Loudspeaker cables are a hot topic for audiophiles and after 24 years of listening to dozens of different brands, I’m ready to just pick something from my toy trunk (which my 16 year-old son felt he was too old for) in the basement office and be done with it.
Synergy is real and I’ve certainly had a few experiences over the years where $3,000 cables sounded terrible with specific loudspeakers or amplifiers. That sounds ridiculous, but substituting a $100 pair of loudspeaker cables for the more expensive one actually worked better.
That doesn’t make the $3,000 cables a bad product, but it certainly made me think twice about doing cable reviews over the years; there have been less than 5 since 1998. I still own the Analysis Plus cables I reviewed over 20 years ago and it was a huge mistake to sell the Nirvana Audio (no longer in business) S-L cable loom that worked so well with my MartinLogan reQuests and Spendor SP2/3 Loudspeakers.
As you get older, and are faced with the reality of college and private school tuition (currently paying for three kids in that scenario), a mortgage, multiple car payments, and the exorbitant cost of living in New Jersey — buying expensive cables is not a thing. It feels dumb. Perhaps because it is.
QED seems to understand that. When they sent us the advance press release for the QED Golden Anniversary XT Speaker Cables — I requested a set before their team ventured off to High End Munich 2023.
I already own sets of the QED XT25, Reference XT40i, and Signature Revelation loudspeaker cables; which are all very affordable, well made, and very good options for someone who has to review a lot of different loudspeakers and amplifiers.
These new QED Golden Anniversary XT cables are even less expensive than the XT25 that ran me $130 for a 6-foot pair.
$40 per meter. You read that correctly. Not $400 or $4,000. Don’t spend $4,000 per meter on loudspeaker cables. Think about how many records or CDs that represents.
QED has been my preferred cable brand of choice for over a decade for the simple reason that it sounds great with almost every brand that I have tried it with and it is so bloody affordable.
We use QED cables for almost every review and whilst I still like a few other cables from Kimber and Analysis Plus — they are all very affordable by high-end standards.
- NEW X-Tube Plus technology combines X-Tube with Aircore to deliver an even, consistent performance across the entire audible frequency range.
- Ultra-pure Ohno Continuous Cast Copper and 99.99% oxygen-free copper conductor blend helps improve the signal path and signal retention.
- Low Loss Ultra-Uniform Dielectric insulation boosts efficiency and reduces signal loss.
- Airloc Forte banana plugs use a cold weld system for permanent attachment to the cable for improved contact area and reduced resistance.
X-Tube Plus technology
QED’s X-Tube technology places a cable’s conductive material around a central hollow insulating rod – and the result is the elimination of the ‘skin effect’ that would otherwise force high-frequency analogue music signals to the outside of the conductor.
And by combining X-Tube technology with its equally effective Aircore technology, QED also reduces the ‘proximity effect’ that can disrupt current distribution in a speaker cable. The result is X-Tube Plus: a geometry that ensures Golden Anniversary XT is a speaker cable with even, consistent performance across the entire audible frequency range.
Ultra-Pure Ohno Continuous Cast Copper conductors
Golden Anniversary XT uses a unique hybrid blend of 99.99% oxygen-free copper (‘OFC’) and Ultra-Pure Ohno Continuous Cast Copper (‘UP-OCC’) to give the improved signal path and outstanding signal retention of ultra-pure copper conductors – but at a fraction of the price.
My set of Golden Anniversary XT cables only has about 40 hours of listening time at this point with 3 different amplifiers, but I think I have a handle on how they perform.
When I swapped out my Analysis Plus Oval 8 cables for the QED cables with the Cambridge Audio Edge A and NAD C 316BEE V2 Integrated Amplifiers, there were a few audible changes.
The Analysis Plus thrust the music forward of the loudspeakers (Q Acoustics 5040 and Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3) and the soundstage is most certainly wider. Considering the $600 price difference between the two sets of cables, the QED were not exactly a disappointment.
Both cables are warmer sounding than other cables in their respective lineups, the Golden Anniversary XT is not as neutral sounding as the XT40i or Signature Revelation.
That added coloration, proved to be a good thing with the Q Acoustics 5040 and after a few days of listening, it felt as if the trade-offs between the two cables were more questions of presentation and resolution.
I would hope that the $700 (and I bought these 20 years ago) cable would dig out more detail, offer greater clarity, and let me hear a higher level of resolution.
For the most part, that was certainly true.
But did that make the $80 Golden Anniversary XT any less enjoyable? Not really.
The Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3 exhibit a rather pronounced dip and boost in the treble range and can be less than kind if your amplifier and sources are not up to the task. Both the Analysis Plus and QED cables helped tame that somewhat, but it is still an issue with the loudspeaker.
The Reference XT40i work extremely well with my Q Acoustics 3050i; the neutral tonal balance opens up the sound with the NAD amplifier and especially in the treble range which is rather polite sounding.
The Golden Anniversary XT did not fare as well with this combination; the top end seemed to roll-off faster and there was a deduction in detail. Bass notes lost some definition compared to the XT40i.
The 5040, which has a livelier and crisper sounding upper midrange and treble, preferred the Golden Anniversary XT which added some color to almost vocal recording.
Horns had more than enough bite and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Golden Anniversary XT worked with a $6,500 amplifier and two relatively expensive pairs of loudspeakers.
Listening to Green Day, Metallica, Tool, and Dead Can Dance through the Cambridge/Q Acoustics 5040 combination, I certainly noticed a change in the sub bass region which lost some of its solidity and overall impact. Bass notes were robust but not as defined compared to the XT40i or Signature Revelation.
Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” off the live BBC release had two noticeable changes with the Golden Anniversary XT cables; the slightly etched sounding top end was smoother sounding with less detail, and the presentation moved from being 2-3′ in front of the loudspeakers to almost exactly parallel with them.
The soundstage was slightly narrower in terms of width, but still rather impressive depending on the recording.
The QED Golden Anniversary XT Loudspeaker Cables are a fantastic bargain for their asking price; the build quality, termination, and overall sound quality are very hard to fault.
However, that doesn’t make them the “perfect” solution for every scenario.
MSRP: £27 / €35 / $40 per meter | QED Dealer Locator
Related Reading: QED Audio Cables: Proof You Don’t Have to Go Nuts
May 25, 2023 at 10:23 pm
In truth I know more than a few folk that say “looks do not matter” to them. They are usually really good looking people that “wind up” marrying a relatively portly and plainly, painfully pedestrian person whose looks are anything but below average.
What? Marry for moolah?! Or one could say they sold themselves body and sole.
But cables? Ian is correct-o-mundo (a noble nod to the great Arthur Fonzarelli!) in his assessment that spending more quite often gets you less. Well…Except where Ortwellian chiding is concerned. I will lambaste any who dare belittle those of little well but sound of mind that cannot afford to be a frAudian, especially when it comes to cables. I digress…
These cables look cool. Sweet. Hip. Bitchin’. Totally tits. Fab gear gear fab. And If one admittedly pays for looks there is no shame. It is when grandiose claims are made that are purely puerile that foils may be flourished.
Looks are purely subjective and while people may make fun of another’s choice if said choice is made from the heart it will be impervious to all challenges. Being stupid, on the other hand, all bets are off or even increased.
If you buy these for their looks and they are to your way of thinking a more “sound” investment then I say HUZZAH! to you.
Or as Judah Ben-jamin once said: “All cats are gray in the dark. And in the dark, all cables are zip cord. So turn on the freakin’ lights and enjoy all the more! Down Mars-Bars! Up Reeses” Oy…
ORTwellian?! Yeah. I am felling more “Animal Farm” than “1984”.
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May 27, 2023 at 6:34 pm
Hi Ian, do you know the sweedish Supra cables? I think they are even better value than QED, at least in Europe…