Skip to main content

QED Reference XT40i review

At this price, you’ll struggle to get your system sounding cleaner Tested at £11/m / $27/m

QED XT40i review
(Image: © QED)

Our Verdict

The Reference XT40i is very much a QED cable: you’ll struggle to get your system sounding cleaner at this price

For

  • Offers system great clarity
  • Precision and accurate timing
  • Great price

Against

  • Best help tie music together better

If there’s one thing hi-fi enthusiasts understand more than normal civilians, it is the value of good cables. Whether it’s speaker wires or the interconnects between your source and stereo amplifier, the difference between a quality pair and those bundled in free of charge at the dealership is chalk and cheese.

Take the QED Reference XT40i speaker cables – for only £11 per metre, they will audibly unlock otherwise unrealised potential in anything from a micro-system right up to the high end. They may also limit the latter quite a lot, but you get the point – if you’ve spent any kind of money on your system, you’ll hear the difference these QEDs make compared with cheap speaker wire.

Any long-term readers are likely to have already come across these cables’ predecessors, with the Reference XT40 having received a What Hi-Fi? Award in 2014. But QED has done more than add an ‘i’ to the name and hit republish.

Build

QED XT40i build

(Image credit: QED)

The nearly 50-year-old British company is introducing its brand new Air Gap dielectric to these 99.999% oxygen-free copper cables, a technology that increases the separation of conductors inside the cable and thus the amount of air between them.

QED XT40i tech specs

(Image credit: QED)

99.999% Oxygen-free copper

Low-Loss Air Gap Dielectric

X-Tube Technology

In turn, this halves the dissipation and capacitance characteristics inside the cable and, according to QED, improves the timing and rhythmic accuracy heard through your system, all while retaining the cross-sectional area ideal for long cable runs.

The Reference XT40i also retains QED’s X-Tube formation, where cable conductors are gathered in a tube-like shape around a hollow insulating rod to equalise current densities, delivering low inductance and presenting a consistent and even load to the amp.

Compatibility

QED XT40i compatibility

(Image credit: QED)

QED is even offering pre-terminated lengths of 2m, 3m and 5m Reference XT40i cables for £110, £130 and £170 respectively, which feels like a good deal considering usual market rate for the service.

It feels an even better deal once you’ve heard what the Reference XT40i can do for an entry-level or mid-range system. Even plugged into our reference kit, it is apparent that QED hasn’t abandoned its reputation for helping produce a clean and insightful presentation.

Sound

QED XT40i sound

(Image credit: QED)

For anyone whose hi-fi is built upon clarity and analysis, these cables could be just the ticket. At times it is as if our system is begging for granular synthesizer pieces, something into which it can sink its teeth and taste each bold square and sawtooth wave as it passes over its palate.

Or if not, then the creeping of a bow across the strings of a cello, or the excess air as it breezes through the mouthpiece of a tenor sax.

QED simply excels in helping hi-fi equipment describe the shape of an instrument, the room it is in and how its sound has been recorded, and the Reference XT40i in no way bucks that trend. 

It speaks about an improved sense of timing as well, and there is a definite eye for accuracy alongside attention to detail about the way our system performs with these cables plugged in. Nothing is allowed to slip, with notes and percussion hit with precision and intention. It isn’t as though previous efforts have been altogether imprecise, but there is an unerring confidence about the way our speakers play here.

In these regards, QED cannot really be beaten for the money. Its fiercest rival around this price is the Audioquest Rocket 11, which was again named our Accessories Product of the Year in 2019. It is marginally more expensive, at £12.50 per metre, but even when using that, our system is reluctant to divulge quite as much information.

But it does offer us more of a musical whole. It is a lot to do with dynamic expression, those leading notes that turn accurate timing into a traceable rhythm, and which help portray a more lyrical, human bent to the music. It’s also a little to do with organisation, and how each instrument is tethered to and interacts with one another – no doubt also aided by a little less space to play in.

The trade-off is that lack of comparative clarity, and that’s the compromise we’d more willingly make. Equally, others will prefer to go the other way, and we can see exactly why. You’d have to spend £18 per metre on Chord Company’s Rumour X to mix the two.

Verdict

If you’re looking to upgrade your system by investing in speaker cables this side of £15 per metre, you should hear what difference each of these can make to your gear. It could be that the QED Reference XT40i is a clear winner in more ways than one.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Compatibility 4
  • Build 5

MORE:

Best speaker cables 2020

Read our Chord Company Rumour X review

Read our QED XT40 review

What Hi-Fi?

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, New York 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

  • abacus
    NO, it’s the other way round, only audiophiles believe the cable manufactures hype, and mistake placebo effect as a factual difference, the rest of the world (Including musical professionals that use equipment that makes even high end HI-Fi sound mundane) deals in fact, however if you can provide independent verifiable evidence that they make a difference, then I look forward to the link, otherwise it would be better to say that it is your belief that they make a difference and not parade it as fact, when you review cables. (Trust is hard to gain but easily lost)

    Bill
    Reply
  • deltadel
    I have to disagree with you in general with you Bill, as in my experience everything in hifi, especially cables, is subjective. A hifi system is a complex equation of everything you can think of. The music source, the components, the cables, the room, the power supply, the weather, the time of day, your mood .......!
    The only safe way is to make a personal comparison in your own system with your own ears.
    Would you compare a Gibson acoustic with a Martin acoustic without listening to them ?
    Hifi reviews help to guide you in the right direction.
    If it doesn't work for you, then it doesn't work for you.
    Reply
  • Hifiman2007
    Actually. This and other magazines used to review and tell us expensive HDMI cables made a massive difference. They don't now. Why? Because it was exposed as total lies and Currys even agreed to refund customers misold them. So ....while I do think analogue cables can make a difference I do think magazines greatly exagrate it. Sometimes sounding different does not mean better
    Reply
  • petergabriel
    abacus said:
    NO, it’s the other way round, only audiophiles believe the cable manufactures hype, and mistake placebo effect as a factual difference, the rest of the world (Including musical professionals that use equipment that makes even high end HI-Fi sound mundane) deals in fact, however if you can provide independent verifiable evidence that they make a difference, then I look forward to the link, otherwise it would be better to say that it is your belief that they make a difference and not parade it as fact, when you review cables. (Trust is hard to gain but easily lost)

    Bill

    I work in a professional studio, and we don't just use any cable. There is a big difference, and this goes for your home hifi as well. Many people just don't have the ears or equipment to hear the difference. I can, and its not a placebo. I have had speaker cables sound boomy, lacking bass or being too shrill in the top end. Making a/b tests on the same day showed an obvious difference, making it possible to find the right cable for my system and listening preferences. I must add though, that I find it easier to hear the difference with analogue cables, digital, I am not sure I can.
    Reply
  • Hifiman2007
    As I said I do think analogue cables can sound different. However sometimes different is not better. Monster cables for instance have gone virtually bust because it was made clear that they sold overpriced cables that made no difference ....hifi magazines claimed they did and regularly reviewed as such. Obviously sold advertising space. So I think what hifi and other reviewers have a duty to make it clear they prefer the sound of the cable and not blindly say "it is better" I just wish they would take blind tests without knowing price ,brand, of item that would be more realistic and accurate. Anyone would be influenced by knowing price or brand first.
    Reply
  • Hifiman2007
    I have 2 cables bought from eBay £2 each. 4k picture is stunning.
    Reply
  • Travis Daki
    Hifiman2007 said:
    As I said I do think analogue cables can sound different. However sometimes different is not better. Monster cables for instance have gone virtually bust because it was made clear that they sold overpriced cables that made no difference ....hifi magazines claimed they did and regularly reviewed as such. Obviously sold advertising space. So I think what hifi and other reviewers have a duty to make it clear they prefer the sound of the cable and not blindly say "it is better" I just wish they would take blind tests without knowing price ,brand, of item that would be more realistic and accurate. Anyone would be influenced by knowing price or brand first.

    I was as sceptical as the next man, about cables making any difference whatsoever - speaker cables in particular. But then, back in the late 90s I swapped the hardware-store cables I used (10m for €5 in today's money) with the entry-level Monster Cable (can't remember the model name but it was praised but WHF), and the results where shocking. And I'm talking budget hifi here; Rotel RA-02 with Tannoy Mercury M1. Mids came to life, and the low-end tightened up. So yes, the (loudspeaker)cables can - and do make a difference. ♫♪
    Reply
  • chpmpg
    abacus said:
    NO, it’s the other way round, only audiophiles believe the cable manufactures hype, and mistake placebo effect as a factual difference, the rest of the world (Including musical professionals that use equipment that makes even high end HI-Fi sound mundane) deals in fact, however if you can provide independent verifiable evidence that they make a difference, then I look forward to the link, otherwise it would be better to say that it is your belief that they make a difference and not parade it as fact, when you review cables. (Trust is hard to gain but easily lost)

    Bill

    I have to disagree too.

    I was a skeptic years ago. Wire is just wire right?

    Seems not.

    I have (currently) three different speaker cables. (I had some basic feebie lengths too but chucked them ages ago). Same lengths and banana terminations, Ecosse 4.45 biwire, QED XT 40 and Nordost spellbinder cables.

    Acquired them all at different times (and setups) over the years. I'm in the process of trying to decide which one of the three to keep at the moment as I have downsized to just one simple system now. And it seems wasteful to have so much spare kit lying around. They each give a different sound. A very perceptible difference in sonic characteristics.

    Even my wife, who usually looks upon my hifi interest with a gaze that ranges from rolled eyes "there there, dear" amused bafflement to downright annoyance has agreed that there is an effect.

    I really would try to borrow a few different cables if I were you and try them out with your own set up. If you can't hear anything between them, then fine. In my experience though, makes more of a difference than you would think.
    Reply
  • TheBritishGuy
    I recently bought a HDMI from BUNU for £59.99 and think I fell into this trap lol. I basically started with my lg tv hdmi not working and ended up with a new ps3, 4K TV and an expensive UKHDMI - I've got to admit though it was miles less expensive than the normal Premium High Speed HDMI Cable you see on the likes of the above websites. There are all sort of things on the packaging such as HDMI ultra HD Deep Color and Premium Certified HDMI Cable UK but I'm yet to see a massive difference in the quality of the picture. That being said, apparently the playstation doesn't play 8K yet so maybe there will be room for improvement.

    Just as a final, I noticed that the item is classed as HDMI 2.1 Cable UK on the reciept - does anyone know what this indicates? Is a 2.1 cable anything in particular?
    Reply