I’m waltzing into the cable minefield this week because I really don’t have anything to lose by offending people. Cables matter. You just don’t need to spend $3,000 on an interconnect or pair of loudspeaker cables. QED audio cables do not fall into that category and after 18 months of listening — I think they’re pretty damn good.
“But you haven’t tried enough to say that!!!!“
Over the past 23 years, I’ve tried or owned Monster Cable, AudioQuest, Kimber, Cardas, Clarus, Nirvana, Analysis Plus, Audio Art, QED, Chord, Naim, Blue Circle, Audience, Wireworld, DH Labs, Black Cat, and Nordost.
I think that represents a solid cross section of cables.
Nirvana Audio (no longer in business) was the best. I regret selling the entire cable loom.
I’ve given up on expensive cables because I don’t think they offer any real value for the money and I don’t hear enough of a difference with my own equipment and products under review to warrant the expenditure.
My audio and video systems are wired up with Audio Art, Analysis Plus, AudioQuest, and QED.
Analysis Plus and QED have become my favorites because they are easy to work with (that lack of space behind furniture), are consistently good with a wide range of components, and they are very affordable.
Affordability is good. Having more money to spend on music is a lot better.
QED has a long track record of building affordable loudspeaker cables and interconnects that sound excellent and are built to last. Their loudspeaker cable is cheap by audiophile standards and has never been the weak link in any system I have tried it with.
A lot of audiophiles consider cables to be a form of “tone control” and I think there is merit to that.
All cables do not sound the same.
Some cables do make your system sound more transparent, but that’s often at the expense of color in the midrange and some low end weight.
I’ve inserted cables into my systems that made them sound worse; far too much top end energy and detail at the expense of texture and midrange presence.
Even in the context of a $10,000 system, where it’s probably reasonable to spend $750 to $1,000 on speaker cables, interconnects, and power cords (assuming you have at least 2-3 sources), the benefits of spending any more than that is questionable.
But let’s talk about some QED Audio cables that I’ve been using for awhile and find quite good for the money.
QED Reference Audio 40 Interconnect ($169/1M)
The Reference Audio 40 utilize silver plated 99.999% Oxygen Free Copper (SPOFC) conductors with LDPE dielectric. A Zn/Mn Ferrite jacket is used within the cord to absorb very high frequency noise and the conductors are surrounded by a low loss, low density, dielectric foam Polyethylene (LDPE) inner jacket that minimizes electrical energy loss in the cable insulation.
The QED ‘Analoc2′ RCA plug features high purity copper signal and ground connections in an insulated low eddy current brass body. The hollow central pin eliminates skin effect in the signal connection and the locking barrel design clamps the dual tombstone ground connection firmly to the RCA sockets.
The Reference Audio 40 have proven easy to use in tight spots at the back of the equipment rack and inside our CB2 media unit in the living room.
Part of the gig is connecting and disconnecting equipment on a very regular basis; something that consumers never really have to worry about.
That does put a lot of stress on the jacks and plugs when your’e doing that 10-20 times per month.
So far so good with these and I’m inclined to leave them where they are. The connection is tight and the construction quality is excellent.
Do they sound any different than the Analysis Plus Oval One cables they replaced?
The QED are more neutral sounding than the AP Oval One but they don’t sound thin at all; I’ve used Analysis Plus interconnects for 15 years and their midrange boost is quite audible with everything. I like the coloration with solid state equipment and I was quite surprised by how balanced the Reference 40 were with a wide range of streamers, preamplifiers, and DACs.
Detail is excellent and the presentation is not laid back sounding at all.
The QED speaker cables are very neutral sounding and a good match with darker sounding loudspeakers; the opposite is true in more analytical sounding systems.
The Reference 40 actually add some warmth and texture when using the QED speaker cables and I was quite smitten with the overall tonal balance.
Well made cables that don’t break the bank.
Where to buy: QED U.S.A
The next cable is going to piss people off but I’ve tried it with a dozen digital sources and a lot of DACs.
It almost pains me to recommend a digital cable this expensive but it’s “affordable” in the high-end scheme of things.
QED Reference High Resolution USB Cable ($135/2m)
USB cables are a necessary evil for digital audio if using your laptop or a network streamer and there is no shortage of opinions in regard to the wide range of prices from $15 for a generic one from Staples or Monoprice and the very esoteric ones from some audiophile cable brands that retail for more than the components they are connected to.
That last point ticks me off.
Never buy a cable that costs more than the component it is being connected to.
Buy a better component with the cable money. Problem solved.
Having tried some very expensive USB cables with reference level digital playback gear, I’m convinced that there is some merit to pricier models that offer better construction quality and superior RFI shielding.
Where I go off the reservation is when the price exceeds about $150 for a 6-foot cable — which I know sounds like an insane amount of money for a digital cable.
I’m a lot more skeptical when it comes to USB cables. The QED Reference High Resolution USB cable uses a 24 AWG, 99.999% oxygen-free copper twisted-pair featuring low-permittivity, and foamed-polyethylene dielectrics, which are bound by an aluminium/mylar wrap. It is a flexible design that is easy to route behind a crowded equipment rack and the connection is solid on both ends.
From a sonic perspective, it is most certainly on the neutral side. It adds no additional warmth to the sound and offered a very transparent presentation across the frequency spectrum. Detail is easy to discern and there is solidity in the bass. If your DAC adds some color to the presentation, the Reference High Resolution USB cable won’t alter that in any way.
Compared to the entry-level cables from Staples and Monoprice, the QED offers superior build quality and a more transparent sounding presentation; vocals are more forward sounding while maintaining whatever flesh on the bones exists on the recording.
For more information: QED Reference High Resolution USB Cable
QED Performance J2P Graphite 3.5mm to RCA Interconnect ($69.85/1M)
If you use a Dongle DAC or network streamer with a 3.5mm output, you need a cable like the QED Profile J2P.
The QED Performance J2P Graphite (jack to phono) cable is a high performance compact and flexible stereo cable designed to connect your portable or mini hi-fi components equipped with a 3.5mm stereo jack output to your amplifier or receiver phono socket inputs.
I’ve used an AudioQuest Evergreen 3.5mm to RCA cable for almost 15 months with the Andover Songbird (the analog output sounds better) and multiple integrated amplifiers and while the sound quality is fine — you could tell that the cable was holding back the Songbird.
The Performance J2P uses 99.999% oxygen-free copper conductors, and the specially designed stepped 3.5mm plug allows the cable to be used when the portable device is protected by an external case.
How does it sound?
Open. Transparent. Far more detailed than the AQ Evergreen. Neither cable is tilted upward in the treble which makes them a good match with a lot of the current Dongle DACs and more forward sounding DAPs and network streamers with 3.5mm output jacks.
The QED Performance Audio J2P Graphite is easier to use in tight spaces; laptop bags, behind equipment racks, and it fit easily in the chest pocket on my rain jacket.
For more information: QED Performance J2P
January 18, 2022 at 7:06 pm
There are plenty of us out there who just want high quality cables that are well made, get the job done and are reasonably priced. Reasonably priced means different things to different people, of course. I do know that there are plenty of speaker and interconnect cables under $500, and well under that amount that would more than suffice in the majority of peoples audio systems, including discerning audiophiles.
Cables like these QED’s that you cover here are ones I’ll keep in mind, and I appreciate your willingness to enter the minefield that many others elect to walk around, or avoid altogether. If you have any other recommendations, especially speaker and interconnect cables but not excluding any others, I’m all ears and would be interested in other articles like this one.
January 18, 2022 at 9:43 pm
I’m planning on just that. Next week.
May 24, 2022 at 3:31 pm
Hello Ian ! So , if you had to make a final choice , would you go for QED or AP ? RCA & Speakers cables included ! I have a Leben integrated tube amp. & Denon CD player with high efficiency loudspeakers..what would be your recommendations..? Thanks a lot !
May 25, 2022 at 8:22 am
The Oval 9 or Oval 12 depending on how neutral the loudspeakers are.
May 26, 2022 at 12:59 am
Wow , thank you for the follow up ! Would you also go for AP for the RCA interconnect cable..? Regards, Stéphane
May 26, 2022 at 11:36 am
They make really good interconnects as well. The QED interconnects are also a solid option. They are very neutral sounding with almost every piece of equipment.
May 26, 2022 at 12:25 pm
Thank you so much !! Really appreciated 👌
February 21, 2023 at 2:20 am
I followed the link from the Ethernet cable article.
I am going to enjoy seeing the results of your testing,its going to just be listening correct?
Cross talk and return loss are very curious measurements to understand ( I do that for a living with RF) and unless the measurements are made connected to the source or end device they are very misleading.
Looking forward to the follow up results.
I like the idea of well made affordable cables.