Looking for a set of audiophile quality speaker cables that won’t break the bank? Paul Rigby checks out the latest contestant from QED, the XT25
Let’s say that you’ve saved hard for a new pair of speakers. Let’s say that you’ve just spent £200 on them. They turn up in the post. You’re all excited, as you have every right to be. You can’t wait to unpack them and plug them into the matrix that is your hi-fi system. A place were new musical realities are born? Oh yes.
And then? Damn it. Damn it. Damn it! Cables, cables, cables. How are you going to plug them in then, eh? You haven’t got any cables. You were so darned pumped up about the new oak finish, you forgot all about them. No problem, there’s an electrical shop down the road. So off you pop. And come back, a tad breathless, with some cable that may have cost you, what, let’s say £1.99 per metre? In the UK, Maplins is a good place to buy this stuff. I’m sure there’s a similar place where you live. Easy, eh?
So you connect the new speakers again – oh the wait! the frustration! the tension! – and you switch the hi-fi and you play a favourite LP and you wait in expectation as the needle drops and you hear the first 30 seconds of music and you walk into the corner and you cry and you cry a lot more. Because it sounds crap.
Why? Because the cable transfers lots of beautiful musical information. That’s ok, yes? Yes. Yes it is. Trouble is, cables like this just do a job. They can’t tell static from Santana. They don’t know noise (i.e cruddy masking horribleness that masks all of the fine detail and completely ruins your musical experience) and noise (Lou Reed, Sonic Youth and Merzbow). They transfer the musical signal but they also transfer anything that’s in the area and wants to hitch a lift. Noise again.
Well designed hi-fi cable exists to differentiate the good stuff from the bad stuff. That’s what I wanted to investigate here by reviewing the new QED speaker cables, the XT25.
You may have seen my recent news piece but, for those who missed it , the XT25 cable features a hollow LDPE filler covered by a host of OFC copper of 99.999% purity. That lot is covered by aluminium Mylar and the entire casing is protected by a clear LDPE outer jacket.
I began the sound tests with Fight The Power from the Isley Brothers album, The Heat In On a fierce, high tempo piece of funk with a rich and full soundstage that is full of layered instruments.
This track is packed with excellent vocal performances. There’s real drive and emotion behind them. The musicianship is superb too. For this level of speaker cable though, what really gets me are the hand claps. I know, not exactly exotic but the hand claps are the cause of real issues for me and I would gladly spend serious money on speaker cables just to control the things. The problem is that hand claps on this track can highlight excessive noise within the cable. The problem with many budget cables on the market is that they have absolutely no idea how to translate the hand clap into, oddly enough, a hand clap. What you get is a sharp, head-ache inducing snappy punch. Over and over it goes and out comes the Paracetamol. What the hand claps are doing is hitting exactly the right spot in the upper midrange that emphasises a noise-induced edge of clinical emphasis.
This troublesome area is – praise the Lord – handled superbly by the XT25 cables. The cables produce, for the price, an incredible hand clap. You may laugh but the midrange delivery of this sound is indicative of the rest of the sonic performance of this cable. The hand claps here are tonally realistic with a balance between the striking of the hands but also the detail that sounds produces.
The other issue is the treble. Most budget cables offer a cymbal hit that sounds hard and unforgiving.
Imagine a perfect cymbal crash. Then take that cymbal crash in your hands, leave it out all night in the back yard during winter and then hear it the next morning packed in frost. That’s how a cymbal sounds via a poor budget cable. It sounds totally manufactured and brittle.
The XT25s soften the treble while retaining detail. Hence, for the price point, treble sounds exquisite, providing a soft sheen, packed with information and a nice reverb decay. All of these positives are helped by the low noise performance.
Remember this is funk and this particular track stems from 1975. Do you know how an electric guitar, especially from this period, sounds when you plug it into a meaty guitar amp? There’s the rich crackling sound where the contact is made, mixing a heavy electrical feedback with power and a slight hum. Playing that guitar, you can hear this weight and grunt. It’s this personality that the XT25s access and most budget cables ignore. Hence, you get a much more interesting ‘groove thang’ going on. The vibe is rich with portent.
Bass too is much more characterful than the norm with an organic response that provides a more emotive realism and less of the horrible synthetic effects that some cables provide.
So much for energy and dynamism. I turned to Nina Simone and a simple arrangement. Just the gal and her piano singing Seems I Never Tire of Loving You. I’ve said this before, but the piano is a tough nut to crack for any hi-fi. It’s packed with potentially chaotic frequencies that hi-fi component sometimes fail to control. Hence, you often hear midrange smearing and, in the lower registers, bass booming. In the worst cases, pianos can sound positively unlistenable. The XT25s were remarkably disciplined here, mostly because the low noise aided clarity and midrange insight while the transparent nature of the upper frequencies helped the dynamic reach of the instrument.
It was a similar case with the highly emotive nature of the Simone voice. My goodness, she could belt out a song when she felt like but her vocal was complex with range and vibrato that complicated a song and personalised it. The XT25 traced the flow of the vocal well so there was no midrange confusion.
Offering a sense of clarity in terms of midrange performance, with a low noise expression that aided both transparency but also tonal accuracy, the XT25 cables bring a sense of hi-fi luxury at a low price. A very low price, in audiophile terms. If you find yourself with a pair of bell wire speaker cables you owe it to upgrade immediately. Dive into your car, hail a taxi, hi-jack your nearest 747 or jump on the back of the nearest jogger and direct him to (not Cuba but) the nearest QED dealer. The change will be a big relief to your ears. Although the local chemist might suffer in Paracetamol sales.
QED XT25 SPEAKER CABLE
Price: £6 per metre unterminated. Cold-welded termination with QED’s Airloc 4mm plugs or spades over a span of 3m, costs £70
Tel: 01279 501111
GOOD: low noise, midrange clarity, organic bass, treble fragility, spacious soundstage
BAD: you kidding me?
Rega RP1 turntable
Rega Brio-R amplifier
Spendor S3/5R speakers
Tellurium Q cabling
Blue Horizon Professional Rack System
Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components
All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner
Geoffrey7th December 2017 at 11:28 am
Sounds almost too good to be true…
Paul Rigby7th December 2017 at 11:39 am
It’s all relative to the price, Geoffrey. In that price point, in comparison to its immediate competition, when judged with other products you can buy for a similar price… Please bear all of that in mind. It’s not a super cable. Just an excellent low budget design.
Michael Larsen18th March 2019 at 12:40 pm
what is a super cable for the money (low budget, lets say under £10)
Paul Rigby18th March 2019 at 2:34 pm
QED offers fine value, Michael. The classic ’79 Strand’ is around that figure on Amazon.
Mathew22nd October 2020 at 1:25 pm
Hi Paul, I was advised to get the XT25s for my new speakers. My 30 yr old cable has oxidised. It was a long time ago and don’t remember what brand it was, bit looks exactly like the back QED79’s and probably is, as they were highly recommended to me at the time.
But here’s the thing, I can’t really tell any difference in sound quality, so switched them back and played the same track. If there is any difference, it like 2%, which I would put down to the oxidisation on the old wires. So just wondered if anyone has compared them too? Or have I just paid twice as much for more plastic and less copper? Maybe fresh new 79 stands would have been just as good?
Paul Rigby23rd October 2020 at 10:43 am
If you don’t hear any difference, then don’t buy, Matthew. Simple as that. Just enjoy your music. Please don’t feel pressured to think you should, either. There may be a host of reasons why you’re not hearing a change: other components in your hi-fi, where it is situated, the room, your ears, other factors I’m not even aware of, etc but only spend out if you hear a difference. Demos are useful to check, of course. During the current times, many hi-fi dealers are open to home demos which I actually prefer so that’s also an option when testing prospective new products.
Geoff7th December 2017 at 10:30 pm
I understand i think. Cables are tricky i guess, I have vandenhul. Not gonna change soon. But i really like this cable. But saving for a new amp first. Maybe the new brio. Not quite sure yet. Keep the reviews coming. Great stuff!
Paul Rigby8th December 2017 at 11:23 am
Thanks Geoff – that’s a good point you raise though. Whenever you read a review of mine, please bear in mind that my pros/cons are related to the price point and the immediate competition of that product.
Loc Nguyen21st April 2020 at 2:37 pm
May I have location and phone number in Houston,Tx .Thanks.
Paul Rigby21st April 2020 at 5:06 pm
Are you in Texas and you’d like to buy these cables?
Rob4th February 2018 at 1:46 pm
How are these cable compare with the more expensive XT40? Which of them are more suitable for rock and metal?
Paul Rigby4th February 2018 at 2:11 pm
Hi Rob – both will serve you fine for those music genres. They offer a balanced overview. There’s plenty of detail up top but also organic bass. The 40s offer superior sound quality, overall in terms of detail. If you can afford them, go for the 40s. If not, no worries, the 25s are excellent and will provide sterling service.
Poer17th November 2022 at 11:03 pm
I have both the xt40i and xt25.
I would say the former gives weight to the sound and maybe warmer.
More detail is not what my experience. If anything infind the 25 more defined and even more.detailed in the bass actually.
Thanks.for.tje review, I enjoyed it
Paul Rigby18th November 2022 at 10:25 am
Thanks for your insight, Poer.
Rob6th February 2018 at 3:00 pm
Hi Paul, Thanks for your answer. Do you also know how are the Chord Clearway?Same price as the QED xt40.My system: Tannoy xt8f, Musical Fidelity m5si, Cambridge cxn streamer.
Paul Rigby6th February 2018 at 3:06 pm
Yes, the Chords are excellent – highly recommended and there’s no problem grabbing those either. Bit of a toss up there.
Paul Lockett30th March 2018 at 12:24 pm
Hi Paul, I notice you’re using Tellurium Q interconnects in your reference system – are these the interconnects you would recommend more than any other, or is it simply a personal preference?
Paul Rigby30th March 2018 at 12:33 pm
Hi Paul – yes, the TQs are used principally re my speaker and digital cables. They’re my top recommended cables in those areas (for now 🙂 )
Paul Lockett1st April 2018 at 10:50 pm
Thanks Paul. Does that mean that you’re using a different brand of analogue interconnects? Thanks.
Paul Rigby2nd April 2018 at 10:02 am
I currently use TQ speaker cables/digital, Vertex AQ interconnects/power blocks and Studio Connections mains. If I review budget gear, then I tend to use the QED interconnects and possibly Black Rhodium, QED or TQ speaker cables.
Paul Lockett2nd April 2018 at 1:16 pm
Many Thanks, Paul. I’m very soon to be replacing my 20+ year old Marantz CD-63 mk II KI Signature CD player, so I’m looking carefully at interconnects for the new machine. Your advice is much appreciated.
Paul Rigby2nd April 2018 at 2:59 pm
No problem, Paul.
Lawrence Barnes21st November 2018 at 7:38 pm
Hi Paul I hope this thread is still open. Is this cable ok to use without interconnects. Connecting to Kef KHT3000se speakers.
Paul Rigby22nd November 2018 at 9:21 am
Hi Lawrence – all of the threads are always open 🙂 Be assured that no part of the site is never closed. If you ever have a question about anything on this website, please fire away. Onto your point, can you elaborate please? You’ll need to use the speaker cables to connect the speakers to a receiver and that’s it. You’ll only need interconnects to connect a receiver to another box, like a turntable or somesuch. So, you answer your question, yep, they can be used on their own. If I haven’t addressed your question fully, though, please give me a shout.
Michael Larsen18th March 2019 at 12:45 pm
Im lacking a bit bass and feel my Qed silver micro (airloc metal banana plugs) a slightly bright.
Would XT25 be noticeable better?
Denon RCD-M41DAB and Misson QX2
Paul Rigby18th March 2019 at 2:38 pm
Hi Michael – hmmm, if you have fundamental issues with your hi-fi Michael then I wouldn’t look towards applying a plaster over them in the form of cables. It’s good money chasing bad. Cables are there to enhance what you have, to remove noise and enhance the signal transfer not to act like an EQ. I would urge you to look at the system itself, the room, other ancillaries you may have, etc before looking at cables.
Michael Larsen20th March 2019 at 9:03 am
The balance is towards the more sparkling highs and lack some energi in the lows to compliment the highs from the silver micro. Like the open sound the silver micro has but i feel its to the thinner and brighter side of neutral.
Personally i know use supra classic 2.5 might not sound better but the balance between the highs and lows are better then the silver micro.
Paul Rigby20th March 2019 at 11:11 am
I’m glad you’ve found the solution you were looking for Michael.
Michael Larsen24th March 2019 at 2:56 pm
It’s gonna be the XT40 since the local dealer in Denmark is selling it for just under 6½ pund
Paul Rigby25th March 2019 at 10:41 am
Sounds good, Michael – good luck with the purchase.
Matt19th April 2019 at 1:35 am
You mentioned the Classic 79 in one of your replies; how would that compare to the XT25? Cambridge Audio A500, Marantz CD-63SE and a pair of Rega Jura speakers, if that helps at all.
Many thanks in advance!
Paul Rigby19th April 2019 at 9:48 am
Given the choice I’d go for the XT25 cable Matt but the 79 is still a worthy choice if cash is tight. It was the first ever cable I had in my very first hi-fi 🙂
Matt1st May 2019 at 10:02 pm
Many thanks, Paul. Much appreciated.
Matt4th May 2019 at 9:45 am
If I may ask one final question, having decided against the Classic 79 and instead decided to go for something like the Chord Company C-Screen or the XT25 (having disregarded the Clearway and XT40 due to budget restrictions), how would you describe the differences between the two, and what might be more appropriate for my budget setup?
A chap in Richer Sounds recommended the Clearway (or failing that the C-Screen) as he felt my system would benefit more from warmth and punch than space and detail which the budget amp probably lacks, so isn’t there to reproduce. For what it’s worth I favour a spacious, detailed ‘there in the room’ type sound – but only if my system is capable of producing that, which realistically the amp probably isn’t capable of doing.M
I’d be very grateful for your thoughts. If buying a new amp, say, I’d take my gear in for a demo. That doesn’t seem worthwhile for budget speaker cables….
Many thanks in advance.
Paul Rigby5th May 2019 at 10:06 am
Hi Matt – that advice makes me shudder 🙂 I firmly believe that you should never, ever choose cables as some sort of EQ fix to correct problems in an amp, etc. Correct the amp instead. It’s like taking Paracetamol to dull a bigger problem. That’s not what buying good quality cables is all about. Good cables are there to reveal more music by lowering noise, shifting the music signal successfully and quickly, etc. If you are ever told to buy this or that cable to enhance this or that frequency of an amp, speakers, CD player, etc then you need to buy a different and better quality hi-fi component. Also, if a cable adds a tonal colour to your hi-fi, then choose a different set of cables. Cables should be transparent. They should never ‘add’ anything. That said, both QED and Chord offer excellent products and I would encourage you to buy the best you can afford. I’d only pick the QED because I know that product.
Matt5th May 2019 at 9:53 pm
Many thanks again, Paul. Makes sense and is food for thought.
All the best.
Gavin Robinson24th September 2019 at 1:20 pm
I have bought the XT25 and wonder if the internal core threaded right through the centre of the leads serve any purpose. Do they need to be chopped off at the point of connecting to speakers and amplifier, thank you.
Paul Rigby24th September 2019 at 3:21 pm
Hi Gavin – are you looking to open up the cable and do a bit of surgery? Can you elaborate please?
Gavin Robinson24th September 2019 at 4:12 pm
No, just wondered if I left the internal core, or cut it so the bare wire was wound together without the core being there at all. Might this give better quality.
Also wondering what the function of it might be,
Paul Rigby24th September 2019 at 4:50 pm
Sorry Gavin – I’m being particularly thick today. When you say internal core what do you mean? Can you refer to an image in the review as a reference?
Gavin Robinson24th September 2019 at 4:59 pm
The hollow LDPE filler you refer to, thank you.
Paul Rigby24th September 2019 at 6:52 pm
Gotcha – in short, Gavin, I wouldn’t touch anything. You would risk damaging the sound quality. Let it be and enjoy the sonics you get from this value for money product 🙂
Gavin Robinson24th September 2019 at 7:49 pm
Ok, thank you. Will do, Gavin
Philip Harris30th March 2020 at 11:35 am
Cables have pulled out of the jack plug of my QED XT25, How do I reconnect?
Paul Rigby30th March 2020 at 12:03 pm
Hi Philip – have they snapped off or has the plug just unscrewed itself perhaps? Can you disassemble to see?
Michael Larsen6th April 2020 at 9:23 pm
Wondering what the alternative to Qed xt25 is ?
Paul Rigby7th April 2020 at 11:40 am
Tellurium Q Blue is excellent although a mite more expensive.
Michael Larsen7th April 2020 at 11:59 am
I can’t see your reply to:
Wondering what the alternative to Qed xt25 is ?
Tellurium Q Blue is excellent although a mite more expensive.
Tellurium Q Blue is to expensive. One of the places wsheer i buy cable has the XT40 £7 but is discontinued so XT40I might be alot more expensive
Paul Rigby7th April 2020 at 12:08 pm
Ah, you mean unterminated? Then I would stick with QED which offers great value.
Michael Larsen7th April 2020 at 12:11 pm
I need 2×4 meters xt25 or 40i? I don’t want to spend more than £6-7 or what the XT25 costs
Paul Rigby7th April 2020 at 12:40 pm
Is that £6-7 per metre? I think the XT25, unterminated, would better suite your budget.
Michael Larsen7th April 2020 at 1:31 pm
yes thats £6-7 pr meter, in Denmark Chord C-Screen cost £8 pr meter but at futureshop and richer sound it costs £5 pr meter but i don’t think they ship to denmark
Paul Rigby7th April 2020 at 3:13 pm
Chord would be an obvious alternative yes and it QED is not your thing then certainly look there but if shipping is an issue, go QED.
Michael Larsen7th April 2020 at 3:18 pm
Im shure shipping won’t be a problem 😉
Michael Larsen7th April 2020 at 10:59 pm
qQED XT25 it was it goes well wioth my Qed performance 40i interconnetcs
Michael Larsen23rd April 2020 at 10:12 am
Qed xt25, not out of phase, daam the sounstage sounds different, as if it’s out of phase, it’s so much more 3d sound, almost scary (old cable Supra classic 4)
Michael larsen23rd April 2020 at 10:20 am
My fault left out of phase red+ to black- on the speakers
christian ortlepp12th May 2020 at 11:57 am
it will be very interested to know, if it is harmonized with my wharefedale 11.2.
my low budget cable blows the bass…
Paul Rigby12th May 2020 at 12:26 pm
It concerns me a bit that you’re blaming the cable for bass issues, Christian. Cables are really there to enhance what your hifi is already doing, not to change the sound. They’re not EQ products and should be used to mask an underlying hifi problem. Hence, maybe you need to look elsewhere first, to correct any fundamental problems and direct your available budget there instead.
Gavin Robinson12th May 2020 at 12:40 pm
I’m happy with XT25 cables through a cambridge CXA60 amp and monitor audio bronze 1 speakers.
christian ortlepp12th May 2020 at 12:52 pm
The bass blowing isnot big… it is a nuance…
There is no sharpness, room is white open, only a little overstatement in the upper bass area…
i think, i will need an upgrade for the stands…
the stands are very important to limit the vibration energy..
Paul Rigby12th May 2020 at 4:48 pm
Hi Christian – I would look at the balance of your current hi-fi system in terms of individual components and how they’re working together and also your room in terms of how the speakers are performing within it. Good stands are important too, sure.
Christian Ortlepp12th May 2020 at 5:47 pm
The room is very important, Power supply and Power Strip. All this Things are fine.
Now i will optimize cheap.
My wharefedale 225 are Magic with biamping. Now 11.2 will be upgraded too
Michael Larsen22nd December 2020 at 12:27 pm
I found something that is better and they say burn in time is 150-200 hours (5 hours every day in a month) bi wired at the speaker end inakustik bfa plugs with red and black plastic cover, Canare 4s11. Check it out Paul. Highes sound different a little louder but very well defined, more bass, to me it sound a little tigher and a little better controlled, don’t change in the midrange when playing loud same sound signature all that and what people notice should change after 150+ hours of burn in, compared to qed xt25