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No Audioquest cables are comparable to the more recent offerings with the DBS feature. My entire system is wired with AQ cables. All of my interconnects are DBS enabled. My speaker cables are not. DBS is such a game changer, I wish I could afford DBS speaker cables. Also the recent designs are using FEP (teflon) tubes as the dielectric. A big step toward ultimate neutrality.
With interconnects (latest versions to the right; ballpark 1m list prices are in parenthesis):
WEL - no earlier equivalent, but multiple revisions
Wild (4500) - no earlier equivalent, but multiple revisions
Sky I (2200) > Sky II (2700) > Fire (3000)
Cheetah (1000) > Niagara (1750) > Wind (2000)
**PSS Silver above here; PSC+ Copper below**
Panther (600) > Colorado (900) > Earth (1100)
Jaguar (350) > Columbia (450) > Water (500)
**DBS above here; no DBS below**
King Cobra > Yukon
Even towards the bottom & left are decent cables, but as 4425 mentioned, the Wind on up are really excellent -- this is where real improvements can be easily discerned on high-resolution gear. I also find even the ancient Sky I to be within a few hairs’ width of the "excellent" level as well (much warmer than Wind, though).
With speaker cables, they’ve changed so much in geometry and metal mixes that this is a futile exercise.
I have owned the King Cobra xlr,the Columbia xlr and now the Water xlr cables. All three have a similar build. But that's where all the similarities end. All of them have good points but the Water has all them put together. Plus the 72v battery pack gives the Columbia a nice advantage over the King Cobra. The Water has twice the carbon shielding of the Columbia and is 20 awg wire vs the 21 awg in the Columbia xlr. The small upgrades Audioquest made in these cables is very noticeable in my system
@ball-wheel, I agree. from my experience, the 72v DBS makes a very noticeable difference when compared to non-DBS AQ cables. I started with King Cobra, moved to Columbia, then moved to Water. I purchased a couple of AQ Earth, and was wowed at the sound improvement, although the only difference is the dialectic.
Really useful thread, thank you all!
@mulveling and others, if you had a choice between a Sky 1 XLR vs Wind, which would you choose? (I ask because I have the opportunity to purchase a secondhand Sky 1. I'll be moving from Colorados.)
Has there been a significant improvement from the Cheetah to the Wind? I've auditioned a secondhand Cheetah which was a very good cable but lacking a bit in bass and maybe accentuated the high frequencies a tad too much, almost imparting a "sound" or colouration to the cable.
@edsky it can be a tough choice between Sky and Wind - or not - depending on your needs. Wind is ultimately the more resolving cable by a slight amount, but also a little tipped-up on top. It will wake up your system if it’s a bit dark. Wind would be more similar to Cheetah in its regard, but also it’s clearly advanced to become far more resolving and dynamic than its older counterpart (I’m not a big fan of the Cheetah). Sky is tonally the better balanced cable, with a touch of warmth in the mids and down low. I think Sky is a safer bet sonically for most systems, but beware of counterfeits! And this is made more difficult by the fact there were a few versions of Sky over the years, with minor changes to braids and connectors, and internals.
If you can verify the history of the Sky, any version (but better if later versions), I’d go with that - it’s a great cable. But as an extra warning, the worst counterfeit pic I’ve seen online was an exact Sky braid that was cut open to reveal copper (probably Columbia) internals! Yikes.
@mulveling thank you for the very clear and detailed information. This definitely helps me.
Based on what you say Sky would definitely be the way to go as my system can lean towards the analytical side (B&W 804D3 speakers and Simaudio gear).
Do you think it's worth spending extra to go for Fire XLRs instead of Sky? It's edging a bit past my original intended budget but if Fire confers noticeable sound quality improvements over Sky I would consider.
Also I could just get 0.5m length interconnects to lower the cost a bit as that's all the length I need. I guess this would affect resale value as I assume 1m length is more versatile and thus more popular.
Fire is simply excellent. Much better low end than Wind, best detail and spatialization of all 3. Neutral overall tone. It will be more dynamic, punchy, and speedy vs a Sky. However both the Sky (v1) and Wild are the only PSS silver cables I’ve heard with a touch of warmth. If you’re fighting an analytical system nature the Fire won’t combat that, but then cables are probably not the right tool for that anyways. Fire might still be the better choice for you. The used Fire prices have come down some, and they are a lot less likely to be counterfeit than Sky.
Totally agree with mulveling on all points.
I really like the Fire interconnects, great bang for the buck in the price point (pre-owned/discounted). I would aim to get Fire over Sky for the reasons mulveling mentioned above.
Have you considered Earth interconnects as well? While it may not have the resolution of the Fire, it is an amazing cable and could balance out your system as well at a lower budget.
I would avoid the Wind if you didn't like Cheetah. It's going to be better, but I don think it would give you the bass that you felt was lacking. I had a pair Niagara and felt the same.
@eziggy thanks for the info!
I have the Colorados which are one generation before the Earth. Do you think there'd be notable benefits to be had by upgrading from the Colorado to the Earth? If so, I could try audition this cable.
I do incidentally find the Colorado to be a very good interconnect. I guess I'm just wanting to up things a notch or two.
@edsky I imagine there will be some benefits, but I doubt enough for you to get the improvement you are looking for.
I think the Fires will get you that notch or two. It is an excellent cable, I am using a couple of pairs myself. You have to spend a lot more to get incremental benefits. Only reason I am replacing one of my pairs is to move up to the WEL interconnects.
Awesome Ed! I hope you hear exactly what the rest of us have been hearing, and love them. I run 3 sets of WEL Signature interconnects in my current system, but often wonder if I should've just stuck to Fire and diverted the resources elsewhere. The Fire sounds more like a "WEL Jr." to me than any of their other cables.
@Edsky, looking forward to getting your thoughts once you get them.
@Mulveling, couldn’t agree more.
I recently did a shoot out between Earth, Fire, and WEL cables between my newly acquired Lumin T2 and my Luxman 509X. Earth is warm and forgiving, vocals are pushed to the back. Fire seems like “lifting a veil off the speaker” with crisp clarity and great bass accuracy. WEL is a bit more spatially balanced. But exactly the same tonal characteristic as Fire. Pretty amazing actually. Almost same level of crispness for both, except the WEL has more depth and is more relaxed sounding.
So the AudioQuest Fire XLR’s arrived this week. They took me a bit by surprise as the experience was very different to what I was expecting. When I previously demoed the Cheetah’s (my first experience with silver interconnects) there was a distinct change to the sonic signature, which initially sounded impressive but also introduced a colouration to the sound; they had a “sound” to them. I was expecting the fires to also shift the sound signature… but it didn’t. (I recall also moving from King Cobra to Colorado there was a distinct shift in timbre.)
What I got instead was surprising: greater warmth and perceived emotion from the music… the music just sounded more beautiful. The bass was full and rich. There was added detail, but none that called attention to itself. A surprising improvement to imaging and soundstage as well.
The improvements from the Fires become more apparent as you listen to them further across different genres of music. You need to give these guys a few hours of listening to appreciate what they bring. I guess they are allowing my source component (Simaudio Moon 390) to fully express its musicality.
Also my fear of the Fires pushing my B&W 804D3 speakers to become too analytical was unfounded. It did quite the opposite.
Thanks again to the good folks on this forum @mulveling and @eziggy for your guidance to help me choose. :)