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Triode Wire Labs - Power Cords, Speaker Cable, and AES/EBU Digital Cable

04-07-2017 | By Robert S. Youman | Issue 90

Triode Wire Labs

There is a new player in town... Triode Wire Labs. When Dave Clark extols enthusiastic praise about a particular product line, I sit up and take notice (his review can be found HERE and another by Steve Kozle HERE). After reading his review, I just happened to casually glance at the MSRP's and that greatly inspired me to read the review once again. I am glad that I did. It planted a seed that blossomed into something very special.

At the time, my mind immediately kicked into overdrive and my "audiophile stimuli" began to twitch. You know the feeling. Whether it be about performance or aesthetics or something else, the adrenaline starts to flow and like Pavlov's dog, the salivation begins. My wife recognizes that look immediately, so I have to be careful while scheming and before negotiations and creative funding begins.

My initial thought was the following. I am in the middle of rebuilding my system from the ground up and if this loom was that good and at these prices, I could really save some money or use it elsewhere in the system. I am not interested in cutting corners on sound quality though—only in supporting my penurious and over burdened bank account.

That proved to be the wrong mind set. I soon learned that "value" was an inappropriate consideration. You need to set aside the price and just listen without bias. It's all about execution and results. Not to be overly dramatic, but you will be quickly swept away and totally engaged when utilizing the products from Triode Wire Labs.

Caveat Emptor

System synergy and personal taste are critical when evaluating high-end audio products. This review is based on my subjective requirements, my subjective ears, a specific system, and a specific listening room. Please consider my comments and analysis appropriately.

Review Systems

For System 1 below, I only needed speaker cables, power cords, and AES/EBU digital cables. This is my personal home system and lately it has been in a constant state of flux as it evolves. Though there are many options, I prefer an AES/EBU digital cable connection between the digital hybrid Devialet 1000 Pro integrated amplifier and both the Esoteric K-01X SACD/CD/DAC and the Aurender N10 music server. All of this drives a pair of Sonus Faber Stradivarius speakers. Sweet and simple.

I am still hunting for a turntable, arm and cartridge to complete this configuration. My hope is to soon purchase an analog preamplifier, amplifier, and phono preamplifier for additional review comparisons. Until that happens, I used my friend's system for supplementary listening and evaluation. I am very familiar with this system and thought it might make for an interesting contrast. System 2 is an intriguing combination of Audio Research, Magico, Aurender, and VPI. 

System 1

  • Sonus Faber Stradivari Speakers
  • Devialet 1000 Pro Integrated Amplifier
  • Aurender N10 Music Server
  • Esoteric K-01X SACD/CD/DAC
  • Synergistic Research Element CTS Cable Throughout
  • Triode Wire Labs American Speaker Cable
  • Triode Wire Labs Spirit Digital AES/EBU Cable
  • Triode Wire Labs Digital American Power Cord
  • Triode Wire Labs High Power Digital American Power Cord

System 2

  • Magico S5 Speakers (original, not MK.II)
  • Audio Research Reference 5SE Preamplifier
  • Audio Research Reference 150 Stereo Amplifier
  • Audio Research Reference PH-7 Phono Stage
  • Bryston BDA-3 DAC
  • Aurender N10 Music Server
  • VPI HRX Turntable
  • VPI JMW 12.6 Tonearm
  • Van den Hul Condor Cartridge
  • Synergistic Research Atmosphere Cable Throughout
  • Triode Wire Labs American Speaker Cable
  • Triode Wire Labs Spirit Digital AES/EBU Cable
  • Triode Wire Labs Digital American Power Cord
  • Triode Wire Labs High Power Digital American Power Cord

Designer

Let's talk a little about Peter Grzybowski—founder, owner and chief designer at Triode Wire Labs (TWL). Another one of the good guys! You can tell by the way he talks about his product line and his customers. Very passionate, very responsive and very respectful in all his communications. Its easy to root for TWL with Pete at the helm and things are definitely looking up. The word is spreading quickly and the band wagon is gaining momentum—all for a good reason! Another great American success story!

Pete is a licensed Professional Engineer with a BS from Clarkson University and a MS from the New York Institute of Technology. His resume also includes over 25 years in the power generation industry with considerable expertise in electrical theory and construction. Pete caught the audiophile bug as a young boy repairing and modifying various family audio components and experimenting with a myriad of DIY projects including power cords, interconnects and speaker cable.

This interest and enthusiasm continued throughout his adult life until his unremitting dream was finally realized with Triode Wire Labs. This all supports a real world level of insight, experience and commitment that translates well to the audio industry. A strong skill set and personal history, but as always, the proof is in the pudding. As you shall see, Pete delivers!

Triode Wire Labs

Triode Wire Labs

Design

Though extremely important, I am not going to take a deep dive into the finer details of the design for each model. However, I will touch on the key differentiators. One of Pete's philosophies as an engineer is "Efficiency & Effectiveness" and it clearly shows. Please see the Triode Wire Labs website for a more comprehensive description of each design choice.

Needless to say, fit and finish is impressive. Quality and sophistication are quite evident—even in the way these cables are packaged and delivered. Pete employs Litzendraht braiding, elite grade Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) conductors, and cotton dielectric in all of his products which provides for outstanding bandwidth and phase performance. His proprietary construction designs are said to deliver superb levels of noise suppression and RFI/EMI rejection.

State of the art components and materials are utilized throughout including the very best from Furutech, leGo and Cardas. Pete also went the extra mile with custom made CNC machined aluminum carbon-fiber outer shells for several of the power cord connectors. All conductors and connectors are cryogenically treated and final configurations are burned in featuring a high power audiodharma CABLE COOKER™. In summary, this all presents a strong foundation and very high expectations for superb sound quality.

The Sound

I found that all of the TWL cables were fairly consistent in presentation and character so there is no need to break down the sound by individual model or function. I will say however, that the power cords made the most significant impact on both systems discussed here. For those thinking about a phased in approach, it would make perfect sense to start with the power cords and then move forward to a full loom as the budget allows.

Bottom line, this wire is the bomb. Rarely have I heard such a wonderful combination of warmth, texture and dynamics. Bass performance was as deep and muscular as anything else that I have experienced in my listening room. Mids were absolutely delicious with plenty of liquidity and seduction. Highs were well extended with considerable speed and agility.

Typically, when these traits are realized, the sound can sometimes slow down and thicken. Nothing could be further from the truth with the TWL cables. There was an urgency and flow to the music that exploded with a life like presence. Soundstage was spot on—never truncated or exaggerated. Imaging, spatial cues, and ambiance continued to surprise and delight even on the most familiar recordings.

There was something particularly addictive about the midrange and bass. Call it a sense of proper weight or timbral purity or just plain magic, but I was quickly hooked. You never heard Ella sound any sexier. Ben Webster on tenor sax was dripping with layers of fleshed out harmonics. John Entwistle was rattling the floor boards and terrorizing my nieces and nephews in the next room.

No, the TWL cables do not have the SOTA ultra transparency and transient speed of the Nordost Valhalla 2 (review soon to come) or the eerily black background and inner density of the Synergistic Research Galileo series, but in all other respects, this cable really shines at a fraction of the price. It was almost embarrassing to lead my audio buddies through a blind test and comparison with several much more expensive unnamed brands and even a few flagship offerings. I then asked for a description of the differences and a guess on price. This exercise was a real eye opener for all.

The Emotional Connection

For what ever reason, reviewers are sometimes expected to comment on how a particular component falls on the musical vs. analytical curve (I call it the roller coaster ride). One of our more esteemed reviewers, Jonathan Valin, likes to use the following terms for what he defines as the three types of listeners: "fidelity to source, absolute sound, or as you like it". Google it. I found it to be a very sophisticated and interesting point of view. 

In this case, the TWL cables pulled me into the refrain and I forgot all the rules and all the psychological perspectives. I did not care about neutrality or the "musical vs. analytical thing". I did not care about the audiophile check list. I did not care if was I transported inside the recording venue or looking from the outside into the recording venue (I still don't quite understand these analogies).

My notes were quickly set aside. Rather than jump from track to track, I found myself listening to entire albums—which is not the norm for my evaluations. Regardless of the music genre, there was a certain correctness of presentation that just had me mesmerized. Clearly, these cables provided an emotional connection.

I will end this section with a short story. On the first night after a week of burn in, my wife walked into the listening room while the music was playing. This rarely happens as she typically has her own interests to keep her busy. Her eyebrows, reading glasses and chin lowered in unison as she peeped over the glasses and looked straight at me, then looked at the speakers and then looked at me again. She smiled from ear to ear and was soon sitting next to me without saying a word. She barely moved the rest of the night. My thoughts were validated. I knew then that something was different about these cables.

System Synergy

Another vehicle for communicating what might be possible with a particular component is how it interacts with other components. This is another reason for including both System 1 and System 2 in this evaluation. I was specifically interested in the following three: Sonus Faber Stradivari speakers, Magico S5 speakers, and the Devialet 1000 Pro integrated amplifier. Proper matching can make a real difference with each.

Of course the rest of the system is also critical so please take another look at the above lists, but I have been through a bunch with these three products so I feel comfortable making some basic comments. Again, before sending the hate mail, please consider the subjectivity thing.

The Strads are a very rich musical speaker. They have excellent speed and detail along with superb bass performance—something that the Strads never get enough credit for. I have owned them over two separate periods over the last several years. They are one of my all time favorite transducers and can provide a different yet very interesting comparison because of their basic character.

With the Strads, you have to be careful with the supporting components as you can make an extremely articulate musical speaker into an overly ripe chocolate soufflé. As stated, the TWL cables have this magical warm tone and demeanor. Surprisingly, the TWL cables were a great match. It brought out even more of the Strad's strengths without over cooking the end results. Mids were more pronounced yet still lifelike and immediate. Bass was even more powerful and extended. Micro and macro dynamics were still amazing.

The Magico S5 speakers have been one of my favorite designs from Alon Wolf ever since the get go. I owned the Magico Q7 speakers for close to three years. Since the Magico Mini was introduced in 2004, I have heard most of the Magico product line at various shows, at many dealerships and at the homes of several friends. How could you not? Magico has been a huge success with plenty of visibility and deservedly so.

The original Magico S5 speakers have a fairly neutral response with an incredible level of transparency and dynamic expression. Slightly more organic and balanced than the Q lineup, you still need to be careful about the supporting electronics and wire. The Strads and the TWL cables were a wonderful combination, but the S5's were a match made in heaven.

In a nut shell, the TWL cables added a bit more "meat to the bones" without compromising their other considerable strengths. Speed and detail were still world class. Mids and highs had additional texture and harmonic density. Bass response seemed to have an another dB or two of bottom end grunt.

I am confident that there are S5 owners out there who don't want any more "meat on the bones" and would proudly tell me to mind my own business. But to my ears, the TWL cables are something that many Magico owners might want to consider. This goes for both Q and S product lines.

Finally, we have the Devialet 1000 Pro integrated amplifier. Many folks consider this a "digital" amplifier which promotes some inappropriate biases. The truth is that the 1000 Pro is a hybrid Class A/D design and that this design choice is actually one of its many strengths—the best of both philosophies can be realized. Despite this, and after over 60 audiophile awards from around the world, the Devialet lineup still has a few naysayers for it's so called "digital" sound.

As you can probably already tell, I am not one of those naysayers. As the Devialet has evolved over three generations, I find the dual chassis 1000 Pro more musical than ever and highly competitive with both tubes and solid-state. The TWL cables provide just another level of rich tapestry and coherency to the sound. This warmer balance has the potential to strike a blow for Class D amplifiers everywhere! Despite the "digital" connotations, when utilizing the TWL, you can get even more of that emotional connection that we all yearn for.

For the power cords, it is also important to note that Pete can build you a custom configuration at no additional cost using a slim profile Furutech FI-C15(G) C13 IEC connector. As Devialet owners know, all Devialet rear panels are extremely tight and it can be difficult to properly seat some of the huge connectors used these days on after market power cords. This configuration will also allow you to securely position the Devialet rear lid over all the inputs and outputs making for a clean and less congested appearance.

Music

Arcangelo Corelli - Concerti Grossi Op.6 Nos.1-6, Nicholas McGegan (CD) 

Performed by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and conducted by Nicholas McGegan, this outstanding period instrument production was released on the Harmonia Mundi label in 1992. It was recorded at the Ralston Hall in Belmont California and produced by the great Peter McGrath (of Wilson Audio fame).

If one admires the music of Vivaldi, this lovely CD should be on your next birthday wish list. Concerto No. 5 is particularity exhilarating. Via the TWL cables, the even tempo and precision of the strings are clearly defined and laid out across the soundstage. Cellos and double bass achieve a level of dynamics and unleashed power that will challenge your system. There is a presence and palpability to the sound that will have you dazzled and delighted. This is one of my favorite small orchestra small venue recordings. The TWL cables take it up a notch.

Tangerine Dream, Dream Sequence (CD)

Dream Sequence was released in the CD format in 1985 on the French Virgin import label. This double disc set was one of my first CD acquisitions back in the day just after I purchased the original and now infamous Sony CDP-101 CD player (ouch). This is a greatest hit set from LPs released from 1973 to 1983. Considering how bad the production values were for digital transfers during those years, this reissue is still one of the best sounding CDs in my collection. The digital remastering is an absolute killer.

Known for their magnificent hard driving electronic melodies and sweeping synthesizers, the TWL cables really makes this music rock. Pick any track. You talk about weight and depth charge like impact, you had better remove the pictures from the walls in your listening room before cranking up the volume. Beyond the physical, you also get layers and layers of musical information that will fill your listening room from front to back. No, this is not surround sound, just a tremendous amount of rhythmic drive and outstanding resolution via TWL. Out of print, but well worth tracking down.

Sun Ra, Blue Delight (LP)

Blue Delight on the A&M label was recorded in 1988 by free jazz pioneer Sun Ra at the Variety Recording Studios in downtown New York City. Backed by his duly named 19 piece "Arkestra", which included Tommy Turrentine and Don Cheery, this recording harkens back to Sun Ra's early career and his unique big band style and sound. One might say that there is a certain sense of humor and mystical expression throughout the material, but this is what makes Sun Ra so unique.

Most of this LP swings, but my favorite track is the slow and mellow "Sunrise" which clocks in at an extended 11:48. The recording is superbly recorded, and the TWL cables yield a visceral three dimensional image of Sun Ra and his piano front and center. Surrounded by a cavalcade of instruments like saxophone, flugelhorn, flute, clarinet, oboe, and various percussion, you will soon be slowly floating along on a cloud of eclectic musical brilliance and then sudden bursts of life. The effortless rich bloom and timbre of each instrument will draw you in and quickly astonish your senses. This is a wonderful introduction into Sun Ra and his thrilling music.

Final Thoughts

As you can tell, I am quite enamored with Triode Wire Labs and the cable reviewed here. As mentioned early on, you need to set the MSRP's aside and properly manage your biases and expectations. Just sit back, listen and take it all in. For some, these price points might be a big attraction. For others, these price points might push you away. I know, I know, if something sounds like it's too good to be true, it usually isn't. For the folks in the later category, you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity.

Many may argue that my statements about sound and system synergy are sacrilegious and are defeating the goals of a true audiophile. Have we not always claimed that seeking neutrality is the key to building a proper system and getting you closer to the real thing? I don't care about these traditional principles. I do care about what I feel. I need that connection to the emotion and passion that music can provide when properly presented. Triode Wire Labs does that for me. I strongly suggest that you check it out. Highly recommended!

  • TWL American Speaker Cable (9 ft.): $949             
  • TWL American Spirit RCA Interconnects (1.5M): $449
  • TWL American-Spirit XLR Interconnects (1.5M): $549
  • TWL Spirit Digital AES/EBU Cable (1M): $249
  • TWL Digital American Power Cord (5 ft.): $499
  • TWL High Power Digital American Power Cord (5 ft.): $699
  • TWL Obsession Power Cord (6 ft.): $1399

Note:  I did not review the TWL American-Spirit XLR or RCA interconnects, and the Obsession power cords though I did add them to the pricing list above as a reference point.

Postscript

Though I was not able to obtain any of Pete's new "Obsession" power cords in time for this review (see pricing above), the word on the street is that this model takes the music to even another level. You get the TWL Digital American power cords on steroids! Appropriate for both digital and analog applications. One of the key enhancements is the Furutech FI-50 NCF connectors which always seems to be on backorder. For you tweakers out there, these connectors have an MSRP of $385 each. I am reconsidering my TWL implementation strategy. I may go for a system wide purchase of the Obsession power cords as a first step to an entire loom. We shall see. Please check out the TWL website for more information.

Triode Wire Labs, Inc.

PO Box 32

Massapequa Park, NY 11762

516.659.6748

triodewirelabs@outlook.com

www.triodewirelabs.com

 

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