AudioQuest Gibraltar speaker cables & Anaconda interconnects Page 3

The conductors and insulators are sized and chosen to best serve a specific function. The bass quad, for example, consists of two 16 AWG negative conductors and two 19 AWG negative ones, while the treble half uses 18 AWG positives and 21 AWG negatives. AQ calls this Spread Spectrum Technology, the idea being that any size and material of conductor has a distinct sonic signature that occurs over a specific frequency range. Mixing the conductors spreads out this signature over a wider range, preventing the effects from piling up to the point of audibility. A final bit of wizardry is the use of partially conductive carbon-loaded polyethylene as an insulating material on the negative conductors, which "damps radio frequency garbage from being fed back into the amplifier," according to AudioQuest. Various terminations are available. My set came with AQ's silver Crimp BFA Banana plugs.

Use and Listening: Despite their complexity and large overall conductor gauge, the Gibraltars were wonderful to use. Soft and flexible, they were easy to run and accommodated the most extreme bends and crinks. The terminations were top-quality as well, and made solid connections. The Gibraltars even came with special impregnated gloves for cleaning the silver-plated banana plugs!

Anyone expecting the Gibraltars to sound like the Anacondas, perhaps expecting some sort of consistent AudioQuest "house" sound, would be dead wrong. My one-word description of the Gibraltars would be "subtle." A few more might be "natural, warm, laid-back, flowing," and maybe even "a little recessed." Where the Anacondas stunned me with huge dynamics, the Gibraltars caught me off-guard with their subtlety and nuance, and even by sounding slightly muted at times. Instead of making me double-check to make sure I hadn't turned up the volume, with the Gibraltars, I was checking to see if I hadn't turned it down.

AC/DC, for example, didn't have quite the impact with the Gibraltars that they had with my Valhallas or Au24s. The sound was warm and smooth, the images wonderfully detailed and tangible, but dynamic transients were a little foreshortened, and maybe not quite as fast or precise as they were with my reference cables. Even Neil Young's simple vocals on Tonight's the Night seemed ever so slightly muted with the Gibraltars. Lovely, densely complex, and warm—but slightly muted. Ditto for Dave Brubeck's piano solo on "Take Five" from At Carnegie Hall. The very first notes of the solo announce Brubeck's taking charge by cutting cleanly across the stage. With the Gibraltars, they just didn't have quite the clarity, and had a touch less authority and impact—but I could hear the complex mix of vibrations from the strings, body, and soundboard. There was a subtle but noticeable difference in pace as well: the AQs felt more relaxed, with an easy, liquid kind of flow, instead of the frantic drive of the Nordost Valhallas or Audience Au24s.

Remember the question I pondered earlier, whether the Anaconda interconnects were dulling transients and sounding more subtle in the process, or whether the other cables were adding a bit of edge and juicing up the transients a bit. puzzle? Well, flip it upside-down for the Gibraltars. In this case, I think that my other cables—the Valhallas and Au24s—were getting it closer to the truth, but it's probably a mix of both.

Tonally, the AQs were slightly to the warm side of neutral and a bit bigger on the bottom than my other cables. This turned out to be a perfect match for some source material. The Brubeck album, which sounds a little cool and lightweight with other cables, was much more solid and anchored with the AQs. Similarly, the J. ter Linden/Mozart Akademie Amsterdam set of Mozart's symphonies (LP, Stemra 99730/1-5) can have a thin, antiseptic sound with some wires, but was solidified and fleshed out nicely with the Gibraltars.

In cases where the source material was to the warm side of neutral, like the Art Davis album, the Gibraltars sounded a bit too big on the bottom end, a bit too smooth, and a little closed-in. On something nearer the middle, like Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony's Strauss Waltzes (LP, RCA Living Stereo/Classic LSC-2500), the Gibraltars were definitely warmer than my reference wires—the bass drum was definitely bigger, for example—but I wouldn't want to say that one or the other was necessarily "right."

The Gibraltars were nearly the direct opposite of the Anacondas in terms of their spatial characteristics as well. Instead of creating a huge soundstage and a forward perspective, their soundstage was a little narrower than that produced by my other cables, with images concentrated between the speakers and, if anything, slightly recessed. The images and overall stage were well-defined in the lateral plane, but a little two-dimensional compared to what the best cables can do.

The Gibraltars also didn't seem to produce quite as much air, or reproduce the space around the images as well as I'm used to. A particularly telling example was the trumpets in Vienna Blood, from Strauss Waltzes. With the Au24s, there was an incredible, almost holographic picture of the surrounding space echoing around the notes. With the Gibraltars, the sense of space just wasn't there. There's a similar effect on the Brubeck LP—a painting of the hall surrounding Joe Morello's drum solo on "Take Five." Again, with the Gibraltars, the drums were wonderfully portrayed, denser and more solid than with my other cables, but the surrounding space wasn't as clearly described.

Summing Up: AudioQuest's Gibraltar is a very good speaker cable, as good as or better than the vast majority of cables I've heard. Its personality was a little less obvious than the Anaconda's and, curiously, nearly the direct opposite. Rather than big, bold, and dynamic, if perhaps lacking in that last bit of subtlety, the Gibraltars' presentation was compact and dense, slightly laid-back, and rich, with subtlety and nuance. Instead of the Anacondas' incredible spaciousness and airy feel, the Gibraltars were a little dark—warm and slightly closed-in.

Correctly mating an amplifier, speaker cable, and loudspeaker can make a big difference in a system's overall performance, and I found this particularly true with the Gibraltars. With my VTL Ichibans and Magnepan 3.6/Rs, I felt the Gibraltars were way too slow and muted; the entire system seemed a little bogged down. With the Mark Levinson No.20.6s and Kirksaeters, the pace was right and I loved the solid, dense images, but the overall tonal balance was a bit too dark. The best match by far was when I used the Gibraltars with the Classé Omega monoblocks and Audiophysic Virgo IIIs, even though I could use only one leg of the double-biwire configuration.

Whether or not the Gibraltars will work for you will ultimately depend on your system and listening preferences. Air and the reproduction of ambience cues are important to me, so I likely wouldn't pick the Gibraltars, despite their wonderful nuanced images and slightly warm tonal balance—both of which usually push my buttons. But if lovely renderings of tonal colors and reproduction of inner detail are what really make a performance come alive for you, and you've got the right associated gear, the Gibraltars might be just the ticket.

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