Interconnect Cable of the Year
The Chord Company Sarum Tuned ARAY
Chord’s original top cable – Sarum – was already one of the best-received interconnects from the brand when the company announced its Tuned ARAY upgrade. And it really is an upgrade – users of existing runs of Sarum can have them upgraded to include the ‘TA’ modification. Tuned ARAY is essentially the addition of a short additional ‘tail’ of Sarum cable attached to one terminated end of each cable. This came from experiments designed to reduce reflections in 75ohm digital cables, and Chord found the benefits applied almost universally (loudspeaker cables do not benefit, apparently). In both a standalone test and reviewed in context of a complete Sarum/Sarum TA system, the level of performance is akin to upgrading your amp. Sarum TA improves on overall coherence and especially consistency, bringing the performance of components in the system into line. And if you have Sarum, upgrade it to TA now! (Reviewed in Issue 115).
Digital Audio Cable of the Year
AudioQuest Diamond USB cable
High-performance digital audio cables are inherently controversial; some objectivists argue that digital audio cables cannot possibly affect sound, while observational listeners often confidently insist well-designed digital audio cables can and sometimes do make for readily apparent and highly beneficial sonic differences. We at Hi-Fi+ side with those who think cables make a difference and AudioQuest’s terrific flagship Diamond USB cable makes a perfect case in point. Diamond USB features solid perfect-surface silver conductors, foamed polyethylene dielectrics, a three-layer carbon-based noise dissipation system, and AQ’s signature 72V DBS (dielectric bias system). The result is an audibly superior USB cable that offers exceptional retrieval of low-level details and three-dimensional soundstaging cues in the music, which also conveys a heightened—indeed, almost ‘sculptural’—sense of rock-solid imaging. In short, Diamond USB fosters what one staff member termed, “a whole different level of vital connection to the music.” (Review on www.hifiplus.com).
Loudspeaker Cable of the Year
Crystal Cable Absolute Dream
Like most of the winners in this cable section, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream loudspeaker cable is probably best thought of as just one link in a far longer chain. This is best used in context of a complete Absolute Dream cable system. Nevertheless, the monocrystal combination of gold-plated silver and silver-plated copper cables, clothed in Kapton and PEEK dielectric, and all wound in a specific, noise-busting rope lay, is arguably the most obvious product in the Absolute Dream line up. This cable has a sense of absolute authority over the sound, and throws open both the detail and the musical themes in any piece of work. This is a cable that shows the power of music and does that through outstanding image separation and tonal beauty. Expensive, yes, but if you already have the best audio system possible, this can help raise the bar another notch! (Reviewed in Issue 96).
Power Cord of the Year
Nordost Odin 2
Nordost was one of the first brands to really understand the importance of high-performance power cords in a high-end audio system. Once again, best used as part of a complete family of cables from mains socket to speaker terminal, Nordost’s top cable design has recently been completely reworked, with special attention paid to the termination of the cable in the custom-designed Holo:plug connections, as well as the shape and layout of conductors and insulation. The resultant power cord makes a vast difference to overall sound quality, seemingly lowering the noise floor and increasing the dynamic range, spatial properties, and even tonal and textural properties of any connected electronics. Odin 2 took the already outstanding Odin and made the predecessor sound tired and flat by comparison, which is no mean feat. The best doesn’t come cheap and Odin 2 (£13,600 for a 1.5m cable) is no exception. (Reviewed in Issue 128).