Gramophone Dreams #23: AudioQuest, Triode Wire Labs Page 2

I befriended Marsh, and told him to ignore the naysayers and trust his ears. I explained that, for decades, Japanese designers of amplifiers had felt the same way about wires, resistors, even tube sockets. I told him that I thought the differences he heard were likely caused by combinations of electrical, atmospheric, and mechanical phenomena, just as in vacuum tubes. I imagined that alternating audio currents were pulsing electromagnetic shock waves emanating like periodic tremors from magnetic tape heads or phonograph cartridges. These pulsing waves impress themselves on the complete complex impedance of the audio chain. Therefore, I told him, every part of the so-called signal path—resistors, capacitors, transformers, chassis, wires, interconnects, cables—was microscopically vibrating like marimba keys and, in like manner, blurring and coloring the signal with its own resonant character.

Eventually, I began to wonder if AC power cords were no different from all those parts. Imagining that power cords might need to be improved, and keeping in the DIY spirit, I built the heaviest cords I could afford by weaving together three lengths of 8AWG (0.128") stranded copper wire and attaching them to industrial-grade plugs. I even had to drill out the chassis of my Dynaco amp to accommodate my fatter, improved cords.

When I compared my homemade cord to 18/2 zip-cord, the difference in the sound was subtle, but I believed it was real.

Around 1987, I noticed when I put a 500-milliamp (or larger) power transformer in front of a 100mA power supply, my amplifiers' sound became quieter, distinctly more transparent and three-dimensional, with stronger, more articulate bass, and more details exposed. It wasn't long before I realized that the more pure metal I put between an amplifier's tube rectifier and the AC breaker panel, the more solid and lifelike the amp's sound became.

I mention this because AudioQuest's Storm Tornado power cords seemed to somehow corroborate my early discoveries in heavy metal.

The Outrage Began
Around 1976, Polk Audio and Fulton Musical Industries were the first to make and sell audio cables of an improved or specialized nature, intended to sound better than zip-cord and cheap giveaways. I remember how outraged audiophiles were. I remember how every audio magazine, including Stereophile, condemned the whole idea of paying extra for specialty wire.

Through Audio Amateur magazine, I'd made friends with Bob Fulton, who sent me a pair of his Fulton Gold speaker cables ($5/foot). "Tell me what you think, Herb."

I compared the Fulton Golds to generic lamp cord and told him that the difference (which was nowhere near as dramatic as with the AudioQuest Storm Tornado described above), was conspicuous. New York City audio dealer Sound by Singer sold Fulton cables with a 30-day return policy. My friend Sphere, who then worked at Singer, said, "No more than 25% of buyers returned the expensive wires."

Triode Wire Labs High Power (HP) Digital American power cord "High-end audiophile cables at budget friendly prices" reads the slogan on the homepage of Triode Wire Labs' website. At audio shows, I always see Triode Wire's Peter Grzybowski, aka Triode Pete, hanging and showing with my ol' runnin' buddy Gary Dews, of Border Patrol (amplification), and Greg Roberts, of Volti Audio (horn loudspeakers). Together, the three manufacturers make consistently smooth and delicious sounds that pack a sure punch and generate a Scotch-whisky high.


In the Triode-Border-Volti room at AXPONA 2018, in addition to the intoxicating sound, I noticed that Triode Wire Labs cables are unusually pliant, well made, and sensibly priced. This combination of virtues encouraged me to ask for a review set comprising their Spirit interconnect ($349/m), American Series speaker cables ($699/6'), and High Power (HP) Digital American power cord ($499/up to 5'). According to Triode Wire's website, this cord was designed for such power-gulping electronics as power amplifiers, power conditioners and regenerators, and power bars. When it arrived, the appearance of Digital in the model name encouraged me to absentmindedly assume that I should use it only with my DACs—which at first I did.

My eyes (and ears) popped wide open when I exchanged a generic unsupple power cord for the oh-so-supple High Power (HP) Digital American.

Schiit Audio's Yggdrasil DAC ($2399) always sounded more vigorous and lively than Mytek HiFi's similarly priced Brooklyn DAC+ ($2195), which tends toward a tighter, pro-studio sound. When I ran the Triode Wire Labs cord between the Yggy and the wall socket, I was surprised to hear even more vigor, more distinctly drawn images, and a lot more physicality. The Yggdrasil's ability to reach into the bitstream and reconstitute a recording dramatically increased.

A few days later, curious, I reinstated the generic cord. Immediately, I felt uncomfortable. After only two CDs, I became impatient. "That's enough of that!"

More often than not, line conditioning and boutique power cords don't just clean up a component's sound—they tighten it. Often, this tightening feels unnatural. With the Triode Wire cord, Schiit's new Yggdrasil Analog 2 DAC ($550) sounded more transparent and felt more relaxed. I really liked that.

The same thing happened with the Mytek Brooklyn and the Triode Wire cord: The Mytek's sound became simultaneously more solid and relaxed. Its best traits were enhanced.

Conclusion #4
My limited experiments suggest that DACs respond well to premium power cords and line conditioning (more about this later). I now keep whatever DAC I'm using connected to the AudioQuest Niagara 1000 via the Triode Wire Labs American—High Power (HP) Digital American.

I'm continually vexed and bewildered by cable deniers' unwillingness to do any of what I've described above. What is the argument against just trying it? Several retailers offer extended free home trials of cables, so why not stick a Tornado on your amp or a Triode Wire American on your DAC? Then, at the very least, you could say, "Herb, I tried it and didn't hear any difference!" And I would believe you.

My review sample of the HoloAudio Spring "Kitsuné Tuned Edition" Level 3 DAC, which I reviewed in the May 2018 issue, didn't come with a power cord. I used the Triode Wire Labs cord plugged directly into the wall and forgot about it. Stereophile's policy is to review products as manufactured and delivered: without tube rolling, modifications, or power conditioning. But I unwittingly reviewed—and strongly praised—the HoloAudio Spring as used with the Triode Wire Labs cord. Yesterday was the first time I'd heard the Spring with a generic power cord. Big frown moment.

The Spring's extraordinary ability to remove digital sound's reflective glass wall remained intact—the Spring was still the most musically satisfying DAC I've heard in my home. But! In my review, I'd raved about the literalness of its transparency, how many subtle textural and dynamic intricacies it revealed, how much digital artificiality it eliminated, how "un-mechanical" it sounded. When I finally played it with the cheap black cord, I realized how much the Triode Wire Labs cord was supercharging the Spring's inherent virtues. I highly recommend this combination of DAC and power cord.

I was unable to compare Triode Wire Labs' High Power (HP) Digital American cord with AudioQuest's Storm Tornado because the AQ was too short and stiff to connect to the HoloAudio Spring. But I've used the Triode cord with all of my phono stages and preamps, and have consistently noticed subtle increases in punch, clarity, and dynamism.

I did finally try the Triode cord with the Pass Labs XA25. The result was nowhere near as transparent or as powerfully assertive as with the AQ Tornado; in comparison, it sounded a tiny bit flat and unremarkable.

For the moment . . .
I've settled on using whatever DAC I'm listening to with a Triode Wire Labs High Power (HP) Digital American cord plugged into the AudioQuest Niagara 1000 conditioner, this in turn plugged into the wall with a 1m-long AQ Storm Tornado/High-Current cord. And I have definitely settled on plugging whatever power amp I'm using directly into the wall with a 1m-long Storm Tornado.

For the record, I have yet to hear musically satisfying sound from any power amplifier connected to any power conditioner or isolation transformer—I always sense some amount of dynamic repression or current strangulation.

Of course, the elimination of purely electrical contaminations will likely benefit any low-level source; but the greater senses of force, power, and mass that I observed with both the AudioQuest and Triode Wire Labs power cords took me by surprise.

I have a strong feeling that the enhancements I'm discovering are not simply the result of electrical filtering, isolating, or impedance matching. There seems to be a lot more happening in that meter-long cord than I've so far imagined.

As a result of these surprising experiences, I've decided to learn more about how audiophile power cords are built, and what sorts of engineering considerations inform their design. I will keep you posted. Meanwhile, I encourage you to duplicate my experiments and see what you discover. Peace and good wires.


Anton's picture

That's some dog you got!

I've had a few dogs that were startled by an unexpected sound here and there emanating from the Hi Fi, but none to a degree that an AC power cord ever produced such audible improvement that the change would startle them. I keep déclassé dogs, I guess.

Kudos to your uncannily clever and critical canine compatriot! That is one perceptive perspicacious percipient pooch who can perceive the pulchritude of a properly prepared power cord!


I heard that Herb's dog is so perceptive that it stands and barks at the space between the speakers when listening to The Beatles' "All My Loving" in mono, and then barks at only the right speaker when listening to the stereo version.


Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Now think about this. Herb's comment is an exercise in gestalt therapy. You are his dog, and you are barking.

latinaudio's picture

Jajajajaja! well said, Jason!
straight to the point to one of the usual commenters who never think that there could be differences that they are totally incapable of perceiving... only his "truth".

Anton's picture

It was a sleeping dog joke.

If Jason could discern 'gestalt' from 'John Galt,' he'd have been able to overcome his unblinking reflexive affirmative head nodding exhortations and chest beating over the subject and and let the hyperbole be discussed as hyperbole.

"Even my blind mother in law could have seen that," to put it in gestalt terms that Jason might pick up on. ;-P

I do say, though, that the sleeping dog thing is a new step upward from, "Even my non-audiophile spouse commented on the improved sound from two rooms away" routine we've become accustomed to.

Heck, I didn't even go there regarding the "one o' them ABX/double-blind-can't-measure-it-can't-hear-it cable deniers" stuff. It smacks of defensiveness and an an agenda that is not even part of the review. Same with a header titled "The Outrage Began." Those are geslaty sounding to you? How?

I say all this as an avid Audioquest "loom" owner, by the way.

Latinaudio: There is no "truth" involved with either the article or my post, by the way.

Your ululating aside.

Side note: Jason, why aren't you berating Herb for this: "For the record, I have yet to hear musically satisfying sound from any power amplifier connected to any power conditioner or isolation transformer—I always sense some amount of dynamic repression or current strangulation."

Does his gestalt match yours?

It matches mine quite well.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

AARRRFFF AAAAAARRRRRRRRFFFFFFFFFFFF!!!! at 120 dB, and unsquashable by any power conditioner.

Anton's picture

It's OK, work out the grudge.

I agree with Herb, especially at 120 dB...your power conditioner will limit the dynamics and musicality of your ferocious bark!

120 dB, eh? Even us old guys can likely hear that. ;-D

"AARRRFFF AAAAAARRRRRRRRFFFFFFFFFFFF!!!!" Sounds like someone had too much scotch!

Lee Clayton's picture

Are you implying that Jason is an alcoholic? That is libel

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

He's referring to my pedigree as a Scottish Terrier mix. I've got some Irish Setter as well, and probably a dollop of varnish remover.

Anton's picture

Second, just the opposite! Jason took umbrage at a review and a reply that implied alcohol could be a pleasurable thing, even when listening to Hi Fi.

So, the "implication" and libel you so trenchantly mention are just the opposite of your assumption.

I admire your legal skills, though!

I make no presumption about Jason and his personal relationship to alcohol.

bglenn's picture

That's because you have never herd a Spiritual Audio power conditioner. No power limiting plus awesome sounding!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be there is a "Poltergeist" there :-) ............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"The Connection" ............ Emmylou Harris :-) ..............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Dogs can hear up to 45-60 KHz :-) ..............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Cats can hear up to 85 KHz :-) ............

Anton's picture

It's downright extra-sensory!

RH's picture

"Before I spin this 23rd edition of "Gramophone Dreams," I must ask: How many of you are using zip-cord as your speaker cables? RadioShack interconnects? Those black universal 18/3 power cords that come standard with virtually every audio amplifier?"

I'm using Belden speaker cable, a selection of modestly-priced interconnects, and every power cord that came with any piece of gear.

It's ok, I'll hand in my audiophile club membership card as I'm shown out the door ;-)

(I've tried expensive, well known power cables, and could explain why they left and the cheap ones stayed...but that's another can of worms....)

Anton's picture

I know an interconnect maker who sells 5K range interconnects. he uses Radio Shack "magnet wire" as his speaker cable and swears by it. He's obviously a great and discerning listener, but I haven't been able to bring myself to do it.

I was a bad audiophile. I went to get some, saw it, and couldn't get myself to go for it.

Herb Reichert's picture

decades ago, I hard-soldered Radio Shack magnet wire to the tube amp''s output transformer and to the loudspeaker binding posts. A few days later I took it out.

During the late 1960s, the big debate in audio magizines was wheather to use solid core or stranded wire for speaker cable. Up until I met Kondo of Audio Note Japan I always preferred thin solid core wire (ideally, with an air dialectric) for both loudpeakers and interconnect. Now, I am less set in my preferences. I reported on these massive accessery power cords because the effect of their insertion was not subtle and I felt readers needed to be alerted to these radical new inventions. More will be revealed....after I figure out how to stop the birds from eating my tomatos. hr

Allen Fant's picture

Nice 23rd edition- HR.
Cabling is my fave aspect of our hobby. It is the forgotten or forsaken component. Good to read that you were able to mix-and-match between AQ and TWL power cords(PC). Sometimes, if we are lucky, mixing/matching different brands works.

Nanook's picture

Near the beginning of my audio adventures (about 30 years ago), a friend suggested that using the best AC power cord in a good power strip or power distribution block (or whatever this was called then) to go from the power strip/distribution block to the wall outlet was a way to bring a very significant upgrade to all connected equipment if you couldn't afford a power conditioner or good dedicated AC cables for each component. 30 years later, what is the cash strapped folks supposed to do now?

Naim purists have long sang the praises of the Wiremold Industrial power strips (6' 12 AC outlets, CAD $113 or USD$85.55). Buy one and a good IEC power inlet. Take the strip apart and install the IEC power inlet and then get whatever (best) quality AC cable you can afford (even if just a lowly Hubbel hospital grade one). As you can afford more good AC cables, the basic Wiremold/AC Hubbel (or whatever) cable will serve you well.

These power strips have gas tight receptacles, and the Hubbel hospital grade AC cables have a gas tight plug. I've bought these AC cables for under CDN $5 each. YMMV.

I do use a Monster HDP1800 AC distribution conditioner, but mainly as protection for my equipment from lightening strikes. I'd prefer not to use it, but do need some surge protection. If none is needed, the Wiremold/Hubbel set up will give you good quality, basic AC distribution that most will find a use for even if they end up with a good conditioner.

Ortofan's picture

... then he should apply Stabilant 22 (aka Sumiko Tweek) to the contacts of the line cords and sockets.

Herb Reichert's picture

now I use DeoxIT

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

This explains everything...

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Detox? :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Clean Up" ........... The Canton Spirituals :-) ..........

ok's picture

would have been startled by way much less a difference than by those derived from some gross audio power cable swap.

audiodoctornj's picture

Herb I have known you for a very long time, I have to completely disagree with the line that you and many audiophiles talk about current limiting in power conditioners vs going directly into the wall.

In our shop we have tested most of the major brands of power conditioners: Synergistic, Shunyata, Audience, Audioquest, Isotek, Running Springs, Audio Magic, Silver Circle, Exact Power, to name a few.

In our reference rig the difference in running the power amplifiers into the wall directly vs a power conditioner are very audible.

Now we are running a dedicated 20 amp circuit directly to the breakbox with a Furutech outlet so you could claim that the amps directly into the wall should sound better they don't.

Our test amplifiers were all big powerful 300 watt tube monoblocks and big solid state.

The better power conditioners gave you much greater soundstage depth, a more 3d image, tighter bass, and greater macro dynamics.

If you would like to come for a visit we can demonstrate to you catagorically that a good power conditioner will dramatically improve a big power amplifier, only the wrong power conditioner will limit current and restrict the power amplifier.


Dave Lalin, Audio Doctor

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Google has several articles and videos about "dirty electricity" and "Stetzer Units" and "GS units" ..........

nick n's picture

Herb another great entry here. Really enjoyed this one.
Interesting results seems a bit of "more ideal" synergy between setups there.

Have a friend overseas who is hassling me here and there to also try out things of this nature.
He's gotten into fuses as well.
I've gone beefier gauge power cables, made sure to get shielded, and was looking at the SurgeX SA-1810 units again tonight.

Thanks for the timely reminder, and as usual I'm never going to know unless I try it out firsthand, with my setup, with my ears. I'm on the fence still, but like with a few other audio related things had I not actually tried them ...

Speaking of setups and power conditioning /treatment, within your realm of affordability of excellent sonics, I really feel that the Teddy Pardo stuff would fit your modus operandi quite well.
Sound to me seems to be smack dab in the sweetspot between the ( sterotypical = no pun intended ) solid state and tubed area.
Why I specifically bring this up is that he uses multiple SuperTeddyRegs power treatment in each unit, which he has released to the DIY community assuming they do not use it for profit.
So power treatment is integral to his units therefore no real need to go extra unless one wants to.
SuperTeddyReg is a power regulator as he states : "It is not a linear regulator, it is not based on feedback, and IMHO is superior to linear regulators, even discrete..."

All I know is they look classy ( have the MB100 Monoblocks and large PRE, DAC and HP Amp ), different levels of affordability, he said power rating is nearly double the specs=something to that effect = , this sounds top notch with a nice black background, and have so far cured upgradeitis on this end. At least for ampage. Which is a VERY welcome sign.

Now you've got me looking into this other stuff. I had best send an email to that pal overseas...

Jason I do really appreciate the excellent music posts as well.

bglenn's picture

Hey Herb you need to try out one of the non limiting Spiritual Audio VX-12 power conditioners. Plug any high-power amps right into them with no power loss, plus good sounding to boot. Nice job and Thanks


invaderzim's picture

"Immediately, I felt uncomfortable. After only two CDs, I became impatient. "That's enough of that!""

I once saw a metal worker bending iron rod into a pattern. They said they keep bending it until it doesn't make them anxious when they look at it.
There are things our brains like and don't like. We can't always say why they do or don't like something but it is there.
I believe this applies to sound too. Just like the metal working artist where nobody could say 'oh, you bent that leg a little to the left so it made it pleasing to my brain because the angle is...' one can't always say 'oh you changed the way this frequency sounds when played right after this other frequency so it is so much better now.
Some changes can be so small that you don't really notice the change but it is there and with more changes they will add to each other.
As I changed and tweaked my system there were times I'd listen to music for 10-15 minutes and feel on edge so I'd turn it off and go do something else. As I settled on the right tubes, right DAC and right speaker height and angles, etc. I found myself relaxing when the music was playing. I knew I had it right when I drifted off while listening to it fairly loudly and also found myself going 'just one more song and then I'll go do such and such' whenever listening to music.