QED Golden Anniversary XT speaker cable
Like thousands of other lovers of quality home music and cinema reproduction, QED’s 79 Strand cable was the first specialist speaker cable to grace one of my systems. This cable has been on sale for forty-seven years, with their 42 strand cable a year older again. From memory, my 79 strand cable was accompanied by one of their Incon interconnects in a system based around an early Phillips 16-bit CD player, Sansui amp and Celestion speakers. Now I think about it, I even had one of their gold-plated SCART cables between my TV and NICAM VCR – being a tech nerd was a cheaper and healthier way of spending my university grant than the alternatives chosen by my friends. It made me feel particularly old when I realised that this now 50-year-old company was only fifteen years into their journey when I first became a customer. Fast-forward to last month when I was asked to look at the company’s newly launched Golden Anniversary XT cable. At £27 per metre, the supplied 2m pair, which are terminated with QED Airloc Forté 4mm banana plugs, clocked in at £187.20, making this the lowest price speaker cable I’ve tested in recent memory.
What’s special about Golden Anniversary XT?
As the name implies, this cable celebrates the brand’s fiftieth anniversary. The Golden Anniversary XT sits at the top of QED’s Reference Series, representing the fourth of five tiers in QED’s hierarchy—the company market this cable as an affordable, high-performance cable. The cable features X-Tube Plus technology, which means the conductor is constructed around a hollow, central insulating core. QED have written a paper on what they call the skin effect, which is available to download from their website. In simplistic terms skin effect is where high-frequency signals travel on the outside of the conductor where it comes into contact with the insulation which can cause distortion. QED’s X-Tube Plus cable construction is designed to eliminate such unwanted effects.
The Anniversary XT conductor is a hybrid blend of 99.999% oxygen-free copper and is described as ultra-pure Ohno continuous cast copper. The latter technology is said to improve the path of transients and high-frequency detail over regular oxygen-free copper. The cable’s dielectric is a specifically formulated low-density polyethylene, which is said to be highly efficient.
As mentioned, my two-metre review samples were terminated with QED’s Airloc Forté banana plugs. These plugs are said to avoid oxidation for the cable’s lifetime by a cold-weld crimp technique, effectively turning the cable and plugs into a single, unified object. The plugs fitted into the binding posts of my speakers in a very positive manner, which, subjectively at least, made me feel they were achieving the best possible connection. The form of these cables is round, differing from the wider, flatter cables I often have in my system. QED caters to customers wanting flatter, easy-to-hide cables through their Profile range.
As mentioned earlier, the QED Golden Anniversary XT are the lowest-cost speaker cables I have used in my reference system for some while. I used them between my Moon 600i amplifier and Totem Forest Signature Speakers. Whilst they cannot match the resolution and refinement of some of the more exotic cables I have tested recently, thankfully, my system still made enjoyable music with them in the circuit. So how do they sound? The simplest way to describe their effect on my system’s balance was that they gave a full-bodied and weighty account of whatever music I fed them. This balance was first evident in the low frequencies, which helped produce satisfying bass lines with suitable program material. The sound was clean and well-balanced, with good layering and a reasonably broad and deep soundstage. It is fair to say the bass was not as fast as the far more expensive cables, which they immediately replaced, but the music was coherent across the frequency range. This was demonstrated well during an enjoyable rendition of Marillion’s Fugazi album (24/96 via Qobuz). The track Incubus allowed the Anniversary XT cables to display their talents in the low-frequency department, with Pete Trawavas’ bass guitar sounding both powerful and dexterous. Ian Mosely’s drums are delivered with the required power and authority, benefiting from Steven Wilson’s tinkering for this remastered edition over my original CD, which I always felt suffered from a relatively flat sound. Via these cables, there was some additional emphasis on the synth lines, suggesting a lift in the upper frequencies, but the effect was not unpleasant.
I have recently spent a couple of relaxing afternoons listening to a newly released compilation album of Nick Drake covers called The Endless Coloured Ways (Qobuz 24/44.1). As with many compilation albums, the sound quality is a somewhat mixed bag, but the cover of Saturday Sun, featuring Guy Garvey, sounds stunning, despite some obvious studio processing. The production allows the music to float way beyond the boundaries of the speakers. The Anniversary XT cables allowed my system to reproduce this effect unhindered whilst adding a little extra rasp to the brass instruments.
Nina Simone’s long-lost 1966 Newport Jazz Festival performance was finally released a few days ago under the moniker You’ve Got To Learn. This is a mono recording, and the version I streamed, again via Qobuz, but here in 24/192, to my ears, has been mastered a little hot and can get a bit ‘shouty’ in places. The Golden Anniversary XTs peeled back the years and brought Nina and her band into my listening room in a lively and involving manner. Returning to my usual cables revealed that the QED’s balance perhaps emphasised the recording’s somewhat ‘shouty’ nature, but the music was still captivating and enjoyable.
The Smile are a three-piece band containing two members of Radiohead and drummer Tom Skinner from the jazz fusion band Sons of Kemmet. Their latest track Bending Hectic, is a fine piece of work, matching some of Radiohead’s finest compositions. The low-frequency performance of these cables helped reveal the natural acoustic on the recording. The power and scale of the performance were delivered in full, with perhaps only the final moments of the crescendo making me wish for a little more refinement in the high frequencies. To put my point into context, this is in comparison to cables retailing at ten times the price of the Golden Anniversary XT, the QED’s top-end is generally very well-behaved.
The cable’s bass reproduction abilities made me search out some reggae. Bob Marley’s Kaya in 24/96 through the QED Anniversary XT s gave me the bass fix I was looking for, but the rest of the performance was captured well here, making it hard not to get up and dance – readers are fortunate that this is not a video review.
Anniversary XT conclusion
In terms of performance, these cables get a lot right for the money. The Anniversary XT’s construction inspires confidence; the secure connection provided by Airloc Forté banana plugs particularly impressed me. Their full-bodied balance should work brilliantly in many systems; I am thinking particularly about classic British systems with a fast and lean balance. These cables represent excellent value for money, and I was genuinely impressed with how close they got to some of the exotic cables in my collection. If you are in the market for some high-quality cables that will enhance your musical enjoyment without breaking the bank, then I heartily recommend that you give the QED Golden Anniversary XT a try.