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X-1 interconnects

as reviewed by Larry Cox





Ensemble Figura.

E.A.R. 509 amplifiers and E.A.R. 864 preamplifier both with a mix of Mullards, Telefunkens, JJ Electrics and a mish-mash of whatever gets good sound out of the system, and an ATC SIA 150 integrated amplifier.

Audio Note CD3.1x CD player. Amazon Model 2 turntable with a Moerch DP6 arm and a vdH retippted Koetsu Rosewood Standard.

Ensemble Dynaflux and Calrad balanced interconnects. Speaker cables are either Ixos 6003 or Belden 1219A.

A Lovan Classic Rack, Townshend Seismic Sink, Calrad balanced microphone cable as an interconnect, Silver Audio Silver Bullet 4.0's, assorted Vibarpods, Final Labs Daruma III isolation bearings, Black Diamond #3 and #4 cones, with Black Diamond Whatchamacallit's, DH Cones, Discsolution, ASC Tube Trap Bass Trap and assorted other stuff. I hear the differences these items make, but only use them to optimize if the review isn't going well. Too much work to swap out a piece and balance it on Darumas and then take that out and plop the next component on the Daruma's again. Using all these consistently is a pain as what works with one component isn't a welcome addition for another.


Cables make differences, which frequently are not the same as improvements. The result of a cable change isn't an upgrade from coach to business class, but a move from one seat to another. The sonic difference may amount to a upgrade, but often it's more a change of sonic character than a complete transformation. The Oritek X-1 interconnects retail for a whopping $249 a meter with RCAs, a bit more for balanced connectors, a bit less for "bulk purchases," which means two or more. Their price doesn't hint at much, which is nice. These are very good cables. They are not "very good for the price," they are just very good.

The X-1s deserve a worthy review, but I'm challenged to put together words and images to describe my process of discovery. With the sleep deprivation associated with having a two-month-old baby, I'm sometimes challenged just to stay awake. With more sleep, I could rapturously sing the praises of the X-1s, as they merit a song, but it'll probably be a while until I'm able to be rapturous about much more than sleep. Nevertheless, I think it's important to let you know how good these cables are. This is my way of saying that this will be a short review, but no less enthusiastic than a longer one might suggest.

Experiencing these cables is a bit like hiking at altitude, and I don't mean 6000 feet. It's more like hiking at 11,000 feet, where the air is thin and bracing and there seems to be less gravity as well as less sun cover. There's a great sense of openness, light, and expansiveness. There's a distinctly different sense of aliveness. Dynamics seem unfettered from sea-level gravity. Things move a bit faster, and with more "sun," there seems to be more to see/hear. The X-1s have a sense of "lightness" that allows you to hear much more than you'd expect out of a $200 cable, or even a $600, $800, $1000, or $1200 cable. They're that good.

For those who have been at altitude, you know that the first couple of days can be hard. Rather than feeling more alive, you're sucked down into lethargy. That's not the part of altitude acclimatization that I'm talking about. Once you've become accustomed to breathing at 11,000 feet, the air is clean and brisk, and breathing seems to energize you. That's the sensation I'm talking about. Music seems to have all kinds of space with the X-1s. Images are more delineated, and musical lines are clearer and more obviously drawn without losing perspective. The frequency response is flat, with very little congestion in any part of the spectrum.

The X-1s do not impart the loveliness that some cables do. They don't have the kind of sound that will make you melt into your La-Z-Boy. Instead, you'll be engaged with the music, with a measure of excitement, wonder, and surprise. The treble extension is very good, with loads of detail, but that detail does not seem forced, etched, or exaggerated. The failing of the X-1s is something you might find objectionable in a $1200 cable, but certainly not in one that costs $249, and that failing is just a bit of crispness at the top end.

Their bass is also quite good. It goes deep and retains texture, albeit with a bit of lightness. This is the only other aspect pf the X-1s that really warrants criticism, although not too much. I heard a deeper dip in the bass strings of Ry Cooder's guitar on the gospel perennial "Face to Face Shall I Meet Him," on his album Jazz. The next track, "Pearls/Tia Juana" showcased the X-1s' clear, clean bass. Their bottom end, while fast, sounds slightly "cleaned up." I don't mean to suggest that it is sterilized or synthesized, but it's better "lit" than that of my reference cables. At altitude, you get a bit more light than you get at sea level. Maybe I should say that the X-1s sound alive. Their speed and dynamics is coupled with an openness that suggests the sound of live music. Is that liveliness a coloration? Maybe, but it wore well for the two and a half months I had the X-1s. Was it a problem? No. I stopped noticing it within a short time.

Compared to the similarly-priced Silver Audio Silver Bullet 4.0 interconnects, the X-1s sounded less sweet and more fast and detailed. Though I still think that the Silver Bullets are good interconnects, the comparison left me with the sense that the X-1s were more authentically transparent. My EFF Supras, which retail for about $140, seemed like a good value when I first got them, but the X-1s are three or four levels higher in performance. Given their price, spending less on interconnects seems like a really bad idea, and spending more seems unnecessary. In a final comparison, I preferred the X-1s to my $1400 Jena Labs interconnects in most respects. The X-1s had more detail and liveliness, and the quality of their imaging was much higher. The Jena Labs cables were clearly built much better, and were more robust. For $249, you're not going to be able to tow cars with the X-1s, and you may need to be careful how you bend and twist them, but their performance was a complete surprise.

At this point, you may be thinking Larry's going to say he's buying a set, right? I'm not. Why? Because I heard a prototype pair of the soon-to-be-released X-2 cables. These have a slightly more relaxed sound, with a less lit-up bottom end and none of the ever-so-slight crunch I heard on the top end of the X-1s. The X-2s had a very seductive warmth and moved a bit toward loveliness without getting syrupy. Both cables sound extraordinary, and their value is even more extraordinary. Larry Cox

X-1 interconnects
Retail: $249 a meter

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