Writing about cables is, well… challenging at best. First off, I am required to be descriptive about something that has to be transparent in your system. In fact, the better the cable, the less you should be able to hear it in your system. It would be easier to be more talkative about a bad cable. I would go on and on about it choking off the high end, restricting frequencies, producing holes big enough to drive a truck through, etc… But what to say about really good cables? This becomes increasingly difficult.
Secondly, nothing spawns more hate mail than articles about cables- especially power cables. There are just scads of people out there that still believe they are nothing but Snake Oil. I could write about the differences until my fingers fall off, and I will get responses back telling me that this is utter bunk, or worse. There are audiophiles that have never tried certain cable upgrades because they don’t believe they will be effective and those that simply won’t believe their own ears when they hear the upgrade for themselves. For you that may fall in these categories, I sincerely hope that you continue to enjoy my other articles. This one may not be your cup of tea.
Spirit II Single-ended RCA Interconnects
I got to listen to many offerings from Triode Wire Labs at the Florida Audio Expo, so I was excited to get to hear some of their cables for myself, in my own listening room. As soon as the box arrived, there was a quality in the experience as I was opening the package. The braiding, the connectors, the feel of cables, even the very nice bags that each cable comes in, all told me that these were very well-made. Straight away, they seemed to justify their $399-599 price tag.
I’m a firm believer that everything in the world of audio needs a certain amount burn-in time (even though these came “pre-cooked”), even interconnects. However, as soon as I had these connected into my two-channel system, they were an immediate upgrade from the $30 Monster Cable interconnects that I had in place previously. The soundstage opened up considerably, and definition tightened nicely.
Listening to some Lyle Lovett, because hey- I go for penguins- I was very pleased with how much clearer the drums became. The bouncing of the hi-hat had much more clarity, the snare became tighter, and the cymbals rang beautifully. Lovett’s vocals sat in the center of mix right where they should be, surrounded by acoustic guitar. The guitar itself was also coming through nice and wide in the soundstage, something (as a guitar player, myself) I’m pretty picky about.
I tried the interconnects on both the SACD and the analog CD outputs of my Pioneer Elite DV-45A player and was equally impressed with the performance there. All-in-all, these are very nice cables that do an amazing job and sit at a great price point.
Twelve Plus and Ten Plus Power Cables
Power cables, and indeed all A/C treatments are an interesting and growing market. They are certainly a very necessary part of a good system. They’re one of the products that probably range the most all over the map, price-wise. You can upgrade your outlet for 20 bucks, or invest $20k of your hard-earned dollars into a single power cable. Now, many of us out there think that the latter borders on insanity, and I admit that I count myself among them (this is the Shoestring Audiophile, after all)
The Triode Wire Labs Twelve Plus power cable sits at a much more sane $249-289. So, is it a worthwhile investment? I decided to try it on the humble $1399 Cyrus One HD integrated amp just to see. I will tell you that the difference was immediate, and very pleasing. I used one of my favorite go-to discs by Blue Tofu. It has some of the deepest bass of any disc that I own. Somehow, that’s where I was expecting the difference to be. It wasn’t. The bass was mostly the same. It was everything above the bass that improved and opened up, suddenly. So, for those of you thinking that this might be “biased listening,” I actually heard something completely different than expected.
What I did hear was more snap in the percussion, more depth in the female voice, and what people like to call “blacker blacks.” The way I’ve always interpreted that is improved dynamics, especially with regards to the quiet spots.
Trying the Ten Plus power cable yielded even more clarity, particularly in the hi-hat. These Triode Wire Labs cables really do seem to work some particular magic with regards to bringing out percussion in recordings. The Ten Plus steps you up to a $399-524 investment, but if you really want to hear those subtleties that are being masked right now in your current system, this cable may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Wrapping It Up
I’m a lot of things. I’m a music lover. I’m a record collector. I’m a craft beer connoisseur. I’m cranky in the mornings. What I’m not is an electrical engineer. I cannot provide measurements, white papers, or hard proof on any of the above statements. I know what I hear, and I’ve learned to trust my ears. I’ve learned to trust them when something sounds good and call it like it is when something sounds bad. I’ve had to do the latter a time or two in my life. In the case of Triode Wire Labs, I’ve heard some very fine cables over the last few weeks. The upgrades in sound are absolutely worth the investment into quality wires.
Cyrus One HD Integrated Amp
Pioneer Elite DV-45A SACD player
Audio Art SC-5 speaker cables
APC power conditioner