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REVIEW: XLO Ultra 1 Cable Review by Luminator at Audio Asylum

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Normally, I'd post reviews on AudioReview.com, but that site strangely does not list the XLO Ultra 1. So here I am.

I have long been a fan of XLO's Signature 1.1. I rearranged my system, and I ended up needing a cheap interconnect for either the TV, VCR, or Playstation. So without even thinking, I ordered the Ultra 1. I thought to myself, "Well, if it doesn't work out, I could always hook it up to the tape deck, which I don't use."

I'm spoiled by the higher-end cables around here (see associated equipment below), so I wasn't expecting much from the Ultra 1. Besides, I'm fully aware that it is in a competitive price range. MIT T2, Wireworld Eclipse III+, Kimber Silver Streak, Nordost Blue Heaven, are but a handful of the dominant models here.

So I hooked up the Ultra 1 to my tuner, and just let it cook. When I actually listened, I was surprised that it sounded vaguely similar to XLO's Signature 1.1. So I yanked the Ultra 1 off of the tuner, and hooked it up to the Linn Genki, for some real burn-in. After a week or so, I became impatient, and put the Ultra 1 on the Theta Basic IIIa.

After the Ultra 1 had about a month's worth of PT (playing time), I thought its sound had reached an equilibrium.

So how does it sound, you ask? Tonally, remarkably similar to the Signature 1.1. That is, it slightly favors the bass, though there isn't a mid-to-upper bass boom (thank goodness!). The midrange is kinda lean. Upon further listening, I think that part of this has to do with the fact that the Ultra 1 squashes front-to-back imaging. That is, images themselves are kinda 2-D, as if they're cut from cardboard. The midtreble is artificially a little forward. This gives the impression that the Ultra 1 has more treble body than the Signature 1.1, but if you were to measure frequency response, they'd measure the same. And in the very tippy-top, the Ultra 1 is slightly pinched, compared to the Signature 1.1.

I didn't think that the bass, mid, and treble lined up, speed-wise. So the sound is slighty disjointed, pace and rhythm being somewhat out of sync.

Backgrounds are fairly black. Considering that this is an unshielded cable, that is praise indeed. With the Ultra 1, the contrast between music and silence isn't obscured. Image outlines are distinct, and there's sufficient space and distance between those images (assuming that these features are on the recording). Soundstage depth is foreshortened, but that's to be expected in this price range.

Inner and fine details are smeared, roughed over, or obscured. You might find yourself straining to hear inner detials, but with the Ultra 1, I'm afraid those details aren't revealed.

I know this review sounds harsh. But keep in mind that I am comparing the Ultra 1 to the excellent and four-times-as-expensive Signature 1.1. So if you have a modest-but-good system, and you like what the Signature 1.1 does (or does not) do, but can't afford it, you might like the Ultra 1. Or, if you alredy have the Signature 1.1, and need a cheaper XLO cable to lash up your low-rez equipment, check out the Ultra 1. I mean it no disrespect, when I call it the poor man's Signature 1.1. At the very least, it provides an interesting choice alongside those other competitors mentioned above. With whatever equipment I chose to hook it up to, the XLO Ultra 1 did not throw my system out of whack.

If this were AudioReview, I'd give the Ultra 1: 4 stars for value, 2.67 stars overall rating [for comparison, I gave the Signature 1.1 a 4-star rating, and the Reference 2 Type 1 a 3-star rating]. Recommended.


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Topic - REVIEW: XLO Ultra 1 Cable Review by Luminator at Audio Asylum - Luminator 22:39:09 11/2/00 ( 0)