Mythical Creatures. A sonorous designation for the top line of a manufacturer. Even when it comes to something as mundane as device connection cables. The US AudioQuest group calls its latest development in this area "ThunderBird". And the sound quality of the "Thunderbird" actually seems to be out of this world.


The Thunderbirds are sound tuning of the trouble-free kind: plug in and have fun. Lengthy running-in times are unnecessary because the manufacturer takes care of that in advance. And the gain in sound is huge.

As a high-end tester, you learn to pay attention to the little things. The influence that this or that harmonically praised component actually has on the sound experience is sometimes marginal and even professionals can only find it in countless listening sessions, comparable to the proverbial needle in a haystack. All the more gratifying when an audible difference is immediately noticeable. Which after a short time turns out to be extremely positive.

Garth Powell, longtime head of AudioQuest development, likes to talk about how high the bar has been set at the company over the years through the consistent use of advanced technology and materials research. According to Powell, this ranges from highly conductive metals for cable production to a three-axis structure with symmetrical connections, air as a dielectric, directional binding or electromagnetic charging of the cable shield, and, last but not least, insulation with multi-layer carbon and aluminum shields. All with the aim of minimizing or completely eliminating the interference from interference frequencies. It is no accident that many professional recording studios around the world are wired to AudioQuest products. Hum and other disturbances are a thing of the past.


The new ThunderBird benefits from experience and technology that the manufacturer has been able to gather with its top models. Part of the mysticism results from the process known as “cooking”: AudioQuest cables are brought in before delivery with tensions that they never have to “endure” in use. This extreme formatting ensures a more homogeneous cable structure..

Going well beyond the level achieved so far has been the declared development goal at AudioQuest in recent years. However, the standard achieved was already so high that "a new approach" was needed, as Powell emphasizes. Not about exotic solutions, as some cable manufacturers strive for with more or less good results, but rather by answering the question of where the biggest problems arise when using an analog device connection cable. The result of several years of research recently bridged the gap between my CD or SACD players and the preamplifier. Two of the latest generation ThunderBird, one balanced with XLR connectors, one unbalanced with RCA (Cinch) connectors plus "Dielectric Bias System",

How complex the construction is reflected in the noticeable stiffness of the cables, which require stable sockets on the “opposite side”. The symmetrical cable consists of three strands twisted together, not dissimilar to a genetic helix. In no time at all, the “Thunderbirds” make up for the comparatively little effort involved in cabling with an extremely significant improvement in sound. And it wasn't created on the digital drawing board: "Does a laboratory test adequately reflect how a cable, a circuit, or a component behaves acoustically in real life?" Garth Powell asks purely rhetorically and immediately provides the answer: "Mostly not .”


Garth Powell admitted to us a little grumpily that, despite decades of research, AudioQuest has not yet been able to find any metrologically reliable indication of cable sound. Of course, that doesn't bother fans of the brand much. In terms of sound, the differences between the cable generations are clearly verifiable.

The reason for this is the numerous imponderables that occur in real use. No cable developer can say in advance under what conditions his product would be used, how the system would deal with impedances, damping factors and the like. In addition, even well-reputed measuring devices have their limits.

According to Powell, one has to accept that there is far too much electrical noise to be eliminated by sophisticated cable design alone. It is nevertheless feasible to eliminate the cable resistance as much as possible by using electrostatic shielding that is one hundred percent effective. Powell developed the corresponding technology for AudioQuest's power cords and later used it successfully in the Niagara line filters. The overall package also includes a carefully designed burn-in procedure - which the end customer can consequently save.


The result speaks for the years of effort of the developer and the immense production effort: The new ThunderBirds not only blow their predecessors on the wall - they are among the best device connectors that I have ever encountered in my life. The listening test starts with the XLR version, because Mark Levinson's 390S CD player and the 38S preamplifier from the same company have symmetrical inputs and outputs and therefore sound the best. Replacing my usually used insider tip strips from Silnote Audio (also a US company) with the Thunderbirds directly reveals more room width and depth and a more homogeneous frequency response, the upper and lower extremes of which are more harmoniously integrated into the overall event.

Italo blues player Zucchero Fornaciari stands in person in front of the listener in his finely recorded new unplugged album Inacustico (Polydor), the guitar strings buzz and click in the acoustic versions of well-known Zucchero songs in a three-dimensional way. A skiffle-blues combo, The Devil Makes Three, The Devil Makes Three's similarly-sounding but much cruder-recorded Longjohns, Boots And A Belt even draws me into a small club. And the Arabic soprano Fatma Said becomes an ethereal meta-creature on El Nour (Warner Classics) with the promise of comforting goosebumps. This works at least as well, especially with high-resolution material from the SACD. With the Thunderbirds you can take off to exhilarating high-altitude flights


AF cable Audio Quest ThunderBird
Concept: AF cable symmetrical and asymmetrical
Conductor material/construction: solid PSC (“Perfect Surface Copper”), air as dielectric, copper-coated HF conduction
Assembly: with XLR and RCA connectors, length 0.5 up to 6 m, special lengths/assemblies on request
Price: from £2,500 (0.5 m, RCA connector)


Hoge Bergen 10
4704 RH Roosendaal
The Netherlands
Telephone +31 165 541404

The prices shown are valid at the time of evaluation. Deviations from this are possible.

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