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Audio Ramblings - Cables from Triode Wire Labs

11-16-2016 | By Dave Clark | Issue 88


So I have already touched on the AC cords from Triode Wire Labs in my review of the PS Audio BHK preamplifier and DirectStream DAC (as did Steve Kozle way back in Issue 61 HERE in his review of the TWL cords), and yeah, these are the real deal. What they do is pretty much take any audio product and act like a super-charger of sorts… big-block Hemi V-8 stomping down the highway. And all in a good way... visceral and power. Speed and dynamics. Clarity. Bass goes deeper with greater oomph and drive. Dynamics take a few turns up the slam ladder… things flesh out more and open up visually as well aurally. Did I mention slam and dynamics? Did I mention how the cables add a touch more flesh and fat to the soup? And like I said, all in a good way. One where it never becomes overbearing or one where you are reaching for the "less of that" control. Now of course that is here within our system and with our music, so you might find what they do to not be the best match for your system and your music—but then that is the world of high-end audio. And for sure, everything was stellar prior... but swap in the TWL cords and whoa! Buckle up baby, we are going for a ride...

Triode Wire Labs

The TWL Digital American

So a little background here on Triode Wire Labs, or from now on TWL. From their site…

"Founded by "Triode Pete," a licensed Professional Engineer, with a B.S. from Clarkson University and a M.S. from the New York Institute of Technology, Pete has been an avid audiophile since he was 10, when he repaired and restored his older brother’s blown JBL L-100 speakers. Working for over 26 years in the power generation industry, Pete has gained considerable experience and knowledge in electrical theory and construction.

"Experimenting with DIY power cables, speaker cables as well as interconnects, Pete constructed numerous variations and configurations with different metals as conductors, assorted construction techniques, various stranding sizes, different twist lengths and insulation, as well as grounding and shielding techniques. After all this experimentation, he found a material and construction combination that worked "best" for hi-fidelity audio applications that also could be assembled for affordable audiophile prices. One of Pete’s philosophies as an engineer is Efficiency & Effectiveness; he believes that "AFFORDABLE" & "AUDIOPHILE" should not be an OXYMORON!

"After finding the "best" materials for audiophile power cord, interconnect and speaker cable applications, Pete determined that the "best" assembly technique for AC power signals and AC transmission was to utilize Litzendraht braiding. This technique was developed in the 1930s in Germany. This type of wire construction offers very wide bandwidth with excellent phase performance, especially for audio signal transmission. The great and famous Western Electric Company utilized Litzendraht construction in military applications during World War 2."

Pete found that his "hand braiding" techniques were not the "best." However, he found that his wife and three daughters with their long, blonde hair were "expert" braiders and they currently "Litz-braid" all Triode Wire Labs cable products by hand."

Which is what I like to see… small family owned products that are hand-made, right here, without costing an arm and leg and with solid principles to their construction. All of which sounds good, but if the product doesn’t deliver then it really matters squat. Except here the TWL line of cables delivers in spades… and at a price that many, many people into audio can afford. Which is way cool.

Pete sent me a good number of his AC cords all from the American Line; the Ten, Seven, and Digital, plus one of the Silver Statements. I am not going to go into what the differences are between all of these (though you can think gauge and metallurgy for a start) as he does explain in detail how the cords differ as well as the options for plug (either IEC of male AC) on his site, but here are few highlights for just the Digital American…

  • Deep Cryogenically Treated Conductors & Connectors.
  • Custom Triode Wire Labs, Inc. Proprietary Design, for exceptional passive noise suppression and RFI/EMI rejection.
  • Standard with Natural sounding Furutech copper C13 IEC and NEMA 5-15 plug sets.
  • All cords are "burned-in" at TWL, featuring a HIGH POWER audiodharma CABLE COOKER™ Anniversary Edition 3.5 with premium all-copper billet Cardas CCGR binding posts.
  • Resonance controlling dielectric potting adhesive utilized.
  • 30-day Audition Trial.

Now all the cables are quite flexible and with an overall appearance—and sound—that belies their affordable price (depending on the cable and options, the 7 and 10 range from $400-$750, and the Silver Statement is a solidly even $1200).

Triode Wire Labs

The TWL 7 American

And yeah, they are natural sounding but with a slight goosing of the things that I like. Not the least bright or over the top, they do lean more to the warmer, richer, fuller side of things. Not in a dark gloomy way, but one as I said above that ramps up the dynamics and slam.

A coloration or character? For sure… but then what cable does not possess some coloration or character? Even if a cable "sounds" tonally even, that is a character in and of itself, and more than likely it is doing something to the sound rather than nothing at all… you just happen to prefer that cable to another.

Here I simply love the TWL line of cables. They are quite magical with our music presenting it in a way we had never experienced prior. Not that the previous AC cords were not excellent, it is just that with the current system configuration—PS Audio BHK-250 amplifier HERE, the Signature preamplifier HERE, the DirectStream DAC HERE, and Sutherland Duo phonostage (review up next)—life is good, real good… but yikers, these TWL cords are killer.

Okay, for sure I still love the cords from Sablon, as well as those from Dynamic Designs, Kubala-Sosna, PAD, and so on... it is just that the TWL cords work here and there to do more to our music that fits our wants... all about synergy and finding that magic. Simply put, the TWL cables have brought everything I toss their way to another level of musicality and engagement. Wham, bam, thank-you ma'am.

And at their prices, playing way above their level in competing sonically with cables many times their price... they are a no brainer.

Tradeoffs or considerations? For sure. If your system is already there (which we felt ours was...) then these might not be for you unless you want more oomph or grunt… more slam and wham, but they also tend to be, at least here that is, a bit on the warmer, richer side of things… of which we have found to be where we want to go. For sure our system is still there, out there in the room with presence and palpability and that visceral-ness -ness that our music begs for, but oh my, the TWL cables really bring the show home. For sure as one moves up the line things get better… the 7 goes further than the 10, the Digital works splendidly on digital, but it also works solidly on analog taking the Sutherland Duo to a place that makes our analog system really sing with slam and bam, like that of the digital system. And for sure the Silver, which being silver bucks the trend by not being silver-sounding, brings a bit more warmth and richness to the music as opposed to any sense of silvery glare or brightness. It is very sweet and airy as all get out while taking the strength and character of the American line a few notches further up the ladder... and while still being flexible and easy to route through the myriad of whatever that lays around, in front of, and behind our racks. 

Triode Wire Labs

The TWL Silver Statement

Okay, but what about the rest of the line. After all TWL makes more than just AC cables? Yeah and the family character runs right down the line though perhaps with a bit less emphasis or bravura. Sadly, I am not able to try the speaker cables as their spades are too wide for the Vandersteen’s barrier strip (review HERE), but Peter did send enough Spirit interconnects so that I was able to try them on just about everything and anything possible. There is only one line of interconnects—the Spirit ($350-$650 depending on options and such)—but damn dude… these cables are so, so sweet. And flexible. And musical.

A few highlights from the TWL site…

  • New, shielded "Spirit Phono" interconnects, featuring state of the art conductive gold mylar as well as patented conductive carbonized external sleeving to assist in maintaining clean low voltage signals as well as providing interference & RF filtering without increasing capacitance of traditional shielding.
  • Aircraft aluminum-bodied single-ended RCA connectors with equal, super low-mass & ultra-low capacitance center pin and ground. Both center pin & ground are high purity OFC copper with 24K gold flash plating.
  • Brass-bodied balanced XLR connectors available with three equal, super low-mass & ultra-low capacitance positive & negative polarity pins and ground. All three pins are high purity OFC copper with 24K gold flash plating.
  • Highly conductive hybrid materials, utilizing different conductors and dielectrics, synergize "perfectly" with each other, cancelling out their normal individual sonic anomalies.
  • Deep HELIUM Cryogenically Treated Conductors & Connectors, the highest & extremely expensive "state of the art" processing. Using liquid Helium, the components are very slowly, through computer control, drawn-down to near Absolute Zero – 0 Kelvin! (–450 oF / –267.8 oC).
  • Custom Triode Wire Labs, Inc. Proprietary Hybrid Material & Geometrical Design, for exceptional passive noise suppression and RFI/EMI field rejection.
  • 30-day Audition Trial.
  • All speaker cables are "burned-in" at TWL, featuring a newly acquired HIGH POWER audiodharma CABLE COOKER™ Anniversary Edition 3.5 with premium all-copper billet Cardas CCGR binding posts.

I like these a lot, and they compete well against the many more times expensive PAD Neptune I have here (which replace my reference PAD Proteus Provectus). Clean and articulate with a similar presence of the oomph and warmth as heard in the TWL AC cables (the Spirits pretty much add to the party what the American and Silver cables do… along with the intrinsic quality of musicality and fun), simply put… they are quite stunningly good. Now, I will admit that they are not at the same level sonically as the Neptune, but they do not embarrass themselves in the least when placed up against these cables. For sure the PAD goes deeper into the music with more presence, space, air… resolution and so on… all the while being "quiet and dark"… in the sense of there being little getting into the music from the outside. And for sure the PAD is more of what we want when looking, or listening, to the system as a "whole" (with the TWL AC cables and so on in the mix)—they are more "neutral" for lack of a better word, though I am not sure what that word even means in the context of audio and music… but even so I never found anything to dismiss the inclusion of the Spirit interconnects in the system with our music.


The TWL Spirit Balanced Inteconnect

If this is where one was to start, then this is where one would end… if your only reality was that of the Spirit interconnects. What I am saying is that I have experienced the PAD Neptune and other mega-priced interconnects/cables and so I get it… I get what they can do here and so for sure the Spirit comes close, but the more expensive PADs hold their own. Cosier thought that if this is where you were starting, with the Spirit, and that was your only experience with cables… and you have limited money, then there is really no need to go deeper in the pocket unless the system evolves as such or your insecurity calls you out. Even then, you would not be wrong to stay in place, sit still, and just listen to the music—the Spirit interconnects will not disappoint. I really want to spend more time with these interconnects in various other set-ups, they are that good. And for the money, another steal that gets you way there for way less. Kudos to Peter at TWL for making such wonderful products at such affordable high-end prices. Highly recommended and with a 30 day try at home audition, gee… who would pass that up? A no brainer for anyone looking for music at an affordable price—regardless of the expectation that the price brings to the table. The TWL line of cables are what I would consider references on so many levels. Again, Highly Recommended.

Triode Wire Labs