Firmly occupying the ‘high end’ bracket of speaker connections, Paul Rigby reviews the Tellurium Q Ultra Silver speaker cables
There is a general sense, in the hi-fi user world, that copper-based cables equate to superior sound, when compared to silver cables for example. I was of that same opinion for a time. Copper cables were apparently kinder to the sound quality, I thought, they added a sense of warmth and appealing texture. Silver cables, on the other hand, were always seen to many and to myself, at that time, as being ‘bright’ and ‘harsh’.
The problem with silver cables, I have more recently realised after much research and listening to experts, isn’t the cable, you might be surprised to hear. The issue is down to noise that infects your hi-fi chain. Hence, if you encourage or, rather, refuse to remove RFI from your hi-fi, then the overall sound will become harsh, bright and forward. From this moment on, most people then spend half of the time trying to mask it or balance it with components that dull the chaotic dynamics. In the same misguided way that some users will buy lifeless speakers to counter the brightness of a cartridge, for example.
Silver cables get the blame for all of this…and it’s most unfair. Silver cables are not worse as a performer than copper. Quite the opposite, silver is much better at moving a signal from A-B. But it’s also more efficient at moving distortion from A-B too. The cable doesn’t know what its moving. If it’s there, it’ll shift it. Want to make the most of silver cables? Get rid of the sonic rubbish it carries.
Which is why you shouldn’t really be looking at these Tellurium Q cables until you do that very thing.
For those enlightened users amongst you, this three metre set of speaker cables offers banana or spade connectors as an option at a length to suit. Any more details are unknown because the company, as is there wont, likes to keep these things under wraps.
I began with Astradyne from the remastered edition of the Ultravox vinyl LP, Vienna. This is an instrumental complete with guitar, bass, synths, electric violin and drums. It’s busy and quite cramped in terms of the soundstage so the cables were provided with an immediately tough test.
What I noticed immediately is how the sound quality, in general terms, was opened up. Even of the simple, repetitive synth beat at the beginning of the track. This metallic note can be one dimensional in tone but, with the Silvers, the tone has a touch of extra space that gives it a hint of reverb and added life into the sound. The same can be said of the percussion which is beautifully characterful, offering a new and expanded sense of clarity and transparency so that it is no longer merely a strong and punchy beat but has tonal complexity inherently part of it.
This effect was seen throughout, the insertion of space and air in between each instrument stretched the soundstage, giving each member of the band time and room to perform while offering a wider array of details in the process.
This increase of space was critical in improving the sound for me because it also enhanced the transparency of the soundstage and brought to the fore new sounds and, it has to be said, new instruments. I’ll give you two examples. Firstly, you can have real trouble hearing the bass guitar on this track. It’s masked by every other dominant instrument while its tonal nature can, in this track, sometimes confuse itself with the accompanying synth runs. Here, though, the Silvers not only gave the bass guitar room of its own to perform but also presented entirely new bass notes where before there was a muffled blob of sound. Similarly, the lead guitar is not a dominant feature here and gets lost in the soundstage too easily. The Silvers pull this instrument towards the ear adding to the overall complexity of the track.
Moving to vocal and the easy listening track from Dean Martin, Free To Carry On, recorded in 1974. This is an intriguing track because Martin is backed by a female chorus who are the cause of a slightly odd blooming effect in the upper mids that can mask the delicate percussion and acoustic guitar.
With the Silvers, that effect is effectively removed because the vocals and backing are completely opened up. It’s almost as if a certain tension has left the vocalists. I’m sure you’ve been in company and you can sense that there’s a problem, some issue has occurred before you got there and everyone is walking on eggshells? That’s the feeling that the Silvers remove, producing a relaxed atmosphere and also enhancing the accuracy and precision of the performance. Because the vocal tension and the noise that created it effectivly was removed, the backing instrument detail was able to pour forth. The treble-infused cymbals also offered a natural splash while the acoustic guitar strum was suitably metallic while the subtle secondary percussion such as the simple wooden block now had its own reverb tail.
Finally, I played Jan Akkerman’s 1979 instrumental track, Stingray (Get Up With That) from his LP 3. I was impressed with the bass which offered an easy to follow rhythmic progression plus Akkerman’s own guitar playing which was very easy on the ear. Although the style was sometimes restrained, I never felt that detail was lost. That is, he had the luxury of playing in a subtle manner while retaining all of the detail of his performance.
The Tellurium Q Ultra Silver cables allow the music to really flow and to do so in a supremely natural and easy manner. Upgrading is highly recommended but even if you own a set of top quality cables, the Ultra Silvers are worthy of a demo. If your hi-fi sits in this top price bracket, you might not notice a dramatic difference in the first few seconds of play (then again, you might). Even if you don’t, give it a few seconds because your ears will start to pick out sonic enhancements. A lack of distortion here, a new quieter background there, more detail from this sequence, extra clarity during that performance. The more time you listen to these cables, the better they make your music sound In fact, you will quickly reach the point where the thought of going back to your old cables is too much to bear.
TELLURIUM Q ULTRA SILVER SPEAKER CABLES
Price: £500 per metre
Tel: 01458 251997
GOOD: open midrange, impressive detail clarity, clean performance, low noise