AAI Maestoso IC

MJ01.01.2022

Interconnects

Out of all those interconnect cables that my audio system has ever hosted, the Maestoso interconnect reminded me Nordost´s Odin the most. I mean the original Odin that sold at 16k€ per meter. Certainly, there were some nuances, like the cold Maestoso had better bass that continued to further improve with ongoing burn-in.  So, the next question – was the Maestoso better than Odin V2 that sells at 22k€ per meter? No, it wasn´t. I understand this is good news for many. Still, this cable is something special and its performance goes far beyond its modest price level.

100% reference

Function and form

97%
Ease of use
91%
Sound
98%
Appearance

As much as I liked the AAI Maestoso interconnect after couple of hours with music, I liked it even more after couple of hundred hours. I am not even sure that the cable had the time to achieve its optimum performance as it was connected and disconnected many times for it was travelling with me and resided in quite a few audio set-ups. Considering that the mechanical stress always puts any cable out of its balance, I still need to experience the Maestoso after prolonged period in just one system. I keep the cable as one of my references so I may report on that someday in future.

I do not want to repeat what I wrote in the review of the excellent AAI Maestoso power cable – the basic design principles of Slovakian Authentic Audio Image remain all the same across their portfolio, including the IST (Interference Suppression Technology) that they claim to use to improve mechanical and electrical properties of conductors. Unlike the power cable, the Maestoso interconnect employs only pure silver solid-core conductors, that are shielded and connected as directional in the direction of the arrow on a metal collar that freely slides along the length of the cable. Although the metal collar´s purpose is purely decorative (it bears the company´s logo) I found subtle differences in the Maestoso´s sound depending on the collar´s position. The explanation may be in the mechanical resonance damping of the cable, and I assume each owner will find the position where the collar ´sounds´ its best. Other than that, the Maestoso interconnect is surprisingly lightweight and surprisingly flexible, with very solid terminations. The advantage of it is that the cable has no tendency to break the connectors by its own weight.

Bass management

Weight
94
Slam
91
Articulation
90

My first experience with the ´Maestoso effect´ was when it replaced In-Akustik XLR Referenz 2404 in a complete McIntosh set-up. It took 10 seconds for us to realize that the sound upgrade had been far from insignificant. The level of spatial information increased amazingly, as heard with All by My Lord (40 Years Anniversary sampler, STS Digital), and the music just felt much more realistic. It was the moment I wished there were some of those in the room that claim there are no differences between cables. Not only was the difference clearly audible but it was remarkable, in favor of the AAI Maestoso. The organ that had presented a background for the choir before became a full part of the performance, and the sound expanded in all directions. The individual voices became less drenched in the acoustics of the venue, everything got separated and outlined, sound by sound. There was also extra information that was unburied by the Maestoso interconnect, like the subsonic rumble of the heavy traffic outside the church that was not heard with the InAkustik at all. This is the first good news – there is not low-pass filtering with the Maestoso, the cable supports any full range speakers available. Should you don´t have full range speakers the further good news is that the Maestoso performance is great in other octaves too.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
94
Air
93
Transparency
95

Omnibus Wind Ensemble’s Music By Frank Zappa on Opus 3 label is a recording full of acoustic sounds recorded in a natural environment by a real band, that is a reference recording (although the content is not 100% to my taste). The sounds are captured with genuine purity, so any coloration or distortion is amplified twice – true that on lesser systems the recording can get unlistenable. The Maestoso, that was replacing Nordost Valhalla V2 in the system, made the instruments sound more liquid in a very natural the space continuum. Especially front-to-back the soundstage became more spacious, better layered, with more fleshy images. The sound was compression free, deep, and extremely musical. Surprisingly, the Maestoso was able to preserve a great part of Valhalla V2´s hyperdetail, yet it illuminated it with more grace and realism, and less mannerism. Thus the minute detail of the lips pushed against a mouthpiece managed to be organic, rather than a show-off of system´s capabilities. The comparison to the V2 also proved that although the Maestoso seemed too understated initially, it grew on me as I continued listening. So let not yourself to be a victim of the first impression that may mislead your judgement.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
92
Dynamics
90
Temporal resolution
92

There was the time at the end of the last century when thrash metal fell from grace, the genre icons cut their hair and grew beards and moustaches, and dozens of nu-metal and grunge bands started to pop up like mushrooms. It was when then unknown Pantera took the thrash metal template, added melodies, grooves, and slick production, and released Cowboys from Hell album. It is a surprisingly well recorded material and Primal Concrete Sledge is a great example. I wish more rock records sounded like it. Through the AAI Maestoso the rhythm guitars were abrasive and crunchy and very detailed. I don´t know how the album was recorded but it sounded as if the guitar combos had been tubed, the sessions had been recorded on a tape, and then just transferred to digital. The midrange was fleshy, the highs were sweet and clean, the grooving guitars had high-octane punch and sounded aggressive without sounding tiring. In fact, the Maestoso resurrected my interest in Pantera, and I kept the album in heavy rotation for many days afterwards.

Unlike with many other high-end competitors, the Maestoso’s detail is very relaxed in its expression, and amazingly integrated into the music. This way, the nuances are made audible without the listener noticing that this subtle highlighting happens. For instance, the AAI cord made sure that the mastering differences between the 1991 and 2021 versions of Metallica’s Black Album (Vertigo 510022-2 vs Blackened BLCKND008R-2) were easy to grasp. Bob Ludwig’s brand-new remaster of the iconic album is highly professional, the sound is a bit more pumping, it is clearer with slightly accentuated upper bass and presence region, and I can imagine how fantastic it would sound through earbuds. But then the original album sounds airier, more open, heavier, and has definitely better studio vibe, no matter that its upper midrange is a bit hotter than I would like it to be. Now, with the AAI Maestoso – no matter than I am receiving two different sound profiles - both the versions are great, and both are presented with equal verve and musicality. As I say, with the AAI the music comes first, and the sound is just a facilitator.

Spatial resolution

Holography
95
Soundstage width
95
Soundstage depth
95

It should be clear by now that the AAI interconnects has the ability to please the listener with dynamic and tonally rich sound that ticks all the boxes of a demanding audiophile. It is also a great traveling companion. Not only did I travel with it to many other high-end systems, but also I travel with it through my collection of music. Often it was like the first experience for me as I heard the music anew, like the screeching board under the shoes of the double-bass player in Wouldn´t It Be Loverly (Chiara Pancaldi, I Walk a Little Faster, Challenge Records). Female jazz vocals tend to be sensitive to sibilants as they are usually close-miked. Unfortunately it is exactly the very frequency region that many high-end cables tend to accent as this makes them sounding more open, focused, and enticing for a listener. There are other cables that don’t manage to perform well in this region, and the sound, though pleasant and sibilance-free, is smeared and soft. The AAI Maestoso split the difference: the sibilants were natural, as if the singer was in the room with you, and the focus was natural too – that is not overhyped sensation of someone with a microphone between her teeth. At the same, and it was a very seductive feature of the Maestoso, the interconnect as if removed “jitter”. By the jitter I am not talking about the digital jitter per se, rather the pixelization of sound that is often present and that we are unaware of, until it is gone. Suddenly, everything sounds more fluid, naturally smooth, and very dynamic.

After months spent with the AAI Maestoso interconnect in many audio systems (see footnote) I am confident to declare it a top-flight cable that certainly stacks up against any competitor on the planet. Saying so, it does not mean that you must sell your own interconnects right away and acquire the Maestoso. The result is of course system-dependent as usual. For instance, Stealth Audio´s Metacarbon did not performed well when I lived with it for a month in my own system, yet it sounded more complete than the Maestoso in the all-Ayon audio set-up. Another example: I still consider the Ansuz Signalz C2 to be the best match for my system, better than the D2 or the DTC, yet there were recordings, especially purely acoustic ones, where the Maestoso provided a touch more of thereness, a touch more colors, and a touch more dynamic shading.

I, perhaps, would not speculate that the AAI Maestoso is the terminus station, however, it is the proverbial stop before the terminus. Give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed.

Price as reviewed:58 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Authentic Audio Image, Povážská Bystrica, +421 905 694 943

Associated components

  • Sources: Accuphase DP-720, CD/SACD Transport Métronome t/AQWO + Elektra, DAC Métronome c/AQWO + Elektra, McIntosh MCTD600 SACD/CD, Musical FIdelity M6scd, C.E.C. TL-51XR, Ayon CD-35 II High FIdelity Edition, xDuoo XT10T II
  • Amplifiers: TAD-M2500, McIntosh C2700 předzesilovač, McIntosh MC1.25kW quad monobloky, Ayon Epsilon, Mark Levinson No.423 a No.526, Accuphase E-5000
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Ansuz Signalz C2, Krautwire MAX Pro, Krautwire Numeric Digital, AAI Mestoso XLR,  InAkustik Referenz 2404 a Reference LS-2404 AIR , InAkustik Toslink, Classe Delta, Kubala-Sosna Emotion, Stealth Audio Metacarbon,
  • Loudspeakers:  TAD Evolution One E1, Bowers & Wilkins 801 D4, Revel Ultima Studio2, Legacy Audio Whisper XDS, Rockport Technologies Avior II, Fyne Audio F501 a F500SP
  • Power conditioning Shunyata Research Denali, Stromtank S-1000, GMG Harmonic Hammer Exclusive, In-Akustik Referenz AC-3500, Ansuz Mainz C2, Ansuz Mainz DTC, Shunyata Research Sigma XC v2, Roth Audio Aryia, AAI Maestoso, Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 2, Synergstic Research Euphoria Level 3, Nordost Qb8, Nordost Valhalla V2, Nordost Frey, IsoTek Extreme

Gallery

AAI Maestoso IC

Out of all those interconnect cables that my audio system has ever hosted, the Maestoso interconnect reminded me Nordost´s Odin the most. I mean the original Odin that sold at 16k€ per meter. Certainly, there were some nuances, like ...

Recommended resellers

Authentic Audio Image, Povážská Bystrica, +421 905 694 943

Sound
91%

ANALYSIS PLUS Copper Oval-In

Analysis Plus Copper Oval-IN (1m XLR) brought up images of a hornet to me. There was nothing hornet-like in its sound, rather it looked exactly like it with its black and yellow camouflage. Contrary to a hornet the Copper Oval-IN is ...

Recommended resellers

Audiostudio s.r.o., Olomouc, tel. +420 608 752 475

Sound
53%

ANALYSIS PLUS Silver Oval-In

After many computer simulations and other exhaustive tests, in Analysis Plus they determined that a hollow oval cable constituted the best possible conductor design. The primary advantage of an oval conductor design rather than ...

Recommended resellers

Audiostudio s.r.o., Olomouc, tel. +420 608 752 475

Sound
69%

ANSUZ Signalz C2

The design goal of Ansuz Acoustics is to keep inductance as low as possible. The Ansuz interconnects are using three twisted 3 mm coaxial cables (Direct Ground Connection alias DGC), and 2x6 wires twisted in reversed directions to ...

Recommended resellers

RP Audio, Ostrava, +420 737 366 831

Sound
93%

ANSUZ Signalz D2

Like the Ansuz Signalz C2 is the Signalz D2 a showpiece of modern technicistic design of interconnects. The black and grey of braid is complemented by translucent copper that gives the cable its depth of colour and premium look. Like ...

Recommended resellers

RP Audio, Ostrava, +420 737 366 831

Sound
94%

AUDIOQUEST Wild Blue Yonder

The Wild Blue Yonder brings a new grade of illumination, the recording bathes in light and air and has unbelievable amount of subtle detail. I have not heard anything like that before. The sound flows like a pure water in a mountain ...

Recommended resellers

AQ s.r.o., Červenka, tel. +420 585 342 232

Sound
89%

CARDAS AUDIO Clear

The Clear is so transparent and leaves so little its own imprint on the sound that it can be used almost universally. I would even dare to put it differently: if the Cardas Clear spoils the sound of your system, keep the Clear and ...

Recommended resellers

SK: Platan Audio, Hlohovec / Bratislava, tel. +421 905 409 802

Sound
85%
Back to category