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.
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.
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.
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.
- Sound 4
- Build 5
- Compatibility 5
Check out our Chord Company C-line review
And our Atlas Element Achromatic review
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