Skip to main content

AudioQuest Chicago review

A capable interconnect suited to budget electronics Tested at £78.50 (1m) / $99.95 (1m) / AU$139 (1m)

Audio interconnect: AudioQuest Chicago
(Image: © AudioQuest)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Punchy, smooth and refined – an agreeable choice for any budget hi-fi system

Pros

  • +

    Punchy, smooth, refined character

  • +

    Quality build

  • +

Cons

  • -

    Rivals dig up greater detail and dynamics

We don’t mean to be antagonistic in saying that cables aren’t the most interesting hi-fi products out there, despite their quality being as important to a hi-fi system as they are necessary in the first place. But to its credit, AudioQuest has done its best to create a narrative around its cables. They're named after geographical elements and we certainly think the company’s inspiration behind choosing Chicago as a name and emerald as a colour for this budget interconnect on test here is worth a read.

The psychology of colour would tell you emerald green (and green in general, really) has positive connotations – growth, rebirth, nature, etc – and that shines through the AudioQuest Chicago’s sonic character. It’s likeably punchy, full-bodied and smooth – good traits generally suited to the budget electronics these cables will likely find themselves between.

Sound

Audio interconnect: AudioQuest Chicago

(Image credit: AudioQuest)

In our system, the Chicago conveys the bluesy instrumental in Melody Gardot’s Amalia with decent helpings of solidity and refinement. The cello strings and ‘humming’ have body and substance in what is a nicely focused and present soundstage, while the shakers and delicate strumming that come in beneath her well-focused vocal all manifest with decent clarity.

Something meatier and more upbeat – we go to the extreme with Eminem – plays into the Chicago’s hands. It's a little cruder than the class-leading competition in conveying rhythms and dynamics but it’s controlled with it.

The Chord Company competition on either side of the Chicago’s price point (namely the C-line and Clearway X) are more astute in surfacing subtle textures and dynamic nuances. This places the AudioQuest interconnect a few pegs further down the ladder than it’d probably like to be. But, that shouldn’t detract from its agreeable balance and otherwise capable nature.

AudioQuest Chicago tech specs

Audio interconnect: AudioQuest Chicago

(Image credit: AudioQuest)

Conductor material Copper

Length 1 metre

Dielectric material Hard-Cell Foam (HCF) Insulation

Connector options RCA

That cleanliness is undoubtedly partly down to AudioQuest opting for a solid core long-grain copper conductor over the more typical short-grain, stranded kind – chosen to prevent strand interaction and reduce grain boundary issues that can cause distortion. The ‘Hard-Cell Foam’ insulation is supposedly stiff, helping ensure stable conductance, and is also nitrogen-injected to create air pockets that are not sensitive to absorbing energy or releasing any into the copper.

To further maximise the purity of the signal as it’s being carried down the cable, AudioQuest has implemented its Noise-Dissipation technology here in a bid to shield the cable from any radio-frequency interference.

The good news continues – that tube-covered, braided emerald green and black finish is immediately striking, and further visual scrutiny and usage over our testing confirms the cable’s quality build. The compact, minimalist plug jacket design isn’t as grippy as some, but unless you plan on unplugging them several times a day (like we do over the course of our testing!), practically speaking this won’t present the slightest of issues.

Verdict

The Chicago might not be the most accomplished performer at this price point, but AudioQuest has created a likeable cable here – one that will simply let your (hopefully entertaining) budget electronics do the talking without losing too much.

SCORES

  • Sound 4
  • Build 5
  • Compatibility 5

MORE:

Check out our Chord Company C-line review

And our Atlas Element Achromatic review

These are the best audio cables you can buy

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


Read more about how we test

  • Wolf
    For the love of god guys, are you still into the cable myths, or do you need the commission and advertising?
    I thought the days are gone with this kind of Hi-Fi Voodoo? ;)
    "likeably punchy, full-bodied and smooth" - all subjective and not backed up by any science.
    Show me the data (measurements) and then I might consider spending more than 20 bucks on a cable.
    I would also be convinced by only -1- link, showing a possible audible difference in measurements, done in a reliable setup.
    I haven't found any on the internet so far, but maybe AudioQuest could provide their lab results and why it these cables are supposed to make a difference??:unsure:
    Reply
  • Bloke
    Wolf said:
    For the love of god guys, are you still into the cable myths, or do you need the commission and advertising?
    I thought the days are gone with this kind of Hi-Fi Voodoo? ;)
    "likeably punchy, full-bodied and smooth" - all subjective and not backed up by any science.
    Show me the data (measurements) and then I might consider spending more than 20 bucks on a cable.
    I would also be convinced by only -1- link, showing a possible audible difference in measurements, done in a reliable setup.
    I haven't found any on the internet so far, but maybe AudioQuest could provide their lab results and why it these cables are supposed to make a difference??:unsure:
    Blah blah blah... it's all 'foo'...blah blah blah blind-listening trials, subjective, placebo, A/B... blah. Think you'll grind What Hifi into submission? Doesn't seem to be working...
    Reply