AQ Water XLR or Yukon XLR - DAC to Preamp- sound comparisons

Hi all,

I have an opportunity to upgrade from my Yukon XLR that I just purchased to the AQ Water XLR interconnects that are connected to my Oppo 105D dac to my Marantz preamp. I find the Yukons are good but I think the Waters will provide that extra smoothness and detail in the bass, clarity and even more openess. The Yukons are a nice interconnect as well and I found at first there was a brightness and midrange harshness  that was not so pleasing to my ears and the bass was a bit more laid back but having them in my system for over a week they seem to be breaking in and the sound is not as harsh and it seems to have settled in and the sound is clear and refined. I also have an AQ Monsoon power cable hooked up to my preamp as well and perhaps that is helping as well with the presentation of the sound I am describing. I am using AQ Water XLRs from my preamp to power amp as well.

I want to know does anyone have any experience with either one of these interconnects hooked up from dac to preamp? What are your experiences in having either one of these cables hooked up from your dac to preamp? Has anyone tried the Yukons in their system and then went with the Waters or vice versa? Since my Marantz preamp is a warm sounding preamp would the Waters cause the sound to be overly warm cause I have them hooked up to my preamp and power amp and perhaps the Yukons provide that balance with the blend of highs and midrange forwardness to my Waters I have from my preamp to power amp? On a side note if it matters but I will be upgrading to the Blizzard power cable for my preamp very soon. 

I would like to keep this to Yukons and Waters as I have no intentions right now to move up the line for now or try other brands. Thanks in advance and appreciate your thoughts.

I had Mackensie's and moved to Water. It was an improvement-mostly in clarity and improved imagining.
I would recommend just going with the WEL's, if you can stomach the price.- I know I will when I find a set for sale used.
Thanks gdnrbob. I understand those WELs are very revealing interconnects for sure. Right now my budget is only for the Waters. I found Mackenzies were nice but slightly a little warmer then I thought but still had a nice bass to it and warm midrange. Highs were a bit laid back compared to the Yukons. The Mackenzie XLRs I have are hooked up to my power amps to do Atmos duty and that should be enough as its only ambience sound I figured. I did try them out though just to see what sound they could give on my dac to preamp. 

 If I am interpreting your post right you are suggesting to get the best interconnect and perhaps that will happen sooner than later if I can get a good price on a pair. I have asked my dealer to go ahead and order the Water XLRs shortly after writing this message but I figured it cant get any worse and can only add to the sound over the Yukons. Whether its incremental will still be an improvement that I should be able to discern from the price point and I can live with it. Having both Waters from dac to preamp and preamp to my power amp will provide more consistency in sound.

Thanks a lot for your response. I really appreciate it.

Hi all,

It would still be nice to hear from a forum member who has this setup. If you have this setup AQ Waters from your dac to preamp and AQ Waters from your preamp to power amp or receiver would be great to hear from you and let me know the sound you get from your setup? Do you plan on going up further in the AQ line and why? Maybe you already have gone up further and what line did you move up too and the improvements you are hearing by going up in the Element series line? Thanks all.

Have you checked out the Red River XLRs? They're cheaper but they're one of the very few Audioquest products which use gold connectors. If AQ used gold XLR/RCA connectors on their top of the line products, I'd be all over them.

I replaced the factory-terminated silver spades on my Rocket 44 cables with AQ's 5000 series gold spades and couldn't believe the difference it made.
Hi mkash3. Thanks for your response. No I never checked out the Red River XLRs. My dealer suggested to not go below the Mackenzie XLR interconnects when I converted to XLR from RCA so I went with his advice. I use an AQ Gibraltor speaker cable for my main front left and right speakers that have the gold connectors on them. They sound good too although my surround and surround backs have the AQ Suregrip 300 silver connectors and they sound good as well. I may eventually go all silver and will be upgrading my speaker cables at some point in time. Thanks again for your response.

Water is on onothe league is way better than Yukon , TMRaudio usually have them used .
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Hi jayctoy. Do you use AQ Water in your system? XLR or RCA? Do you have them hooked up from a DAC to a Receiver or Preamp? If so, can you provide some detail on what you hear in your system if you do use the Waters? It would be much appreciated.

I have water xlr's from dac to preamp and preamp to amps. I never had any other ic's with this gear to compare but the waters are great and give me what I need until I can afford the fires or the wel's. 
 Actually I'm gonna replace all the AQ in my system with another brand, why should we use them being the only manufacturer to have the dbs packs? 
I think AQ came up with a gimmick with the dbs system, and just can't erase all the BS they've fed us over the years. I mean how can they now build cables without the dbs? 
I have Mckenzies for headphone amp , they are very good.   Use Water between amp and preamp.   Paid 200 for a brand new pair because owner needed longer length.  They are very quiet.   Sound more open than the MIT and Transparent they replaced.   I will never buy a cable with a zobel diode ....really dull sounding compared to non "filter" type IC
Hi oddiofyl..that’s a great price for the XLR Water IC’s. Yes I agree with you that the Waters are very quiet sounding. I am awaiting for a 1.5m Water XLR from my DAC to Preamp that should be arriving at my dealers ready for pick up any day now.  I’m using a 1.5m Yukon right now but decided to go Water instead so my dealer will take back the Yukon and charge me the difference. I never heard MIT or Transparent cables so I can’t comment on them. Glad you found the right cables for your system. It’s all about the synergy so I have read..keep on enjoying the music. This hobby is addictive eh? Thanks for your comment oddiofyl.

DBS is alive and well. Vandersteen shares the patent w Low of Audioquest. Vandersteen and AQ build cables and amps with 128 v DBS….because it works.

I have Fire from phono to preamp and Water from Pre to amp in Casa Pacifica system.

A mix of Eagle Eye, Niagara, and Wild Blue Yonder in my Reference system.

i think you will enjoy the Water, very musical, not HiFi. Let us know how it goes !,,,,

Hi tomic601.

You have one awesome system and I’m sure you are in audio nirvana everytime you turn it on. As for the Water XLR’s, I have not received them yet but hopefully will in the next week or so. I currently am running Water XLR’s to my 350w per channel stereo power amp. I have noticed the improved sound going from King Cobras IC’s. Can you share when you say "musical" what the Waters bring to your very revealing system? Have you ever thought of moving up the line to Earth, Wind or Fire?. Thanks for your comment.

2007audioman t my Audioquest water is xlr from dac to preamp, it’s very detail , lots of air, bass is superb , good tonal balance, black background in my system.Transient is excellent.
@2007audioman  in the system w Water a change to Fire in a 5 meter cable is not small $ and since it is a system, i would choose to spend that $ elsewhere ( for example in Casa Pacifica changing the Delos to the next better Lyra ). Attack or if you prefer invest in improving the weak link…

Sounds like you have an excellent dealer. I think that relationship is important.

best to you


jayctoy- thanks for sharing your experience with the AQ Water XLR speaker cable. I am looking even more forward to getting this cable real soon. :-)

tomic601- Good point in terms of your preference in spending the funds elsewhere and improving the weaker link. Yes I have been with my dealer for quite a few years now and bought lots of audio equipment from them. They have always treated me with excellent customer service and fair pricing as well. They keep their customers happy for sure. 

2007audioman the Water is also effortless to listen, it bring musicality as well, with proper matching the bass gives you just the right body to the music.The slam of the water is fast maybe because the transient is excellent.
Hi jayctoy. I still haven't received my XLR Waters as of yet and reading these types of posts is making me more excited to the day I can finally install them from my Oppo Dac to preamp. I am curious if you would ever move up at some point and try the Earth XLR's in your system? Have you thought about it or Water is enough for you?

Well the wait is over and I finally received my AQ Waters 1.5m yesterday. I am not sure but I found that the dbs packs were installed in the male connector end and not the female end on the XLR cables. This is inconsistent with the three other AQ Waters I purchased from my dealer and not sure if this effects the cable in terms of sound. I have alerted my dealer and asked if he can accept a return and get a pair with the dbs packs installed at the female end. A lot of images on the internet show the dbs packs installed on the female end. 

Does anyone here have this configuration? If so, did you return them or leave it. Does it matter what end the dbs pack is installed? 

Hi all,

Just an update to my previous post and a for your information. I learned from AQ and my audio dealer that going forward, the DBS packs will now be on the component end(going in) instead of the source end(going out). My AQ Water dbs packs I bought previously were on the source end(female end). AQ found that being on the component end sounds better and my dealer who spoke to his rep added that it frees up space in the preamp or receiver end if the dbs packs are located on the component end.

The 1.5m I have now the dbs packs are at the male end but I require them at the female end cause it does add to the cable clutter on my preamp as my other AQ Waters are on the female end too. I asked my dealer if he could accomodate my request, so he got in touch with his rep and they are gonna send me a pair that has the dbs packs installed at the female end. So that is good to know and great customer service. When they arrrive I will return this pair to my dealer.  The current 1.5m Waters do sound great going from my DAC to Preamp compared to the Yukon I had hooked up earlier. Glad I did the upgrade to Waters.

Thank you to those who posted their thoughts previously on this thread. You were right on the money about the Waters. :-)


I received the AQ Waters 1.5m with the dbs tails installed at the female end of the connector. I noticed that the sound is good but the other AQ Interconnects with the dbs tails installed at the male end sounded more open and detailed. Now to be fair I am aware I need to allow break in time for these cables. These ones sound way different than the last ones whereas the AQ Water I returned sounded more open and airy so not sure if its cause the dbs packs were installed at the male end of the connector. These ones I received sound very different. Is it possible for the same interconnects to sound very different even though its the same name and type of technology?  I thought the sound would be more consistent but this doesn't appear to be the case. Maybe more time is needed and allow for break in.

How long did it take before you noticed the cables sounding their best? Some say 150 hours. Sound about right?

run them in and see :-) sounds like you have good dealer / AQ relationship, so believe they will take care of you. 
keep us up to date.
Hi tomic601. You mean burn them in and see how it sounds or bring them into my dealer? 

Hi tomic601,

That's what I thought you meant. Just needed the clarification. I sent my dealer a message asking if he can hold on sending the ones I swapped out back to his rep and give me a week to assess these cables. See what he says tomorrow. 

So what do you think is a good burn in time? 150 hours?
Cable 'burn in' takes time. How much?-Who knows?
For me, it just seems to happen on it's own.
Given AQ finds locating the DBS at the female ends, I would just let things settle out, as in my experience, AQ knows what is best.
Hi gdnrbob..correction they locate them now at the male end. I swapped out a pair that was at the male end to the female end for space considerations. I hear your point though and as I said to my dealer if he is ok with holding on to the pair connected at the male end I will let him know before the end of this week. But yes I hear you too that it's anybody's guess as to how long cables take to break in so I will play some music on low for awhile and see if that helps to break them in. Thanks gdnrbob.