Triode Wire Labs: http://www.triodewirelabs.com/Cables Reviewed:
Spirit RCA/XLR IC’s (1m RCA/1.5m XLR), Spirit Digital IC XLR(1m), Digital American Power Cords (standard and high power versions , 5ft), American Speaker Cables with Cardas Premium bananas (6ft)
All of the cables we received were priced at under the $1k mark, some by a fair margin.
For details regarding the two systems and some of the music we used, view our Full Loom Evaluation Intro
I’ll begin by giving a quick overview of the cables we received.Some of this information is summarized from the Triode Wire Labs website while some is direct from Peter Grzybowski, founder of Triode Wire Labs and someone who feels “affordable” and “audiophile” should not be an oxymoron! More detailed information can be found at the website.
Over two years were spent developing the Spirit Interconnects which utilize ahighly conductive hybrid material with proprietary geometry, low mass ultra low capacitance connectors, and in house fabrication techniques. While I can’t tell you much about the conductors other than being made from a highly conductive, hybrid material and the use of a geometrical design offering superior noise suppression and RFI/EMI rejection, I can tell you that the RCA connectors have an extremely light, aircraft aluminum body with center pinsmanufactured from Oxygen Free Copper that is 24k gold plated. The bodies of the balanced XLR connectors are made of brass, the three pins are again made form high purity Oxygen Free Copper, are also 24k gold plated, and are all of equal mass .Both single ended and balanced cables use two conductors for both the positive and the negative leg which are hand braided into a star quad. The balanced cable also uses a heavier gauge connector that is counter wound around the star quad. Digital interconnects are available in both 110 ohm AES-EBU and 75 ohm BNC types. Each are exact precision resistance cables with a different design and shielding techniques. The claimed result are interconnects that are extremely neutral and will pass a signal true to the original source. Triode Wire Labs calls this PERFECTLY NATURAL PRAT (pace,rhythm, and timing).
Also included in the evaluation package we received was a pair of the relatively new Triode Wire Labs Digital American Power Cords. One was the standard 15 amp 5’ model, the other was a 5’ HP (high power) version developed for high current applications. The TWL’s Digital Power Cords were specifically designed to help reduce the noise floor in digital devices by filtering the high frequency noise associated with these devices. The conductors in the cords are made from very pure copper and are designed and engineered for extremely accurate sound reproduction. As with the other TWL cables, a Litzendrahtbraid is utilized in the construction of the power cords. Both “Lightning” connectors use contacts made from a hand polished, highly conductive copper based alloy. The connector bodies are made from custom CNC’d aluminum and carbon fiber creating a very solid foundation and help damp mechanical noise as well as isolate electrically. Conductive gold mylar and conductive carbon fiber are used to provide shielding.
Last up in the group of cables we evaluated were the American Speaker Cables. A standard pair of the cables is made up of 210 30 gauge conductors arranged in a Litz braid; the bi-wire version uses 420 individual conductors. Triode Wire Labs calls these “the perfect neutral conductors.” The cables are fitted standard with Cardas 6.5mm, 9mm, or narrow pure copper, milled spades. The spades are attached via hydraulic compression die forging at 16,000 lbs of force producing the “perfect“ connection. At our request to ensure amp compatibility, the 6’ cables we receive were terminated with Cardas premium bananas at each end. The optional bananas are soldered in place using Cardas Quad-eutectic solder.The American speaker cables also utilize what TWL terms “Ground Plane Technology”, an in house developed passive noise reduction system that is designed to reduce EMI/RFI anomalies and enhance the listening experience.
The above cables are all deep cryogenically treated. They have all been designed to have “Perfect Synergy” with one another and be extremely neutral and balanced. The cables are all designed and hand crafted in the USA.
I’ve been going back to my cables for at least two weeks prior to installing a new loom in the system to try and maintain a relative “baseline”. Establishing this baseline was even more important for this review as there have been some changes to my system, changes that were supposed to happen long before this series of reviews ever began but due to some unfortunate circumstances, that didn’t happen until a much later date.
So, with that “Perfect Synergy” mentioned above in mind, I replaced the cables in my system with the supplied TWL’s cables. A pair of the TWL’s single ended Spirit IC’swent from my DAC to pre while a second pair passed the signal from pre to amp. The Marigo Audio Labs Ultra Five power cord supplying the DAC with clean AC from the PI Audio Minibusswas replaced with the standard American Digital power cord and my DIY, high purity copper speaker cables wereswapped for a pair of American Speaker Cables terminated with the optional Cardas bananas.
During the initial listen, my first impression was “Holy Bass Batman!!”.There was a very obvious increase in the low end. In fact, I had to knock the gain down a couple clicks on the Rythmik A370PEQ’s to dial things back in. Once that was taken care of,the music was extremely balanced and what I suppose I could arguably say, the most neutral presentation I’ve heard from the cables I’ve heard thus far. After the slight adjustment to the subs, no range in the response seemsoverly emphasized nor locking or depleted. Nothing jumps right out and “wows” you which I guess is probably how it should be. A smooth, natural presentation would seem to be what the TWL’s cables are all about.
The tone of everything we’ve listened to using the TWL’s loom is very good and I’d say the cables add very little, if any, coloration, to the recording. You get a very natural sound that is easy to enjoy. There is a nice balance between detail/precision and musicality, Don and I both felt the loom is not the most detailed or pin-point accurate setup we’ve heard but you won’t find yourself yearning for more either. In terms of being forward or recessed, the loom is also very neutral. No images are excessively recessed nor is anything ”pushed” way out into the room in a manner that some listeners could find intrusive That being said, there still seems to be plenty of depth to the overall image with lots of layering in the recreation.
The top end is clean and not fatiguing what so ever. I’ve put a lot of hours on the loom and have never felt the need to just turn the tunes off and take a break. One could listen all day without any issues, the signature of the loom just never becomes tiresome. When I first heard the loom, I did feel there could have been just the slightest bit of top end “sparkle” missing. After spending a couple hours listening and letting the cables settle in, I wasn’t reminded of this often, it was just more of an initial impression which interestingly enough, I also had with the Arkana cables in the last review. There may be the odd track every once and while it’s noticeable, but 99.9% of the time, you’ll most likely be more than happy with the highs.
Both male and female vocals are well textured and convey emotion and feeling from the vocalist. Listening to a track or two from “The Civil Wars Live At Eddie’s Attic” provides plenty of evidence to the above. Joy Williams and John Paul White’s duets provide a very rich blend of vocals from both sexes. There’s some piano and acoustic guitar in the performances which add harmonics and body. The presentation came across as being very musical with little tone added. The “feeling” of the live venue was represented well, especially the little tid bits between songs when the artists were interacting,Without sounding too ga-ga, Joy Williams voice was reproduced extremely well allowing it to sound as sexy and seductive as ever !
Another album we frequently turn to is Hubert Sumlin’s “Blues Guitar Boss”. It’s a well recorded album with a lot going on within a spacious sound-stage. If you’re a blues fan at all, there is some wonderful examples of Sumlin’ssomewhat unique guitar work on display here. The TWL’s loom let plenty of clarity and definition between instruments shine through and again, the tone is spot on. Wonderful, rich notes from Sumlin’s guitar are highlighted and well focused while a mix of percussion, bass guitar, harmonica, brass instruments, and piano fill in the rest of the room. While not the widest sound-stage I’ve heard produced by this recording, excellent depth and layering were imaged.Many of his tracks have a lot going on which makes them fun to listen to and ideal for evaluating imaging. We listened to this albumnumerous times over the course of the evaluation period. Each playback was extremely enjoyable and always brought smiles to the faces of anyone present.
We fitted Don’s system witha 110ohm Spirit Digital cable(XLR) from his Berkley Alpha USB to his K&K RakDac MK IV, a pair of the Spirit IC’s terminated with XLR connectors between theRakDac and Bryston14BSST2, the American speaker cables ran to the Piega’s, and power flowed to the amp and DAC via an HP and standard version of the American Digital power cords.
Just as with my system, we had to tune down the subs a bit as there is definitely an increase in bass. This trait made me wonder what the results would be if we hadn’t been running subs and didn’t have the ability to knock that bass down. Because Don’s Piega’s can be run full range and are spec’d to play down to 28hz, we powered down the Rythmik plate amps and ran the system in 2 channel mode. Bass response was very good, it definitely wasn’t lacking but it wasn’t bloated or overpowering either. You know it’s there, it’s well defined and solid.Those Piega’s do play low and they play surprisingly clean. If you are thinking of trying the TWL’s cables, I’d expect to gain some weight throughout the lower frequencies but if your speakers are capable, it should remain clean and tight. I wouldn’t think you’ll have an issue with it being “too much or causing the response to become unbalanced, just expect to feel it more!
Of the looms reviewed to this point, the characteristics of the TWL’s loom were the most consistent in either of our systems. We listened tonumerous albums (including most of our go to’s found here
) on Don’s system.The presentation seemed very natural, not forced or strained in any way. The music was just there, almost as if it were part of the room. I know that sounds a bit strange, but that how I’d describe it. Again, you don’t get that intense focus that some people are after, you do get a slightly softer, more relaxed presentation that is very comfortable and relaxing to listen to.
One afternoon over at Don’s, we listened to a few jazz albums(Lee Ritenour’s Westbound, Fourplay;’s self titled album, and Jazz at the Pawnshop). They all really reinforced the capabilities of the loom. As we experienced with my system, images were well placed in a pretty deep, layered sound-stage that imaged wider in Don’s room than what we had heard at my place. The trait of fantastic tone and balance also continued, it’s pretty tough to make complaints, just a great loom in both systems.
One thing I haven’t really touched on is the value of the Triode Wire Labs cables, The TWL’s slogan is “High End Audiophile Cables at Budget Friendly Prices”. I’d say that slogan doesn’t sway from the truth in any manner. With Spirit IC’s starting at $349.00 for a 1m RCA pair and the American Speaker cables starting at $ 699.00 for a 6ft pair, it really sets the stage for a an audiophile grade loom at a relatively low price.
Finding a few possible “concerns” to report upon is not an easy task with these cables. They do everything very well and are constructed by handin the USA with care. I did talk a bit about the fact that if you are a detail fanatic and love getting the most intense, razor sharp image out of your music, these probably won’t be your best option. At the same time, you’ll be spending significantly more money to get the detail you seek.
My first impression of the RCA connectors wasn’t overly great but looks can be deceiving. They are a very light, aircraft aluminum bodied connector that somewhat gives the impression of being cheap, don’t let their appearance fool you, they obviously function very well. I’ve got a pair of RWA IC’s (Real World Acoustics) that have what would seem to be cheap or sub standard connectors (the bodies are plastic) but they’ll compete with an awful lot of cables out there.
There has been a few occasions over the past weeks when I have felt there is that little sparkle missing from the top end. It’s not something that is painfully obvious or even constant, I’ve just noticed it in certain tracks…for example “Sweet Jane” by the Cowboy Junkies. I just feel my cables give me alittle something extra up top with all those cymbal strikes. Remember folks, I’m nit-picking here and I’m digging deep!
Alternatively, on the plus side, we have a collection of cables that just get out of the way and let the music through. They seem extremely neutral both in terms of tone as well as neither presenting the music in an overly forward or recessed fashion. You get a very non-fatiguing, musical presentationthat is difficult to find fault with.
All the Triode Wire Labs cables are extremely flexible and very easy to route throughout a system, no wrestling required! Each cable, or pair of cables, is assigned a unique serial number, includes a Triode Wire Labs “Certificate of Authentication”, and is shipped in a Triode Wire Labs bio-degradable, draw string bag. Also included with your purchase is a user guide describing proper cable management that will help you properly route and get the most out of your new cables. As mentioned earlier, all the cables are deep cryogenically treated and both the power cords as well as the speaker cables are “burned-in” at TWL using a recently acquired HIGH POWER audiodharma CABLE COOKER™ .
Also worth mentioning, and this is becoming a welcome trait among the companies who have sent us cables to review, Pete has been extremely easy to deal with during this review. From the first message when he contacted me about reviewing the Triode Wire Labs cable loom to the numerous questions and comments I sent him, he was always prompt with his replies and more than happy to answer any questions, another top shelf dealer.Full Loom Review IntroFull Loom Review: ZenWave AudioFull Loom Review: Arkana Physical Research (blue loom)Full Loom Review: Arkana Physical Research (grey loom)