I'm familiar with your speakers and your amp. I've owned multiple interconnects from Audioquest and Kimber, but not Acoustic Zen.
You might consider something like Morrow
. I've owned several interconnects in the ~$2K range from big manufacturers, and the Morrows can compete at that level, IMO. And you don't have to break the bank. There are several other boutique brands of cables popular around here, and I'm sure other people will recommend some.
If you want to stick to a more well known manufacturer, I'd put Synergistic Research on your list.
I started my surround system (Anthem D2, P2, P5 and Paradigm Signature S8's, center channel and ADP's) on AQ Jaguar xlr's then moved up to the AQ Sky xlr's. Upgrading the interconnects was a really good move, but are the surround speaker cables up to the task of carrying that cleaner signal?? I started on QED Silver Anniversary XT to the surrounds, then changed that to AQ Rocket 44 that I was able to get it off the reel from a local distributor. For the cost it was a wonderful upgrade (the QED become part of my car sound system!!)
Mogami Gold XLR would run in average $100/pr are very hard to beat. With slight improvement going with AudioQuest or Kimber, you'll spend thousands of dollars more. Used wires might be the best bet, but still at the higher price point than Mogami.
Have to agree with Marakanetz, the Mogami in star-quad configured XLR is a tough deal to beat especially for H/T use which would generally be a little less revealing and demanding than a straight two channel rig. Good enough for high end studios....good enough for me....for now
I'll third the recommendations of Mogami Gold Studio
, especially given that you don't yet have a finalized set of components in place. Whether or not the cables you select will behave in a "fairly neutral manner" depends to a significant degree on the impedance and other technical characteristics of what they are connecting. So I think that making a major investment in cables at this point would be premature.
Based on both anecdotal reports I've seen in the past and on technical considerations, IF the Mogami's were to deviate from neutrality to a perceptible degree with the components you end up selecting it would probably be in the direction of providing a slightly more relaxed, non-aggressive presentation than is typical of many of the more expensive cables.
Also, keep in mind that cable differences will typically be less pronounced for balanced (XLR) interfaces than for unbalanced (RCA) interfaces.
Thanks for the responses. Much appeciated. I shall look at the Mogami Gold and Morrow. In terms of the Mogami cables, I am currently using a set of Blue Jeans balanced cables which are at a similar price point. Would the Mogami Gold be a significant upgrade from the Blue Jeans cables, at least at this stage until my system if complete?
Bryon - which particular cables from the Morrow line did you have in mind?
Ronald - I'm using Kimber 4TC for the surround speakers. For fronts I use Russ Andrews Crystal 24 (an upgraded version of Kimber 8TC). Your point about the surround speakers has me thinking that, should I decide on a more expensive set of cables, I could opt for a cheaper pair of interconnects for the surround speakers.
I've read some good things about the new Shunyata Ztron range. I'd be interested in any personal experiences with these.
Would the Mogami Gold be a significant upgrade from the Blue Jeans cables, at least at this stage until my system is complete?
If the Blue Jeans cables are the ones that utilize Canare L-4E6S, I would not expect much if any difference.
If they are the ones that utilize Belden 1800F, the Mogami has significantly higher capacitance but significantly better noise rejection. That would include rejection of noise at ultrasonic and RF frequencies which may not be directly audible as noise, but may have audible consequences due to intermodulation effects. Although the balanced input circuits of the amplifier presumably should cancel most such noise anyway.
The higher capacitance of the Mogami, compared to the Belden 1800F, may result in a very slightly more relaxed upper treble, if driven by the 500 ohm or so output impedances of the Onkyo and the DSPre. The magnitude of the difference will increase in proportion to the length of the cables.
Other differences, if any, are probably not predictable.
Weather Mogami is upgrade/downgrade or not to Blue Jeans or any other higher or lower priced cables, it's today's studio quality standard and it's probably the wires that had been used to make a good quality recordings.
If you're listening to the multi-ch music, 4tc is already great for surrounds. If you only using them for movies, than Kimber 4TC is too good and too expensive where probably zip cord would do the same job. Surround wires have substantially less impact on performance than mains and if you want to downgrade or save money, surround wires is the #1 contender.
Wires such as Siltech, Shunyata, Harmonic Tech and even higher priced Kimber have lots of unauthorized copies that are being sold to naive public and the more expensive wire you want to get, the more probability of getting an unauthorized copy. Go to alibaba, dhgate or similar sites and you'll see them tons for small fraction of the retail price and than after purchase by reseller, they go for "lightly used" sale.
Wires in general at ANY price point can or can't be an upgrade and choosing the right ones that synergise with your system is substantially MORE important than spending more $$$ or more $$$$. Looking at parameters of wires such as per-unit reactance(inductive and capacitive impedance) and resistance at minimal point defines the the most newtral cable. Other than that you can also match wire to the input/output of your components or speakers.
Browse through Al's posts on properly selecting cables and you'll be surprised how much money you can save on cabling. You may end-up purchasing pro-grade speaker wires because they match perfectly your system.
Bryon - which particular cables from the Morrow line did you have in mind?
I'm currently using the MA3's and I'm very happy with them. I have a friend using the same interconnects (balanced) in his system and he too is happy. I also own the MA1.1's, which is a more affordable cable.
All the Morrow interconnects have essentially the same design but a different number of conductors. The more conductors, the more expensive the cable. You can read about their design approach here
I've never tried the Mogami's that Al and others are recommending, but I hear good things about them.
No. I really wouldn't use a lesser quality speaker cable to the rears or surrounds if you can help it. I understand the cost factor may be part of the reasoning, with DTS master,HD audio, and all those fancy codecs along with your decent AV setup you have there you want to have a tonally balanced sound field around you. These days the surrounds are just as important as the fronts. I changed my surround cables last. I'm so glad that I did change them. The sound envelope (or cocoon) is just so much more revealing and you tend to "live" in the movie more.
Don't forget Stereolab/Stereovox. Very neutral.
Djruss: I've owned alot of Audioquest (Sky, Cheetah, Niagara, Raven, YIQ-5, Volcano, Mont Blanc, Gibaraltar, etc, etc...). Sky, Niagara and Volcano were my all time favorites. After multiple years using all for both home theater and 2-channel listening while I would say they are neutral in that they don't color the sound, I would mention that they are very revealing and depending upon your system, particularly with Sky, Cheetah and Niagra they may come off as a bit bright and potentially lacking in the deepest base. Given the right components though and making sure your system is balanced throughout, you would be extremely happy picking up Sky or Niagara. If you are looking for added and very large amounts of musicalism realism, energy, tonal accuracy, etc...you should also be looking at Kubala, Elrod, Purist and other top contenders. Listen first though to ensure you have the right match fro your system.