AudioQuest vs Cardas XLR

Hello all,

Looking to upgrade my interconnects from my McIntosh C2700 to MC611 monoblocks. I am very interested in AQ Tbirds or Firebirds vs. Cardas Clear Beyond XLRs. I want an end-game cable and would appreciate some feedback. I'm open to any additional suggestions. I do enjoy the prodigious bass/midbass and the smooth midrange that the combo provides. It's a little light on top, though (as McIntosh is). I think Cardas and AQ will preserve my wishes, but is there anything out there that will keep my midrange/mid-bass/bass and improve upon the highs? I think I may be asking for too much, though! I would be very grateful for some direction. 


Well, in my opinion, a good cable should just transmit the information without changing the sound quality. Which is why I use AQ. 

The newest models by Garth Powell are, once again-IMO, the best AQ has ever made. I heard them at Audioconnection, and both my friend and myself noticed a distinct improvement in sound quality. I sounded so good, I ended up buying the William Tell Zero's and Bass for my systems. I also use the AQ interconnects between components, as well as for my ethernet.

As I have no experience with MacIntosh equipment, I can't say for sure it will be a good move for you. But, a good dealer, like John Rutan at Audioconnection, should be able to loan you a set to see if they do.


I’m running balanced Earth interconnects with Aurender, Audionet and MacIntosh, which is a good bit below what you are looking for. What I can say is that I upgraded via purchasing from a major internet vendor at 20% off retail and a no questions asked 60 day return policy. They are owned by the same guy that owns the music outfit that recently got itself into digital/analog hot water.  They carry both Cardas and Audioquest.  My sales person was very helpful/knowledgeable as I drained my bank account.   Good luck.

@jeffreyw - for alternate cables brands post the same question on the Hijiri thread

Hijiri Thread

Hijiri seems to be getting a lot of attention from forum members that have a wealth of cable knowledge - I trust their opinions

I'm sure someone will have compared all three brands 

Regards - Steve

but is there anything out there that will keep my midrange/mid-bass/bass and improve upon the highs? 

So, I have the Acoustic Zen Silver Reference ll interconnects and they offer the sound characteristics you’re looking for.  They won’t shortchange you in the bass or mids, which is surprising for mostly silver interconnects, but they will likely give just a bit more in the highs but without going too far and never harsh sounding.  What may be even better, and much cheaper because they’re used, is this used pair of AZ Absolute Silver interconnects that were at the top of the AZ line and at $750 are less than half their $2000 original MSRP.  My strong recommendation would be to give them a try, and if they don’t blow you away just turn around and sell them for little/no loss as AZ cables have a very fluid used market and are always in demand.  Hey, if they work for you you’ll save a bundle of $$$ with very little risk involved.  Best of luck.

I have Cardas clear beyond interconnects in my system with C53 and 611’s and love them. Audioquest are made in China so that’s a deal breaker for me. 


not all Audioquest cables are made in China. Their entry level and lower end models are indeed made in China but their middle to higher and models are made in USA. 



Yes, I agree that most of AQ cables/cords are sourced to china. At one time not long ago, Cardas was guilty of this practice as well. I hope that both Companies have re-thought their positions in 2023.


Happy Listening!

  1. @jafant

Please post your reference source wherein you claim CARDAS somehow flogged made-in-China product anytime in the past. Illegal fake crap POS build counterfeits are flogged out of China and slammed by CARDAS… these are not genuine OEM legit brand models.

….nowhere can I find such any allegation of them selling Chinese origin product.


(2); George Cardas has two US patents (4,980,517 & 4,628,151) for his cable & conductor designs.

(3) CARDAS is an exclusively a made-in-the USA cables company in BANDON OREGON for the past 30:years.. George Cardas initially founded his company in Southern California in 1987 working out of his garage while employed there. He then slowly expanded his production business in SoCal until 1992. From there he expanded into the present factory in Oregon. CARDAS also sources their proprietary Cu Material from the USA.

CARDAS is not to be confused with AUDIOQUEST



@jafant At one time not long ago, Cardas was guilty of this practice as well.


False, not authentic Cardas. Fake counterfeits are guilty of this.


Authentic Cardas Pure Copper is mined in the Southwest USA and processed the Northeast USA. Part of the cable mfg in Southern California, final assembly terminations, quality checks, packaging and shipping in Bandon, Oregon. Some may be surprised who else uses Cardas copper too.

Illustrates once again why any counterfeit is plain thievery. Steals from the unknowing buyer, and from the pocket and reputation of the legitimate manufacturer.

If your equipment is differentially balanced and you're using balanced connections, there isn't much difference in cables

Actually according to my dealer all Audioquest cables are made in China except he wasn’t sure about the very highest model. 

@spearl8 I’d also rather have a US made product, however, top models AQ are great cables.

@jeffreyw one cable comes ti mind that satisfies your sonic requirements is the Acoustic Zen Absolute Copper. It does most of what you’re looking for in the bass, mid bass and midrange and doesn’t round off the highs. 



Back in 2015/2016 I started my quest for Reference cabling. I had off-the-record conversations with Galen Carol and Ellington Hifi about Cardas, Tara Labs and Wireworld companies sourcing raw materials from china. Particularly, Copper.

Holding U.S. Patents does not prove anything. Both Cardas and Tara Labs are located in OR. I do not believe in coincidence. Once Tara Labs was spanked for un-ethical business practices (having some of their catalog sourced with china and placing Made in USA) on the jackets. The  other 2 companies may have taken notice.  The Audiophile community must hold American manufacturers accountable.


Happy Listening!


I emailed Josh Meredith ( hubby of CEO Angela Cardas-Meredith ) with your AGON link about your alleged hearsay and “off the record “ musings now posted by you.

You consider that to be  any fact reporting basis,  or even a minuscule measure of support to actually post  in a public forum?  Wow !

newsreel at 11:00….


I have spoken with an Audioquest customer support over the phone the other day and he told me that the lower end models are indeed made in China but their higher and series or models are manufactured in house in California. For example, the AQ Blizzard power cable and lower are made in China but anything above the Blizzard line are made in California. The same applies to their speaker cable lines, interconnects, and other cables.


in regards to Cardas cables all of their cable lines are made in the USA. I currently own the Cardas Clear Reflection speaker cables and 2 pairs of Clear Reflection XLR balanced interconnects in my setup and I can tell you that they are all made in Oregon, USA. The dealer had them shipped directly from their factory in Oregon to my house here in Seattle. And on the box and on the cables themselves it says made in USA. I also used to own a pair of lower end Cardas Clear Cygnus interconnects, which is a step down below the Clear Reflection line, and they are also made in USA because it says on the cable itself and on the box.

There are always counterfeit cables especially with Audioquest and all these counterfeit cables are of course made in China. I’m sure they are also counterfeit Cardas cables that are made out of China. 

Who cares if they’re made in China? If AQ, Cardas, or whoever is overseeing manufacturing and is standing behind their quality, who give a great God damn where their made? Would I prefer the to be made in the US? Of course!!! But if I can get better cables at half the price that they could be made here, I’m pretty fine with that as long as the parent company is ensuring quality and standing behind their products and they’re not made in a sweatshop, which no reputable US company would do. It’s just economics folks. If relatively low-tech products like audio cables can be reliably produced in countries like China, Viet Nam, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc. due to lower labor rates then so be it. It’s called global economics folks — get over it. My speakers, that I’ve owned for over 20 years, were designed in America but made in China, and they’re fantastic, built like a brick  house, and would’ve cost double if they were made in the US. In economics, money flows like water to where it meets least resistance. Period. It’s just math. Get over it. If China makes crap products, people in the US won’t buy them and they’ll ultimately fail. Full stop — end of story. But that does not mean that foreign countries can’t produce excellent products for less to our benefit. Look, I’m a Made in the USA dude as much as the next guy, but that doesn’t mean great products can’t be produced elsewhere. And, BTW, to all of you “it needs to be made in the US” guys realize that most of the parts within your “made in the US” audio components COME FROM OVERSEAS!!! Get over it. Support the US when you can of course and I subscribe to that as well, but don’t deny the value that foreign countries can provide even if you don’t like them. Their parts are unavoidably in almost everything we own, so don’t be a hypocrite and think that just because something is assembled here purely benefits the US, because it doesn’t and you’re just fooling yourself. Yeesh.



I have worked in manufacturing globally for most of my career… extensively in mainland China. Some of the finest products made (like iPhones) are made there… so is some real junk. So, it depends on the company designing and is in charge of manufacturing.

So, much of our affluence is based on manufacturing in China, you would think we would be grateful. And before you jump in and say they steal our technology, that is only true if we let them. It is not a problem with Apple. Why? They are there, they manage quality and protect their intellectual property. Lots of American companies, large and small do. Some not so smart people send their IP over and expect them to respect the source. Very naive. 

Post removed 



Thank You for citing Audioquest information.


Happy Listening!

Hi @jafant 

Galen Carol has been a Cardas dealer since 1998, and would never lead you to believe that we source our materials from anywhere outside of the US.

I’m vaguely aware of the Tara Labs situation, but our being headquartered in Oregon does not infer guilt by association. This may have once been the Wild West, but I assure you that the vast majority of Oregon businesses are reputable.

Although a video won’t prove anything to a skeptic, you might enjoy Jana Dagdagan’s video about Cardas Audio, as part of’s "American Made" series. It depicts the making of a Cardas speaker cable, from beginning to end,  using copper mined in the Southwest, refined into wire in New England, braided & cabled in California, and terminated with spades machined at an Oregon shop, and plated in New Mexico. And of course, finished, tested and shipped from our shop in Bandon, Oregon.

Being a family owned and run small business is very important to me - we take pride in all of our manufacturing processes and our family of employees - most of which have been with us for decades. I wish you would consider the harm you could inflict by passing on misinformation that you very easily could have emailed me or anyone at Cardas to clarify before committing it to print on the internet forever.

Angela Cardas


Angela thank you for clarifying . I don't remember your dad using China to manufacture your cables. Correct me if Iam wrong, Cardas bought copper supplies in Japan not China.Indeed Angela I saw your video how your cable are being made.

... much of our affluence is based on manufacturing in China, you would think we would be grateful ...

No, I’m not at all grateful to China, not even a teeny, tiny little bit.

Anyway Op either Audioquest or Cardas you can’t go wrong. Both company are making good cables. Auditions both so you will find out which one is matching your system.

I have lived w Pegasus thru Dragon for a week,!they are all cut from same DNA. Pegasus was warmest of the bunch in my system….but you are going to spend a pile of coin to get silver which again in my system was much more about detail ,?attack and decay and not tipped up treble extension.

my very supportive dealer who facilitated the long evaluation is Ed at Audio Ultra in WA state.

Sad that we pulled Cardas leadership away from running the business to combating inane conspiracy theories…. 

just received my Cardas DIN connector,!will order more from Cardas.

The real value in the thread  is I have a few more factually challenged posters to ignore….

I’m a 30+ year Cardas owner, several different models. While I’ve tried all sorts of other cables/brands in between, all of my interconnects, digital, speaker cables on my primary system are authentic Cardas Audio. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Agree, it’s unfortunate how a few spread false information without regard for damage or impact to a business. I for one would expect nothing less from Angela, Josh, Brian, and others at Cardas than to stand up and inform the uninformed.

Thank You @cardasa, and to the crew, your Cardas Community has your back.




"much of our affluence is based on manufacturing in China"

yes it is a real problem. It's skewing the prices of goods in America, and inflates our materialistic, greedy nature. If prices reflected the cost of resources and human labor that go into a product, we would be much more mindful of our purchases.  This is only a short-sighted, short term gain. 

There is nothing normal about how many hours an American works for e.g. an iPhone, vs a person from another [almost any pick] country.

I’ve had Dragon and Clear Beyond. I prefer Cardas hands down…but it will come down to personal preference as both cables are great. Cardas just sounds much more natural without loss of detail/resolution. 

OP what about you tell us about the equipment you have and the rest of your cabling? Both Cardas and Audioquest are amazing manufacturers, but both are not universal. And so are the rest of the top cable manufacturers like Shunyata, Transparent and Nordost. The closest I’ve seen to « universally good match » is Siltech and even those are not liked by everyone…


McIntosh C2700/MC 611s, speakers Kef Reference 1 Metas, Aries Cerat Helene DAC. Current interconnects are Mogami gold. PCs are AQ Hurricanes and speaker cables Analysis Plus Oval 9 (circa the mid-2000s). The funny thing, many have steered me away from the Cardas/McIntosh synergy, considering my wishes to liven up the highs. Nordost has been suggested as a solution. The speaker cables will be upgraded at a later date. 

@jeffreyw  Well, having myself KEF Reference 3s with AQ power cords and having tried many combinations during the last 12 months, I would recommend you to go in the direction of pure silver or silver alloy (and not silver-plated) cables both for speaker and interconnects. 
The KEFs have amazing weight and physicality across the frequency range, but struggle to sound really « free » and unconstrained dynamically. Using silver-based cables really enables the speakers to shine. With the KEFs and the Mac amplification, I would tend to look away from Cardas, although I have no experience with the Beyond XLs which I hear are amazing. If you were to go the Audioquest route, I would go directly to the Firebirds then to get the PSS solid silver core. 
Personally, I preferred going outside of Audioquest because you get silver only starting almost at the top of their range, which would have meant it was beyond what I find still reasonable to spend for cables. Shunyata was a good match personally on my system but not everyone’s cup of tea (mix of solid OCC silver and copper tubes. Siltech was amazing as well. I read excellent things about Kimber’s silver cables but again, only available for their top-tier cables.

my 2 cents, YMMV

@jeffreyw The funny thing, many have steered me away from the Cardas/McIntosh synergy, considering my wishes to liven up the highs.


@jeffreyw Its a final tuning and balancing act. Similar to how each of the different McIntosh amplifiers exhibit a slightly different type of sound and presentation, and so do different type/design cables you are currently using and looking at now. As a former owner and tester of various AQ, Cardas, Analysis Plus, I’d venture to suggest two focus areas - if you must change cables first. Your particular and much older OFC AP copper Oval 9 speaker cables and more recent OFC Mogami Gold interconnects are [both] not allowing the higher tip top frequency to come through for your Kef Ref 1 Metas, imo. Your current cables can even be weighty, plump in midrange imo, overcasting the highs some. Taketh away. a And, if you pick older Cardas design (pre-Clear) line cables instead of something like latest Clear or Clear Beyond in Cardas, change w/b minimal, likely not what you want. I’d go after your speaker cables first, then ICs next. You can squeak out more detail for sure. I’ll go out on limb here and will get blasted by nimrod cable-nay-sayers, and don’t care...fwiw. When the chime in, ask specifically what they’ve tried, first hand.


Demos: #1 If I were in your shoes, given your current investment in amps and such, find a local dealer who can loan you cables to try, best bet. This is how I discovered the right AP/Crystal or Cardas/Clear or Apature/Silver over copper in prior systems. The std older generic OFC can sound "weighty" and lacking highs in some brands and designs. #2 With no local dealers, TheCableCo loaner-buy program or #3, TMRAudio or MusicDirect [check] with a return policy helps add some demo-trials and helps take some guess out. DM me, got contacts for you.

Cardas: Tip: i.e. knowing the rich Mcintosh sound in some of the pres/amps, you could probably stand [for example] to move away from your older std OFC stuff with your current speaker cables/interconnects up to really good Crystal/OCC or Silver over copper, or current generation Cygnus or new Clear line with Cardas. These can be more neutral though, heads up if you are a bass head. If you wanna cheat on price with Cardas avoiding Clear Beyond, call them and ask for Brian or Josh. Be sure to ask about 4-wire "Cygnus". I’ve done some factory demo’ing with them, and given feedback over the years. Right now I’m testing and comparing Cardas Clear Reflection vs. Cygnus in my own rig - testing with different sources. Cygnus allows more detail/highs to come through at my sources. More neutral, but nice tip-top-highs come in. If I want more richness, I flip it, putting Clear Reflection at the Source, and putting the Cygnus between the preamp and amps. It’s a fun way to have both options, simply swapping source, preamp and amp cables.

Clear Reflection has detail yet can be a tad more weighty presentation than Cygnus or standard "Clear", still available too. Clear Reflection has some golden tone, split with old/new Cardas clear designs You may not want this result in your Mc rig, I sense you have some of that now with your older gen OFC 9 Blk/Yellow speaker cables, and current "gold" Mogami ICs.  Cardas Clear ReFLECTION (not talking Clear Reference) detail comes through slightly yet not as evident as it is with more neutral 4-wire Cygnus. imo, if you must have Cardas, and must save, Cygnus can be the budget sleeper cable. Now, Is it top-top clear level, um, partially, sort of like 80% maybe closer, but not like Clear/Beyond. People resale std "Clear" some times because it’s more neutral, watch out what you ask for. Opinions will vary with other people’s systems. It’s weird, Cygnus requires a very long time of settling, relaxing, and so called burn in though, I tried them twice over 2 years. Retried again later and discovered something new. Realized I did not give them enough time first go-around. Much better after 30-45 days. Glad I retried them.

AP: For a jump in Analysis Plus, a move up to Silver Apex w/your speaker cables and Interconnects will allow missing detail to come in. Can be smooth with detail. Just like Cardas, each cable type up/down the line with Analysis Plus cables will have different results.

Guidance - Ignore the cable-naysayers who’ve never tried any of this or have not compared with a system like yours. Their default is Mogami. Good for them. If all else fails to help, just do demos, this is the best way, and give yourself time. AQ: no further comment, been there done that - nice but simply prefer Cardas design, connectors, and overall quality. A preference thing. Nordost fans can guide you there, for Uber-detail cables if that’s what you want. Best of Luck


I concur with @decooney you might want to test out some speaker + interconnect looms before settling on a very nice interconnect. Nothing beats experience and trying out different metals and geometries across brands might give you some significant hints on which direction is good for you.

Cardas clear beyond works great with my McIntosh system. You can justify Audioquest however you want but Cardas clearly says Made in USA down the entire length of the cable. My dealer was really pissed Audioquest is outsourcing more to China. That is not the values I want when I’m spending big money. 

My 3, 2nd gen AQ Dragon PCs, soon to be 4 were made in Taiwan and I have no desire to justify the best PCs in the World.

Maybe they could be tied or close to Hijri Combak cables from Japan, but I've never heard those.

The current Cardas top end cables, although good, are over 15 year old designs.

That's not what I want when I'm spending big money.

Audioquest has several manufacturing facilities from what my dealer told me. For cables,from what I remember, he told me that up to the Rocket series of speaker cables, up to the Rivers series for ICs and I don’t remember which series of PCs, the cables are made in Taiwan or China. And for the cables above these ranges, they are manufactured in regional hubs: US, Netherlands or Taiwan depending on your continent. 
So instead of spewing random misinformation on either Cardas or Audioquest, let’s stay on topic.

I don’t want to buy a product from a company if I have figure out which country/ factory/ model cable I need to avoid China. I think the point is very on topic actually. Cardas makes every product in the USA, no matter where you buy it or how much you spend. 

Yes, I agree that consumers should be well informed as to the origins of the products they are purchasing.

Taiwan is not China BTW and it's probably the largest microchip manufacturer in the World. This industry relies heavily on clean rooms and my guess is that the micro polishing of the higher level cable conductors needs to be done in clean rooms.

Just like the assembly of watches, phones etc.

I love Cardas. Superlative quality and Impeccable customer service. Currently using Clear Reflection XLR’s in my rig. Conversely, I’ve never been a fan of AQ with their 1000 different flavors and DBS nonsense…complete turn off.

As above, Information noted and received. Good to learn that Cardas is not cutting corners with China. Nothing worth owning in this Hobby stems from China.


Happy Listening!

....... I have enjoyed US manufactured Cardas Cables for many, many years and are supported by a great team. I am an owner of Clear Beyond Cables in my system and have listened to many other cables, but the CB's are just right to my ears and it is also comforting knowing that they are backed by a great US company.      

I'm also looking at Cardas XLR, though the Clear is outside my budget. 

Has anyone tried the more affordable Clear Sky model?