‘XS’ generally stands for extra small. The Classic XS series, however, is the second largest in the Tchernov Audio cable range. But does it offer any of the quality of the Russian firm’s Reference series at an extra small price?

STEREO 4/2013

‘XS’ generally stands for extra small. The Classic XS series, however, is the second largest in the Tchernov Audio cable range. But does it offer any of the quality of the Russian firm’s Reference series at an extra small price?

What should you never do with a hi-fi? Exactly: hear yourself downstairs. As long as everything keeps sounding better, our sense of hearing rewards us with fun and enjoyment. You’ll be sorry if you exceed the usual level, with your enjoyment replaced by frustration.

In this respect it may have been a mistake to test the ultimate Tchernov Audio cable range in STEREO 8/12 first. We wanted to know what the Russian firm had. The results were sensational: both in the low frequency range and with speaker cables, the Reference cables don’t just belong in our top ‘Heaven’s Gate’ class, they also have the top spots within it! And even though Peter Tchernov doesn’t charge unrealistically high prices, his top cables are definitely pricey.

It makes you wonder whether one level lower doesn’t also do the trick. That brings us to Classic XS, where the abbreviation doesn’t stand for a size, rather ‘X-Shield’ – a patented shield against interference from external electromagnetic fields such as those generated by mobile and radio devices. This shield consists of two pieces of copper foil twisted around one another in a criss-cross pattern, encasing a stranded copper wire mesh.

Tchernov Audio uses this technology in the low-frequency variants of the Classic XS line known here as ‘IC’ for ‘Interconnect’, the SC speaker cable (‘Speaker Connect’) and the purple-coloured series of power cables (see box).

The Classic XS SC is also available with spade terminals instead of the banana plugs, fixed in place thanks to its spring pins. Mixed cables are also available. The RCA connectors affix relatively high-mass jacks along with screw sleeves to the socket. The ‘odd’ measurements of the assemblies are noticeable. They have high-fidelity reasons. The Russians want people to discern that, for example, a 3.1-metre SC is tonally superior to an exactly 3-metre long cable, due to resistivity in the cable.

‘Balanced’ material mix

Most firms also do something else differently: they buy their copper from domestic production and not on the global market. The end products alleged by the manufacturers to have been ascertained through long audio tests, for which various types of copper have been fused together, contain a very low and specific percentage of elements such as lead, sulphur and tin – which Tchernov holds to be important to the tonal result. Tchernov Audio calls it ‘BRC’, standing for ‘balanced refinement copper’. They see the race to get the most nines in the 99.9999... per cent copper purity as a mistake.

And if you experience the large Russian Reference cables, you’ll be inclined to agree. They don’t ‘sound’ like products off the drawing board. The music sounds so mature, radically open and detailed, but at the same time tonally harmonious and three-dimensional, that the amount of development work becomes evident in the result.

And although the Classic XS cables, not to be confused with the more simple and significantly cheaper Classic line without the ‘XS’ suffix, are somewhat below the level of the great archetypes, it’s not a disappointment because major features are retained. We should first mention the energy on offer that everyone notices when hearing a Tchernov cable for the first time. Both the IC and SC versions of the Classic XS cables also provide the ‘impact’ and transmission.

In a direct comparison, they even sound a touch fuller and more colourful than the Reference cables, in a trade-off with a certain loss of resolution, complexity and vibrancy. Good to hear with Eleni Karaindrou titles from the ECM sampler ‘Sounds and Silence’ – the captivating lightness and finesse of the sound precision is close to outstanding. Classic XS delivers these a little less delicately and with slightly fewer nuances.

The pitches apply in a clear fashion to the low-frequency and speaker cables equally. And they’re forgotten in a few seconds. Then the Russian ‘Classics’ will engulf you in their world of sound, especially as their middle-of-the-road tonality sounds identical to the top class. A strong set often costing less than half as much, depending on length, as Tchernov’s Reference cables that also consists of real cable sizes. But in XL instead of XS.

Matthias Böde

The perfect enhancement? The electricity cable for the Classic XS range

With a sense of family thinking, we included the Classic XS AC Power cable in our tests. The cable features high-quality gold-plated connectors and is available in two lengths, with the 1.65-metre version costing €430 and the 2.65-metre version costing around €500.

As its name suggests, this cable also features the ‘X-Shield’. From experience, high-frequency interference in the power cable is particularly precarious because it contaminates the energy pipeline of the components. The type of shield is the same as the other Classic cables. Three 2.5 mm2 thick wire strands come together in polyethylene and Teflon tape insulation to form the cable. Is anyone surprised that the Power Classic supports the sound pattern of the connected components in exactly the same way as its IC and SC counterparts? It is on par with its signal cable counterparts in terms of tonality, spectrum size and resolution. The purple power cable is significantly better than accessory kit cables in terms of sound and it seems a bargain when compared with similarly priced power cables from other brands, which is why we don’t recommend it merely as an enhancement to Tchernov’s other ‘Classics’ – we do recommend it especially for these, of course, as it rounds off the whole experience.

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