The most interesting demonstration of cables I’ve ever experienced was about 20 years ago when AudioQuest founder Bill Low visited me with a carton of nearly every cable he made—and a boom box as a playback system. Why a boom box? To show that you don’t need a high-end rig to hear the value that cables can bring to a system. We listened to about twelve cables, starting with the entry level and moving one step up with each comparison. Several times we went back down a level just for reference. In each move up the AudioQuest line, I heard distinct improvements in qualities that matter musically. I was astounded by the degree of control that the cable designer had over the sound, as well as by the specific sonic qualities each step up rendered.
Another highly instructive cable experience occurred recently when I found myself in need of some long interconnects to wire up the JL Audio e112 subwoofers I reviewed in Issue 252. Looking in the cable closet (yes, there’s a cable closet) I found a very old pair of AudioQuest Amazon interconnects. I had used them many years ago for one purpose or another, and thought that they would be perfectly adequate for the job.
Adding the JL Audio subwoofer meant that the signal driving the Raidho X-1 loudspeakers now traveled through about 24' (two 12' single runs) of Amazon interconnect as well as the JL’s crossover. I had assumed that the JL’s active crossover would be the weak link in this arrangement, and whatever degradation I heard would be primarily introduced by the crossover. This was, after all, a crossover built into a $1900 subwoofer. If the crossover added grain, glare, hardness, or reduced dynamics or soundstaging, the subwoofer would be a non-starter. The JL Audio’s crossover was quite clean, but introduced what I thought were inevitable distortions. I heard a reduction in resolution and transparency, along with a slight thickening of the soundstage. Timbres were less vivid, and transient detail was somewhat blunted and smeared. Tonal colors were overlaid with a bit of a grayish cast. The sense of hearing through the playback system, a quality the superb Raidho X-1s delivered in spades, was diminished.
After about a week of living with this system, I mentioned to AudioQuest that I was listening with these very old runs of Amazon. It suggested that I try its brand-new Wind interconnect, which benefited from the company’s recently developed technology. Wind is part of the new Elements Series, and three steps down from the top of AudioQuest’s line. I’ll get to Wind’s design in a minute, but first I’ll finish my story. I replaced the 12' runs of Amazon with the 16' (5m) runs of Wind. Suddenly, the loss of transparency, the reduction in resolution, the slight opacity to the soundstage, the smearing of transients, and the dilution of timbral realism that I had attributed to the e112’s crossover vanished, replaced by a crystalline clarity, greater resolution, more expansive space, and quieter backgrounds. To explore this result further, I removed the e112 from the signal path by connecting the two runs of Wind together with RCA barrel connectors. Now I was hearing only the effect of the Wind on the signal, not Wind and the subwoofer crossover. I repeated this experiment with Amazon. I also compared 5m runs of Wind to 1m runs of reference-level interconnects. These comparisons confirmed not only the quality of the e112’s crossover, but also that Wind is staggeringly better than Amazon, which introduced more degradation than the active subwoofer crossover built into the JL Audio e112. The listening also suggested that Wind, although not inexpensive, was an outstanding value.
I moved on to listening to Wind in several links in my system, including from the Simaudio 810LP phonostage to the preamplifier. A clear theme emerged in all the auditioning: This is an interconnect that competes with top-tier wires at a less-than-stratospheric price. First, Wind is extremely transparent to sources. It has very little sonic effect on the signals passing through it, and consequently, preserves the music’s dynamic verve, spatial dimensionality, and timbral purity. Wind has a very clean, open, and lively sound. It’s detailed and vivid, but not in an analytical way. If you want a cable that softens transients and removes a bit of excessive zip from your system, this isn’t it. Instead, Wind rewards the listener with a pristine quality that reveals what’s on the recording in all its glory—or faults.
Many interconnects inevitably add a layer of opacity to the soundstage, diminishing the sense of the performers existing “right there” between the loudspeakers. Not Wind; it conveys a full measure of presence and immediacy, while also allowing you to hear deep into the soundstage and pick out individual instruments at the back of the hall.
Similarly, the impression of wide dynamic range was heightened by Wind’s extremely quiet background. This quality allowed very fine details to emerge, particularly reverberation decay. It’s amazing to me how the apparent size of an acoustic space becomes bigger or smaller depending on the interconnect or cable in the playback system.
The bottom end was fast and agile, with no added warmth or thickness. Again, Wind isn’t the kind of interconnect you choose to push your system toward a softer or weightier sound. Rather, it’s the kind of interconnect you choose when the rest of your system includes highly resolving and transparent components, and you want to hear them at their best.
AudioQuest has developed many new and interesting cable technologies since Amazon (see sidebar). Judging from Wind’s performance, those efforts have gone a long way toward making an interconnect that seemingly vanishes from the system. Wind is a great interconnect by any measure and, though not inexpensive, is nonetheless a superb value.
Terminations: RCA or XLR
Price: $1995 1m RCA or XLR
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