The Chord Company Epic Twin Review: The Twin is an expansive, dynamically tight, and highly resolving musical cable with vast uncompressed imaging that swings towards the brighter side. There are, however, some issues in terms of the Epic Twin’s design which means it could, potentially, yield better sonic results.
Epic Twin Review Preface:
Having previously reviewed many of The Chord Company’s offerings, The Pro Audio Web Blog is certainly familiar with their extensive product line. For those who aren’t in the know, The Chord Company, which is often abbreviated to ‘Chord’, is a UK manufacturer of high quality interconnects with over twenty-five years of experience. Boasting a range of products to suit all budgets and tastes, The Chord Company is widely respected for their innovation and unbounded enthusiasm to set the standard. Consequently, The Chord Company has received scores of awards for their typically excellent products, and today we shall investigate their ‘Epic Twin’ speaker cable to discover whether it is a worthy of the Chord pedigree. However, before we proceed, it may be interesting to know that Chord’s ‘Epic’ speaker cable range is currently the manufacturers third best offering in this area, with the Signature & Tuned ARAY cable coming in second, and finally the Sarum & Super ARAY sitting at the top of the tree.
Within the ‘Epic’ range, there are two speaker cables; the ‘Epic Twin’, and the ‘Epic Reference’. Today we shall be reviewing the ‘Epic Twin’. The clear differences between the two are that the Epic Reference has consistent and independent polar channel shielding, whereas the ‘Epic Twin’ has partial shielding, which does not fully extend right to the jacket of the banana plugs, and a combined shield for both the positive and negative channels. The other difference between the two is that you can configure the ‘Epic Reference’ to come terminated with Chord’s BFA Camcon connectors to further cut down on resonance in comparison to the thinner standard banana plugs. It is important to note that the internal cable design for both the ‘Epic Twin’ and the ‘Epic Reference’ is fundamentally the same.
Origin, Lengths, and Warrenty:
In terms of prospective delivery, it is important to note that Chord’s ‘Epic Twin’ speaker cable is both designed and manufactured in England to meet stringent specifications and, as such, the cable will take a couple of weeks to be hand made in their Salisbury lab. What I have found exceptionally comforting to know is that, before any cable is released to you, The Chord Company’s Quality Control team will asses your finished article on a case by case basis. In order for the cable to be handed over to the shipping team, it must meet strict aesthetic, mechanical, and electrical tolerances before undergoing a period of time in their ‘Cable Toaster’. Having passed through their ‘Cable Toaster’, Chord is able to minimise any required burn-in time to reach the performance apex even if substantial burn in period is still required. Crucially Chord do not charge for this service, unlike some of their competitors.
As per the website, the ‘Epic Twin’ is available in custom lengths from one meter all the way up to ten metes, in one meter increments. Purchasing the the cable in less than one meters seems possible, but not advisable due to the fact that the cables shielding jacket will not be as effective. So, if you intend to make your own DIY speaker jumper links from a single one meter cable, it will be no where near as effective as purchasing Chord’s own brand Sarum, or Signature, speaker links. In terms of termination, the ‘Epic Twin’ comes unterminated as standard, with the bare copper wire on show and, regardless, the price of one meter is £50, or around $78 – £150 ($234) for two meters, and an extra £100 ($156) per meter past that. If you would prefer to have the cable Chord Factory Terminated, The Chord Co. offer banana and spade terminations for £96, or $150, per complete set (a total of eight plugs), or £48 for four ($75).
Having previously mentioned the ‘Epic Reference’, it would be wise to comment on the difference in price between the two. So, for £50 ($78) you can bag yourself a one meter un-terminated ‘Epic Twin’, whereas for £150 ($234) you can pick up an ‘Epic Reference’ with Factory Termination as standard. If you only want a single un-terminated meter you’ll be quids in with the ‘Epic Twin’, however if you want this terminated it will set you back £146 ($227), which is only £4 ($6) short of the superior ‘Epic Reference’. With this said, 90% of the market will require lengths longer than one meter and, in this situation, the pricing makes much more sense; two continuous meters of the ‘Epic Reference’ will set you back an additional £450 ($700), with further meter additions coming in £300 ($467) past this, and two continuous meters of ‘Epic Twin’ will cost an additional £150 ($233), with further meters being only £100 ($156). Of the Epic range, the ‘Epic Twin’ works out to be three times cheaper than it’s superior counterpart which, granted, seems excessive considering the fact that the internal cable is identical, but what’s more concerning is the disparency between the cost of additional meters and the price of individual cut meter lengths. If we put this into perspective, two continuous meters of ‘Epic Twin’ will set you back £200 ($311), when four meter cut lengths will amount to the same cost. Sure, it will be totally ridiculous and counterintuitive to order four cut meters and to use them in series, but the point still stands. Because the logic seems to make absolutely no sense whatsoever I, sadly, have no option but to place a small black mark against the pricing structure of the ‘Epic’ cable range. Please just remember that it’s always best to keep the cable length as short as possible, not only does this rationale save your wallet, but it will also keep the signal cleaner than longer lengths.
If we revert back to something more positive now, just as the name would suggest, The Chord Company exhibit ‘Epic’ confidence in the craftsmanship and quality of their product. Consequently the team offer a generous ten year warranty with the ‘Epic’ range, which seems to be on par, if not better, than many of The Chord Company’s competitors.
Build Quality and Structure:
Upon inspection of the Epic Twin’s finish, it is plain to see that The Chord Company engineer who hand crafted this specific cable took great care to, at least, make an aesthetically perfect product. The Epic Twin’ arrived coiled and free of kinks, whilst the grey PVC outer jacket is completely free of micro blemishes or drips. In terms of how the jacket edges and terminations have been heat shrunk, the ‘Epic Twin’ is continuous and tightly wrapped with all text appearing bold and completely legible. From an aesthetic perspective, the ‘Epic Twin’ is undoubtedly flawless, even the braid below the translucent grey PVC is unremarkable. In terms of the review sample that I currently hold, I opted to have the cable ‘Chord Factory Terminated’ with their own standard banana plugs. Unlike other brands, The Chord Company believe that soldering the banana plug posts directly to the core conductor yields superior results over other twist and/or crimp design attachments. Whilst I cannot compare the three various methods, I believe Chord’s judgement and can confirm that the ‘Factory Termination’ is solid beyond belief whilst still maintaining the crucial flexibility that you need to attach it to the binding posts. There’s no doubt in my mind that this termination will last the length of the products life.
In comparison to some of The Chord Company’s other products, the width of the ‘Twin’ is noticeably bulkier with a 11mm diameter. What you have to remember here is that this is a cable that carries two core conductors, the positive and negative, so, in total, it does theoretically cut down on space and clutter – especially in comparison to the higher priced ‘Epic Reference’. The best part of this is that, if you’re looking to bi-wire your monitors/speakers, the ‘Epic Twin’ will afford the user with a more workable, aesthetic, and efficient product, even if, for the large part, it will go unnoticed at the back of your HiFi system. Something to bare in mind is that the cables diameter does make it massively difficult to hide underneath a carpet. So, if you intend to have your amplifier et al. in a separate area of the room, especially if you intend to bi-wire, you may come across some difficulties. Just so that you’re aware, don’t bother looking at chords extensive product catalogue for a cable that neatly fits underneath a carpet – they don’t do any flat profile cables.
Something that has massively bothered me with the ‘Epic Twin’ is that, because the cables major shielding ends 15cm (6”) before the end of the stripped conductor, it seems almost pointless to have a shield at all where, in total, 30cm of core conductor is exposed to radio frequencies with very limited shielding, except for a thin layer of PTFE insulation. I, personally, find this totally counter intuitive and, again, this is another reason why the ‘Epic Twin’ looses half a star. It is clear that this is an area of weakness for this cable that could sacrifice all the benefits of owning such an, otherwise, well designed speaker/amplifier interconnect. I totally get that having this area of stripped shielding means that it’s easier to connect it to your speakers or amplifier, but still it would be 100x better to have that shield all the way up or, even better, to have a Y-splitter and slimmer shield so that the plugs can lock into far stretching binding posts. However, on another slightly different note, purely for comparative reasons, I thought that it’s best to let you know that this cables construction is certainly familiar within The Chord Company’s range. This same construction approach, although not in terms of materials, can also be seen within the much cheaper ‘Carnival SilverScreen’, ‘Leyline’, ‘Rumour’, and “Odyssey’ product lines. All of the aforementioned products use a common design approach; a pair of twisted core conductors wrapped with a relatively hollow shielding tube, and 15cm of stripped shielding before the end. Still, you have to remember that the Epic uses more complex design methodology and better materials, with a superior sonic result. If you are unsure of what cable you would like to purchase, The Chord Company do have many authorised dealers all over the world and, by visiting one, you’ll be able to demo all the respective designs to make an final informed purchase.
As with all The Chord Company cables, they are directional. It is my belief that the directionality is built into the cable in terms of the way in which all of the components cables are cut. Personally I have experienced little discernible sonic effect with reversing the cables directionality, although it is, perhaps, also all down to the way in which electrons travel or how the shielding becomes charged, so this is something that could potentially become more apparent after hundreds of hours of use.
Because we haven’t yet actually discussed the materials used within the total design of the ‘Epic Twin’, it seems only fitting to now briefly outline these. First of all, the core conductor is a 19x twisted strand of silver plated oxygen free copper wire with a thin tight layer of PTFE plastic insulation before being entombed in PVC. In terms of the shielding, the jacket uses a dual layer first comprising of overlapped foil, then with a high density braid, before being rewrapped. On top of the braided metal, The Chord Company use a translucent grey PVC jacket. If you choose to have your cable terminated, Chord will affix 24k Gold plated banana plugs or copper played spade connectors.
Lossless tracks varying from 44.1kHz to 192kHz and 16bit to 24bit, MacBook Air Mid 2013 i7, iBasso DX90, Chord Electronics ‘Scamp’, Chord Electronics ‘Hugo’, The Chord Company ‘Signature Tuned ARAY’, Lynx ‘Hilo’, Arcam ‘irDAC’, IsoAcoustics ‘ISO-L8R155’, and Audiofilia ‘AF-SM1’.
Let’s put the ‘Epic Twin’ into perspective; it is an excellent cable in the right context. Having jumped up from The Chord Company’s ‘Sarsen’ speaker cable, I found that the ‘Epic Twin’ re-calibrated the perfectly balanced neutrality of my Audiofilia AF-SM1 monitor speakers to now, ever so slightly, favour the treble spectrum with a larger stereo field. In the treble region there is a huge amount of detail on offer and, in comparison to the ‘Sarsen’, it feels as if a veil has been lifted. Certainly the treble frequencies have become much more acrobatic, they’re light on their feet, are dynamically articulate, exhibit great precision, but they don’t have a super-sharp crystalline edge. Instead the trebles are detailed without falling foul to sibilance and tend to have a mildly loose airy edge on the focus, this seems to make the entire region very musical and banishes any super harsh edginess. If you choose to listen to the detail it’s there, for example high-hats maintain a solid consistent shimmering stand, but otherwise the treble region doesn’t force you to tiringly acknowledge every little nuance. I do have to say that with such a transparent region, vocal performances seem to come alive. Granted, the precision of the treble region can make some female vocal performances sound a touch dry, but it does make for a very impressive, scarily coherent, larger than life experience. Maybe if you’re all about keeping the sound as a natural level playing field, the ‘Epic Twin’s precision tilt may not be for you, even if it is still noticeably musical in this area. But, in terms of the imaging, I have to say that, again, I’m quite impressed. The ‘Twin’ is able to present an expansive stage with modest to large amounts of air around the instruments, but occasionally the micro details can be left to the side. Undoubtedly with the ‘Epic Twin’ you get the feeling as if this is a cable that can hold its composure no matter what you throw at it, including complex orchestral pieces, so, either way, the treble region is seeming on point – literally.
If we move onto the midrange, I’ve noticed that this is a place where precision doesn’t necessarily follow the trend. It’s a much more relaxed area with a creamy musical presentation and I can’t hear as much dynamic control – it’s noticeably slower to respond and can sound mildly compressed with Rock recordings, also it’s no where near as impressive as the treble or bass regions. Still, having said this, I can’t say that these qualities are exaggerated, they’re more subtle and, weirdly, I don’t find this disappointing. The reason for this is that it seems to add a layer of analogue realism to the mildly larger than life trebles and has a direct contrast to the mid-bass articulation. Sure, the instrument separation in the general midrange isn’t quite as expansive as the high-midrange or trebles, but it doesn’t require any effort to listen too and I find that it is a soothing relaxed area. Most importantly, I find that the ‘Epic Twin’ doesn’t overly complicate the presentation so there still is a continuation of the musical presentation found in the upper-mids. In support of the above, the lower-mid body doesn’t seem to exhibit any muddiness, maybe apart from the odd occasion with Rock genres and guitar solos where there can be a slight flat edge.
Down at the bass frequencies, this is an area where ‘Epic Twin’ appears to excel itself, even if it is less present due to the cables tilt (somewhat like a British EQ). The bass timing does, however, have a largely realistic edge with a confident solid like focus that is free of any hard aggressiveness. Whilst the bass does, largely, perform consistently across the range, the only exception to this rule is that there is a progressively gradual loss of presence within the sub-bass frequencies who just don’t have the same confidence as the upper-mid or upper-bass range. However, in this range the frequencies do have such a great composure that there appears to be a well judged sense of air and depth to the rhythmic elements – something that is often so hard to achieve. Although the mildly expansive air element is, perhaps, a reason as to why the bass doesn’t quite have the same hardness, or digital edge, as the trebles, it appears full, confident in its own way, and it makes it easy to follow the rhythm in the central domain – even if it is wider than you are used to.
Epic Twin Conclusion:
The Chord Company’s ‘Epic Twin’ is a largely well designed cable that is based on a tried and tested production method. Whilst I have my reservations about the length of the shielding, its effectiveness, and the pricing structure, the cable still performed like a diamond in the listening tests. Personally I’ve found the ‘Epic Twin’ to have a very British sound to it with a mild digital focus. It is without doubt that this is an excellent speaker cable for uncovering all the extra details within the recording without forcing you to take notice of them all, and does an excellent job of increasing the stereo width. It is clear, coherent, and maintains a good focus, so, with all the facts considered, The Pro Audio Web Blog awards The Chord Company ‘Epic Twin’ speaker cable with a four star rating.