Ian Ringstead tries out the Tellurium Q Ultra Black XLR interconnects costing £540 for a 1m pair. 

I recently reviewed the Tellurium Q Black II speaker cables and was highly impressed by them. Geoff  Merrigan rang me recently and asked if i’d care to try their Ultra Black interconnects as I now had the Ultra Black speaker cables in my system. Of course, I said yes and promptly received a set of XLR to XLR 1.5 metre cables to use between my ATC pre and Jeff Rowland 112 power amp. Trying out cables at this price is perfectly valid i believe when you have appropriate quality kit and so I happily burnt them in and then started to listen.

I must say the build quality is excellent, as it should be but these give the customer pride of ownership and longevity of use. I used to sell all kinds of interconnects and it was amazing how they differed in quality of build and materials used. Obviously, the cheaper ones weren’t as durable and if used for demonstrations they usually failed after a few months. Of course, in a domestic situation you wouldn’t be changing them all the time, but even so it inspires confidence if they are built to last.

Geoff is naturally secretive about how his cables are made and what’s in them, but states how they are designed on solid scientific principles and not alchemy. They act as filters and dependant on the materials used do sound different. To be honest I don’t mind not having any idea what the cables make-up is and I think it’s just a question of using your gut instincts and experience in materials technology and experimenting with different designs based on your given approach. Jean Hiraga many years ago highlighted that cables sounded different when it was all flat earth and only certain cables were recommended. I like many became intrigued and have ever since tried many combinations from cheap to relatively expensive cables, including interconnects, power cables and loudspeaker cables

I approach cable reviews with as much objectivity as I can. Do they make a difference and indeed is there an improvement in the sound? If they don’t improve the sound, which is the main aim here, then what’s the point. My close friend reckons if a cable is made of quality copper then that’s all that matters and this cannot be improved upon…needless to say I disagree with this point of view and I keep an open mind and use my ears to decide. He is a sceptic and won’t be swayed by any snake oil or wild claims about cable qualities.

I do use good cables and won’t compromise given the level of my ancillary equipment, so the Ultra Blacks from TQ were a welcome addition. Immediately on connecting them up I noticed how clear and detailed they sounded in comparison to my previous cables, complimenting the rest of the system very nicely indeed. My Audio Physic Avanti’s have exceptional imaging capabilities and with these cables in place I was given an even more three dimensional image. Integration from the very top the very lowest frequencies was seamless with a lovely open mid-range that benefited vocals and acoustic instruments. It’s the tiny details and intricacies that make the difference for me when I listen to recordings I think I know inside out and suddenly hear new things and here these details I certainly did with the Ultra Blacks in place. Equipment takes it part here, but cables are the glue that hold it all together I believe and these cables pull an already very good system together to sound greater than the sum of its parts. The Ultra Blacks are not TQ’s top level cable so if these sounds so good then what must the one’s further up the range sound like? (Here’s a review of Tellurium Q’s Silver Diamond interconnects and speaker cables – Ed) Until you hear the better cables you don’t know what you are missing, but once you do hear the improvements, as plainly heard here with these cables, it is very difficult to go back to a lesser cable.

The Ultra Blacks along with matching speaker cables naturally worked in harmony and it is well known that matching cable looms are recommended as the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts and I heartily recommend that if you own the interconnect or speaker cables then you should seriously consider the full loom. I had no problem listening for hours to my system and boredom never crept in, a good sign in my book. So often cable can increase sibilant frequencies or artificially bloat the bass to the point where it sounds unnatural and artificial…not so with these cables.

Sound-wise the Ultra Blacks worked supremely well. Take Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells Two album. I love this reworking of the classic original that everyone will know and prefer it in many ways. As he plays all the instruments and mixes them it is a tour de force of musical achievement. Dynamically it has big swings and the cables clearly showed and highlighted this and could react along with my power amp to the sudden changes in level and intensity. There are a lot of subtle parts in this album; bells, various guitars, keyboard effects etc. and the mix is very complex. If you listen to it on a cheap system you certainly miss all the subtleties and detail and you don’t realise what you are missing until you hear it properly. The Ultra Blacks could unpick the mix like a difficult puzzle and reveal the answers with great aplomb. The Ultra Blacks do a fabulous job of unravelling all the signals and nuances in a recording. 

CONCLUSION

The Ultra Blacks are a conduit to the sound like a motorway (on a good day) compared to a B road. In other words, they allow you to have a faster and more enjoyable journey than on the inferior roads. The Ultra Blacks aren’t cheap and only you the customer can make the decision on whether they are worth the asking price, but my experience with them was very positive indeed. Any dealer worth their salt should allow you to trial them at home in your system to see if they work as you want them to and I heartily recommend that the Ultra Blacks are on your audition list if you are looking for interconnects in this price range. Not everyone has the same tastes in sound and presentation. Believe me I know from my retailing experiences how people differ dramatically at times in perception and expectations of a sound and system balances. The Ultra Blacks for me did just what I wanted them to do and that is to be honest and truthful to the recording, neither highlighting nor hiding anything.

AT A GLANCE 

Build Quality: Excellent for the price.

Sound Quality: Natural, open and detailed. 

Value for Money:  Excellent compared to some far more expensive cables I have heard. 

Pros: If you have a good system then it deserves great cables like the TQ Ultra Blacks. Neutral and natural presentation. 

 Cons: None other than they aren’t cheap, but still offer great value against some other brands.

Price £540 for a 1m pair.

Ian Ringstead

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No part of this review may be published in part or in full without the prior consent of the editor of Hifi Pig 

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