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Positive Feedback ISSUE 61
triode wire labs
The Twelve+, Ten+, and Seven+ AC Cords
as reviewed by Steve Kozle
"Wire is wire, man…." If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that said at audio shows, in Hi-Fi shops, and online forums, I would be a wealthy man. My actual experiences, while somewhat limited, have led me to believe quite the opposite.
I've owned a number of power cord upgrades that I've used on my main amplifier over the years, the least expensive one from Pangea Audio, and the priciest from Shunyata. The level of performance that they added to my system was proportional to the price, with the Shunyata being a relatively decent upgrade over a standard PC style power cord and the Pangea, let's just say… not so much.
It was with those experiences under my belt that I unpacked the full product range of Triode Wire Labs power cords and began to marvel at their build quality. The Triode Wire Labs range consists of three main products—the Twelve+ ($199), Ten+ ($289) and Seven+ ($399) American gauge cords.
A Unique Company
After experimenting with countless wire materials and types, including military and even a NASA spec'd wire, Peter Grzybowski, President of Triode Wire Labs, found a highly annealed, durable wire that sounded extremely musical and better than anything they had experimented with prior. The wire happened to be designed by a corporation that was dedicated to the propagation of sound quality, at one time employing 10,000 scientists and engineers! This corporation held a tremendous amount of innovations in audio equipment and devices, such as triode tubes, recording, and acoustics, including the patent for Oxygen Free Copper. From further research, the wire used in Triode Wire Labs products was specified for use in the construction of theater amplifiers (including the 300B) as well as recording equipment (Westrex), with ties to Ampex and Altec as well. Other parts of the design/build process include the extensive testing of connectors, finding ones that sound and test superior to the wide range of cables used for comparison. It's important to note that through research and testing, Pete was able to add a completely passive noise reduction technique to his cables to improve overall sound (and video) quality.
The Power Cords
The Twelve+ and Ten+ cords are designed for use with lower to mid demand power sources, such as DVD players, Preamps, and even televisions. The cables are similar, and I found that the Twelve+ delivered about 85-90% of the overall performance of the Ten+.
The Seven+ is Triode Wire Labs' all-out assault on the reference level, designed for higher power sources such as large amplifiers and high current power conditioners and regenerators. It technically can be used anywhere in a system but may be considered "overkill" to low-current drawing applications. It's very important to note that despite its extra thick gauge, the soft annealed metallurgical conductors remain very flexible and not stiff like other "garden-hose" power cords. The contrast in flexibility between this 7 gauge cord and the Pangea 9 gauge cord is stark, with the latter being about as flexible as a 2 x 4 while the thicker Triode Wire Labs cord is much easier to work with. While neither of them will be making any 90 degree turns, the Seven+ cord can be finessed to bend and hold its position without trying to spring back to straight.
Each Triode Wire Labs power cable is serial numbered and includes an Official Triode Wire Labs Cable Certificate for Authentication, as well as a user guide for Best Audiophile Cable Management practices. Triode Wire Labs performs all the terminations, sleeving, custom strain reliefs, and electrical testing of each cord. They usually stock an inventory of standard length (5' and 6') cords. Custom length or custom terminated. European Schuko, Australian / NZ connectors, as well as C19 IEC's and any Furutech connector can also be requested. All cables undergo a multi-step 2-3 day build process, then ship for a full 4 day deep cryogenic treatment, and then a 4 day preliminary burn-in on every cord using a Hagerman Labs FryCorder and motor current source. All cables are shipped in an Earth-Friendly, reusable, and biodegradable Triode Wire Labs logo drawstring bag.
After some consideration, I decided to spread the Triode cords throughout the two systems in my house in an attempt to experience what improvement (if any) they would make in two very different types of installation that I am very familiar with. My listening room consists of Axiom Audio W22 In/On Wall Speakers (titanium tweeters and aluminum woofers), an Orb Audio Super Eight Custom Sub (8" driver, 200W BASH hybrid digital amplifier and 12" cabinet)—all powered by a Dayens Ampino integrated amplifier rated at 25W per channel.
While it is difficult for many people to accept the idea of a quality power cable having a profound (or even noticeable) effect on the overall hi-fi-ness of their sound system, one must wonder how many of those naysayers have actually had the opportunity to audition and compare a range of power cable upgrades vs. standard power cables in their own room with their own system?
I have, and I'm eager to share what I discovered:
In listening to my main stereo system, the Triode Wire Labs power cords absolutely made a huge difference. I started by asking my wife to listen to one song played twice, once through the standard power cord, and once through the Triode Seven+ (into the amp). She generally doesn't much care about audio stuff, but puts up with it because of me, and she runs out of the room as soon as she feels she's acted interested for long enough. This time was even worse: "You want me to listen to a what? A cord? What does that even mean?" Oh boy. After I promised that it would only take 10 minutes, we got started. We listened to "I Believe In You" by Black Dub. The whole album is remarkably well recorded, with this song showcasing a dynamic range of highs and lows. Through the stock cord the sound was very, very good. I very quickly swapped the cord and played the same track at the same volume.
From the first notes, a sense of improvement was evident, a deep blackness that wasn't there before permeated the soft beginning of the track, but when Trixie Whitley begins her soulful lyrics, my wife's eyes opened wide and she turned to look at me in amazement. I had already experienced the same thing, so I got to sit there and watch her and just have fun. Everything was tighter, deeper, blacker, brighter, and louder. In short, it was more musical and more exciting. The Seven+ was like steroids for my system. My 25-watt amp sounded bigger and badder and more resolving than it ever had, this upgrade provided a more tangible and immediate improvement than ANY other experiment with an aftermarket upgrade—including analog and digital cables, software applications, or isolation products I've ever had the good fortune to hear.
I realize this is getting off of the beaten path for PFO, but I would be remiss and, quite frankly, downright negligent, if I didn't take a moment to comment on another area of Triode Wire Labs product performance: picture quality. I connected the 10+ cord to the standard definition ceiling mounted projector in my theater room, powered it up, and sat back to see if I could even detect any slight differences. My 16 year old daughter was with me. We had just received our DVD box set of the recent Wrestlemania 28 show, and we were looking forward to reliving the moment when The Rock gives the People's Elbow to John Cena. Obviously I hadn't mentioned the Triode Labs cord to her... you simply don't attempt to have an audiophile power cord discussion with a 16 year old girl. It's just not done.
As soon as the match started she said, "Dad did you get a new projector?" I kept a totally straight poker face... "Nope. Same one, why?" She said, "Why does it look so bright and clear all a sudden? Did you clean it or something?" And that's when I started to explain the cord to her... for about 10 seconds until her eyes glossed over, and I could tell she was starting to regret talking to me. At that point I just smiled, and we both sat back to watch the once in a lifetime match between two wrestling legends on our huge 10' screen, with the best picture clarity and color brightness either of us had ever seen in our room. It had the effect of making us enjoy seeing the match for the second time, more than when we watched the event live. At one point my wife came downstairs for whatever reason, stopped, and said, "Holy crap! How does the picture look so good, is that another one of those power cords?" I just nodded. We had a better seat than most of the 73,000 people in attendance that night.
I couldn't believe my eyes, but there it was a standard definition projector with 10 years of use on it... looking for all the world like it was throwing an HD picture. It was as if my projector finally woke up and dusted itself off after all these years. For all the improvement the Seven+ provided to my stereo amp, the 10+ yielded at least that much improvement to my projector, if not more.
I'm not a power cable expert, but I'm also not a power cable virgin. To say that my time with the Triode Wire Labs' product line has strengthened my feelings about the importance of power cable quality would be the understatement of all understatements. It's fun to audition $50,000 speakers because it's easy to walk away from them in the same way that it's easy to look at a Ferrari and walk away. The ease of leaving comes from knowing that you can't afford such a ridiculously expensive thing in the first place. That's where the Triode Wire Labs products differ. They are not so easy to walk away from. They are not over priced. In fact, they strike me as being extremely reasonably priced. No, I haven't ever had a $3000 power cord in my system. However, I wonder if I would ever need to. I have just spent the last 60 days in complete audio and visual nirvana, due to power cord upgrades—a level of improvement that I would have never believed if I hadn't experienced it for myself.
I now wonder how I will ever go back to hearing music through my old power cord - to the point where I ask myself, "How could anyone listen to music without a Triode Wire Labs power cord?" The time has come to send them back, but I'm not sure I'll be able to. Now that I've tasted the honey I will always know what I'm missing if the Triode Wire Labs cords come out of my system. I think this might be one of those times where I buy my wife something nice for no reason, and hope she pretends not to notice the fact that I just bought the review cords. My absolute highest recommendation. Steve Kozle
Triode Wire Labs
I would like to sincerely thank the Positive Feedback staff and especially Steve Kozle for his insightful review of my power cord products. It's reassuring that Steve's observations reflect those of my audiophile customers!
One of Triode Wire Labs goals is to produce the highest quality audiophile products at reasonable prices. I believe we have achieved that in our current product line.
Thank you once again,