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Anticables Reference Level Cables Review

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Let’s get my bias against higher gauge speaker cables out in the open from the start. I am not a fan of higher AWG (thinner conductor) speaker cables. Nor am I impressed with higher AWG power cords. Audiophiles have their preferences, and mine is toward lower AWG (heavier conductor) speaker cables and power cables.

Bill O’Connell of Morningstar Audio many years ago sent me some old Bell Wire 12 Ga. solid copper, cotton cloth dielectric wiring to try as speaker cable. This is the wiring you might see if you removed a switch plate or outlet cover on a home built prior to 1940. Some cable cognoscenti pay careful attention to the dielectric of a cable and feel there is none superior to cotton fabric. I didn’t like it. To my ear it sounded thin, low frequency limited, not as rich and full-bodied as cables with heavier AWG. The Bell wire was as close to the entry level line of Anticables as I have used. My listening impressions and judgment of the Anticables’ lower line likely would fall in line with my impression of the Bell Wire.

Another example: in one of my first cable reviews for Dagogo.com I considered a Tara Labs speaker cable that used a single square copper conductor inside an air dielectric. I felt that it had some shortcomings, discussing it in the review as sounding “frequency limited.” Don’t expect me to gush about any cable of similar ilk to those just described, regardless of brand affiliation.

It should not be surprising to see that I am here working with the more robust products from Anticables. Due to my bias I have recused myself from the lower line, so any discussion of sound quality in the entry level of Anticables as compared to either their upper line models or other manufacturers’ products will be conspicuously absent from this review. More serious and well-funded audiophiles will want the best Anticables has to offer. I will be discussing how the Reference Anticables products compare to other fine audio cabling products.

 

Braided power cords, the on ramp to Anticables

Recently the audiophile community is seeing more examples of lower AWG braided conductors in power cords, seemingly following in the footsteps of massive braided speaker cables. A while back I had the opportunity to borrow from a friend an Audioquest Storm Series Thunder/High Current Power Cable that uses three individual braided conductors conjoined between power plug and 15A IEC. I was pleased by the upgrade in performance that just one of these power cords brought to my system, as it conferred more vividness and cleanness. I sought a review with Audioquest, was in discussion with them about what cables to review – then the communication dropped completely. After repeated attempts to get the review back on track, and no response from Audioquest, I decided that it was not going to be fruitful. I will not make a judgment as to why Audioquest dropped communication. Usually it means something has changed with the manufacturer’s agenda or availability of a product.

As an example of the communication black holes that exist in the industry, I received a reply this past summer regarding a speaker from a manufacturer I had contacted about a review a year prior. Though communication had started briskly, the contact fell silent and after several failed attempts to revive the plan, I let it go. Seemingly they recognized their mistake and reestablished contact, but not until four other reviews had appeared. They asked if I wished to do the review. No, not typically after the speaker has made the rounds; it was not that impressive of a design. By that time I had moved on. In a year’s time I will find several products that motivate me to conduct a review and, if the company drags its feet, I’m not waiting around. I have handled enough gear to know there are exceptionally few audio components or speakers that are so good they cannot be replaced by any number of other superb offerings. In similar fashion the falling off of Audioquest opened up an opportunity that resulted in this review.

With the Audioquest review in the dustbin I spied conceptually similar triple braided Anticables power cords on display at AXPONA 2018 and had a chance to discuss them with Paul Speltz, the CEO of Anticables. Paul is the Senior Electronic Engineer for a security and telecom equipment manufacturer. For over 30 years he has been a board level hardware designer specializing in analog circuitry. His design and building experience includes tube and solid-state preamps and amplifiers, passive electronic crossovers, CD transports and turntables.

Paul discussed the development of the product that led to Anticables wiring, ‘an autoformer used to change the impedance of a speaker. Because of its round shape, I called the autoformers the ZEROs, and they are still in our product line today called the ZERO-Autoformers, (which when used with mono block amplifiers, took the place of speaker cables). They were first introduced early 2001. The “ZEROs” were used to increase the impedance of any speaker, so it would be “easier” for an amplifier to drive.

Improvements were made to the autoformer’s lead out wire. Long story short, the wire was so good, it in itself became its own product called “Anti-Cable Speaker Wires”. I named them this because the un-jacketed red-coated wire didn’t look like, cost like, or sound like typical speaker cables. Since “cable” is basically wire with thick jacketing, and since it didn’t use thick jacketing, they were the Anti-Cables.’

When Paul attempted to dress up the wires with jacketing he didn’t care for the sound. According to Paul the jacketing causes dielectric effect distortion that time-smears the music signal. Paul eliminated the jacketing and sold them in their original form with the red coating that serves as a dielectric and protection from oxidization. They struck him as being the opposite of “normal” cables in appearance and performance, thus they became Anticables. The wiring was so successful that it became the company name.

Anticables Level 3 Power Cord

The technical basis for Anticables

12 gauge is the minimum starting point for current demands, according to Paul, so that is where the level 2.1 Speaker Wires begin. Wire gauge size adjusts what Paul calls “current density,” which he describes as a ratio of electrons needed to pass the required current to the free electrons available for the application. Paul says, ‘If too little free electrons are available for the application (too small of gauge wire), the music lacks bass weight and musical body. If too many free electrons are available (too heavy of gauge wire), the music loses resolution. Our Level 3.1 Speaker Wires are a doubled-up build of Level 2.1. Having two 12 gauge wires for each conductor makes a 9 gauge build and provides twice as many free electrons which provides better sound for most modern speaker current demands.’ Remember Paul’s perspective, because informally I had arrived at a similar point many years ago, and I discuss this relative to Anticables products later in this article.

It is the introduction of Anticables’ products with lower total gauge that has piqued my curiosity. I was especially eager to discover what my impressions were of the similar Level 3 Reference Power Cord to the previous Audioquest cable. Frankly, the Anticables power cord’s attributes strike me as even better than the Audioquest I borrowed from the friend, I suspect due to the use of copper prongs on the Anticables power cord. I won’t make a definitive declaration of which is better here, as I have not conducted a side-by-side comparison, but the outcome was clear enough to pursue a review.

It is worth noting Paul’s perspective on the importance of metallurgy in connections: ‘Metallurgy is so sonically important we once shut down a demo room at RMAF a few years ago for a few hours until we were able to resolve the need for an XLR to RCA adapter in the system. That adapter added about 1 inch of brass in which the music signal need to pass through, and that damaged the music so much we were not willing to demo our products until it was gone. I cringe when I see speakers, electronics, and cables using machined brass terminals. Good metallurgy is oh so important.’ I get it; I have handled dozens of connectors, Y cables, splitters, etc., and they have what seems to be a disproportionate influence upon the sound. They are to be avoided nearly at all costs, but if you must use one, get the best quality you can, because a poor connector can ruin a beautiful sound. I discuss this principle further on this article when I introduce a method I have been developing.

The two takeaway points in this discussion of conductor gauge are that it is incumbent upon the audiophile to establish their preference in a cable through comparison. Like speakers and amps, there is a wide variety of technology, and sound resulting from that technology. If you never compare, you never know, and you could be missing out. The second point is that companies change through development, so don’t banish forever a company whose products you dismissed years ago. Companies mature alongside audiophiles; the owners and designers mature and create new products just as we mature and create better systems. Few are the companies that are truly poor long term. Over the decades most of them come up with at least one or two ideas worth consideration. If a name arises from the past, and it has been a while since you looked into that company’s products, you may wish to glance at the current offerings.

5 Responses to Anticables Reference Level Cables Review


  1. ric Escalante says:

    Doug, I have tried with great success the IC Schroeder method and recommend that. I am interested in doubling the speaker cables. Since my amp has 4 ohm and 8 ohm speaker taps, would it be a problem to run two sets using those taps and doubling up on neutral, or would you run a splitter as you do on the IC’s. Thanks for you expertise. I understand there will be no liability other than my own.

  2. Ric,
    God’s Joy to you,

    Thank you for the endorsement of the Schroeder Method of IC Placement. Yes, it seems to be a special method. Just today I put up a system using two sets of double ICs, and it is stunning!

    That is an interesting question! I have never tried that! I also would not try it unless I spoke with the amplifier company and got a very clear answer as to what they thought about it.

    I have often used biwire thus: Both Negative leads on the – terminal and Either both on the 8 Ohm OR both on the 4 Ohm posts. That is usually a safe method. But, again, I would check with the amp maker, as there are so many different designs. Better safe than sorry…

    Your idea is interesting and I will probably check with some amp manufacturers about the suitability of the idea.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder
    Dagogo.com

  3. ric Escalante says:

    Thanks Doug, I think I will try your method first. Makes more sense as I prefer the sound of the 8 ohm tap. Your method of IC connection gets my “tweak of the year” vote, now if others would just use their ears and not their opinions!

  4. Ric,
    God’s Joy,
    I hope the exploration of the speaker cables is successful. I am now running two instances of Schroeder Method ICs and doubled speaker cables on a system for the first time. The experience is unparalleled with the PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn 1 Speaker. Nothing else ever touched the performance level with this horn hybrid. I’m in awe of what doubling ICs can do.

    Another option worth considering as experimental is to combine speaker cables from two different manufacturers, yet use the one 8 Ohm tap. I have done all kinds of swaps with such mixed sets, too on single and biwire speakers. But, I always start with homogenous sets to know where I’m headed.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder
    Dagogo.com

  5. ric Escalante says:

    Thanks Doug, I DID try the doubled speaker cables yesterday with older MIT M1 magnum and MH750 cables. My first impression was that the noise floor had dropped which seemingly allowed me to bump up the volume, the result being that bass (lower, mid) now has a richness (without bloat) that sound more real and very full, especially with strings (bass, cello etc.) Dynamics also increased, as well as a sense of presence. Soundstaging is full and rich and to my ears more real sounding. I am not hearing any negatives, other than cost of two sets, similar to the IC method, but then again it’s always about cost vs performance! I too wondered about different cables, since cables are last in the chain and seem to be used for fine tuning. For me, the Schroeder Method, should be implemented, period. The improvements are huge, are easy to do. I will be interested to hear how buyers of the Schroederized cables via Anti Cables respond. Well done!

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