Review: Tellurium Q Black II XLR Interconnection Cables.
Jay Garrett samples the latest interconnects from this Great British cable brand…
Regular readers will know that Tellurium Q's head honcho, Geoff Merrigan, gives nothing away when it comes to revealing the design and materials used in the company's highly regarded cables. However, that doesn't mean there's nothing to say about the latest interconnects from the brand's Black line, the second step up its product ladder.
I have spent quite some time with a pair of XLR cables from the recently announced Black II range, costing £370 per metre terminated. There has been no price hike between these and their predecessors, but there are obvious differences. The first of which is the jacket, which resembles that used on the pricier Ultra Black II and is more pliable and easier to work with. When asked what else had changed in the construction of the cable, Geoff told me that the only part that has remained the same is the connector. This is from Neutrik's XX series, as seen in studios and on stages worldwide.
The conductors, dielectric, shielding and geometries are all new apparently; indeed, the Black II was a ground-up change from the old design. “We have done this despite the increasing costs, by scaling and continuously improving processes”, he explained. “It is not business waffle; it's a real commitment to always be better than before…”
The Black II shares some of the Ultra Black II's DNA in terms of geometry, some design principles and even a fair share of the performance. Naturally, at the Black II's price point, there will be some compromises. Tellurium Q investigated what could be incorporated in the Black II from its higher-end cables. Apparently, there were quite a lot after some amendments, most likely to do with the bottom line. Geoff's mantra throughout the process seems to be, “does the change make an audible improvement?”, and the answer always has to be yes.
Used between my Oppo UHD-205 disc player and Anthem STR integrated amplifier, the Black II XLR interconnect presents bouncy and supple bass, a well-defined midband and clean, smooth high frequencies. This is all the more apparent when you compare them to the outgoing model.
I heard more natural leading edges to high notes and better decay, too, in the opening bars of A Perfect Circle's Eat The Elephant streamed to my Oppo player via Qobuz and Roon. Additionally, this made for a lovely rendition of cymbals, for example. In the same track, snare drums and cymbals seem much more untethered and expressive when compared with the previous iteration of the cable. Also, the piano was additionally blessed with more expression.
This fine high range performance also trickles down to the midband, where both instrumentation and vocals have more room to manoeuvre. Destroying Angels from the upcoming release from Garbage demonstrated this with the layered vocals of Shirley Manson, Exene Cervenka and John Doe – the latter two from Californian punk band X. The original cable showed itself to be a little hazy in the lower mids by comparison, whereas the new version proved more expansive and transparent.
It's good news down below, too. The new Black II has a better defined lower midband and bass, which, when teamed up with the cable's expansive sound staging, presented me with excellent instrumental placement. You get a backdrop closer to what is heard from Ultra Black II than the original Black. Basslines had more clarity, depth and presence than the original, with John Mayer's Live In Los Angeles being given a whole new lease of life, especially Good Love Is On The Way. The Black II served up bass maestro Pino Palladino's tasteful-yet-awesome lick in this performance so wonderfully tight that I had to rewind and enjoy it again.
A raft of major improvements moves Tellurium Q's Black II to the front of the line if you're after a low-to-mid priced XLR interconnect. Noticeably better than before, it sounds smoother and more natural, yet faster and more engaging too. Obviously, interconnects are a matter of taste and system synergy, but this offers a lot for relatively modest money. As such, it's one to add to your audition list.