A short review of AudioQuest Robin Hood Zero speaker cables.
I try to keep an open mind regarding sonic improvements from peripherals but when it comes to speaker cables I lean a bit towards the skeptical side of the spectrum. My defining factors for any new piece of gear have always been: “Can I hear a difference and is it an improvement?” Over the years I’ve tried a number of different speaker cables from different manufacturers yet I’ve never noticed a difference in the sound let alone an improvement. This all changed when I picked up a pair of new AudioQuest Robin Hood Zeros from my favorite local dealer, Acoustic Designs in Scottsdale, AZ. These cables have changed my perspective on speaker cables. Not only did I hear a difference but the sonics of my system took an audible step forward. Call me a believer now, though I am a bit shocked to admit it.
So what changed? When I swapped out my QED XT40 speaker cables for the AQ Robin Hoods’ there was an immediate improvement in clarity and dynamics. Working through Sting’s Fields of Gold, an album I listen to almost weekly, cymbals on tracks like “Be Still My Beating Heart” became coherent and engaging. What was once a smeared ringing now became a clean attack and decay with the Robin Hood’s in place. Ditto for the drum work towards the latter end of “Englishman in New York.” In addition to this new found clarity, there was also a smoothness to the presentation. It is hard to put into words but the sonic character of my system is now more relaxed, the details are still there but all hints of harshness are gone. This is quite a boon in my lively room.
Granted, there is a sizable price gap between the QEDs and the AQs. Some will say: “Why spend more…cable is cable right?” Well, apparently not as I discovered. With the right cables in the right system there is an audible improvement to be had as I came to experience in my own home. For those still on the fence, give it a try and hear for yourself the difference a good pair of speaker cables can make.
Arizona Audio Video Club
*Note: this is not a paid review.
Paul's Call - Thumbs Up!
August 24th "DAC IT OUT"
Fellow Club member, Paul Righello,
planned and brilliantly executed this event. Thanks Paul. Great Job !!
I want to thank the Seven manufacturers who supplied our AZAV Club with a DAC for the Blind "DAC IT OUT"event. Forward thinking companies: Chord, IFI, Schiit, NuPrime, BenchMark, Black Ice, and Holo. Of course it takes a little nerve as there are going to be winners and losers.
The AZAVClub.com provided its own samples locally for Line Magnetic, PS audio and LKS.
Additionally we want to thank Acoustic Designs and Don Loving for graciously allowing us to hold the event in their brand near beautiful 7,000 sqft facility. Although Acoustic Designs is new to two channel sound, Don Loving is a 30+ year veteran in audio. They carry Esoteric, SAE, Chord, Sonus Faber, B&W plus others.
"DAC It Out" was attended by about 25 people who were all very curious to hear the comparisons. One couple I spoke to was in from Chicago. After each session we discussed results and asked what in particular made people choose one over another. Comments generally went to better Sound Stage, Dynamics and/or Openness.
The 10 machines were all tested the day prior by a professional engineer to balance the outputs and test switching. The delay time was about 1/2 second between machines. The Shootout was held in a upscale theatre room of about 20 x 30. Well treated on all surfaces. Sound was measured at 75-80db during play.
The machines were broken into three groups using three different DACs per session. Each group lasted about 45 minutes with each DAC playing for an average of 10 minutes per session. The whole affair ran from 11am to 3:30pm.
Amp: SAE 2HP-D Pre-Amp: Chord Electronics CPA 5000 CD: Musical fidelity M3i Speakers: Focal Maestro Utopia EVO Digital, Audio Quest Cinnamon Analog, Audio Audio Quest Water Speaker Cable, Audio Quest William Tell Silver Zero with William Tell Bass in a Bi-wire configuration. Audio Rack: Bassocnitinuo System retail: $118,000.00
Polling results were generally very consistent. However, in the fourth session which was made up solely of the preceding three session winners-Chord Qutest, Schiit Yggy and Jolida Black Ice Glass FX DSD, it was nearly a dead heat.
We were limited to three input jacks so testing of 3 sessions x 3 DACS = 9 units. Due to the limitation of inputs we had obviously left one out. So a final runoff included the winning Black Ice Glass FX DSD vs. the Line Magnetic's newest model.
This outcome was again also close.
Overall Winner: LINE MAGNETIC NEW DAC $2,200.
2nd Place: Black Ice Glass FX DSD Wifi $800
3rd Place: Qutest $1,700
4th Place: Schiit Yggy $2,300
Another test of the same three DACs might well produce a different outcome.
Scientists will shoot holes in our methodology I am sure. However we did have three representatives from Chord present. They were pleased with Chord's showing and complimented the testing methods, etc. promising to bring "Dave" next time!
Take Aways: -Tube units faired better than solid state. -Ladder DACs did pretty well with the Schiit finishing in the top 4. The other Ladder was the Holo which some thought was "Darker". I found its clarity excellent. -The Chinese made DACs by Black Ice and Line Magnetic beat everyone else.
I would enjoy seeing another club perform a similar test so the results could be expanded. Perhaps a magazine would take a crack at it. Recognizing the fast changing nature of the digital HiFi world, logic dictates that the far less expensive ($800) Black Ice DAC may be the wisest purchase.
Opinions may vary.
Jeff Kalina, President Arizona Audio/Video Club
Come and listen to Great Speakers graciously provided by : Sanders Sound, ATC SMC 40's Tekton Design, Spatial Labs, Salk Sound, Joseph Audio, ZU Audio, MarkAudio-SOTA and LSA.
All brands have been recognized as Best in Class
Amplifiers Very Generously supplied by Dan D'Agostino and family. Located in Cave Creek, AZ The standard of Excellence in the World.
Special Guests: Sean Casey, Founder of ZU Audio will be available to chat.
Additionally we will have a member of the D"Agostino group on site.
None of the above speaker brands have any representation in Arizona. We are excited to be providing everyone a very inexpensive way to hear some specially chosen gear.
Results: The overall crowd pleaser was the ATC SMC 40's set up by Lone Mountain Audio's
Brad Lunde and new local rep Tom Rothermel.
Honorable Mentions: Salk Songbeat 3, Joseph Pulsar, ZU Soul Supreme and the LSA Signature 10s. We had an inadequate amount of time to correctly set up the Sanders Speakers which had performed magnificently in an at home preview. They remain my personal favorite.
People drove from as far as California to hear the Tekton Double Impacts. This brand seemed to have a very mixed following. Some people love them, others not so much. The new Moab model seems to be getting a lot of hype and may be the model we should have had.
The Spatial Speaker arrived at the last minute and was a raw prototype. Sadly something was off with this speaker. Owner Clayton Shaw promised further investigation.
For the Audio Industry digital has been a blessing and a curse. Though the digital format offers advantages like unlimited accurate reproduction of original copies and near effortless worldwide distribution, this also brings with it a horde of security and policy headaches like piracy protection and Digital Rights Management. So which side wins the Analog vs Digital audio war? As far is sound quality is concerned, for all practical purposes, it is impossible to say which is better, analog or digital. In individual test cases what is most important is the quality of the recording and playback components, not whether it is analog or digital. For both types of audio signals, one can outperform the other as the equipment gets more expensive and elaborate to offer higher fidelity. Loudspeakers will always need analog signals, and the best way to store auditory information will always be digital. Either way, there’s an upper limit to the quality that a human ear can differentiate, so it matters not which is best. What matters most is if it is good enough.
This article was first published in November 2016 issue of Fast Track on Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.