Try the Pangea line from Audio Advisor its Cardas budget line or believe it or not Monster M1000i's. I actually really like M1000i's and Ive spent tons on cables. The Pangea stuff is really good too and built well. I heard good things about Bluejeans Cables though Ive never owned em. Also take a look at DH Labs outta Florida quality products I still have a few sets. Start there before you spend anywhere near $1200.
Thanks for the excellent responses. First off, I have AQ Colorado's not Californias. UGH...my mind is shot.
Thanks Soix for weighing in, your question is good. My system--Magico, ARC, Merrill playing LPs is built for transparency. If I could get better transparency from my cables without the brightness associated with some, that is my goal. Additional bass response would be a welcome byproduct as well.
Thanks 4425 for the Niagara suggestion. I had thought about AQ Sky's but the price was prohibitive. The Niagara might be a better compromise for my system anyway.
Tvad, I know nothing about Purist cables, not even remembering having heard them at AXPONA. I will do some research on them. I know others swear by them. Can I assume you use them in your system? Did you compare them to others?
Tweak1-- I am looking at new Eclipse 8s and the 7's. Do you have experience with the Silver or Gold IC's? Thanks for responding.
If I could get better transparency from my cables without the brightness associated with some, that is my goal. Additional bass response would be a welcome byproduct as well.I’d highly recommend used Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II (but the Ref I is very close and also a great option). I find them to be very transparent and nicely detailed so things like air and space are fully present, but the detail is natural sounding and balanced nicely with the rest of the frequency spectrum. For silver wires the Silver Refs have very good tonality and full bass but the bass is also tight so kinda the best of both worlds, and imaging/soundstage is superb. There’s a 1.5m pair on USAudioMart now for $550, so two 1m pairs should come in at or below your price target. Anyway, best of luck in finalizing the upgrade process.
Tee shot...AQ Sky’s can be had from $700 to $800 for a 1m pair. However for some obvious reason they spurned a lot of fakes. There are photos available online that indicate obvious differences which usually revolve around the color of the braiding. I’ve been burned once and almost twice. I think Niagara is a better value and maybe safer. Just my opinion.
“If I could get better transparency from my cables without the brightness associated with some, that is my goal. Additional bass response would be a welcome byproduct as well”
I highly recommend Audio Envy Cables. The two pairs should be under $400 plus shipping. If you don’t like them, I will buy back both pairs from you.....they are stupendously good for the money. I have yet to hear a cable made from pure OCC copper that sounds anything like AE’s regardless of the price point.
No association with Audio Envy, just a happy customer.
I decided to give Audio Envy XLR’s a try after the glowing review from @lalitk
I’ve only had them in my system a couple days but I can tell you immediately they surpassed my former reference $1400 IC’s on all accounts that are important to me. There is more space between the instruments. The sound stage grew in all directions; the musicality and tonal balance is so enjoyable to listen to. This could very well be the highest upgrade that my system has seen in awhile.
I concur about Audio Envy. I'm using their O'Nestian 4:4 XLR ICs between my amp and preamp, and they sound awesome ... totally blow away the Cardas GR ICs they replaced. The sound is evenly balanced through the sound spectrum. If you're looking for heavier bass, then try the AE O'Nestian 5:3 cables. I'm also using AE Studio Prestige ICs throughout the rest of my system. The overall AE sound is one of clarity and articulation with a good deal of gravitas. These are some of the finest cables I've heard.
Good resume of some high end interconnects.
Investigate also: Townshend F1, Nordost Frey or Tyr. Audioquest Earth or above, Harmonic Tech Armour Link, Black Cat Lupo Silverwolf.
I looked at the Audio Envy website. The best cable come in two flavors— designed to brighten a sound or not. That does not instill confidence in me because what I really want is transparency. Finally, I am not really wanting a “garage brand” cable because my experience with those is that resale value is very limited. I think I have narrowed my choices to AQ Niagara, Clarus Crimson, Wireworld Eclipse 7 or 8 or Inakustik Referenz.
You’re certainly entitled to your opinion. AE cables comes with 45 days in-home audition guarantee. As far transparency goes, they fit the criteria. If you prefer to pay more for name brand cables, well that’s your prerogative.
From my experience, cables on used market regardless of the brand aren’t worth more than 40% to 50% off full retail.
Another AudioEnvy user here and couldn’t be happier with them.
I’ve never owned super high end cables but have used the likes of Kimber 8tc, Groneberg, Duelund and Cerious Tecnologies Matrix and find AudioEnvy to be the most satisfying to my ears. Very transparent and neutral. They seemingly get out of the way and allow the music to take the stage.
FWIW I’m using AE power cords, RCA interconnects and speaker cables throughout my system.
Tvad— look up Clarus, a lot of positive reviews. Agree that they are not on the scale of AQ or Wireworld. Available used in my price range. Prices steady last few years— plus I have a set of their Aqua speaker cables for a second system which I like a lot. Inakustik is a German company that sells a lot of cables in Europe. I saw them at AXPONA. From my research they seem to hold value in a reasonable manner. I cannot say the same for the three small companies whose cables I have used previously in the name of saving money. I won’t name names because others may love theirs. We each have unique experiences— TS
@lalitk ... No, I haven't tried the power cords, but intend to do so at some point.
@teeshot ... AE got me off of the expensive cable merry-go-round, so resale is not an issue for me. In fact, with a 45 day trial period, there's really no down side as you should be able to determine whether they're right for you. Clarus and Inakustik are boutique brands which likely would be hard to resell if you were so inclined. As was mentioned here previously, most any brand of cable is going to resell at about 40-50% of retail, so I don't think resale should be a factor in deciding whether to at least try the AE cables. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with them.
There’s a pair of AZ Silver Ref ll and Silver Ref l 1m XLR interconnects available here now, and you could get both for $1050. These are very neutral yet organic and holographic interconnects and tough to see you being disappointed. AZ market is very liquid so you can sell them easily if they don’t work out, so I’d strongly consider jumping on them.