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Upgrading Speaker Cables


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I purchased a pair of Model 3’s from my dealer back in 1991.  Since then, my system has been growing up around those speakers, with an Aurender N10, Audio Research Ref 5 preamp, Ayre QX-5 twenty, into an Ayre V5xe.  Power Conditioning is AQ Niagara 5000, with Dragon in, and Hurricanes out.  Cabling is AQ Thunderbird XLRs for ICs.  Time to upgrade my speaker cables from Mont Blanc SBW to either William Tell Silver bi-wire or Thunderbird bi-wire.  My intended destination will be Quattros, so not an outlandish pairing.

Has anyone compared the two speaker cables and have any notes (compare and contrast) between the two?  I’m auditioning both now but my temp room is too small to give a true honest perspective, so I would welcome thoughts from the community.

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12 hours ago, MusicForDave said:

I purchased a pair of Model 3’s from my dealer back in 1991.  Since then, my system has been growing up around those speakers, with an Aurender N10, Audio Research Ref 5 preamp, Ayre QX-5 twenty, into an Ayre V5xe.  Power Conditioning is AQ Niagara 5000, with Dragon in, and Hurricanes out.  Cabling is AQ Thunderbird XLRs for ICs.  Time to upgrade my speaker cables from Mont Blanc SBW to either William Tell Silver bi-wire or Thunderbird bi-wire.  My intended destination will be Quattros, so not an outlandish pairing.

Has anyone compared the two speaker cables and have any notes (compare and contrast) between the two?  I’m auditioning both now but my temp room is too small to give a true honest perspective, so I would welcome thoughts from the community.

I just asked this exact question to AQ customer support and here was Dustin with AQ's answer:

"Between the William Tell Silver BiWire Combo and Thunderbird BiWire Combo that would be a close call for me. The William Tell Silver would have a slight edge in the transparency in the upper frequencies, but the ThunderBird would have an edge with the better noise-dissipation geometry internal design of Mythical Creatures series."

When I looked at a few threads on Audiogon, there seemed to be a slight preference for William Tell Silver Biwire for what that is worth.  Don't know what lengths you need, but I think theMusicRoom has a used 5 foot pair of william tell silver biwire with vandersteen-friendly multispades on it.  They are AQ authorized dealer and have a return policy so you could theoretically audition and return if they aren't what you are looking for.

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31 minutes ago, DividedSky said:

I just asked this exact question to AQ customer support and here was Dustin with AQ's answer:

"Between the William Tell Silver BiWire Combo and Thunderbird BiWire Combo that would be a close call for me. The William Tell Silver would have a slight edge in the transparency in the upper frequencies, but the ThunderBird would have an edge with the better noise-dissipation geometry internal design of Mythical Creatures series."

When I looked at a few threads on Audiogon, there seemed to be a slight preference for William Tell Silver Biwire for what that is worth.  Don't know what lengths you need, but I think theMusicRoom has a used 5 foot pair of william tell silver biwire with vandersteen-friendly multispades on it.  They are AQ authorized dealer and have a return policy so you could theoretically audition and return if they aren't what you are looking for.

Your listening test is going to be different on the Model 3 vs. the Quatro CT because high current will be a factor with the 3's and not the Quatro CT so before investing significant money on wire you should get your speakers settled.  We ship the M5-HPa's with a combination using Robinhood Silver/Robinhood Bass components.  RV

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7 hours ago, DividedSky said:

I just asked this exact question to AQ customer support and here was Dustin with AQ's answer:

"Between the William Tell Silver BiWire Combo and Thunderbird BiWire Combo that would be a close call for me. The William Tell Silver would have a slight edge in the transparency in the upper frequencies, but the ThunderBird would have an edge with the better noise-dissipation geometry internal design of Mythical Creatures series."

When I looked at a few threads on Audiogon, there seemed to be a slight preference for William Tell Silver Biwire for what that is worth.  Don't know what lengths you need, but I think theMusicRoom has a used 5 foot pair of william tell silver biwire with vandersteen-friendly multispades

 

6 hours ago, Richard Vandersteen said:

Your listening test is going to be different on the Model 3 vs. the Quatro CT because high current will be a factor with the 3's and not the Quatro CT so before investing significant money on wire you should get your speakers settled.  We ship the M5-HPa's with a combination using Robinhood Silver/Robinhood Bass components.  RV

Thanks for the feedback DividedSky and Richard.  

My dealer gave me a 6’ pair of WTS and a 12’ pair of Thunderbird to audition, which is not quite a fair fight - 6’ is probably the optimal length for my set-up.  Given that both these cables sound much better than my current Mont Blanc, I’m hoping to cross that bridge sooner than later.

On my 3’s, the WTS are very detailed and articulate coming from a black background and a wider soundstage.  Definitely was hearing more in the recording.  Tonal balance favored higher frequencies - probably room related.  My mental picture of these cables is a thoroughbred racehorse.  The Thunderbird was not as detailed as the WTS - the sound was more organic and appeared to have more texture to the instruments. There’s things I like about each cable. That said, I’m still auditioning the two. 

To Richard’s point, the 3’s and the Quatros are different, so I’m hoping to get some feedback from Quatro owners who have experience with these cables to add to my impressions.

Thanks

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2 hours ago, MusicForDave said:

 

Thanks for the feedback DividedSky and Richard.  

My dealer gave me a 6’ pair of WTS and a 12’ pair of Thunderbird to audition, which is not quite a fair fight - 6’ is probably the optimal length for my set-up.  Given that both these cables sound much better than my current Mont Blanc, I’m hoping to cross that bridge sooner than later.

On my 3’s, the WTS are very detailed and articulate coming from a black background and a wider soundstage.  Definitely was hearing more in the recording.  Tonal balance favored higher frequencies - probably room related.  My mental picture of these cables is a thoroughbred racehorse.  The Thunderbird was not as detailed as the WTS - the sound was more organic and appeared to have more texture to the instruments. There’s things I like about each cable. That said, I’m still auditioning the two. 

To Richard’s point, the 3’s and the Quatros are different, so I’m hoping to get some feedback from Quatro owners who have experience with these cables to add to my impressions.

Thanks

On the Quatro CT the Robinhood Silver/Bass bi-wire is significantly superior over any of the more expensive speaker wires short of the top 2 with silver conductors.  On the Model 3 series you would need more metal (normally less good and less articulate) because the 3's need more control.  RV

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@MusicForDave,

I have direct experience in this area as I changed my speaker cables in the past year.  While I would like to write a 5000 word summary of my journey, I will keep it succinct.

Executive Summary: I agree with @Richard Vandersteen, Audioquest (AQ) Robin Hood Silver BiWire worked best for me. 

Equipment:  Quatro (cloth) speakers, SUB THREE subs, M5-HPA monoblocks, Aesthetix Calypso Eclipse PreAmp, PS Audio DAC and Transport, AQ Pegasus XLR interconnects, AQ Thunderbird 8K HDMI (I2S connection between transport and DAC), AQ Thunder power cables (Quatro, PreAmp, DAC, Transport), stock power cables on the Amps, and AQ NRG-Z3 power cables (SUB THREEs)

I purchased the M5-HPA amps from a dealer that had taken them in on a trade (lightly used, of course).  That drove the need for new speaker cables.  I understand now, the M5-HPAs come with speaker cables.  I was able to borrow AQ cables from the dealer and a friend to try…..Rocket 88, Robin Hood Silver, Thunderbird, and Dragon. The demo lengths varied from 6 ft to 8 ft and my plan was to go with 0.75 m to minimize the cable impact on the sound and for “packaging”/aesthetic reasons.  To simplify things, I assumed the results would scale….in other words if one cable sounded the best at 8ft it would still sound the best at 0.75m.

I used both PCM tracks and SACD tracks (jazz, rock, pop, and an acoustics bass scale track from a demo disc).  I don’t listen to vinyl and don’t know what effect that would have on my results.

I focused on smoothness, transparency, soundstage width and depth, mid bass attack and decay, and bass articulation/tightness.  I like bass a lot but only when it is tight and not boomy.

Now for my opinions: The Robin Hood did everything very, very well.  The Dragon sounded the best but not by a lot, surprisingly, and in my view doesn’t come close to justifying the 6x MSRP cost ($9500 vs $60000).  I would say Dragon isn’t even 2x as good as Robin Hood.  The ThunderBird wasn’t better than the Robin Hood. The Rocket 88 was better than I expected it to be given it is $1300 MSRP (8ft).      

 The result: 0.75m AQ Robin Hood Silver BiWire for the Quatros and 0.75m AQ Rocket 88 for the SUB THREEs

I hope this helps, enjoy your journey!

Note: the MSRP costs are from the AQ Q1 2024 price book on their website

Brian

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Thank you Richard and BFW for your thoughtful responses.  Now, I need to add the RHS to my audition list, along with the WTS.  It appears though that the TB may not be optimal for my system longer term.

Now, for the next wrinkle:  I think that my Model 3’s easily over-power my 12x14 room, and I assume that the Quatros will be in the same boat.  Would you agree?  If that’s the case, when we move in the next year or so, if we can’t swing a larger room, do Treos become the better option?  If that’s the case, should I still consider the RHS, or  does the WTS become a stronger option?

A lot of questions to unpack here, but I appreciate your opinions.

Thanks

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Prior to my Quatros, I had 3S Signatures and I wouldn’t say either over power my room from an audio perspective.  Personally, I like the smaller visual weight of the Quatros.  My room is 12’ x 18’ and my equipment is along the 18’ wall.

I have never owned Treos but have heard them in Dealer showrooms, for me the powered subs in the Quatros are a game changer.

I have never heard the WTS cables so I can’t comment directly.

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I have 7’s in a roughly 13.5’ x 17’ room with speakers on the short wall  - the controls on the speakers ; EQ, Level and Q will enable you to use Quattro to fantastic effect. The magic ++++++ impact from high passing your main amp is the BIG step up you can’t get with Treo …unless you add a Sub 3 .

My other system is Treo CT w Sub 3….

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18 hours ago, Richard Vandersteen said:

On the Quatro CT the Robinhood Silver/Bass bi-wire is significantly superior over any of the more expensive speaker wires short of the top 2 with silver conductors.  On the Model 3 series you would need more metal (normally less good and less articulate) because the 3's need more control.  RV

For clarification the early M5-HPA amplifiers were not as critical about wire length and using any wire to drive our subs was OK most of the time, but it still is important to keep the wire length 4 feet or less!  The later versions (amp with "Max Speaker wire 4 feet" printed below the speaker output terminal) have a much faster driver transistor with improved sound but they are very sensitive to instability because of the speed and lack of protection.   These M5-HPA's must be used with our HPA Interface Cable (supplied) and need a special buffered cable assembly to drive the 2W, 2Wq, SUB THREE or SUB NINE to avoid expensive non-warrantee damage.  If one would like to try a different output cable, we will test it for free for stability.  Just send it in with an RMA form noting you would like it tested.  We will not comment on sound quality only stability.  RV

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Thanks everyone for your feedback.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have such a knowledgeable community and the owner who are willing to share their knowledge to help others on their journey to better musical satisfaction.  Distilling down your feedback, I believe I can keep the Quatros on my short-list as they will be more adaptable to place in a broader range of room sizes.  Additionally, I should consider AQ WTS or RHS as top choices to consider now, that will also work well with the Quatros.

It’s also good to see a lot of you getting good results from Quatro’s, Kento’s & 7’s in normal sized rooms.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/15/2024 at 8:42 PM, Richard Vandersteen said:

It has been so long since I have evaluated anything on our 5A's I can't remember.   Maybe someone on this forum has experimented recently and will share their observations.  RV

When I bought my 5As (pre-owned) from Jon at Ultra Fidelis, he packaged a deal to fit my budget including AQ bi-wire  Aspen, which he suggested as a good match. I'm very happy, but haven't had a chance to try any Robin Hoods or similar, which I might aspire to relative to other potential system upgrades. 

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Audioquest doesn't sell Castle Rock cables any longer.  At least, they're not in the current AQ price list.

But...  If you look at previous price lists that have detailed descriptions and internal photos and the current price list, Rocket 88 appears to be pretty much the same cable, albeit with different spade connectors (500 series v 1000 series) and a different jacket color.

That might be an alternative to consider that is wayyyy less expensive than the next steps up in the AQ speaker cable product line.

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Audioquest doesn't sell Castle Rock cables any longer.  At least, they're not in the current AQ price list.

But...  If you look at previous price lists that have detailed descriptions and internal photos and the current price list, Rocket 88 appears to be pretty much the same cable, albeit with different spade connectors (500 series v 1000 series) and a different jacket color.

That might be an alternative to consider that is wayyyy less expensive than the next steps up in the AQ speaker cable product line.

~~~

One more thing...  The amplifier/cable/loudspeaker interaction is a pretty complicated situation.  It has as much to do with operation within the audio band as above it.  As Mr. Vandersteen has pointed out, his company supplies a specific cable for use with their amplifier products.  That's how they manage this interaction.  If you want to dig into this more deeply, here's a couple articles that offer light reading on the subject.

Bateman on Speaker Cable and Amp Interactions

Nelson Pass on the same subject

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On 2/26/2024 at 10:09 AM, BKDad said:

If you want to dig into this more deeply, here's a couple articles that offer light reading on the subject.

Light reading yeah 😂 Looks more like my college texts......

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Ha!

One of the things I've always liked about Vandersteen Audio is that their products are clearly thought through and that thinking is explained to the customer.  I figure that anybody purchasing Vandersteen loudspeakers is a thinking person who also likes to listen to music.  So, those  listeners appreciate an understanding of what they're buying or might be buying.  To me, that's better than just throwing money at it all and hoping for the best.  YMMV, etc...  

I also recognize that the act of buying stuff, especially expensive stuff, often provides a certain gratification for the purchaser, too.   Not everybody, of course.  But, YMMV there too...  For most of us, it's a hobby, after all.

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