Cable Review

QED XT40 speaker cables: Travel By X-Tube

Looking for speaker cable on a budget? Paul Rigby reviews the QED XT40

If you are on a budget and possibly purchasing your first hi-fi, it’s all rather exciting. All that hardware and so much potential, never mind getting to grips with the music itself. The thought of actually connecting it up with cables can often be the last thing on your mind. In fact, there is an instinctive rush to hook it up with any old bell wire, just because you want to hurry up and hear the thing make some sort of noise.

Even many hi-fi enthusiasts who have collected together a worthy system for not much money via low cost new buys, second hand purchases or hardware received from family or friends can get caught up in the fervour. Again, cables often get ignored.

If you happen to find yourself in this situation, take a deep breath, pause and consider your actions before you make a big mistake. The cabling on any system is crucial for many reasons, not the least the basic sound quality of the hi-fi itself. OK, cables are not sexy. They don’t have toggle switches and don’t arrive with flashing lights or even VU meters but they do carry that all important sound signal.

For any budget system, it comes down to basics which are these: good cables can enhance the sound quality of your hi-fi while bad cables can cock it up.

It’s imperative, therefore, to get the best cables that you can afford. For a budget system, that probably means ‘not a lot’. No problem, though. There are plenty of cables out there that fit within that particular price point. Some are down right poor, others get by while one or two are brilliant in terms of value for money and sound quality.

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I wondered just where the QEDs, flaunting its rather mysterious X-Tube technology, would fit in the grand scheme of things.

SOUND QUALITY

As these cables are so low in price it seems pretty reasonable that they will be considered for purchase by anyone who has either found a set of basic bell-wire cables in the bottom of a box to use with their speakers or who has been handed a set of said bell-wires by a cruel or, possibly, sadistic hi-fi dealer.

I tested the QED XT40s with this basic of all cable types and played David Bowie’s Sound & Vision on vinyl. The song comes from the album, Low, which was apt because this song reached a new low in terms of sound quality with the bell-wires. Bass had more bloom that the average garden, less control than a prison riot, more screechy upper mids than a sack full of parrots on Speed, a disorganised soundstage that had Bowie bumping into synths and falling over drums and as for Bowie himself? His vocal performance sounded like a drunk that had just fallen out of a taxi…backwards. I was less than impressed.

The QEDs, in comparison, added clarity and focus to the soundstage and a sense of form and stability in all areas of the sonic spectrum. Bass now offered control and punch and no longer dominated the entire song by leeching into the midrange and treble whilst the treble offered nicely formed reverb tails and midrange performance provided far more insight and detail. Oh and Bowie sounded like Bowie instead of sounding like his grandmother.

The real challenge is when you place another value for money cable against the QEDs and that’s what I did by sourcing a set of low cost speaker cables from Tellurium Q (£13.75/m). The Tellurium Q Blue represent an ideal start in the life of a budget hi-fi. They have always been my own preference when looking at true budget speaker cables and I’ve tested a fair few. Hence, the QEDs had quite an uphill task in this particular sound test.

This time, I turned to Genesis, on vinyl, and their prog instrumental, Los Endos.

This is a highly complex track with plenty to confuse and befuddle a budget pair of speaker cables. Yet, the QED seemed to enjoy the experience. In fact, one of the main aspects of the play was the space and air that it brought immediately to the upper mids that were the focus of the early pastoral noises from this track. There was a distinct delicacy to the synth washes that was then backed up by a series of quick fire bongo drum percussions patterns. The QED gave the bongos a characterful presentation.

On into the bulk of the track and the bass and drums flew into action. The Blues are noted for their strong bass presence and the QEDs were just a touch recessed by comparison. Only a touch though and don’t see this as a criticism. It did, in fact, contribute to the QEDs excellent tonal balance which allowed much of the upper mid detail to be easily heard, giving a sense of clarity to the entire track. That balance allowed the soundstage to sound even and relaxed in tone while the treble, via the cymbals, was elegant and delicate in form.

Moving to spoken word and Michael Parkinson’s interview with Peter Sellers from a BBC LP, the speech sounded focused on the QED. This balanced presentational aspect meant that the voices offered a natural reverb and emotive delivery.

Moving to CD and balladic jazz from Blossom Dearie singing a wistful version of Tea For Two: a voice, piano and double bass. The QEDs could never be accused of being overly warm. Again, there was a sense of neutrality in their presentation that provided a distinct focus on the Dearie vocal delivery that was both clear and clean and, ultimately, very satisfying. Here piano – a notoriously difficult instrument to tame by any suite of cables – did a good job of tackling this most dynamic of instruments while lower frequencies, via that double bass, was still present. Bass, in fact, never disappeared, it provided a tight response.

CONCLUSION

Well, I’m shocked and that’s no mistake. To hear such an evenly presented sound from such a low priced set of speaker cables is pretty darned impressive. When you get cables in this price bracket you normally hear something missing or, on the other side of the coin, too much of one part of the sonic spectrum that overly dominates. Not here. The QEDs have to be the most neutral and balanced cables in their price bracket. They let the music do the talking.


QED XT40 SPEAKER CABLE

Price: £10 per metre

Website: www.qed.co.uk

Tel: 01279 501111 


GOOD: balanced presentation, value for money, tight lower frequencies, spacious upper mids. 

BAD: nothing at the price

RATING: 8

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Tan
    21st February 2018 at 6:33 am

    Hi Paul. I’m looking for some speaker cables to handle subwoofer duties. Running the subwoofer at speaker level parrallel from my power amp. Current speaker cable is the TQ Black. Would the XT25 be enough or the XT40 or TQ Blue be a better choice? Thanks.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      21st February 2018 at 2:16 pm

      What’s your budget Tan? Also what length are you looking at?

  • Reply
    Tan
    22nd February 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Paul. Length is 2M. I don’t really have any budget set. But hopefully within £20 per meter since it is only for subwoofer use. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      22nd February 2018 at 1:24 pm

      At that budget, Tan, I would retain the TQ Black cables that you already have. You won’t find anything better for the price.

  • Reply
    Tan
    22nd February 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Paul. Sorry, I was not been clear. The TQ Black is the main speaker cable to my main speakers. My power amp has a extra parallel output. And I want to add a subwoofer. So intent to get another pair of cables to drive the subwoofer at speaker level. As it is only for the low frequencies, I was thinking if something cheaper like the QED XT25 or XT40 or TQ Blue will be enough? Or I should use the same TQ Black for “balance” in the load (if I am making sense). Sorry, should have provided more information from the beginning.

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      22nd February 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Hi Tan – in that case, grab the most expensive of those QEDs that you can afford. They’ll provide you with value for money.

  • Reply
    Tan
    23rd February 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Paul, so the TQ Blue (TQ Black II too ex…hehe) will be better for the subwoofer use? OK, time to start saving. Thanks for the advise. 🙂

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      23rd February 2018 at 6:04 pm

      All three of the cables you list are excellent but the Blue will serve you very well.

  • Reply
    Tan
    25th February 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks a lot, Paul.:)

  • Reply
    Michael
    24th May 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Great report, Paul. Thank you. It sounds honest.
    From the chat with Tan I derive than one can use the QED XT40 to connect the subwoofer with the AV receiver. If it is actually the case, I would solder this cable onto suitable connectors for the use on my subwoofer and left and right speaker. Will this bring excellent tonal Balance?

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      24th May 2018 at 7:19 pm

      Hi Michael – in terms of using a subwoofer at all or do you mean will the cables generate that balance?

      • Reply
        Michael
        24th May 2018 at 9:52 pm

        Both. Sorry for the ambiguous question. Only a few moths ago interest and enthusiasm for listening to music started. I bought speakers (Teufel Ultima 20 Mk2) with a range from 70 Hz – 20 kHz. After experiencing the sound of a contrabass at a real small scale baroque concert, I wanted to get more truth into my living room with getting a (Teufel T8) subwoofer (37 Hz – 200 Hz). Lots of things one has to keep in mind and I read a lot while configuring, but at the end all worked out. As an answer for the fist question, I suppose: a subwoofer is necessary to be able to have a better tonal balance within the range a human can hear.
        The setup I now own is a package the manufacturer also offers. So subwoofer and the speakers should go hand in hand or be in balance in terms of bass management. My perception is: when the XT40 is capable of an excellent tonal Balance, then why not using it also as interconnect for the subwoofer and receiver beside speaker and receiver to have the tonal characteristics of the cable at the speaker and the subwoofer?

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          25th May 2018 at 9:12 am

          Hi Michael – in very general terms, the better the cables, the more noise you eradicate from the hi-fi which means more information to the ear. So, within your budget, the better the cable quality, the more that will enhance your listing experience. Of course, you should balance this with obtaining quality components and other accessories but the general philosophy holds true.
          For me, I dislike subwoofers. I know many people love them so it’s an individual thing and that’s fine too. My issue is that the bass from a subwoofer lags behind the speaker output, dragging the sound. Even tiny fractions of a second will have an effect on the sensitive ear. The speaker itself is designed to offer you a tonal balance. And if you dislike what the speakers are saying, then you move elsewhere of course. Nevertheless, a pair of speakers will be constructed to provide you with a balanced and sonically matched spectrum of sound. Subwoofers – again to my ears – give music a constructed, artificial feel.

          • Michael
            26th May 2018 at 9:31 pm

            Hi Paul – thanks for the insight. Nice pointer. I will try to suss it out.

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