to flip and switch. My speakers have the ability to biwire as well, so it was an easy connection to make. Of course, I had to disconnect one set of speaker wire at a time so as to not screw up my equpment.
I think I had the Sartori for about 2 weeks, and I listened intermittently through that period of time.
Keep in mind the pricing of each speaker wire. You can google the pricing for all 3. The Sartori’s are the cheapest, the Oaks follow, and the WELS are nuts.
I was very fair during the comparison, I leveled the loudness/db and I tried my best to eliminate expectation bias. I was actually hoping the Sartori was as good as the WEL because that would be a win win to me... I could sell the WEL and buy the Sartori and then pocket the cash or buy other gear that I was eyeballing.
So, I plugged in the Sartori first, listened and got a general idea of what it was like. Then I plugged in the standard 12g OFC, then back to the Sartori, then I did this a few times, then I popped in the Oaks, then back to Sartori, then back to Oaks a few times, then back to OFC, then back to Sartori, then back to Oaks, then back and forth. In the end, I plugged in the WEL.
The Sartoris sound pleasant. I think the sound pretty good for the money. They take the OFC sound and tweak it a little. Instead of running on for paragraphs, let’s break down the sound components.
Imaging - I would say the imaging on the Sartoris are pretty good, the singer is believable infront of me, I find the imaging to be a tad high however, like perhaps 6-12 inches taller than where I want them... similar in terms of imaging height (of the singer) as on the 12g OFC wiring. However, in terms of front to back imaging, it was similar or nearly a wash with the 12g OFC.
Palpability, density of sound - I think this is where it really pulls away from the 12g OFC. Palpability is improved, perhaps bettering the 12g OFC by about 25%.
Cleanliness of the sound - otherwise known as blackness between notes. I felt like this was another aspect that stood out and one of the first thing I noted. The music is presented in a much neater fashion than on the 12g OFC. There is less hash to the overall sound... but this was also a weakness.... read on.
Tone - I thought tone was not it’s strong point. I felt like because of how clean it made the sound appear, it also robbed it of tone, leading edge notes, overtones.... things just sounded like they got cut off prematurely. To illustrate, take the piano, the sound emanating from the system through the Sartori had all the notes, it was clean, staging was believable.. but the cleanliness of the sound just made it feel.. for lack of a better term.... reproduced. The 12g OFC has a rawness to it... sort of like a garden hose without a nozzle.... everything is just spraying everywhere and every which way... which can be a bad thing, but also a good thing when considering I get to hear a more lively and believable presentation of the piano along with the overtones, etc.... the notes hang and continue for period of time.
Just to make sure I was not crazy, I plopped back the AQ Oaks. Immediately the piano sounded better, much better. The overtones were back, the notes just had a natural decay (rather than a premature cut). The whole thing just sounded better.
Bass - I thought bass was a little lean on the Sartoris. Not to say it was thin sounding, but it was comparable to the 12g OFC. The Oaks pulled away without a shadow of doubt. I would listen to multiple cuts of music, pause it in the middle of it, switch out the wiring and press play. The bass notes were significantly more everpresent in the AQ Oaks than on the Sartori... piano sounded more like a piano down to the lower registers.
Hash - definitely, as suggested earlier, a strong suit. Vocals had less hash than EVEN on the AQ Oaks, which was surprising to me, given the OAK is PSC+ (perfect surface copper+) in a counter spiral geometry with DBS.... I mean this was the best full copper wire in AQ’s arsenal.
I think the Sartori is appealing, the price is good, and there are some benefits over stock wiring.
The Sartori to me, was not as good as the Oaks. Nowhere near the WELS. The real estate between the Sartori and the WEL, in a high optimized system that has been fitted into a dedicated listening room with treatments is massive. There is just no way around it.
Where the AQ Oaks beat the Sartori is in tone, soundstaging (denser image, lower and more inline with mouth height of singers), better front to back staging, better palpability, and better tone... tone tone tone is just right on the Oaks in my system. Where the Sartori beats the OAK is cleanliness of sound, less hash in the singer’s voice. And obviously price point.
But insert the WEL, and there’s no contest. The OAKS sound inferior by a large amount to the WEL. The tone is better, the soundstage is clearer, more believable with better individualization of instruments AND blackness between notes and intruments, the density is FAR FAR better, the staging is just right... pulls the mouth of the singer down to where the mouth should be. The front to back is better as well. The bass is prodigious, the midrange is to die for, the highs just travel to the ends of their limits without strain.
And the WELS have no hash compared to either the Oaks or the Sartoris, the voice is clean but without loss of overtones and rawness to the music.
Listening to the Sartori, I get the image that the singer is right infront of me, but just a smidge tall, the palpability is there, but not dense enough to say I can cut it with a knife. The piano is to the left, the sound is clean, but with less overtones and with less bass than I would like. The music sounds good, very non-fatiguing and very enjoyable.
I plug in the OFC and I get a good amount of what I hear on the Sartori but with less control. Imaging is similar and density is slightly less. The piano reverberates in the hall however.
I plug in the OAKS and I get everything the Sartori does but into the next level, everything is clean, imaging better, density better, front to back better, the piano sounds engaging and fills the hall. I get a slight bit of hash however in her voice.... but still very good.
I plug in the WELS, and there is no mistaking it. This is world class.
If I were to rate it from 0-100, just arbitrary:
12g OFC 20 points
Sartori 35 points
OAK 55 points
WEL 100 points