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December 2018
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere Review!
Accusound XD Interconnect, Digital Link, And XD Loudspeaker Cable
Transmitting signal to the next component with as little change as possible.

Review By Tom Lyle

 

Accusound XD Interconnect, Digital Link, And XD Loudspeaker Cable

 

  Steve Seropian, the CEO and founder of Accusound, has been manufacturing and selling Accusound cables since the beginning of the 21st century. Besides manufacturing cables for audiophiles and the pro music market, Accusound designs and manufactures cables for an impressive list of high-end studio microphone manufactures, which have included brands such as Telefunken, AEA Ribbon Mics, Lucas, ADK Custom Shop, Black Spade, and Upton Microphones.  According to VP of Marketing Bill Benoit, Accusound prides itself in making audio cables, and only audio cables, saying that "our mission has always been to offer a more complete connection to music and audio through cables that provide accurate imaging, frequency response, dynamic range, and low noise. Each Accusound cable is purposely designed and built from the ground up to meet these criteria and provide the purest possible audio connection". One might think that this sounds like a typical manufacturer's ad-speak mixed with some hyperbole, but in fact, their method of designing cables happens to be in line with my way of thinking about all types of audio equipment -- that measurements might be a good way of leading a designer down one path or another, but Accusound uses listening test as the ultimate method to measure their cables. I agree with these methods. The ultimate measurement tool of a component's performance ought to be one's ears.

 

Flagship
Accusound has three lines of high-end audio interconnect and speaker cables. Their HD Series is their most affordable, in the middle of their line is their SL Series of cables, and at the top of the list is the XD Series, which is their flagship audiophile cable and the interconnect and speaker cables which I review here. Accusound says that the XD Series "is designed to offer ultimate performance for reference level systems" which use a silver/copper hybrid design. They claim that in listening tests pure silver cables couldn't outperform this hybrid design and found that they could "compete against anything else available at any price". When I got around to installing the cables in my system I found the cables themselves to be much more flexible than any other flagship cable that I've been offered for review in the recent past, and this flexibility made connecting each component much, much easier than some of these other top cables, some which made me suffer through connecting a cable that had the compliance of a pipe-cleaner, often with the circumference of a garden-hose, along with ridiculously large connectors.

The Accusound XD Series cables were much easier to manipulate and attach to the inputs of all of my components. Plus, their connectors, whether they be RCA or XLR, were slim enough to fit the rear panel connectors of every component in my system. Accusound cables look pretty nice, too, in a sort of understated way, and these good looks are definitely a plus when an audiophile drops this much money on a set of audio cables! I used both XD Series balanced and unbalanced interconnects between my Pass Labs phono preamplifier and a number of linestages, including the recently reviewed Nagra Classic Preamp, and the Merrill Audio Christine Reference, and a Mark Levinson No. 523 full-function preamp. When I received the cables, the Best Of 2018 Blue Note 2018 Award earning McIntosh MC611 monoblock amplifiers that I just finished reviewing were still in my system, and so I used a set of XD Series balanced cables for them, and when I switched to either the Merrill Audio Element 118 monoblocks that were the subject of my next amplifier review, or my reference Pass Laboratories X350.5 amp, I used these same cables. Between the recently reviewed (and Blue Note Award winning) EMM Labs DA2 digital-to-analog converter and linestage, I used either the XD Series balanced XLR or unbalanced RCA, depending on which linestage that was being used in the system at the time.

 

XD Series Silver Hybrid Tri-Conductor Interconnects
The Accusound XD interconnect's connectors on their unbalanced cables use lockable RCAs with a 9.3-millimeter Eutectic cast copper alloy with an alpha center pin. They have an alloy body and use a locking collet. The geometry of the cable is a twisted tri-conductor. For the balanced XD Series interconnect cable, they use a "high performance" XLR connector that is gold-plated on both the male and female ends. They use a eutectic cast brass alpha center pin, a copper alloy body, and locking collet. The connections use Teflon insulation. The conductor material on all XD interconnects, as I mentioned above, uses hybrid silver/copper blended strands. The conductors are sealed with "audiophile grade" insulators for "pristine signal integrity", says Accusound. The interconnect's dual shielding system uses 100% tube on semi-conductive vinyl over the conductors, also applying a hybrid silver/copper braid shield as an extra layer of protection from outside interference. The Accusound interconnect's jacket is made of PVC, which is externally encase with nylon braid, which adds another added layer of protection. Inside are three 22 AWG hybrid silver/copper conductors which provides a low-resistance signal flow and fast rise time. The "high-grade" black-nylon jacket of the interconnect is woven over the outer PVC to "protect the cable against harmful agents that can penetrate PVCs".  Accusound also says that their cables are RoHS complaint (Restriction of Hazardous Substances complaint).

 

Accusound XD Interconnect, Digital Link, And XD Loudspeaker Cable

 

Accusound XD Speaker Cable
First, I used a 12" run of Accusound XD speaker cable between my reference Sound Labs speakers and the McIntosh MC611 monoblocks that I was reviewing, then for the Merrill Audio's Element 118 monoblock replaced those amps, and lastly between the Sound Labs and my reference Pass Labs amp. The speakers have only a single set of speaker posts, so a bi-wire pair of cables was unnecessary. The connectors of the XD speaker cable on my sample were FP-201(R) Furutech (Alpha) spades. Their stock connectors are BFAs, but spades are available. They feature rhodium plating over pure copper. Accusound says that these spades (or BFAs) are "specially designed to increase surface contact area for a more stable transmission, and a unique main body design ensures very firm wire connections and is also treated with Furutech's (Alpha) Process to minimize transmission loss". The geometry of the speaker cable is twisted dual conductors with an AWG size of 12. The conductor material is made of hybrid silver/copper blended strands, and the jacket of the speaker cable is PVC that is externally encased with Tex-Flex nylon. As with their XD interconnect, this jacket material is applied over the outer PVC. And like the interconnect, their speaker cable is manufactured under RoHS compliance.

 

Accusound Digital Link
Accusound doesn't offer different levels of digital cables as they do within their interconnect and loudspeaker cables in HD, SL, and XD lines. They explained to me that this is because with interconnect and speaker cables they can make cable reaching different plateaus of performance that all still deliver the music in its entirety, and so if one graphed analog performance it would be like a ramp. But a digital signal is different, because much like its graphical waveform, it is stepped. Therefore, its acceptable performance is stepped. And so, there's a point in which its performance will be either acceptable or unacceptable in an audiophile system. This might be an oversimplification, but when one gets to that line or higher, it's delivering the music, and when its below it, it's not. Digital's graph ends up looking like a flat line at zero until the threshold which it would be a vertical line, and then above that, a flat shelf.

 

Accusound XD Interconnect, Digital Link, And XD Loudspeaker Cable

 

Accusound's Digital Link cable includes an "ultra-pure" high strand count copper conductor in their single-ended RCA cable, and a "high-strand count" hybrid silver/copper conductor in their balanced cable. They use an "audiophile-grade" polyethylene insulator and a double shielding system that uses two layers of protection for "100% coverage". In addition, Accusound says that the cable ensures minimal crosstalk and maximum RF-rejections in digital data transfer. It has a "high-grade" grey Tex-flex jacket which is applied over the outer PVC. In their single-ended cable they use a gold-plated connector, and the balanced cable has G & H silver pin XLR connectors. Silver solder is used in both, which they say ensures the use of similar metals at the transfer points from connector to conductor, and like their other cables in their line, the Digital Link is nice and flexible which made routing and connection much easier.

 

First Time
The first time I heard the XD line of Accusound interconnects was when Accusound's Steve Seropian and his VP of Marketing Bill Benoit came to visit my home just outside of New York City from their offices in W. Bridgewater, Massachusetts, which is located about 40 minutes south of Boston. At that time, I was reviewing the Analogue Artisan A1 turntable with remote VTA/SRA. This turntable's wires from the cartridge end in a connection box with RCA outputs, therefore leaving the user to choose his or her own interconnects. For my review I started out using an older set of Cardas cables to connect either the Gold Note Tuscany or the Etsuro Urushi Cobalt Blue low-output moving coil (MC) phono cartridges to my Pass Laboratories XP-15 phono preamp. This older Cardas cable is a more than decent cable, and it certainly cost enough back in the day to warrant its inclusion in my system. But to be honest, I wasn't thrilled with its overall sound I was hearing with it used as a connection between the turntable and the phono preamp. I could hear the turntable's sonic potential -- this was, after all, an analog setup using a $45,000 turntable – so I could still hear many of the characteristics of its excellent sound, but I could also tell that much of its detail and soundscaping capabilities were missing. Steve and Bill brought down a crate full of Accusound cables to audition.

We started our listening session with a Japanese pressing of Roxy Music's Avalon. This album is a great demo disc. The sound quality on this record is first-rate, the best version of this album that I've heard on vinyl. And even though every instrument on this record sounds as it is bathed in reverb, its overall sound make this record perfect for testing equipment. The production team at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas gave it a lush sound that takes advantage of being played on the best systems available, as the frequency response is excellent, whether we're discussing its crystalline treble or tight, seemingly bottomless low-end, and all the instruments and voices on the album fill a huge soundstage. After we listened to the first few tracks of the record with the older cable in place, we switched out this cable with the Accusound XD interconnect.

All three of us in the room looked at each other in amazement. We then took turns sitting in the "sweet spot", but it didn't matter where we were seated, as long as we were in front of the Sound Lab Majestic 545 speakers, we were able to hear the improvements that the XD interconnect made. The soundstage and imaging we heard were the star of the show. Bryan Ferry's voice was a rock-solid image of a talented human being singing, centered between the two speakers. Surrounding him were the background vocals and all the instruments, separated in the space of a huge soundstage, painting a detailed sonic picture before us. Andy Mackay's multiple sax overdubs and Phil Manzanera's ringing and phased guitar were in their own compartments of this soundstage, but at the same time they were able to envelope us in sound. I had fun watching the others take their turn in the listening seat, pointing to each instrument as they appeared within the front soundstage.

 

 

Personally, I find the album to be too sappy, too much like when jazz-rock fusion turned to smooth jazz, and so I enjoy calling this album adult contemporary Roxy Music. I'm a huge fan of Roxy Music's early output. But there's no denying that this album sounds great on a good stereo, even though I find the music forgettable. Please, this is only my opinion – I hope fans of this album don't send me letters defending it, because as far as our audition was concerned, it didn't seem to matter. This was because the album acted as a showpiece, not only for the spectacular analog setup I was auditioning, but for the Accusound XD interconnect, which seemed to let every bit of the signal pass through it, especially when using the low-output moving coil Tuscany cartridge, sold by the Italian high-end manufacturer Gold Note. The cable seemed to be able to accurately interpret what was in the grooves of the record and transferred this sonic magic to my phono stage with the band's art totally intact.

After this we replaced all the other interconnects in my system with Accusound XD interconnects. We used an XD balanced interconnect between the excellent EMM Labs DA2 digital to analog converter and the linestage, and the same type of cable but a bit shorter in length between the preamplifier and power amplifier. A little later in the review period I switched to an unbalanced Accusound interconnect between the DAC and linestage, it depended on which preamp was in the system at that time. While Steve and Bill were still here, we listened to a version of T. Rex's Electric Warrior that I purchased from HD Tracks. We played the T. Rex file through an updated version of J. River Media's digital player on my computer, connected to the EMM Labs via its USB input. This is another album that I often use as a demo, but luckily this album also happens to be one of my favorite rock albums from this era. Producer Tony Visconti is likely one of the reasons why this album's sound quality is superb --  I've mentioned it before in other reviews that Visconti's style seems to be "a place for everything, and everything in its place".  Mr. Visconti somehow manages to have very little overlap in not only the frequency range of a voice or instrument, but its timbre, dynamics, and all the other types of traits that we audiophiles enjoy discussing.

The Accusound interconnects were able to take advantage of this fine recording, and to perform the same type of soundstage and imaging improvements as I described previously, along with what I can only describe as a level of transparency that was missing with the cables that the Accusound cables replaced, which were a mix of very good cables from various manufacturers. I think if one decides to spend $5,000 on a single interconnect there is a certain level of performance one is going to expect. Listening to the playback of the T. Rex album was certainly enough evidence for me that the Accusound interconnects are worth every penny, because they exposed certain details that I couldn't hear before, but without ever sounding etched, or as if I was holding a sonic microscope up to the recording. The details were on selections I heard many, many times before, but now I was able to hear these details without having "concentrate" as much, to lean into the music as some say.

At the same time, traits such as microdynamics were increased, separating the apparent volume between instruments and voices occurring simultaneously. In a word, the Accusound interconnects sounded like I could hear more music, as they revealed the intentions of the musicians, engineers and producer behind the performance more easily. As I already mentioned, before I installed the Accusound interconnects my system certainly didn't sound bad. All the qualities that audiophiles including myself love to hear from our high-end systems were already there, the investment in time and money that I made were audible before I was visited by Steve and Bill. It was just that their Accusound interconnects made it so I had to exert much, much less mental energy to hear these qualities. 

Later in the audition period I connected Accusound's single-ended digital cable terminated on both ends with RCAs, which is a 75 Ohm cable optimized for the S/PDIF transmission standard. Accusound also makes their Silver Digital Link, which is terminated with XLRs for an AES connection, which is more common in professional studio gear or very high-end audiophile components. I connected the single-ended cable between the coax output on my OPPO UDP-203 Blu-Ray player and the EMM Labs DA2 digital processor's coax input. The Accusound Digital Link is a good-looking cable, with a grey outer sleeve, and a green band around it with the company and model name. It is also a very flexible cable, similar to Accusound's interconnects. Also similar to the XD interconnect are many of its sonic characteristics.

 

 

I spent an entire afternoon and part of the evening listening to most of the music on Genesis' 1970-1975 box set, which includes not only a newly remixed CD of every Peter Gabriel era Genesis album, but also a DVD-Audio of every album from that era, including Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, plus a disc titled Extra Tracks. Listening to so much Genesis in one day was not my intention, but I ended up listening to and enjoying a good portion of what is included in the box -- and was blow-away be the sound quality that the Accusound Digital Link afforded my system. Although, because of the nature of the beast, that I was hearing simply a digital transport feeding a signal to a DAC, I think the sonic end result was that hearing more of what the sonic capabilities of the EMM Labs converter more than anything else. I guess what I'm trying to say is that a signal transmitted through a digital cable isn't the same as one sent through an analog interconnect, and in their description of the Digital Link cable Accusound says exactly that.

That's not to say that I didn't hear the Accusound Digital Link's ability to render an extremely detailed sound from the reference DAC that is in my system. I did. And it did this without ever sounding as if it had an overly detailed sound. It was as if I was listening to exactly what the makers of the particular disc intended for me to hear, without ever sounding clinical. Granted, earlier albums such as Trespass and Nursery Cryme were not recorded with the same level of fidelity as their later albums, but still, all the albums sounded great, as the talent of the musicians were front and center in my mind when listening, not simply the sound quality.

For the last two years I've been using Westlake's extravagant (and extravagantly priced) speaker cable in my system. Although I will vouch for these speaker cables fine performance, I can't with any reasonable sense of a good conscience recommend them to anyone other than those who consider cost no object when assembling a hi-fi system. Accusound had sent me a 12-foot run of their XD Speaker Cable, and when install it into my system I found it to be a surprisingly flexible cable, and from the looks of their silver PVC-clad casing and neatly attached space connectors, extremely well made. I requested this matched pair of cables to be terminated with spades, although they also offer BFA (banana) connectors if one wishes. The Accusound XD speaker cable did not only perform as well as my reference Westlake cable, but in many ways it sounded better. I think along with all the descriptive terms I used throughout this review in regard to their other cables, their major characteristic is transparency.

As far as I'm concerned, this feature is the most important characteristic of not only any component, but certainly cable. All of these other traits that I described are not really traits of the cables but of the components and sources that they are connected to. My reference system might not be state-of-the-art but is composed of very fine components. Reading back what I've written so far it seems fairly obvious to me that when I was discussing the properties of the Accusound cables I was discussing the sonic properties of the front-end and the component chain of my system. And so, unless someone is purchasing or otherwise using a cable to "fix" some particular inadequacies of a component or components (which should not be reasons to purchase a cable in the first place) that's why the number one attribute of a cable, any cable, should be transparency. And perhaps that's why the Accusound XD series of cables, including their excellent speaker cables that I was sent for audition, are not inexpensive.

To make a cable with these properties not only must one use good materials but take the time to research how these materials work together in order to achieve this subjective transparency. With Accusound cables replacing what I had in my system previously, my system sounded better. This was because it was letting each component transmit its signal to the next component with as little change as possible given the electrical and physical limitations of a cable. In a perfect world we'd be able to hear our components connected to each other with no cable between them. In the meantime, we need to use the best cable we can afford in order to come as close to this ideal as possible. With Accusound cable I felt as if I didn't have to worry whether each component was working well with the others because it came pretty darn close to this ideal as I was going to hear for quite some time.

 

 

Reference
The Accusound XD single-ended and balanced interconnects, digital, and speaker cables are not inexpensive. But what I heard when listening to them as part of my reference system revealed to be just that, reference. I urge anyone who is able to afford these fine interconnects first donate to their (or preferably my) favorite charity to help those that are in need. After that, if one was to outfit their entire system with Accusound XD interconnects I would have no problem endorsing their decision to do so. For those not as well funded as these audiophiles, Accusound also has their less expensive lines of cables, their SL and HD series. I'm going to assume that they will possess many of the same sonic traits as their XD series, they just might not just have the same magnitude of these traits. These cables might suit many systems that doesn't reach the same heights as the system I used to test the XD series in this review. As far as Accusound XD series of interconnect and speaker cables go, they receive my highest recommendation. It would make no sense not to do so.  

 

 

Tonality

Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Audio and digital connecting cables

XD Series Silver Hybrid Tri-Conductor Interconnect: 
Connectors:
Balanced - FP-701(G) or FP-702(G) High Performance XLR connectors (Male/Female) Gold 
Eutectic cast brass a (Alpha) center pin 
Brass body and PBT plus fiberglass insulation 
Single Ended (RCA) - Lockable RCA Connector 9.3mm 
Eutectic cast copper alloy a (Alpha) center pin 
Copper alloy body and locking collet: 
Teflon insulation 
Connections: Silver soldered 
Technical Data:
Geometry: Twisted Tri-Conductors
Conductor material: Hybrid silver/copper blended strands
Conductors: Sealed with audiophile grade insulators 
Dual shielding system 
Jacket: PVC – externally encased with nylon braid 
Description:
Three 22 AWG. Hybrid silver/copper conductors 
High strand count conductors 
Audiophile-grade insulators 
High-grade black nylon 
RoHS Compliant 
Price: 0.5M Interconnect $3,999, XD 1M Interconnect $4,999 , XD 2M Interconnect $7,999, XD 3M Interconnect $10,999

XD Series 12/2 Silver Hybrid Speaker Cable: 
Connectors: FP-201(R) or FP-200B(R): Furutech (Alpha) spade or banana connectors with rhodium plating over pure copper. 
Technical Data:
Geometry: Twisted dual conductors
AWG Size: 12 AWG 
Conductor material: Hybrid silver/copper blended strands
Jacket: PVC – externally encased with nylon Tex-Flex
Description:
Two 12 AWG. Hybrid silver/copper conductors 
Highest strand count conductors 
Audiophile-grade insulators 
High-grade grey Tex-flex jacket is applied over outer PVC 
RoHS Compliant 
Price: XD 8‘ Speaker Cable $2,999, XD 10’ Speaker Cable, $4,999 XD 12’ Speaker Cable $6,999, XD 15’ Speaker Cable $9,999

Digital Link High Purity Copper (RCA S/PDIF) 
Ultra-pure high strand count copper conductor (75 Ohms nominal impedance).
100% tube on semi-conductive vinyl 
Audiophile-grade polyethylene insulator 
Double shielding system with two layers of protection 
High-grade grey Tex-flex jacket 
Gold plated Amphenol connectors.
Price: Digital Link 1M Copper Digital Coax Cable $399, Digital Link 2M Copper Digital Coax Cable $549, Digital Link 3M Copper Digital Coax Cable $699
Price for Balanced Digital Link Silver Hybrid Conductor, Dual Shielded (Balanced XLR, 110 ohms nominal impedance) (not reviewed): Digital Link 1M Balanced $1,249, Digital Link 2M Balanced $1,849, Digital Link 3M Balanced $2,49

 

Company Information
PS Accusound Cable 
1 Bert drive (unit #4)
West Bridgewater, MA 02379

Voice:: (508) 894-0004
E-mail: sales@accusoundcablecompany.com 
Website: www.AccusoundCableCompany.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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