Looking to upgrade your budget speaker cabling to the next level? Paul Rigby wonders if the new X-Tube Plus tech will hit the spot
QED has announced it 50th anniversary with the Golden Anniversary XT speaker cables.
So what’s going on inside these cables? Firstly, there’s X-Tube, which is nothing new. I’ve talked about X-Tube in other cable reviews, here on the website.
X-Tube places conductive material around a central hollow insulating rod. This stops the high-frequency part of the audio signal migrating to the outside of the cable, which it can do via something called the ‘skin effect’.
Then there’s Aircore which is also nothing new. Aircore addresses how the audio signal is distributed around the cable. Something called the ‘proximity effect’ can get in the way of that. The result of eddy currents, the effect can crowd a signal into particular parts of the cable. Hence only part of the cable is used which lowers efficiency and ultimately sound quality.
What these new cables give you is a combo. That is, both technologies are used in the same cable.
More than that, the Golden Anniversary XT speaker cable offer s hybrid blend of 99.999% oxygen-free copper (OFC) and Ultra-Pure Ohno Continuous Cast Copper (UP-OCC). The latter is expensive as a process. So mixing it with the former gives these relatively low-cost cables a peek into luxury in terms of parts quality.
Also, the Golden Anniversary XT uses a specially developed and formulated low-density polyethylene (LDPE) that maintains a high-efficiency and a low dissipation factor. The cables are terminated with Airloc Forté banana plugs, a cold-weld system that turns the cable and the plug into a single, unified object.
So how does this lot sound then?
I began the sound tests with vinyl and an original pressing of Oil On Canvas (Virgin, 1983) from Japan. I and played the moody, atmospheric track, Sons of Pioneers featuring multiple tones across the drum kit, the iconic Mick Karn bass guitar, synths and vocals.
I listened to this track on several occasions and I thought it sounded solid. The sound from the Golden Anniversary XT cables sounds like the sonic version of a large articulated truck or…the Pentagon building or…Ben Nevis. These cables sound firm, they sound planted into the ground, they sound like the are built from the ground up with firm foundations. That means sturdy bass.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not saying that bass is overly massy and stodgy. Far from it. In fact, bass from these cables is nicely balanced. They don’t up the power or the punch from lower frequencies too much. In fact, you could sy that they pull back a little and retain a more neutral attitude. They don’t feel too heavy or massy. Nevertheless, bass information was plentiful.
The upper frequencies and the output from the same is enhanced because of the low-noise performance from the XTs. Hence, articulation from vocals is truly impressive. Lyrics are ever easier to follow here while the focus around the upper mids is excellent indeed. Guitars are full of detail and texture. Drums too provide a personality of their own. Every slight tonal variation as the drummer hits this or that drum in this or that manner is easily tracked. The sense of precision is acute with these Golden Anniversary XT cables.
I then transferred to CD and Plaid. Feorm Falorx (Warp, 2023) mixes lead guitar, drums and synths.
Bass again sounded firm, strong and powerful. There was a slight sense of restraint here as well. It’s only slight and you’d have to do extensive A-B comparisons to hear it but, nevertheless. I wonder if the bass was kept on a leash to maintain discipline and to prevent anything untoward from occurring. Doing so, however, does mean that bass is not uplifting or passionate but it does mean that the lower frequencies maintain a lead-heavy central core.
Upper frequencies are ever so grown up and mature. What does that mean? Well, sensibly organised around the soundstage for one. Every instrument is in its place, properly spaced from one another and meticulous detail is derived from each. There’s no wild frequencies flying around. Nothing to suddenly jump out from behind a bush and make you wince. No tizzy treble to hurt your ears. No portentous edge around the mids to indicate that the upper frequencies are wobbling and have gone too far. No. The upper frequencies know how far to push it. Then they go no further.
So what does all of the above mean then, in terms of the bottom line? In terms of you wondering whether you can or should buy the things.
My flailing ramblings tell you that you can trust these cables. They are not going to bite your bum. They will not misbehave. They will grab as much detail from the music as the price point of these cables will allow. They will lower the noise and allow your HiFi to shine. They also try their best to get out of the way, while giving the music itself a sense freedom but also a firm framework to work within.
That is, these cables protect the music from irregularities such as frequency nasties and high-frequency noise but also provide a large amount of room for the music itself to operate within. Again, it’s a trust thing. You can rely on the QED Golden Anniversary XT cables.
Put it this way, if I was in the trenches with my .303 rifle, ankle deep in muddy water, rats nibbling on my webbing and the enemy on the verge of a new offensive, there’s no-one I rather have at my side than these Golden Anniversary XT cables.
Together? We’d get home to Blighty.
All together now, “Oh, it’s a long way…to Tipperary…!”
QED GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY XT SPEAKER CABLE
Prices: £27/€35/$40 per metre
GOOD: low noise, disciplined frequencies, upper midrange detail, firm bass