AudioQuest Gibraltar speaker cables & Anaconda interconnects Page 2

Another aspect of the Anaconda's big, bold sound was a huge, expansive, open soundstage. On the AC/DC album, the soundstage, artificial though it may be, was noticeably wider than with any of my reference wires. Depth was increased as well, and the music projected farther out into my listening room, contributing to the system's bold, immediate sound.

Individual images were slightly larger with the Anacondas than with my reference cables, and the distances between them seemed larger and more distinctly portrayed as empty space. This big, expansive nature was particularly captivating with relatively simple arrangements, and particularly with studio recordings, where there truly was empty space (real or artificial) between the images to portray. With denser arrangements, however, where the images were more crowded together, the Anacondas' big sound could occasionally work against it. In full orchestral crescendos, for example, or wall-of-sound rock records, the images would sometimes run together and tumble on top of one another, as if competing for space at the leading edge of a slightly too forward soundstage.

Jaime Laredo's reading of Mozart's Violin Concerto 3 (LP, RCA LSC-2472) was a great example of both the good and the bad. When Laredo was playing alone, or in front of a simple orchestral backdrop, the Anacondas were magical, beautifully describing the instruments and surrounding space. At other points, however, during complex, dense crescendos, the soundstage became a little confused, with orchestral sections bleeding out of their assigned space, and the overall presentation becoming a little too forward. This was not so much a huge effect as a case of the Anacondas' transients, soundstage, and images being larger than other cables', if occasionally at the expense of the nth degree of coherence, or the portrayal of an instrument's subtle nuances.

In fact, the Anacondas' performance left me scratching my head a bit, wondering whether other cables were slightly softening transients and allowing the subtleties to be more easily heard, or whether the Anacondas were adding some sort of distortion, giving transients a bit of extra zing but obscuring low-level details. When I played the Dave Brubeck Quartet's At Carnegie Hall (LP, Columbia C2S-826), an open, natural-sounding album, I was convinced that the Anacondas were telling the higher truth. They meshed beautifully with the staging, and had a snap and impact that enhanced the overall live feel. On Laredo's Mozart recording, however, I wasn't so sure. I often felt as if the Anacondas were running roughshod over some of the finer spatial and tonal nuances. If I had to guess, which I do—that's why I get the big bucks as a reviewer—I'd say it was a little of both.

The Anacondas' tonal balance was completely consistent with the rest of their performance: big, deep, powerful bass; clear, open mids; and clean, crisp highs out to the stratosphere. No single portion of the AQ's frequency balance stood out—but, on the other hand, they all did. If a recording had one aspect or another that was almost over the edge, the Anacondas would give it that little extra nudge. For example, a record that has lots of bass through other cables, Art Davis' A Time Remembered (LP, Jazz Planet 4001-1), was on the border of being too bass-heavy and loose with the Anacondas. Neil Young's agonized vocals on "Borrowed Tune," from Tonight's the Night (LP, Reprise MS 2221), were almost too cutting, too forward and edgy with the AQs—almost, but not quite. There's that question again: Were the AQs simply letting more of the music through without dulling its impact, or were they adding a bit of extra zing? In either case, further from the brink, things like Paul Desmond's alto sax or Gene Wright's bass on the Brubeck LP were wonderful through the Anacondas—dynamic, powerful, and alive.

Summing Up: The AudioQuest Anacondas are undoubtedly top-flight interconnects. In terms of overall performance, they're competitive with my current reference cables and somewhere in the midst of them in terms of price. And, like all of my reference wires, the Anacondas have their own personality, or sonic signature. Nordost's Valhalla, for example, is wonderfully clear, fast, and transparent, with a tonal balance that's a touch cool. Nirvana's S-X Ltd., on the other hand, is a bit warm, but has a wonderful ease and coherence, and a portrayal of nuance that's the best I've ever heard. Audience's Au24 is midway between the two. In terms of tonal balance, the Anacondas were pretty neutral, also about midway between the Valhalla's cool and the Nirvana's warmth.

But what really set the AQs apart was their overriding characteristic: their big, bold sound. Big dynamically, big spatially, and big tonally—a huge, powerful sound that could take the right combination of equipment and source material to the next level of performance. In other instances, however, I found the Anacondas almost too much, and perhaps lacking the last bit of subtlety and nuance. Whether or not they're right for you will depend on your system and listening preferences, but if you're considering new cables, I recommend giving them a listen.

AudioQuest Gibraltar loudspeaker cable
In the case of the Gibraltar speaker cable, looks are deceiving. What appears to be a simple twin-lead design is as complex and technology-laden as the Anaconda interconnect. For starters, the Gibraltar is what AudioQuest calls a "double-quad helix" configuration. Each half of the twin lead actually houses a helical wind of four solid ultra-pure-copper conductors. One set is for bass signals, the other for treble, and the overall twin-lead layout keeps the two sets magnetically separated in a true single biwire design—neat! My pair went even further, combining two twin-lead units in a "double biwire" setup.

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