Over the past 12 months or so, I have had the pleasure of auditioning four unique families of cables. Each cable design is quite different from the others in terms of finished product, but each gives unique insight in their interpretation of the sonic truth. The focus of this review is the Tel Wire system. Tel Wire is a small company that is owned and operated by Chris Kline in Allentown, PA. I have known Chris for a few years. We were “co-conspirators” on the audio forums, the Vinyl Asylum and on Audiogon in particular. Several years ago in the early days of Tel Wire’s start-up, I participated in Chris Kline’s efforts as a Beta Tester of his “Cord” power cord. It was in those days that I began to realize and appreciate Chris’ talent in constructing high quality cables that were essentially neutral in character and tonally “right.” Over the years, Tel Wire’s cables have undergone continuous improvement and the lineup currently includes balanced and single-ended interconnects (“Connect”), both standard (“Cord”) and high current (“HC Cord”) power cords, as well as speaker cables (“Cable”). In this review, I will focus solely on the single-ended Connect interconnect which retails for $699 for the first meter, and the Cord power cord which retails for $799 for the first meter.
The Connect is really like no other I have come across in recent memory in terms of look and feel, as well as detailed quality of construction given the asking price. The Connect is jacketed in a handsome and simple-fitted cotton material that aids in the cable’s extraordinary flexibility and immunity to external vibration. The wire employed in the Connect is OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) single crystal copper of the highest purity available. Terminations are Xhadow Silver RCA’s that are hand-picked by Chris Kline for their sonic attributes. Lastly, and most importantly, the Connect is constructed with cable directionality ascertained by ear by Chris himself. With him doing the heavy lifting in what can otherwise be a long and trying process, you can simply “Connect” and listen immediately with no fuss.
The Connect interconnects actually sound quite good brand new, and improve rather dramatically in imaging, focus, and bass response after 100 or so hours of break-in time.
Writing an essay about the Tel Wire line of cables is both easy and quite difficult. The Connect has the smallest and least noticeable sonic signature I have encountered in an interconnect. It is, for all practical purposes, dead-on neutral. It provides an unaltered view of the source where it is connected. For our readers who actually make use of interconnects as a tone control or filter, you may wish to look elsewhere. It will not embellish any part of the musical spectrum nor will it do a very good job of hiding warts that may exist. The Connect remains as honest as any cable I have heard in recent memory to the source, no matter how good or bad that may be. In my system, this particular attribute plays quite well indeed. I personally prefer my source components to provide the signature of the system and let everything else up the chain stay the heck out of the way of that signature. In past essays, I have written about the pitfalls and personal challenges I encountered when unwittingly assuming a power amplifier is neutral and then making choices in preamplifier and even cables that actually offset that coloration. Playing this type of zero-sum match game can be quite laborious and is ultimately a very slippery slope.
So far, I have only written about what the Tel Wire Connect does not sound like. What the Connect does bring to the table is a very broad bandwidth, including excellent fast and authoritative bass, smooth and slightly relaxed midrange, and extended high frequencies without so much as a hint of ringing or brightness. For instance, on the excellently recorded intimate setting of the Peter Gabriel album Scratch my Back, the image is believable, focused, unembellished and rich in tone; really about as good as it gets. When playing other material that plays well in the audiophile sense of larger spaces and deep images, such as the superbly recorded Townsend and Lane LP Rough Mix, differences emerged between the Tel Wire Connect and the Aural Symphonics Chronos. In terms of transparency and detail, the Connect does not quite match the Aural Symphonics Chronos. The space and distant cowbell on the song “When the Rivers All Run Dry,” was somewhat shallower and less distinct with the Connect. So, too, on the R Crumb piece from Dawn Upshaw’s CD, White Moon Songs to Morpheus, the expansiveness of the venue was noticeably diminished. Conversely, the Tel Wire Connect maintained the pristine nature of the percussion instruments and exhibited no softening of the highs as the Chronos tended to do. This is very impressive performance on the part of the Tel Wire Connect.
The Tel Wire Cord power cord is also constructed of OCC single crystal copper of the highest purity available. The plug terminations used are state-of-the-art Oyaide 004 series with Beryllium copper bases and platinum & palladium plating. These materials once again were very carefully chosen by Chris Kline to ensure the highest quality and consistency of sonic performance. As is the case for the Connect, the Tel Wire Cord’s jacket was chosen by Chris for its flexibility and ability to minimize the impact from external vibration. You will need to give the Cord roughly 100 hours of play before the upper bass evens out and the low bass tightens up. With an MSRP of $799, this cable clearly is a value just taking into account the materials used and the quality of construction.
In terms of sound, the Cord does not disappoint. Once again, it is clearly evident that the cable has no contribution at all to the signature of the components it is connected to. This power cord lays down a quiet and black background, and delivers clean powerful bass and pristine highs without any sense of heaviness or darkness in its character. In fact, when it came time to directly compare the Cord against the Aural Symphonics Magic Gem V2t on each component, the Cord did not come across as a product cord costing only roughly 1/2 the price. On one hand, the areas in which the Aural Symphonics continually surprise and excel is its uncanny ability to present an absolutely black background, and allowing recorded room acoustic detail to emerge from certain recordings. By comparison, the Tel Wire Cord provides as fluid and clean a sound as the Magic Gem, but does not quite match its bass response nor “blackness.” I compared the Cord to the pricey A/S cord mainly because the Tel Wire completely embarrassed my go-to cable in this price class, the Zu Audio Mother Mk2.
Summing it all up
There is no doubt that the relative newcomer Tel Wire has plenty to offer. Under the careful watch of its founder and designer Chris Kline, the Connect and Cord are clearly cables of the highest order in terms of performance, quality of parts, construction, and value. I look forward to hearing further developments in his line of cables as they come available. The Cord and Connect are a must-audition at their respective price points.
- (Page 1 of 1)