Let’s face it; there are a lot of things in life that don’t seem fair. Certain advantages are to be gained by those with the means to obtain the finer things in life. Some rail against the few who have access to the finer things. The phrase “one percent,” has become ubiquitous with advantage, but also disdain of those who live the one-percent lifestyle. Whether or not one sees those so privileged as a motivator for personal excellence, or as a punching bag by those who are envious, the wealthy often are distinguished by having access to exceptional products and experiences.
The longer I am in this hobby, the more I am tempted to turn a deaf ear to the wearying carping of the Cheap End of Audiophilia, the ones who, despite the growing number of wonderful sounding affordable systems, rail that the hobby is getting “too expensive.” I do not despise affordable audio, as for well over a decade I lived it. I built systems that cost approximately $5-7K (If you drop much below that point what you are doing is far less likely to result in HiFi.) and at the time deluded myself I was so close to the top end of performance. I recognize now it was a chimera, an impoverished viewpoint. I also learned from experience it is futile to argue this with someone committed to the Cheap End. I respect those who elect to budget an audio system, however I disdain the opinion that budget gear dictates the performance parameters of the High End.
There seem to be particularly nasty representatives of three strains of audiophilia who try to piss on one percent audiophiles; elements of the Cheap End, a segment of Mediaphiles, and a swath of the Pro/DIY crowd. If any of these describe you, perhaps it would be better in this instance to turn away, to let this article go unread, because it will not make you happy. I have written numerous articles about affordable gear that will satisfy. If you cannot afford TEO Audio Liquid Cables, why get worked up to learn that it is a certainty the wire you use would not compare well? I will tell you right now; if you are using a solid conductor cable, it is almost assuredly not as good as the TEO Liquid Cable. As I said, if you don’t wish to get worked up, turn aside now. I have given you fair warning!
Another potential objection to TEO Cables might be raised in regard to the Liquid Cable technology itself. Some audiophiles, regardless of economic standing, do not buy into the idea that cables make a significant enough difference to differentiate between them. This is not the case normally with the financially more capable audiophiles, and it has more to do with performance than money. There are essentially three broad technologies employed in audio cables, differentiated by conductors and geometry: Networked solid conductor, simple solid conductor, and liquid conductor. The networked are not my cup of tea; the straight wire variety run the gamut, with the guidance “you get what you pay for,” generally true. Those who know my articles on wires have seen that over the years I have strongly recommended several brands including Clarity Cable, Silent Source, Silnote Audio and recently another fine product under review, Verastarr Cables.
However, the liquid conductor used by TEO is something altogether different. I just saw an article online that touted that new microchips are being designed with signal paths of 10 nanometers! As incredible as this is (a human DNA strand is approximately 2.5 nanometers, I believe), this is a difference in structure, not substance. A human DNA strand is a fundamentally different technology and substance than a computer chip, one so advanced that it begs the question who designed DNA? Similarly, the liquid conductor employed by TEO – employed in minuscule amounts in tiny conductor capillaries in which the fluid resides – is fundamentally different substance and structure than solid conductors. Consequently, it operates differently in wonderfully beneficial ways to the sound of an audio system.
Characteristics of liquid cables
Before moving on to the listening experience, I refer the reader who wishes to know more about the principals behind TEO Audio, Taras Kowalczyszyn and Ken Hotte, to my review of the TEO Audio Liquid Pre, wherein I discuss Taras’s background in vibration control affecting sound and Ken’s experimentation with the liquid conductor. The conductor “fluid” is a eutectic blend of three metals, Gallium, Indium and Tin! It is the replacement substance for Mercury thermometers.
Allow me a guess; when you read the word “Tin,” negative connotations associated with the weakness and lower conductivity of the metal arose in your mind. You may be tempted to think negatively of the operations of a liquid conductor simply because of that association, but I adjure you to not make that mistake. I used to hate Rhubarb when I was younger, and thought anything made with Rhubarb would taste bad. As I aged I began to be a bit more experimental, and now find that Rhubarb deserts can be delicious! How foolish of me to write off such deserts simply because I “didn’t care for” one ingredient. Trust me when I say that a liquid conductor with Tin can be “delicious” sounding.
It is above my pay grade to weigh in on whether Ken is on the money when he stated in discussion on a forum regarding conductors of audio signals, “Signal is inherently a plasma. Ionic plasma, or a [sic] electron cloud, with a pressure differential, with respect to the variant we call an ‘audio signal’.” According to Ken, wire is a very imperfect medium – a molecular lattice structure – for conductance of this plasma electron cloud, albeit quite cheap. But, liquid metal is preferable, as it, “… has the least interference and least distortion.” He summarizes, “What we need…is something like a highly conductive gas, that has a neutral ground state, when unperturbed, and low mass. But, such a thing does not exist. So we’ll have go down one step further, into potential for interference with the signal cloud. This one step lower….might just be something like a ‘room temperature liquid metal’.”
Often, there is a consensus on the basics of electrical theory, while the debate about how something sounds occurs on a subjective level, how the sound is appreciated by the listener. In this case, the bulk of debate may be about Ken’s delineation of the audio signal’s transference, and less so about the sonic result. Taras readily admits it’s a theory outside the standard design box. However, it’s hard to argue against the results. For, when doing even the most casual comparison between the TEO Liquid Cables and some of my long-term favorite wires, the Liquid Cable distinguishes itself easily with a less murky, more vibrant result regardless of the source, genre or quality of the recording.
I wonder whether there is a wire in existence that could better the Liquid Cable? I have tried so many cables, and kept the best ones, that by now I have pushed the envelope quite far in an attempt to elicit outer edge performance from them. When I take some of the best sounding cables over 15 years, ones I have used on numerous systems, and find the Liquid Cable to make them sound smeared, time-misaligned, cloudy, tonally flat and dynamically compressed in comparison, what else am I to conclude? Certainly, I’m not encouraged to pay multiples the cost of the Liquid Cable to find a wire that sounds better. Indeed, that would seem to me to be a fool’s errand.
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