I've always had Audioquest cables in my audio system. From the Coral, Viper range to the Jaguar with 24V dbs till today's Columbia and Colorado interconnects.

Since I've had a go or owned the latest versions from Columbia to Sky, I thought I'd dissect the range as we move upwards in the AQ dbs range of interconnects.

Columbia 48V dbs



It is at this level that Audioquest interconnects start to get serious. The Columbia is the entry level of the dbs series interconnect and sits smack in the middle of the full interconnect range. The 48V dbs does helps quieten the background hash in an audio system and only a direct comparison with the 72V dbs cables will show it's limitations. It's not a day and night difference, but subtle enough that if you listen to a few more tracks, you'd feel it. Tonal quality of the Columbia is very even, though at times, there were hints of mid range warmness. It's staging and imaging is slightly laid back in presentation. Transparency is good but only if you compare to it's bigger brothers, it'll come up short. It's great for mid end systems.


Colorado 72V dbs



The Colorado is the top copper interconnect in the Audioquest range. It retains all the good traits of the Columbia, but with more of everything. The bandwidth is wider, this cable goes lower and higher at the two frequency extremes. Transparency is improved upon. With 72V dbs it's also quieter. The tonal quality is dead neutral compared to the Columbia, but some may feel it's sound staging and imaging a little busier compared to the Columbia. Very much suitable for entry level tonally balanced high end systems.


Niagra 72V dbs


The Niagra is the middle brother between the Colorado and the more expensive Sky. It's got the Sky's silver but constructed similarly as per the Colorado. Being one up from the Colorado, again it's got even more bandwidth comparatively. It's as transparent as the Sky, which the Colorado just could not match. Tonal quality is on the brighter side of neutral compared to the Colorado. The sound staging and imaging is also slightly forward compared to both the Sky and the Colorado. This cable tends to be a little on the lively side compared to all it's other brothers. It's probably better suited for warmish or laid back sounding system, like an all tube system for example. It'll put back some balance in to the scheme of things in such systems.


Sky 72V dbs



The Sky has been Audioquest's top dog cable for a decade now or so, until the introduction of the W.E.L. Signature sometime earlier this year. I now come to understand the reason for it's continued popularity. The tonal balance of this cable is near perfect, there's a purity of calmness to the sound not available on the cables below this. Whilst it's not more transparent then the Niagra, it's presentation of the details is both subtle and non obtrusive in nature by contrast. The staging of this cable combines the laid back qualities of the Columbia, and the right amount of image outlining of the Colorado, to bring out the fullness of the human voice. It's a very good all rounder of a cable for any top flight system, value not with standing.


Summary

To sum up my conclusion. All the four pairs of interconnects I've tested are of the XLR version, despite some of the pictures showing otherwise. All are tested in my own familiar system with nothing changed or added in duration of 2 weeks.

I find the Columbia 48V dbs great value if your cable budget only goes so far. If you can top up some more budget, the Colorado 72V dbs is an even better cable. The Niagra 72V dbs, for me is something of a mix bag, and I don't quite know how to place it. Perhaps, I am being unfair to it because I first heard the Sky, so it was a bit of a let down after that. If you're going one up from the Colorado, I guess you should just reach for the Sky instead! Pricing issues aside.

Both the Columbia and Colorado are my own existing cables, the Niagra and Sky are loaners from a friend whom is in the process of upgrading all his cables for his system. I may choose to upgrade to either cables should I wish to. Guess which one am I going for?

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19 comments:

Gavin said...

Panzer,
Is it safe to assume that AQ cables are the most popular in Malaysia?

I notice both you and HIfi kaki use them.

Poisel said...

I think AQ cables are perceived as value for money,and certainly the presence of ad s in well read magazines like Stereophile and TAS does not hurt either....

Come to think of it ,I can't remember a single issue of Stereophile in the last couple of yrs that does not carry the AQ ad.

KK Cheah said...

Have you consider less mainstream cablings? Stage 3 for example,or the new Synergistic research Tesla range?

Haim said...

Or compare the AQ with the Stereovox cables and tell me what you think.

Jimmy said...

haim,
for a change, why not you make a comparison and post your tots instead? i am sure ML wouldn't mind.

WK Soon said...

I think in Malaysia,people in certain regions tend to use and become fiercely loyal to certain brands.

For Example, If you do not own ARC amps do not even bother to talk hi-fi to folks from Ipoh, or if you are an Audiophile in KL , you would only consider successful if you use Krell amps..and certainly in KL, AQ are the cable king.

Just my observation.....

Ken said...

I use the AQ cables extensively in my system as well.

AQ Amazon i/c (cd to preamp), AQ Anaconda i/c (preamp to pwr amp) and AQ Volcano speaker cable. Have been using it for years. Not inclined to change as cables that can beat it in sound costs much, much more.

I haven't tried the newer range of AQ cables which Panzer wrote about but I can say that the first thing that catch your attention about AQ cables that I used is the boldness of the sound. It captures your attention immediately. The The sound verges on warm but good frequency extension. Imaging is very stable, 3D with decent depth perception.

fafafion said...

Ken,

I like you a lot; you seem so satisfied with what you have, not something of a common trait amongst audiophiles.

Previously,I used to use a mix of brands for my cablings, but lately ,just like you,I feel it is better to use a single-brand- cablings throughout.It just seems more right.I use Argento which gives a lot of details without harshness,lucidity with clear spaces between notes..

Ken said...

Fafafion,

You like me? I don't think you'll have the same feeling when you meet me in person;-)

I used to own different brands of cabling to my system. I have upgraded throughout the years. It is just so happen that I have the same brands of speakers and i/cs. If there is a cable that bring an improvement to the sound but it is not AQ brand, I am still OK with it.

I look more for synergy, not brands.

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...

to me, AQ is mid-high-end, certainly not the top brand but certainly better than a lot of pretenders.

i like AQ because of its robustness, live energy (as rightly pointed out by ken) and a very attractive rawness.

yes, in malaysia, AQ is still the king and has the highest resale value.

Panzer said...

Gavin,

Not sure if they are most popular in Malaysia, but in my home visits, I see just a many Transparents and MITs, increasingly followed by JPS and Cardas.

In fact even ML uses AQ for his speaker cablings.

KK Cheah,

I am not brand concious, but if the sound fit the rest of my system, and bring about perceived improvements, I don't see why not!

An senior audiophile once told me that AQ is very successfull in the market place because it's products are easily compatible to many a system sound wise, vis a vis to their respective budget category. You can plug AQ cables in to most system and seldom it'll sound bad. It somehow always manages to sound very good to a certain degree.

If you can allow me to use the car analogy for cables, Audioquest is like the Toyota of the cable world. Just my own opinion.

Lee said...

Panzer,

Agree with you about AQ.

I think the other reason why AQ is so popular is they are the cables of choice for the reverred John Atkinson;AQ cheetah,[I/C] AQ Kilimanjaro..

GCK said...

Panzer, my experience with silver cabling is a very interesting one. When I was having all silver cabling from different brands, the sound was not full as what Leslie commented when he listened. After fiddling around, I just replaced one of the silver ICs with a copper one albit much much cheaper than the silver. The sound became more fuller so to speak and had more pressence. So for those who are silver cable junkies, take note that too much of silver may not be good for some systems, in this case mine.

Panzer said...

GCK,

Thanks for the tip. I do not intend to go full silver for my cablings.

I am keeping my Cardas for now.

The AQ Sky seems to love my system, or could it be the other way round? hmm....

Ken said...

GCK,

I thinks it's entirely system dependent whether an all silver cabling works or not.

I have an audiophile friend in Ipoh who used 2 pairs AQ Amazon i/c and 2 pairs of AQ Everest speaker cables. Of all the times I heard his system, I would never ever said that it is bright, thin or aggressive.
He has then changed one pair of AQ Amazon to the older Stage III Vacuum Reference (silver) which also do not exhibit any "typical silver nasties".

So I conclude that silver is not to blame. Because it is more transparent sounding, it just shows up every little weakness of the system.

Fafafion,

May I know more about the Argento cables you are using? Is it using silver conductors? What sort of improvement you heard when you chaged from your previous cables to Argento?

Rgds

fafafion said...

Ken,

I use the SMR throught.The improvements are nothing short of stunning.

Mind you the Argento cables are unshielded,and yes they are made of silver..

The first thing that struck your mind is Quiet ,quiet ,queit....You could hear the every details imaginable,especially the ambiance of the recordings.The soundstage just gets deepened and widened;and using the Argento SMP Pc on my dcs PUCCINI brought the levelof performance that I thought not possible with Digital playback.....I was previously a Vinyl junkie{my ref system is vinyl based]


The Argento replaced an assortment of Cablings that included a mix bag of Nordost Valhalla[i/c] Acoustic Zen absolute sp cables ,and PCs from Nordost,Electraglides and Lessloss...
Funny thing is ,using the Argento made me reexamine the role of PLC;It made me realize that the less you interfere with the signal the more lucid the image becomes,hence I gave away my shunyata V-Ray and move to a passive PC by acoustic revive...YMMV:)

Ken said...

Fafafion,

Thanks for your explanation on the Argento cabling.

Just one more question.
How the sound of the Argento cables differ from the Nordost Valhalla, ie. is the Argento warmer sounding than Valhalla?

Most reviews that I have read on Nordost Valhalla states that it is on the cool side of neutrality which means that they can be clinical at times.

Thanks

Fafafion said...

Ken,

The Valhallas IMHO are superb cables by any rate.having said that I would call it superfast and rather thin in notes.You would realize this when you compare them with Argento..

I feel that the valhallas were designed for someone with a Vinyl setup using all tubes gears;OTH,the Argentos are very transparent,very details but you do not get the shrill typically associated with certain Silver cables.If anything ,it allows your system to shine through as if you were there at the recording studios..

They are by no mean cheap,but if you compare with certain Transparent/MIT/Nordost you would realize that they are a true bargain.

I do understand that they are not available in Sing& M'sia.I met an Audiophile from China recently and said that they are Extremely popular in hong Kong.Is that true?

Panzer said...

Fafafion,

You've got a first class system there! Trully mouth watering.

And yes, Argentos are hugely successfull in the HK market.