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TRS Audio Pure Note Designer’s Edition Interconnect and Speaker Cable Review

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TRS Audio Pure Note Designer's Edition RCA Interconnect CablesIntroduction

Pure Note was one of those extremely quiet, unassuming, cottage industry, niche manufacturers that have a passion for audio. They have been in business for years and years as strictly an American web-based company. In fact, their roots actually reach back to pre-Y2k. I have actually known them since those earliest of days; even before they organized under the name of Pure Note. Back then they were staunchly web based and in fact, their website may have been the very first time I encountered an online “shopping cart”.

Pure Note of Las Vegas, Nevada was founded in 2000 by Tom Swenson. Tom was owner and Chief Designer. The “Signature”, “Epsilon”, “Epsilon Reference”, and “Cerulean” cables were his creations. In 2005, Tom formed a partnership with Paul Stevens of Boise, Idaho. Paul was the designer of the “Paragon”, “Vanguard”, and “Titanium” cable lines. Pure Note later joined DEMCO, a commercial home theater cabling company in Las Vegas. In June 2010, Tom and Paul sold their ownership interest to the current owner, Jim Campbell who formed TRS Audio of Boise, Idaho. TRS Audio continues the DEMCO relationship and the cables are still manufactured out of the old Pure Note, Las Vegas facilities. Tom Swensen continues his role as chief designer of TRS Audio, hence the name “TRS” (his initials).

Due to my deep history as a faithful Pure Note user, I feel the need to disclose the fact that with precious few short disruptions, nearly all generations of Pure Note cables have managed to become the cable reference of choice for my main system since their inception. In those earliest of days, they seemed to be the only company that truly understood how to design and construct a pure silver cable that did not have all of the nasty attributes associated with silver, such as undue brightness, glare, and etched highs and yet managed to capture the alluring sonic qualities that pure silver has to offer.

The birth of TRS Audio coincided with the introduction of two fundamentally new products, the “Alluvion” cable which is constructed of solid silver-Palladium alloyed ribbon wire and the “Designer’s Edition” which is constructed of cryogenically treated alloyed silver-gold solid wire.

As luck would have it, the TRS Audio acquisition, the introduction of the Pure Note Designer’s Edition cables, and my need for balanced interconnects in order to complete an evaluation I was engaged in at the time (see Pass Labs XP-10 line stage review), gave me the perfect reason to reach out to Jim Campbell and suggest a review. The Pure Note Designer’s Edition line of interconnects and speaker wires are TRS Audio’s statement line and are the subject of this review.

Installation and Break-In

To start with, I must point out that Pure Note cables were always extremely well-constructed and finished. The typical terminations of choice were Cardas Silver RCA’s or custom XLR’s with silver contacts. As a statement piece, The Designer’s Edition sport the very pricey cryogenically treated Furutech carbon-fiber XLR and RCA plugs. These are manufactured with stainless steel bodies, Teflon blocks, and rhodium-copper contacts (they are very cool to look at). The wire is cryogenically-treated solid alloyed silver-gold.

Breaking in the Pure Note Designer’s Edition was a very very long process. Indeed, at this point in time as I write this portion of the review, I am very confident that the interconnects are broken in and stable, but the speaker cables still have a way to go. Expect a 200+ hour journey with these cables. With respect to the speaker cables, that may be a conservative estimate. That said, I should point out that since TRS Audio’s products are sold solely through their web presence, all of their cables have a buy it and try it for 45 days policy. If the cables do not work out in your particular system configuration, you have 45 days to get the cables back to them for a full refund. In my opinion, this is a very generous arrangement.

A quick listen fresh from the factory confirmed that Pure Note Designer’s Edition interconnects did indeed need run in time. The sound was forward with a somewhat narrowed and shallow stage and the upper midrange had a slight edginess to them that was not at all pleasant. That said, these actually sounded quite good compared to the fresh-out-of-the-box sound of previous Pure Note designs; most notably the Signature, Epsilon, Paragon, and Vanguard models of years past. Fortunately I was able to accomplish break-in in a secondary system where it was later joined by a Pass Labs balanced line stage amplifier that came in for evaluation. I was eventually able to kill two birds with one stone.

The Sound – Interconnects

Firstly I would like to state that when it comes to describing the sound of cables, you need to remain conscious of the fact that what I describe in my particular system configuration may not exactly relate to how these cables will sound in your system environment. There are many variables that come into play when changing out or selecting cables. Really they should be the very last component you select when configuring a system, because a cable that causes a piece of equipment to react or sound in a particular way or even misbehave will not necessarily have the same effect in another system.

I had the opportunity to evaluate these balanced interconnects using the superb Pass Labs X350.5 power amplifier, a Sunfire Signature Series II (small chassis) power amplifier, and Pass Labs XP-10 preamplifier. To round out the system, the speakers used throughout this process were the full range electrostatic Martin Logan CLS 2z’s, Martin Logan Depth subwoofer, McCormack/Conrad Johnson UDP-1 deluxe, ASR Mini Basis Exclusive phonostage, and a proprietary turntable still in developmental stage but provided to me for auditioning purposes.

Inserting the TRS Audio Pure Note Designer’s Edition balanced XLR between the Pass Preamplifier and amplifier unearthed a synergy in these two components that seemed missing when run in single ended mode. The Pass Labs combination’s inherent sonic neutrality allowed me to really hear what the Designer’s Edition Balanced XLR and single ended RCA interconnects bring to the table. These cables exhibit one of the sexiest liquid midranges I have had the pleasure of hearing. These are decidedly different cables and much improved from previous generations of the pure silver ribbons that were the keystone of Pure Note’s cable designs. From upper bass to the fullest extension in the highs, the sound was remarkably smooth, highly focused, detailed, and was extraordinarily rich in tone. In fact, you would swear that the system was equipped from end-to-end with vacuum tubes.

With just one set of single-ended Designer’s Edition interconnects available for the front-end, I first listened to them exclusively on the digital player. In this context, the sound proved to once again bring this rather modest player to a level of fidelity and harmonic development that simply went beyond what you would expect from a circa $4,000 player.

The simple inclusion of the TRS Audio Designer’s Edition interconnect into this front-end circuit actually allowed the CD player’s Conrad Johnson roots to emerge even further. Overall presentation was wide, deep, and highly focused; more so than with any previous iteration of Pure Note cables. Bass is extremely well-controlled, defined, taut, and clean. Most importantly these improvements remained true with or without the TRS Audio Designer’s Edition XLR cables in the circuit between preamplifier and amplifier. Indeed, the TRS Audio Designer’s Edition balanced interconnects proved to add another dimension of detail, and a sense of ease and shoulders-down, toe-tapping, goodness that simply worked really well with both power amplifiers at my disposal. Putting this in a Pure Note perspective, this newest generation of cables, certainly seem to address and cure the weaknesses of previous generations of Pure Note cables without any deleterious effect to the rest of the overall balance and presentation of their house sound.

The TRS Audio Pure Note Designer’s Edition speaker cables started out to be quite difficult to figure out. Fresh out of their packaging, they did not exactly have the same sonic signature of the Designer’s Edition interconnects. In fact, they sounded more like the Epsilon or original Paragon Series’ of cables from Pure Note’s past prior to having been broken in. In short, they demonstrated a marked hardness in the midrange that yielded a somewhat “shouty” presentation on the electrostatics. The bass was also weighty and rich but ill-defined. These preliminary results set the stage for what would be a very long break-in process for these cables. In fact, it took so long, that I almost gave up on them when it became clear that their interconnect counterparts had completely come into their own and were indeed sounding spectacular.

Enter the TRS Audio Pure Note Designer’s Series Speaker Cables….

This is where past experience really pays off. In true Pure Note fashion, the speaker cable break-in was very lengthy 3 full weeks on a secondary system. During that process, I would insert them into my main system for a brief listen each Sunday afternoon, and as long as my notes indicated a change, then I would continue the break-in process.

Once fully broken in, they did not disappoint. Their overall sound completely mimicked that of the interconnect. In my system, that translated to a deep, expansive and highly detailed soundfield. The Designer’s Series speaker cables maintained the sweet, detailed, and silken smooth midrange already contributed by its Interconnect counterparts. The bass detail, weight, and pitch definition was also superb. Indeed, they brought out the best from my full range electrostatic speakers and handily transferred the prodigious power from both the Sunfire Signature Series II and superb Pass Labs X350.5.

Summary

I must say that I came into this review process with the expectation that the TRS Audio Pure Note Designer’s Edition cables would be at least very good in my system. However, I was not prepared for the substantial leap in sonic splendor that the Designer’s Edition demonstrated over the previous generations of Pure Note cables. Cable selection is so system-dependent that I would not presume that the results I get from these or any other cables will be exactly the same as those obtained in any other system. There are just too many variables at play. I am very happy to report that indeed these cables have taken my reference system to a new level of transparency and top to bottom consistency. Congratulations to Tom Swensen and Jim Campbell. It is a bold move to launch TRS Audio with the introduction of an all out statement line such as the Designer’s Edition. With Tom now completely focused on R&D, there is much to look forward to. The Designer’s Edition Cables are highly recommended.

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2 Responses to TRS Audio Pure Note Designer’s Edition Interconnect and Speaker Cable Review


  1. Larry Cheng says:

    From where the order of Pure Note audio cables is available?

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