Xindak FS-1 Speaker Cable
|Xindak FS-1 Speaker Cable|
A Reference Cable at a Reasonable Price
26 May 2003
Copper foil with a 24K gold-plated plug and RF interference-proof short circuit ring.
Price: 1 meter pair – $595, Additional meter $150
Bertrand Audio Imports (US Distributor)
49 Fairview Ave.
Nashua, NH 03060
Xindak is a Chinese company that has been manufacturing high quality audio components, cables, and even loudspeakers since 1988, but only recently have they began entering the U.S. audio market. I’m not sure why they chose now to do it, but I am glad they finally took the plunge. I had heard positive reports about the new Xindak SACD tube output player, but I had not heard anything about their other product offerings. Frankly, I didn’t even realize that Xindak there were any other product offerings until I visited a friend of mine, Fred Nadel of Pureaudio (www.pureaudio.net) in Scotts Valley, CA. Fred asked me if I wanted to demo some high performance speaker cables that were new to the United States. Does a baby like candy? How could I say no? That day he sent me home with a three-meter pair of the Xindak FS-01 speaker cables. I have yet to unhook them from my system.
Not much information is included in the FS-01 cable box. My demo pair was terminated with banana plugs at the amp end and spades at the speaker end. The cables have directional marking on small silver cylinders, which precede each end of termination. The Xindak FS-01 retail price is $595 for the first meter with every additional meter being $150.
According to Xindak’s website the FS-01 speaker cable is
“ … is manufactured with 5N single-crystal non-oxygen copper foil that is smelted according to the imported special technology, and adopts the delicate craft of sandwich style. The terminal is fixed with RF inhibiting rings acting as the strong barrier to free radio waves. This type of wire has the characters of excellent analytic capability, fine transparence, superior musical balance, diversified levels, harmonic tones, wonderful hearing, melodic mid-frequency, deep low-frequency and marvelous elasticity and strength.“
In hindsight, this unique description of the FS-01 speaker cables by Xindak conclusively proved to me that an audio manufacturer does not have to have a good grasp on the English language to make a cable that has characters of excellent analytic capability, fine transparence, superior musical balance, diversified levels, harmonic tones, wonderful hearing, melodic mid-frequency, deep low-frequency and marvelous elasticity and strength. Whoa! All I can say is their English is a lot better than my Mandarin. I was jazzed at being able to try such a new product.
I got home from Fred’s at around 11:00 p.m. and did some casual listening comparing the musical sound of my system to his system. This was not really a fair comparison because the retail on Fred’s speakers (over $45K) is more than the retail price of my entire system. But I began wondering if the Xindak cables could really be as good as he said? So at around midnight I decided to hook them up and start breaking them in. Not expecting too much, I started doing some initial listening.
The first disc I put in was Unauthorized by the group Dave’s True Story. This Chesky CD has some delicious female vocal tracks sung by the sultry Kelly Flint. The immediate attribute that was apparent as the music began was that I gained about 2 db of volume (gain) with the addition of the Xindak cables. I had to adjust the volume down a notch on my preamp to reach the same volume level I had before. I never heard such a substantial change in gain when changing out speaker cables in the past. And this was only the beginning.
The next initial sonic attribute that I noted was the amount of detail that these speaker cables let pass to the speakers. The noisefloor of these cables was lower than any cable I had ever heard and these cables were not even broken in yet. I let the system play for about 60 hours straight before I made any real judgments. However, my initial impression of these Xindak cables was positive to say the least.
My Listening Tastes
I listen to a wide range of music, but my hot buttons are jazz and female vocalists. Combine the two and I melt like ice on summer asphalt. I think that Norah Jones deserved every Grammy she won. Anyone that can record a mostly country album in a jazz style with that much soul and be that popular, I simply worship. Not to mention the recording is great for a mass market commercial disc. Blue Note records some very good stuff. The vinyl is also stellar. Additionally, I listen to a lot of Chesky recordings. Many critics knock Chesky for not having ‘A-list talent’. They complain that the Chesky recordings are stellar but the performances are not nearly up to the standards of the recordings. These critics need to enjoy the music and listen to more Chesky discs. They should also remember: “Those that do not have talent tend to become critics.”… Doh! I make no excuses for my lack of talent. Chesky does though have some talented artists. I think David Mamet is a lucky guy to be married to the beautiful Rebecca Pidgeon. She has an angelic voice and a musical style that is all her own. I like using Ms. Pidgeon’s albums as reference recordings because they are recorded well and she speaks with such a Scottish accent that understanding what she says is a good evaluating yardstick for a system’s midrange resolution.
The only thing I could ever fault Jennifer Warnes for is that she has not put out enough solo albums and original material. She could have sung any type of music from opera to punk rock if she wanted to. And those of us who are not opera and punk rock fanatics are very glad she chose to sing folk/pop. Do I need to even mention my extreme attraction to Patricia Barber’s music? Even though I am smitten with female vocalists, I enjoy everything from opera/classical to some heavy metal/punk. My favorite classical composer is Mozart, probably because I had to dissect several of his pieces in college. But enough about me, now on to the review….
After two and a half days of break in, I again (call me a creature of habit) put in Dave’s True Story’s, Unauthorized, and did some critical listening. The Ayre CX-7 in my system is a fine one box CD player that can compete with digital costing two times as much. It has a wonderful synergy with the K-3x preamplifier and V-5x amp. The Ayre sound in total tends to be detailed, fast and remarkably liquid for solid state.
Kelly Flynt’s voice on the Unauthorized CD covers both the upper and lower midrange frequencies. Her vocals sounded more natural, detailed, and open than I have ever heard. This natural midrange came at what seemed like no sacrifice to the bass and treble. Many cables and components that seem to have magical midranges many times achieve these results through certain sacrifices or tricks, such as: rolling off of the treble, enhancing the mid or upper bass, rolling off of the bass, or just plain enhancing the midrange. The Xindak seems to sacrifice nothing to achieve a midrange that is exceptionally detailed and clean. Kelly’s voice was open and alive-sounding on this disc. On other equipment and cables, I have heard her voice sound like it is coming from a hallway, sounding dark and constricted. Not so with the Xindak in my system. The Dave’s True Story disc made me feel like I was in a large church with Kelly Flint’s voice backdropped against a natural, acoustically live-sounding environment. The album was recorded live in a church. The sound of her voice on track 8, is just seductively delicious.
The Xindak’s bass is both deep and controlled. Frequencies that are lower than most of us can hear (Under 30 Hz), I could feel in my bones with the Xindak in my system. Many times I listen casually from my computer situated on the side of my listening room. While working on my computer, I could feel low frequencies in my legs that I had never felt before. The Vienna Acoustics Mahler speakers can play down to 22 Hz, and their two 10″ woofers per speaker are a challenge for many a music system to drive. The Mahler speakers are, above all, musical. They do just about everything asked of a speaker very well. However, any bass problems electronics or cables have will be ruthlessly revealed by the Mahlers. Components or cables with no bass, tubby bass, slow bass, boomy bass, over the top bass, or seriously uncontrolled bass, need not apply to drive the Mahlers. The Xindak FS-01 cables were rock-solid driving the Mahlers. The bass was as tight and clean as I have ever heard the Mahlers driven. They also revealed a certain amount of detail in the bass that I had never heard before. On the Eagles recording, When Hell Freezes Over, I noticed on “Hotel California” that the drum which is introduced early in the song, has an interesting echo texture right before the decay that I had never noticed before in the recording. Listening a bit closer, I realized that this texture I was hearing was not an echo derived from a single drum on every beat, but on a few beats there is a deeper drum that immediately follows the decay of the initial drum beat. I had never noticed this detail before in the recording. This Eagles recording is not my favorite, mainly because I think Don Henley’s vocals are recorded poorly, but some of the instruments themselves are recorded quite well (this extreme contrast of recording quality is what bothers me every time I hear the album). Nevertheless, I could shut my eyes and imagine Joe Walsh playing guitar in front of me during his solo in “Hotel California.” Macro as well as micro dynamics were astonishing. Between some of the insane drums and bass notes on the album, I felt the Xindak cables were able to convey the dynamic range of even the loudest instruments. This observation was confirmed later when I played track 10 of the Titanic soundtrack. This track yielded dynamics from the Mahlers that caused a chill to crawl up my spine. There was a certain effortlessness in the music that flowed from the Mahlers, be it during soft or loud passages. This might have more to do with the Ayre V-5x amp’s vice-like grip on the Mahlers. The Ayre V-5x might be the solid state amplifier to beat in the sub $5000 price range of amplifiers. This amp is a perfect match with the K-3x preamplifier. The V-5x is the first amp that I have owned that was able to control the lower end of the Mahler speakers with incredible authority and sound clean and fast at the same time. The FS-01 speaker cables let the Ayre V-5x dominate the Mahlers like a strict but benevolent mistress without exerting any type of real tonal sonic signature on the music that I could detect.
Next up was Norah Jones’, Come Away With Me. I have this album on CD and vinyl, and if you hear it on vinyl first, the CD is simply a let down (as with most CD’s compared to their vinyl counterparts). I popped it in, and let Norah work her magic. Many copper cables sacrifice top end treble. Some of these cables roll off the top and the midrange seems to come to the forefront. If there is a top roll off with these Xindak cables, I cannot hear it. Xindak does make the FS-2, a copper/silver mixture speaker cable that is more expensive than this FS-01. The FS-2 supposedly gives a little more extension to the top end and provides ever so little more resolution. I have been told that to hear this difference, you need a system with the utmost resolution to make this determination. The upper treble was extended and natural with the Xindak cables. If there is a slight roll off, I could not detect it. And I do not have a silver wire in the signal path in this system. The interconnect I use is Jena Labs Symphony. The Jena Labs Symphony interconnect has been around for many years. Unlike many fad cables it has no gimmicks other than it is extremely pure copper that is cryogenically frozen. The Symphony cables are the most natural sounding interconnects I have tried in my system. Overall tonal balance of my system with the Xindak FS-01 cables was as neutral as I have ever heard my system sound. Past speaker cables that I have owned (some far exceeding the cost of the FS-01 cables), never presented the kind of detail that the FS-01 cables did. With the FS-01, Norah Jones sounded oh so soulful, and I could hear every little oscillation of her voice that was captured by her microphone. During the song “Lonestar”, there is a part where Norah has a harmony accompanist. The harmony is very subtle, and on a mid-fi system one may not realize it is a second singer. Even on a resolving music system, a person might figure that this vocal was overdubbed and only backdrops Norah’s voice. With the Xindak cables, the harmony vocalist is separated from Norah’s voice in the soundstage presentation of my system. Norah’s voice is to the right of the center of the soundstage, and the harmony vocal is to the left of the center of the soundstage. This is a very subtle and resolving achievement for my system.
Playing well recorded live music, showed just how well my system was able to soundstage with the Xindak cables. My audiophile friend Frankenfurter (his nickname is Frankenfurter, I would have nicknamed him Lars but that was already taken) came to visit recently. He brought over some newly released JVC XRCD24s. These are XRCDs that are mastered and mixed at 24bit resolution that are only converted to 16bit in the last step of production. I have a lot of well recorded digital, but I was dumbstruck by these XRCDs. The two XRCD24 albums we listened to were astonishing: Art Pepper,Landscape, and Tsuyoshi Ymamato Trio, Girl Talk. These two digital recordings were as close to vinyl as I have ever heard digital sound in my system. There is lots of hope for 16bit digital, and it is JVC XRCD24! The soundstage on these live recordings was presented with such precision and detail, I knew which way the piano was facing and I knew precisely were all of the instrument players were. At one point during our listening session, I looked over at my turntable to see how much time we had on the side of the record… DOH! My idle turntable reminded me that we were listening to digital. I could not believe the natural musical instrument textures that my system conveyed from these XRCDs. Never had I heard such resolution or organic analog-like instrument presence except on well recorded vinyl.
As I listened to more and more recordings, I noted that the depth and width of the soundstage was deeper and wider than I had heard my system ever convey before. Images were delivered with pinpoint precision with a new found stability and continuity. Instruments seemed to have a more three dimensional organic presence. This type of presence I normally associate with analog. I am not going to say these speaker cables make your digital sound like vinyl, but they do present well recorded instruments with such detail that will make you either appreciate your digital source or desperately want to upgrade it.
My Rega P9 turntable with RB1000 tonearm setup in my system is a great non tweaking turntable. I am relatively new to vinyl, and I do not enjoy constantly fiddling with analog to get it to sound divine. You set this turntable up one time, and it is good to go virtually forever. To get objectively better than the P9, megabucks must be spent. The Benz Micro Glider 2 cartridge is a well rounded cartridge that seems to have a lot of synergy with my P9 and Ayre phono preamp. The Ayre K-3x preamplifier with phono option is an amazingly solid all in one linestage and phono preamp combo. It can have as much as 60db gain in the phono stage. The line stage preamplification is musical. It is not the final word in transparency, but it is somewhere in the same sentence.
Putting on the Come Away With Me LP, I was transfixed by how much dramatically better my analog sounds when compared to my digital. I played side two for my audiophile friend Frankenfurter. Afterward he had a look of disbelief on his face, and said that he always thought Come Away With Me had some sort of grit or noise in the vinyl pressing compared to the CD. This was the first time he had heard the album without the grit or noise. And Frankenfurter has a vinyl setup I drool over. I was dumbstruck by his comment. This is the first time he had heard my system with the Xindak FS-01 cables. Whenever I seem to make an improvement in my system between my preamp and my speakers, my vinyl always gets the most benefit from the upgrade. I have to agree with Frankenfurter, my analogue gained a certain clarity with the Xindak speaker cables.
Build quality of the XIndak FS-01 cables is the only thing I can remotely fault this cable for. The build quality is good; however, the cables themselves can be bent if stepped on accidentally. CDs also make great skeets but doing so makes them ultimately unplayable. A little caution must be heeded when you are stepping around the Xindak FS-01 speaker cables. The sheath around the cable does nothing to protect it against possible damage from traumatic forces. However, this kind of build quality is nothing new to most ribbon/foil speaker cables as they all seem prone to getting kinks. Additionally, the banana plugs do not look quite as sturdy as the spades. Go with the spade option for terminations if you can.
There is an unwritten rule in audio that to get reference audio components, a person has to spend megabucks. Many audiophiles will deny this rule, but they forget that reference means a product designed without compromises. Someone forgot to inform Xindak of this rule. Maybe it just does not translate well into Mandarin? I am not going to say these are the best speaker cables ever made. I cannot make this determination. However, these Xindak FS-01 speaker cables are hands down the most musical, transparent, and just plain tonally correct speaker cables I have ever had in my system. If Xindak made any compromises in designing this cable, I cannot hear them. I am judging these speaker cables in the sub $1000 speaker cable class. In this area, these speaker cables have no peer that I know of. Are they reference? Are they without compromise? Quite possibly, but careful listeners will need to make that determination for themselves. I strongly recommend anyone demo these cables before buying new speaker cables-no matter what your working budget is. The Xindak FS-01 could save you a lot of money, or they may just entice you to spend a little more to get better transparency than other cables anywhere near their price point. Nevertheless, these speaker cables may not work in every system due to their extreme transparency. These speaker cables will brutally reveal any system’s sonic problems in the musical presentation. In the end these cables have revealed to me the sound of the upstream components of my system to a degree I did not think possible for a speaker cable in this sub $1000 price range. These Xindak FS-01 speaker cables make me want to upgrade all of my sources. When will this madness end? I do, oh so love this madness…
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