Tellurium Q Ultra Black II Speaker Cable is the latest incarnation of this British company’s Ultra Black cable and costs £310 per metre. Ian Ringstead plumbs it into his system for Hifi Pig. 

I’m no stranger to Tellurium Q cables and I have been using the highly regarded TQ Ultra Black mk1 version for a couple of years now as my system reference speaker cable. It made perfect sense for me to review the new MkII version, so Geoff Merrigan kindly had a 3m stereo pair sent to me with jumper cables as my speakers are bi-wireable. What goes into Geoff’s cable designs is a close kept secret and to be honest it doesn’t matter. Geoff is a chemist by training, so he has a great understanding of materials and elements. I see him as a magical alchemist who has an ability to get the best out of materials by instinct and hard graft at experimenting. Cable design is a black art to my way of thinking (pun unintended) and the ability to use certain metals as conductors and di-electrics as insulation is not a simple task. Jean Hiraga in the 1980’s concluded that cables sound different and that some sounded far better than others, a fact many disputed then and some still do now. It was no different to the original assumption that if a piece of electronic audio equipment measured better than another then it had to be better sounding. This doesn’t hold water now, but as to why is a mystery.

CONSTRUCTION

There is little to say about the design, the cable comes in mono pairs that are a flat ribbon construction sheathed in an outer cover which is very smart looking, and each end of the cable is neatly finished with a metal spacer and a choice of good quality gold spades or banana plugs can be fitted. Lengths are generally by the metre, and custom lengths are readily made to order.

SOUND QUALITY

The original Mk 1 version of the Ultra Black sounded great to my ear and having used them for a couple of years I take them for granted. Would the new version be much better? The answer is absolutely. When I listen to equipment or cables if I can’t hear a discernible difference then it’s either because there isn’t one or my ears/brain are having an off day. It took a while for the Ultra Black II’s to bed in. Geoff had kindly had them burnt in for me before I got them, but even so, a few weeks on they seemed to suddenly burst into life. They sounded better straight away with more detail and a fuller sound all round, but then one day recently the system just sounded sublime. It wasn’t a one-off event either as this pleasurable experience continued thereon in.

Vinyl and CD both benefitted in equal measure. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Best of the Crusaders’ from 1972 on ABC records. This album is mainly studio recordings but the live track ‘So far away’ written by Carole King really conveyed the atmosphere of the venue it was recorded in. You could picture the clinking of the glasses and the laughter and interaction of the audience as they lapped up this performance. Near the end of the track the horns hold a note for what seems like minutes using an incredible technique that has the crowd whooping and a hollering when it finishes, and the rest of the band join in again to finish. It was a moment that I am sure the whole audience would never forget. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and I wish I had a time machine to take me back to that event all those years ago. The Ultra Black II’s really dig deep into the mix of any tune or song having an uncanny ability to open up warts and all the musicians’ artistry. I listened to many albums I thought I knew inside out, but time and time again they surprised me. It was like when I upgraded myTV from an HD LED set to an Ultra High Definition 4K set. The differences were stunning. My daughter when she first saw the new TV said it was too realistic as it showed an amazing amount of detail as you would expect, but she wasn’t used to the improvements. Another analogy is looking through a camera lens that is out of focus where the image is blurry and then adjusting it so the image snaps into sharp focus.

Layers in the music I listened to that had previously appeared very detailed to my ear just took on a whole new meaning and level of enjoyment. Just like the layers of an onion, you don’t realise how many make up the complete onion until you cut a cross-section right through it. The Ultra Black II’s allow our ears and brain to work as they would in a live environment picking out every nuance and sound cues to create that actual experience, not a close approximation. Let’s just say I was hearing so much more into the performance. I genuinely was hearing microscopic details I just didn’t know we there before. Imagine you are looking at a beautiful painting in an art gallery like I was recently in Edinburgh at the National Gallery. It was a Dutch master artist Gerard Dou. The scene was a room with a young man sat down with a violin at a table surrounded by many objects exquisitely painted and light was coming in from the window, just sublime. It was like looking at a photograph. They say art is an approximation or interpretation by the artist of the real thing or what they see in their mind. Abstract is all well and good but for me reality is key. The Ultra Black 11 does reality.

CONCLUSION

I could talk all day about all the albums I listened to but that would bore you and be of no interest anyway if you didn’t know the music or like it. What I can state is that the Ultra Black 11 cables are currently the best I have heard in my system and I will sorely miss them if they go back. At £310 a mono metre they certainly aren’t cheap and the 3m pair I had would cost £1860. In the context of my set up that equates to about 10% of its value, so it is not a ridiculous overspend or imbalance. If you are serious about Hifi and love your music then great cables to finish it off are not just de rigeur (a fashion statement), no, they are essential. Geoff and his team are once again to be congratulated on a fabulous design and addition to his range.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality:  Excellent for the money.

Sound Quality: To my ears they were spot on and currently are my reference in my system. Oozing quality and detail without ever drawing attention to themselves as the music just flowed.

Value for Money:  As stated earlier not cheap. If kept in the context of the value of your system or budget, then go for it. You can buy them and have gone way over the 10% rule and still be happy. The key is to as always ask your friendly dealer to loan a pair out to try at home.

Pros:  Excellent organic sound that is brimming with detail and depth.

Cons: Just the price. 

Price: £310 a metre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Ringstead 

Review Equipment: Luxman PD300 t/t, Jelco SA750 arm, Ortofon Quintet Black mc, Gold Note PH-10 and PSU-10 , Luxman D-05 cd player/dac, Lime Tree audio pre amp and Temple Audio mono blocks with supercharger PSU’s, Audio Physic Avanti 111 speakers, HiFi Racks podium slimline rack, various mains leads from Missing Link etc, TQ Ultra Black speaker cables, Way, Chord and Missing Link interconnects. GIK bass traps.

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