Rod Alexander gets sceptical about ‘The Tellurium Q effect’
A Mexican stand-off
Securing items for review is usually a straightforward affair. One of the parties (reviewer or manufacturer) approaches the other, they agree upon a review of a particular product, manufacturer supplies product and info (price, specs, etc) said review takes place, review item returned/review published, manufacturer basks in glory of the review/accuses reviewer of having ears made of cloth . You get the idea. It’s a method that has survived generations.
Unfortunately, Tellurium Q’s Geoff Merrigan didn’t get the memo. He refuses to provide the specifications of Tellurium Q cables, notwithstanding the fact that they are easily uncovered by any fool armed with appropriate equipment, cutting through any attempts at marketing mysticism.
With the cables safely delivered, I had another nibble at him, making it clear that I could uncover the cables measurements in minutes. He still refused to buckle, bullishly stating that the specs are only half the story. What could the ‘other half of the story’ be? Each set of cables is placed in a room where Tellurium Q staff chant in ancient Sanskrit before the cables are packaged and dispatched? The cable termination is carried out by extra-terrestrial beings? The ‘other half of the story’ was obvious to me. Hype.
Bullshit and hype
I say that as someone who knows bullshit when he hears it – particularly as far as cable hype and fads are concerned, having lived through the solid core cable fad of the 80’s, via numerous others (twin and earth mains cable to hook up your speakers anyone?) The same is true of the Litz fad of the 90’s (and beyond). Clearly another ‘smoke and mirrors’ cable fad must be due…
So things couldn’t have really gotten much worse – until, that is, Geoff cheerfully announced that the cables supplied for review were factory fresh and virginal, giving me the role of benevolent (and highly reluctant) cable burn-in service. “That’s so that you can see how good they are from new and how much better they get with burn in”. Oh gimme a break…
In line with my suspicions, Tellurium’s plain cardboard box revealed its secrets to be nothing more than a parallel spaced pair of conductors in a cheap as chips, not overly flexible, ’hide under your carpet’ type flat dielectric, reminiscent of Mission’s old solid core cable, or Audioquest’s long discontinued F-14/F-18 types. Err…. That’s it. No bizarre geometry, no hosepipe-like construction, no exotic dielectric. OK, parallel spaced conductors will increase inductance, possibly reducing treble energy (depending upon a couple of other factors) the phase relationships are more consistent and predictable due to the parallel spacing, but really, is that it? Almost immediately, I realised the real secret of these much-lauded, £47 per metre cables really was hype.
A reviewer’s lot is not an easy one. Even aside of the domestic strife and regular threats of divorce that ensue when firstly the hallway, then the lounge are turned into warehouse-come-demonstration suites for weeks at a time, there is a principled journalistic obligation to be wholly impartial throughout the evaluation process (even when reviewing a clearly basic product in a marinade of apparent marketing bullshit and hype). Consequently, I put aside my scepticism (and annoyance) and afforded the Tellurium Q Black speaker cable the same objective treatment I afford components not shrouded in their ridiculous voodoo.
This meant adopting my customary regime of ‘dialing myself in’ through listening to a handful of familiar tracks via my usual loudspeaker cable (currently a simple heavy gauge multistranded twisted pair)before comparative listening could commence, listening to brief (sub-60 second) excerpts from one of those tracks 3 or 4 times, before changing over to the Tellurium Q Black.
Now I do everything I can to try and approximate a fair test, taking care to precisely match signal levels, taking extensive listening notes and corroborating my findings with further listening sessions on different days and times, using both identical and different source material. Unfortunately, I don’t always make allowances for my carelessness…
Plugging and unplugging components is always a risk – partially connected components can result in lowered level, intermittent signal or no signal at all, of course. In this case, it was only having changed over to the Tellurium Q that whatever error I had made when hooking up my usual cable became apparent, as with the new cable in place, it was as if a leaden, muddied bass and diffuse, grainy, ‘obvious’ treble quality had been removed. I know that not to be my usual cable’s presentation, so reluctantly, I spent half an hour dutifully checking the connection integrity of all 16 connectors on my speaker cable set, before cleaning all the plugs and wiring it back in circuit in order to dial myself in again, listening to a handful of familiar tracks.
Comparing the two cables again, the comparatively leaden, muddled bass and vague treble of my usual cable remained. Back in with the Tellurium Q cable and the difference was obvious. And what a difference!
Now, Tellurium Q doesn’t need my platitudes, having amassed enough from reviewers across the globe. However, I’m forced to join the hordes singing the praises of these cables, as despite the ‘straight off an OEM manufacturers reel’ appearance, the Tellurium Q Black is a very, very special loudspeaker cable. So special, in fact, that normal hi-fi descriptions are hard to apply. It provided a step change difference in resolution – in what is already a very high resolution system. All too often, the word ‘resolution’ is used as a polite euphemism for ‘brightness’. Not here. The greater resolution on offer is achieved while actually reducing apparent brightness. Instead, music is presented as a coherent, organic whole, with a jaw-dropping sense of realism and naturalness.
It’s a cable that just takes you one step closer to the performers. It’s like being at a small, intimate gig that suffers a power failure, forcing the performers to continue ‘unplugged’. Instruments are far more natural, cymbals have a natural shimmer and nothing sounds, bright, etched or even obviously detailed, just natural, with incredible dynamics.
This is not a bass-light cable, yet it pulled of the trick of making bass sound authoritative, yet pared to the bone, providing wonderful textural information about bass frequency instrumentation.
On first listening, the presence band appeared to be enhanced, providing wonderful depth, space and clarity, but in fact, longer-term listening revealed that effect to simply be more pronounced in that region, with the step-change improvement in acoustic space affecting the entire frequency spectrum.
The Tellurium Q Black didn’t just knock me off my feet, it knocked me off my perch, forcing me to accept that Tellurium Q’s design approach truly advances the art. Not that that crossed my mind when listening – I was too busy enjoying the music and inviting people round to hear how incredible my system sounded.
This cable will reveal what your system does well and what it does badly, either restoring your confidence in your hi-fi equipment, or forcing you to concede that it’s time for an equipment upgrade.
I owe Tellurium Q’s Geoff Merrigan an apology. This is a wonderful loudspeaker cable, providing clarity without being clinical and at times, a startling sense of a being closer to the performance. In fact, I’ve listened to complete system upgrades that have not provided the improvement in transparency and naturalness that the Tellurium Q Black provides. Moreover, I couldn’t give a hoot about the cable’s specs.
Oh, the Sanskrit chanting? It works. I’m a convert.
Author – Rod Alexander