AudioQuest & Abt Electronics Empower Rotel, Michi, Klipsch, Roon, and Fender x MoFi

March 29, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

On rock, this system turned heads and caused more than a few mouths and eyes to open wide.

Strange as it may seem, this huge air-walled exhibit room’s sponsor, AudioQuest with Abt Electronics of Chicago, was the mostly invisible partner that enabled Rotel’s Michi P5 preamplifier with phonostage ($4299.99—follow-up coming in our August issue) and Michi S5 stereo power amplifiers ($7499/each—reviewing coming in our July issue) to sing through Klipsch Jubilee loudspeakers ($35,000/pair including outboard electronic crossover). That’s a lot of parentheses in a single sentence, so let’s parse it out a bit.

AudioQuest arrived in Chicago with big news: the completion of their Mythical Creatures (Dragon, Firebird, and Thunderbird) ZERO Tech cable line. According to AQ’s extremely articulate Isaac Markowitz, the company’s ZERO Tech topology produces power, speaker, and interconnect cabling with no characteristic impedance. “In an interconnect, Zero Tech linearizes noise dissipation and takes it into the megahertz and gigahertz range,” he said. Because components never have matched impedance across all frequencies, and cable impedance rarely if ever matches the differing impedance of the components, removing characteristic impedance from cabling minimizes interactions and produces a far more direct connection. It also makes for easy compatibility between AudioQuest cables and those from other companies.

“Characteristic impedance is like a sponge,” he continued. “Imagine water dripping into a sponge. The sponge must saturate before water can pass through it. With ‘ZERO Tech,’ we remove the sponge.”

The new cable line, derived from Bill Low’s initial technology and Garth Powell’s subsequent technological advances, uses bespoke connectors. Thunderbird is comprised of perfect-surface copper and benefits from a proprietary annealing bath, perfected by Bill Low and George Cardas, that elongates metal grains. (Who says that competitors can’t be friends?) The same bath is used for Firebird and Dragon, which are comprised of perfect-surface silver. The difference is in the drain: Firebird’s drain is silver-plated, while Dragon’s is 20-gauge silver. “Copper is more forgiving because it has less resolution,” Markowitz said.

The proof is in the listening. With the Rotel Michi S5 (above) used in bi-amping configuration, as required by the Klipsch Jubilees, the system did a take-no-prisoners, no sponge-bath job on bass. Image size was huge as the system defied the constraints of an air-walled conference room. (Serious speaker toe-in helped.) The Jubilees are Paul Klipsch’s final design and took 20 years to complete. They include a patented 7″ titanium diaphragm compression tweeter with 5″ voice-coil and brand new Tractrix horn design. The LF section is horn-loaded with dual 12″ bass drivers.

While I was in the room, I heard music sourced from Qobuz and streamed through a Roon Labs Nucleus ($1459). But others heard what the Fender x MoFi PrecisionDeck turntable with Mobile Fidelity MasterTracker phono cartridge ($3495) can deliver.

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